Alex Blaze

Sacred cows and sacrificial lambs

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 27, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: class benefits, class warfare, homophobic behavior, identity politics, language, Michel Foucault, Naomi Klein, poverty, transgender

That post about rich people getting kicked out of the LGBT movement the other day was intended as satire. I see from the comments that a lot of people didn't get it, even though the proposition was ridiculous, untenable, contradicts the general gist of what I post here on TBP, was filled with very specific references to the subjects being satirized ("revolutions from above don't take," "silent majority," "all criticism proves how brave and free-thinking I am"), contradicted itself in several places, and included "satire" as one of the tags. Then I left several comments saying that my "proposal" was "modest" after Dr. Weiss called me "swift" and even told people to go read the tags.

It was obvious.... Except, well, not obvious enough. Apparently.

If I'm going to explain irony, though, I might as well make that explanation thorough. I was making fun of/spoofing/criticizing/pointing out the feeble absurdity of:

  1. the folks who think the trans can just be dropped from LGBT,
  2. the various discussions that assume that we, the peons, can even decide what the movement's priorities are or who gets included in "the community,"
  3. the fact that we're completely unable to question, understand, or even discuss the role money plays in the movement and its priorities,
  4. that we're unable to understand that some people are already represented more than others in the movement, and
  5. the process by which certain people and groups get relegated to the back, how some people and goals are relegated to the role of constant sacrificial lamb with no real discussion of why and some other people and goals are sacred cows, again with no real discussion of why.

Let's start at #1.

1. Transgender people are the queer community's unexamined sacrificial lamb on the altar of acceptance by straight/cis/conservative society.

Wednesday morning, The Advocate posted this question as a poll on their website:

Would you support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if gender identity protections were again taken out of the bill?

I love the Advocate. I read their site every day. They cover lots of issues that are interesting and need attention, and often get unfairly criticized for things beyond their control.

But, seriously: WTF?

ENDA's hitting some stumbling blocks, no doubt about that. But it's not related to gender identity. Since the beginning of the House's work on ENDA this year, it's been clear that gender identity was going to be included, and, if the bill doesn't get passed, it will have nothing to do with transgender protections, which are polling quite well and almost no Reps or Senators have mentioned as an issue.

In 2007 we had a huge debate on this topic because the House wanted to offer up those protections as a way to get the ENDA through the House and.... Well, it wasn't really clear what they wanted to do after that, and it never even made it through the Democratically-controlled Senate.

Who cares, many people thought back then. It's just the transgender people. It's not like they're anything like us gay people in the first place.

Hence all the references in my previous post to rich gays being "nothing like me"; the references to me being brave and free-thinking, since the pro-ENDA split crowd loved to call themselves that because apparently believing something is one thing, being a brave believer means you're right; and all the arguments about dropping trans people from the movement replaced to attack rich gays.

Part of what I was raising was that if the standard is that we're fighting for people who are "like me," then why are transgender people the ones getting offered up as sacrificial lambs? There are plenty of people who are LGBT who live their lives less "like me" than the average trans person.

Anyway, that poll and several of the longer discussions these past few weeks on Bilerico showed me that, no matter the political situation, there are some people who are looking to convince everyone else that dropping transgender people is necessary. It makes their howls of "pragmatism" ring empty considering there's nothing pragmatic about it right now.

2. We don't have the power to determine, in a conversation on this site, the priorities or make-up of the LGBT movement

I've been reading more and more lately about the make-up of the LGBT movement, and there seems to be a fairly basic assumption that, if we came to a conclusion in the comments somewhere, that X group could be dropped from the movement. They would have to go home, regroup, and never call themselves queer again.

That was part of the point of my post the other day. I said:

These folks have nothing in common with me, so can we please start having endless discussions about cutting them out of "LGBT"?

The stress was on the "endless" nature of those discussions.

So the question I want to pose to all those people who left angry comments about me wanting to drop rich people from the LGBT (one wonders how excited the same cis-people would have gotten if I posted about dropping gender identity from ENDA): how do you think I would go about doing that? How would that be written into law?

Would we put an income cap on the ENDA? Would it apply to pay before discrimination or after discrimination? Would it be based on wealth? Would you have to have your assets audited before the EEOC would look at your case?

