Yasmin Nair

He's Not Your Daddy, or: Obama and the Personal Politics of Gay Marriage

Filed By Yasmin Nair | June 16, 2009 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Adolph Reed, anti-gentrification, Barack Obama, Bette Davis, Bill Clinton, coalition building, DOJ, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell, election campaigns, gay marriage, gentrification, health care reform, immigration, Join the Impact, New Yorker, personal and politics, personalization, Smelt vs United States, UAFA, welfare

As I've written countless times before, I think gay marriage is the wrong cause and should be dumped immediately. So I didn't think I'd care much about the recent Department of Justice move to dismiss the Smelt case against DOMA. But, to my surprise, I found myself enthralled by the legal arguments that have sprung up around it. I'll be writing on these at greater length, but for now I wanted to share some preliminary musings and observations about the initial gay and lesbian responses to the administration's case.

First, I was struck by the amount of petulance and, frankly, sheer hysteria that marked the outburst against Obama who has, it seems, gone from being the Great Hope to the Great Betrayer. Although I haven't done a scientific count, I'm willing to bet that "betrayal" has been the most used word in the gay blogosphere over the last few days. For the most part, I concur with Alex Blaze's analysis of the issue and especially when he writes that "The Smelt case was a bad idea from the beginning that the gay activist community opposed, but the plaintiffs and their lawyer went ahead with it anyway." I don't even support gay marriage, but I'm bemused by the extent to which people are defending a suit that they may not even agree with in the first place. It's a little bit like the old joke: the food here is terrible, and there's so little of it. In this case: The lawsuit here is terrible, yes, and how dare he dare he seek its dismissal!

In that light, for gay marriage activists to now insist that Obama ought not to have sought to dismiss the case is a bit like poking someone with a very sharp spear and then crying foul when they do what they can to retaliate. Let me just say this as a layperson: if you file a lawsuit, the other party is going to file to dismiss. That's kind of how it works.

Second, I'm intrigued at the level of personal bile and anger leveled at Obama and the paradoxically high level of expectation that people seem to have for him. The sense of betrayal around the Smelt case exposes the extent to which people seem to have over-invested in Obama's supposed munificence and good will towards the gay community. Yes, he's clearly brilliant. Yes, he may well be to the left of Bush, which is not saying very much. But come on people, he's not your daddy.

In other words, stop thinking of him as the father who turned his back on you when you jumped into his arms.

He's also no longer your candidate. He's the President, not Miss America. He hasn't even been President for six months, and we're already shocked that the man hasn't brought about world peace, ended hunger, and fed and clothed the homeless. As far as so-called "gay rights" are concerned, it may come as a shock to many in the community, but Obama was not elected solely to reverse DOMA or end DADT. If you believe in the spirit of the conventional electoral politics of Democrats versus Republicans (the problems with which I won't go into here, lacking time and space) he was elected, in large part, to clean up the mess left behind not just by Bush but also by Clinton. Who, we might remember, is responsible for NAFTA, the evisceration of welfare, DOMA, and DADT. Just in case we've forgotten.

And yet, despite all the evidence that Obama has always been a politician, gays in particular seem to feel the sting of his "betrayal." Some hold out hope that a supposedly better Obama exists, and that he will emerge to right our perceived wrongs at the end of the day. This is nowhere more apparent than in Tony Kushner's recent CNN interview where the liberal playwright said: "Yeah, I think that it would be a lot to expect the president of the United States to openly declare that he's in favor of same sex marriage, because it would give people on the right a handy club to wield and use gay marriage as a wedge issue... I'm perfectly willing to accept that this may be a necessary compromise. I wish people didn't have to say, 'I believe that marriage is between a man and woman,' especially when they obviously don't believe that. But if that's what it takes to get elected..."

So Obama, by this rationale, is a Manchurian candidate, just the good kind. What, or who, will be the Queen of Diamonds that triggers his wish to follow our orders? Or perhaps, one day, over the rainbow, if we follow this logic, the clouds will lift and he will spring into the Oval Office and sign gay marriage into reality.

But if you know anything about Chicago politics, or have read either the New Yorker dissection of Obama's political history, or any of Adolph Reed's brilliant and scathing analyses of Obama, then you know perfectly well that Obama will do whatever it takes to win. In other words, whether or not Obama has his heart in the right place about gay marriage (which would be, in my view, the wrong place), and whether or not he secretly wants to legalize gay marriage everywhere is immaterial. The issue of gay marriage isn't about someone "doing the right thing," but now a matter that's up to the same electoral politics that spawned the culture of hope around Obama.

So what explains this emotional overinvestment in him? I think the reasons have to do with the nature of the so-called gay activism around gay marriage. The creation of groups like Join the Impact has drawn out multitudes of gays who now see themselves as activists. But many of today's purported gay activists have little to no relationship to activism outside the narrow agenda of marriage rights. This is not to say that a great many of them don't have connections to an older gay movement, such as, perhaps, that around the AIDS crisis. But, for the most part, today's gay marriage activists are spawned by the non-profit industrial complex where your goals are, generally, with very few exceptions, defined in very narrow and single-agenda terms.

Or they're people for whom politics consists of hitting the "send" or "share" button on a Facebook group and who judge the effectiveness of a movement based entirely on the numbers of people it can turn out to events. That's not to dismiss the power of social networking groups, but to say that movement-building and sustained activism has to do with long-term and often painful forms of coalition-building, the kind that's entirely absent from the gay marriage movement.

When I first began work as a queer activist, it was alongside housing groups fighting gentrification in my neighborhood of Uptown. As queer activists, we weren't there to tell the housing folks what to do, but to respectfully and slowly insert our presence in the struggle. That often meant shutting up and staying silent while the primary group's agenda was worked out. It also meant lots of anger and pain and a whole lot of processing both internally and with other groups. But, in the end, it meant a richer movement against gentrification where queers weren't just fighting gentrification because we were losing our rights to housing but because all of us, queers and non-queers alike, saw the stakes in the struggle. And we were, in fact, often struggling against gays and lesbians who were pro-gentrification.

Today, I see a lot of anger and intensity within the gay marriage movement but little sense of other struggles, except, as in immigration and UAFA, when that movement can be cynically deployed to boost the gay marriage cause. I have no doubt that this will, of course, incite furious responses from all manner of activists who'll display their credentials in coalition-building, but my statement stands: gay marriage is not a movement that's growing in conjunction with other movements, except in the most cynical fashion.

Bereft of any sense of what it takes to build a movement, the gay marriage movement's activists rely on nothing more than their extremely personalized sense of politics. Their politics have nothing to do with placing gay marriage in a larger context of social justice - if they did, they would have to face the fact that gay marriage has nothing to do with social justice. They would have to acknowledge the fact that a movement that insists that gays should be able to get married in order to gain benefits like health care is also a movement that says that anyone who's not married can just roll over and die. They would have to acknowledge that the issue of a hospital denying you access to your partner's bedside isn't going to be resolved by marriage if you're faced with a homophobic doctor, and that such a right should be naturalized as one for everyone who's not in a conventionally recognizable relationship of love and commitment. Like friendship, for instance.

Instead, their politics are defined entirely by their perception of what matters to them personally: "If I can't get married, it's just wrong to not have gay marriage." This doesn't preclude the fact that many people who want gay marriage do think of marriage in more inclusive terms, don't think of it in exclusion to other issues, and might well struggle with the one-note message sent to them by the "movement." But their voices are effectively silenced by the larger groups around them.

Which is why, in the end, gays are going to keep getting angry with Obama. The vast majority of today's marriage advocates have no clue about how to fight an activist battle for the long term. When their narrowly defined agenda is threatened, they act like petulant children and threaten to "never vote for him again," or insist that perhaps Hillary, whose husband initiated the mess we're in, was a better candidate after all. In short, these are people who apparently see activism as a short zero-sum game defined entirely by the perpetual and draining cycle of conventional electoral politics.

While I have no interest in helping the gay marriage movement, allow me to caution all of you about getting too invested in every perceived slight and in over-investing in your candidates. Because you will, eventually, be burnt out while your fat cat organizations like, oh, HRC, continue to spin their wheels and send open letters to Obama about their wounded feelings.

