Alex Blaze

You wanna know why the gays are apathetic?

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 13, 2008 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: California, gay marriage, HRC, in-fighting, LGBT community, marriage equality, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage

After the jump is a post I wrote over at my diary on Daily Kos. It got a reaction there so I thought I'd pass it along over here.

I saw just a few too many threads with kind straight people asking just why, why, why the LGBT community is so apathetic about getting same-sex marriage. I mean, it's their basic rights! Why weren't they out there in the front lines this whole season, donating, protesting, and doing whatever they could so that they could be equal members of society?

Well, comparing LGBT activism to the sorts at Daily Kos just isn't fair. That's one of the most gung ho groups of Democratic activists in the country. They donate, volunteer, phonebank, leaflet, and do just about anything they can to get good Democrats elected. It's a great time to be a progressive activist. The LGBT movement, on the other hand, is in a far different place.

After the jump was my explanation as to why that is. It's meant to be read objectively; as in, I don't necessarily think that anything there is good, I just think that's the way it is. It's by no means a complete explanation.

So here goes.

1. What's defined as the #1 gay goal for all us LGBTQ folks, same-sex marriage, isn't the #1 goal for most queer folks. For me, I'm much more concerned with non-LGBT specific goals (like universal health care). But even when it comes to all things queer, employment discrimination, violence against the gay folk, HIV/AIDS, and police harassment are far more important. Getting the word "marriage" instead of "domestic partnership" in a state most of us don't live in is a just a little too abstract for us.

But don't just take my word for it. Gay and lesbian people, according to the 2000 census data, are far less likely to live with a lover than straight folks are (about a tenth of gay people live with a lover, about half of the population in general is married). And that's just those who live together; not all of them are going to get married should it become legal all over the country.

Take that with the fact that employment discrimination against queer people is still pervasive. Almost every single gay or lesbian I know (in my small circle of queer friends) has lost a job due to their sexuality, including myself. It's hurtful and it really sends you through a loop to know that someone really hates you that much because of who you're attracted to. I was angry for a while after that, but there's no law against that in most states, and when there is, it's tough to enforce.

In New York City just these past few months, the police have been rounding up queers just for going into porn shops. Cops still hold secret stings against gay men legally soliciting sex. And just a few months ago a cop held a transwoman and another one beat her up, in an all-too-common occurrence (that woman is now dead, and the police are unlikely to investigate). A kid was shot for being gay back in February in school, and the media's been out there trying to paint it as his fault for "flaunting" his sexuality.

HIV infection rates are on the rise. Hate crimes continue to take more people in our community. Businesses still kick queers out who show affection for someone of the same sex or who don't conform to traditional gender roles. Police still sweep through gay clubs and bars and hassle customers in ways that don't happen down at the local Applebee's salad bar. Our people still earn substantially lower incomes compared to their straight counterparts, and trans people still suffer from epidemic levels of unemployment.

So, yeah, excuse us if we don't all see marriage as the #1 priority.

2. Our leadership is, quite frankly, uninspiring and uninspired. There have been plenty of posts here about the incompetence of the No on Prop 8 campaign, and a lot of that's justified. But the point is not that they're out of touch and don't know what they're doing. What's shocking is how unexceptional they were in the gay organizing world.

I'll be the first to say that there are plenty of great people working on LGBT equality. But there's a certain breed of of them that are just, well...

I'll let this email explain for me. This is from HRC, the queer NAACP or NOW. They've refused to acknowledge the street protests in CA going on right now, so they decided to counter-program them with this:

Subject: Don't Miss Tonight's HRC Spa Night at Nickel Spa! (6-10 PM)
To: xxx
Date: Monday, November 10, 2008, 9:03 AM

HRC invites you to an evening of pampering and relaxation while you sip wine, snack on appetizers, and mingle with friends! We are proud to partner with Nickel Spa on this evening spa event.

Nickel Spa:
Services available to both men and women during our event. (receiving a service is not required/mandatory!)
Where: 2187 Market Street (15th and Market)
San Francisco, CA
(415) 626-9000

When: Monday November 10th, 2008
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Please RSVP to Nickel Spa for this event at: (415) 626-9000. When calling to RSVP, you will need to make an appointment for any services you would like to receive.

Note: There is a 50 person maximum for this event, you must be on the list to attend! Receiving a service is not required to attend.

20% of proceeds from spa services to benefit the Human Rights Campaign.

Seriously. The community actually, finally comes together for something, and HRC's reaction is to counterprogram. (I know this was probably planned well in advance, but, jeez, they could have rescheduled in light of queers finally caring about something.)

