I am the biggest queen you never met. I love Madonna and dancing and fashion and cooking and all of the shallow, stereotypical things that the nonpolitical superficial sissies are interested in. I long for the day that I won't have to even think about queer politics, and I can wander my Malibu mansion in Versace with my sugar daddy and my custom Maserati or Bugatti and listen to my vintage Madonna vinyls while cooking French cuisine in my expensive kitchen with my scantily clad pool-boy.
But since, as of yet, it's difficult for me to reach my American dream when I can't even keep a job if I'm gay, I choose to fight. So which camp to fight in? The far left, tear-the-system-down, reject-all-authority, kill-the-straight-man camp; or the non-threatening , champagne with the Senators, cigars with executives, compromise, don't make waves, 'Gay, Inc.' camp?
I've always been a gal who hates to have to choose between two things she really wants. I'd like to have a little bit of both.
In his South Florida Blade piece, "Radical vs. mainstream queer politics," Father Tony really articulates this conundrum for me, and I realize that this is probably the same pickle a lot of us gays find ourselves in.
My Secret Political Fetishes
I attend church, I love my capitalist life, and I not only hold an HRC membership, I was actively involved in local leadership in the organization back in Michigan for years; I've done the rubbing shoulders with Senators, pass the caviar, won't-you-please-consider-lukewarm-support-for-us-again-this-year-while totally-not-passing-our-bills thing. And I loved it. I grew up in a political household and jumping into the process and participating as one of the cogs within it felt really good, but also afforded me the opportunity to learn so much and help get things done; maybe not in D.C. (obviously) but once I got home, locally and on smaller issues.
While I like being a cog, I also have a need to take a crowbar to the system and crush the machine. I enjoy marching and subverting the system. I hate privilege and arbitrary authority over me, and I am freaking angry--right down to my core! And I want to express that. I grew up listening to punk rock and reading subversive literature. There's no getting around it, I want to participate in some anarchy. I want to riot. I want to loot and plunder and finally let out this bitter rage. Regardless of the consequences, I'm ready to fight by any means necessary.
Each of these extremes indulge a part of me. I want to feel I belong and that I'm part of the system and that I have stature, on one hand. On the other, I want to destroy. I want to announce my hurt to the world so loud no one can ignore it. However, beyond pandering to my personal emotional needs, both these camps serve a great function in the LGBT rights movement. The radicals keep us all honest, they call out 'bullshit' when it needs to be called, and they keep fresh ideas coming in. They also often times get distracted--a meeting about Hate Crimes, quickly devolves into an exchange about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' which becomes a fight about militarism, imperialism and capitalism--and shoot themselves in the foot by following actions that earn public support with actions that promptly lose that support.
After the radicals get the ball rolling, however, the nice non-offensive camp takes that momentum to the halls of leadership and negotiate change on the system's terms. And they are successful--not so much in D.C.--but we have seen plenty of success on state and municipal level to unequivocally say that working the system does, in fact, work! However, they get so caught up in the system they begin to get too cautious to change anything; they work so hard to get their access, they're afraid to lose it, so they become paralyzed.
When this happens, radicals come back once again to activate people back into action. They put pressure on the system, and the folks in power turn to the suit-and-tie gays they're comfortable and familiar with and say "Uh oh, what do we do now?" The process begins anew.
Like It or Not, Both Sides Need One Another
Both camps need one another--for better or for worse. Without the one, the other stalls and begins spinning their wheels. I, like father Tony, like to keep a foot in both camps for this reason; for what they can achieve together. Now that I've seen Father Tony is like-minded, I realize there must be more of us out there - button down, dimple-cheeked, silk tie lobbyists that fantasize of throwing a garbage can through a pizza shop window - or dread-headed, patchouli-musked, bohemian skirted lesbian radicals that dream of donning a power-suit, briefcase and $200 hairdo to shake hands with Carl Levin.
We can all be a little bit right and a little bit left if it fits and it gets us to the goal. Today, show a little love for the person at the other end of the spectrum from you, and recognize we all want liberation, and we're all working very hard doing what we believe to be the right thing to get there.