2 min

My passive activism

Convincing the firm to cough up

When it comes to activism you could say I’m passive-aggressive. I’ll show up to the protest, but don’t ask me to organize it. My heart is in the right place; I just rarely have the chutzpah to follow it.

Until now.

One of the theories behind corporate tax cuts is that corporations will put that money towards philanthropic endeavours, like building museums and mounting Hummers in front of libraries. Or, as in my boss’ case, sponsoring film festivals.

Part of my job description is filling out forms, convincing the company I work for of the benefits of donating to this festival over that one (it’s a living). After several applications I noticed Out on Screen had not come up. This surprised me because the firm I work for is always bragging about its reputation with respect to how it treats its gay employees.

Sounded like a perfect fit to me.

I called Out on Screen and asked Drew to send me some proposals. As I approached my boss with them, I was reminded of how small my balls really are. This is why more people are not activists.

My boss winced and asked, “Why should we should sponsor this?”

Because I said so?

“This is something I truly believe in,” I said. I told him about Out in Schools, The Queer History Project and their impact on the community. “Don’t you want to be part of that?”

He fell for it. On the condition I got another department to co-sponsor.

So began three months of unanswered e-mails. I became convinced it wasn’t going to happen, that this whole mandate of inclusion was a load of crap.

Just as I was ready to hang my head in gay shame, someone higher up the food chain took up my cause. Poof! There was the money.

Our humble sponsorship seemed to take on a life of its own at the office. Straight colleagues would flip through the program on my desk and ask, “What’s this?”

“We’re sponsoring that.”

“Wow!” they’d say, impressed by the firm.

My boss even scored points with a couple of his clients at the industry mixer. “What are you doing here?” they asked him.

“Just doing my part,” he grinned.

The sponsorship paid for itself in so many subtle ways. It exposed people to a part of the community they had never seen before. It created dialogue where there’d been none. Pretty cool when you consider that’s what the festival is all about.

When I think of activism, I imagine signs and protests. I keep forgetting we can effect the most change just by acting according to our beliefs. But it takes work. They don’t call it “practicing homosexual” for nothing.