Alex Blaze

Queer priorities

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 09, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, LGBT, priorities, trans

Michael Crawford posted an interesting poll the other day, and I'm reposting it here. It's definitely worth going back to.

Poll Answers

Several of the comments focused on the nature of the poll: is it asking us to say what's important and what's not? Is the implication that we can't focus on multiple policy initiatives at the same time? Why not do all of those things?

I probably would have said something along those lines several years ago as well, before I got involved in the LGBT movement (through this site).

While I'd estimate that about 95% of people who read this site (judging from comments) would agree that all those items listed should be passed in a way that protects LGBT equality and freedom, it doesn't stop us from debating everything listed ad nauseum. ENDA gets picked apart not just because of trans inclusion, but also because of its huge exemptions (in one direction) and because it restricts business (in the other). Hate crimes legislation isn't something that we all want, at least in its current form - criticisms attack it within the community from both the right and the left for its expansion of police powers. And relationship recognition, my God. That's a fascinating, multi-faceted debate about how we want to position ourselves in relation to heterosexuals, as well as what degree we need to challenge family law, the tax code, and health care policy.

And those debates should be happening. And they are happening on this site. But the debate isn't just about the details of these various policies - it's also about what order they're going to happen in.

LGBT organizations work with limited resources, money, and time. Part of the metrics of this game is choosing what's important and what's not; it's a decision that's going to be made whether we participate or not.

The people who run lobbying and activist organizations are just that: people. They're going to focus on the issues that interest them or that they're pressured to focus on. I've been around the people who are working on our behalf enough to know that they, on some level, are already making decisions about what's important for now and what's not.

That's why the poll Michael posted works so well as an exercise. When those decisions get made by the powers that be, and they don't make the decisions we think they should, then we'll be the first to complain about that. HRC's decision to be cautious on ENDA inclusion last year but bold on marriage at the state level obviously prioritized marriage over employment protections (or LGB over T). Many organizations, though, that called for an inclusive ENDA didn't end up putting enough pressure, in some people's opinion, on hate crimes legislation when it was rumored that the Senate was going to dump it. Just last year, in Indiana, the focus was on defeating the marriage amendment, and hate crimes legislation, while also on the roster for that year in the state assembly, didn't get nearly as much attention and was dropped.

And when Barack Obama gets the presidency and Democrats have both houses of Congress, they're only going to show us so much love. I mean, they don't want people to think they've gone crazy and have principles or something.

We've seen it happen enough at this point that asking us to "focus on everything," while said with the best of intentions, is silencing. I understand the sentiment, but it's simply unrealistic and we should be openly discussing what's important to work on and what's not. To do any less is to exclude others (and ourselves) from that conversation.

None of that is a criticism of those working for LGBT rights; I simply mean that even with the best people pushing for this legislation some items are going to have to wait. And, on some level, Michael's poll is what's happening in their conversations, in their board meetings, and their everyday decisions about what to work on and what not to.

I'd love for this site to also include a discussion on that topic to further refine all of our politics and bring as many voices as possible into that conversation, and there's no better time than now to ask ourselves what we want most from an Obama administration.

Because we're not going to get everything we want, and we're coming from enough various perspectives to have vastly different priorities.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | August 7, 2008 2:17 PM


Thanks for writing a better explanation for why I posted the poll than I did.

There is a huge opportunity for advancing LGBT civil rights issues and there needs to be a serious and focused discussion about how we move forward collectively. My posting the poll was not about saying that we should only focus on one or two issues to the exclusion of other critical issues, but an acknowledgment that as you say the Democrats are only going to show us so much love.

We can yell and scream like we are in a gay version of Sophie's Choice and refuse to discuss our priorities and we will end up out in the cold. Other constituencies are going to be pushing their issues as well and there are only so many legislative hours in the day.

We should also look at the way that civil rights movements have advanced in this country. Things have not happened in one big swoop, but step by step with activists pushing from legislative, legal, media, educational and other angles.

Let's not blow the opportunity to move the ball forward and let's not stop pushing for every single thing that we deserve.

I agree fully Alex. I would only add that isn't it a pity that the one organization that should be the most motivated to enter into these discussions is also the one organization which flatly refuses to do so in the public eye even when they're invited?

The priority for all queers should be to ELECT OBAMA in order to keep the Supreme Court (and much of the Federal judiciary) from becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the religious right.

Obama's 'lead' in the polls - always exagerated - has shrunk to a point of insignificance. It's time for all of us to wake up and stop playing this self-destructive game of dividing the imaginary spoils before the city has been sacked.

Of course, it's a lot more fun to push our own private agendas than to face unpleasant realities.

I tend to agree with tristram; for me that is the number one priority since it will lead to the others.

But ENDA comes first. Until we can know we can keep housing and employment, the rest is meaningless. But #2? Wow. That's a choice I wouldn't want to make...