Similar questions apply to dropping transgender protections from the ENDA. The equations aren't as simple as "sexual orientation = LGB protections" and "gender identity = transgender protections." To me, the cultural and social links that hold "LGBT" together are intuitive, and, as Lamba Legal famously pointed out two years ago, the concepts are also linked when it comes to the law. You can't really separate out the T all that easily, so I took the idea to absurdity.

More importantly, though, is the assumption that anyone here actually has the power to kick a segment of the community out. Sure, we can do what we can to make others feel unwelcome (we're very good at that), but actually forcing transgender or rich people to stop advocating against discrimination?

(Even if we got HRC to change their name to "No Rich Snobs Allowed," they'd still argue that they're allowed one rich snob since the name is plural, and it would all be downhill from there.)

Instead of thinking of the movement as at all organized from the top-down, with a clear set of enumerated goals, it should be thought of as an organic body, with people participating with both time and money as they can, various projects and orgs starting and ending as interest increases and decreases, and priorities being set by how people want to spend their time and money in the movement.

As in, we can get everyone in the movement together for a day, they'd vote for an agenda that, perhaps, puts state-level marriage fights on the back-burner, but then a lesbian couple in Michigan who wasn't invited would just mess everything up by suing the state for marriage.

As much as we talk about the priorities, goals, and make-up of the movement, we don't have absolute power over it. Especially not us peons.

3. The way we talk about queer politics is ill-equipped to deal with questions of class and money

In that big, queer wish list (DADT repeal, DOMA repeal, ENDA, etc.), do most of us ever even consider what would actually improve our lives and what wouldn't? Or are we more concerned with LGBT folks getting a bigger piece of the pie, getting our much-deserved pinata of rights and protections, and getting recognized as a bona fide minority that experiences real discrimination?

The way we discuss homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, usually as overt "discrimination," leaves little possibility for addressing the way people use money to secure power and influence at the expense of other people who share their same identity. As one person put it in the previous comment thread: "Equality means same" (emph. his).

But to what end does that sameness extend? More and more it's becoming clear that, in our attempt to be equal, we're really just asking to be able to buy into massive, large-scale inequality so long as there's no difference along the lines of gender identity or sexual orientation. If all that the language we developed as a community calls for is an end to substantive discrimination along the lines of immutable identity, then we aren't going to be able to address power and the way it operates, both inside and outside the community.

That's because class doesn't work well with the politics of raising up identities. There is no poverty version of gay pride, girl power, or black is beautiful. It reminds me of an exercise we used to do back in my ID politics survey class in college, where people were told to make up a list of privileges we'd lose if we were a minority in any group, depending on what that group was for that unit (and members of that group were asked to do the opposite, and imagine what would change if they were members of the dominant group). It was a great activity for starting discussion, especially when we were talking about sexism. But when we got to the unit on classism, that framework proved futile. "If I were poor, I would have less stuff." It's easy to see why being poor is less fun than being rich, and it's hard, even offensive, to try to turn being poor into a badge of honor for everyone.

It reminds me of Michel Foucault's criticism of Marxist-based movements in France in the 1960's and his disillusionment with the fact that their political language simply wasn't set up to even begin to discuss sexual liberation. There have been some attempts to discuss pleasure as the liberator of the proletariat, pleasure as a commodity, etc., but it really doesn't jive with reality as intuitively as Marxist criticism works with, say, labor or free trade.

Just as his criticism was necessary several decades ago, we need to realize now that the language of identity politics and discrimination and rights is ill-equipped to discuss class and money. As Naomi Klein put it in No Logo:

Poverty wasn't an issue that came up much back then; sure, every once in a while in our crusades against the trio of 'isms, somebody would bring up "classism," and, being out-P.C.-ed, we would dutifully add "classism" to the hit list in question. But our criticism was focused on the representation of women and minorities within the structures of power, not on the economics behinds those power structures. "Discrimination against poverty" (our understanding of injustice was generally construed as discrimination against something) couldn't be solved by changing perceptions or language or even, strictly speaking, individual behavior. The basic demands of identity politics assumed an atmosphere of plenty. In the seventies and eighties, that plenty had existed and women and non-whites were able to battle over how the collective pie would be divided: would white men learn to share, or would they keep hogging it? In the representational politics of the New Economy nineties, however, women as well as men, and whites as well as people of color, were now fighting their battles over a single, shrinking piece of the pie - and consistently failing to ask what was happening to the rest of it. For us, as students, to address the problems at the roots of "classism" we would have had to face up to the core issues of wealth distribution - and, unlike sexism, racism or homophobia, that was not what we used to call "an awareness problem."

