Michael Crawford

LGBT Pride Month: What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Filed By Michael Crawford | June 11, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Freedom to Marry, gay marriage, gay pride, gay rights, lgbt equality, lgbt pride, same-sex marriage

A recent CBS News poll shows something we should already know: increased LGBT visibility means increased support for LGBT people.

The increasing visibility of gay and lesbian Americans appears to have contributed toward more positive perceptions of homosexual relations. Forty-three percent of Americans currently see homosexual relations between consenting adults as "wrong" - a drop of 19 percentage points from a Gallup poll taken in 1978.

But, coming out is not enough. We need to ask our friends and family to support us on issues like marriage.

That video was created by Freedom to Marry, where I serve as New Media Director, to engage marriage supporters in a national campaign to repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" and win marriage nationwide. Watch the video, then share it with friends and family.

By having conversations with friends, family, and co-workers about marriage we'll put a human face on the issue outside of heated ballot campaigns and give our straight friends the opportunity to support us.

While Freedom to Marry's work focuses on marriage, the importance of building support is crucial for the full range of LGBT issues from ENDA to LGBT youth.

As Harvey Milk said at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade,

On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country...Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying silently in our closets...We are coming out. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.

Equality, whether we like it or not, costs and right here is where we have to pay in sweat.

What have you done today to make you feel proud?


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By having conversations with friends, family, [neighbors, strangers] and co-workers about equality we'll .... give our straight friends the opportunity to support us.

THIS makes a difference. A real difference.

This is so classic. Trying to turn what is a gay and lesbian issue into something that qualifies as LGBT.

Frankly, I find it at best unbelievable and at worst an outright lie that SSM is the foundation of anything other than decreasing political support for the far more urgent issues of homeless, poverty, and unemployment plaguing our community. Anyone, regardless of gender, knows that you don't worry about getting married until you have an income to support your family and a place to live.

You folks really just don't see beyond your own doorstep, but then, you never have.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | June 11, 2010 4:19 PM

We've discussed this before on Twitter. I continue to believe that the LGBT movement can focus on more than one issue at a time.

Different people in different locations with different political climates are going to focus on different issues. Whether you agree or not and whether you accept it or not, that's reality.

And I think it's an issue ripe for public discussion, Michael, outside of a 140 character limit.

The problems I have with advocating for SSM now are:

1. As has been demonstrated innumerable times in the past, SSM advocacy riles up opposition against LGBT rights in general and makes issues like ENDA and DADT harder to get passed.

2. History has taught us repeatedly that when SSM rights are won in a given jurisdiction, the big money activists pack up and move on to other issues and jurisdictions, leaving the rest of us twisting in the wind without basic civil rights. Massachusetts is a model here, as is Connecticut.

3. Without the economic security workplace protections ENDA would provide to enable more activists to donate and participate, longer-term battles like SSM are going to be that much harder to fund and advocate. By insisting on going for SSM now, you're actually making the overall battle for SSM slower and more difficult.

Frankly, Michael, I'm amazed that someone as smart and as tuned-in as you are apparently doesn't see it.

brodelbrueh | June 11, 2010 4:58 PM

#1 brings me back to a question I keep bringing up in my local community, but never seem to get an answer to: In the context of SSM, why are we not fighting for a complete reworking of the church-state relationship on marriage? We need to divorce church from the legal aspect of marriage. Everyone who wants to have the legal benefits of marriage gets a civil union. Then anyone who wants to attach "marriage" to it goes to a church and has a minister marry them in the eyes of the church. Then the bigots can have their "untainted", "I was married Mormon" marriages, and we can have our "I still fail to see how my sex life has anything to do with yours" marriages.
I can see where you're coming from on #2 and #3, ENDA is crucial, but I have to support at very least trying to keep those states where SSM is legal on our side. If we slide back in every state it'll put us back a step that will be very difficult to reclaim. I agree with Michael that it is possible for the LGBTQ community to be involved in multiple projects.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | June 11, 2010 6:31 PM

1. The opposition gets riled up no matter what issue we are working on. Remember how the slippery slope of hate crimes legislation was going to lead to gay marriage and the destruction of Western Civilization? We can't allow the opposition to dictate our political agenda or strategy.

2. The key to that problem is not not pushing for marriage. It's building programming that donors will want to fund and aggressively developing a diversified donor base.

