A reader writes:
I don't want to necessarily defend Democrats for their inaction on gay rights issues. However, it's wrong to merge complaints about them with complaints about HRC and other "gay leaders." Fix the rot within gay political leadership before complaining about the politicians who've failed the cause.
I think Democrats would be more aggressive on gay issues if there was at least one recent ballot box win on gay issues. Prop 8 opponents managed to snatch defeat from the jaw of victory, 30 years after the triumph over Briggs. That set the tone for Obama and the Democrats' apathy on the issue.
I watched gay friends dutifully attend some meaningless protest a week after the 2008 election. In Michigan. A fat lot of good that did anyone. I asked these friends if the protest organizers (or anyone else) had reached out to them before the election for campaign donations, to make phone calls, or even to go to California to campaign. No one had.
History repeated itself with the Maine vote. It's a little hard to expect national politicians to step up and do the right thing when gay activists can't close the deal in places like Maine and California. Again, I'm not excusing Obama and company, I'm just stating a political fact. I'm all for marriage equity, repealing DADT, etc, but gay rights activists need to get their shit together. Otherwise gay issues will never be legislative priorities.
Where is the nationwide TV campaign featuring gay former servicemembers? I hear plenty of rhetoric about "allowing these brave men and women serve their country," but that's an abstract argument. A gay ex-Marine talking to camera during a Wheel of Fortune commercial break actually drives that message home.
Gay voters should probably, for the moment, ignore gay rights issues when choosing candidates for office. Obviously write-off the true homophobes, but otherwise it doesn't really matter. Until there's dramatic changes at places like HRC, unless gay rights issues are framed, by gay rights activists, in bold and human terms designed to appeal to American notions of fairness and decency, there's no reason for President Obama, et al to NOT disappoint on gay issues. Why should he burn political capital on issues so poorly framed by the very people who stand to benefit most from the change?
Look: we have massive polling majorities for ending the gay ban. There is no political risk in supporting it. Ditto employment discrimination which polls around 80 percent. As for marriage, I agree it's a state issue, but the campaign in Maine was superb and we still lost narrowly. It's a long battle and we only truly started two decades ago. This is to be expected. But through exactly the kinds of campagns and media my reader cites, we have already pushed marriage equality over 50 percent in the national polls and have full equality in five states and Washington DC. No social movement has achieved change so rapidly. And yet the Democratic party still treats us as if we are radioactive, and this president shows total indifference in public to our needs (apart from pukeinducing cocktail parties at the White House for Gay Dem Inc), and has allowed the military and the Republicans to determine the fate of the gay military ban. I fear my prediction that he will be firing gay servicemembers till the last day of his first term will be proven true. So forgive my anger. Another writes:
A suggestion about how you can help end DADT. Put out a call for bios and obits for fallen LGBT soldiers. I bet you will get some very interesting submissions, some current, some from Vietnam or even earlier. The Atlantic is a forum where these profiles will get the presentation and respect they deserve.
Would you please make a YouTube video for the "It Gets Better" project that Dan Savage did? You speak so eloquently on these things, and I know your voice could be exactly what a teenager needs to hear.
I'm flattered. My only problem is that I really wasn't desperate as a gay kid. I was desperate and suicidal as a kid, but not because I was gay, which in my family was the least of my concerns. My only issues really emerged after I came out and felt the gay community had few places for someone like me - and had dumb arguments and left-wing agitprop instead of the powerful case we could have been making for our equality. But that's not the same as those poor kids bullied and threatened and mocked for their gayness. It didn't happen to me, even in an all-boys rugby-dominated high school, where I don't think I ever experienced an anti-gay remark or hazing (unless I've blocked it out). They all thought I was just a nerd, and my nerdiness overwhelmed any of my visible gayness. In fact, I had great friendships with straight boys, loved my interaction with them, and felt totally at home among them. I'm not minimizing the pain of so many others and have tried to help by being public and with my advocacy and interviews etc. But I can't fake a misery I didn't feel.