Hence the ridiculous of attacking the issue with the language of identity politics, assuming that rich people are a discrete class and everyone else is "normal."

And that's the issues with trying to import same-ness into the LGBT community - we're going to end up inevitably replicating the same power structures found straight society.

4. Wealthy people's values are already over-represented in the LGBT movement

To be clear, the out-sized representation wealthy people have in decisions make that affect the priorities, goals, and make-up of the LGBT community isn't avoidable. As I stated above, thinking of the LGBT movement as a finite group of people that either is or was democratically controlled is a fantasy. It never was democratic, nor will it ever be. In fact, that's what I was referring to when I said:

And LGBT activists have, for reasons that completely escape me, fused our populist and radical movement with people who want DOMA repealed to escape the federal estate tax. It wasn't organic. It wasn't democratic. I don't ever remember being asked if I wanted to be lumped together with these people.

Trust me, the reasons that LGBT activists generally listen to the desires of wealthy LGBT people doesn't escape me: they provide the funds that keep most of the LGBT nonprofits going. And that's not a bad thing. There are quite a few accomplishments in the march towards queer liberation/LGBT equality that wouldn't have happened if activists and lawyers weren't able to work full-time on making them happen, thanks to the wealthy LGBT donors. (Seriously, thank you to anyone who has donated to an LGBT org that's gotten results, like Lambda Legal!)

What it does mean, though, is that the way decisions are made in the community and with relation to our activism are generally skewed towards the decisions the wealthy donors want.

It's rare to see this addressed in the community. To address that would require us to finally understand that not everyone who identifies as LGBT has the same needs. Transgender people have made some LGB people vaguely aware of this, but, when it comes to class, it's generally assumed that the same politics of identity and focus on ending discrimination along the lines of sexual orientation and gender identity is shared by everyone in the community. Everyone who's "gay," it's assumed, has the same vision for a homophobia-free world, and, since we're not trained to articulate goals along the lines of class, there aren't many who challenge that.

It's easy to think that. Before I started working on Bilerico, I generally equated the LGBT movement with same-sex marriage. It's no wonder: if we only think of inequality as blatant, stated discrimination against a minority group, then same-sex marriage (followed by DADT) is the biggest, most obvious source of LGBT oppression.

Working on this project, though, has forced me to consider the role homophobia plays in my own life. How does being gay affect me? In terms of relating to society in general, it wasn't a lack of marriage that reminded me every day that I was lesser-than; it was that I had had several jobs where I was certain I would be fired if I came out (and two at which I was because I ignored my better judgement) and that I was generally afraid of showing signs of my sexuality (like holding hands with my boyfriend) in uncontrolled environments for fear of getting the crap beat out of me that constricted me from achieving my potential.

Groups like HRC, which are often (and sometimes unfairly) criticized for only looking out for wealthy LGB's interests, get that criticism not because wealthy people shouldn't be represented in Congress, but because their representation crowds out the rest of us. HRC's yearly budget is miniscule in comparison to other lobbies and interest groups. The reason they're able to even get the time of day in Congress is because many Reps and Senators assume that they represent an important part of the interests of 5% of the population. If a representative actually thought HRC only represented the votes of their 40 or 50 top donors, then they wouldn't even get a foot in the door.

HRC then turns around and sells the resulting access back to their donors. Even the biggest fans of the org must admit that, if it didn't get access, donors wouldn't be writing checks.

After that process, though, people seem to assume that whatever trickle-down activism comes from those wealthy donors in the form of donations to the Ali Forney Center should be enough to compensate someone like me for what's being sold as my vote and my participation in civil society. More to the point, the fact that I don't have a voice in the process, we're told, is unimportant because I should be happy that those wealthy donors are helping me be represented anyway, whether I actually am represented or not.

