Bil Browning

Fairness West Virginia launches: Sniping starts immediately

Filed By Bil Browning | March 11, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: civil rights groups, Fairness WV, LGBT community, LGBT organizations, West Virginia

Yesterday's mail brought word that West Virginia has established their first state-wide LGBT organization. Fairness West Virginia has an immediate goal of recruiting 1000 new members in their first twenty days - an ambitious target for a state not known for its equal treatment of citizens.

FairnessWestVirginia.jpgOne thing that immediately stood out as I watched the news spread across the blogosphere was a diary post on Pam's House Blend that has Pam's readers talking quite a bit. The author immediately criticizes Fairness West Virginia for their name.

Rather than fight for equality, it seems that some LGBT folks are now willing to settle for fairness. This is something that I find to be quite disturbing.
...
Here in Monterey County [California], we're not making a plea for fairness. We are working for full equality under the law.

Some will argue that things are different in Appalachia. Homophobia is definitely a problem there. But, is the Salinas Valley really that much different? Just ask those of us who live in the area and you'll find out that discrimination against LGBT people is a serious problem.

This is the same self-serving narcissistic attitude that drives me nuts around the whole marriage debate as I mentioned in my post on GLAD's lawsuit challenging DOMA. The shallow criticism of the blogger only reinforces my belief that queers from more progressive states on the coasts have no f--king clue about life in flyover country.

The blogger obviously hasn't spent time in what the McCain campaign deemed the "real America." Especially rich was this tidbit:

Here in California, gay and lesbian couples have lost the right to marry. That's not fair. But, asking for fairness is not the answer. Asking someone to be fair implies that there is a legitimate choice involved in the matter -- a judgement [sic] to be made. That element of choice must be eliminated in order for us to be equal. No one should have the right to judge us and make us second class citizens.

We can't settle for fairness. We must demand equality.

The poor, poor dear. He lost his right to get married and whines, "That's not fair" like a 4 year old who didn't get their way. It's a tinny complaint that thankfully falls on mostly deaf ears on PHB.

Let me tell him what else "isn't fair":

  • In Indiana LGBT people can still be fired for having a picture of their spouse at their desk.
  • In Wyoming another young gay man could be beaten until almost dead, tied to a fence post and left to die without it being classified as a hate crime.
  • In Tennessee yet another trans woman can be brutally killed or tortured by the police with hardly a murmer from the larger community.
  • In North Carolina the recent GLAD lawsuit could spark another big push for a state amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.
  • In West Virginia there are still places where driving through the town with any sort of pro-LGBT bumpersticker can get you pulled over by the police and harassed.
  • In Indiana there are still towns where LGBT people or other minorities are verbally threatened, attacked or, at the very least, encouraged to get the hell out of town as quickly as possible.

Instead, the blogger seems to be insinuating that the new group won't be fighting for full equality for the state's LGBT residents by comparing apples and oranges. Yes, California's Salinas Valley is different from West Virginia. Yes, homophobia is a problem across the country.

West Virginians, however, don't have the luxury of enjoying all the protections that come from living in the Salinas Valley. They're fighting for basic fairness - a stepping stone to equality. You have to walk before you can run. These are "luxuries" that California enjoys that a lot of the rest of the country simply doesn't.

The fact that the blogger has no clue how privileged and elitist his post is, only reinforces the notion that many LGBT people have no f--king clue what life is like outside of their narrow liberal bubble.

To pick at the new organization for choosing the name Fairness West Virginia? That's just, well, not fair.

And it's pretty damn petty to boot.


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Everyday Transperson | March 11, 2009 4:02 PM

"The fact that the blogger has no clue how privileged and elitist his post is, only reinforces the notion that many LGBT people have no f--king clue what life is like outside of their narrow liberal bubble."

OK, but how is this instance any different from the privileged and elitist corporate and political "activist" clique you recruit here which always seems to get "invited" to write on blogs and placed in the spotlight ??? Nobody at this blog seems to speak up about the "narrow bubble" present when diverse opinions from everyday people are excluded and status quo opinions from the GLBT "activist" buddy clique are welcomed with open arms...........

Its all fun and games when people are on the inside, but the whole thing being on the outside takes on a sharply different perspective with sharply contrasting feelings doesn't it???

Welcome to our world Mr. Browning

CBrachyrhynchos | March 11, 2009 4:46 PM

I'll repeat what I said over there. As most of the activism surrounding gay rights is ultimately local, I believe that we owe local activists the benefit of the doubt for organizing their own battles.

