Michael Adams

Why we're going to the White House Monday

Filed By Michael Adams | June 26, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Congress, elderly gays and lesbians, lesbian, Madelin Alk, renee rosenfield, sage, White House

On Monday, my partner and I will join two SAGE constituents - Madelin Alk and Renee Rosenfield - at a White House Pride celebration at which President Obama will speak. The event has generated controversy, with some LGBT commentators suggesting that it should be boycotted because the Obama Administration has not done enough for the LGBT community in its first six months. But the presence of Madelin and Renee - who are 86 and 91 respectively and have been together for more than 20 years - says a lot about why we at SAGE feel it's so important to be there on Monday and to continually engage with the Obama Administration (and anybody else who has power and might be convinced to do the right thing with it).

We all have the right to be outraged that our relationships aren't respected equally, that we are not allowed to openly serve our country in the military, and that seniors in our community are denied the Social Security and Medicaid benefits that often make the difference between making it or not in old age. But one of the many wonders of working at SAGE and being surrounded by our community's older generation is getting the benefit of the wisdom that comes with age - that Rome wasn't built in a day, that making change is more often a slog than a revolution, and that progress comes from both relentless pushing and a dose of patience. Those messages make sense to SAGE folks even when we're dealing with the most reluctant public and private policymakers - yes, we talk to them all the time too. They make even more sense to us when we're talking about a President that has repeatedly declared a firm commitment to LGBT equality and has been buffeted by crises of monumental proportions during his first six months in office.

None of this means that we don't push relentlessly for change and fair treatment. Nobody knows that better than SAGE. Our constituents - people like Madelin and Renee - don't have time to waste. Their presence is a powerful reminder of the "fierce urgency of now." There is an urgent need (one that gets ignored almost as often by our own community as by policymakers) to erase the invisibility of LGBT older people and to end the discrimination against them in government benefits and programs. Every opportunity we have to remind the White House and other policymakers about that urgent need, we will. We want President Obama to look into the 91 year-old eyes of Renee and the 86 year-old eyes of Madeline and feel their fierce urgency. We know it's powerful and can change things.

That's why SAGE is going to the White House on Monday.


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Paige Listerud | June 26, 2009 4:44 PM

I'm glad that you are going because:

1) Somebody from the LGBTQ has got to be there to tell the president WHY we are so pissed off

2) The Beltway needs to see that queer is not a young person's game--it affects all our lives, all throughout our lifetimes.

You are performing a valuable service to the community. Don't let anyone discourage you. And keep us posted on what happened.

Tom Weber | June 26, 2009 5:44 PM

Context and the long view are very important when we are talking about these issues, especially when we think about the age span. We need to engage with elected officials if we want change, even when they don't agree with us. The more they know the many faces of the LGBT communities - young and old - the harder it becomes to deny any of us our rights. Often, the real face of someone like a "real" old woman is harder to resist than faces of lobbyists, activists and queer professionals. How thrilling it must be for these two older lesbian women to be invited to the White House by a sitting President as out and open lesbian women - has that ever happened before? All progress begins with one step. Your decision makes perfect sense to me.

Sherrill Wayland | June 26, 2009 8:57 PM

How many 86 and 91 year old lesbians would have dreamed that they would attend a PRIDE event where the President of the United States is actually speaking? What an incredible moment in their lives this will be.

Change and progress take time. And I bet Madelin and Renee understand this better than I. We must continue to have a "seat at the table" and I am grateful to hear that Madelin, Renee and SAGE will be at the White House Pride.

Thank you for sharing this message. To Madelin and Renee - I hope the two of you have the time of your lives as you celebrate proudly. And thank you for your continued activism - you ROCK!

While I think SAGE is a great organization, I must take issue with your attitude about progress. It's exactly attitudes like yours that give cover to cowardly politicians who could choose to stand up and do right by us but don't because there are still too many Democratic Party apologists like you out there making lame excuses for what is not something that needs more time - we've been fighting for these rights for decades - but rather more action. In fact, we've never been in a more positive political situation for getting basic LGBT civil rights finally passed into law.

It's time we stopped making excuses for Democratic political cowardice and started holding them accountable for their repeated failures in real and significant ways.

Do these things take time? Yes, they do...but now, forty years after Stonewall, with Obama in office and Dem majorities in both houses of Congress, there can be no more excuses...time's up!

Two generations of waiting is more than enough. It's time for Democrats to deliver on their promises. Now. This year.

The Dems told us what they needed to get the job done. We helped them get what they said they needed. If they still can't deliver for us even now, with all of the advantages we've helped to provide the Party with to this point, then we must conclude that to continue funding the Democratic Party is to actively fund our own continuing oppression.

No more waiting. No more lame excuses. It's time to put the lesson of Stonewall to work in a practical sense. Just bitching about it and passively hoping for change someday is for suckers. It's time to stand up, strike back, and let the pols know than when they hurt us we can and will hurt them back.