Criticisms of groups like HRC that accuse them of only caring about "rich, white gay men" miss the mark. The point isn't that a certain identity is being favored, and that's why such criticisms are so easily dismissed. Leaving that criticism in terms of identity politics only elicits the obvious rejoinder: they're addressing the interests of black and poor and latino and Asian gay men and women as homosexuals, everything else is to be addressed by another group, org, or movement. If your complaint is that a certain identity isn't being represented, go find another movement that represents that identity.

Framing the question in terms of power, though, it's more accurate and harder to ignore.

(BTW, this is where most some people started to think that this was proof-positive that I'm a black-clad, European, Marxist intellectual wannabe, not aware, apparently, that black-clad, European, Marxist intellectual wannabes tend to be some of the worst when it comes to worshipping the ground the rich walk on, but hold middle class bourgeois society in contempt.)

5. There are sacred cows and sacrificial lambs in the LGBT movement. Why doesn't that bother more of us?

But the knee-jerk defense of rich people from one satirical call to have them removed from the LGBT movement was revealing in and of itself. It's fairly obvious from reading those comments that there's something more going on when it comes to defending the rich than just worries that they'll stop donating or that we shouldn't kick anyone out of the movement for fairness' sake.

Part of it, of course, is the very American belief that anyone can become rich if they just stopped being so damn lazy. Several people told me that I too could become a millionaire if I just worked hard, moved to an urban center, or waited for inflation to kick in (you know, I'm assuming that the estate tax exemption will be adjusted for inflation before $1,000,000 becomes the average working class savings. But that's just me).

And a bigger part of it has to do with the fact that we Americans love rich people. For all that those Goldman Sachs executives whined earlier this year that people were saying mean things about them as they were looting hundreds of millions in public funds via bonuses as the economy continued to crash, criticism of rich people for being rich is exceedingly rare.

The snooty gossip columns of yesteryear have been replaced by People magazines; now the unwashed masses can read every exciting detail in the lives of rich people. High school popularity is defined by access to the latest trends and best brands, which can only be bought with cash. Even wealthy and powerful people who commit war crimes, destroy the economy while stealing billions, and rape children have friends in major publications willing to go to bat for them, distressed that anyone could even think of trying such wonderful, rich, powerful people.

Power is an aphrodisiac, and we, as a culture, are weak in the face of power's alluring call.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some in the movement who seem all too willing to kick out transgender people for a dollar. There's almost no talk on Capitol Hill that gender identity is the reason Congress is dragging its feet on ENDA, yet the LGBT paper of record is already asking how we'd feel about dropping the T.

Some folks are a little too eager for an opportunity to kick transgender people to the curb, don't you think?

As is clear to anyone paying attention: the LGBT movement has sacred cows and sacrificial lambs. But most people don't pay attention to that.

And why should they? If a group of people is, in reality, preferred to other groups of people, it only happens because we are willing to overlook or justify the ways in which they get preferential treatment. And if another group of people is indeed disliked more than other groups of people, then people would actually harbor ill will towards them and, naturally, think that it's justified.


Anyway, that's what I meant. If you feel like disagreeing now, go ahead. But at least you'll be disagreeing with stuff I actually mean.

And, like the last time, everyone who agrees with me agrees with me, everyone who doesn't comment is assumed to agree with me, and everyone who disagrees with me only proves what a courageous and free-thinking person I am and is proving me right in the process. :)


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Hmm.

"As if there were safety in stupidity alone."
~Henry David Thoreau

Just "Hmm."

Bravo.

I didn't say much last thread because I enjoyed the comments too much.

But its sad -- very sad -- that you had to take the time to write this piece as well.

What that says about the way people think is somewhat disturbing.

Sacred cows are windmills, as well -- when you tilt at them, you tend to find yourself a bit alone.

But once in a while, the windmill falls, and the cow tips, and the lamb escapes.

And in those few brief moments when you can see the pork in the treetops, you realize how worth it the task is...

Not a problem to write this. It got me to articulate some thoughts that I hadn't before, which is always good.

The lesson is: when the comments don't go as we want them to go, that's when we learn the most, as bloggers.

