Monday, December 22, 2008

Outraged? Better Late Than Never

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

The only surprising thing about Obama's choice of a homophobic bigot to bless his inauguration, or for that matter, the Albany debacle with the Gang of Three, is the outrage that greeted them.

Where were the official queer protests when Obama campaigned with ex-gay Donnie McClurkin? Or when BO exalted the advice of Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell who runs programs to free lesbians and gay men from their homosexuality? Or when Obama promised all those billions to expand Bush's faith-based programs?

Where was gay fury when the Obama campaign kicked off that "Faith, Family, Values Tour" which included former Indiana Congressman and pro-life Democrat Tim Roemer, along with Catholic legal scholar Doug Kmiec who fought Proposition 8 on the grounds that gay marriage is not only morally repugnant, but will probably bring down the species?

Where was our disgust in August, the first time Obama tried to court Rick Warren who supplemented homophobic rantings at home with declarations to African audiences that homosexuality was not a natural way of life and thus not a human right? Why didn't we blast Warren's AIDS programs that support Uganda evangelists who fight AIDS by advocating jail or death for queers?

And where were the boycotts when Obama refused to speak to the LGBT press, or gay advocates? Where were the denunciations when Obama asserted, on religious grounds, that marriage was between a man and a woman and the ban of same-sex marriage had nothing to do with the earlier miscegenation ban on interracial ones?

With all that silence, even from gay groups like HRC, why should we be surprised at getting screwed? Who's going to respect us if even gay groups don't advocate for LGBT rights, ostensibly putting Democratic interests above their own?

Of course Albany Democrats thought they could sacrifice gay rights in a power-sharing deal and not hear a peep. Sit quietly with your hands in your lap, the bigots will not only shove you to the back of the bus, but knock you right off the moving vehicle.

The only surprising thing about that episode was how ham-handed they were. Me, I'm gonna stab somebody in the back, I'd chose a nice thin blade of Spanish steel, so the victim doesn't wake up before it slices out their heart. New York Dems, though, tried to take off our head with a blunt and rusted saw while they were snickering loudly. I suspect their retreat is less a sign of respect, than a quick effort to silently regroup while they wait for their mail-order stiletto.

After eight years of Bush and two of Obamamania, queer activists have not only lost our momentum, but our self-respect. Why else stay silent while Obama's campaign gave an enormous platform to bigots that would like to exterminate us? Why else give millions of dollars without exacting something concrete in return?

And if we don't pressure Obama now, if we don't pressure all the Democrats for every minute of the next four years, we'll get what we deserve. A whole lot of nothing. Or worse. A regression to depths of hatred and bigotry we'd almost forgotten.

As a community, we need to banish compromise to the realm of politicians. Supporting hardline activists and advocates is the only one way to advance queer rights. Somebody has to be intransigent. Somebody has to refuse to see the big picture that always reduces queer rights to a piece of shit everybody else scrapes off their shoes.

We also have to hold everybody to the same standards. Bill Clinton, after all, was roundly criticized for courting evangelicals with prayer meetings with Billy Graham (who was frankly moderate compared to Warren), for signing into law the Defense of Marriage Act, and triangulating us into the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the armed forces.

Why did we criticize Clinton for that when, like Obama, he was just trying to fit us all under that great big tent of America? And of course get re-elected. Wasn't he better than the first Bush, better than Reagan after all? Like Obama, he had queer friends, and except for the whole gay marriage thing, really did have the best intentions towards us.

Repulsed? I hope so. Then as now, the only way to win progress is to make a god-awful noise, to make nuisances and asses of ourselves, to hold our ground.

Money in exchange for promises is never enough, especially when the lynchpin of the Democratic strategy is to become more Republican than the Republicans and to court conservatives almost purely on the basis of religious fundamentalism, instead of other issues, like that elusive goal of fiscal responsibility, not to mention clean government.

Our consolation prize: a gay marching band. Let them take their cue from the black athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, and impose on the crowd what they did. A raised fist. Silence. Shame.

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