Sara Whitman

Blood, Guts and No Al Gore

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 26, 2008 8:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Democratic National Convention, Democrats, DNC, Don Hitchcock, election 2008, ENDA, LGBT community, racism, transgender, White House

We’re killing ourselves.

The LGBT leadership in this country is being thrown to the wolves, throwing each other to the wolves… And then complain to the national media that we are not getting enough recognition of our issues in the presidential campaign. The AP ran a story today, “Some Gays Frustrated with 2008 Presidential Campaign.” In the story, several leaders in the community said they were “ disappointed that the three leading contenders rarely mention gay-rights topics unless responding to a question.”

I have to say, I find that a little stunning to read, considering the LOGO Presidential forum last August, not only did the candidates participate in an LGBT forum, it was the first time in commercial television history it happened.

I know it happened in 2004 on CSPAN but I’m not sure many people outside the beltway actually watch CSPAN.

And each were asked about not only gay marriage, gay equality issues- they were asked about transgender issues, too.

I appreciate Susan Ryan-Vollmar, the former editor of Bay Windows, frustration. "They've merely settled on what the Democrats have staked out as a safe, consensus position, just far enough ahead of where the party was in 2004 to give a sense of progress but not so far as to threaten Middle America," Ryan-Vollmar wrote. "That's not leadership, it's poll-tested and party-approved pandering, pure and simple."

But unlike Ryan-Vollmer, I have to wonder how much of it is from our own lack of leadership.

We’ve been busy accusing, backstabbing, and ruining the reputations of our leaders. “A gay man’s lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee has revealed allegations of bitter, behind-the-scenes disputes that appear to pit black DNC officials against gays.”

Great. Like two underrepresented minorities need to be going at it?

And the Human Rights Campaign- like them or not, they are the largest LGBT group on Capitol Hill- has been continually hammered for it’s stance on ENDA.

I hated their stance. I’ve written about it. I complained loudly.

While I’m personally going to continue to push for an inclusive ENDA and HRC’s leadership around it. I am also aware it’s not the only issue HRC is involved with. It’s time to stop the infighting and win an election.

And have strong voices. I will say this for Mr. Solomonese- it was not an easy chorus to disagree with. Hate him or love him, you have to respect the fortitude.

The worst part of the current accusations flying back and forth around the DNC, and the leadership and the gay staff is the lack of cohesion at a time when we are desperate to win an election. Not to mention if you are on Capitol Hill, whom do you look to for leadership from the gay community?

You wait until the dust clears and see who’s standing.

I guess that would be Al Gore. Straight guy comes out for gay marriage equality. No one attacks him, celebration ensues.

I don’t know all the facts about the suit against the DNC. That is for a court of law to decide. In the meantime… I want to win the White House.

If we want to hear our issues be brought to the table? We better stop killing each other.

As the AP article noted, “Few constituencies are as eager for the Republican Party to falter this political season as gay-rights activists.”

I’m not asking for us all to get along all the time, but how about for the next 9 months? We need to remain focused. We have a mission.

The White House.

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beergoggles | January 26, 2008 9:51 AM

Thanks for saying it. As much as I'd like to see us progress on LGBT issues by leaps and bounds, I am quite satisfied with incremental progress as long as we're moving forward.

That might just be my pragmatic nature speaking because when the ENDA issue came up, I didn't share the same outcry most did to HRC and I wouldn't have had any problem with only lesbians being included in ENDA with gay men being left for later. I just see it as getting a foot in the door being a first step rather than the only step. So it's quite easy to agree with you here that we will have to put all the bickering aside and stop either John (I don't know if a condom protects against STDs) McCain, or Mitt (I was for abortions/gays until I was again't it) Romney.

As unexcited as I am about Obama or Hillary (I was sorta excited about Edwards), I certainly wouldn't have to hold my nose that much in order to vote for either of them.