Awesome post, Alex!! I've been away from a computer for a few days and only skimmed your earlier "modest Proposal." You're in good company, Dean "Johnny" swift took a lot of flack for his 'blog' too!

However, I think it was worthwhile in that you have now written such a clear and, if I may say so, fair and gracious critique of our movement. There's so much in there to think about. Once we've achieved equality, what will be our objectives? How do we envision LGBTQ communities beyond discrimination? Will we really want to be "the same" as straight society? Well, obviously some will. Yet I think there are many others, young and old alike, who hope that queer society will be rich in culture and compassion, rather than in the power of the 'pink' dollar!

You're always provocative -in the best sense of calling forth discussion. Keep thinking and writing! And reading, I mean Swift and Foucault in one post!! Literate is so damn sexy!!

I think that part of the reason people may have missed the fact that your essay was a satire is that some may not be familiar with the literary form. While the reference to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" may ring a bell for some, it may be foreign to others. For those wanting to learn more about "Modest Proposal", see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal It's well worth a read.

In addition, while you may have thought that your arguments were over the top, it was clear to me that you, unlike Swift, carefully constructed your essay to correspond to reasons actually given by some people to withdraw support for the transgender part of the community. Once I saw that, your essay became a brilliant deconstruction of anti-trans sentiments. If I hadn't know that, however, and knowing your willingness to be a bit outrageous, I might have thought you were serious.

One of the reasons that these arguments have such traction with regard to removing trans protections is that they appeal to a utilitarian, value-free sentiment, which is much in vogue in a certain upper middle-class segment of strivers who have a lot of power because of their money. I think the people who reacted negatively to your essay were doing so because they have a strong justice value, and would argue against expelling any member of our community.

Let that be a lesson to you. While you may have thought that the idea of expelling community members was over-the-top, it's not because it's all too real. Next time try recipe suggestions.

In addition, while you may have thought that your arguments were over the top, it was clear to me that you, unlike Swift, carefully constructed your essay to correspond to reasons actually given by some people to withdraw support for the transgender part of the community.

Indeed. I was thinking more Tina Fey or Stephen Colbert than Jonathan Swift, where juxtaposition of various incoherent arguments and taking them out of their natural environment is more the point than just taking the idea to a ridiculous end.

Once I saw that, your essay became a brilliant deconstruction of anti-trans sentiments. If I hadn't know that, however, and knowing your willingness to be a bit outrageous, I might have thought you were serious.

Good point. I think that's why commenters that I recognized as transgender were more likely to get the references. Still, there were a few people who should have known better, who've been reading Bilerico steadily for years who didn't pick up on it. Less of an excuse for them.

Let that be a lesson to you. While you may have thought that the idea of expelling community members was over-the-top, it's not because it's all too real. Next time try recipe suggestions.

Haha. Rich people pizza! Like working class pizza, except with a monocle and a top hat! Order now and it'll be delivered to your house in a limo!

Wikipedia has a good intro to "No Logo" for those unfamiliar with it. It's essential reading for understanding the meaning of corporate influence in non-academic language. Without it, one is clueless as to why our society is both revered by the world and empty. It's essential to Alex's argument. I rely on it heavily in teaching my classes but it is largely ignored by Amerika: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_logo

Alex
That piece was absolutely brilliant! Satire in it's most wonderful form! I reread it and still find it hilarious! The reactions of the respondents may have been beacuse of maybe not having experienced much written satire on Bilerico? Only Austen Crowder has had a great satirical piece recently... Same type of responses. Dr. Weiss I would have loved being in your classes! Loved your egging the group on! Thanks Alex I chuckled the rest of the day!

I would like to point out there is another reason that your article was taken seriously - Autism. A lot of high-functioning autistics (often referred to as Aspergers) have difficulty distinguishing satire and irony. I am autistic and often reread articles several times (when I'm not completely sure) to make sure that I am not being punked because it happens so frequently. In theory, I liked that you framed it differently for people who do understand satire, but for others that don't it just became more confusing. I would appreciate if you don't assume that everyone has a satire detector.

I didn't have a lot to say about the first one. Though I think that it is interesting that you did a second piece just to explain the first. Thank you for both, I would have been happy with just the first but the second seems to have become a needful thing.

