The Week of Action 2013

TW: Murder and anti-gay violence, specifically: Rebecca Wight.

Preparation for the Week of Action 2013 has begun, and this year’s event is now official! I am in the process of putting it together, as I really do have to begin planning this much in advance. All posts from the 2012 Week can be found in the archives with the tag Week of Action.

The Background

The Week of Action Movement had been building in progress for a few years before it took its present form and was influenced by a number of different events, from my discovery of a woman named Rebecca Wight to a similar event that was held in the spring of 2011. Flash back to this time five years ago, I was extremely unhappy, entirely closeted, and not an activist for anything in any sense of the word. I wanted to do something in support of LGBT people – my desire for activism was triggered earlier that year after watching a film about a gay man who commits suicide – but I was terrified. I didn’t know how to be an activist for LGBT rights without outing myself as gay. At that time, that was out of the question. But even then, I was drawn to LGBT hate crime victims, and that summer, I discovered the story of Rebecca Wight.

Rebecca Wight was a 28-year-old bisexual woman who was killed in an act of anti-gay violence. On May 13, 1988, she and her girlfriend were on a camping trip in the Pennsylvania portion of the Appalachian Trail when they encountered a man who proceeded to stalk and shoot them eight times from afar while they were making love. Her girlfriend survived the attack and went on to write a book about the experience. Rebecca did not – she died at the scene. When I discovered this story, it affected me in ways I could not entirely understand at the time – something about it just seemed so incredibly sad. After becoming invested in her story, I decided I had to do something; I couldn’t just sit in silence anymore. Within the next three months, I had come out and begun to do activist work – both of which I give her credit for.

Fast forward to the spring of 2011. I realized that May 13 would happen to fall on a Friday, the same day Rebecca was killed in 1988, and thought, “I should do something that day.” At the time – keep in mind, this was mere months after I was a victim of an anti-gay assault – I was also losing the will to fight and continue activist work, as it was starting to seem a hopeless cause. I decided to lead what I called a “Rainbow Vigil”, a memorial for Rebecca and five other hate crime victims. That day, I made video tributes and wore six colored ribbons on my arm – each representing a different color of the rainbow flag and a different person – in the hopes that it would rejuvenate my will to fight and remind me that these people are the reason I keep fighting. The Week of Action Movement was built from this event.

The Week of Action Movement

The Week of Action Movement as it stands now is an expansion of the “Rainbow Vigil” I took part in that spring. It is still a mix of a vigil and a statement that pays tribute to the victims of an anti-LGBT society, but instead of a small, quiet memorial for personal reflection, the Week of Action is dedicated to action and change. The purpose of the Week is to remember the past, to change the present, and to hope for the future. As the name would suggest, the movement is a week-long event that centers around action, awareness, and activism, in remembrance of Rebecca Wight and the numerous others who have lost their lives in a world that breeds hate and intolerance. It is my belief that we have a duty to speak out while we remember these people, as their voices were stolen from them and they no longer can. The Week of Action takes place during the first or second week of May every year, with the dates adjusted annually.

The Challenge

My challenge to everyone who takes part in the Week of Action Movement is do something positive for the LGBT community during the Week. Just one thing – though you can certainly do more if you like. Something that makes the world a little better and a little safer for LGBT people in memory of those who lived and died in a world where it was not. What this looks like is entirely up to you – it can be as small or as large of an act as you want it to be. Call someone out on their homophobic or transphobic viewpoints. Reach out to someone and let them know that you are an ally. Write your legislators to change an anti-LGBT law. Spread awareness of the violence that continues to happen today against the most marginalized members of our community. Whatever you feel driven to do for the LGBT community, I challenge you to use this event as an opportunity do it.

2013 Week and Themes

The Week of Action 2013 will begin Monday, May 6 and will end Sunday, May 12. This year will be different in that there is an extra day built on to the Week this year – the following Monday, May 13, will be a sort of vigil day built in as a day of remembrance. The vigil day will not be counted as part of the Week of Action itself; it is an extra day for reflection and hope. Like the Week of Action 2012, each day will be themed with a different color and concept, one for each stripe of the rainbow flag:

Monday, May 6 – Red (life)

Tuesday, May 7 – Orange (healing)

Wednesday, May 8 – Yellow (sunshine)

Thursday, May 9 – Green (nature)

Friday, May 10 – Blue (serenity / harmony)

Saturday, May 11 – Purple (spirit)

Sunday, May 12 – Rainbow (hope / promise)

Monday, May 13 – Dark and Rainbow (remembrance)

What I’m Going to Do

The list is not finalized at this point in time, but there will be one hundred and five people that I am going to be remembering specifically during the Week. All of those from the 2012 list will be among them; sadly I will be adding some. The above colors will signify all of them; I will assign each person a color and correlating concept that I feel best expresses who they were as a person. I find that the easiest way to observe each day’s theme is through my clothing – a shirt to announce the movement, colored belts with the names for that particular color written across them – in a way that will entice people to ask what I’m doing and why. On the vigil day, I will wear one dark ribbon and one rainbow ribbon, the dark one to symbolize the loss and the past and the rainbow one to symbolize the hope and promise of the future. I will cover up the mirrors again with the photos and names of the fallen. Each day of the Week, I will deliver tributes to the people assigned to that day’s color, but the tributes are going to have a much shorter, simpler format than they did in 2012.