Obama is the President you voted for. He has miles to go, and a legislative agenda that spans more than the "rights" of any one community. And most activist struggles are long and bloody battles that span decades. If you don't believe me, ask anyone in the immigration rights movement about what what it means to battle for years for even the slightest change to legislation (and no, I don't mean anyone fighting for UAFA, whose supporters want nothing to do with immigration reform). Or ask housing activists about what it means to fight a long and slow and sometimes losing battle against gentrification in your neighborhood.

In the meantime, my angry brethren, I say this to you in my best Bette Davis voice: Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night.

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Wow! What an inane article. We're not suffering from a "daddy complex" we are simply expecting the man to live up to the promises he made during the campaign. Is that really too much to ask?

If marriage equality isn't important to you, then don't get married.

Inane indeed! She should stop drinking the Kool Aid.

The community is carrying a ton of baggage. They're incapable of thinking strategically. They'll always pick a loosing battle over an easy victory, just so they can play the self righteous victim. It's been the same for 30 years, and there's no sign it'll change in our life time.


I love you and the horse you rode in on...

Obama presented a persona to the people who funded his campaign. He presented a promise that we want to see fulfilled.

Bill Clinton despite what the rest of America may think didn't screw up by putting gays in the military first. He did what he did. And this faggot will always be greatful.

DOMA and how he reaacted to it is another story. I understand bedroom politics, and DOMA is why I would have never voted for Hillary (not in a primary and not in the general).

Obama has assumed our loyalty because Bush and Co hated us so. More and more republicans are embracing gay and lesbian equality. The Smartest thing the GOP could do it to embrace gay rights.

I have my own views about marriage. Just as I have my own views on sex.

People get married. They start families. Some of those people are gay or lesbian.

If we support marriage as the foundation of family, I don't want to be excluded from that.

If you have another notion about what it takes to make a family, I cherish your idea. The only thing i ask is that you don't trash mine.

I'm sorry if I sound like I'm angry. I'm not. I just want my huband to be with me. If the Indian constitution was different than it is, I'd be telling you how I was moving to Pune.

So no, not that.

I love this post, Yasmin! I know you will take heat...but I'm with you. I just this moment heard that Obama will be extending benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. The devil is in the details...which we'll get tomorrow. It's not single payer health care, which would finally remove one of the reasons gay folks say they need marriage.

Meanwhile, please keep up your great posts!

Wilberforce, I have to agree with you about the inability to think strategically. As much as I don't even support GM, there are times when I want to call HRC and say, "Look, pay me a million or so, and I'll show you how to win this." The "movement" does seem to be all over the map.

Greg, Thanks for the response. I think my short answer is that marriage does not define a family, and the idea that it does or should is a flawed and very conservative one that has more to do with accruing property and taxation laws than anything inherently natural. But it's a good question, and one that I'll be taking up later in a post where I detail my exact problems with gay marriage. But Nancy Polikoff's book, Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage, outlines a number of ways to recognise families outside the conventions of marriage. Sadly, as I'll explain in more depth, gay marriage in fact threatens to erase those different kinds of kinship arrangements.

Nancy, Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I expect this will not be popular :-) I'm intrigued by the recent report on health care as well -- and am interested to see how the gay community will respond to it. So far, people seem so bent on complaining about Obama and praising Hillary - but, as Alex pointed out elsewhere, she's part of his administration. But it would be interesting to argue for this as a way to begin to resolve the issue of gay relationships without resorting to marriage.

Murphy, I don't know of the direct co-relationship between the "stink" and the policy, since policies generally take more time to come into place; I could be wrong. But I also think it's an excellent idea to extend benefits to unmarried partners in general. Now, if only such benefits were extended to all people, regardless of partnered status...which is an even better idea.

Mario Democrat | June 17, 2009 11:24 AM

Hillary is a true friend of the community; Obama is not. But bringing this up now is merely a mechanism of spite that doesn't serve any substantial purpose save the thrill of "I told you so"; I don't really have any problem throwing it in the faces of fags who supported him over her, though. Because we did tell them so ;)

Hillary being a part of his administration does not at all diminish her support of our community. She holds the most powerful position in his Cabinet, and as she made clear with her post-primary defeat performance in service of the nomimee, Hillary is about effecting change and advancing the policies of the Democratic party where possible. Why would she say no to a position in which she can do just that? Not to mention she's already worked to bring equal rights to the State Department by extending benefits to same-sex couples.

And this Presidential memo on same-sex benefits was in the works before the "stink"; they probably just decided to deploy it sooner as means of appeasement. Good luck!

To Nancy and Yasmin and other anti-marriage types,
1. To people who oppose abortion, I say, ok, don't get one, but it should be legally available for those who want it. Likewise, the same with marriage. If you do not want to be married, then quite simply don't get married, but quit fighting against the single way that gets the most legal rights, the fastest way to legal equality, for the greatest number of individuals in our community.
2. Read today's New York Times article about the federal benefits that are being extended. They do not amount to much, and they EXCLUDE HEALTHCARE to same sex partners or spouses. Nancy, you are always too quick to say that various rules, proposals, regulations, laws are the equivalent to marriage rights, when they NEVER are. You are a lawyer, and we expect more precision , more legal soundness to your writing, and statements on the law that we may rely upon, not wishful thinking to support your dislike for marriage. You do this all too often on proposals in the District of Columbia, and have called our status the equivalent of marriage for years, when it is far far from it in terms of legal benefits and tax money. Talk to none other than Suze Orman about this, who has spoken and written about the horrible "same sex couple penalty" that faces our community after one partner dies without the benefit of marriage. Houses and businesses need to be involuntarily sold to pay various death and inheritance taxes, or real propertty taxes sky-rocket (see yesterday's SF Chronicle). The death of a lesbian friend of mine resulted in her partner of 29 years being audited, and years of pooling of their financial resources were determined by IRS to be "gifts" which were subject to federal taxation. Marriage recognized by her state and the federal government would have saved her tens of thousands of dollars to IRS on this one. I have never seen or heard you address these real life, practical problems that real people face , Nancy and Yasim, in your attacks on marriage.
3. Whether you like marriage or not, there is NO OTHER ISSUE that has ever gotten the gay agenda on the front pages of every newspaper in America, gotten our issues discussed on every talk show on radio or TV, and gotten all of America discussing the so-called "gay Agenda". Yes, let's pass ENDA, repeal Don't ask, don't tell, get anti-bullying protections for kids in schools, get immigration reform,etc. However, every other issue put together has failed to get us this attention, and as a bonus, all these other issues are considered also. The marriage issue has forced innumerable places of employment to discuss gay issues as married same-sex couples claim the same benefits as other employees, it has brought countless people out of the closet, and it has sent a message to gay youth that their relationships do not have to be a nasty secret, but should be fully out in the open, and are recognized by society.
In short, to each her own. However, ladies, there is a revolution going on in terms of public discussion and debate to gain FULL EQUALITY ( not separate but supposedly equal) for our entire community. You can either help the cause, or get out of the way!!!!!

I'm sad to say that if you really think that marriage is tantamount to full "EQUALITY" (why is it always capitalized?) it's quite a privileged life that you've lived.
Which granted, it's great for you, but for those of us who have had to deal with many other forms of discrimination, marriage will do NOTHING to really grant us full EQUALITY. Instead, it will work to make us more virulently UNEQUAL because of the ways in which we don't fit into such assimilationist politics.

I think it's incredible that Obama will extend benefits to the partners of gay federal employees! I also think this highlights why we need to raise a stink when we're dissed -- it tends to prod people to take reasonable actions in our favor.

I don't want to get married either but I want that to be my decision, not the governments decision.

I agree with GregC, completely.

I can't get married.

My husband will be abandoned by me like every other wife who falls in love with a husba nd

I will be the youngest old person wno summits Everest

you cut short my words.. Bil, I don't trust you any more

I found it,but I don't know how to make it work... sloppy trigger.....-

Well put Yasmin now lets get on with the important stuff besides marraige shall we.