Until you posted this, I hadn't actually realized Bilerico **had** tags on the posts. I had to search around and 'lo and behold, they're off in a separate column of their own. Live and learn!

Alex said: As much as we talk about the priorities, goals, and make-up of the movement, we don't have absolute power over it. Especially not us peons.

Yes, we do. We always have the power of "choice." We all get to decide if we choose to participate in various tactics or strategies. The greater problem is the lack of enough ideas so that, as a "movement," the best ideas would attract enough interest and support. We might even get some momentum.

Equality is "same." After that reality additional uniqueness can emerge - colorfully.

The problem is the distinction between "equal rights" and equality. They are very different. Equal Rights provide faux "protections" and add punishments for bad behavior. The Hate Crimes Law didn't add to our equality, in fact it subtracted by defining us as a "special class" and a "protected minority." Because these laws do not come with a security force 24/7, they don't protect anyone. I suggest they simply "highlight" our differences, much in the same manner your article(s) has.

If we - the LGBT Community obtain equality, then we all do. We are "equal" when our fellow citizens believe we are. It's "public opinion." It's not politics or politicians, lobbyists, activists or even legal efforts - it is what our neighbors "believe" about us.

You have chosen to highlight our differences in an effort to "compare." It is counterproductive.

We need to find a way to unite as a community and create a real, sustainable movement. We need new ideas to bring us together for our common goal - equality, not equal rights.

To that end, an honest, objective analysis of all LGBT advocacy efforts should be completed. This should be done using our 40-50 year history and painfully honest MATH. We need to value ideas and strategies and we need to figure out how to inspire and ignite real interest in creating full equality. We need to create unity based on creating equality. It's not "who" (or what organization) provides the ideas or strategies to do so - it is the ideas themselves. The ideas can lead us.

So, even if satirical, perhaps you've highlighted a problem bigger than our colorful differences and infighting - we don't know how to get where we want to be. We are lost.

Just out of curiosity, what would YOUR plan be? I've noticed you in a lot of threads saying that basically everybody's ideas to change things for the better in our communities won't work, but I've yet to see you suggest anything you think might work better. Do you actually have anything for this "Plan to Win" you mention, or do you think that continuing on exactly as we're doing now is really the best path to our goals?

Sorry...feel free to ignore this comment. I wrote this as a response to your comment below (responding to Phil Reese), and I somehow managed not to see this comment (yet somehow it still got attached to this one?!) in which you do lay out your ideas. Anyway, my apologies.

Let's take Alex's trans/rich argument and see where it goes.

Alex does have something in common with rich gays. He and they are all gay. That is why they are all part of the gay liberation movement.

Now just because there are rich gays doesn't mean that all rich people are part of our movement. It does not mean that we should worry about whether our agenda as a movement is "rich-inclusive." And it doesn't mean that wealth is now comparable to sexual orientation. Rich gay people are part of the movement because they are gay, not because they are rich.

Similarly, trans people who are gay are part of the gay movement because they are gay, not because they are trans. And just because there are some gay trans people does not mean that all trans people can or should be part of the movement, that we should worry about whether our agenda is "trans inclusive" or that gender identity is comparable to sexual orientation.

There is no logical reason to include T with LGB, nor is it politically expedient to do so. It only serves the interests of trans people, who are few in number and who benefit not only by attaching themselves to a larger movement, but by placing themselves in a position where they can dictate that movement's priorities.

Steve by this argument then why would you include bi people since bi people are not gay? If you follow your own reasoning the it should only be GL in the movement.

Alex, I agree with you, but money pays for everything, and the people who put the money up pick the priorities. Its a shame that our community centers, youth groups and hotlines are closing down, but they don't serve the people with money, and so--therefore--they are not the priority.

Rather than beat them into submission, what if we buttered them up? You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. We on this side of the economic line must do a MUCH better job of convincing them to care about priorities other than their own narrow priorities, and that does not begin so much with attacks.

I can't afford to give much more than I give to the movement, but there are many that can. And everything I do, I'm trying to get those folks to trust me, buy into what I'm saying, and give for me by proxy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it always works a hell of a lot better than when I bitch at them.

