On The Things I Would Have Said On Democracy Now!

You’ve probably noticed that this is a racial justice blog. I don’t usually write about LGBT rights. In fact, the first post I wrote about LGBT rights was really more about the right wing and the way the right manipulates homophobia to build support for a broader, fundamentally racist agenda. I returned to the issue a few times, like here, here, and here. But these posts diverged from my usual topic and primary work.

But then I wrote about marriage equality on Monday and the post went viral. So many people went to read the post that my site crashed…twice. And today, I appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the issue. Follow that link and you’ll see the segment.

Whenever I’m in the media I always leave the studio thinking four things: 1) I love the way make-up makes my skin look, 2) my media nerves make me look manic!, 3) I wish I had more hair, and 4) why didn’t I say…

On the “why didn’t I say…” front, just why didn’t I answer Amy Goodman’s first question about why I think my post on marriage went viral by saying,

I think my post on marriage equality tapped a deep well of emotion in people. So many of us don’t live in traditional nuclear families. In fact, most people in our society don’t. These families deserve the rights and protections bestowed upon those who marry, too. Unless we redefine the family beyond marriage we’re neglecting the very real and urgent need for full protection of most of us.

And those of us who choose non-traditional arrangements don’t want to be penalized for opting out of marriage. Those in non-conjugal relationships that are nonetheless vital to our lives, and we who wish to avoid the culturally laden institution of marriage, don’t want to be coerced into marriage in order to protect our families. Freedom to marry, yes! But freedom from marriage, too!

So, there’s a lot of concern about our loving LGBT community, and a little indignation, too.

And then, more concern about my sadly thinning hair, my media nerves, and all the internalized sexism and homophobia that makes me embarrassed to wear make up all the time.


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By Scot Nakagawa

Scot Nakagawa is a political strategist and writer who has spent more than four decades exploring questions of structural racism, white supremacy, and social justice. Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against authoritarianism, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism. Currently, Scot is co-lead of the 22nd Century Initiative, a project to build the field of resistance to authoritarianism in the U.S.

Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow, an Open Society Foundations Fellow, and a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Community Leader Award. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition,  and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Scot's political essays, briefings, and other educational media can be found at his newsletter, We Fight the Right at He is a sought after public speaker and educator who provides consultation on campaign and communications strategy, and fundraising.

23 replies on “On The Things I Would Have Said On Democracy Now!”

You did a great job, Scot! (KBOO then talked all about your ties to their station etc as part of pledge drive.) xoxo marcy

Awww…I miss KBOO. I used to love doing that Boneheads and Bigots show. Nice to hear from you, Marcy. Hope all is well!

Scot, that was a fantastic appearance on Democracy Now! Thank you for articulating the complexity and strong emotion of both the importance of marriage equality as well as the importance of recognizing that there is much more work to be done, especially around protecting non-traditional families.


Thanks! I found your comment and Chanda’s very useful as I thought through what to say in the studio. Really appreciate your sharing your ideas with me.

Scot, that was fantastic. I kept telling Kevin, “I want to high five him through the screen!” And what I mean is that it was a fantastic experience for me. To see a person of color articulating why marriage matters but why it’s not the only thing that matters, why it shouldn’t be an economically privileged institution even as access to it should be a civil right . . . well, just, thank you for being someone who took the time to write about it, think about it, engage in dialogue about it and then get the word out. I am really, really grateful to you for giving such a fantastic interview — I can’t wait to share the video with others!

I’ve been reading ChangeLab since you first launched. I was really excited about what you are doing here at the time. And now I’m even more excited. So, thanks both to you and the rest of the team. This was a much needed platform.

Like I just wrote Kevin. I found the dialogue with you extremely helpful. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bubble, lulled by the sound of my own voice. It’s good to have someone tap me on the shoulder and say “hey, are you hearing yourself?” Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I really appreciate it!

Thank you Scott for being so articulate in your article and on Amy Goodman’s show today. You have captured for me finally the analysis that has been missing from this dialogue about marriage equality!

So nice to hear from you, Cindy. I hope you’re doing good up there in rainy Seattle. I know you’re doing good work, so I won’t even go there:) BTW, I just got Ron Chew’s book. Really a wonderful tribute, I think.

