Alex Blaze

On loyalty oaths

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 14, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barney Frank, bisexual, blogging, DOMA, ENDA, Jerry Nadler, Joe Sudbay, John Aravosis, lesbian, LGBT, Tammy Baldwin

I'm sure you've all heard by now that Rep. Jerry Nadler plans on introducing a bill to repeal DOMA in the House, and that Barney Frank isn't co-sponsoring because he's worried that the "certainty principle" will be a poison pill that will kill the bill and that it will be a distraction from other legislation like ENDA.

Personally, it seems like a rather academic debate right now considering that the bill won't be voted on until at least after the 2010 midterms and that it won't pass the Senate in Obama's first term, if it does pass within the next decade. Sorry, I just don't feel the optimism here.

But there are also plenty of reasons to think that Frank either should or should not cosponsor the bill. There is a strategic debate there, and we're having it because the person at the center of that strategic debate is Barney Frank, one of the gay movement's smartest, most powerful, and staunchest actors. If it were anyone else, he'd probably be shouted down as an "uncle Tom" or a "traitor." If anyone would have paid attention in the first place.

More extreme (in rhetoric and emotion, not politics) members of the LGBT population have already gotten fed up with Frank. Aravosis is now referring to the Congressman as "formerly gay," because apparently having a different opinion on a strategic discussion means that you're no longer allowed to suck dick. Joe Sudby, who generally shows more restraint, said:

But, sometimes, we really need our allies to be our allies, not just the smartest people around.

His comment is fairly representative of what a lot of people are actually saying when they call someone an "uncle Tom" for not agreeing with them that marriage is the most important issue ever, for example. They don't want people to think on their own or help out as they can - they want loyalty.

But loyalty isn't defined as loyalty to the community or loyalty to a certain goal. It's defined as "You're a good, loyal, real gay person if you agree with me." For some reason, it's not a definition people on the left use, but the center-left/big-city liberal section of the community that's always just assumed it had the God-given right to define the strategies, goals, and composition of the LGBT movement.

I point this out not because there aren't traitors to the LGBT community (there are), but because of the amount of bullshit created by people bandying around that term as if it was more important than actually discussing what we're doing. We're supposed run head-first into anything that shines brightly enough to make us think, for five minutes, that it can make this whole homophobia thing go away. Anyone who doesn't obviously just doesn't care enough about gay rights.

One of the main reasons I started blogging, and one of the main reasons I put a lot of work into co-creating a space where other LGBTQ people, many of whom I vehemently disagree with, can share their opinions and experiences, is because a few years ago I was fed up with the lack of internal discussion when it came to major questions of goals and strategy. And there's something about editing, scheduling, and then monitoring blog posts that you disagree with that gives you a little sense of reality, a small sense that your experiences as a queer person don't translate over all boundaries.

What I found, though, was that the movement is filled with intelligent and left-leaning people working in orgs, in media, or helping out as they can. In many ways, though, their voices get marginalized or ignored, or they self-censor in favor of what they think the community wants them to say or believe.

I've said quite a few times that that's the biggest thing this movement has going for it - we're a diverse crowd of people, from every religion, race, ethnicity, state, city, gender, sex, sexuality, income level, and social class. With all those perspectives, all those diverse strengths, all that communal creativity, and all that access to every part of the country, we can move planets.

Instead, we have people who want to force loyalty oaths on others, who think that they understand "the community" thoroughly and can therefore set up boundaries of what it appropriate discussion and what isn't. That turns good people off and limits what we're able to do.

Not that everyone in the community does this. On the contrary, it's the same people who think that their brand of centrist/liberal politics speaks for us all (except for those notorious, bumbling radical queers who embarrass us all). Small ironies like the fact that Aravosis just plain doesn't like transgender people are lost on these folks. If you ask me, the person who thinks that trans women are "men who wants to cut off his penis" and that a trans man is an "anatomically female person (i.e., born with female genitalia), dressed as a man" is the one who isn't behaving like a good ally to the LGBT community.

