Alex Blaze

HRC's Rhode Island Avenue office vandalized: What does it mean?

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 13, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Cleve Jones, conservaqueers, gay patriot, gay Republicans, National Equality March, transgender

A HRC tagged.jpgfew hours after Obama spoke to the gay lobby, a group of queers going by the name "Queers Against Assimilation" (to the point) tagged HRC's building with the sentence "Quit leaving queers behind." Their statement is after the jump.

Andrew Sullivan also called on Joe Solmonese to resign, because he says the group is ineffective. This follows years of him complaining that HRC generally favors Democrats over Republicans, as if there was no reason for them to do so. (He's also complained that ENDA was "the sole focus of the gay rights movement for the last two decades, at the expense of military service and marriage rights," so you know where he's coming from.)

Rex Wockner reported that Cleve Jones was happy with the assessment that he "just split the gay movement in two," one side being reformist grassroots folks at the NEM, the other being reformist establishment folks at the HRC dinner.

There are transgender people and their supporters, who've been justifiably frustrated with HRC since long before HRC wanted to split the community and drop them from ENDA in 2007.

And then there's Gay Patriot, representative of many gay Republicans, who dismiss HRC because they bashed Bush.

The point is, there are lots of people in the community coming from lots of different ideologies, and the emerging, over-simplified media narrative of "establishment" vs. "grassroots" just doesn't describe the current climate. Long before Prop 8 there were queers who were mad at HRC and Gay, Inc., and long before there even was HRC there were ideological splits among gay activists.

And just because someone is mad at HRC or other LGBT nonprofit corporations doesn't mean that they're coming from a different ideological perspective. Sometimes the difference is in strategy, not goals. The fact that both the National Equality March's goals and HRC's goals are almost identical indicates that they're not really that far from each other ideologically, which probably explains why HRC endorsed the NEM.

It doesn't help that HRC's response to criticism is usually to circle the wagons and then circle jerk to the tune of "[We're] more politically aware and had a better sense of maybe, you know, what's at stake and what needs to be done." Sure, they came out and said it this time, but other times of protest against HRC, like the ENDA split from 2007, were met with pretty much the same response. Then it was a cynical deployment of "incrementalism," now they're saying they just know more.

I wish there was more ideological debate going on in the LGBT community (outside of Bilerico), but it seems like strategic debate - as well as the hunts for traitors - is what we're going to have to settle for.

Here's QAA's statement on the vandalism.

Communique from the Forgotton:

Human Rights Campaign HQ Glamdalized By Queers Against Assimilation

HRC headquarters was rocked by an act of glamdalism last night by a crew of radical queer and allied folks armed with pink and black paint and glitter grenades. Beside the front entrance and the inscribed mission statement now reads a tag, "Quit leaving queers behind."

The HRC is not a democratic or inclusive institution, especially for the people who they claim to represent. Just like society today, the HRC is run by a few wealthy elites who are in bed with corporate sponsors who proliferate militarism, heteronormativity, and capitalist exploitation. The sweatshops (Nike), war crimes (Lockheed Martin), assaults on working class people (Bank of America, Deloitte, Chase Bank, Citi Group, Wachovia Bank) and patriarchy (American Apparel) caused by their sponsors is a hypocrisy for an organization with "human rights" in their name.

The queer liberation movement has been misrepresented and co-opted by the HRC. The HRC marginalizes us into a limited struggle for aspiring homosexual elites to regain the privilege that they've lost and climb the social ladder towards becoming bourgeoisie.

Last night, Obama spoke at the HRC fundraising gala and currently the HRC website declares, "President Obama underlines his unwavering support for LGBT Americans." The vast amount of organizing resources the HRC wastes on their false alliance with the Democratic party leaves radical queers on the margins to fend for themselves. Our struggle has always had to resist the repression of conservative tendencies in government and society to gain liberation in our lives.

The gourmet affair was sponsored by 48 corporations including giants Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, and Wachovia Bank. At $250 dollars a plate the HRC served our movement a rich, white, heternormative atmosphere that purposefully excludes working class queer folks.

REMEMBER THE STONEWALL RIOTS! On the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, pigs raided a queer bar in Texas, arrested and beat our friends, and we looked towards politicians and lawyers to protect us. This mentality is what keeps the money flowing to the HRC and their pet Democrats, and keeps our fists in our pockets.

Most of all we disagree that collective liberation will be granted by the state or its institutions like prisons, marriage, and the military. We need to escalate our struggle, or it will collapse.

