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

Uganda Be Kidding Me

Half a world away, a very serious human rights matter has risen with tracks that follow back to our own yellow brick road.

Sure, Kansas queers have a couple of things we could complain about. It’s perfectly legal to be fired from a job for being gay in this state. A constitutional amendment exists to deny same-sex couples basic legal rights. However, there’s something gay Kansans do have here that our friends in the east African nation of Uganda may soon covet- the right to be alive.

It’s actually illegal to be gay in a number of places abroad. Punishment ranges from large fines to public beatings to prison sentences in many places. A bill has been introduced in Uganda’s parliament that would go beyond that by mandating the death penalty for what the bill’s author coins “aggravated homosexuality.”

Uganda be kidding, right?

Sadly, no, and it isn’t just gay people who need fear retribution.   Anyone who knows a gay person and doesn’t report their knowledge to the police will be thrown in jail. Anyone who advocates or speaks out on behalf of gay rights will also get locked up.  If you lived in Uganda, every person reading this magazine would be in big trouble—unless you turned me into the police to be executed!

As we Americans argue over if gay couples should be allowed to marry, elsewhere, there’s an argument taking place over whether gay people can just BE. I, of course, write this column with my western perspective.  In Uganda, family is a keen value; anything that threatens its traditional structure is a problem that must be stopped. Homosexuality is seen as being the death-keel to traditional family values, so thus, the death penalty is seen by some as a suitable solution. I know that different societies have different values and cultural beliefs. There’s a fine line between tolerance and tyranny, though.

There’s also apparently a not-so-fine line between Kansas and Uganda politicians.

The author of this bill, Uganda Member of Parliament David Bahati, is a key associate of the American “secret society” known as The Family. It is well documented that our own Senator Sam Brownback is among this ultra-conservative clan. Jeff Sharlet, author of a book documenting The Family’s ties, says the group has funneled millions of dollars into the Ugandan anti-gay campaign, and considers Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni as the “key man” for protecting family values in Uganda.  Sharlet also says Museveni can go to Brownback if he wants money for arms or any other project—such as getting this bill passed.

This is quite troubling given the fact that Brownback is the apparent frontrunner to become Kansas’ next governor this fall. In the past, he has used his influential status to aid other global humanitarian issues, such as working to end international sex trafficking. On this issue, though, he has yet to comment or detail his involvement with Uganda officials as it relates. It’s a deafening silence; it’s not a quashing quiet, though.

We have the right to do something in Kansas that our gay brothers and sisters in Uganda don’t have right now. We can ask questions and demand answers. No one’s going to execute us in Wichita for demanding to know the depth of our Senator’s involvement. No one will go jail for asking him to use his apparent connections to speak against and stop this atrocity.  In fact, you can call his office right now and let his staff know you want to see some action– (316) 264-8066. It’s an issue that may seem a world away, but apparently it’s been blown straight to Oz!

(You can also e-mail Brownback’s office by filling out a comment form at http://brownback.senate.gov/public/contact/emailsam.cfm)