None of this should be read as a call to civil discourse, by the way. I'm not asking for that, since usually civil discourse gets defined as not having an opinion, not disagreeing, not rocking the boat. Quite the opposite - any disagreement with people who think that they're at the center of the LGBT movement is read as impolite and insulting. Merely stating that you're coming from a different perspective, that maybe you don't hold the same values or thoughts as them is, in and of itself, uncivil discourse and a personal insult.

As I said before the jump, if this wasn't Barney Frank, there would be a whole lot less "I disagree with him for X, Y, and Z reasons" and a whole lot more "Who does he think he is?" The fact that we're still hearing some of the latter, though, proves what a strong force this is in the community for defining what's civil discourse and what isn't.

This isn't about kumbaya, this is about what the community loses when we label smart people who think differently "traitors" and "uncle Toms" and "bad allies." If Barney Frank becomes a persona non grata in the LGBT community, then we will definitely need to rethink this stranglehold a small, vocal sector have over defining who's in and who's out.


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Alex, you know I agree with this completely having been subjected to a bit of this myself.

'Nuff said.

Never forget: U.S. Representative Barney Frank has a vote in Congress. John Aravosis doesn't.

Exactly, Wilson. Frank is nothing if not a shrewd politician.

While we're working on getting ENDA and hate crimes through Congress, is it the time to whip out the most contentious bit of rights we want - the one that literally makes the right wing froth at the mouth? The one we can't even get the people of California to vote in favor of - let alone far right Southerners with much more weight to their votes?

Barney Frank is a right winger in a right centrist party that moving right. He just happens to be moving faster than most.

I think part of that has to do with his being a reluctant torch bearer for the GLBT struggle for liberation. Liberation is definitely not the name of the game for him. He was appointed “GLBT Spokesperson” year after year in spite of the fact that he stayed closeted as long as he could. Unfortunately, in the overheated hot house of homohating of Congress you can’t stay closeted forever, particularly if you bf is running a rent-a-boy service out of your house.

Frank won’t be the last one to find out that being openly gay in the Democratic (sic) or Republican Party is not a piece of cake.

He’s been looking for an exit strategy for some time. It’s a common enough phenomenon and requires becoming mired even more deeply in the swamp of Democrat/Republican party politics, opposing same sex marriage and kowtowing to the bigots. It’s a strategy that’s hardly unique to Frank.

He chaired Hillary Clintons’ LGBT campaign in spite of her record as a union buster, a paytriotic war hawk and a pigheaded opponent of marriage equality.

He opposed same sex marriage in California just like the mormons, catholics, Obama and the southern baptists.

In 2007 he fought hard to make ENDA worthless, accepting every Republican amendment offered, including one that forbade using ENDA in legal disputes about DOMA.

It doesn't get any worse than that.

Whatever his motives, however intense the pressure to capitulate to homohating, he’s still a quisling.

“Formerly gay” – I love it.

A Republican politician is a baboon in a people suit with a totalitarian christer attached at the hip. A Democratic politician is a Republican in drag.

We don't have the votes. I don't buy the oft give"It will mobilise the Right" argument because if the President reaches for something with his left hand it mobilises the Right.

But the reality is that nearly no Republican will vote for it, and we can count upon a defection of Democrats on this one; further, the fierce advocate is unlikely to stake much political capital on the issue. Promises to us are "pie crust" promises, easily made and easily broken

Doma was a Democratic Promise.

Well, the President expended his political capital with or without our issues by trying to be bipartisan and looking weak as a result.

I disagree with the notion that Frank's reason for not backing DOMA was because marriage equality was not the most important thing. You're projecting.

Frank's position is one of convenience: They'll pass bills that have overwhelming public support and should be no brainers, and then claim that it somehow was a great feat almost lost. Fact is, ENDA and The Matthew Sheppard Act are way past their due date. They're hardly controversial among the general population. Ditto for DADT.