~~Love and Solidarity~~

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Gee, I'm so broken up over this. I'll have to go home and break out a bottle of champagne and cry . . . for joy. Poor HRC. They now have to hire low-paying people to clean their building. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

Whoever did the damage ought to be arrested and thrown in jail. The sour grapes folks who oppose the work of HRC should start and fund their own organization, and see what they can accomplish. The more working FOR LGBTQ rights the better. I hope that these delinquents were caught on videocam, and will be brought to justice.
HRC ain't perfect, but they are hardly the enemy.

HRC took it in the shorts... but they are suck ups... ok.... well... yeah enough of that. HRC always strikes me as a personals ad in an LGBT dating directory something like

"Straight acting mature white male seeks same who is family oriented and social. Must be financially successful, generous, versatile,HIV-, clean and DD free no fems, no pos, no flames, pics4pics"

They seem like those guys that keep trying to live out they're 'straight boy' fantasy of getting in bed with a straight guy and turning someone out.

Can you say "Karma?" Yes you can.

Look Darling(s)! Our children have flown the nest and are striking out on their own!

And HRC thought WE were a thorn in their side? I strongly suspect they'll be looking at those days nostalgically in the future.

Too funny, Becky, too, too funny.

"Ah, the good old days when only trans people hated us." Too funny.

Well, there's one thing you can say about trans folk: the most traditionalist/assimilationist of our kind tend to burrow deep into mainstream society and disappear. It's hard to organize when your main goal is to vanish.

I'd give it about one to two decades, though. After the more radical trans folk push through an initial wave of change, the assimilationists will surface and try to take the reigns. Sociologically speaking, this is not an uncommon pattern. Power speaks to power, and power tends to prefer conformity among its ranks.

stonewallgirl | October 13, 2009 6:54 PM

What a clear case of transphobia and class ignorance! I just love to listen to the folks who try and put transpeople in a box and belittle and trivialize them.

Listen, Buster, the transgender community is without a doubt the most diverse of all the categories of LGBT, especially since most of us also identify as L, G and or B! You are frankly clueless and unlike many of my lesbian, gay and bi friends have actually been willing to learn and appreciate people for what they really are!

This grandparent, veteran, post graduate, business owner, holder of public offices, board member of a conservative house of worship before and after my transition is an out and damned proud transperson and would suggest that you open your eyes, smell the roses and realize that transpeople are not the stereotype that our gender insecure gay and mainstream media gatekeepers portray us.

I 100% agree: trans people are quite diverse. We cut across every ethnicity, every part of the class structure, and every part of the political spectrum.

That doesn't change the fact that I suspect there will be rising tensions between those who are more traditional/assimilationist and those who are more on the radical side of the political spectrum. You need only visit this thread to see how assimilationist factions in the trans community clash with those who are less assimilationist.

Back in the 70s when gay liberation was just gaining momentum, some of loudest voices were fairly radical in nature. However, as more and more people came out, the general tenor of the movement has become more mainstream in nature. Consequently, the movement has become more assimilationist in nature.

At the same time, the smaller, more grassroots movements of the 70s have slowly fallen to the background as larger, well-funded organizations have taken front stage. Those organizations have more power, but they also represent only a portion of the LGBT political spectrum and that portion of the spectrum tends to be more mainstream. HRC is the most prominent example.

I posit that the same pattern is likely to occur within the trans community as well. As more and more trans people come out, the face of the movement is likely to change. When that happens, most likely, someone will be left behind. Certain voices will fall into the background and will be lost in the larger dialog. In ten to twenty years, who might that be?

Right now, the "T" in LGBT ideally includes a wide range of folks all across the gender spectrum: crossdressers, non-binary folk, binary-conforming transsexuals, etc. People from many different persuasions are pretty darned vocal... and that's great. That tends to lend a more radical flavor to the current state of trans activism. Even so, many voices are still excluded: poor trans people and trans people of color come to mind.

As the current political structures that are forming around trans activism mesh with larger political structures and society becomes more tolerant of certain parts of the "T", will the current diversity of voices be maintained? Or will those political structures become more conservative/assimilationinst in nature, leaving portions of the "T" behind that don't mesh as well with what the mainstream considers as acceptable?

These are issues that we all need to keep in mind. As the old saying goes, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."


After Phil had asked, I'd stopped. Hadn't been back since, and just went over now.

I will point out that there is more than assimilationism in action there in that particular thread. Indeed, from long term investigation into that particular breakaway group, I'd say assimilationism is the least of the issues involved specifically with them.

However, in the wider context, for example, those who are reaching a point where their lives are pretty stable, their issues are fairly fixed, and surgery is all that remains, the question of assimilationism (which is stealth or blending or woodworking or whatever you want to call it) is absolutely an internal issue of the day within the trans community as a whole.

