COLUMBIA — Although hundreds of thousands of people across the nation had expressed interest in "calling in gay," the reality of "Day Without a Gay," an event to protest the recent passing of Proposition 8 in California, proved to be more lackluster than the Facebook event predicted.
Although some MU students, such as Jake Hammel, have chosen to take the day off from work, others, such as Asher Kolieboi, have consciously chosen to not participate.
California residents Steve Holzer and David Craig created the “Day Without a Gay” event to urge members of the LGBT community, and anyone else who supports the cause, to take a day off from work and volunteer instead. According the movement’s Web site, “the gay community will take a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes."
Hammel, the president of the Missouri AIDS Awareness Coalition, participated by not purchasing any items for the day. He did not want to take off work completely, but he was able to switch his shift to a different time.
“I’m participating simply for equal rights in general,” Hammel said. “Regardless of if Proposition 8 is there or not, people will still discriminate.”
Kolieboi, the co-founder of Queer People of Color at MU, chose not to participate because he feels that it would be unjust to expect all economic classes to be able to participate in a day off from work.
“I think it’s very, very classist,” Kolieboi said. “Not only because we’re in an economic depression, but not all gay people are able to participate in it.”
Kolieboi added: “It’s not a day without gays, it’s really a day without pay.” He pointed out that two California men of a different socio-economic class than himself started the event, and Kolieboi thinks that the event does not take into account the many ways that people can classify themselves.
“It’s indicative of where the white LGBT community is at,” Kolieboi said. “They’re expecting people to do this just because they’re gay; this is ignoring their other identities.”
Columbia wasn't the only city to experience lackluster participation in the event. People in San Francisco's Castro district, a well-known gay neighborhood, said they endorsed the cause but didn't think a work stoppage was practical given the poor economy.
MU student Zach Rose-Heim chose to participate in the protest by wearing a ribbon to show his support for the cause. He said he is lucky to be able to wear the ribbon and support the protest at work; Rose-Heim works for a company that is gay friendly, and has worked with the Human Rights Campaign for the past seven years.
“In the state of Missouri, I could still lose my job,” Rose-Heim said. “It is absolutely 110 percent OK for a business to say ‘you’re fired.’”
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s Web site, Missouri is one of 30 states where it is legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. Thirty-eight states allow companies to fire people based on their gender identity. Many companies have internal policies forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Abbey Riley, an English and creative writing major at Columbia College, was initially expecting to participate in “A Day Without a Gay,” but eventually decided not to.
“I did want to participate, but when I saw that no communal protest was being held, I kind of punked out,” she said in a Facebook message. “Maybe if I had a regular 9-to-5 kind of job, I could make more of a point, but when one is in college and you just don't go, the assumption is you're just skipping for the heck of it.”
Riley also felt that because of the lack of official events, her voice would not be heard if she did participate. Although Columbia had no organized protest, there were formal protests in other cities around the nation. There was a rally in Chicago outside the County Building and a workshop and screening of the film “Milk” at the Tivoli Theatre in St. Louis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.