This year, lesbian heartthrob, activist and all-around stand-up gal Dani Campbell took Autostraddle.com with her to The Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s 2010 Winter Party Festival in Miami Beach, Florida. The Festival is an annual event that involves political activism, the beach, crazysexycool dance parties & famous DJs, bajillions of homogays, lots of muscled dudes in speedos, Grey Goose vodka, lady-jazz brunches, art shows and esteemed special guests. Launched in 1994, the Winter Party was supposed to be a one-time charity dance event, but everyone had so much fun that they were like HAY GIRL Let’s do this next year!! and then they did. And so on!
Over 10,000 people showed up this year to raise money for the Task Force and other Miami-Dade LGBT service organizations.
At the Women’s Art Exhibition at Dot Fifty-One, Dani caught up with Pam Grier, who you know best as Kit Porter from The L Word but the rest of the world knows best as Foxy Brown. They talked about the strength of womanhood, Pam’s upcoming memoir Foxy, how The L Word changed her life and where she got her foxiness from. Because Dani has decided to become a super-activist and we are here to help her on that journey of social change! And Love!, she got some tips from the expert; Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. We couldn’t get the whole interview on the video so we printed it for you below! Aren’t we nice!
You know how in all those L Word Behind-the-Scenes interviews, every single cast member would always say one of their favorite parts of doing the show was being able to work with Pam Grier? It’s because she’s F*CKING AWESOME. Also awesome? Our girl Dani and superstar Nacho lover Rea Carey, who is also funny. Brooke was filming, she had no idea what she was doing, but you know what they say in Boiler Room, ‘Act As If.’
Dani also cornered Rea Carey for your viewing pleasure but since they said a lot of important things, we gots it all written out for you too.
A Little More About Rea: In her time as director, Rea has helped make the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force what it is today and has re-focused their agenda. Rea and the Task Force have done a bunch of awesome things over the years, including helping get marriage in Massachusetts and helping get clauses about gender identity discrimination into the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It’s coming up for a vote in Congress soon, maybe! Perhaps you want to sign this petition?
Rea and Dani talked about how to be an activist in your everyday life (it’s not that hard, you can do it!), how Rea got involved with the Task Force, and what Dani thinks of nachos. Don’t read that last part if you’re hungry!
Dani: Everybody, welcome Rea Carey, she’s the executive director of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force here in Miami. Thank you for joining us.
Rea: Absolutely, happy to be with you!
Dani: Thank you. How did you come into this position?
Rea: I grew up in Denver, Colorado and I was this baby dyke, coming out at 16 years old, and I went to the women’s book store and would get newspapers and kind of steal away and read whatever I could about the community. And I started reading about this organization, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They were doing this work that I cared about. They were getting rid of sodomy laws, they were helping people who were victims of hate crimes, they were doing all this work that no one else was doing.
Dani: That’s awesome. And you’ve been with them for like, 20 years? Is that right?
Rea: No, no, no, not 20 years! I’ve been with the Task Force for 6 years, but a fan of it since I was 16. I want to say something though!
Dani: Go right ahead!
Rea: What I want to say is this event is about community. The thing I love, not only about the Task Force but about the Winter Party Festival, it’s about being who you are. It’s about coming as yourself, bringing your friends — a lot of straight people here who are joining us — and just celebrating life and celebrating who we are. And that’s what this party’s about, and that’s what the Task Force is about. So, I love that, and I wanted to say that.
Dani: That’s the most important thing. You know what I really like is — because for myself, I’m trying to become a bigger advocate for our community, and I have a lot of people that reach out to me and want to know how do I keep a positive attitude, and it’s just about getting out there.
Rea: That’s right. Every single person makes a difference.
Dani: And you can make a difference. Kids can visit your website and find out how to be more active in our community?
Rea: Yeah, well you can visit our website, which is www.thetaskforce.org, but we also, we’re tweeting out tonight, we put our stuff on Facebook, so however people get information, we also do a lot of texting. We’re trying to get information out there and getting people to be a part of the community of our work. Because you’re absolutely right: every single person can make a difference. If you just talk to one friend this month, you’ve made a difference. If you tell someone your story and something you care about — it doesn’t even have to be something that affects you as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person, just something you care about — that’s going to make a difference. So everyone can do it.
Dani: That’s right, and I like what you just said. If someone can relate to you, whether they be a different race, hetero, homo, whatever you may be, if you can relate to someone, you understand them better. So like you said, get your story out there, whatever it may be, whatever you feel is important to you. Doesn’t matter what age you are; get involved & talk to people. Don’t just go to the bars and drink and waste what you have as a person to really spread the word and do something good for the community.