First, the federal employee benefits deal to come tomorrow is mostly a bunch of crap. DOMA prevents the president from extending most benefits to same-sex couples.


That link looks bad...Ben Smith, Politico...read it there.

Second...oh jeez I guess it's good that you (Yasmin) have a forum to express this viewpoint. I don't agree with you.

I won't sit on the sideline and philosophize about queerness and monogamy and assimilation while religious/political organizations manipulate the public and the gov't and use their majority status to enforce unconstitutional bigoted legislation and amendments on me, my family, my friends and my people.

I value the concept of equal protections and I insist that our President - among the direct beneficiaries of the extension of equal protections - do the same.

He is not my daddy. I have a daddy. Daddys are overrated at my age.

He is my President. I didn't vote for him.

I don't doubt that people are engaged in political endeavors for purely selfish reasons. That is not a revelation. The same can also be said of writers that are trying to attract attention to their work and create a niche of their own.

We all gotta do what we gotta do. Good luck!

"I won't sit on the sideline and philosophize about queerness and monogamy and assimilation while religious/political organizations manipulate the public and the gov't and use their majority status to enforce unconstitutional bigoted legislation and amendments on me, my family, my friends and my people."

Very well put, patrick. My thoughts exactly whenever I read the articles about gay marriage that Yasmin dispatches from some alternate universe where constitutional amendments against us are nothing to be upset about.

Mario Democrat | June 17, 2009 11:30 AM

Well put. The only cause Yasmin is really advancing with this stuff is her own ego.

RubiconCrossed | June 16, 2009 11:09 PM

Yasmin, I generally don't disagree with most of your points. I get the bigger picture you have in mind. I understand the enormous gaps between privilege and issues even within our own community. I appreciate your passion. And even your anger. I think you have important and legitimate contributions to offer the larger equality movement for all our brothers and sisters. But I must admit (and I sincerely hope you'll be open to truly hearing this) that your truly valid messages are easily lost on those not already singing in your choir because your tone is so hostile. Even I find it off-putting and I'm on your side the vast majority of the time. I just don't think that the way to open hearts and minds and expand people's views is to be condescending, accusatory, judgmental, dismissive, etc. I would argue that the vast majority of people simply haven't stepped back far enough from some of these issues to even see a bigger picture. I don't believe it is conscious or deliberate selfishness. And the level of hostility that comes through in your writing is not really conducive to encouraging the non-believers to expand their sights. I really don't say this from a mean place. It just bothers me that I suspect much of your message is often negated by your delivery. Just a thought.

good thing no guns in my house. baltimore is baltimore.. I'll find one...

bang, who cares....

Not cause I'm queer. Baltimore loves that.........

No, I'm not going to die for you.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 16, 2009 11:22 PM

The Russians have a wonderful view of life's unfairness.

Drink more vodka.

Obama did make representations to us that included equivalency in access to all legal rights. When partners are traveling through the countryside and need to use an emergency room the "M" word or "relative" gets tossed in.

If a lesbian couple has a child by artificial insemination and the birth mother later dies should the surviving spouse lose her child to her dead partner's nearest relative?

Federal equivalency of retirement benefits and access to SSI for survivors in partnerships can make a huge difference in the survivors quality of life and any attendant children.

There is a world of hurt out there that could be improved. I have never felt the need to ape a failed institution, but failed as it is, equality under the law is wrapped around it. That inequality must be addressed. All American people should have equal access under the law period.

Our rights will enhance the rights of all. Whether we are in relationships, have children, desire to leave property to a partner (or wish to do none of these things) we still deserve and must work for our rights. Obama is not our daddy, our "boo" or anything else but an inspiring politician. He will be a man who will bind wounds. Just as soon as we resolve two wars, an economic crisis, health care, bankrupt states and cities like California and Chicago etc.

Yes, I know it is unfair. Drink more vodka. :)

Yasmin, I think you're my hero--I've agreed with you for quite a while on this, but this was amazing.

Angela Brightfeather | June 16, 2009 11:50 PM


As a Transgender person who has been legally married for over 40 years and is still holding on to the belief that it makes very little difference to my marriage or impact it if, or if not, every gay and lesbian in the world gets the right to marry someone legally, it fell hard upon my ears last year when it was announced within activist circles in DC that ENDA will be an afterthought this year, because the entire enchillada is going to be about same sex marriage.

Oh yes! I saw United ENDA's steam just purged to the atmosphere and so has every other supporter of hate Crimes and ENDA.

I have always been very supportive of SSM, but after the last six months and seeing the most important issues that we have been fighting for the last 20 years just melt away in the heat and frustration of Prop 8 and SSM, I am really ready the kick the next person who shoves that issue under my nose, int he proverbial butt.

I don't understand how people think that SSM is more important than job security or being able to walk down the street without getting killed.

All I can say is that many of us were warned about this big shift in priorities over a year ago. We just never realized back then that good people in the GLBT community would be so quick to shift their priorities.

The big question now is how do we all get back on track?

You get behind SSM, that's how.

You learn that larger civil rights issues will impact your own ones. You realize that this is now an issue of restoration of the Constitution without which everyone can kiss their private rights goodbye. It's the fight we have right now so stop your damn whining and be with it or against it. Against it and you give up any right to demand support from the greater community in the future. It's pretty much that simple.

Now that several states recognize SSM DOMA is clearly unconstitutional...beyond any reasonable argument. Obama is ignoring his duty to the Constitution in this stand, in refusal to meet his obligations to, at minimum, start investigations into the abuse of the Bush administration and in his continued refusal to restore the balance between the branches of government by holding on to the imperial executive excesses of Bush.

He isn't anyone's daddy and he sure as hell isn't progressive in any fashion at all but he does respond to pressure and that pressure needs stepped up. If there ever was a time to present a unity front by the LGBt community, this is it. It is Stonewall 2.0 time. I wouldn't vote for him because I didn't trust him....and I was right. Those of you who put all your hopes in this guy, get over it now and get down to business.

Mario Democrat | June 17, 2009 11:42 AM

I think it could be very politically effective to try to tie the equal rights movement to issue of crimes committed by the last administration. If we get under the ACLU umbrella, we would be harder to ignore. It's clear that the torture issue gets a lot more press in the mainstream media. Not to mention investigating the Bush administration is clearly the right thing to do.

Further, there's the issue of the double standard: when the Obama administration defends DOMA it's just upholding the rule of law. But while the rule of law definitely applies to us queers, apparently there's an exception if you were once a member of executive branch. Let's join forces on this.

Ms Brightfreather;
You are married?
Do you live full time as a woman?

if not, then you used heterosexual prviledge and male priveledge to get married.

For the rest of us, living 24/7 as women, we have no such male priviledge, whether we are Lesbian or Trans.

Further, we have no recourse to the safety of playing with cfis-heterosexual priviledge to manipulate the system.

Fine for you, with your unlimited options of identity and priviledges to select from, but as for the rest of us, this is the battle that we have been handed, and this is the fight.

I hate losing.

gan't do this....

it has a pretty handle...


I really like this post from Yasmin. It sums up a lot of my thoughts from these past few weeks on gay activism.

I do support marriage rights being opened up to same-sex couples, but there has to be a way to advocate for it without exploding. Really.

I think a lot of people thought this would be much easier than it's turning out to be. Maybe for good reason. The majority of people angry now are white, and white American's knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement is generally drawn from high school American history, where we learn that Rosa Parks was a lady who got tired of racism, so the movement started, African Americans marched for several years, a few laws were passed, and then everything was fine.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. That's why comparisons to Rosa Parks always get me: she wasn't just a lady who got mad and stayed in that bus seat, and, with the power of her righteous anger and her demand on the government to protect her rights, and a little marching after that, things changed.

Rosa Parks trained at a school for union and African American activists. She planned that action for weeks. She knew she was risking bodily harm at the hands of both other passengers on the bus and the police. And she still did it.

The actions taken after, like the boycott of the bus system, the demos in Washington and other cities, etc., weren't meant to express people's anger, or not just for that. They were risky operations that strategically targeted power and the people participating believed in what they were fighting for enough to risk their safety.

