Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why You Should Attend GRPC

I have had the pleasure to attend two Gun Rights Policy Conferences and four NRA Annual Meetings, and while they are two very different creatures, if you're a firearms enthusiast you should attend both.

The NRAAM is 25% NRA policy meeting, 25% guest speakers giving lectures, and 50% massive convention floor which you wander while looking at all the guns, gun accessories, gun-related stuff and gun-adjacent merchandise (like knives, camping gear, etc). There's a lot of neat stuff to gawk at and/or purchase, but it's also crowded as unholy hell and the prices for food and drink are convention-level ridiculous. The NRAAM is basically "bread and circuses" for gunnies: mainly spectacle and consumerism (not that there's anything wrong with that).

GRPC, on the other hand, is far more substance over style. There's only one thing going on during the day -- the presentations by guest speakers -- and there isn't much fanfare, just a lot of information being thrown at you. But what's neat about is that you get to see a lot of luminaries in the gun rights world, and if you're lucky you can catch them during a break, or at the mixers on Friday and Saturday night, and actually talk to them. Do you want your picture taken with Dr. John Lott? You can probably get one!

Plus, if you attend, you'll get to see me give a presentation. I've been informally asked to speak at next year's GRPC in Chicago, given the strength of my presentation this year.

(I come in at the 4:15 mark)

A transcript of my speech:
Hello! My name is Erin Palette, and I am a performance tranny.

Now whenever I say that, there are usually three reactions: shocked silence; laughter; and people asking “What’s your gear ratio?” And the answer is a four-eleven final drive, with a 6-speed double-overdrive and a competition clutch.

For people who don’t know what I just said, it means that I’m built for drag racing.

Folks, it’s okay to laugh. If I didn’t want you laugh at what I said, I wouldn’t be saying it. I feel comfortable and safe here, and I want you to feel comfortable and safe with me as well.
So as a transgender lesbian,I am frequently asked, “Erin, what do I say to someone who is flamingly gay, or is transgender, or is so androgynous I don’t know what sex they are?” and my answer is always “Hi! Want to learn how to shoot?”

It really is that simple! Just be friendly and make a sincere offer to teach them. This is the clearest and easiest way to grow support within the LGBTQ community for gun rights, because people who go shooting realize how fun and empowering that can be. People who have fun shooting become gun owners, and gun owners become gun voters. And if you can convert someone who was anti-gun into someone who is pro-gun, that’s a double victory, because not only do we gain a pro-gun vote but we also deny an anti-gun vote to our opposition. That’s why gun owners should make an effort to reach out to queer individuals and offer to teach them to shoot.

If you’re worried about your offer being rejected, let me reassure you: the queer community is incredibly aware of its vulnerability. The Pulse Massacre was our 9/11 moment; we realized that we were hated not as individuals, but as a demographic, and that the police won’t necessarily arrive in time, or act properly when they do arrive.

How much danger are we in? LGBTQ individuals are a tiny fraction of Americans - only 3.4% of the population - but we are disproportionately affected by crime, with 1 in every 4 of us victims of hate-based violence within our lifetime. So there are very good reasons why a queer person would want to learn how to operate a firearm.

And even if you are rejected, the fact that you cared enough to offer goes a long way towards healing the manufactured divide which splits our country. Because, despite what the media tells us, queer people do NOT hate straight people, and the success of Operation Blazing Sword is a testament to the fact that straight people do not hate queer people.

For those who haven’t heard of Operation Blazing Sword, we are a grassroots organization dedicated to pairing gun-curious -- I love that word -- gun-curious queer people with gun owners for basic firearm safety instruction. This is more important than you might think, because due to the aforementioned manufactured divide, the average queer person doesn’t feel comfortable going to a gun store or a shooting range for instruction because they’ve been told for decades that gun owners hate them.

So we pair these gun-curious folks with volunteer teachers who will teach them the basics of firearm safety, operation and ownership for no cost and without judgement for a student’s color, gender, sexual orientation, biology, or manner of dress.

And what I love about Blazing Sword is that the education goes both ways: not only are the LGBTQ students learning about firearms, but the teachers are learning about what it’s like to be queer in America. As an example, in the early days of Blazing Sword someone told me “You know. I’m happy to help train people, but I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with being named as a gun owner on an internet map.” And my reply was, “Oh, so you’re afraid of the repercussions of coming out because people might treat you differently?” It was delightful to track the dawning of enlightenment as he realized the similarity between being a gun owner and being gay in terms of public acceptance.

But I acknowledge that it can be intimidating to talk to us, because you can get in trouble for using the wrong pronouns and the acronym keeps changing. The last I checked, the current preferred nomenclature is LGBTTQQIAAP, which if you ask me sounds like something a cheerleader would chant.

Ell GEE! Bee Tee Tee! Cue Cue Eye! Ayy Ayy Pee! Goooooooo GAY!

So what I’m going to do is make your lives easier by giving you a quick lesson on how to talk to people with non-mainstream genders or sexuality.

First, you don’t have to learn how to pronounce LGBTQ. Just say “queer”. It encompasses all of us and it’s a sight easier to say than a mouthful of consonants. It’s okay, I give you permission to say queer. Just remember to use it as an adjective, not a noun. For example, “Nicki is a queer person” is good. “Nicki is a queer” is bad. It’s a fine point, I know, but think of it as our version of “clip vs. magazine”. Correct terminology matters!

Second, if you aren’t sure how to refer to someone, just ask them “What are your pronouns?” That’s an inoffensive way to discover how to refer to them. If in doubt, go with “them” and “they”. I understand that using a plural term to describe an individual is sloppy -- it makes my grammarian soul shudder -- but it’s SO much better than guessing and getting it wrong, or worse, calling that person “it”. Just… don’t do that.

Third: You know how when someone says “I’m a gun owner, BUT” you immediately tune out everything they say after that? So for the same reason, I beg you, DO NOT say “I disagree with your lifestyle, but …” because whatever you say after that will not be heard. Now to be clear, it’s okay to disagree with anyone’s lifestyle; it’s just counterproductive to bring this us, especially in an initial conversation. Consider this our version of the “9mm vs. 45” argument.

Ultimately, what you need to realize is that the gun community and the queer community have more in common than either realize:

  • Both groups believe in rights. The right to love whoever we want, and the right to defend our lives effectively, are both natural rights. We may disagree on which rights are more important, and disagree on how best to implement these rights and their concomitant responsibilities, but we ultimately agree that rights are paramount.
  • Both groups believe that life is precious and worth protecting. Ultimately, we both want to prevent the murder of innocent people, and that is inherently noble.
  • And both groups believe that silence equals death. If we are silent, if we cannot be heard, then we might as well not exist in the mind of the public, and that is how we become marginalized and stepped upon.

I realize that I’ve dumped a lot of information on you. There’s SO much more to talk about, and I’m certain that you have questions. So I want to let you know that I am VERY approachable: if you have questions, just come and talk to me. Don’t worry about offending me! So long as you have a sincere desire to know, I will be happy to turn your curious discomfort into a teachable moment. Ben Branam can testify to that.

Again, my name is Erin Palette, my organization is Operation Blazing Sword, and you can find out more about us on Facebook and on our website, BlazingSword.org.

Thank you.
Because we finished early (we had a 30 minute block and only used 15), we simultaneously made our hosts very happy for getting back on schedule and caused them to scramble because the next panel wasn't yet ready. So the moderator had us do an impromptu Q&A session while the next speakers got into position.

(As an aside, I love my "WTF I dunno LOL" expression.)

I hope to see you in Chicago for GRPC 2018!

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