What bothers me with this exercise in choosing who gets voted off the island is the way it appears. It looks like we are following the instructions of our political leaders - playing their game. In fact, according to this post at Pam's, we are prioritizing while the Party is working hard to avoid recognizing us at all:

It's like we are helping us continue to be the minority group that won't speak its own name.

Considering the desire to buck the mainstream and shun the assimilation that is implied in supporting "relationship recognition" I find it contradictory (and a bit hilarious) that in an attempt to be bold individuals we are doing everything we can to work within the Democratic Party - by following their lead, working within their system and exhibiting casual disregard for encouraging infighting by creating a pecking order to make it easy for the Party.

Prioritizing agenda items is the same practice that helped rip the transgendered community from ENDA, isn't it? According to Barney - and many others in the LGB world - Congress had to put the protections of LGB ahead of T because it was the only way the bill would pass. We just HAD to do that and the "leaders" told us there is nothing wrong with making choices like that and prioritizing in order to accomplish what was possible, not what was right.

And here we are in this returning post, pretending to use the same theory to put the T back in ENDA. It sounds great, but it's nothing more than talking out of both sides of the same self-sabotaging mouth.

What about the fact that relationship recognition essentially benefits gays, lesbians, and bisexuals while transgender people are being harassed, killed, and marginalized 360 degrees.

What about the fact that same-sex marriage is referred to as Gay and Lesbian marriage as if to say that bisexual people are not part of the movement to achieve marriage equality?

Well, I believe these to be tactics in our very own community for some to get their rights while others suffer...

there is always in issue within every community that gets more priority over the others...which is fine and to be expected, BUT it all comes down to which priority that is...and it should be the one that is most urgent and will ultimately benefit the entire community as a whole.

That is not to say that other issues should not be worked on...but maybe such issues should not be treated as so necessary to our basic rights as our ability to survive.

I've never heard of the bisexual community feeling slighted by the same-sex marriage movement, but I can see where the language used is problematic.

Marriage equality should never be called gay marriage, yet it always is called that, but fighting every time the wrong words are used is a waste of energy since there is little control over what the media says.

Becca, I am not advocating for relationship recognition to take priority over the protections - both in the workplace and on the streets - of transgendered people.

I don't think we should participate in the game playing of politicians like this. These priority lists are exactly what caused the ENDA debacle. That is what I think we need to avoid. That is why I think discussions like this are divisive and destructive. Someone loses no matter the outcome. It still doesn't matter that the conversation is phrased as being practical and reasonable, the establishment of a priority makes the back of the bus the destination of the rest of the items.

Why would we participate in our own marginalization like that? I think the marriage movement stands arm and arm along side the transgendered community demanding justice for all of us - NOW.

I could also write at length about the incorrect consideration of the marriage movement as some cash/prizes buffet for the elite, but that will make this comment too long. THAT description is mean, ignorant, and completely misses the point - and it is the perfect example of what we get when we decide to get in a circle and start cut each other to see who is left standing.

This prioritizing is bullshit.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | August 8, 2008 11:32 AM

@ Patrick,

Fine. Don't participate in playing the game of politics. Just continue writing bitter comments on blog posts and let's us know how far you get in advancing civil rights for LGBT people.

@ Becca,

Relationship recognition doesn't just benefit LGB people. It also will benefit T people. Or, are you saying that T people don't have relationships that they think should be legally recognized as just valid as other relationships?

Also, it is not just T people that are being harassed, killed and marginalized. GLB people are also being murdered, fire from jobs and harassed. Or, maybe that doesn't matter as much to you?

Now we're talking, Michael!

Lets get in the ring - me, you and Becca.

I've got my shiv out. You called me bitter and you challenge Becca to a duel - this is what its all about.

Priority #1 - blogging about an agenda that is mythical at best.

Priority #2 - defending the post by berating comments that don't agree with the ideologoy

Priority #3 - telling the minority within the minority that they are petty and shortsighted martyrs.

Lets get it started...this is the way we advance civil rights? By picking fights with each other?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | August 8, 2008 2:02 PM


Don't you dare put words in my mouth or try to twist my words. What, are you now auditioning for the McCain campaign team?

Yeah, I called you bitter and your most recent comment has proven me right.

And, if you want to talk about picking fights, check out your comments to my initial post and to this post. You have done, but pick at others who disagree with your ideology.

There is no fight here despite your attempts to make it so.

I'm going to repost my points, and my priorities here, with a slight change.

Apparently, this is something that we *do* need to discuss as a community.

So I'm willing to discuss it. And I can certainly defend each of my positions.

For me, it was simple.

As for priorities, equally simple:

First: ENDA. ENDA will save lives. Literally.
Can't live if ya can't put a roof over my head, food in my belly, and can't get medical treatment when you need it because you don't have a job. Yes, there are LGB folks having the same things done to them. But they have more protection in more places than the T does, *and they are not dependent on that income to be themselves*. One cannot transition without money.