3. I agree that workplace protections will enable more activists to donate and participate. I don't agree that pushing for marriage, particularly in states where we can win, hurts the overall fight for marriage or full LGBT equality. It helps move the ball forward.

1. C'mon Michael, you know as well as I do that the known facts don't support your argument. Even back in '02 an HRC survey indicated that 61% of North Carolinians supported transgender workplace rights. You're really going to try to tell me that support for SSM is comparable to what support is for LGBT workplace rights?

By bringing SSM into the mix you're making it much more likely that those who support or are ambivalent about LGBT workplace protections will be inspired to speak out against all LGBT rights. If nothing else, all the statewide bans on SSM vs state and local LGBT workplace laws tell the real story here.

2. A nice idea, but unfortunately one that has not been proven realistic by any stretch. We have to advocate in the country that actually exists, not the one we'd like to live in.

3. I disagree, for the reasons I stated in reference to #1 above. History has taught us over and over that SSM brings out the bigots like no other single issue on the table. Advocating for SSM now DOES hurt our efforts in other areas.

Remember what they were saying in '07 about ENDA, a slippery slope to SSM? HRC's efforts on that were key not only stifling any progress whatsoever progress on ENDA and other LGBT issues, but also inspired state SSM bans nationwide.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. Did we learn nothing from the last time around?

>> "Frankly, I find it at best unbelievable and at worst an outright lie that SSM is the foundation of anything other than decreasing political support for the far more urgent issues of homeless, poverty, and unemployment plaguing our community. Anyone, regardless of gender, knows that you don't worry about getting married until you have an income to support your family and a place to live."

Considering that the issues you raise are something that cuts across all lines -- regardless of whether one is gay or straight or bi or trans or Democrat or Republican or Caucasian or African-American or red-haired or left handed... I dont see it as something to merit this kind of attack. You dont think SSM is worth pursuing as a political goal? Fine -- dont support the work that's being done. But as my dearly departed grandmother was quite fond of saying, "Sean, there is no anchor on your ass." Find the cause that speaks to you and devote your time to it... but dissing other people because their agenda doesnt fall in lock-step with yours? That's something I would expect from the Religious Right, not necessarily here.

Your priorities differ from Michael's? Good for you. There are enough battles of inequality out there that all of them need as many devoted people as they can find. You choose yours, Michael chooses his, I choose mine -- and somehow all three of us get at least something accomplished in the process. Perhaps not as much as if we were all three of us devoting all our time to *your* particular causes, but all of us -- you, me, Michael, everyone -- no doubt feel the same way.

So just deal with it and move on and do the work you feel is important. Life's too short to waste it otherwise.

Sorry, but I disagree. For the reasons I noted in my responses to Michael above, I beleive going for SSM now is not only ill-considered as a political strategy, but will hurt other, far more urgent efforts.

I believe SSM is a very worthwhile goal, just not at the expense of far more urgent and basic issues to a far greater number of people. It will likely take decades to repeal the SSM bans, while ENDA is on the table right now, with far more support, and relevant to the lives of a far greater number of LGBT's.

Funny how we're not hearing the cries for incrementalism now that's the gay elite's pet issue on the chopping block, isn't it?

Well, forgive me for saying so, but anyone who uses the phrase "gay elite's pet issue" has suddenly dropped several hundred points in my giving a damn. I dont need that kind of faux outrage, thanks.

Ooo. They get all testy when you dont toe the line of their personal agenda, huh.

Madam, with as much respect as I can muster at the moment, get over yourself and move on. If the issues you state are that important to you, dont waste your time here complaining how terrible it is to deal with the "gay elite". That's just sour grapes talking, and all those result in is a less than spectacular whine.

Have a nice day, eh?

Now to comment on the column itself...

I work for a small manufacturing plant here in lovely North Carolina, and there is not a soul in the place who doesnt know I'm gay. I dont wear a flashing neon sign, but I'm also not one to hide it when I had an especially good date the weekend before.

When I started there, more than a few people were shocked: they'd never encountered someone of "that persuasion" before, but I simply didnt give them time to be hostile about it. I pretty much barreled over any judgments they might have and made sure they understood that I really didnt give a damn what they thought. It was, for me, a non-issue because I made it a non-issue.

