Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Why Shouldn't You Donate To the National Stonewall Democrats?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | February 26, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Michael Mitchell, National Stonewall Democrats, Stonewall Democrats

The Washington Blade reported yesterday that there are reports of financial trouble at the National Stonewall Democrats, and the Executive Director, Michael Mitchell, may be ousted.

just-fucking-do-it.jpgThat made me angry. Angry enough to pull out my credit card and plunk down a contribution. The Republican right-wingers are awash in money to hype their anti-gay politicians, their anti-gay and anti-LGBT laws in this country and abroad, their anti-family and anti-equality stances, and their reparative conversion therapy.

Why shouldn't we?

The National Stonewall Democrats is a political organization, no question, so this question doesn't apply if you're a Republican or Independent, or you hate the National Stonewall Democrats.

If you're a supporter of the idea of an LGBT Democratic organization, why aren't you pulling out your credit card and going to http://www.stonewalldemocrats.org/ right now? This is not a rhetorical question.

I'm sincerely interested in finding out what prevents people from giving money to an organization that represents their interests? Conversely, if you have already given recently, what made you decide to do it, and would you recommend this to others?

The truth is that political power is the only thing that will give us the full and equal country that we so richly deserve.

The budget for National Stonewall Democrats is like $300,000. That's about $3000 per chapter (they've got about 90 chapters).

NSD's Budget swelled to over $700,000 in the 2008 presidential election year. Of course, that was because it was a presidential campaign year, and the particular excitement of the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

By 2010, the political climate changed dramatically as people got impatient with President Obama 2) the Bush recession came into full flower, and 3) it wasn't a presidential election year. NSD saw its budget to dwindle to $300,000 in 2010 -- but ended (just barely) in the black.

From a program point of view, NSD was wildly successful in 2010, with its highly-praised "Elect Equality" program, and its direct campaign contributions to pro-equality Democrats endorsed through its new PAC.

$300,000 is not a lot of money for a national organization. If you think about the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in this country, it's really not a lot. 10% of 300 million is 30 million, or if you go with the more conservative 3% figure that some studies suggest, it's 9 million, and minus all the LGBT Republicans, that 8.99 million. (To my LGBT Republican friends: just kidding.)

We're talking an average of less than a nickel apiece. Of course, some are giving way more than a nickel, because there's way more giving nada.

If the 10,000 people who see this post gave $35 each, I think that should do it.

But, of course, there are so many good reasons not to pick up that credit card. Frankly, I don't have all that much money, although I have way more now than I did in the decade after my transition. I admit to not picking up my credit card for the Stonewall Dems until now.

And there's that pesky credit card limit.

And there's the fact that I'm getting letters from twenty different LGBT organizations, who all desperately need money, and whose cause I all believe in.

But let me say this. Political representation is the real power in this country. It is the principle on which the United States was founded. It's nice to have courts on our side occasionally, but frankly, without political power, we cannot have marriage equality, we cannot have employment rights, we cannot have immigration reform. Look, almost every single marriage equality state imposed by the court was subject to an immediate ballot referendum, and they almost always took away our rights again. Even Obama's Attorney General said in his memo on the Defense of Marriage Act this past week that we need court protection because we are so pitiful and weak. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.) Are we? If that doesn't make you mad, you're not paying attention.

Politics may be boring as hell, but your right to be a full and equal citizen of this free country shouldn't be.

National Stonewall Democrats. Just do it.

---------------
In the interest of full disclosure, I note that Jerame Davis, who is co-owner and webmaster of this blog, works for the National Stonewall Democrats. That's not why I wrote this post. And that's not a reason not to donate.


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Waa?

Title says:

Why You Shouldn't Donate To the National Stonewall Democrats


Article sounds like:

Why Shouldn't You Donate To the National Stonewall Democrats?

The title has been changed, but it wasn't a typo. The original title was intended to pique interest and to find out why people aren't donating. I was concerned that people would be too weary to read yet another fundraising pitch, and I was looking for "novelty," as I think they call it in the entertainment biz, which is the biz we're in.

