DADT Revisited: Gay Rights Criticisms Explored
A fresh breath of cynicism is sometimes useful, but not in relation to granting American’s their civil liberties. With that said, I strongly agree with the president’s state of the union address regarding DADT, but only with the understanding that there exists no timeline on promises made. Unlike many others, I didn’t expect the important gay rights issues to be served with the first course, but perhaps, in politics, there should be a timeline if multiple promises are made in conjunction with vying to hold the highest office in the land. Consider that Democrats insisted Bush present a timeline when he initiated talk of withdrawing soldiers from Iraq. Therein lies somewhat of a precedent set by Obama’s own party. Politicians, no matter how smooth talking, acting, or walking are often held accountable for [insert cause here] on a [insert criteria here] basis based on what they say they can do, but that accountability doesn’t reach beyond the walls surrounding Capitol Hill. Any accountability to ‘we the people’ manifests itself at the polls; when it comes time to vote.
Accountability is a word that causes the quelling of discontent from all sides when put to action. But the reality is that President Obama has 3 solid years remaining in office and his accountability for unfulfilled promises has not extended beyond Capital Hill. Not yet, at least, and in all fairness I’m not ready to lambaste the president for any perceived shortcomings specifically due to the fact that he still has plenty of time to make good. Whether the next three years are productive or destructive is wholly dependent on the congressional atmosphere, i.e., congress’s political make up, President Obama’s wherewithal and the American people; you know, the ones who voted him into office. We all know that once an official is elected to a position of power all bets are off. There’s a bigger picture they’re exposed to that you or I will never have access to. What this means for the gay community is that we cannot rely on mere words and promises alone to defeat discrimination at the federal level. The longer we allow gay organizations to speak for us and represent us while criticizing their actions, without critiquing our own [in]action, then we remain nothing more than bystanders with opinions. The president can make promises he fully intends to keep, but we don’t help when we bite the hand that intends to feed us without allowing that hand as much room as necessary to put the smack down on those hindering progress. And what of the gay and lesbian organizations who lobby for us? They have their own political infrastructure and agendas to attend to that were implemented long before Obama started banking on new and old promises.
Gay organizations have been in existence from Republican to Democrat presidents. They haven’t stopped playing to a specific GLBT audience and to a specific brand of politics within that secret world so why all the angst against their pleasure or displeasure with a specific administration? If you don’t agree with their agenda, don’t support their cause. If you never supported their cause to begin with, why place them above any other “non-profit” that purports to have no real political agenda when that logic does not add up? The fact is these organizations are largely government funded and they give voice to reason and common decency on a general level, but beneath the surface they will not bite the hand that feeds them and risk restricting that federal funding. In essence, they refuse to do the very thing Religious organizations that enjoy major government tax breaks proudly do. When we grow weary of sitting around and doing nothing while they work toward their agenda (growing some balls), we call ourselves activists and find our voice, but only when it comes to a cause we deeply care about.
The carnival that makes up the primary branch of GLBT organizations or “Gay, Inc.”, as they’ve been dubbed, has succumbed to a dichotomy that has successfully divided the gay community over multiple issues for many years. The one I feel most strongly for concerns federal marriage equality. Same-sex couple’s and their estates are not federally protected as it relates to domestic partnerships and civil unions under federal law. There exists gay and lesbian lawmakers who do little to lend their powerful voice because they are, in effect, just as complacent as the bulk of us. Case in point; Barney Frank who is arguably one of the most powerful members of congress, would rather we stop complaining federally and start writing our congressmen and women locally and lobbying on a state level instead. Personally, I view Mr. Frank as a waste of political breathing space due largely to his direct role in our economic downfall, but he has provided a good point about just what it takes to get things down in Washington. He is well known in gay political circles as ‘the gay asshole’ that discourages gays from protesting, most notably the 2009 march on Washington. On the other hand, he’s done practically nothing to advance the gay “agenda” from where he’s sitting, and I meanhe has yet to really step up and lobby for gay equality. The good thing about Barney Frank being an openly gay, powerful congressman is… on second thought, I’ll get back to you when I have something positive to write. That’s why I dislike announcements such as “the first openly [insert sexual identifier here] was just hired, yada yada yada, because all it’s a facade.
The encouragement to lobby strictly statewide speaks to other issues that remain in jeopardy if the fight remains mostly or only at the state level. In particular, federal discrimination will persist as the state by state fight rages on, and at the same time gays and lessbians still won’t be afforded any federal allowances, benefits or protections as it relates to marriage, adoption and employer benefits. This vicious circle is a cycle of regurgitated nothing.
Despite that, it makes little sense to criticize gay organizations for playing politics as usual; until it comes to a cause we hold dear to our hearts. Why do we do nothing the remainder of the time? Because we don’t care about those issues. We’re all guilty of it. What hasn’t happened, but needs to happen, is mass mobilization. We can compare the fight for equality to the fight for civil rights until the cows come home, but we haven’t properly fashioned our movement or borrowed from some of the best sources of political warfare, and unlike those involved in the civil rights movement, we’re fighting against not only a political agenda, but a religious one as well. Think about the fact that most of our opposition is derived from biblical interpretation and religious doctrine.
Like the civil rights movers and shakers of yesteryear, the gay community must collectively mobilize as a majority to get the message of equality spread and passed federally. Instead of criticizing gay organizations for not being tougher on the president with regard to promises made, we need to criticize them for placating the gay community and not addressing all of the pressing issues of our time which can be met without much of any political fanfare. They’ve done little to reach out to the larger community, specifically gays and lesbians who live, work and thrive in urban enclaves and those who are rightly considered double and triple minorities, i.e., Black/Hispanic/Asian, gay, men and women.
There is a strikingly potent element of cultural diversity that exists and is widely underrepresented within discussions about socio-cultural and socio-economic issues affecting the community. This is on a national and international level and that lack of representation; the lack of diversity within the most visible voices the community has to offer is noticeable and alarming. This translates into lobbying for LGBTQ initiatives that will rightly impact the community at large, but it also shifts focus from equally important, smaller, wide scale social and economic divides and deprives attention from issues such as violence against gay youth, youth homelessness, same-sex domestic violence, etc., and further widens a VISIBLE gap that exists within the gay community. How can we collectively fight for equal rights when we know for certain that there exists things such as racism within our own gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual communities? We cannot.
We must provide a positive and reinforcing message to the country and to our legislatures that says we will collectively support the president’s efforts to strike down “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and will work with him to accomplish this long awaited goal. I won’t get into my thoughts about health care and the president’s shortcomings so far because that is certainly an issue for another day, but we shouldn’t support the hijacking of our own message of equality and unity by joining conservative dissent and dissent from within our own ranks about the granting of rights. There is nothing stopping us from putting a positive spin on a negative situation while also expressly showing how much we care about this issue and will support the only president besides Clinton to give credibility to equal rights for gays. If he can accomplish this without bending over backwards for the church, he’ll rank in a class all by himself, as presidents go.