And the legal battles... sheesh! These discussions of the Boies and Olson case have me thinking that some of these people thought that Loving vs. VA was just a case that appeared out of nowhere, made it to the supreme court, and then convinced the justices there that the plaintiffs were being denied their rights. But that's not the way it went down. Many states had to first overturn their bans on interracial marriage. The case was argued in front of two left-leaning courts (ours now can't legitimately be called lefty) because it failed the first time. That and the fact that African Americans were already a suspect class (LGBT people aren't) all helped move things along. Comparing the Boies and Olson case to Loving only betrays a lack of understanding of the circumstances of that case.

All of this is to say that, yea, I think a lot of people entered the political realm just this past year because of prop 8 and think that politics and activism are games where someone just says "Hey, we want that law passed!" and it happens. Sure, there are some that are being dragged behind, but probably because we're not spending many resources on them. And, no, having a march where we demand "full equality" won't be interpreted as a march for employment protections.

But the idea of people putting themselves at risk with actions for marriage or working with labor and the general political left and labor movements, as African Americans did in the Civil Rights Movement (if we're always going to compare ourselves to them, we might as well try to learn the right lessons), seems ridiculous on face.

And that's OK to me, we're going to have different strategies because we have different problems and different goals. There's nothing wrong with not using the same tactics as another movement in another time did. But we could take our anger, make a good strategy, work with other movements, and understand that we're in this for the long-haul, because otherwise we're just giving ourselves heart problems for no reason.

And I for one love the daddy comment. It makes sense, not directed at people like Patrick who I know wasn't under that misperception, but others who are discussing "betrayal" more than its more emotionally distant cousins: dishonesty and hypocrisy. Some people really seemed to think that he was a part of this movement and folks are much more upset now than they were with Bush, who, I will still say, was worse on LGBT issues than Obama because he pushed for FMA.

Of course, Obama fostered the idea that he was the daddy to various social movements. But he's a pol, and pols aren't our friends.

Thanks, Aria, Monica, and Cathy!

Alex, you're spot on about the civil rights movement and yes to "if we're always going to compare ourselves to them, we might as well try to learn the right lessons." It doesn't look like that's going to happen, unfortunately, and the "movement" keeps imploding as a result.

Brian QTD | June 17, 2009 1:31 AM

Hi Alex:

I actually think the fact that Obama isn't "daddy" (as you and Nair put it) is a good lesson to learn--even if it had to be learned the hard way. I, for one, have never seen white gay men and lesbians so angry with a Democratic administration, though I have to admit I haven't been around that long. The Left has kowtowed to the Democrats for at least three decades and I think the example of a Democratic constituency actually standing up to the party can rattle some cages throughout the "Obama coalition." And I can't help but see that as a good thing.

This movement is "nascent." It seems like the 1990s were a complete break from the past and an entire generation (yours and mine) has been spoonfed the lobbyist/lawsuit model. Even the grown folks seem to have forgotten about the 1960s or use the ACT UP model, which was focused on a specific aspect of government policy and was not a civil rights movement. And the left wing of the AIDS movement didn't get very far with its more structural demands (universal health care; free drugs, etc). I'm not sure we should be following that model for 'civil rights' or any social restructuring--as noble as that struggle was. So we don't know what to do, and people are starting to experiment with different tactics (civil disobedience, withholding funds to the Democrats, marches, etc).

I'm agreeing with your assessment of the political problems with the "LGBT" movement, but I have to ask, "What did you expect from a nascent movement?"

This is a reactionary article, and the writer has no historical perspective on gay liberation. If we followed her advice, we would still be cowering in the closet. Shame on you. Never, never defend anti-gay politics. In the heroic period of gay liberation ... the 70s ... everyone opposed us, and they all excuses very similar to what the writer trundles out. We did not listen to those who told us to shut up, and we must not listen now. Obama has failed us and lied to us. We have to call thins by their real names.

So far, in my brief exposure to Bilerico, I am disappointed by the preponderance of apologetic rhetoric. There is only one slogan that can never be doubted. Gay Rights Now!

Gay Rights Now! For all gays all the time. You don't get to pick which rights people want. You defend all of them.

Yasmin always writes provocatively. Let the community take a stand on a controversial issue and she takes the exact opposite position. Sorry sister, but the Prez is running scared now. You don't get anything by being a meek little pussycat cowering in the corner. He is giving us this good for nothing, without the health benefits..so called "Fed Benefits" because of all the ruckus, but this is only the beginning. We are going to continue to yell, scream, demand and yes ...call him names if it achieves us getting what we want. Hell every other group is out there fighting for their place at the table, why should we be any different?

Yeah, DavA,

That's exactly what I do. I wait to see what "the community" (defined by whom?) has to say, and then I deliberately take "the exact opposite position."

Yours, meekly,

It saddens me to see that this site is a mouth piece for the gay rights movement, in the form of "Sit down and shut up", all too often

The lot of these articles are coming off very condescending and angry, while trying to attack those who are daring to challenge the many failed tactics of the previous gay rights movements. This isn't 1950, the internet has changed everything and so these things speed up and move at a speed that never could have been imagined 30 years ago. You are witnessing that as we speak and many of you are hoping to freeze time or regress. Its not going to happen.

This is a movement, not a road trip.

As of now I have read several articles on this site that have ranged from, "We need more letters in GLBT, because it makes me sad that I am not being represented as a Womyn" to "White people are racist because they dont find asian homosexuals attractive." What exactly is this advancing? If marriage equality is a poitnless battle, can someone please enlighten me on the merits of a 45 letter acronym that boxes us all up, but accomplishes nothing? If my right to marriage is a pointless battle, what will LGBTQAIWM accomplish, beside wasting ink and looking horribly childish and silly? How are we advancing our cause by telling people they are racist because they dont find Asian men attractive? Besides coming of as uneducated and offensive, what is this furthering?

Maybe this writer does not want to get married, but that's her choice. I dont care about transgendered rights because I am not transsexual, but I understand their need for an army of support and so I fight. If you dont want to get married, then dont, but dont throw us to the wind because you are afraid of how fast this is all moving.

Enough with this nonsense about this civil rights movement having little to do with the black civil rights movement because of A or B. Its a fight for the civil right to marriage, happiness, equality and freedom. This movement encompasses ALL races, ALL people, All faiths and ALL sexes.

It doesnt need to be the same or better than the black civil rights movement, it just has to be.

The younger generations are the ones who are going to see this through to the end, as the older generations have accepted the idea of "wait and be patient" too long. If you are content with staying silent for another decade, I wish you the best of luck. The rest of us are moving on and we would love to have you with us.

As a young gay man living in a violently anti gay city in conservative America, I can promise you that social conservatives are not waiting, holding back or staying silent. We get beat up here more times than is ever reported and of those that are reported, an extra effort is put forth to cover up the fact that it was an attack based on sexuality. We dont need to wait anymore and I dont plan on cleaning up anymore bloody gutters and shattered teeth because some of you have a beef with Twitter or Facebook.

If you are content with your current citizenship, then so be it. But dont mock us because we want something more. This isnt a movement trying to hold back a developer from tearing down an eyesore of a neighborhood or one based on AIDS. The gay community, as shocking as this seems, has more problems than just aids.

We are beaten, abused, lied too and pushed under the rug every day of our lives. Our elderly are dying alone in senior care communities and being mistreated because of their sexuality and you are arguing that this is just about marriage rights?

I would ask that you step back and see this for the bigger picture it is. This is about civil equality and it just so happens that marriage equality is under that banner and a very important right for many of us.

We need your help, not your anger or condescension. Obama never claimed to be a gay rights activist, but you did.

There's another thing that these anti-marriage queers aren't taking into account: For the religious right, pushes against same-sex marriage are just the tip of the iceberg.

Remember that it wasn't too long ago that Amendment 2 passed in Colorado, and Measure 9 nearly passed in Oregon -- with a lot of ugly campaigning and violence happening as a result. A lot of the people who supported Amendment 2 and Measure 9 are the same people spouting off about the "sanctity of marriage" today.

