From Deficit to Asset Activism

I spend my days trying to convince non-LGBT identified people that they should care about and support the LGBT community. One very effective way to get what we in the biz call “buy-in” is going over statistics about topics ranging from health disparities to anti-LGBT violence and abuse.

This approach can feel pretty doom-and-gloom, but these sobering stats are extremely compelling. That said, sometimes I worry that focusing too much on problems and suffering runs the risk of making the LGBT community seem like a bunch of cowering victims. It can be difficult to communicate the gravity and immediacy of the situation faced by many in our community, while also pointing out our tremendous resilience, strength, and vibrant networks of support.

Deficit and asset models are nothing new, but I’ve started to think of this as the difference between deficit and asset activism. Deficit activism points out deficiencies, problems, and hardships to motivate action. Asset activism tries to solve problems by tapping existing networks, strengths, and resources.

I was reminded of this distinction when I read about the HRC’s Project One America – “a comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.”


Is this targeted outreach, or does it reinforce the notion that the south is hopelessly backward? Does it focus on the deficits in LGBT rights in the south, or does it activate existing assets in the region?

Kip Williams’s post The South Is Not a New Frontier takes a critical view of Project One America, but I’m not convinced that his is the final word, and I’ll be interested to see how this campaign shakes out.


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