The Week of Action 2014

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

The Week of Action 2014 is officially on the calendar, which means the preparation for the event has begun! All posts from prior years’ Weeks can be found in the archives under 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.

2014 Week and Themes
The Week of Action 2014 will begin Monday, May 5 and will end Sunday, May 11. This year will be different in that the event will NOT fall over May 13 like it has in years past. I have discovered in the years of running this event on that date that I am unable to do so; I do not have the energy and in fact was unable to complete the event in 2012 and 2013 because of this. Like the Week of Action 2013, each day will be themed with a different color and concept, one for each stripe of the rainbow flag:

Monday, May 5 – Red (life)
Tuesday, May 6 – Orange (healing)
Wednesday, May 7 – Yellow (sunshine)
Thursday, May 8 – Green (nature)
Friday, May 9 – Blue (serenity / harmony)
Saturday, May 10 – Purple (spirit)
Sunday, May 11 – Rainbow (hope / promise)

What I’m Going to Do
I really don’t know how I’m going to top what I did in 2013, which was to finally come forward with my own story of anti-gay violence. If my state’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban anything “substantially similar to marriage” is still alive come May, I will likely focus my efforts on that. As always, I will create a list of people who have either been murdered or committed suicide because of their sexuality / gender identity. 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. Each day of the Week, I will post resources for you to learn about the story and legacy of the people assigned to that day’s color if you so choose. 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. And of course, I will be documenting here all I find and do.

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

2013: Wrap-Up and Resolutions

TW: brief mentions of death and violence toward the end.

It feels odd that we have again reached the end of the year. For me, it seems like it was just 2012, counting down the seconds to this year with dread because I had no idea what to expect in 2013. 2012 had been such a milestone year for me in so many ways that it seemed impossible the year would actually end – but it did, and now so has 2013, which means that the time has come for an annual wrap-up of the projects and resolutions for 2014.

All in all, I believe that this was quite a successful year. I had to remind myself periodically that while I was more prolific in 2012, I was more successful in 2013. I was more practiced, more polished, the projects were more established, and less mistakes were made due to inexperience or insecurity, as they were the first year. Five new stories were posted to the site; additionally, I finally came forward with my own during the Week of Action after two years of being too afraid to talk about it. Sharing my story was a liberating experience, albeit a terrifying one, and though the decision to stop denying what happened has come with a whole host of new issues, it was definitely the right choice. The four other stories collected in 2013, all of which are well worth a read if you haven’t yet, can be found below:

From Wayne Wilcox, a friend and classmate of Rebecca Wight:
From Clayton Ham, a youth who wanted to share his experience of being openly gay in high school:
From Tessa Crawford, a youth who has been touched by both suicide and homicide:
From Judy Wight, the youngest sister of Rebecca Wight:

I will also link the stories collected in 2012, just because:

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:

Now, on to 2014. In the previous post, I detailed three things I am going to try to see if they improve the projects; additionally, I have created four resolutions for the new year. First, I resolve to sort through the 100+ comments in moderation as soon as possible and get them posted on the site. Yes, there are more than 100 comments in moderation – the Stories Project has been blowing up as of late! I am not sure how it happened or where the traffic is coming from, but people are taking notice of and responding to your stories. Second, I will focus my efforts on the stories of trans* people and people of color this year, because I want to represent the entire LGBT community, not just certain segments. Third, I will find a balance between caring too much and too little about appropriating the stories. As I have mentioned before, this is something I struggle with – if I care too much about appropriating the stories, I will freeze and become unable to proceed forward, but if I care too little, then I couldn’t say I care about the victims because I would indeed be using them and using their stories. I recently stepped away from the projects for six weeks due to freezing and becoming unable to proceed. Balance is key and I need to find it.

Finally, I resolve to take back the woods. I’ve always found the woods a little unsettling, but I developed a deep fear of the woods after becoming invested in the stories of women who faced violence while out in nature. I think one of the stories said it best – you can’t help it, they just influence you like that. The thing is, I don’t want to be afraid of the woods. I don’t want to feel unsafe in the outdoors, which is supposed to be a safe place. I don’t expect it to happen overnight, but I intend to at least take the first steps: this summer I will be visiting and sleeping over at some of the spots in the woods where I feel the most ill at ease, one in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia. Which perhaps isn’t the most orthodox method of unlearning my fear of the woods, but it’s one that makes sense to me. If I stay at the sites where the worst has happened and emerge okay, the hope is that I will be less intimidated to go into the woods again. 2014 is going to be the year I take back the trails.

I’m looking forward to 2014. And as we’ve now passed the first of the year, the projects are both open again. Happy New Year to all, and here’s to the future.

Author: Meg