As 2013 is a rather significant year for a few of the people I am remembering specifically, including the one who is the reason behind its existence, I wanted to take part in a larger way this year than I did last year. It’s a milestone year in that it will mark twenty-five years since she was killed and I wanted to do something to reflect that. A large part of my Week in 2012 consisted of spreading word of the event and its purpose, telling the stories of the people I have chosen to highlight, and reinforcing why it is so essential that we act and act now. I will still do this, but it will not be the main way I take action this year. I intend to finally come forward with my own story of anti-gay violence, as I have at two points in my life been the victim of physical assault because of being as out as I am. In addition, I came up with the idea to do twenty-five acts of kindness throughout the year, one for every year that person hasn’t been here to change the world herself; from what I’ve read and heard about her she seems like she was a very community-oriented person. I will of course be documenting here all I find and do for this event.

What You Can Do

Take part however you feel compelled! The movement is whatever makes it mean something to you. What is important is that we want to incite change and are choosing to act. If you are interested in the ideas I have laid out for myself, feel free to use them or modify them as you see fit. If you have an entirely different approach, go for it. Those who take part in the Week of Action are all working toward a common goal however they choose to observe it – the creation of a better society for LGBT people through deliberate action.

Author: Meg

The Stories Project: An Update

TW: none.

Firstly let me say that it isn’t dead nor have I stopped doing it, though I haven’t posted a new story since September! I haven’t had as much time to work on it as I would have liked since the summer ended and classes resumed – in the summer, of course, I could work on it for as long as I liked as much as I liked, but after it ended, this was no longer possible. As well, I have had a slightly more difficult time finding people to reach out to as I’ve been moving away from the person and story I know the most about since the summer ended. (I will certainly still listen to and accept stories involving that person, but I am trying to branch out because I want the project to be all-inclusive.) I don’t think this is a permanent thing, that there are times when the project becomes less active, just a natural occurrence of a project like this from time to time, but it is a factor in the Stories Project being less active in recent times.

For this being the first year I have attempted anything of this nature, I think it has been very successful. I have reached out to sixteen people in the six months I began working on this, and of those sixteen, three have wanted to take part. This sounds like an entirely unsuccessful number until you think of it this way – of those sixteen, only three have said they wanted to take part, but only three have said they did not. I don’t think that’s too bad for the first year attempting anything like this. I have a few I would like to follow up with after the holidays, as they indicated interest but we fell out of touch. I am looking to perhaps broaden the scope and open the project up a bit so it is less specific, as it is a little limiting as it stands now. The purpose will still be entirely the same – to tell the stories of those most closely connected to hate crime victims and exhibit the human side of the statistics – but I’m thinking of broadening the scope to living victims of anti-LGBT hate as well, not just the ones who did not survive. I intend this May, during the Week of Action, to reveal my own story of dealing with anti-gay violence, and I have had one woman contact me saying that if I ever wanted to open the project in such a way, she had a story she wished to share. That is one change I have considered making in the months to come. Overall I am very satisfied with the outcome and I intend to continue the project.

I know there were mistakes made this year with the Stories Project, and there are a number of things I wish I would have thought to do differently at its start. Alas I did not, and now I can’t do anything about them – you learn from experience, I suppose. This whole summer was a mess. I decided to use my real name (Meg) as opposed to the online alias I’d been going by for years (Phoenix Spirit) a little late in the game, so the email I registered for the blog was under the name Phoenix Spirit. I caught on to this and stopped sending from that account, but two people had already received messages from “Phoenix Spirit” by that point. There’s a reason I no longer use that name – no one takes me seriously with it, and I understand why; I wouldn’t either. It did not help me that I did not have a definite project laid out from the start. As well, it was a mess trying to obtain permission from those whose opinions matter the most on the existence of this project, and then trying to decide if I should even continue without it. I should have had that figured out long beforehand. There were other issues, including choosing to tell my age up-front, which one of the people I spoke with said gave him the impression I wouldn’t necessarily be up for what I was trying to do, forgetting to include links to the website in about half of the emails I sent, and not updating the website regularly enough for people to even understand what I was doing. I regret making these mistakes but I am not terribly shaken up by them. I have learned from the missteps with this project and will apply what I’ve taken away from them to how I will conduct the Stories Project in the future.

I am about to start working on the Week of Action, my other project, full-time. While doing this, the Stories Project will not be inactive – I will still take stories, continue promoting the ones I have, and doing whatever I can to spread the message that created it, to show the human stories behind the statistics. I am just putting it on pause for a bit so I can focus my efforts on this event, and I will resume working on the Stories Project full-time after the conclusion of the Week of Action.

If you have been following this project or are interested in seeing the stories submitted so far, do go and read the first three:

From Mark Brady, a friend and classmate of Rebecca Wight:

From Karen Poiani, a friend of Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner:

From Bill Thomas, the older brother of Cathleen Thomas:

Author: Meg