Phil Reese said: money pays for everything, and the people who put the money up pick the priorities."

The "money" goes to the best ideas. Now, that doesn't really explain HRC, but at least in principle - good ideas attract money.

There is a tremendous amount of LGBT money available, but we don't have a Plan to Win. We must figure out how to create a movement and inspire interest in our equality. If people thought we could win - they would participate.

Money goes to the donors' priorities--which is pushing marriage equality in places where we don't even have employment protections in place yet, at times. I don't call that 'the best idea.' I call that a recipe for a bad investment.

I sure do want to get married someday, but I don't want to get fired from my job to do it.

And I can state-marry my partner all I want--go from state to state in all of the marriage equality states in a big expensive roadtrip--but as he is not an American citizen, he can still get deported as the US doesn't recognize us. Then I have plenty of friends who could get Iowa married, and then tossed right out of the military with no parachute to help them find a new career. Just "see ya, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out the door."

What if I get a job with the Federal Government? He's unemployed--he needs insurance. We can spend all of our money helping Illinois pass marriage equality (at least until a referendum kills it) but he still wouldn't be covered under my benefits. He could get the flu and we could go bankrupt.

Then we could go get Massachusetts married, move to Alabama, get kicked out of our house, and then murdered on the street.

I haven't even mentioned how the marriage equality battle has shorted our youth and our People With AIDS.

Look, marriage isn't a bad thing, but blowing our wad on marriage while our youth, health and community service organizations and community centers close their doors is just stupid. And so many people are pushing marriage so much every day, they forget that we're on the brink in Congress on ENDA and EVERY gay person in AMERICA needs that to get passed, not just those lucky enough to have their soul-mate.

People's lives and livelihoods are on the line here. Its unfortunate that its so expensive to be a long-term gay couple that can't get married, but I'm sorry I had a lot more to worry about than those guys when I was fired for being gay.

"Money goes to good ideas" is an principle that is built around investment capital, hell I heard the statement used in a story about the economy in the last two days. I do not think that this applies here at all. In fact, donor money is rarely looked at by the donors as to it being a good investment because the return is not monetary and people in general do not often count the return on the investment when they donate.
Priorities seem to be getting set by organizations who then use rhetoric to convince others that these priorities are correct and that money needs to be invested.
I think it is simply flawed logic to try and apply principles of capital investment to issues of donor dollars.

Organizations aren't organisms in and of themselves. Often the folks working in the organizations (and I'm not talking about the President but the rest of 'em) are just barely scraping by trying to keep it afloat and keep their jobs. I know plenty of people living in DC in tiny little apartments with barely anything but their idealism working for one of the big DC orgs. Its the high rollin' donors who set the agenda. If you're giving a few hundred thousand dollars to an org, you get to say what they go after. And if you're giving a few hundred thousand dollars, you probably don't care much about employment discrimination or federal benefits. You care about the thing that would help you save more money annually: marriage.

I'm not saying marriage equality is bad--it isn't. Its just that its a bad #1 priority nationally, when we have a bill SITTING in congress right now that can make employment discrimination HISTORY and gays aren't putting pressure on congress on it, because they're so worried about marriage.

Ask the average lesbian, gay, bisexual person--not the bloggers, but the regular folk--what the number one priority of the movement is, and they will undoubtedly say gay marriage. Then ask them what would mean more to them, the ability to marry or employment/housing protections, or immigration rights, or ability to serve openly in the military.

If they don't live in an ENDA state, a lot of them would probably say that employment/housing protections, immigration rights and open service would immediately affect them for the good. We've got a lot of long-term monogamous same-sex couples in this country--close to 30 million folks in same-sex couplings. However, we've got twice as many folks that are queer and need a job.

I'm in an ENDA state, and I am in a monogamous, long-term coupling, and I want to marry, but damnit, I won't rest until ENDA is nation-wide, and DADT is gone first! Just because marriage is the next thing that would help ME, doesn't mean it needs to be the nation's first priority. Let's help EVERYONE first.

Let's not forget about homeless LGBT youth, and safe schools either!

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it always works a hell of a lot better than when I bitch at them."