Rick Sours | June 27, 2009 8:06 AM

Thanks Rebecca!!

very well said

Nothing about SAGE's work suggests that we're "passively hoping for change some day." We're working for it, day in day out, 24-7. A lot of our constituents were doing that decades before many of us were born, when times were unimaginably worse than they are today. It's their hard work, their persistence, and their refusing to give up after 40, 50, 60 and 70 years of relentless work that's gotten us where we are today.

Michael Adams, SAGE

"But one of the many wonders of working at SAGE and being surrounded by our community's older generation is getting the benefit of the wisdom that comes with age - that Rome wasn't built in a day, that making change is more often a slog than a revolution, and that progress comes from both relentless pushing and a dose of patience. Those messages make sense to SAGE folks even when we're dealing with the most reluctant public and private policymakers - yes, we talk to them all the time too. They make even more sense to us when we're talking about a President that has repeatedly declared a firm commitment to LGBT equality and has been buffeted by crises of monumental proportions during his first six months in office."

I disagree. Your words above are exactly that, Mr. Adams, lame excuse-making for a President and a Party that has consistently failed us since taking control of our government, as well as for decades before that.

I don't buy it, sir, and frankly I'm amazed that you do. The time for polite begging and cocktail parties is over. It's time to get out in streets, kick some ass, and take on those who stand in the way of full equality for all Americans directly and forcefully, no matter who they are or what political ideology they publicly espouse.

I'm sure some of your members were around for Stonewall, Mr. Adams. I suggest you spend some time talking to them. It's their example we need to follow today. Real change happens on the streets, in the real world, because of the efforts of real, average everyday Americans, not in the antiseptic impenetrable bubble within the Beltway.

beachcomberT | June 27, 2009 10:26 AM

Michael, I hope the reception allows serious dialogue, not just cocktail-party chatter. Obama the Politician may be assuming he can go slow on gay issues because who else would do anything more for the LGBT cause. True enough. But couple Obama's inaction on gay issues with his coddling of Wall Street, failure to deal decisively with foreclosures and now possibly bungling health care reform (not to mention the wars dragging on) and he's setting himself up for a primary challenge from a progressive in 2012. And if Republicans have half a brain, they'll find a glib, good-looking moderate to take away some of his centrist base. Good luck on speaking truth to power.

In my ancestral tongue Gle Mhath! Very Good. That you can go and do this says a lot about the potential getting White House support for our issues. We have been cut off from that for so long.
Keep up the good work.
Tell them about our families. I am a bi father of 5 kids one of which is gay and I want my son to have every chance for happiness that he can.

I think we need to challenge the White House to invite our extremely outspoken activists to a party. Oh what I would give to be there and what an earfull I would give! I don't know how to react to those who are attending. I guess someone needs to be there that will take copious notes and follow the invitees around which would give us all the transparency that we MUST have with our own LGBT organizations.

My opinion on your attending the meeting will be withheld until I see how you behave.

Kiss up to Obama, and I will be outraged.

Tell him to get his bigoted butt out of the people's house and I will be proud.

Anything in between will depend on my mood that day.

Tell him that if Dick Cheney (who supports same-sex marriage) is the Republican nominee in 2012, you plan to vote for him.

Then ask him to explain how he can have a religious problem with same-sex marriage, support interracial marriage, and oppose slavery. When he fails to provide a satisfactory answer, tell him you'd like him, his wife, and daughters to walk out to your car, where you have shackles for them and that you are going to take them home with you.

Ask him whether he is an anti-gay bigot or just a coward with no integrity, character, or backbone.

Ask him why he signed a memo on federal benefits that won't last past 2012 when he is out of office, but he uses that as an excuse for not signing a stop-loss order to set DADT aside until 2012.

Ask him why he sent that bigot Donny McClurkin to S. C. to denounce gays.

Ask him why kisses Rick Warren's butt and disses Bishop Robinson.

Ask him why he seeks spiritual counsel from bigots like Rev. James Meeks.

Ask him why his religious beliefs trump those of other Americans who support same-sex marriage.

Ask him if he will disown his daughter, like Alan Keyes did, if she turns out to be lesbian.

Demand that he apologize to the nation in a national press conference for his disgraceful attacks on gay people. He can start with the DOMA brief.

AND DON"T FORGET to ask him why he is selling out to health insurance companies instead of proposing the only real solution: a single-payer, universal health care system.

I could offer a dozen more suggestions, but it is late and I'm sure you can come up with some more questions for Mr. Obama yourself.

Liz

Mary Hayes | June 28, 2009 11:33 AM

Considering the MO of the Obama Administration conderning GLBT issues since the Inauguration -- words, words, words and little else -- I'm not expecting much to come of this. It's just an opportunity to buy off "gay leaders" with a cocktail party. Such a deal.

That's why I said I'd withhold judgment until after the event -- but, if I had to place a bet, sadly, I'd bet that you are correct.