Editors' Note: Guest blogger Stampp Corbin is a successful entrepreneur and LGBT activist. He was the Co-Chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council during the presidential campaign and is a former Board of Director for the Human Rights Campaign.
Many know the old tune sung by Ella Fitzgerald that goes "you say either, I say eye-ther, you say neither, I say n-eye-ther. Either, eye-ther, neither, n-eye-ther, let's call the whole thing off." That sums up my feeling about the struggle to name our community. You say GLBT, I say LGBT, you say LGBTQ, I say GLBTQA, gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, let's call the whole thing off.
I have been involved in "community" politics almost all of my adult life. I have watched our community go from being the gay community to the gay and lesbian community to the gay, lesbian and bisexual community to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to the new variants which have added questioning (Q), allies (A) and pansexual (P). Unbelievably, there are several other initialisms that purport to represent "our" community. It is not only frustrating but politically damaging. Is it asking too much for us to agree on what we would like to be called?
The simple fact that we cannot agree on what to call ourselves has political consequences and manifests itself in how our organizations relate to one another. Which leadership organization or person should our allies, or god forbid the President, turn to for advice? Is it the Human Rights Campaign? Oh no, too rich, male and white. Is it the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force? Oh no, too militant, lesbian and tranny (an offensive term, but what is often used in conversation). The Stonewall Democrats? Oh no, too democrat focused. After all we need to support moderate Republicans. The Log Cabin Republicans? Oh no, they are crazy. Andrew Sullivan? Nuff said. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis? Oh no, they can't even agree on a place to have lunch in the Capital. Rachel Maddow? Is she out to the general public? So, who should our allies, or more importantly the President, listen to?
Our community's problem, the cacophony of voices should be a choir. Instead, we have differing opinions that are always voiced, no matter the consequences. No issue is too small, "oh my God they changed the wording on the White House website," or too big, "ENDA without the T is throwing the entire community under a proverbial bus," for our leaders to rear their ugly heads in the blogosphere. Of course, many of us don't agree on a myriad of issues. Yet, we refuse to anoint a few organizations as our voice because that would mean their leadership is the leadership of our movement. Oh no, no one can be crowned the Martin Luther King of the LGBTQIQAA movement!
So, we continue to not have an agreed to national strategy. A cacophony of national voices, no national agenda. I find it hilarious that the religious right (even they have a name for themselves), think that we have a "gay" agenda. If the religious right left the political stage today and left us to our own devices, our community could not agree on an agenda. Should we pursue an Omnibus LGBT bill? Or should that be an Omnibus GLBTQA bill? No, let's get marriage first and all else will follow. No, no we need to pursue a state by state domino strategy and then federal legislation will be much easier. Hey, DADT is the key to our equality. "You say potato and I say pa-tah-to."
How much longer will we tolerate the infighting that is to the detriment of our community? How long will we let a blogger with 50 readers present himself as a voice of our community? When will we say enough is enough? When will our lead organizations get together and produce national talking points that are followed? Or will our community let the host of organizations that have been created since Prop 8 take the national stage regardless of the consequences? When will we learn to sacrifice the ability to express our disagreement for the greater good? Lorri Jean debating Joe Solmonese on Hardball, does anyone else think that is odd?
We need a charismatic leader to take the helm and lead us to equality. In the meantime, I'll just listen to Ella sing the song of our discontent. How many letters does it take to kill a movement? One more than the four we already have.