As the years passed, and they got to know me beyond the superficiality of the workplace, I could see their attitudes start to change -- incrementally, of course, but still: definite change. And I pretty much knew we'd turned a major corner when I came back from vacation up in Montreal, and the company GM, who is very faith-based and was deeply homophobic, asks me the day of my return, "So... meet any cute guys while you were there?" (I had, actually, but I figured I would share only the broad outlines with him... LOL)

I've been out like this for so long that my being gay is just no big deal anymore. If someone has an issue with it, it's their issue, not mine, and they have to deal with it, not me. If they choose to make it an issue, that's another story altogether, and I would be more than happy to show them how wrong a decision that might be. But it doesnt diminish the sense of personal pride I take in being a gay man.

So, in a long roundabout way: what did I do today to make me feel proud? I went to work. Over lunch, I compared notes with two of the salespeople about pictures of hot men they'd found on the internet (not that hot, but who understands heterosexual tastes?). My boss told me his wife is pregnant (again!) and followed it with "You know, I bet you could get a great cartoon out of that... something about your characters getting stuck with a baby or something..."

In other words, a day unremarkably like any other, but one where I felt comfortable to be just who and what I am. Who can ask for anything more?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 12, 2010 3:39 AM

Michael,

Yesterday, to set the stage, I and my partner drove to a provincial hospital that was a 100 KM round trip to see an HIV positive friend. He had been in Pattaya until his funds ran low and has been moved there at his request to have adequate oxygen to breathe, constant doctor supervision, every other day chest X-rays and the specific IV drips required twice daily to cure his pneumonia over the next three weeks. His costs have dropped from $1,500.00 per day to $180.00. He will then need months to recoup at his home before he can return to Florida where he has full insurance.

Now, we spent the day with him and brought his partner, who is Thai, and another dear friend to see him. They have no transportation otherwise. As bus service is infrequent the Thai man would have been unable to come to see him and keep his job. The room has fans, but no air conditioning. Someone went to the store to get extra pillows and a thick "bedpad" to relieve his back pain from the hard mattress. I gave him a shampoo, while he held his oxygen mask in place, using the "two bowl" method. We see him again in two days. His attitude in his spare room, shared with three others who cannot speak English, is strong. The three Thai men with him all have breathing issues. I am bringing him a radio with earbuds, more magazines and a fresh group of stories to make him laugh. He will survive! He is 40 years old, his name is Matthew, and I hope positive thoughts go his way through this ordeal.

Whatever we do to relieve and help our brothers and sisters...if we can do it with humility rather than "pride" I do believe we will have finally matured as a movement. Those of us with longer memories remember where we were once rather than where we are now.

We used to call that "consciousness raising." You cannot have pride without it. No beer floats, glitter, displays of kink, or bar drink "pride" specials required.

Sorry Michael, for the last 25 years we have only focused on 2 issues - AIDS and Same Sex Marriage. The problems of GLBT youth, GLBT seniors, our community centers to name a few have fallen to the wayside. I have been to so many "equality rallies" in the last few years and SSM is the only subject mentioned.

For priorities we should have ENDA as number one because it affects EVERY GLBT person in the country.

SSM, repeal of DOMA and DADT, while important, only affect a minority of our GLBT communities.

In my view SSM is just another attempt toward assimilation.

I'm curious, so forgive me for asking what may appear to be a flip question, but what's so terribly wrong with "assimilation"? I hear this word a lot, usually uttered with deeply disturbed tones, as though being a part of larger society and playing a more active role within it was somehow denying one's own identity in the process.

Perhaps I've been Canadian too long, but the attitude there is not so much "melting pot" as "mosaic": you are still a unique part, and yet you contribute to a more finely nuanced depiction of society in general. Why is that such an awful thing?

That's a serious question.

I'll take that one. The problem with assimilation is that it assumes that everyone can, in fact, assimilate, and ignores the fact that some LGBT's will never be able to assimilate.

Whether it's the visibly trans, the openly and overtly gay ("flamers", if you will), dykes (i.e. the visibly lesbian), those who become known to be LGBT through the media or other means, or even those who may or may not be LGBT but are popularly assumed to be, there are many LGBT's who will never be able to assimilate or simply don't want to.

Frankly, assimilation is the coward's way of dealing with the issue. The right way to go about it, the way that paves the road for the long journey ahead, is not to say "We're just like you.", it's to say "Yes, we are different, and there's nothing wrong or immoral about being different."