This isn't just a few instances. Last year, after enormous outcry from the LGBT activist community, that same organization refused to change its position on including transgender people in a bill to help fight some of this pervasive employment discrimination that goes on (that bill already being a major compromise). It alienated even more of us from LGBT activism, thinking that it's really just a bunch of out-of-touch villagers who think they can set the agenda for the rest of us and we'll just fall in line.

Another example from California, someone asked an organizer in that state where all these folks who were protesting were back before the election when it actually counted. She answered with something along the lines of "they weren't anywhere near my office." Of course, she means that they weren't ready to take marching orders. I've received quite a few emails and quite a few comments on my blog about how the only thing volunteers were expected to do was phonebank and fundraise. The top-down structure seriously limits investment in the project.

None of this would be bad if it were a few orgs or operations here and there. But this is the way most of the LGBT rights movement operates - pay and go away. They pee in a circle around their donors and their work, and then when they're ineffective they blame everyone else. Those aren't inspiring leaders.

3. Too much diversity of experience.
There just really isn't anything to rally around when it comes to the "LGBT community." Some gays comes from rich families in the suburbs. Some come from poor, religious families in the South. Some come from small towns in New England. Some come from poor urban families.

Some are white. Some are black. Some are Asian. Some are latino. Some are Native. Some are mixed.

Some are Jewish. Some are Catholic. Some are Mormon. Some are Baptist. Some are Episcopalian. Some are whatever Sarah Palin was. Some are Muslim. Some are atheists. Some aren't religious.

Some are hot. Most aren't. Some are fat. Some are skinny. Some are muscular. Some are old. Some are young. Some have terrible hair and fashion taste. Others don't.

Some are gay men. Some are lesbians. Some are bisexual. Some are MTF transgender. Some are cross dressers. Some are FTM transgender. Some have HBS. Some are femmy fags. Some are butch dykes. Some are lipstick lesbians. Some are straight-actin' dudes who just want to have a beer with a bro and then a blow job. Some are queers who just want to fuck all the rules.

The point is, there's more diversity of experience among the LGBTQ community than there is among Democrats. People are liberal, conservative, etc. based on their experiences and how they're programmed to interpret those experiences.

We have almost no common experience before coming out, though, and even then it's different for everyone. After we join the rainbow, we continue to find ways to divide ourselves against each other. The straight-actin' dudes hate the femme boys. The hot guys (and Andrew Sullivan) hate fatties. The establishment queers hate the transfolk. The HBS people don't get along with the transgender people. Some lesbians are harsh on bi women. HIV negative guys don't want to go near poz guys. Anyone with a little bit of privilege, through skin color, money, education, class, looks, or whatever, thinks that they're better than all the other queers out there (that's my first thought when someone tells me "I'm not the average gay man").

All in all, we have very little community and a whole lot of in-fighting. I don't know how we overcome that.

4. We have just awful collective self-esteem. I don't mean to get all touchy-feely in the middle of a good rant, but these folks were brought up to hate who they are. Every time you see one of those people yelling on the TV about how queers are going to burn in hell, chances are that someone they know is queer. And chances are that every queer person you know had at least one, if not many, early role model who just plain didn't like LGBT people.

And some had parents to tried, through prayer, tough love, abuse, or training, to get it out of their systems. We're trained to hate who we are.

This probably relates to the in-fighting mentioned above, with there being just far too many people in the community trying to build themselves up by tearing others down.

Everyone's talking about the exit polling showing that LGB people were one of the only groups polled that was less likely to vote for Obama than for Kerry in 2004. Maybe that's not because of racism, but just because this isn't fertile ground for a "Yes we can" message.


Those are my two cents on the topic. Feel free to add to it or tear it down, but we really need to answer this question and find solutions to these problems.

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I think this is a cutting, insightful, and obviously in many ways dismal assessment of the poltical problems with our (quasi) community. But I think what happened last week was unprecedented in my own political consciousness (I'm 26) in its shear ability to bond very different people together around the very pain and frustration you outline above.

I attended the NYC rally last night, and at one point I was on a set of step at Columbus Circle randomly with a group of 30 something, very attractive, well-groomed, impeccably dressed men chanting "what do we want? marriage equality! when do we want it? NOW!" and my intiial reaction was that the group would probably switch the chant to "what do want? lower taxes! when do we want them? now!"

As I was in the middle of an internal eye-roll it hit me that despite my knee-jerk judgmentalism, and perhaps our very different socio-political values, we had all ended up on the same steps, yelling together with full conviction from a place of sameness. That sameness was a feeling of empowerment after a lifetime of feeling marginalized and shamed, even if all those feelings were cultivated in very different places. When I looked further and further out into the crowd of thousands, for the first I felt like there actually was something for all of us to rally around despite the various prejudices each of us hold.