My own research which looked at how mothers of homosexual sons made sense of their sons’ homosexuality and their own identity as good mothers demonstrated their inability to relinquish the idea of the traditional heterosexual nuclear family as the ideal way of living. Regardless of sexuality, ideas of ‘good relationships’ continue to be informed by very traditional gendered assumptions. I agree with Scott, homosexual marriage is just a first step, greater attention needs to be paid to the ubiquity of the heterosexist gaze and the pressures of heteronormativity.

Janet, I would love, love to see your research if it’s possible to share. Thanks for this comment. So important that we consider what you’ve raised.

I heard you on DN and was incredibly moved by your brilliant and careful critiques. (I sat in my car thinking, “Jeez, this guy speaks in full paragraphs!”) I heard the anti-racist piece of your comments loud and clear as well, even as LGBT marriage was the issue of conversation. Count me a new fan. Thank you!

You were fantastic on Democracy Now, warm, articulate, caring, and I am truly amazed you “have media nerves”, because I never would have guessed, you looked really competent, loving and incredibly engaging. The other guest from Freedom to Marry presented great info and was fine, but you were extraordinary….Thanks for all your good work for equal rights for us all.

Commiserate with the “wish I had more hair” comment, though I didn’t think of your hair at all, but I too wish I had gotten the genes for my mom’s bluish-black, wavy, plentiful and thick hair, but alas, I got my Dad’s…..the way it goes, eh? Your presentation and manner so outshine so many spokespersons I have seen.

I’m considering wigs – not man wigs, just, you know, the Raquel Welch line:) Thanks for your kind comment.

Love the “wigs”comment, and you are so welcome for my appreciation post. Just read a comment by “Sam”, wow, so perfect, he expressed far better than I just how great your presence on Democracy Now was….Hope to see more of you on more shows…

Okay, wait, isn’t what you wrote above that you wish you had said what you actually did say? Maybe I am missing something here? In any rate, I very much enjoyed how articulate you made your point live and in color on Democracy Now! Thank you so much for speaking out for equality for all and really mean all 🙂

“Marriage is a status quo institution.” Exactly.

As Gayle put it above: “Count me a new fan.” And, yes, that’s also because you mentioned how some of the more radical ideas in the Civil Rights movement were shelved when some gains were made. Your insights about internalized stereotypes, too, especially after hearing Windsor talk about magic words, which seem to reflect more matrimania and singlism than anything else.

Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate the comment. I find feedback, even negative feedback, really useful. But positive feedback of this sort, well, as a writer, a boost of confidence can make a really big difference so thanks for taking the time to share your kind words.

Always happens—but you said what was needed. You did good. I for one was so glad to see the marriage issue linked to other justice issues in public media. Let’s also connect it to what is happening in South Dakota for instance. Let’s remember how marriage started — as a way to control women. Up until the 1970’s New York’s marriage laws (yes, NEW YORKs) allowed one partner to hit and rape another. Guess which one. I support everyone’s rights to marry, but you are great to point out that marriage as an avenue to those rights is not accessible by everyone and will not be chosen by everyone.

Let’s be friends!:) Also should be looking at what’s happening in North Carolina where rightists are trying to institute a waiting period of two years in order to get a divorce, during which they are proposing that divorcing parents take classes to help them communicate about the divorce with their kids since divorce, apparently, is more damaging to children that living with married parents who just wish they could divorce because they don’t want to live together.

Reminds me of the old crisis pregnancy center strategy of the right wing. Counsel women about abortion in a way that will make them feel so bad about getting one that they change their decision…or, they go ahead anyway and are totally traumatized, allowing counselors to claim the abortion causes PTSD…what?

Hi Scot,

I saw the episode of Democracy Now! that you appeared in. What your appearance and contribution did for me was allow me to relax into the debate. I have so many passionate views about the intersections of political subjectivities, and the campaigns and aspects of our identities that we choose to publicly prioritise, that my energy at the moment goes towards reigning in my rants, rather than acknowledging different values, and expressing perspectives with the purpose of engaging and progressing the political conversation. Your skills in the latter are a breath of fresh air. Your post on what you wished you had said was actually what I took away from the segment. Often it is not the most refined formulation of words that make for good political communication, but the integrity of the concepts and how they are conveyed. (In any event, you were by far the most articulate person in the room on that day!) Your appearance on Democracy Now! also led me to this site – which I will be sharing on Facebook in Australia.


Thanks, Sam. So glad to hear that the appearance and the post were helpful, and especially glad to know I’ll be reaching people in Australia!

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