The first way only protects those who can pass as straight (unless they get outed at some point, of course). The second way includes all of us, and all of the myriad ways in which human beings display their diversity.

I know which one makes the most sense to me, not only in helping to create a social and cultural environment in which LGBT people are seen as equals to straights, but also which includes everyone in our collective struggle.

Assimilation is a narrow tunnel through which only the chosen few can travel. Better by far to travel the open road, where everyone can take the journey together.

The issues that constitute assimilation are politically problematic - that's why it's referred to as assimilation and not, for example, as freedom from repression.

In terms of the queer agenda, it's not simply a problem with acting straight - the problem is that the holy trinity agenda of hate crimes legislation, marriage, and the support of the military-industrial complex (via DADT) all lead directly to the curtailing of benefits and rights for others.

Take marriage (please). The argument among mainstream gays and lesbians is that one can fight for that and a host of other issues - the reality is that GM has sucked vital resources from other segments of the queer community, such as queer youth and even AIDS resources. You can read Ryan Conrad's excellent and, frankly, watershed essay for more on that:

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/11/against_equality_in_maine_and_everywhere.php

He gives you actual facts and figures and a case study to prove this point.

I've written here and elsewhere about hate crimes legislation, which requires assimilation into a model of surveillance and "enforcement" that puts more people in jail for longer periods of time under unjust circumstances. DADT? The argument for gays being allowed to serve in the military purports to be about equality and assimilation - but what does that assimilation actually look like? "We can kill and bomb like everyone else!"

To return to gay marriage - one argument, childishly put, is that "if you don't want gay marriage, just don't have one." That's cute, but it ignores the fact that the US is singular among industrialised nations for the overwhelming priority given to marriage. Assimilation into the gay marriage argument asserts that people who don't marry DON'T deserve the basic rights of health care etc.

So, if we are to talk about assimilation, let's not forget that the conditions of that assimilation represent, for many queers, an utterly abhorrent set of politics. The idea that we can all just carry on pursuing our different forms of activism around different causes ignores the hard realities of a neoliberal state that willfully sets about denying access to the basics to those who don't opt into the model family/workplace demanded by an assimilationist agenda.

To both of you:

This sounds all well and good, but it seems to presume that you're both starting from a position in which you believe you are guaranteed of failure. And I would posit that this has more to do with the American style of politics and politicking than anything else: make the other side look as awful as possible without dealing with making yourself look as good as possible...

... which takes us back to Michael's post, in many respects: what have either of you actually done, on the one-to-one level, to demonstrate your pride in who and what you are? Or are you limited to telling us how awful it all is for everyone? If that's the limit of your contribution, dont be surprised when folks do not rush to pick up the standard for you. Trust me, I'm quite aware of the problems facing gay youth, gay seniors, the trans community, and the - as you put it - "obviously gay". But these are issues that affect, in somewhat similar ways, everyone, regardless of where they sit at the societal table. We all have to deal with aging and the dismal prospects it provides: in Canada, we have it slightly better than you do, but one still have to grapple with the issues of loneliness, the loss of friends, the bewilderment of what to do at the end of life. These are not unique to the GLBT community. We may view them somewhat differently, but we view everything somewhat differently. Still, that doesnt change the inalterable fact that the same problems affect everyone across the board.

That's certainly not to say that we in Canada are blessed with a perfect society; far from it. But by and large, the issues you speak of are seen from the point of view that they affect everyone. Yes, it's taken a long time to get there, and, yes, there are still remnants of the political nonsense that so wanted to keep not just gays but natives as well as far to the back of that proverbial bus as possible.

And yet now, a little more than two decades since the infamous raids conducted by the Toronto police, we have made what I can only see as a stunning move toward enlightenment in comparison to the... well, "mess" is the most polite word I can think of... in the States. And living here and looking at it as a bit of an outsider, I can only say that, even as *they* demonize *us* in ways that stagger imagination and credulity, *we* seem only capable of responding with the same vacuous venom. Assimilation, in that regard, has long been a fait accompli, because *we* have proven ourselves very adept at *their* techniques... and to what end, folks? What have you accomplished with it? The director of the HRC is now such a Washington insider that he, like his friends inside the Beltway, confuses gesture with meaning. Members of Congress, like Frank, insist that they know so much better than you -- and realize that knowledge with a non-decision on ENDA and such a pathetic response to what should be a non-issue on DADT that you might as well give up on them and walk away.