The issues you address in your post I think are ones each of us can relate to in our own ways. They are broad enough to be wide-reaching, but specific enough to an lgbtq community. The past week has tapped into some things in each of us that we may be starting to realize might exist in all of us.

Alex, from the viewpoint of an older activist, you've hit the nail on the head.

Hopefully the marriage energy that has just been touched off can ignite in the other areas that you mention -- healthcare, hate crimes, etc. I'm glad to see all the younger faces out there.

I vividly remember being a feminist in the early 1970s...being one of the few activists in a big corporate office where there were a lot of women employees who still didn't get it about what the issues were. So believe me, this problem that we have with apathy isn't unique to us.

So isn't the unasked question here "What do we do now?" We've lost on Prop 8 and Amendment 2 and 102 and Whatever Number Atrocity in Arkansas, and have come out screaming in outrage across the country. That's all well and good, but how do we channel that passion and emotion and start to work together as an effective coalition against the bigotry and hatred that grows in our country? do we need a national organization (and HRC has shown time and again that they are so not it) to focus the direction that we take moving forward?

Rex Wockner wrote earlier that maybe it's time for Activism 4.0 and that our future efforts will be viral and grassroots in nature. That works for protest demonstrations as we've seen around the country the past week, and will again this Saturday. But the grassroots efforts can't lead the pack, can't determine strategic moves, can't determine the next area to push. That needs something at the top directing the grassroots protesting and phonebanking et al. That's what we're missing now. Who will step up to that role?

Reformed Ascetic | November 13, 2008 8:31 PM

Please add me to the list of people you know that have lost a job/career they loved due to homophobia.

I greatly enjoyed you're insightful comments on this issue. Thanks for reposting it here.

I also think the fact that most of the LGBT community passes into and out of visibility on a daily, if not hourly, basis contributes to this situation. This is not to attack anyone but just to add what many have commented about. Unlike some other minorities, LGBT people move into and out of being community representatives, often whether they want to or not. Queer is not necessarily the first label identified by others, and not necessarily what LGBT are addressing on a minute by minute basis the way some other minorities have been forced to do.

I would agree with that, Reformed, to some extent. Part of that may be that racial minorities are visually identifiable, whereas LGBT folk are not necessarily so.

That's part of what the viral/grassroots part of the movement needs to accomplish; stirring the pride and emotion in the LGBT community to BE visible more of the time. Come out to co-workers, family, church members, people at the grocery store. Not in an in-your-face sort of way, not yelling chants and carrying placards (although there is a time for that as well - Saturday, for example!) but maybe through wearing a pin on your coat, or bringing your significant other to the holiday dinner, or holding hands with your loved one on a park bench. Easier said than done, for many, but we all have to start making the effort to be more visible. The more people realize that they know a gay person (many still don't) the more these ballot initiatives become a real thing, rather than some intangible, hypothetical exercise. I realize this is probably coming across very Pollyanna-ish, and it may very well be. But if people can put a face and a name on the thing they are voting for or against, it can change the dynamics of the decision for them.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 13, 2008 8:48 PM

Once again, an excellent post, Alex!

(And that really sucks that you and your boyfriend got thrown out of a French restaurant! Were you in Paris? France is a conservative country in many ways. Weird.)

You've made some great points Alex and it's frustrating that they haven't been addressed by the leadership a long time ago.We are fractured and divided and easily defeated because of it.If we are to succeed at taking on the religious right we must sharpen our political skills and find ways to defeat their logic.We must remove their vail of innocence and expose them for what they are hate mongers using the bible as a tool to subjugate others and advance their personal agenda.

Thanks Alex. I have found your reporting on Prop 8 to be balanced and insightful. Yes, we are apathetic because we are not really a community, we are still told over and over again that we are less than, etc.

As someone who was deeply involved with the field campaign in Los Angeles (I've been volunteering with the campaign since February, and before that doing voter education on the issue of marriage equality) I don't by any stretch of the imagination thing the campaign as a whole was run perfectly. But the field campaign (not the media or political side), the work of bringing together all of these folks--black, white, latino, asian, immigrant, queer, trans, fat, skinny, hot, old, teen, etc.--was actually quite exceptional. Sure, more outreach should have been done to communities of color. But that does not mean that people of color (like me!) were not part of the movement. And on election day, across every county in California, we had 11,000 volunteer shifts worked from 6:30 am until the polls closed. Never before has that happened on an LGBT issue in CA. I'm so glad that I was a part of it, despite any imperfections.

