19 January 2009


A Small Rant (Number 492,696)

Yeah, I know, I've been quiet when I should be getting all excited about tomorrow's inauguration of President Obama.

I am excited, but my lingering disappointment in the LGBT movement—both in terms of moving forward after the November losses and in terms of not being able to move past focusing on distractions like Rick Warren—has just left me a little fried. I wish I could make more of a difference in moving LGBT rights forward, but I'm unclear how to do so. And I'm easily distracted by the day-to-day fulfilling of my family, personal, and professional obligations.

The only LGBT leaders who seem to me to have a clue are the actual politicians: the Barney Franks and Tammy Baldwins. The rest—activists, media/blogger types, and much of the community that I see online and in person—seem clueless. Anger seems to count for action, and the only action happening is anger.

We got our butts kicked here in Florida, and the local LGBT leadership goes on with their heads up their asses acting like nothing happened. Like November 4 doesn't deserve some kind of response beyond "we have really big plans for this year." The usual suspects—The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida, in particular—continue down their merry path in the delusion that they're going to be effective lobbying the reactionary Florida legislature (even more reactionary after November, since the local Democratic party gives the GOP a bye in just about ever district in which there's not already a Democratic legislator) for items like domestic partner benefits. The same people who led us to defeat in November are still running the show, but I see individual after individual on Facebook keep signing up as a supporter of the Human Rights Campaign. They may even think I'd want them to do so.

I certainly don't mean to declare "game over," but there is a time to actually take the safety, hunker down, and figure out what to do next. I don't see much of that happening. Instead, there's either Obama euphoria (Gene Robinson!), Obama disappointment (Rick Warren!), or floundering activity on an LGBT rights agenda that's going nowhere in the Florida legislature.

So, that's the report from Florida, 19 January 2009.

p.s. I am thrilled about President Obama, because I realize how far we've come as a nation in my lifetime regarding matters of race. But I remain dejected and irritated about my LGBT community, a community that seems not to have the slightest clue how to secure the rights that flow to its members as naturally as breathing air.

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I think there's a bad case of binary thinking going on. Rick Warren is objectionable in many ways, therefore (according to various bloggers, personalities, and other people who for whatever reason are our spokespeople), Warren = Bad, Obama = bad, game over. There are several things that get under my skin about this: first, the idea that anybody who does anything we don't like must be put into the "not for us" column (as if anything was that simple); second, the focus on gestures over all else; and finally, the idea that it will somehow get us ahead to take those who disagree with us and isolate and marginalize them. (Seems to me that's a great way to feed a reaction that will come back and bite us in the ass before long).

Mostly as I've read what GLBT people have had to say during the transition period, I think, "We're not a very smart bunch politically."

Which I think makes us like everybody else: unwilling to deal with complexity and obsessed with gestures over actions. Except we have more at stake than everybody else.
Tim, I wanted to respond to your blog to let you know that there actually is an attempt underway right now in the Florida LGBT community to, as you say, "hunker down" and figure out what to do next. There is a meeting of local organizations and local leaders from throughout Florida this Saturday in Orlando to network, share what is happening throughout the state and step back and strategize about the future to figure out how things can be done better than in the past. If you'd like to be part of this effort to strategize and figure out a better path forward for Florida, please contact the new federation pulling together this meeting at info@outfl.org.
I think your posting confuses a lot of things. First, Equality Florida and HRC are two entirely different organizations with entirely different missions. HRC lobbies on a Federal Level, Equality Florida on the State level. Considering the composition of our legislature, I'm not sure how much progress can realistically be made there - at least quickly. BUT, on the Federal level, we now have opportunities that are unheard of - with GLBT supportive majorities in both houses of Congress and, for the first time in 8 years, a President willing to enact pro-GLBT legislation.

To fairly judge Equality Florida, we should look at their goals and how successful they have been in accomplishing them. I personally don't think it's a very effective organization and is poorly run, but I also recognize that they have a very hard job. Similarly, HRC has no lack of faults, but they seem fairly effective in moving the ball along on GLBT legislation at the Federal level. If HRC fails to get things enacted in the next couple of years, then I think it, too, has to go into the "ineffective" column.

Now is the time to get involved and actually help these groups do something (or get involved with the new group someone posted about), rather than just complain and expect others to get the work done (and not saying that you are guilty of this - just speaking generally of "our" community). It's time to get active and help the gay leaders and groups get things done.
@John: I think you've framed the issue well. We're not different in this regard, we just have more at stake.

I think another part of it is that it's just always going to be difficult to cover civil rights issues that apply to smaller and smaller percentages of the population with more, but smaller, umbrellas; i.e., addressing each of our concerns separately. I still think that a big umbrella -- an Equal Rights Amendment with inclusive language to the US Constitution -- is the longer-term answer.
@Anonymous #1: Thanks for the info. I'm supportive, but want to gather more info.
@Anonymous #2. Thanks for the comments.

I know that EF and HRC are *formally* different groups, but I still think that the overlap in membership is substantial. Maybe that pertains to the Orlando area in particular. The 15 November rally in Orlando was a particular example.

I'd be less frustrated if I hadn't made sincere and substantial efforts to be more involved, only to have those efforts ignored. I've been supportive financially, and I tried to work in some time, too, and I found that all they were interested in was the money part.

The rally in Orlando was put on by Orlando's HRC chapter - Equality Florida was asked to speak, but had nothing to do with organizing (or paying for it - which was all done by personal donations of HRC leaders in Orlando). HRC Orlando is always looking for folks to get involved and help - you should come to its monthly "connects" and sign up as a volunteer, or on the Orlando page on HRC's website there is a way to sign up to volunteer.
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