Furthermore, people living in CA, NY, and MA are in a position of legal privilege even if it falls short of full equality.

Bil, you should read Amin Ghaziani's The Dividends of Dissent.

Language matters, and conversations about language matter even more. To think that any queer organization is going to avoid debate about their name is just wrong, and a world where that isn't the case is one that I'm not particularly interested in anyway.

Rather than fight for equality, it seems that some LGBT folks are now willing to settle for fairness.

It's funny because I'm sitting here thinking, "Equality? Equality!? Whatever happened to liberation!?"

I personally could care less about their name if they support the non-discrimination bill that jettisoned the trans community in order to get it out of committee in W. Virginia. That is neither fair nor equal in my view.

I am uncertain as to FWV's stance on this and, to be honest, since they are so new they probably have little real influence. I am not pointing fingers.

That said, I am once again disgusted at this situation. I have a friend who was living in W. Virginia, in a car, in a trailer park, because she lost her job at a library when she transitioned. She was eventually thrown out of the trailer park too. She was told, "Well, if you're gonna be a woman, you can't stay here." She had no recourse but to leave. Fortunately, she found shelter at a friend's house some months back so she was not out on the street. I shudder to think what she would have had to do if that safety net weren't available.

I'm afraid this will resemble the situation that we faced in New York State in 2002. Trans people were told that the GLB community would come back for them. 7 years later the main focus is STILL marriage equality. I cannot complain that we have been ignored but our state's trans non-discrimination law still is placed second. I hope I'll see a strong condemnation of the noninclusive bill on the FWV website soon, but I won't be holding my breath.

Criticizing their name? Bunch of garbage. Setting that org up in WVa takes the kind of balls it took to, well, set up such an org in Kentucky. Well, they must not like us very much, either, then, since the orgs I belong to are known as the Louisville Fairness Campaign, and the Committee for Fairness and Individual Rights (C-FAIR). Louisville Fairness Campaign's called itself that since the 1980s. Perhaps those of you who call your orgs "Equality _____" should change YOUR names? Or, better still, who gives a damn what your name is, if you're getting work done?

jimtoevs@yahoo.com | March 12, 2009 10:12 AM

Thanks Bil! It is so refreshing to read something from someone who "gets it"!

Jim

Whoa.... a little perspective

It's not like we've just now discovering that folks on either coast have a well developed sense of themselves? Extremely well developed.

Yeah, it sucks. It's annoying. I feel the pain - I live between New York and DC the east coast epicenters of ego. But this battle for the little guy is getting a bit ...

Our bookends are the way they are because they've been on the leading edge of cultural change since the year dot. That the rest of the country isn't ready to catch up isn't their problem.

The genie has been out of the bottle for a long time now. The right wing needs a wedge. Since the fall of the Soviet Union that wedge has been us. It could be marriage in Massachusetts or a transgendered girl scout leader in Ohio that sets them off next. If they can't find an excuse, they'll manufacture one - witness the hoopla over Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas.

The history of progress has pretty much been one step forward and two steps back.

And rather than a bunch of hand-wringing over the comments of a few Californians, we could actually learn something from the folks in West Virginia. The name of their organization is actually pretty brilliant. People yawn over yet another call for equality from this group or that. Fairness, now that's another story. These organizers have tapped into a basic American value and tied their cause to it. They've elected to speak the language of the people they're trying to persuade. Go West Virginia!

Oh my. I went and read the diary and comments at PHB, and the author, well, let's just say that he's a common type in the gay community. I especially loved it when he said something along the lines of "backlash doesn't exist, only progress does!" Ummmm... yeah, which is why Roe is settled law and no one dares to question the wisdom of teaching science in biology classes instead of creationism anymore.

I can think of a few national orgs, though, that have names that should change. I'm not going to get into that here, since I really don't want to cause another national org to write off bilerico as a bunch of haters again. :)

Ditto on what Nick said. When did equality become the end goal? We should be fighting to improve our lives - for justice, autonomy, and an increased material quality of life. "Equality" seems really short-sighted.

Ditto on what Greg said too: WV LGBT's have to use the language that works in WV, not in California. I think a major thing that they'd be worried about with "equality" is association with leftist academic and political movements which people in WV are obviously weary of. That is, "equality" is a word that comes from a certain cultural background, and in states like California it works and in states like WV it might not.

It probably doesn't help that the Limbaugh crowd has been railing against "equality" for decades. But people still think that fairness is good.

In the end, congrats to them for starting this org. If anyone wants to complain about the name, make a donation to the group before you complain.