"I was concerned that people would be too weary to read yet another fundraising pitch, and I was looking for "novelty...."

Ah ha! Then I would have suggested a title like:

"Scandal at National Stonewall Dems & We've Got the Dirt"

Om, you're my title consultant from now on. :)

Mikefromoakville | February 26, 2011 3:08 PM

Kalthoum, you beat me too it!
The headline should read "Why You Should Donate To The NSD."

Very much negatively misleading the way it's written.

I assume it's a typo.

- Mike

StonewallSupporter | February 26, 2011 3:47 PM

I just donated online and clicked the recurring contribution button. We need to sustain our donations over time to give our orgs a base of support they can count on each month.

Stonewall dems is such an important organization, thanks for this, Jill. As our only truly partisan LGBT Democratic organization, we need to make sure we keep them around to keep pushing Democrats to be pro-LGBT.

Thanks for responding to my call for donations, SS. I must admit, donating felt strangely goooooooood. Perhaps I'm not getting out enough, but I feel oddly, I don't know, righteous, in a "righteous, brother!" sort of way. I thought donating was supposed to be painful.

I agree, the title took me totally off guard. At first I wasn't going to read the article because I thought it was a slam against Stonewall. I think part of the problem is their is something sick going on in our community. The media and national gay organizations seem afraid to criticize anti-gay groups like "GOProud" and we constantly hear the meme about their "incredibly courageous work from the inside". Yet every election, we see both GOProud and LCR endorse openly anti-gay candidates. It's getting insane when self-described gay organizations are now AGAINST the most basic gay civil rights.

Even putting aside my issues with the mainstream gay agenda:

Jillian,

I'm not sure I understand this. If the organization is going through a rocky period or even a moment of some change - which may or may not have to do with it being over budget - shouldn't we in fact be holding on to our scant money and letting them first tell us what the issues are?

http://www.washingtonblade.com/2011/02/25/mitchell-out-as-stonewall-dems-chief/

Shouldn't people, instead of opening their wallets, actually be asking questions of the organization? If I were a potential donor and supporter of NSD, my first action would be to demand to know what led to the departure of Mitchell, what, if any financial issues might have caused it, and what its plans for moving ahead are.

There are health care agencies, big and small, advocacy organizations, social service organizations etc. folding or in trouble all across the country. It seems odd to ask that we rush to save an organization that has just announced such a big change, with little information in these early days.

And to be clear: I'd want to also know if, in fact, Mitchell is out (I don't know that the news has been confirmed) and I'd at least want to know what the hell is going on.

The impulse to rush in and save orgs when they announce trouble can be a noble one, but given that the non-profit-industrial complex is rapidly proving to be a difficult model to sustain, it's best to at least ask questions and/or wait for more news.

Why not? I can think of one very big one. ENDA. It's amazing how so many people have access to Congress, yet have no idea why ENDA wasn't brought to a vote?
Now that's access!

Good point, Marti. I seem to recall that NSD took a strong stance in favor of ENDA, and worked on it pretty hard. And of course our trans sisters Babs Siperstein and Melissa Sklarz, both strong supporters of NSD, were in there working on it as well. So I feel pretty comfortable supporting NSD.

So what equates to working hard? My dollars are precious and I can't just give to anyone. I give money based on results and on access. If they can't know something as basic as why something didn't go for a vote, how can we view NSD as relevant or successful?

I understand your feelings, Marti. To whom do you give?

I've given to NSD in the past, but as of right now I don't think my job situation would allow me more than a couple donations a year. But when I do donate, I donate to IFGE, and plan on donating to the new C4 that they've most recently announced. IFGE has a long history of working for the trans community, being funded by the community, and the C4 will be the first of its kind in Washington DC.

Denise Leclair is the leader in the community actively addressing these issues (she was at the most recent Maryland Equality "trans" meeting and will be on TransFM.org tonight to talk about it).

Oh yes, IFGE is definitely a worthy organization. Thanks for reminding me. I'm going to send them a donation too.

