My first time phone-banking was back in earlier 2014, when I first started getting emails from Marriage Equality USA regarding an upcoming decision by the State Senate of New Mexico on marriage equality. The State Supreme Court had decided to rule the statute ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, and the GOP-majority State Senate were to decide on putting a referendum to the people on the matter. I joined the NEAT (National Equality Action Team) to call random constituents in state senate districts so that they could call their senators against sending the matter to a referendum and for supporting the court’s decision. It was my introduction to CallFire, tally sheets, question scripts and waiting on pins and needles for someone to say “Yes” or “Sure, I can do that.”
The next time I phone banked was in October-November for the Democratic coordinated campaign in Georgia. It was my first time phone banking with others in the local area, and I was introduced to my friend Patricia Lassiter’s self-propelled leadership skills. Patricia and Mary-Kate were amazing in keeping the office open most days up to Election Day, and despite not getting a (more-LGBT-friendly) Governor Carter, it was my true introduction to the politics and politicos of Muscogee County.
My third was phone banking with Patricia, Tom and David against RFRA back in March. This was done with the help of Georgia Unites Against Discrimination (Georgia Equality and HRC Atlanta). I remember the day we did that because it was the same day that State Senator Josh McKoon tabled his own bill in the House Judiciary Committee rather than go through with an “unacceptable” amendment.
My fourth and most recent is phone-banking with the NEAT to Houston for Proposition 1. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) is something that I wish we could have here in Columbus and throughout Georgia, but Houston really needs this law. This has been fought by the usual suspects with the worst possible tactics and rhetorical devices, and I watched on live-streaming video as the city council voted on it back in 2014 and opponents demonized LGBT people outside the council doors.
I’m now involved to say that, even if I’m not a resident of Houston or of Texas, I am at least materially involved in the struggle for local NDOs and state non-discrimination laws. I am phone banking people to get the Houston vote out. I am phone banking to at least help show the world where Houstonians stand on human rights and equality in their growing city.
My blogger of choice in this situation is Monica Roberts of TransGriot. She has covered local and state LGBT issues from a Trans POC feminist perspective for several years, and she does so with an impressive candor about her feelings on issues which matter to her and Houston. She has especially covered HERO from day one, providing an inside, lay activist perspective into the campaign away from the glitz of celebrity endorsements for HERO. She has focused into why HERO is important for LGBT people of color like herself and others in Houston and nationwide. It’s partly because of TransGriot that I got involved in phone-banking for HERO.
People like Roberts remind me that politics are as local as they are personal and intersectional. Anyone can get involved in other localities’ politics at any time for any reason, even if one’s never set foot in that locality. One can also make an impact for liberation in one’s own locality, at any time for any reason.
This experience in making phone calls for HERO in Houston is making me less afraid of whatever may come on Election Day. That will be our final day of phone banking, and I can only hope that we made enough of a difference in getting out the early vote to keep HERO as law, put the reactionaries out of business, and bring human rights to Houston.
But what do know is that, whatever the outcome of this vote, we will have succeeded in helping secure a zeitgeist of where Houstonians stand. This is direct democracy in action, albeit over human rights protections, and we must be willing to stand on guard for those protections whenever, and however, they end up on a public ballot. I’m proud to have phone-banked for HERO, and I will do more phone banks for NDOs across this country.