- That's funny. I had you confused with a angry man who rants about how anyone who isn't in ideological conformity with his views is, in his words, "the enemy." In fact, I think someone is posting such hatred on BP under your name. This person is clearly trying to sabotage your grand buttering-up campaign. Please seek him out and stop him.

:-) I'll keep that in mind. Thanks.

After reading and rereading the various comments,
I came away with the underlying feeling that alot
of individuals felt members of the LGBT community
do not have full equality in our society. Equal
rights are needed to achieve that goal. In my opinion, and this is simply my opinion, the members have the LBGT community should place their efforts
and resources in directions that will achieve
the end result of full equality. My Partner and I
simply are very tired of being treated as second class citizens.

First of all, Marriage happens to be a very good indication of whether or not we're "equal." Sure, it attracts a lot of money - probably because it has a chance of "winning" and the pursuit of marriage equality says "equality." Not surprisingly, money follows both of those things.

The marriage equality effort is much different that the pursuit of "rights" or "protections." If we had equality, we wouldn't need faux protections. We wouldn't spend our resources on the pursuit of "equal rights," and that money could be dedicated to the needs suggested in your comment.

The reality is we cannot win ENDA in the current Congress and more money would not make a difference. For decades our community has spent billions on "lobbying" politicians - it has not worked. It still doesn't. Calls, emails and even "protest" do not change minds.

As a community we must figure out what will work and what will give all of us the "hope" of winning. We wont have an effective movement, until we have hope. The current state of our community may have some hope, but it is obscured by infighting, a willful failure to be completely honest/objective about tactics, and the obvious lack of an effort to create a unified strategy. We are left uninspired and unwilling to participate. Fighting over money just highlights that dilemma.

While I understand your frustration, perhaps it's time to turn that into a real effort to redefine our movement and create a winning strategy - for all of us. The money will follow. It always does.

I'm not convinced that this is indeed the "reality" when there are enough supporters in Congress to pass it, if we can ever get Reps to grab some brass and vote on it. Have you visited Dr. Jillian Weiss' ENDA spreadsheets? They're showing this is going to be a win if we can only get them to get the courage to have a vote. Its scary for them, but their votes are there. Its LESS certain in the Senate, yet still more likely than not likely.

I would really like you to explain where you get this statement from:

The reality is we cannot win ENDA in the current Congress...

Help me understand where this is coming from, when the evidence out there is to the contrary.

One thing I do agree with you is is that money won't make a difference at this point, unless its money spent to get more people on the hill lobbying for this vote. We need pressure right now. Hence why we can't wait another second NOT on the phone, or writing letters to this Congress about this bill. Its RIGHT AT THE PRECIPICE. Abandoning it at this point because we have other personal priorities would be hideous.

I appreciate Jillian's efforts. But, there isn't support in the 111th Congress to pass ENDA. It cannot get past the Senate and their "beliefs." You can't "lobby" that away because anti-gay Senators are bound by a higher authority - God. You can only succeed by replacing Senators with pro-gay ones. Maybe the next Congress will change that dynamic, but it isn't something our community has been working on.

In a response above you seem to have changed your mind about "donors setting priorities," when you said:

"Priorities seem to be getting set by organizations who then use rhetoric to convince others that these priorities are correct and that money needs to be invested."

I think everyone just competes for whatever funding is available and (as best possible) the better ideas survive (receive funding). There sin't even a "comparative analysis" of efforts in our community. Even groups that rate charities (CharityNavigator.com) only suggest that GLAAD and NGLTF shouldn't receive funding, scoring only two stars out of four. HRC isn't much better.

But, my point was that we keep doing the same thing(s) we've done for decades (with the same results) and we don't seek or explore new ideas and strategies. Until we do that, we'll keep getting what we're getting ... like the reality of the 111th Congress.

Watch who you're quoting, you're attributing a quote from Rob Barton to me! :-) I think both Rob and I would appreciate it if it were attributed correctly! :-) I actually happen to disagree with Rob on that particular sentence quite a bit, if you see the post that follows his.

I understand, though, these boards get LITTERED with so much junk from the same people--mostly me and my ramblings! mixing up who said what is natural! :-)

Sorry Phil, Rick Sours suggested organizations make the priorities. My apologies.