Second: Marriage equality. My marriage changes in validity now according to where I go in the US. A drive across country becomes a nightmare. 13 years ago, it didn't.

Third: Revision of the ADA to remove discriminatory provisions. Again, to save lives. If my first priority is bumped, then this becomes the first one.

Fourth: Hate Crimes

Fifth: DADT

And Then education like never before in the history of the LGBT communities.

Any questions?

The inclusive ENDA has to be first for me. Along with Bil - I have a hard time choosing from the rest. Though I think the ENDA choice should be inclusive of more than just gender identity - it should include public accomadations. Housing isn't included in the current version either.

There's so many choices, eh Kathy?

I agree with the statement that Priority One is electing Obama, but I would also add that, if we want the election of Obama to do any good whatsoever, good candidates for Senate and House posts must also be elected. Vote smart at all levels, all the way down to school board and city council.

That stated, if Obama is elected and a supportive Congress is in place, just about all of this agenda will need to be bumrushed in completely inclusive form. How long a supportive Congress may be available is anyone's guess, and "put it off for later" may end up much later. Recall that, after his first 2 years in office, Bill Clinton had to contend with a conservative Congress. Whether those who represent us, no matter which letter of the GLBT we feel represents us, no matter which organizations we support, understand this and can convey that, is a valid question.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 11, 2008 12:37 AM

For years I’ve watched Democratic (sic) Party leaders betray constituents while their rank and file supporters jumped through hoops explaining why they’re still Democrats. They can sometimes that their leaders are not the best but usually limit their dissatisfaction to specific issues. Above all they resist looking for patterns and underlying reasons for their party’s repeated disloyalty.

For instance, when Clinton and the Congressional DP bailed on protecting GLBT GIs from discrimination and the violence it breeds, and instead codified that very discrimination and harassment with DADT, GLBT Democrats got angry along with the rest of us. Later we all got angry when a big majority of House and Senate Democrats supported the Republican DOMA and even angrier when Clinton paid for campaign commercials on bigoted southern christist radio stations boasting about signing DOMA.

But the GLBT Democrats forgave all, saying the Democratic (sic) leadership had moved on. Well, they did; they moved right on over our agenda with a big old bus.

ENDA was gutted, then dumped, DOMA and DADT stayed on the books, and the hate crimes bill scrapped AFTER passing both Houses. On other issues Obama backed FISA as Congress gutted the fourth amendment, Pelosi refused to impeach Bush or indict him for war crimes because Clinton would be next at the dock. Congress continued to cut welfare and taxes for the rich but arrogantly vetoed even the mention of socialized medicine. Congress won’t even consider a real minimum wage or protection for immigrant/imported workers and union members. They’re idly sitting by as the economy crashes and burns.

When confronted with the full list of these betrayals some DP supporters simply become tongue-tied. They will not ask why DADT and DOMA weren’t repealed, although the answer is obvious. They’re perfectly aware that Obama’s “love the sinner” (don’t discriminate) but “hate the sin” (opposing/forbidding same sex marriage) is bigotry but they won’t utter the word. When Obama promises a longer war and asks us to prove our worth by becoming cannon fodder lots of Democrat supporters just clam up.

Others, when confronted, get testy. Sitting ex-cathedra, they pronounce anathema on heretics who criticize Obama and the DP, saying we’re “bitter” and “unproductive”. Instead of engaging in political discussion they ask "...let us know how far you get in advancing civil rights for LGBT people", hoping that no one will notice that turning the question around embarrasses them far more than us wretched heretics.

So let’s turn it around. Ask if rank and file Democrats were able to end the war, as they, and we, were promised in ’06? Has supporting the DP has changed things for GLBT folks? It has changed things, but I mean for the better. Specifically, were DOMA and DADT repealed and were an inclusive ENDA and a tough hate crimes bill passed. And if not, why not? Was it because they’re way too busy pandering to bigots? Did they scuttle our entire agenda to avoid any hint of being GLBT friendly?

Did some people’s misplaced loyalty to Obama stop him from showboating bigots like Mary Mary or the most ex-gay Reverend Donnie McClurkin in christist revival meetings camouflaged as political rallies? Did their donated time and effort convince Obama to drop his christist bigoted opposition to same sex marriage, or even to stop harping about the subject? Is Obama repeating Clinton’s 1996 stunt using GLBT donated money to boast about signing DOMA when his campaign rattles on and on with christist attacks on same sex marriage? Is his pandering to bigots somehow better than McCain’s, or Bill Clintons?

Dismissing political ideas is not helpful. This is not a daytime talk show or an audition for 'Boys in the Band'; it’s our future’s that on the line. Our past, at least for those who put all their eggs in the Democrats basket, is a record of failure and betrayal.
So we’re left with this question: would replacing the Democrats with a left wing party or building mass movements be an improvement over trusting frauds like McCain, Obama, Pelosi, Frank, Frist or Reid.