Remember also that in Lawrence v. Texas, the Family Research Council and several other religious right groups filed amicus briefs calling for the SCOTUS to uphold Texas' sodomy law. In other words, these people would ultimately like to return to the days when we were criminals.

Marriage bans and attempts to thwart non-discrimination and hate crime legislation are just incremental steps for them, and they're not going to stop at marriage bans. The fact that California's Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 now means that the civil rights of a minority (such as gay people) can be put up to a popular vote. If the SCOTUS upholds Prop. 8 in this inexplicably stupid case filed by Olson and Boies, things could start getting really ugly in this country, and a lot of advances we've made could be turned back.

I don't buy the argument that time is on our side because young people are increasingly pro-gay. That may be true in some parts of this country, but the truth is, the religious right isn't going away any time soon, and young people are still as homophobic as ever in many places. Anti-gay hate crimes still happen in even supposedly progressive areas like New York, Seattle and Massachusetts and, as Justice said above, probably go unreported much of the time in more conservative areas.

Take a look at history: Germany passed laws to emancipate the Jews in the 1870s, just a few years after it was formed, but less than 100 years later, it set out to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, thanks to underlying anti-Semitism that often had people being cordial and friendly with Jewish neighbors one day and then doing nothing as they were shipped off to ghettos and concentration camps the next day. In the U.S., there was a nearly 100-year lull between the freeing of the slaves (accomplished thanks to a war) and the end of the Jim Crow laws, and a hell of a lot of horrific violence and discrimination in between.

I'm not saying genocide or anti-gay sundown towns will happen here, but the examples above illustrate how quickly a promising future resting on a social environment of uneasy tolerance can become a dystopian nightmare when bigotry shows its true colors (what is "I think the homosexual lifestyle is immoral" but a gentler way of saying "I hate faggots?"). Because of that, the last thing we need is philosophizing over frivolous trivia and, worst of all, apathetically brushing off or even welcoming serious assaults on our dignity and human rights while blithely dismissing the concerns of people hurt by those assaults.

What a glib, condescending, leftie load of crap. Am I supposed to be impressed because you don't even support the "whole gay marriage thing?" That's what I'm guessing from what you've written and the way in which you've written it. Typical leftie self-satisfaction. Plays well in some places I've heard. You know, those places that voted for Obama holding their noses.

Well, as someone who will never get married, disdains the word "gay," and usually rolls his eyes at a lot of the sentimental claptrap Andrew Sullivan says about gay marriage, Obama's DOJ brief goes far beyond what was necessary to defend DOMA. I don't accept the argument that, pro forma, he had to. And neither do people who are, you know, lawyers.

I tuned in to Bilerico today hoping to find out what gay bloggers were thinking about doing about Obama's failure to move at all on any of his campaign promises. But what do I get? Some tired, smug, rhetoric that tells me I don't even have a reason at all to be angry?

Dear Yasmin: The gay marriage movement has already been built, and is continuing to build. Without you, apparently. Or have you missed what's been happening in Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, et. al. and yes, in California? I suspect, therefore, your smugness arises from something other than just a yearning for a complete vision of social justice.

But I could be wrong.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 17, 2009 1:25 PM

I think you could be a dumbass fundamentalist.

But I could be wrong

I hate to tell you folks this but for a group who wants to include all of us your pissing off many allies on the marriage now fight.As a TG this fight aint helping me one little bit other than seeing you waste time instead of an all enclusive EDNA or a hate crimes bill or an end to DAT what are you doing marraige.Time to fight this where it belongs state by state and get the things passed that we can now and stop wasting time on this issue geting married in Cali wont help me in Ga that issue is deader here than the Dodo bird.But passing EDNA and a hate crimes bill will help me way more than folks in Cali getting married.

Yasmin, I respect your opinions and the effort you put into expressing them. However, whether the issue is SSM, ENDA, DADT or any other LGBT issue, the wording of the brief is offensive, degrading and unacceptable. It matters not which administration wrote this, the issue is the paucity of humanity in the wording, regardless of the originator. I acknowledge Clinton's blunders and Obama's now stuck driving the trash truck. I see no Messianic qualities in Obama. However, the stupendous blunder in releasing this brief is not merely a, "slight" it is an affront from an elected official who received overwhelming support from the LGBT community. So you don't like SSM, great have a cookie, I do! I respectfully disagree with your position, but I am also concerned that this incident will cause what we in the LGBT community do, sadly, too often and that is turn against each other.

I have a trans history and I totally support SSM.

It is an issue that cuts across all queerness. It is an issue of basic fairness, enforcing the Constitutional promise of equal recongition among the states AND freedom of religion/separation of church and state.

Transsexual marriages are no more secure than same sex ones across the country. Regardless of the opinions of some of my sisters that this isn't their issue because they are heterosexual couples, getting rid of DOMA as a first step would end challenges to marriages involving post-op women and men.

This battle was engaged, we cannot back down now without surrendering everything. Abandon this and you can forget everything else on a federal level for the foreseeable future.

Me?, I'm old and probably will never again be married regardless of the outcome but still see this as a basic issue that opens doors for other civil rights. Obama just "gifted" us with a light version of the policy Clinton put into place and Bush removed. It literally was the least he could do. We did what no other group before has done, we got team Obama off their carefully managed message....we need to step up the pressure right now, hold his feet to the fire.


Heart and soul of the anger within the comments, and underlying the actual article is strategy -- philosophy.

Which is more important -- marriage equality (not same sex marriage, please) or basic workplace and social services protections?

That's the question, here, and many are saying marriage.

I've actually stepped *away* from supporting marriage because it was demonstrated that the word marriage is what matters.

If you want to fight over a word, fine -- go fight over it.

Yeah, seriously. And I consider marriage equality a trans issue -- more so than a GLB issue.

Simple reason, too: it wasn't until the push for marriage was started that people started screwing with trans rights to marry. I've *lost* rights due to the push.

But I am not the only transperson out there, and many of them also happen to be GLB, so, since I fight for all, I have to fight for them.

SO I absolutely agree that it is important to be able to get married.

I feel it is *more* important to provide workplace protections and get social services set up for us. We have a rapidly aging population and a system that cannot handle them and will decisions about who gets treated on the basis of things like gay or trans.

We have more LGBT folks unemployed than there are employed.

Hell, the largest segment of homeless children in the US are LGBT kids.

SOrry if I find them a bit more important.

So how about those of us who feel that ENDA and the like are important work like demons on that, spending our money on that, voting our voices towards that.

While those who feel marriage is higher priority can do the same for that.

And then not bitch at each other for disagreeing over the tactics we use to achieve the same thing.

THis is not a monolithic community -- no single cause will get everyone supporting it. Give it a rest, stop whining, and put that energy to work towards what you care about, most deeply. Put your money and your time there (while coming back to say this is what you accomplished today at Bilerico, of course) instead of bitching about how Dyss the Evil doesn't support marriage or Justice the Misogynist blocks trans stuff.


It is with us, or beside us. Same fight.

Different ways to do it.

One thousand fires will change more than one, no matter how big it is.

My answer just went up on my blog.

I just sent it to Bil...I challenge him to put it up as a guest posting.

Quite honestly, I'm over this pissy little argument of "Let's give Obama the time need to do this or that..."

That's bullshit. Obama campaigned for change and that included equality for gays and the repeal of DADT. )See my blog for how ridiculously easy the repeal of DADT would be.) He would have never been elected President without those two agendas behind him. Thusly, his election is as much a fraud as the one in Iran.

I just turned 52 years old and have faced the discrimination against gays for almost as many years.

Now is the time to act, not tomorrow or the day afterwards.

Just in case I'm not clear: I'm not among those making the "pissy little argument of "Let's give Obama the time need to do this or that." If you read my piece, you'll see that I'm not over-invested in conventional electoral politics.


I've spent an inordinate amount of time the past few days covering the situation in Iran, so this has unfortunately taken a back seat to that. But I'm going to take the time to reply to you now. I'm including the link to the following blog post of mine for you to read:


I find your opinion, and that is what it is - merely an opinion, is off-track and quite honestly, childish, selfish, and myopic. Your opinion of DOMA parallels that of the distiinguished woman who disagreed with my points in that blog. Let me explain:

You say Obama isn't our Daddy. No, he isn't. He is, however, the Leader of Our Country, and the man we look to to formulate and make policy based upon his campaign promises. Two of those promises, nee platforms of the Democratic Party, were the repeal of DADT and DOMA. Obama may or may not have been elected solely based on these two points, however, they were instrumental in his election.