Say what you will about HRC (and I'll say that we probably got more dollars from them than we did volunteers and that they better not pull any ENDA bs this year), but HRC was not No on 8. On the ground, No on 8 was a really broad base of groups and individuals. I'm a lifelong activist, but I saw many folks get transformed into activists in a few short months. The loss was devastating but we are going to gain (and are gaining) momentum.

Great post Alex! While I do want to see marriage equality, one thing that always has bothered me was that it became an issue when it did because of the religious right pushing against it. Not because the LGBTIQ community necessarily thought it should be the next thing we went after.

To me various other things are important, such as need for universal health care, an end to this war that we shouldn't have been involved in at all, ENDA including gender identity and expression, economy, the fact that 1% of the population control 80% of the wealth and worlds' resources, the environment and global warming, hate crimes legislation, etc.

You can also count me as yet another person who has lost a job because of transphobia.

Cites on the exit poll concerning LGBT voters, Alex?

Yes, I do think that T-inclusive* ENDA is the #1 priority, and T-inclusive hate-crime laws the #2 priority, but the adoption, binational couple, and full civil union/ marriage issues are of intense interest not just to couples and would-be parents, but to the larger segment of the LGBT population seeking permanent couplehood or parenthood.

* "gender identity and expression" language, covering transgendered people and gender atypical people (femme men, butch women, of whatever sexual orientation)

Whatever the reason for the extraordinary apathy among queers about the ballot issues last week - like the 53% voter turnout in San Francisco, the results were a major nationwide setback for our rights and hopes for further progress. I'm sorry to break the news, but a large part of the straight populace (including a lot of liberal, gay-friendly folks) consider last week's election a sort of national referendum on "the gay agenda" - a referendum in which we got trounced fairly and squarely. They aren't focused on the distinction between marriage and domestic partnerships, or between the marriage issue and the other issues mentioned above. They see the demonstrators as "poor losers." It is going to take a huge effort over a period of years to undo the damage. Much of the effort is going to be spent fighting off attempts by the re-energized theofascists to reverse advances we have made at the state and local level over the past decade.

I don't think the problem is apathy. Or inept leadership. Those are just symptoms.

The problem is a potent mix of 20 or so years of demoralizing defeats and even more demoralizing betrayals. The vectors are the two parties, a myriad of disciplined, malicious religious cults and the pervasive culture of bigotry that’s woven through US society and history. Skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, national origin – you name a minority and American society has ten flavors of bigots spewing hate at them.

Of all those problems the worst is the passive acceptance of years of betrayal by both political parties. The Republicans are openly bigoted. In spite of that some GLBT folks play lap dog for the. And they have a counter part in Barney’s Brigades, people who excuse or ignore the unending string of betrayals by the Democrats, from 1993’s DADT by Clinton, Nunn and Powell down to our defeats at the hands of “god’s in the mix”.

Nowhere is the need to break out of the political closets more clearly seen than in the runup to the debacles in California, Florida and Arizona. “god’s in the mix” was a freight train that slammed into our prospects head on. Yes on 8 spent big bucks exploiting it. No on 8’s response was to insert their thumbs, twirl and keep their mouths shut. Their self appointed leaders were not elected at conventions and controlled things from the top down. That’s how they were able to get away with their timid decision not to confront Obama and their ruinous decision to stay out of minority communities and to substitute dueling ads for aggressive community outreach.

The solution to these problems will be a lot easier now that the futility of the pie in the sky elections are over. This round of protests will fizzle out sooner or later but it’s throwing up networks of activists who’ve learned to organize without the dictates of self appointed leaders, especially the sellout artists of HRC and the Barney’s Brigades.

The Benedict Arnold Republicans and Barney Frank Democrats can continue to rely on the goodwill of bigots. We leave them to it. By helping to unleash this pent up energy and militancy the left has a better chance than we’ve had in two decades to crate a democratically run, inclusive national LGBT left, independent of the bigot’s parties and organized around an aggressive equality program. The left has the smarts to seek out allies in the movements against the war, against the erosion of our standard of living and against bigotry.

Alex, beautiful, excellent, gorgeous.

One little thing, 'cause I'm so not into revisionism (not that you were, but it'll end up that way).

"that same organization refused to change its position on including transgender people in a bill to help fight some of this pervasive employment discrimination that goes on (that bill already being a major compromise)."

The problem was actually that they *did* change their position. First they lied about not changing it. Then they lied about changing it. Then they lied to cover up the changes they did (two of them), and then they lied about the penalty for such (first it was we won't punish those voting against, then it was we will punish them).

