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.