It is, you see, the political system. Right now what we're dealing with is Obama consistently, through his actions and inactions, failing to act upon his campaign promises. Why? Because he's caving in to centrist Democrats - the same Democrats who, by virtue of nominating him and electing him into office, supported the campaign he ran on.

It is, you see, the political system. Not your version of "conventional electoral politics".

Whether you personally agree with the "conventional electoral process" or not or is a moot point. You are making the same mistake as Carmen D in replying to my blog with your statements here.

It's not about the G, L, B, or the T. It's about EQUALITY. (lol...that's catchy :)). And until we ALL work together to ensure this EQUALITY, on all fronts, then we'll continue to exist on the fringe of the society we have every right to fully participate in. That is the point you fail to understand.

I'll be cross-posting this reply on my blog for those who wish to comment there also.

There's really nothing more tiresome to me than the anti-marriage queers, their dripping hatred of the institution, their obsession with the issue, and their sneering insinuations that anyone who doesn't share their opposition to marriage rights is somehow idle and uncaring about every other issue of GLBT rights or social justice in the world.

If you don't want to get married, then don't get married. I live in Massachusetts and shockingly, not everyone here is married!

However, some of us would like to be married and more importantly we recognize that the package of reciprocal benefits, responsibilities, and arrangements that marriage entails is such a logical setup that if marriage did not exist, we would be forced to create almost the identical setup via contract--which is in fact what gay couples were forced to do before the marriage movement ever started. That's nice if you're wealthy, but marriage is effectively a legal bundling of arrangements available for a low price without an attorney.

The outrage at Obama is not over marriage and it's not over DOMA. A great deal of the anger is over the specific anti-gay arguments in the brief, but I don't think many people seriously believed that DOMA was going to be repealed.

What the anger is about is Obama's complete reluctance to move on any gay rights issue combined with the string of petty insults going back to the inauguration debacle. Distancing themselves from their promises to GLBT Americans has become a pattern with the administration and is even more striking given their willingness to grasp other "third rails" of politics such as health reform. If Obama was aggressively pushing ENDA or working to repeal DADT, or promising immigration reform, the anger at this brief would be far far lower. The brief was a trigger, a match on the fuse.

You accuse the marriage equality lobby of hitching the marriage agenda to the immigration issue and there may be some truth to that. However, I'd say that you're hitching your anti-marriage agenda to the righteous anger than GLBT people feel towards the administration over all GLBT rights issues, not just marriage.

Raymond Decelles-Smith | June 17, 2009 9:30 AM

Yasmin - do you think that you may hold controversial views, eh? LOL.

Three thoughts....

1)Smelt is not the case. It is the wrong question to the right court. Perry, Stier, Katami and Zarrillo v Schwarzenegger -with Olson and Boies - is the right question and in the right court. On July 2, 2009, a restraining order on Prop 8 will resume marriage equality in California.

2)The Prop 8 appeal to the CA Supreme Court was a canard by GAY INCORPORATED to bait and switch the persons responsible for the referendum outcome. Their answers were the same. CA marriages are valid and have a right to be recognised, hence the 18K marriages stay....and CA has a referendum law equally valid. The former is right, and the latter, technically correct, needs to be overturned by a federal court, and stayed in the interim on its way from district to appeal to SCOTUS.

3.Many believed that someone with Obama's biracial history, and pre-Loving parental marriage and birth, had to hold a "civil union" position to get elected. We thought that Ted Kennedy's endorsement and JFK mantel transfer and his civil marriage support, would happen when he was POTUS. We believed that he would govern as a triangulating centrist, but would use DOMA and DADT and Federal Marriage rights to seal his compact with ALL liberals and progressives who believe in civil rights.

I therefore have profound disagreements with your iews expressed herein.

Mario Democrat | June 17, 2009 11:10 AM

Yasmin, notwithstanding your complete lack of context on DADT and DOMA I just want to say that it's really cute how you lump Hillary in there with the actions of Bill. Afterall, how in the world could a woman have a different opinion or point of view from her husband? Perhaps it's no surprise that you're against equality in marriage: sexism and homophobia go hand-in-hand.

And speaking of gay marriage, I think your implication that from a social justice aspect gay marriage is hypocritical or selfish is at best overly simplistic but most likely just plain insulting. So maybe you talked to five queers who want healthcare benefits for their partners: it's quite a stretch to extrapolate from that to make broad claims for the entire community. Personally, I'm not a single-issue voter, and gay marriage is nowhere near the top of my list. Universal healthcare would definitely be higher. So, naturally I take offense when you imply that because I'm for equal rights, I only give a shit about me and my partner (point of reference: I don't even have a partner, nor the desire to marry, but sometimes a spade is a spade, and telling me that I have to use a separate drinking fountain just because- yes, that is wrong).

I too am irritated by those who claim to be shocked by this "turn" from Obama, but in some cases, just because there is outrage doesn't mean there is surprise. Those of us paying attention witnessed Obama's true character when he exploited homophobia in the black community by campaigning with a trio of bigots in South Carolina in October of 2007. So yeah, I'm not really shocked: but nor do I feel I should be anything less than outraged by this latest "slight" in which I am compared to incest and pedophilia. And I know that all of this takes time, and I'm content to be patient, but from Rick Warren at the inauguration to this inflammatory and disparaging brief from the Obama Justice Dept, I've pretty much had it. This isn't a matter of impatience: it's a reaction to outright antagonism and hostility. So it's not a "daddy" issue for all of us. Kudos to you, though, for keeping your cool and maintaining your self-righteousness through it all. And thanks for your continued efforts to educate us hysterics!

I find this comment thread fascinating because, in all of the huffing and puffing about gay marriage being the right cause - and/or the *only* cause - very few have addressed my points about how badly run this "campaign" has been. And very few so far have addressed the issue of the faulty model of activism on which the "movement" is based.

From this I have to conclude that my original piece is correct in surmising that gay marriage supporters remain clueless about the basic tenets of organizing and that this "battle," while an intensely felt one, remains, for many, only a personal battle disconnected from larger issues of social justice.

That being said, I'm also interested in the complexity of positions that have emerged so far. Clearly, there's no monolithic viewpoint on how to get to gay marriage. That can be a strength. So far, it has only been a weakness since the slightest deviation from the normative message has meant a shrill shouting down of dissenters (and I'm not even talking about me).

My advice: if you want gay marriage, engage its complexities instead of shutting out those who don't hold to a monolithic view. That means acknowledging that this was never the chosen issue for a lot of people who now feel that they've been dragged into a battle that was not of their choosing.

All of this makes me think I should finally write the piece I've been mulling over for a long time: an open letter to the GM movement on how to win.

It's not the battle we all wanted but we are on the battlefield right freakin' NOW and if you desert, you give up the whole shabang.

Yasmin, you want a movement of conserva-queer thousand dollar a plate dinners? That's what it was before.

You can lead us with your brilliant ideas? Sorry, events overtook you. This is it, we fight now or forget it.

Mario Democrat | June 17, 2009 12:07 PM

Yasmin, I think what's most offensive about your article is that the only thing you actually seem to advocate is "dumping" the marriage equality thing. I don't actually see you putting forth any real alternatives, your anecdotal adventures in gentrification notwithstanding (seriously, what? You might need to elaborate a little...).

And the line where you coyly mull offering to lend a helping hand for something like a million dollars...? Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Your only mission, it seems, is to be contrary for the sake of being contrary and congratulate yourself on how smart and unique you are, not to, you know, actually offer any kind of plan of action. Thankfully, it seems a lot of people see right through that.

