June 1, 2012
Folks- please see Scottie’s heartfelt post below, and consider chipping in a few bucks to help him get where he needs to go to make this site even better. -Adam
By Scottie Thomaston
Like a lot of people, I’m stuck living in a place where I don’t belong, out of sync with most everyone else around me. I am a gay guy with decidedly progressive political ideas. I live in a small town in south Alabama where there are not a lot of people and everybody is politically and socially conservative anyway. I’m ‘out’ as gay to everyone but not everyone around here can be as open. The ability to spend time on the internet writing and conversing with people has been life-saving; it’s the only way I’ve felt connected to others who are accepting of me and perhaps share many of my beliefs. And becoming a regular contributor to Prop 8 Trial Tracker has quite literally been a dream come true for me.
Though I have gotten few opportunities to actually travel and participate in real-life activism, debates, and discussions over the years, I have managed to make it to Netroots Nation over June 7-10, 2012, a conference of online activists including a substantial LGBT segment, every year since 2010. There I get the chance to meet many of the activists and writers that I have gotten to know online — people I’ve written and fought alongside for my entire career as a writer. This year Netroots Nation offers an even more exciting prospect in that I have the opportunity to attend as part of the Courage Campaign and to meet my fellow team members. But current circumstances are such that I need some help to get there.
As many of you know, I am a paraplegic and for my income I’m almost completely dependent on my limited Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. I am privileged to have been able to attend Netroots Nation in the past due to the generosity of my friends and fellow community members at Daily Kos and through scholarships offered by other organizations. This year, Courage Campaign is covering most of my expenses, but costs are so high (approximately $2,000) that I need a helping hand. P8TT readers, please consider contributing to send me to Netroots Nation.
Here’s my situation: Because I’m trapped in an area that isn’t particularly known for being accommodating to travelers, flying out of here tends to be rather expensive – more so than flying from other more populated areas. Flights to previous conventions and other trips out of town have ranged anywhere from $400 all the way up to $899 in the recent past. As you can imagine, flying from a small market like Pensacola, FL — an airport with limited low-cost options — to another small market in Providence, RI, the cost is extremely expensive. That cost, plus the hotel, plus registration and other expenses like transportation to and from convention-related events leaves a very high tab, more so for someone with a physical limitation like me. Last year, I was able to pay for these expenses with a scholarship from Democracy for America. This year, I competed, but unfortunately, DFA decided to not offer scholarships to previous recipients. I tried to win other scholarships but did not qualify. So, with the conference a week away, I’m turning to you to ask for help making up the difference.
You deserve to know why you should contribute. The answer: because I will work my butt off at Netroots Nation just as I write for you every day, making connections with key figures in the LGBT rights movement that will help improve our coverage of the trials and other LGBT news even more. People from LGBT legal organizations like GLAD and Lambda Legal, people from the campaigns working on ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, people working on issues like ENDA and DOMA — these and other activists and coalition-builders will be at the convention. We have plans to expand our infrastructure and writing staff in the coming future at P8TT, and being present at Netroots Nation will help in the development of those plans develop even more.
There will also be lots of panels of interest at the convention this year, not just to myself but to readers of P8TT as well, and I intend to bring you coverage live from the convention. Aside from the obvious and necessary discussion panels on organizing on and offline and bringing groups together in coalitions to make change, and aside from other areas of particular interest to me (like voting rights), there are panels specific to LGBT legal equality: a marriage equality panel with panelists from LGBT orgs like MN United who have already announced that they will contribute, a transgender equality panel with attorney Jennifer Levi from GLAD and law professor Jillian T. Weiss announced as participants. And there will probably be more impromptu ‘panels’ that will take place outside of normal operations, since that usually happens at Netroots Nation. And I will work my way through the happy hours, receptions, and in the lobby to tell folks about P8TT and the work we’re all doing here together. As always, there promises to be lots of exciting and interesting stuff to cover and lots of opportunity for me to get more education on issues I care a lot about.
Beyond that, on a personal level, while I’m there I plan to — and hope to — use the opportunity to meet fellow activists who care about the same things I do. I’ll be able to connect with people I can work with in the future on projects and be productive despite the isolation of where I’m currently living. For a rural gay Alabama resident with a physical disability, Netroots Nation is truly one of the few chances I get to even be around people who think like I do. And especially this year, with all the upcoming ballot initiatives in November, it would be amazing to be able to meet with the people working to keep marriage equality law in Maryland and elsewhere, and fighting against anti-gay amendments in Minnesota and elsewhere, and to learn ways to help them win.
It’s June 1, and that means payday for many folks out there. If it is for you (or you’re feeling extra generous), please consider chipping in $5, $20 or more to help cover the rest of the expenses to get me to Netroots Nation. With your help I’ll be able to attend this year, meet my fellow Courage team members and possibly even those of you who are community members here and will be in Rhode Island in June. And I’ll continue working to make P8TT an even better place.
Thanks for your consideration, from the bottom of my heart.