Good point, Yasmin. We ought to get the answers to the questions from NSD, and I hope they will speak more about this in the coming days. My take was that Mitchell was out because he didn't bring in enough money, but I based that on my interpretation of his words in the Blade. I could certainly be wrong, and it could be other things. At the same time, I do believe that political representation is very important, and this is the only organization doing it for the LGBT community, as far as I know. And you're right, those others organizations are also important.

Jillian,

Yes, absoloutely - political representation is important (and how people define that - as genuinely grassroots, which NSD is not, in light of what "grassroots" might actually mean, or as a more conventional non-profit - might differ greatly).

But I do think it's even more crucial in such cases to actually withhold funding until all the facts are out. Otherwise, to be quite honest, we might be asking people to put their money into a giant whirlpool. There may well be no evidence of money problems other than the fact that Mitchell did not bring in enough. But that only means we need to look at the board and ask the tough questions, such as: "So, what were you doing in the meantime? How did you come to choose him? How do we know the next one won't be like this again? Why did you let him go? How can you guarantee this won't happen again?"

If we are to support the structure of such organisations and trust that they will actually do what "we" want, it's incumbent upon us to ask the hard questions. Trust me, they will not be forthcoming on their own; that's just the nature of the NPIC. Simply guaranteeing a certain political perspective is not enough - to be effective, an organisation has to show that it's structurally sound as well. Political passion without structural strength is just a recipe for burn-out.

Given how difficult it has been to get their political agenda accepted, mainstream gays and lesbians cannot be blamed for wanting to rush in and support NSD and the like (although I note that the org itself is not sounding an alarm for funds, hence my bewilderment at this slightly panicked post). But it's critical, more than ever, to ask questions.

And I'll stress: this may be an innocuous change (EDs change all the time). But I don't know why we need to rush in to support NSD now rather than at any other time, and I strongly encourage people to ask questions before sending their money.

I have not given to Stonewall yet because I give to my local orgs so frequently. I have a regular deduction from my paycheck for the GSBA Scholarship fund, and I plan to give my next contribution to Equal Rights Washington because they desperately need the money.

Stonewall deserves my money too, so I will add them to the growing list of worthy causes that I will support.

I wish I was a millionaire, or better a billionaire so I could keep them all afloat.

I don't want to be a billionaire, Joe, but you got me thinking about how and why I donate. I'm going to write a post on it.

Kathy Padilla | February 26, 2011 4:26 PM

I've donated to them before & I'll do so again this week. It may not be much - but lot's of small donations make a big donation. And I'll tell them it was an ask from Melissa Sklarz & should be counted towards her fundraising goal as a board member - she asked when we shared the Amtrak to DC yesterday. That girl was flat out busy all day long working for Stonewall.

Go Kathy! Thanks for supporting Melissa and NSD.

I'm one of those who rarely gives to national political organizations. HRC and, to a lesser degree, the Victory Fund have enough money for God's sake.

But it's simply a fact of life that if it weren't for Democrats, we wouldn't have repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", passed the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill," and have my President argue that a law which prevents my husband and I (who are married)from obtaining certain federal tax and Social Security benefits that straight couples enjoy, namely DOMA,is unconstitutional.

So just what is the best way for me to help the Democrats help my community? After all, not all the Dems support LGBT equality. Well, the National Stonewall Democrats, who "support pro-equality Democrats and then hold them accountable", is the way. So, for the first time ever, I just contributed what little I could to NSD. And you know what? It feels pretty darn good.

Thanks, Dan. I like what you say. We may not love them, but we do need to encourage pro-equality legislators.

no money to donate. even facing eviction, and running out of food, the endless collection calls & mail, and going without needed medical care, I still volunteer and still contact my representatives.

$35 is a lot of money to some of us. perhaps this is a discussion that should be had among those currently employed & doing well in this economy.

TGL, sorry to hear about your financial and medical difficulties. Thank you for volunteering and doing what you can. I hope that things get better soon.

I'm afraid that I too have to scratch my head a bit, largely because my very limited money can go only so far and there really ARE a number of very worthy organizations, but with greater or lesser degrees of apparent effectiveness, to give to.