A quote "I wanted to share some preliminary musings and observations about the initial gay and lesbian responses to the...." a
Speaking for the B in LGBT I would like to say that L and G are not the only two parts of the community to respond to this. Thanks for forgetting to be inclusive.
You seem to think that the focus on marriage is a very big problem for the LGBT community, I think that it is the fact that within the community we are still dealing with constant institutional exclusion of some of our people. If we can't speak with inclusiveness how can we ask to be included?

As a bisexual Pagan woman of transsexual history..


Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 17, 2009 2:32 PM

Bereft of any sense of what it takes to build a movement, the gay marriage movement's activists rely on nothing more than their extremely personalized sense of politics.

Which is perfectly illustrated by many of the comments here who disagree with you.

Excellent post, Yasmin!!! Thank you for writing it.

Thanks, Brynn, for reading all the way through, your words, and for seeing the point!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 17, 2009 3:02 PM

I'm checking out Adolph Reed, Jr., too. Brilliant!! I can really use some clear-sighted criticism right now. Thanks for the link.


Yes, he's fantastic! And, looking over the article, I worry that both the links might not be as readily apparent as they should be - I linked to two articles , but the links may be too close together. Please do let me know if that's the case, and I'll go in and fix it.

Reed was quite the find for me too. One of his earliest books was on Jesse Jackson Jr.; it definitely went against the grain of the usual hero-worship of Jackson at the time, and it remains, I think, one of the best works on that political figure. He's definitely worth checking out - he's written quite a lot over the years.

And I meant, "looking over my article," not Reed's.

Yasmin, you describe yourself as " a queer lesbian who loves cock". In order to understand where you are coming from, in terms of the LGBT identities, with which letter do you identify? At lunch today someone said you are MtF trans, and another said "she's always been bi". To try to understand your perspective a little bit, what is your identity with the LGBT movement?
Secondly, although you always refer to yourself as an "activist", I question whether you may really call yourself a LGBT activist. (as an aside, are there any LGBT organizations with which you are currently active?).
In my opinion, you let the mainstream (straights) define both the issues, and the timetable, and then you chirp in with your contrarian "queer perspective" (whatever that is). I would call a LGBT activist an agenda setter, a timetable setter, of the issues that affect us the most, and that are necessary to bring us up to full equality ( in every sense of the word) with straights. The thousands of benefits that are unique to marriage are no small matter. Perhaps you are not the marrying type, but I could retire from my present job years earlier if I did not face all the economic and tax discriminations of being gay. It would be great if Blue Cross recognized us as a married couple for our insurance. My partner and I have consulted top attorneys to try to protect ourselves, and in the end, each one has independently told us that it is a "roll of the dice" to see if an individual, an institution, or a court will honor all the costly agreements that we have entered into with each other, that would automatically be covered ( without the necessity of agreements) if we could marry in our state, and if the federal government someday recognizes our marriage. We had to work around an immigration issue in our relationship too, years ago, and it wasn't easy then either.
I think that LGBT activists should mainly focus on the issues that affect them uniquely, because there are thousands of other organizations and lobbyists working on the mainstream agenda, all better funded than us. We do not have the people or the resources to offer a "queer perspective" on every issue that the neighborhood association may bring up, because our main issues are too numerous already.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 17, 2009 4:36 PM

Drake, puhleeze. You've got to be kidding. If you want to argue your position on the merits of the issues, fine. But leave identity out of it. Your questions are offensive and do not deserve an answer.

As for the merits of your argument, they have been soundly addressed in the post. As a matter of fact, your assertions prove the arguments made in the post.

Brynn- sorry you disagree , but Yasmin claims to be an "activist". I am trying to figure out Yasmin's perspective, life experience, etc. which may bring her to such different conclusions than so many people. As a great many have said in Yasmin's past posts, her positions often are those of the right wing republicans. Certainly her tactics are ( fighting to kill a huge movement that is successfully bringing rights to many couples in our community.) Yasmin has never answered any of the sound financial and economic arguments FOR marriage. Look at Lavender News ( lavenderliberal.com) , the May 20, 2009 post titled: "Who is Yasmin Nair, and Why Does this Alleged "Queer Lesbian" Parrot Right- Wing Anti-Gay Talking Points." Brynn, Yasmin also calls herself an "academic". Yasmin,. please state the institution. These are simply basic facts to find out who is writing these posts, so that we may evaluate them as we choose. If Bilerico is in fact LGBT, it is a fair question to ask if a poster is in fact in any one of those communities. I would expect straight writers to be identified as such, on this site.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 17, 2009 5:37 PM

Drake, just who died and made you the arbiter of LGBTQ identity? Get off your high horse. And while you're at it, educate yourself on LGBTQ history and, particularly, transgender history and identity. For that's what ultimately underlies your statements.

And, I might add, this is not the first time I've encountered transphobia in marriage-equality advocates--although yours is more blatant than most. It's one of the main reasons I no longer volunteer for the cause.

Moreover, to call Yasmin's positions right wing only reveal that you've been listening to too many Republican talking points. It's as ludicrous as calling Obama a socialist.

People who can't argue a position based on the merits of the issues resort, as you are, to ad hominem. It's not only offensive but reveals the fact you have no argument.

and you, Brynn, know ad hominem, in fact excel at it.

And you do NOT speak for trans people much as you'd like.

You are on the wrong side of history...this is going to the streets, the revolution has begun. Get on board or get the hell out of the way.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 17, 2009 6:22 PM

transheretic, show me one instance in which I've personally attacked someone here on this comment thread or elsewhere at Bilerico.

Drake has called into question Yasmin's right to make an argument here, not by arguing the merits of what she has said, but by questioning her identity and her right to say anything here at all.

In response, I have stuck--very carefully--to addressing his arguments (that she is right wing--wrong, and by claiming it only reveals that you don't know what you're talking about) and the fact that he is challenging her right to be here based on identity. I have not--and will never--attack him personally.

Nor have I EVER claimed to speak for trans people.

Mahina A. Campbell | June 17, 2009 6:25 PM

I agree with you, Yasmin and must say this in regards to being in the USA in this time period. Remember, this country is one nation under GOD. Or so the founding fellas confirmed in writing. Obama is a Christian. And I don't recall that he said YES to the question of Gay Marriage. Whether or not you drift toward a absolute Christian marriage, that is the state of the country NOW.

Yes, we have so much to focus on. It is terrible to watch queers getting angry over the marriage issue as we should applaud our efforts for each step we take to make change.

On June 15, 2009, the group, Gender Just in Chicago provided a platform with Mr. Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.It was a sounding board for multi-ethnic, multi-genenerational people to demand Safe & Affirming Education for LGBTQA students. This is how we do it! The CEO promised to return for a meeting in 30 days to follow up on decisions to Gender Just members proposed legislation. He could not give answers immediately to the well-founded proposals for legal change. I don't blame him. At least, he came & listened to the proposals. Also, I know that blame is not the way to bring about change. Look forward to hearing his decisions.

I'm sick of the violence and murder aimed at Two Spirit youths. The beauty of an individual who shares both genders is a part of the original culture on this land mass, anyway! Before the English language & those who claim religious authority filled us full of what was considered right, thus signing into law a rather misogynistic, gender-flawed legal criteria on how to practice sex and with whom & therefore, allowing the US to give everyone health care. And is the health care valid and researched for everyone?
So what needs to be done?