They also lied about interfering with lobbying on an inclusive behalf several years before that, too. twice.

Its kinda like if a friend says he accepts you, and then votes for prop 22. Then says he accepts you. Then goes out and tries to get McCain elected. Then he says he accepts you, and supports you. And votes yes on Prop 8.

Its kinda like that.

After a while, you realize they aren't your friend.

but, other than that tiny thing, oh heck yeah, hoo boy, totally :D

Thank you Alex for your thoughtful assessment of where we are now. Just to take a step back and look at the big picture -- say, over the past 30 or so years -- I've included something I wrote just after last Friday night's march here in San Francisco.

I'm optimistic that your generation will get it together, after perhaps a bumpy start. There is nothing like having basic rights taken away to motivate one to action. After the marches, the organizing begins.


Last Friday my friends called to ask me to join them at the spontaneous march protesting the passage of Prop 8, here in California. While waiting for MUNI (the bus) I noticed the message on the electronic marquee in the bus shelter which read: 'Protest in progress, expect delays.'

The bus was packed with standing room only and I hoped someone would notice my disability pass, or my cane, and offer a seat.

The first thing I noticed was that the bus was packed with people who looked like twenty somethings. Half a block riding toward Market St. a young man offered me his seat. About a block and a half from Market St., the bus stopped in the traffic jam caused by the march.

Most of the people on the bus poured out onto Market St. which was packed with people as far as I could see in both directions.

My sense is that the majority of the marchers were young people, which made me feel really good, because I've often wondered if the current generation took for granted just how easy being gay can be in a city like San Francisco nowadays.

I thought back to thirty years ago when I was the age of most of the marchers in this protest, when I walked these same steps protesting Anita Bryant's 'Save Our Children' campaign and the Briggs initiative, which would have banned gay people from teaching in California public schools.

I thought about thirty years ago -- and how far our community has progressed -- when police beat gays in the Castro, and busted out the windows of gay bars with their batons. At his march, the police just directed traffic.

Walking much slower this time and resting along the way to catch my breath, I felt energy from the young people in the street, and I felt so very connected to my community as I marched toward Castro St.

After meeting my friends on Castro Street, we stood in front of the Castro Theater Marquee -- which is playing MILK -- and cheered as thousands of people marched by.

Later, as I made my way home, I thought I might be witnessing a new era in the struggle for equality, and I am so very proud of the young people that marched that night, taking up the torch to light the way for the next generation.

I have posted a few photos of San Francisco from 1977 on my facebook page. You can view them at:

Great post, Alex.
If I might, I'd like to share some observations from my point of view concerning apathy.
First of all, our opponents are well organized, well heeled, and their leaders are trained. The LGBT community does not have effective leadership. In my estimation, HRC has permanently relinquished this position, and must be held accountable for some of the divisions within the community.
It is easy for activists supporting an issue to give a rousing effective speech to a group of fellow supporters, but few are willing to go into a lion's den of opponents. If we keep preaching to the choir, whose minds have we changed? Not many.
For those of you who have not recently seen the movie, "Ghandi," may I suggest you see it again.
Overcoming centuries of oppression against the LGBT community will not happen overnight, but it will never happen without courageous leadership.
And it will take courage and determination to bring together such a diverse group of persons whose goal is simply equality and justice.
We do need to shout from the rafters, "Hell, no. We aren't going to take it anymore." instead of quietly watching from the sidelines for "someone," whoever that is to do something.
Are YOU going to a rally in your area on Saturday?
As Eldridge Cleaver said, "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

I'd also add that what;s your top priority for the SGL community depends on what ethnic group you belong to as well.

If your African-American, marriage equality is way down on the list below ENDA and hate crimes.

Being secure in my job and having people not feeling they can get away with a slap on the wrist for killing me is far more important than whether I can get married or not.

I'm not a person of color, but I feel the same way. I've been married. It ain't all that it's cracked up to be. I heard someone said that if you want gay people to stop having sex, let them get married.

The sad truth of the state of LGBT organizations is that they are funded largely by wealthy gay men. Without them, there would be no NGLTF, no Victory Fund, no NBJC and yes, no HRC. Small donors are great and necessary, but the collective power of their small donations is still less than the several big, big, big checks these organizations get every year from a handful of philanthropists.

Wealthy people like the company of other wealthy people--hence the HRC spa nights, dinners and other ritzy galas. They may seem off-message given the temporary street activism going on now, but they are necessary and lucrative, and they are fundraising techniques used by EVERY major charity community.

At base, the complaints I hear from the progressive blogs boil down to this: They want a say in how HRC and other groups are run.