Oh, one thing I don't agree with you about is calling our leaders out when they are wrong or when we think they're wrong. We're not republicans. We don't shut up and get behind the most authoritarian leader we can find and then spout the propaganda. We think for ourselves, and I like NOT developing a messiah complex about whoever is leading whatever movement. It's unhealthy and it blinds one to the obvious.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 26, 2008 11:02 AM

Amen Sara. I think that we have spent so much time on infighting and bickering that it seems we have lost focus.

We have seen what can happen when we elect pro-LGBT candidates in places like Iowa, Oregon, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We could get much further if we spent less energy dogging each other out and spent more energy electing strong advocates for LGBT civil rights.

Doing the nitty gritty work of electing pro-LGBT candidates may not be as emotionally satisfying to some as yelling and screaming, but its impact will be felt for a much longer time.

Sara, I could not disagree more strongly. The HRC/LOGO forum was a shameful farce and a base disservice to any LGBT voter not solely concerned with the issue of same sex marriage.

First, while it was promised that each candidate would get at least one transgender-relevant question, this promise was ignored. Only one single question on the topic all night, directed to John Edwards, concerned the transgendered. It wasn't about his support for our rights, but rather if he'd personally fire someone who came out to him as transgender. Indeed, transgender people got roughly the same amount of attention during this event as the New Mexican bark beetle.

Second, HRC collected over 3000 questions from viewers, but virtually all of these were also ignored. What did they talk about instead? Over half the questions were about same sex marriage, an issue a President has little or no influence on since marriage laws are enacted at the state level.

Witness how George Bush could not successfully push through a federal marriage amendment even with a GOP-dominated Congress, and you understand how little a President's position on same sex marriage actually impacts their agenda while in office.

In addition, the panel was a joke as well. A financial reporter (Margaret Carlson), a lobbyist (Joe Solmonese), a rock star (Melissa Etheridge), and a transphobe (Jonathan Capehart, who has written at least two anti-transgender screeds I'm aware of). Is this responsible journalism and reporting? Since not even a single member of the panel was an actual member of the LGBT newsmedia, I have to say no.

What this forum actually was was a 90-minute commercial for same sex marriage. It was a base betrayal of the interests of the community, virtually completely ignoring key issues such as employment, housing, health issues (though AIDS did get a question or two), and many other issues of concern to average, working class LGBT Americans.

This forum clearly demonstrated how, promises be damned, HRC will always put the agenda of wealthy elitists first and foremost in whatever it does, regardless of whether it comes at the expense of the average working class majority.

I strongly suggest you watch it again (it's available at and then tell me how HRC and LOGO didn't completely sell out the interests of the vast majority of our community for their little 90-minute vanity play.

I'm struggling to decide which statement bothered me more:

A)"It’s time to stop the infighting and win an election."


B)"The worst part of the current accusations flying back and forth around the DNC, and the leadership and the gay staff is the lack of cohesion at a time when we are desperate to win an election."

In the spirit of the current primary season, lets also include this cluster as the third place (somewhat redundant but with better hair option) as an honorable mention: "We need to remain focused. We have a mission. The White House."

I appreciate your post here as a rallying cry and an attempt to heard the cats (so to speak). Unfortunately, I think you overlook some important points and rely very heavily on old arguments that were disappointing in the past and by 2008 are far too easy to make without thinking.

Is the LGBT movement too fractured to expect representation from Democrats? Thats not a fair assessment to make. What minority group is firmly committed to a definitive plan of action? Women? African-Americans? Immigrants?

No, all of them have a broad range of concerns (some I agree with) that deserve representation and/or consideration.

If LGBTs are fractured, it is the result of wars begun by Dems over ENDA and their failures of compromise and weakness. The Democrats are the political party to whom "we" are extremely over attached. The attachment has been breached repeatedly over the past 16 years (modestly speaking) by Democrat politicians.

The members of "our" community that dogmatically and desperately cling to the belief that our only hope resides with a firm and unquestioning alliance with politicians that fumble the ball at the pivotal moment, take our money and run, and consistently offer weak / cautious rhetoric in regard to our legitimacy as citizens are responsible for division.