Brynn- I have never called into question Yasmin's right to make an argument here. I have only asked her to explain herself a bit. She has attached several labels to herself, and I do not understand them, and as the post on lavenderliberal.com of May 20th indicates, there are a huge number of us out there that are trying to both figure out her real positions, and find out where she is coming from. When I hear Barack Obama speak about minority youth in America, I listen to what he has to say entirely differently than if my brother (who is not a minority) makes the same assertions. Obama is speaking from experience. I am trying to learn, what is Yasmin's experience in life, behind her posts, which to me, seem often "off the wall". I am trying to understand her, not censor her. I never questioned her right to say anything at all.
As to your incorrect assertion that I questioned her identity, I did not challenge it, I simply asked what it is. In case you don't know, lesbian, gay, bi, transgender politics is ALL ABOUT IDENTITY. That is the essence of our political situation, we face discrimination because of our LGBT IDENTITIES. There are no laws anymore saying that African Americans or Asian Americans can't marry whom they please, but there are laws prohibiting LBGT from marrying. Same thing as to job discrimination, same thing about adoptions in many states, same thing about the bullying problem in schools, same thing about "Don't ask, don't tell. It is 100% about our LGBT IDENTITIES.
This is one of my problems with what I believe Yasmin advocates . That is, she seems to say to quit advocating 100% for our LGBT identity issues, and instead blend in with the huge straight conglomerate, and chirp in with a "queer perspective" now and then, on issues that are not our fundamental LGBT identify discrimination issues. This is not the way to achieve civil rights for our LGBT community. LGBT groups must be fully for the issues that affect only us. Of course, we have other interests and needs in politics. But do we really need to get a queer perspective on the spotted owl or fishing rights in Argentina? There are just too many extraneous issues to deviate from our fundamental civil rights agenda which is all about identity politics.
Indeed I have and do challenge the merits of her posts. I have stated that she ignores any head-on response to the substantial economic and financial arguments in favor of same sex marriage. I have said that she ignores the fact that NEVER IN LGBT HISTORY has there ever been an issue that has gotten all of American talking about our agenda like this, as the marriage issue. This is wonderfully good news for ALL of our issues, not just marriage. We are finally noticed, in every publication, on every front page, and America at large is in a dialog with us. You talk about LGBT history, Brynn. This has never happened before. We can not squander this rare opportunity. This is one of the huge things that we have been fighting for your decades, a real dialog with America on OUR FULL EQUALITY. Yasmin is the queen of confusion and obfuscation in her arguments. I am simply trying to clear some of the smoke, but she does ignore or off-handedly dismiss most substantive arguments that anyone gives to her posts. I am only trying to clarify her identity (LGBT) and her own word, that she is an "academic".

Drake, let me just first say how much I agree with and echo all of Brynn's excellent points and add:

You might want to ponder the implications of setting yourself up as the LGBT police, what it means for you to want to police someone's sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, academic credentials, and "life experience" all in the same breath. Clearly, you have no sense of queer history at all - I suggest you read up on that a bit to fully understand the historical signficance of your questioning. Perhaps, then, you'll understand deeply problematic nature of the same. And I can't help but notice that you not-so-adroitly left out the Q in your original "query."

None of us here exist to be your teachers, so if you can't figure out, in 2009, with your ample network of friends and access to the internet, what it means to be a queer lesbian who loves cock, we're not here to help you. What would you like me to do? Show up at your house with at least three items of clothing appropriate to my birth gender? And then take my clothes off to show you that everything is what it "should" be?

Why are we still mired in this inane, regressive, and reactionary "Crying Game" scenario, as if somehow the revelation that I might be, horrors, MTF, or, horrors, transgender, or, woe is me, not a "real" lesbian, or, oh, no, a gay man masquerading as a lesbian or eeks, worse, a lesbian masquerading as a gay man will somehow shatter my bodily and intellectual integrity?

In any case, as, I think we all know, your probing and questioning is entirely disingenuous. Come on, you know you're not here to learn anything, and your remarks so far are, at worst, nothing more than a replication of the right-wing twaddle found on likes of the Rush Limbaugh show. I'm not replicating your strategy of calling me a right-winger. I'm simply pointing out that there's not much difference between your persistent demands for proof and the classic strategies of the Right.

At best, your questions reflect a classic liberal inability to engage with critique and questioning. I've written about this before in the comments section of my post on Prop 8, so I'm just going to cut and paste from that here:

"The other issue that has come up here has to do with the whole "show me proof/solutions[/your qualifications] before you dare to disagree with me." As the estimable Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has said in her blog, and I'm going to paraphrase quite clumsily here, asking for alternatives when confronted with a challenge to one's belief in a system is a classic liberal strategy. This kind of demand allows you to evade the responsibility of defending your position by putting the onus on the questioner to provide facts/alternatives. But the questioners here are the ones still raising unanswered questions."

As for the rest of your repetitious comments, Brynn said it perfectly: I've addressed everything you keep bringing up in my original post. And, as Brynn said, seriously, get off your high horse. If you believe that I am in any way invested in identity in the same narrow way that you are, you haven't been reading my posts very carefully. None of us who think of ourselves as queer in any way think we can escape identity. The question for us is: to what extent do we decide that our sexual/gender identity is the only thing that can determine our political lives and interests?

So, please, get off your high horse, get real, and read up on your queer history.

Rick Sours | June 17, 2009 7:57 PM

We are still second class citizens.

Per one of his books, Obama stated regarding civil
rights that he would not get involved but leave it up to the states and the churches.

I grew up in a faith that was one of those that
took part and got arrested in the civil rights
marches in the south. Only with the help of
others have any group in the past gotten full

Yasmin- well, sorry you took offense, but you sound like you are "in the closet" and won't identify, yet you have set yourself up as an "activist", spokesperson. You failed to respond to a single point , about Identity Politics, about the economic issues, etc., and about the Marriage Issue getting all of us more publicity for all of our agenda , than any other issue, EVER.
If you in fact were to identify (publicly), it might suggest that the sexual coalition may have become too big, and not all groups have the same interests or agendas. This would easily explain why you always rant against all the major organizations. I have noticed on this blog that a preponderance of the anti-marriage crowd is trans. I support trans issues, and I expect the same support, otherwise, why are we in this coalition? Not that everyone must be in lock-step, but it does appear that the trans community does not support marriage (generally speaking), and this is a pretty big falling out in the coalition, if in fact this is the case. By the way, I never said that I set the criteria on what anyone is sexually. You take a cheap escape to also refuse to answer about being an "academic" ( your word about yourself). I am simply asking you to indicate what you mean by the words that you have chosen to use, in the forum that you are using them, and you won't answer.


I'm not personally offended by anything you've written. Being personally offended by blog commenters is a waste of time; my comments were meant to clarify my thoughts on an ongoing trend I see here and on other blogs. Your politics, on a range of issues, are a different matter altogether, and your statements are quite revealing. But you've shown yourself incapable of engagement so I'm not going to waste time on that.

I am, however, stunned by your inability to grasp nuance.

I'll soon be writing a post focused entirely on this liberal/conservative habit of demanding proof whenever faced with critique, a habit which clumsily evades the responsibility of engagement.

As they used to say in the last century:

Over and out.

The floor's yours.

mixedqueer mixedqueer | June 18, 2009 10:46 AM

great post yasmin!

Hey Yasmin,

Regardless of what the appropriate response to the DOJ brief should or should not be (people keep saying it's not abt marriage as a movement priority or not, it's about the vileness of the language, but to be honest, what I saw of the brief was so long, I couldn't read it, and with all the coverage I still haven't found any concise summaries of what's so vile about it), I find it really fascinating how your polemic approach repeatedly brings, through the comment threads, the true narrowness of folks' politics out into the open. I keep wondering if there's some more organized way to capture and record these responses that would be useful for Queer left/intersectional/multiracial organizing.

It's actually eye-opening to me to realize how much real anxiety people like Mr. Drake seem to possess that if LGBT/Queer movement(s) let go of single-issue, single-identity-oriented frameworks, there will be some kind of cataclysmic loss of intelligibility and falling apart of everything ever. He seems to be completely unfamiliar with the concept of solidarity, and that caring about and working to address injustices that do not appear to directly affect one directly (but may in fact affect numerous Queer folks or others within one's community or communities) actually builds stronger and broader movements.

Hey Tim,

Thanks for your response.

Like you, I haven't found any exact descriptions of what is so vile and repulsive about the language of the brief; I think a lot of the language around that has been spun to make it seem worse. Alex Blaze's recent post touches upon that.

Of course, I agree with your summation of the inability of so many, including Drake, to understand the concept of solidarity. It's really sad to see how far right the queer movement has gone, from a time when its organisers were an integral part of the labor movement, for instance, to the time of AIDS activism at its most strident, when there was no question of "single-issue/identity" politics. Today, the notion of solidarity around gay marriage only exists in the most cynical ways.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 18, 2009 8:42 PM

It's really sad to see how far right the queer movement has gone,

A victim of its success?


I'd have to agree. It's unfortunate.