I dont know what the answers are, sorry. But I do know that the furour and hatred on both sides -- and even, as these comments suggest, directed within -- are getting none of you anywhere, even as you expect things to miraculously change by using the same failed techniques of discussion and debate. You and your activist leadership *must* come up with a new approach and a far more positive direction, because the current one is just making things worse for you... with no sign whatsoever that they will change in even the remote future.

Sean,

Your question assumes, first of all, that to question the mainstream assimilationist agenda is tantamount to sitting around in a room and worthless. The rest of your comment is the usual liberal diatribe about everyone needing to get along. In effect, you've ably demonstrated that you're deep inside the assimilationist machine and, in response to any critiques thereof, choose to retreat into the usual "Anyone who questions us is just a big complainer" mode.

*You* asked the question: what's wrong with the assimilationist agenda? And we answered your question. Instead of then responding to and engaging with that, you engage in the verbal hopscotch so popular in these comment threads.

It should be obvious to everyone else that I, for one, have no interest in answering Michael's question - you fail to realise that for a large number of us, what Michael et al consider "pride" in who we are, is an evasion of the much bigger questions that he and you and others are avoiding: Who gets to set the agenda for the "gay movement?" And what good does following that agenda do for anyone? Whose pride and in what?

As for: "You and your activist leadership *must* come up with a new approach and a far more positive direction, because the current one is just making things worse for you... with no sign whatsoever that they will change in even the remote future." Here's the point I'll make for the last time, Sean (and I hope Michael and his cohorts understand this as well): despite appearances to the contrary, HRC, GetEQUAl,NGLTF and others do NOT represent the activist leadership you describe. Their agenda is NOT the agenda of the vast majority of queers in this country and elsewhere, despite the media snow job they persist in pulling (and, increasingly, in the face of their crushing defeats, with less success).

Indeed, many of us are less interested in "looking for our MLK/Gandhi/Milk" than in doing the necessary work on the ground. Most of us are busy working on issues related to youth, to seniors, to health care among our elderly and so on. And the LGBT non-profit juggernaut thrown up, in more ways than one, by the last 30 years of post-AIDS organising, is clearly in big trouble and has shown itself to be bankrupt of ideas and momentum.

Let me just say this for the record, though, since we're talking about the big ones (and since we seem determined to not actually respond to anything): In some ways, I actually have more respect for HRC because, like the aliens in the movie, they're designed to do one thing and one thing only (assimilate the shit out of themselves) and they do that relentlessly. They do it badly and messily and arrogantly and Joe Solomonese will never push for anything but the privileged gay, white male agenda, but at least they don't claim to be anything other than an assimilationist monster. I have NO respect for the NGLTF and the GetEQUALS among the groups because they actually pretend to be the "progressive" and even, accorging to Cronk, the left wing of the "movement." I find them much less honest in that sense.

And, I should add, a great many of my Canadian queer activist friends would be bemused by your response or, to be accurate, your non-response.

I have no doubt you'll take this opportunity to meander off into yet another set of dismissals and non sequiturs.

Have a great Canadian day.

Rick Sours | June 12, 2010 9:51 AM

In complete agreement:

"The problems of GLBT youth, GLBT seniors, our community centers to name a few have fallen to the wayside."

What have I done to day that made me proud? Caviar d'aubergine avec des pâtes, that's what.

Damn, Alex, if it werent such a long commute to Paris for dinner...

Not so hard. Just oven roast a eggplant, a few tomatoes and some garlic, and throw it all into a food processor with sherry vinegar, olive oil, lots of basil, and something umami (parmesan works well, although powdered nuts are great too). Taste, fix, and balance, and serve with pasta. Voila, and it sounds really French.

Tom Brown | June 13, 2010 8:04 AM

Most non-gay people reading this thread probably would say "Why are they worrying about this gay stuff?" when there are bigger problems -- world hunger, oil spills, global warming, perpetual war in the Mideast, recession/depression, sovereign debt loads, nuclear threats, etc. I agree with Sean and Michael -- find an issue -- any issue -- and work on it. Just let people know you're LGB and/or T and not apologizing for it -- the whole point of the Pride movement.