It is not the dissenters that are letting you down. The disappointment you are experiencing is the result from repeating the same behavior election after election and expecting a different result.

Is it "our" goal to win the White House? I am not convinced that will change much. Will it help protect the Supreme Court? Ask Dianne Feinstein. In 2007 she helped elevate a bigot judge hand picked by Bush. Even with pressure from "us" she acted independently. Oh, and the Federal judge in Oregon that blocked the DP from taking effect on 1/1/08 - another Bush appointee - was approved unanimously in Congress.

Are court appointments (any court) secure in the hands of a Democrat that is willing to compromise the constitutional rights of LGBT citizens while they pander without remorse to religious fanatics?

There are many LGBTs willing to put it all on the line to have a "friend" in the White House. Those well-intentioned gamblers willfully overlook the fact that their "friend" hasn't evolved that much in 8 years compared to the actions taken against us by dozens of states. Our political "friends" are willing to let the country amend/legislate against us without saying a word about the injustice because it might make them look bad.

If we must rely upon high school sociology to define our political positions, we should consider loyalty (politicians that can defend and advocate for us) and give up on demanding conformity (ducks in a row - votes for Dems no matter what; lesser of two evil hogwash).

Michael Bedwell | January 26, 2008 6:44 PM

There are too many parts of what Patrick wrote, or should I say, dumped out of a drawer, to have the time or energy to dismantle entirely so I will only address one and the sum of his parts. Feinstein’s vote for an asshole judge was a major mistake in judgment but she was not voting for his appointment to the Supreme Court. Nor was he nominated for any court by any of the current Dem contenders for the White House. As I previously wrote, while I prefer some over others in relation to other issues, I am confidant none of them would nominate to the Supreme Court someone with a anti LGBT, racist, or sexist history.

As for his sum: he offers no alternative in an imperfect world to having to choose between imperfect candidates. And he unwittingly offers himself up as Exhibit A of the kind of people who help perpetuate our political impotence by having yet failed to recognize/accept the fact that politics—also romance, friendships, LIFE itself—has ever been thus. There was a time when homophobic authors described all gay men as permanently “delayed adolescents,” manifested by the age-inappropriate clothing one would allegedly always see on them in gay bars, and driven by whatever made their penises happy; a Peter Pansy Syndrome, as it were. There were many then; there are some now. However, I think, today, we have more examples of, forgive the second pun, a Fairy Tale View of Politics.

Rebecca’s selective perception of the world is no less counterproductive. While Sara speaks of a kind of truce for our collective interests, a kind of healing, Rebecca reveals that her neighborhood must have a Costco with a unique inventory. She clearly has boxes, pallets, of personal agenda-driven distortion, hyperbole, and character assassination bombs left to throw.

“shameful farce”; “base disservice”; “a transphobe (Jonathan Capehart, who has written at least two anti-transgender screeds)” [read: he disagrees with her, ipso facto that’s what he must be]; “base betrayal”; “a 90-minute commercial for same sex marriage”; “virtually completely ignoring key issues”; “promises be damned” [there’s the Fairy Land view again]; “sell out completely”; “vanity play.”

I was astounded at the time by the dozen different ways various people “saw” the forum, but the bitterness she still feels five months later gives one pause, as does the factual distortions that it keeps alive in the basement. Since she employed numbers and percentages so much, might I risk being indicted and convicted as a transphobe for respectfully pointing out that, while I agree with her that there should have been trans RIGHTS-related questions, it’s reasonable to suggest that there are far more gays interested in the issue of marriage equality than there are transgenders period?

Further, given the countless discussions about federal DOMA just on Bilerico alone, however often they are ill-informed, how could anyone possibly perceive that issues around gay marriage are beyond any President? Yes, the federal government isn’t in the business of marrying people but it is, and was before DOMA, in the business of defining what constitutes marital status and the relation that has to over 1000 effects under federal law, the most typically referred to being those related to taxation and Social Security benefits. While only one state now “marries” same gender couples, repeal of those sections of federal DOMA limiting the definition to “man/woman” and banning federal benefits to same gender couples which all Dem candidates endorse [necessary followed I would think by some kind of enabling legislation] could benefit couples in ALL 50 states and US territories. Are there not transgenders involved in relationships with other transgenders or non-transgenders they would like to have legally recognized both for their symbolic and benefits-deriving purposes?

