The LGBT Movement Can't Go It Alone
by Hugh Baran, Wed May 24, 2006 at 08:05:21 AM EDT
To put it bluntly: we are fools if we really think we can win the fight for equality all by ourselves. No major movement in the past century that has achieved real, measurable progress has ever done that, and let's face it - our numbers and our political/economic leverage are not so great that we can be the sole champions for our cause. If we are dumb enough to think that we can do the nearly impossible - create a major shift in American culture that not only wins us equal rights and privileges but also makes us true cultural equals viewed as people with dignity who like all people deserve to be free of degradation and violence - all by ourselves, then we will reap no less than we have sown.
But this isn't just about having enough numbers to win. It's about challenging a system and a culture that makes difference - be it racial, ethnic, religious, class, sexual, or gender difference - a cause for fear, hate and violence; a system that devalues not just queer lives, but the lives of all who are othered. It's not enough for us to try to gain power for queers - rather, we must work to challenge the very idea that any group or groups in our society or world should have power over the others. It's that idea that ultimatley binds our cause to other movements for social justice.
It is not enough to merely demand civil rights and a "place at the table," but rather, as black gay activist Keith Boykin put it at the Millenium March, we must "demand a whole new table arrangement that welcomes all those who have been excluded." We must fight, in Boykin's words, "not to gain privilege but to challenge the whole concept of privilege itself." That fight is not won that will be won easily, and certainly not alone.
That's why to lump the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force together as one entity, as The Malcontent's post does, is just ridiculous. The Task Force wants to work with other movements and wants to agressively pursue and advance gay issues - and they recognize it's going to be a long term struggle, and not a set of court decisions and overnight victories. HRC, on the other hand, desires to be a single-issue group that doesn't even really push hard on its single issue.
There are many recent examples that attest to this. On Monday, the New York Blade ran this story which describes a recent meeting of LGBT leaders and elected officials convened by NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (the most powerful LGBT elected official in America, arguably) to discuss strategy for the upcoming marriage debate in the Senate. One of their noteworthy moves at this meeting was a decision to essentially throw out the HRC's talking points, which avoid real discussion of gay marriage or LGBT dignity, and write new ones which actually address the issue at hand. This move was very much supported by Foreman, who points out that this is not just a problem with HRC talking points, but with Democratic Party messaging as well.
Overall, what I'm trying to say is this: if we want to be a self-centered single-group single-issue movement, we're going to have to fight a lot harder than groups like HRC that wish to do that are fighting. Yet something tells me we'll end up looking an awful lot like the US does in Iraq right now - struggling to survive while bereft of our friends and utterly surrounded and overwhelmed by our enemies. In fact, in the wake of numerous recent setbacks, this image already seems to be an accurate depiction of the state of our movement today. Yet through the power of community organizing and coalition building, we can - and, I firmly believe, will - change that.
Cross-posted at Creative Trouble!