1/25/2009

A Question for Our "Leaders"

IMG_3121Image by jessebucksc via FlickrThis weekend an "Equality Summit" is being held. Another is being held soon in Denver. These meetings of the supposed movers and shakers in the LGBT world are slick affairs where people with titles like "Executive Director" or "Media director" or "Director of Communications in charge of writing the 2000th plea for your last dollar" (OK, that last one is made-up), decide the future of the Gay Movement.

Unfortunately, all these big meetings seem to leave behind the folks who labor down here on the ground. The paid professionals get together and decide our fate without bothering to ask us amateurs if we might have some ideas. Then they come back from the meetings and dictate what, how, and when we will do things.

My question is: Who elected you? I don't remember all the gay folks getting together and electing representatives to some national congress. You get your jobs based on your resumes and your fund-raising ability - not on your effectiveness in organizing people in the streets or getting things done. You line up behind mainstream candidates waiting for crumbs to fall from the Democrats' table. You engage in intellectual masturbation about what went wrong with Prop 8 and point fingers at each other. Then, when it's all over you come back to various groups and dictate to everyone as though you have some real knowledge gleaned from focus groups and "breakout sessions" and other wastes of time.

I'm constantly amazed at how bizarre these things become. I read that at the latest conference one of the biggest arguments occurred over the number of people of color, transsexuals, and bisexuals on the dais.

Look people, here's the deal. It doesn't matter what color or flavor someone comes in if they get the job done. Because there aren't equal numbers of genders, sexual subcultures, or ethnic minorities in every single group is not a reason to freak out and stomp home or bring the whole process to a halt. We're in this together.

What it tells me when people start with that stuff is that their first concern is their race or bedroom activity and their second (or third) concern is fighting for equality for themselves as LGBT people. If the reason you're in the room - full equality for LGBT Americans is an afterthought or takes second place to your concerns about animal rights, ethnic rights, anti-war politics, vegan diets, new age religion, or anything else then kindly shut up. This political ADD where nothing can get accomplished unless all the PC folks can reach a consensus is killing us.

Years ago in South Carolina I worked with a rights group that had a chance for a major grant from the Playboy Foundation to promote equality in the state. It would have meant possibly hiring a lobbyist and the would have underwritten the entire budget for at least a year. It was like winning the lottery. However, we couldn't take the money because it was from the Playboy Foundation. Our feminist lesbian constituents felt it would be politically incorrect because "Playboy exists on the exploitation of women's bodies as objects." Here's the deal, we didn't get the money because of PC people who put their own agendas or beliefs ahead of equality and thus we were unable to fight a marriage amendment effectively.

If LGBT rights aren't #1 on your list, then please be quiet and don't harm the movment to promote whatever your pet cause may be.

As for the leaders at these meetings, here's a novel idea: If you're going to have a big meeting don't sit around discussing the merits of this philosophy or that philosophy. Don't try to make sure everyone is doing the same thing and being nice and normal. We're diverse and that's a strength.

Let the button down crowd hit the halls of power and lobby. Let the radicals keep the pressure on in the streets and organize the folks more interested in cruising than protesting. Work together, not to make everyone toe the same activist line but to coordinate action. Big vote coming up you're going to be lobbying about? Fine, hit it hard and call the radicals in to assemble outside the offices of the politicians and raise a ruckus. Politicians concerned about all the radical queens? Fine, let them know if you get the result you want it will disappear but God help them if it goes wrong. That's pressure you can use as a bargaining chip. Don't tell the radicals to sit home and be quiet so they don't embarrass you, turn them loose to help you.

Why also, are these conferences "open" but only to people who can afford to travel during the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. These types of things add to the stereotype that all gay people are "rich." Yes, it is a stereotype and I've run into it quite a lot recently as new straight friends have assumed that because Michael and I are gay that we have money to burn! That idea couldn't be further from the truth! How about holding statewide meeting first and then holding your big regional or national events? How about soliciting the input of everyone from the ground up instead of dictating policy from the top down?

Checkbook activism has become the preferred method of political protest in the LGBT community it seems. Our various "activist groups" have become huge and bloated monstrosities that exist on the constant cash influx from our people.

I constantly receive pleas for funds from several LGBT groups. One of the most frequent is Human Rights Campaign who tells me I can "support equality" by simply writing a check to them. The suggested amounts are always in the $30 to $50 range.

Guys, we don't have extra money. We have to decide week to week what bills we can pay and still eat. I don't have $5 to send you much less $50. If you need someone to carry a sign at a protest, I'm there. Need someone to knock on doors and get signatures on a petition, I'm there. Need someone to offer a place for out of town activists to stay, my apartment is there.

As I read various reports from the latest Equality Conference I couldn't help but wonder if we'll ever accomplish anything. Many of the meetings revolved around who should speak for us, what couples made the best representatives, what slick ad campaign would be most effective, etc.

Why don't we see people raising hell about the state of equality? Instead of a protest or a public rally to whip up excitement and energy, here in Tucson we're being treated to a cocktail party with special "happy hour" pricing on drinks. HRC is hosting this "action" and I'm still trying to figure out the point. I, for one, thought it was a great idea to get out of the bars and into the streets to bring attention to our plight. Meanwhile, HRC seems to be going in reverse and getting us off the streets and into the bars to raise money.

Sure, I know you need money, but please stop insinuating that those of us who can't afford to pay to play with you aren't doing anything or don't care. It's insulting. Likewise, it's insulting to see you not doing anything other than holding parties and soirees. For those who can't afford drinks at $5 a pop or who don't want to hang around a gay bar, it's doubly frustrating.

I just want to see some forward motion on stuff. I'd like to see a real return to grassroots organizing and protesting. I'd like us to finally eschew the "moderate assimilated gay Democrat" role as the only acceptable one.

Guys, I'm not 21 anymore I'm twice that now. Can we stop masturbating and get to the real thing as Harvey suggested?


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