Not only would a President have to sign such legislation but could directly get the ball rolling—some might say, set off a political bomb—by Executive Order, ignoring DOMA, attempting to grant such federal benefits to federal employees, including citizen-status for any foreign born partners NB: I don’t think any of them have the guts, but I also fear that, unless there is a huge influx of progay Democrats and Republicans in the next Congress, enough to override those homophobes in both parties who are sure to vote against it, no DOMA repeal bill will reach his/her desk even over eight years.

Yes, the forum was flawed in many ways, including wasting time, as all such things do, patting themselves on the back for doing it. Yet as one of the still too few out LGBT professional journalists in mainstream media, Capehart had the best credentials to be there, even if he has, apparently, strayed from Rebecca's personal party line. Carlson was the most egregious addition because she’s not LGBT. Solmonese was ok because he's something of an activist [but other LGBT groups should have been represented too]. Melissa’s inclusion was an error because, wonderful as she is, her “activist” experience and body of detailed knowledge are limited. She paid too much attention to "feelings" issues when I don't care how they feel about us—just make us Constitutionally whole. But the irony is that she asked about an issue that too few professional activists and organizations ignore—the impact that homophobia in public schools has on both gay [and by implication, transgender] and straight students [and, therefore, society at large] and, as I’ve observed before, got the most revolutionary answer of the evening: John Edwards saying kids should be taught equal value of and respect for each other. [I'm still surprised Coulter or Lou Sheldon didn't come after him with an actual loaded gun.]

Which brings me back to Sara’s original points. On the one hand, I feel that decades-long individual and collective failure of such organizations to educate the public [read voters] is more to blame for our relative political impotence [read irrelevance] than our uncivil wars. What greater explanation is there for, nearly 40 years after Stonewall, there still not being a veto-proof majority for the federal legislative goal pursued for the longest time—even gay job protection, let alone T-inclusive protection? We sent them hundreds of millions of dollars and all we got is this square blue bumper sticker with a yellow equal sign?????

On the other hand, if we are to move forward even a little bit, we MUST NOT SIT THIS ONE OUT whatever our individual differences and degrees of distrust of each other and the candidates. Again, the one issue that Rebecca mentioned which is ABOVE ALL OTHERS is the Supreme Court. The disasters of the George Bush Reich will long have been denounced by historians; he’ll be a mostly-forgotten, entirely reviled-when-remembered doddering old fool rotting at his Crawford, Texas, ranch when the two he seated on the Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito are still casting anti liberty and equality votes. If a Republican is elected in November you can kiss any hope of genuine, national advance of any of our rights goodbye for decades to come.

As for "Gore/Obama 2008"—in terms of genuine commitment to proactively working for LGBT equality I would call that a political oxymoron.

Let's take this a step further and completely end the in-fighting: stop fighting with Republicans and conservatives! If we want to win this war in Iraq, we have to stop making such a huss-fuss and learn to get along with them!


Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 27, 2008 8:34 AM


Way to go for the snarky comment and ignore Sara's point.

She did say that there should not be vigorous discussion and debate about the goals, strategy and tactics of the LGBT movement. She said that the personal demonization and unnecessary viciousness of the attacks against movement leaders should be halted. At least, that's what I got from her post.

But, then what do I know? I'm one of those people that think we would accomplish more by focusing on our common agenda vs slash and burn politics.

In Massachusetts, we all worked hard to get Deval Patrick elected.

the minute he was in office? and I mean, not the traditional, give them room and time to get situated as has always been the case with our democratically elected leaders, we (as part of the schott foundation for public education) were there, on his back, demanding action he promised on funding public education.