I may be cynical, but I see all this stalling on those bills as to deliver them within the first 4 years of the Obama Administration and call it a victory. It could've been a victory right as Obama has entered office, now. Meanwhile, the HCA is in limbo in the Senate.

They're going to make a lot of noise about passing a bill after 10 years of more lobbying than was needed, and over ENDA- a watered down Civil Rights Actesque bill. Housing and services provisions could be put in, and it would still pass.

All under the perfect setup of 60 Democrat majority in the Senate, an overwhelming majority in the House, and a Democratic president.

If they can't pass shit in these first 2 terms, forget about DOMA repeal. It's getting to be quite some time after Republican mistakes, and people's honeymoon with the Democrats' pointing fingers at Republicans is going to wear off soon.

I expect within the 4+ years to actually see the Democratic seats go down. This is as good as it gets for passing the hard legislation for us.

I said Frank said:

because he's worried that the "certainty principle" will be a poison pill that will kill the bill and that it will be a distraction from other legislation like ENDA.

The Blade said he said:

"It's not anything that's achievable in the near term," he said. "I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress."

I think that's a fair representation of what he said. Or, as you put it, go for the low-hanging fruit first. Cool.

Here's what Sudbay had to say about that, and why, to me, it's obvious that this issue is partly because we're talking marriage instead of job discrimination:

Great. This is not what we need as the story on the issue of greatest concern to many in the community.

It's a step up - a while ago they were saying that marriage and DOMA repeal were the most important issues to the entire LGBT community without citing any sort of data. At least they're making it clear that the problem is that marriage/DOMA is their biggest issue and that that's the problem.

As for the Democrats losing seats, yeah, it'll probably happen at the midterms since that's what generally happens to the president's party. We have about a year left.

I said Frank said:

because he's worried that the "certainty principle" will be a poison pill that will kill the bill and that it will be a distraction from other legislation like ENDA.

The Blade said he said:

"It's not anything that's achievable in the near term," he said. "I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress."

I think that's a fair representation of what he said. Or, as you put it, go for the low-hanging fruit first. Cool.

Here's what Sudbay had to say about that, and why, to me, it's obvious that this issue is partly because we're talking marriage instead of job discrimination:

Great. This is not what we need as the story on the issue of greatest concern to many in the community.

It's a step up - a while ago they were saying that marriage and DOMA repeal were the most important issues to the entire LGBT community without citing any sort of data. At least they're making it clear that the problem is that marriage/DOMA is their biggest issue and that that's the problem.

As for the Democrats losing seats, yeah, it'll probably happen at the midterms since that's what generally happens to the president's party. We have about a year left.

Um...well, you can't force someone to follow and you can't force someone to lead either.

But you can take a stand for yourself and your rights.

So far I've had a presidental candiate say "Yes we can" and promise to do 8 things for our community. 1/8 of the way into his term he has yet to meet one promise. He keeps saying that congress needs to step up and do it.

But no one in congress is leading because they're afraid they may not get re-elected. And no one in congress is following for the same reasons.

They say that negotiaions and compramisies must be made, that this bill or that one needs to be let go until later.
They’ve said that we don’t need to deal with DADT now. Your not in the military so don’t worry about it. We’ll swing by later.
We don’t need to deal with DOMA. Your not wanting to get married are you? So don’t worry about it. We’ll swing by later.
So next they’ll be saying “well, we really can’t win the Matthew Shepard Act” and “well, we tried ENDA before…maybe if we chop of those pesky trans people…your ok with that right?”

Your willing to let them drop each and every one of those campain promises with the vain hope that they’ll actually try to do something for the next one. In 2011 they’ll promise they can do that, but only if you vote for them in 2012.

I read and reread this article and the various comments. The more I read the more complex I realize this issue/situation is.