Fine, go to work for a movement organization. Take the low pay (for the vast majority of staff), long hours, and slings and arrows that come not only from the right but from the left and from your own brothers and sisters in the community. Then you'll have a say. And you'll see why we need those rich people to continue to fund this movement. And you won't bitch about a spa night, because you'll realize you're not the only gay person who knows what they're doing.

I went a step further.

I went to work for free for an organization that i supported entirely by small donations because, oddly enough, all the big gay donor want nothing to do with it.

Last night I became Chair of the Board, as well. We serve transfolk.

The one's those big gay donors, in their privilege that you are defending, neglect.

Check your privilege defense.

If they take away our right to marry, what right of ours will they vote on next? The right to work? The right to rent or buy a place to live? The right to just exist?

No right is meaningless, even if you never intend to use it. I certainly am never going to need an abortion but I'll fight for the right to have one when needed regardless.

This is no time to be quiet and in the background

Thanks for this, Alex. You hit the nail (nails?) on the head in so many ways.

I especially liked your point: "Getting the word "marriage" instead of "domestic partnership" in a state most of us don't live in is a just a little too abstract for us."

For the last couple weeks I've been trying to figure out a way to say that without making people mad. I lived in California years ago, then moved back home to Texas. Since then, I've felt that folks like us in Texas, Indiana (where my partner's from), Ohio (where my sister lives), and those dozens of other states have been sort of written off. Where's the outrage and activism for us? When are the Freedom Riders coming on our behalf? We'd love to have the benefits that seem so insufficient and unacceptable to Californians. We'd love to have what they have in the U.K.

I know that's an emotional response and it doesn't make sense intellectually. The movement needed a spark, and now we have it and the fire is raging nationwide. Blaze on! (no pun intended) But don't leave us behind.

Gay marriage types sound like racist, transphobic whiners to me. Sorry, but gay history is written in hate and blood.

When they are not hating on Blacks, they are slamming Latina/os.
When that's boring, there's always good old trans misogyny and exclusion.

And of course, everything you said about low self esteem. With a side order of self serving hate directed...down.

So, I put this to you: Why should I, a Latina trans woman, support the right of rich* white gays to get married over keeping my friends from dying?

Tell me this so I can have a good laugh.

*I support a family on 5,000 usd a year. I am the richest transwoman in my circle of friends.

The "poor gays" and the "rich gays" live in 2 VERY different worlds, and not just due to their differences in income.

The "rich" can purchase MANY of the legal protections they are denied in marriage....they may pay much more than straights, but they can afford to pay.

The poor just do without. Not to say the middle-to-upper class folks do not have their problems, but compared to the "poor gays" their lives are a freakin' cakewalk.

@John B.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

But assuming that a gay man is rich is quite likely to be right. At least compared to trans women.

Plus, if someone is outed as gay, they are usually still alive after the fact.

Either way, my sympathy for the gay rights movement pretty much nil.

But hey, give me a call when the gay rights crowd stops using us for gay only gains.

Yes, yes, yes to all your points and the very insightful comments. For the last 10 years I've had a job based in central Ohio, but I travel all over the country and spend about half the year on the road. I spend a lot of time in places like Paducah, KY, Morgan City, LA, Fort Dodge, IA, Norman, OK, etc. But I also get to work (and visit) in great cities (for gays) like Portland, L.A., Palm Springs, Tucson and New Orleans. Over that time, and over the last 3 general elections, I've come to notice that our experience of who and what America is and what America wants are diverging rapidly depending on where one lives. My friends and family in California were aghast and befuddled when they saw Ohio give Bush his second term... They thought Kerry was a shoe-in. I had the amazing experience of just coming back from 2 weeks working in Portland (anti-Bush bumper stickers everywhere) to the area around Mansfield, Ohio right around election time. The contrast could not have been starker!

I think a lot of the energy around Prop 8 is by outraged Californians who couldn't imagine that could happen in California until it did. But I can assure you that for most gays & lesbians living in most parts of the country, marriage equality is WAY down on the list of priorities. It would be nice, but having the right to work and earn an income and be reasonably safe doing it are far higher priorities.

This is also why the repeal of DADT is actually much more important. Well-educated, upper middle class LGBTQs in coastal cities probably look at DADT and think, "Why would you want to go into the military anyway?" But for a lot of these kids in a lot of these small towns in the "red" states, the military is the only way up and out; it IS the local industry and the only local employer that offers any upward mobility.

By the way, I really recommend reading Richard Florida's "Creative Class" books and Bill Bishop's "The Big Sort" to anyone who hasn't read it yet in order to understand the enormous divergences that are occurring in the country. They are spot on. I'm seeing what they write about occurring every day.

let's see--self-involved, egotistical, narcissists who aren't politically active or involved.

