As a group that usually prides itself on inclusion of diversity and acceptance, there is a growing faction that is now tearing down organizations, individuals and businesses by spreading spiteful rumors and lies. You don’t have to look much farther than your own inbox for evidence.
For too long our community has placed too much stock in rumor. Now, with advances in technology and new media, its spread is more toxic than ever. The “I read it online” basis of “fact” is used far too often and results in misinformation spreading throughout the community. At Watermark, we hear just about every false allegation imaginable—either through professional channels or in social settings. Just this past weekend I heard two or three rumors about area organizations so exaggerated and contrary to what I know to be true that I dismissed them immediately. Everyone should take note and get facts straight before sharing information that could be harmful to others.
This is not to say that we should not express our opinions or that investigative journalism shouldn’t be a priority. There is a healthy dialogue about the candidates for Orange County Mayor and their positions on LGBT issues that has accelerated discussion on the internet. In Tampa Bay, a discussion about the first Pride on 7th celebration has focused on opinions about the meaning and purpose of such events.
But there is a marked distinction between meaningful conversation and out-right in appropriate attacks.
Throughout the region, people are talking about a widely distributed attack on a proprietor of one of the new, local LGBT community websites. The letter was inflammatory, to say the least, and was made even more so when the source chose to remain anonymous.
A recent column attacking Equality Florida and its executive director, Nadine Smith, was published in OMG! Magazine and attributed to “Alice Baggadonuts,” which simply showcases the author’s cowardly nature. When some person or organization has strong beliefs and wants to convey facts supporting those beliefs, they should not be afraid to disclose their true identity.
The column praised the advocacy group Stand Up Florida and addressed some interesting talking points relating to how such organizations should operate. However, condemning Smith as a publicity hound or accusing her of profiting from her position without seeking comment from her first is unprofessional and offensive.
For the sake of the community they claim to support, all LGBT advocacy groups should state their goals and opinions factually and professionally. Petty and personal conflicts serve to block advances toward true equality.
LGBT advocacy groups need to get on the same page for the sake of our state, and our community leaders need to act with the professionalism entrusted upon them and get to work. These petty school yard tactics are tired and should be retired immediately. Our community deserves better.
Groups geared toward business need to focus on their business and not spread untruths about competition in order to get ahead. Like the Metropolitan Business Association in Orlando, The Tampa Bay Business Guild and the GaYbor Coalition, all have the same goal—to help LGBT businesses grow and succeed. They should focus on that goal and avoid attacking unaffiliated or competitive businesses or organizations. Leave the he said/she said tactic to the politicians.
I challenge all of the LGBT organizations within our state to stop the infighting. It has gone too far and has proven to be a distraction. It has hindered progress.
The daily news proves that there are plenty of groups outside the LGBT community attacking us at every opportunity and waiting for a weakness to show in our ranks. The power and money behind them is frightening and they would like nothing more than to see us fail in our efforts.
If our internalized loathing and unhealthy, underhanded opportunistic ways continue, we are bound to fail in our efforts to obtain the equal status so many of us crave.
If we do fail, or if our goals are delayed because of our actions, we will have to ask ourselves: “Was the bickering worth it? Was the legacy of rumors left in its wake our ultimate goal?”
I think not.