I think that for us, the phrasing should be "come out come out wherever you are", but "stay out, stay out, whoever you are".

I think that for us, the phrasing should be "come out come out wherever you are", but "stay out, stay out, whoever you are".

Ha! Yes, I think maybe that should be on a bumper sticker, dyssonance.

I found that group to be oddly fascinating. I read several of their blogs and also read many of the responses by the signatories of the petition to remove transsexual from the umbrella term transgender... There's some wild stuff being written on that website—not terribly positive, I must say.

A few more thoughts. When I penned my first comment, I very much had that 400+ Bilerico thread in mind and its many implications. I should have gone with a more detailed explanation rather than penning a quick, snarky comment. I apologize that my laziness and snark caught you in its crosshairs.

I don't usually support vandalism, but given HRC's imperviousness to criticism from without, I think it was justified in this case. Had QAA gone through "proper" channels to express their dissatisfaction with HRC, it would have quietly ended up in HRC's circular file. At least this way, QAA got people talking about (and hopefully thinking about) their message.

Often lost in the queer struggle is the middle class (MC). Typically the queers and many progressives present their arguments in a poor vs. rich fashion. Often this is repackaged in a "we" versus a usually assumed to be wealthy White male fashion. News flash - most White males are members of the MC and are NOT rich. I'm a MTF TS and White. I've been there. I've also spent over half of the past decade poor and then re-entered the ranks of the MC due to (dare I speak the word?) "assimilation."

Typically the Queers Against Assimilation types are from the ranks of the poor and/or progressives. To them I wish to point out that "assimilation" by members of the MC is what has enabled us to have the drive to get educations to pay our bills, to fit in well enough at work that we make our employers profits (justifying them paying us) and to have the incentive to focus on things besides our gender and sexual orientation issues. The current system is no doubt broken. But, working a broken system usually works better than complaining about the system or simply trying to destroy it.

My two main points are:

1. Be careful of whom you complain about buying into the system. Members of the MC who are NOT all White males (nor are they by definition rich) may be paying for your HIV medication, housing, disability expenses, (re)education expenses, alcohol/drug addiction related expenses and more as a result of our willingness (note I did not say "eagerness") to be part of the system.

2. The people expecting to change the system so as to limit the need for assimilation need to be willing to support a new system that supports a strong MC. We're increasingly tired of bailing out both the rich and the poor. A better designed system would allow most members of the now poor to enter the ranks of the MC while limiting the ability of the rich to rape the rest of us.

For example, the current version of ENDA does nothing to limit non-justified job firings for non-gender/sexual orientation reasons. Making it ever more difficult for any of us to stay in a career long enough to make a good go of it and become solid members of the MC.

You want to be really queer? Fight for the right for ALL people to have their dignity at work without being fired for no reason. In fact if you want to be the biggest flaming queer around (said as a complement) fight for the right of ALL people to have their dignity while having the opportunities to have a reasonable shot of being a MC member.

"Typically the Queers Against Assimilation types are from the ranks of the poor and/or progressives"

First of all, I am extremely anti-assimilation and come fro a middle class family, as do the majority of my other anti-assimilationist friends. So, I would appreciate that you don't put me in a box anymore than you would want to be.


"1. Be careful of whom you complain about buying into the system. Members of the MC who are NOT all White males (nor are they by definition rich) may be paying for your HIV medication, housing, disability expenses, (re)education expenses, alcohol/drug addiction related expenses and more as a result of our willingness (note I did not say "eagerness") to be part of the system."

FUCK YOU! Not buying into the system does not mean that you are a drug addict, have HIV or anything else that you are proposing, as I don't have any of those issues. I simply don't assimilate because my identity does not exist inside of assimilation into a binary gendered heterosexist norm in the least, being a third-gendered transperson, pansexual, polyamorous, and a lot of other things. We should just sell identities short and make the decision you're claiming to be so hard to buy back into something that isn't necessarily a good something? What about questioning it and proposing something better?

I was going to address the same point that d did above. Assimilation is not what provides financial stability. Plenty of assimilationists are poor, plenty of anti-assimilationists are middle class. Much (but not all) of what does provide financial stability is a matter of privilege, such as inherited wealth.

With this in mind, redirecting your rage toward browbeating the poor for accepting assistance programs paid for with your tax money seems irrelevant, not to mention in incredibly poor taste. You seem to be lumping together those who you dislike and having a hard time telling them apart.

Those social programs don't exist because you assimilated, they exist because many people pay taxes, not all of who abandon their unique cultures by assimilating. You're rant reflects much more about your opinion of poor folks then it does on the behavior or anti-assimilationists.