I'm shocked, shocked.

(this from another gay male--not a straight, gay-basher)

I keep thinking about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Marriage is pretty high up the pyramid. Physiological and Safety needs form the two bottom layers of this pyramid of well-being. It seems to me that by pushing marriage equality as the number one need by the LGBTQI community, we make it difficult to focus on lower-level needs, like being safe in our bodies from attack, being safe in our jobs from being fired, harrassed, etc.

I could be married to my lover, but still be fired for being gay. How is being married going to help me when I suddenly can't afford to pay bills or eat?

I am straight and have a very nice circle of friends and so I can't remember when I have personally witnessed mistreatment of gays, but perhaps I will start looking for ways to speak up against it. That said, I am against same-sex marriage. I wonder how much enthusiastic support the gay-rights movement is losing because of it's insistence on so-called marriage equality.

Why would you be actively against same-sex marriage, though?

I know straight men who aren't against it, and that's the category most likely to be afraid of homosexuality, so it can't be that, especially since you claim to care about abuses against gays (appreciated, by the way).

The only "logical" argument that I have ever seen - that "it's not the tradition in the majority of cultures and religions" - is actually blatantly unconstitutional, since it is requiring people of all faiths, including minority faiths, to follow the tenets and practices of a particular one or two faiths, just because it's "more popular". Really, that's what that argument boils down to if you actually examine it closely and carefully. And how is that fair?

Nobody could ever force a given church or minister to perform a same-sex marriage, as this is (and rightly so) prohibited by the First Amendment's "Free Exercise" clause, disallowing government interference in private religious practices. A lot of right-wing religious groups have tried to tell people (apparently successfully) that churches would be "forced" to perform gay marriages; this is a lie. The government would never be able to legally do that.

So, with that in mind... what logical, Constitutionally-supported reason would you have to be against same-sex marriage in the *secular* realm? Especially considering that prohibiting it can easily be shown to BOTH infringe on the religious freedoms of certain minorities (because not all religions disallow same-sex unions, making the banning of such unions a violation of the Free Exercise clause), AND impose the equivalent of a state religion (the forcing of people to not disobey a particular religion's tenets, a violation of the Establishment Clause)?

And that's not even touching on the fact that the difference between many states of how "male" or "female" are determined, combined with same-sex marriage bans, means that a couple that includes a post-op trans individual may suddenly be considered "not valid" simply by moving from one state to another - a ludicrous state of affairs, really, and heinously unfair, especially considering how many benefits such couples may lose, or the detriments to any children already had within that union.

There is no fair, just, and most of all Constitutionally-supportable reason to ban same-sex marriage (or exact contractual equivalent) in the secular realm. There just isn't. And it's maddening, even painful, to see people otherwise "supportive", who don't see this.

I can agree that there are many other issues which fly under the radar a lot more yet are of enormous, and perhaps greater importance to the LGBT community... employment discrimination and hate crimes and all of that impact even more people and in even worse ways, than the lack of "legal", recognized same-sex unions do, and those should definitely be addressed. But.

One level of blatantly unconstitutional discrimination does not become "less wrong", just because worse abuses happen regularly. It just means there are things that are "more wrong" out there. Wrong is still wrong.

It is nice, and appreciated, that you don't want us to be beaten, killed, or fired just for loving someone the same sex or gender... but it would be equally nice if you realized that injustice and discrimination happens on a number of subtle levels, and how insane, and actually quite illegal, it is to hyperregulate marriage on a governmental level, to the extent that ONLY one class of consenting adults cannot marry those they want to marry.

Again, I am glad to see a straight person who can at least feel that some forms of abuse and discrimination against LGBT individuals are wrong. I would just really appreciate it if you read my (admittedly long) post and considered it, and asked yourself very honestly why it is you "do not support gay marriage". Thank you.

Coincidentally - and I admit that this may be a dumb question - but what does the acronym "HBS" stand for?

The only Google results I can find are for the Harvard Business School, and something about hepatitis. Very confusing. Could someone clarify? This is the only part of the article I got a little lost on, and it makes me feel like I'm a little behind on my slang!

All of this "misery," and yet no new ideas to unite our community? No strategies?

Sooner or later we have to admit that we are without a cohesive strategy and our "leaders" are more worried about their salaries, than our equality.

I have nothing to add to the numerous comments about frustration and apathy, except to say a real "strategy to win" and a united effort would give people "hope." Right now, we're all out of hope.

