The Gay Agenda

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Talking over the gay agenda with Randy Roberts Potts.
Photo by Robin Dorner

The Gay Agenda

That’s a buzz phrase designed to elicit alarm and entice anxieties. It implies that gay people have different intentions and an alternative itinerary than those who are straight. The religious right has used those words as a rallying call for decades. Their alarming rhetoric has historically worked pretty well to divide us in places like Wichita; however, a new reality has emerged that is disarming fear and replacing it with something much less titillating—the bore of reality!

Thanks to Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of the famous Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts, you can see exactly what the gay agenda looks like. Taking a page from his late grandfather’s penchant for affecting the masses, Potts is embarking on a performance arts odyssey that is showing Middle America just what it means to be gay. There’s no better illustration for “homo on the range” than what he is doing! It’s not as raucous, edgy, or even avant-garde as it might sound, though. That is, unless you consider watching television, making dinner, and playing video games to be acts of prime subversion.

“The Gay Agenda” is centered on the notion of showing audiences in mid-size conservative towns across America what domesticity looks like for same-sex couples. A “home” is set up inside a vacant storefront and a male or female couple essentially lives a fishbowl existence for a period of time over a couple of days. Passersby can see two women holding hands on the sofa while watching the evening news or witness a guy play X-Box while his boyfriend prepares dinner. Occasionally the floor will be vacuumed. Sometimes coffee will be made. Regularly, friends stop by for a visit.  This is the stuff that has the likes of Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann foaming at the mouth with disgust!

The “Gay Agenda”, as conceived, is actually pretty dull. The reality this performance mirrors, though, is anything but boring. This is a live action, real time demonstration of what has been happening in the culture for the last decade—and yes, even happening here in Wichita. As gay people have come out of the closet, straight people have been forced to witness their lives on full display. They’ve discovered there isn’t a whole of difference in terms of the daily schemas of our lives. It isn’t often that one gets to consciously witness cultural transformation as it happens, but with this mission, that’s exactly what is going on. Passersby in locales that might not have open dialogues about the issues surrounding sexual orientation are immediately transported into this conversation when they see the make-shift storefronts. Potts himself is often outside with volunteers, engaging them in discussions about what is taking place and challenging them to examine their own, internal hesitancies.

The fact that Potts’ linage is so closely aligned with American religious fundamentalism really speaks to the core struggles that take place in a town like Wichita. Religion is an important force in the lives of many. Gay rights activists cannot hope that people will disregard their deeply held faiths in favor of secular acceptance. Gone are the days when we must divorce our spirituality to accept our sexuality. Oral Roberts isn’t the only fundamentalist Christian to foster gay ancestors. I’m sure you know several folks here in town who are people of faith and also people with a beloved gay relative. The key challenge for the gay rights movement in this country will be winning over the hearts and minds in the middle of America. To do that, we have to meet people where they are—and in Wichita, a lot of them are at church. This subtle piece of performance art is a reminder that there is no “us” and “them”; we all have the same agenda…however boring it might be!

Randy Roberts Potts’  “The Gay Agenda” will be rolling through Middle America starting this spring. There are plans underway for stops in Kansas, including Wichita. I had a chance to visit with Potts in Oklahoma City when he and his partner inaugurated this instillation, and he was quite interested to see what’s stirring on the range. Stay tuned for more information!

If you’d like to help bring “The Gay Agenda” to Wichita, e-mail thehappygayagenda@gmail.com! You can also follow along and watch live streaming of the performances by visiting the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thegaygayagenda

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