I would like to know what you base this line about the typical QAA people being from the ranks of the poor on.
I know plenty of anti-assimilationist and from what I have seen there seems to be a high level of education and a strong MC background present among us.
So if you have seen a study done on the subject I would love to read it.
I am BTW an anti-assimilationist myself and I'm not from a poor background.

You have a federal hate crime here folks.

Support the federal prosecution and imprisonment of these vandals or admit to your inconsistency.

No one was hurt here. I think community service or a fine, at the most, would be more appropriate.

ENDA is the be all end all of gay rights?
Hmmm...perhaps Andrew Sullivan needs to meet our Yasmin....that would be a video worthy conversation

I liked it too when he said that.... On what planet does Andrew Sullivan spend most of his time?

DaveinNorthridge | October 13, 2009 3:10 PM

Hate crime. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. The yiddish word that works here (say it to any HRC member who's feeling victimized) in "NEBICH" (neh-buch, and the ch is aspirated as in chutzpah -- also oddly applicable in this case).

Beside, if they're all so !@#$ politically aware, they'll know what to do here.

This was NOT a hate crime. Everyone here knows what the motivation of a crime has to be in order to be considered a hate crime and this most certainly doesn't qualify.

If anything, this was a love crime. This is an internal family squabble that has gotten loud and the neighbors are starting to notice.

Personally, I think that right now, right this minute, is exactly the right time for HRC to come down from its ivory tower and start engaging substantively with the grassroots elements of our activist community. If HRC is looking for an opportunity to prove its worth to this community, I doubt they'll get a better chance than this one.

If HRC wants to truly be considered a real leadership organization by the vast majority of this community ever again, they need to put down the martinis, get up from their seats at these rubber chicken dinners, and get out in the streets with the rest of us.

The streets (and the blogs and the other grassroots-powered aspects of our movement, both on and offline) are where the real action is taking place in this movement today, and that's where we'll be waiting to see if HRC is really serious about fighting for all of us.

Yeah, I was gonna say, if their statement is to be believed (and there's no reason not to), then this wasn't a hate crime. It wasn't committed because of homophobia.

These comments from the trans community make one wonder if they really want to be part of the LGBTQ coalition, or should they be wished "good luck" and let them fight their battles on their own?
Lots of "bile" in bilerico today against our own peolple. Not nice.

Just to clarify, you don't have to be trans to be fed up with HRC. I'm bi and not the least but trans but I have no use for HRC anymore. Partly because of their treatment of my trans friends but also for their attempt to homogenize the LGBT community.

Coalitions have to built by more than one faction and all have to be willing to come to the table and work together. HRC has refused all opportunities to do so and instead goes its own way. The rest of our community has chosen to move on and create a movement that represents and promotes the interests of all of us, not just those with the deepest pockets.

HRC has steadfastly refused to work with the grassroots elements of this community, and therefore is being ostracized from the rest of the community as a result. We've moved past HRC's narrow agenda toward a far more inclusive one that supports all of us, and we stand up for those ideals even when they put us at odds with powerful Democrats.

I submit to you, Drake, that the problem isn't ours. We've issued those invitations, we've invited HRC to speak with us instead of just at us. It's HRC which ignores those invitations and refuses to play nice with others. If you're looking for somewhere to place the blame, I suggest you start there.

Comments like this one suggesting that a part of the community should be left to fight their battles on their own makes me wonder if you even think of "the LGBTQ coalition" as something other than an idea to give lip service to.

Why single out the trans community? The vandals identified themselves as queer, not as trans. There are cis queer critics of the HRC saying the same things as the trans queer critics here. Not to mention at least one trans person who criticizes QAA here.

Honestly, I think this is really an ideological fight between queers and gays -- trans people have been the HRC's collateral damage and are (rightly) upset with our perpetrators. As a result trans people are more likely, but not guaranteed, to side with the queers whether they are queer or not.

And frankly, it's hard to garner sympathy for an organization that participated in vandalizing a federal bill. The damage done by deleting words from ENDA far outweighs the damage done by adding words to their wall. And that's just one of the many grievances. True, the former may be legal while the later was illegal, but that does not mean that it was any more moral.

It will cost less that one place at an HRC dinner to make this go away...

Where is my can of spray paint when I need it?

Queers Against Assimilation are trying to be "edgy" anarchists?

Hysterical!! Hahhaaa!
Seriously? I mean seriously?
Paintball guns and glitter?

So incredibly ridiculous and moronic. It looks like tantrum grandstanding politics.