If we want to ignite a real, sustainable "movement," we "gotta give 'em hope." Our community would become active and would work together - if they believed we could actually win.

"Gays" aren't apathetic. The LGBT communities are on the march again after decades of fighting the plague and being thrown under the bus by christer cults and those who cater to them, Clinton-Gore, Bush-Rove and now Obama-Biden.

1. What's defined as the #1 gay goal for all us LGBTQ folks, same-sex marriage, isn't the #1 goal for most queer folks.

The truth is that same sex marriage is a series of hard fought defensive battles against DOMA's promoted by in equal measure by Democrats and Republicans, not an offensive by rightwing elements in the GLBT communities who reject anti-discrimination and other key arenas of struggle. Attacking the large layers of new activists who are enraged about the attacks of Democrats and Republicans on a basic right - partnering equality - is sectarian and a withdrawal from the fight to defend our communities.

2. Our leadership is, quite frankly, uninspiring and uninspired. True enough, but that's not the worst. They actively betray us by subsuming our fight to the needs of the Democratic and Republicans parties. No on 8 and EQCA let Yes on 8 win because they were afraid to criticize “gawd’s in the mix”. Barney Frank butchered ENDA to please the business interests that fund political campaigns. SLDN supports genocidal wars. HRC – well the best you can say about them is that with friends like that who needs enemies.

3. Too much diversity of experience. There just really isn't anything to rally around when it comes to the "LGBT community." That's only partly true. General agreement exists around defense against right wing attacks on partnering equality and SSM, on the need for anti-discriminating laws, on the need to curb the cults and on the need for crash Manhattan style programs to beat HIV and HPV.

Fortunately, there’s is a growing class divide in our communities based on the growing class divide of a society that gives trillions to the rich while workers experience Depression levels of unemployment. That class divide will lead to greater alienation from the anti worker parties, the Democrats and Republicans and to greater opposition to their wars.

4. We have just awful collective self-esteem. That’s still a big problem and its worst expression is people who stubbornly refuse to leave the last closets, the Democrat and Republican parties.

The ideas Alex expresses are the classic pattern of disappointment and disillusion of liberals who finally get their wish. Alex and other Democrats thoughtlessly projected their hopes for "change" on yet another lesser evil who doesn't give a rat’s ass about anything except getting rich in office.

The much heralded election of a right centrist liberal constitutional scholar to the WH and right centrist supermajorities in Congress has led to escalation of the wars, rejection of single-payer socialized medicine, a huge threat by Democrat Stupak against reproductive choice, defense of Clintons DOMA and DADT and further economic collapse.

It took 8 years for many Democrats to figure out that Clinton-Gore were bigots who specialized in catering to the cults, the rich and the military industrial complex. It won't that long with Obama-Biden and the anger with them will be much, much greater because the illusions were much grater.

The good news is that the Democrats and Republicans are driving more nails in their coffins.

Jonathon Edwards | December 29, 2009 3:05 PM


I realize that this thread is really old, but I just discovered Bilerico and am "catching up".

I agree with your assessment, Alex, from the perspective of someone who has been active in the movement since 1982 and who did a lot of "catch up" work sitting in the offices of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at the University of Missouri when I first came out. I think you hit all the nails on the head exactly. Except:

I disagree on the issue of no common ground. Everyone of the folks represented in whatever version of the acronym you choose to use has two very powerful, life changing and identity building experiences in common: being in the closet and coming out of the closet. Everyone of us has had or is in the process of having one or both of those experiences.

And those experiences radically change us. Make us completely different from those around us who haven't had them. The assimilaters would prefer that this not be true, but they always discover at some point in their assimilationist attempts that those two experiences create a barrier between themselves and those they want to be assimilated by. I have found this to be universally true and those who protest the idea are usually operating with a great degree of willful blindness and pie in the sky "can't we all just get along".

If our movement focused on developing that sense of kinship that these common experiences creates, the divisions you identify wouldn't exist. Yes, everyone represented by different letters in the acronym have had radically different experiences of race, religion, economics, culture, etc., etc. But we have also had the same experience of being encouraged by our culture to hide and being punished - to greater or lesser degrees - when we don't. That is our common ground.

The meaning of that rainbow is that we are one people made up of a hugely diverse collection of "types". We are the only minority composed of all other minorities AND the majority.

The first step to freeing us to claim that identity will be to ditch the leadership that just wants us to be like all the upper middle class white men they so admire. Stop giving money to HRC, stop focusing our efforts on assimilationist activities like "marriage equality" and start pouring our resources into community building. Real community building around our common experiences. That's what started right after Stonewall and got derailed by the assimimilationists in very short order. We need to reclaim it.