Thanks for your comment, Ed. What organizations do you give to?

Equality Maryland, Equality Mass., HRC (though cutting back and will shift to NGLTF), Courage Campaign, Trevor Project plus progressive groups that are NOT associated with the DNC or DCCC. (Yes, I know that no one could consider DNC or DCCC progressive, and it's often hard to consider them Democratic either.)

I'm sincerely interested in finding out what prevents people from giving money to an organization that represents their interests?

I find that all available evidence shows that the National Stonewall Democrats do not represent my interests; they represent the interests of the "A-Gay" elite, which includes a strong commitment to morally bankrupt political strategies of screwing over trans people for their own gain.

The two trans women mentioned, Babs Siperstein and Melissa Sklarz, are on the NSD's board. Babs is the Co-President or Co-Chair. I have worked with these two women on several occasions and they are the reason the NSD is so trans-inclusive. They may have a lot of "A-Gays" in the organization, but they have their head in the right place when it comes to trans issues.

In fact, I need to contact Babs to see if we can get something from NSD on their stance of trans service members and keeping the ROTC and recruiters off of campuses.

Speaking of which, Jillian. Is your school keeping the ban of ROTC and recruiters in place?

Monica, Ramapo College does not have an ROTC program.

There's two parts to this issue. Do they allow recruiters on campus?

I don't know if they allow recruiters on campus, Monica. I'll try to find out and we can continue this conversation by email.

Desiree, this can't possibly be true. They have transgender people on their board so they have to be working for our rights!

But in all seriousness, it's not about screwing trans people. It's more about being expendable. Look at Stonewall Maryland:

http://www.stonewalldemocratsmd.org/

See anything trans related? Has anyone from Stonewall Maryland (or from NSD) addressed the lack of transgender public accommodation protections though gays and lesbians have had these protections since 2001?

I'll give to NSD again when it works for my community too.

Marti,

I'm not speaking on behalf of Stonewall, but I am speaking from my personal experience working there and giving my personal opinion.

I appreciate your critique of Stonewall MD and I'd be happy to have a chat with them for you, however, you should understand a couple things about how Stonewall works:

1. Our affiliates in the states are autonomous entities. NSD has no direct control over any affiliate. We provide them support, organization and infrastructure. We're not a top-down organization.

2. With nearly 90 affiliates across the country, an obviously limited budget, and only one person on staff to do the work of supporting those affiliates, there is limited bandwidth for us to monitor which issues are relevant to a local club. We rely on them keep us up to date on what's going on. We also rely on folks like you to give us feedback when we're not doing that.

So, please understand that there are a number of local issues that we're not always on top of - but we try.

I'd also point out that you know me personally and you know I work at NSD. If you think there's something we could be doing better, you have both my email address and my phone number. My work contact info is also listed on the website.

I'd also mention that I've been working with folks out in Nevada for the past 3 weeks (in conjunction with our Stonewall club there, local groups like PLAN and national groups like the Task Force) on getting a statewide transgender non-discrimination policy.

We recently wrote a letter to all of the state Democratic party chairs to remind them that when they are making their delegate selection plans for the 2012 convention, diversity includes the LGBT community.

In Massachusetts, our local club there lead the charge within the party to get two seats in the state central committee that were reserved for someone from the trans community.

Also, you were the first transgender delegate from Indiana at the 2008 convention in no small part to the Indiana Stonewall Democrats.

I could go on. The point is that Stonewall does work for the trans community. But with a tiny budget and 2.5 staff, there's only so much we can do...

Help us grow and you'll see much more.

You can rest assured that if I were not myself living off of donations, that I would be helping. To echo one above, many of us are not doing so well. I have an unemployed fiancée and my own income from a 32 hour a week job is definitely lower class.

Taelyn, I'm sorry to hear about the financial issues. I've definitely been there. I hope things improve soon.

Update on National Stonewall Democrats:

Mitchell to stay on as Stonewall Dems chief
Washington Blade

The head of the National Stonewall Democrats on Tuesday said he'll be staying on as head the LGBT Democratic organization following talk that emerged last ...