Editors' Note: Guest blogger Elián Maricón is a PhD candidate at a university in an undisclosed location. He lives in an undisclosed location with his life partner and their two chihuahuas (Dick Cheney is fortunately nowhere in sight). Before returning to academia, he was professional do-gooder in San Francisco for many years. Elián is brand new to the blogosphere, and Queers Against Obama is his first blog.
The organizers of Join the Impact missed a rare and possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a real and lasting impact on the struggle for LTBTQI liberation. As you may recall, Join the Impact was the group that impressively mobilized tens of thousands of queers to participate in simultaneous nationwide protests. They put the whole thing together barely a week after a bizarre, pathologically dishonest, tax-evading cadre of magic underwear-clad cultists (a.k.a. "Mormons") successfully purchased the passage of Prop 8 via a multimillion dollar campaign of fear-mongering and lies. These protests took place in every state in the country, even in obscure small towns in states like Arkansas and Mississippi. That was an unprecedented achievement in LGBT activism, or at least for LGBT activism during my lifetime.
The Prop 8 Mascot
In the immediate aftermath of Prop 8's underwhelming margin of victory at the ballot box, LGBTQ people across the nation were glued to their tv's and computers, transfixed with hope by the countless images of boisterous and angry protests (& near-riots) that raged like wildfires across California. Although radically-minded queers (including, at times, me) mostly dismissed these protests due to the various motives we imputed to the protesters, the fact remains that LGBTQ people were almost unanimously chomping at the bit to help fan the flames of what could very well have become another Stonewall riot, this time on a national scale.
The passage of Prop 8 was perceived by most queers as just another example of the countless indignities to which we are subjected daily. Of course, Prop 8 was a highly publicized indignity, and it became a mascot of sorts for many queer people. Mascots represent things. Usually they are cute furry critters of some sort that represent sports teams or corporations. The Prop 8 mascot, however, was a disfigured horror barely clinging on to life.
When queers looked at their Prop 8 mascot, what many of them saw was the legal incarnation of socially enforced shame, lies, family-inflicted wounds (spiritual, psychological and physical), lies, Jerry Falwell, secrets, Matthew Shepard and the murder of thousands of other Matthews of all gender expressions who weren't pretty or white enough to warrant coverage on CNN, are you a boy or a girl, Pat Robertson, invisibility, lies, playground taunts, Rick Warren, I don't want faggots in my house son so get the fuck out, Gwen Araujo murdered and no one giving a fuck, the pope, god hates fags, vulnerable gay preteens raped by priests or their fathers, Exodus International, the New Jersey 4, and the condescending sneer of liberal heterosexist disdain.
Right Time - Right Place
Join The Impact popped up at exactly the right place and at exactly the right time, and they tapped into the revulsion that queers of all stripes felt when forced to behold their new mascot. The publicity surrounding the unveiling of the mascot allowed Join The Impact's message to reach queers living in the rural South, the barrios, and every loft-infested gentrified gayborhood in urban America. What followed was one of the most well-orchestrated and memorable events in recent LGBTQ history. I'm not entirely convinced that the rage that was on display in those protests was entirely due to Proposition 8, the plethora of Google-sponsored "freedom to marry" placards notwithstanding.
After the success of that first national protest, the momentum of queer outrage and activism facilitated by the folks at Join the Impact could have been the catalyst for increasingly raucous protests, coordinated acts of massive civil (and not-so-civil) disobedience, sustained direct action, and a new subcultural norm of bashing back (such as creating a Google map similar to the one that lists the addresses of Prop 8 donors, except this map would be dedicated to known gay bashers). We could have very well witnessed the dawning of a new and more menacing (and thus more effective) LGBTQ rights movement. An invigorated movement of this sort could have relegated the impotent and cowardly self-appointed leaders (i.e., affluent gay white male Uncle Toms) of the dominant (or "mainstream", as they like to call themselves) gay rights movement to the margins of obscurity along with their racist/transphobic/classist front groups like the HRC.
So what happened? What did the folks at Join the Impact do with that angry momentum generated by those fabulously furious, gorgeously rage-filled, and strangely validating national protests?
They squandered it completely.
Ignoring the voices of people who posted numerous pleas for more "militant" future actions (e.g., massive non-violent civil disobedience) on their website, the leaders of JTI instead organized a silent candlelight vigil, a "day without a gay", and a petition to Obama. Let me say that one more time so it will sink in: They organized a silent candlelight vigil, a Day Without a Gay, and a petition to Obama.
What Impact? What Happened?
The Comintern leading Join The Impact apparently believed that courageously defiant actions like sending petitions begging Obama to "please, pretty please keep your campaign promises to be nice to us and do things like repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'" would actually have an impact. This ridiculous petition drive demonstrated that Join The Impact's organizers possessed a dumbfounding lack of awareness about Obama's character and history. It was as if a conscious decision was made by the group's leadership to descend willfully into a state of pathological denial, clinical delusion and premature irrelevancy.
I applaud the initial work of Join the Impact, but I think they set a new record for selling out (or maybe they never owned anything of substance worth selling in the first place). After the paleoconservative religious wackos showed up in droves to help Prop 8 eke out its minuscule victory, many LGBTQ people were momentarily roused from their trauma-induced state of paralysis, and they were yearning for creative ways to express lifetimes of pent up fury that would be cathartic, militant, and (heaven forbid) effective. A critical mass of queer people were finally sufficiently pissed off, fed up and seemingly prepared to engage in the risky work required to bring about real change and achieve true equality, even if that work involved cracking a few skulls and suffering a few skull fractures of one's own.
With a single posting on their website, Join the Impact could have unleashed a queer rebellion that would have made the original Stonewall riots seem like a friendly game of paintball. Had they done so, Obama almost certainly would have uninvited that putrid, purpose-driven mass of homophobic rhinoceros shit Rick Warren from his inauguration, and he (and the rest of our rulers) would have been forced to reckon with queer people on queer terms.
But Join the Impact held a nationwide candlelight vigil instead and Obama got a free pass for honoring a man with ties to Christian Jihadists in Africa who roam around looking for LGBTQ people to rape and slowly torture to death - just for shits and giggles. The moment passed. Sadly, the trauma-induced paralysis settled in again, while the change we could believe in turned out to be just another pedestrian fag joke we'd already heard a million times before.
These days, Join the Impact's website is little more than a collection of ads for online gay dating services and links to dancing penguins.
What an impact. What a waste.