Rea: Every person can make a difference.
Dani: That’s for sure.
Rea: Meet with a teacher, meet with an elected official. If you can just do simple things, it’s your life. People inspire each other. I’ve told this story a couple of times. We were at our national conference, 2000 activists, amazing right —
Marta Alvarado, Program Coordinator for the Task Force How was that?
Rea: It’s all a blur!
Dani: Where was that held?
Rea: In Dallas, last year. Next year is gonna be Minneapolis. So I got in the elevator, and this woman stepped in with me, and she said, “I just want to thank you for this conference.” She said, “I got here, and I was frustrated, I didn’t know what to do. Now I know: I’m a teacher, I can write, I have a blog. Now I know what to do.”
Rea: And the reason she knows what to do is because she talked to other people, not because anyone legal told her to do something. She did it because she talked to other people who are doing their work in the world.
Marta: It’s not just about us — there are people out there in rural communities who do not have access to what we do.
Rea: Which is why access to it is so important because people who really are isolated, it’s not safe for them to be out there.
Dani: [looks up] Hi mom! [to Rea] My mom just cruised by.
Rea: Our politics are about the whole person. So it’s not like, “Okay, you’re a lesbian today, you’re a person of color tomorrow, you’re someone with a disability the next day.” It’s about this is who you are and all of those things are important in how people interact with each other and how they can be discriminated against. We never ask people to divide up themselves, so that’s why I said if your issue is how people are treated in schools, talk about that. If your issue is child care, talk about that.
Marta: A lot of people that go to our events that don’t self-identify as gay and we completely honor that.
Dani: I say, this is what I always say: If you see a dog and you know it’s aggressive, and you treat it like it is, it’s in the dog, you treat it like it’s in the dog. If people see you as a confident person, they’re going to treat you like that. If they see you as a timid, scared, ashamed person, they’re going feed off of that, and they’re going to treat you like that. So own it! Own who you are. Be proud of it. If you’re hiding it, they’re going to think something’s wrong with that and they’re going to do the same thing.
Rea: Yeah, it’s interesting because I’ve talked a lot about, and it’s similar to what you’ve talked about. When people are coming out —
Dani: It’s hard.
Rea: Actually, with one of my parents, I didn’t even come out. It was like, “I’m just 16, I like girls.” We ended up having some conversations about it but I was just like, “This is my life.” Now, I was really lucky because my parents were totally great and everything and that’s not always the case, so I realize that. But it’s like, even if people can even find one tiny kernel of strength in themselves, and try to express that more often, then that’s gonna help them find their way.
I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do.
Dani: So a little birdie told me you had a question for me? I’m ready. I’m excited!
Rea: Okay, so here’s the question. Alright. I’ve asked this question for years to many different people.
Dani: I’m a little nervous!
Rea: Alright, are you ready?
Rea: So you go to a restaurant or something, and you order a plate —
Dani: Is this a joke? Like a knock-knock joke.
Rea: No, it’s not a knock-knock joke!
Dani: You walk into a bar, what was it?
Rea: No, you walk into a restaurant, and you order a plate of nachos. Nachos, plural. Nachos. What is one nacho?
Rea: No, what makes up a nacho? Like a plate of chips and cheese and sauces —
Dani: I thought you were asking what you call a —
Rea: No, like what is one nacho?
Dani: Really good. It’s not enough.
Rea: That’s why you can’t play off nachos.
Dani: Yeah. It’s always plural because you can’t just have one, isn’t that the saying?
Rea: But what would one nacho be?
Dani: A nachito!
Rea: No! What would it be made of?
Dani: It would be really poor restaurant skills. Because if I ordered nachos and it came out one nacho .. is that what you’re saying?
Rea: You’d be upset.
Dani: Yeah! I’d be really pissed off!
Rea: No, I’m asking you —
Dani: This is one nacho?
Rea: What are the ingredients in the nacho?
Dani: Oh, in the nacho? You didn’t say that earlier.
Rea: I know, I meant more specific.
Dani: It’s a corn .. starch .. tortillas.
Rea: … That’s the worst recipe for a nacho I’ve ever heard! Corn starch?
Dani: it’s from one big chip, cut into a triangle. That’s what it is.
Rea: Okay, alright. There is no right answer.
Dani: It’s a gay chip!
Rea: There is no right answer — Oh my goodness.
Dani: Nachos are gay chips! We could have figured it out.
Rea: The official geometric shape of the LGBT movement is a triangle —
Dani: We have a sponsored chip.
Visit thetaskforce.org and get involved.
Read our interview with Dani Campbell: Dani Campbell Wants More.