Michael, you did get the point of my post- enough with the persoanl dmonization of viciousness. it makes us look like toddlers in the sandbox.

of course, we all have different goals. it is reality in our community- we're not just LGBT, we are different races, we're rich, poor, middle class, we're married with kids, we're single, young, old, gracefully in the middle- when you think about how many differents issues and goals we have, it's mind boggling.

Alex? don't get me started about Iraq. the most horrible part of swallowing the Clinton kool aid (and yes, I have, I know it), was the 60,000 troop permanent presence in her policy.

see, I'm not a single issue person. never hae been. I'm too high strung.

the rest, well, I think the post speaks for itself. I understand people disagree. I had a very good friend of mine call and yell at me. and I mean YELL.

I'm not talking about forever folks. I'm talking about a strategic cease-fire.

Wow, Michael, way to reduce what I said and miss the point as well.

Just sayin', instead of defining people out there as "the enemy" (the Religious Right), certain bills as "goals" (hate crimes leg, ENDA, repealing DADT), and labeling anyone who disagrees with this already decided-upon agenda as an in-fighting traitor, maybe we can actually have a discussion where those who dissent aren't seen as counter-productive.

My point with the Iraq reference is that that's pretty much the same rhetoric there - "Please stop the political in-fighting, Democrats, and focus on our common goal of fighting Islamofascism!" It's easy to talk about a "common agenda" when you really mean your agenda and then pretend as if anyone who disagrees just doesn't understand that they're working against their own good as well. Of course they are, we already decided what was best for them!

Maybe we should stop finding an enemy, a "common agenda" (gawsh, if there was a more silencing way to describe those policy goals, I can't think of it), and realize that there are no such constructions and everything's a little more gray than we'd like to admit.

Because I didn't get any sort of personal viciousness vs. substantive goals discussion distinction from the post. I got "stop any sort of disagreement till The Democrats take back the White House." If that was the point of the post, Sara, well, I'm sorry but I just didn't see that distinction in there.

I'd pick being Peter Pan over acting like a sucker any day.

Keep sniffing the pixie dust of the DNC, Michael Bedwell. I'm sure YOU will gain something from it, or you wouldn't bother.

and this is the kind of personal attack, patrick, I'm talking about.

disagree with me... but accuse me of gaining something from sniffing the pixie dust?

what is gained by that?

sara - I'm sorry, that remark was not directed at you. You didn't use the Peter Pan angle Michael Bedwell did. Thats why I mentioned him by name also using last name because I didn't want the other Michael drawn in.

I don't agree with your conformist proposal and that's what I addressed in my earlier comment.

I just noticed that Michael Bedwell also went off a number of times in Michael Crawford's post about Obamas victory yesterday.

Its not that I disagree with his criticisms of Obama. I agree. But he also criticizes me for not offering an alternative to voting Dem no matter what.

Here is the problem: Bedwell (and he is not alone) apparently has an agenda. It sometimes looks like an advocacy for LGBTs...sometimes specific parts of LGB with out the T...but it always smells like that is a tool to garner support for a specific candidate/party.

Don't examine the history of failure and empty promises and very recent poor choices made by party - just support them. Do it! Vote for them, and get back on with your life. Open your wallet and shut your mouth you don't know what you are talking about and Ts can wait and war will take care of itself and do as I say, not as I do.

That is what I hear when people tell me what "we" all need to do. You were subtle. He is playing Clintonian/Rovian politics.

It always results in getting what you ask for. Bill Clinton came around 16 years ago making love to us and did not produce ANYTHING. Now his wife is picking up where he left off.

I remember...and I am not buying it again. I'm not afraid to remind others and as much as I'm discouraged by people that refuse to consider any other alternative and think that maybe this time it'll be different, I have no reason - NONE - to think differently.

Give me one reason to think the Democrats have our interests at heart.

Just because they aren't republicans isn't evidence.

As Bedwell said above: "...I am confidant none of them would nominate to the Supreme Court someone with a anti LGBT, racist, or sexist history."

From where does he derive his confidence?

I'd like to see us discuss conformity around withholding our votes than finding ways to coerce, cajole and con each other into believing in something that has no basis in reality.