Karen Ocamb

Requiem for Gay Political Power

Filed By Karen Ocamb | September 02, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Bob Hattoy, David Mixner, Democratic Party, DNC, ENDA, gay marriage, gay rights, Jeremy Bernard, LGBT politics, same-sex marriage, SLDN, Tammy Baldwin, Tobias Wolfe

The historic Democratic National Convention is over but one question remains: Obama-at-convention.jpgwhat the hell happened to the gays?

Like so many others around the world, LGBT people watched through excited tears as Barack Obama accepted the presidential nomination at Mile High stadium last Thursday. But there was tremendous anxiety in LGBT land, too: after a week of invisibility, would Obama even mention the word "gay?"

And then it happened.

Obama said:

"I know there are differences on same-sex marriage - but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination."

TobiasWolfe.jpgTobias Wolfe, the brilliant author, scholar and Co-chair of Obama's National LGBT Policy Committee, was ecstatic.

"Our next President brought the entire crowd to their feet in a standing ovation with this passage -- 75,000 people, applauding and cheering and stamping their feet for our rights. It was something I will never forget."

Yes, it was an extraordinary moment in an extraordinary speech. But why - in 2008 - should LGBT people be holding our breath hoping to be recognized? And did anyone notice that the bar Obama set for LGBT discrimination was hospital visitation?

Was this wish for agreement the most respect our LGBT leaders could elicit from the Democratic Party's presidential nominee after all the fundraising, all the volunteering, all the hurt feelings over antigay errors, now tucked away in the name of unity?

Was this a hint of what we can expect?

Yes, Bill Clinton "threw us under the bus" as Melissa Etheridge put it during the historic Logo/Human Rights Campaign event in August 2007. During the primary, Clinton emphatically promised to lift the ban against gay people serving openly in the military, only to slapped down by Sen. Sam Nunn. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was the result.

Maybe it was because so many of us were dying back then - but compared to today - it seems that LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS had more visibility, more respect, more political power 16 years ago. Hope and the audacity of courage screamed for change.

And Clinton seemed to "get it." In October 1991, after meeting with the checkbook activist group ANGLE (Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality) at the invitation of his friend David Mixner, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton told the Los Angeles Times without prompting that he would have signed the gay rights bill AB 101 that Republican Gov. Pete Wilson had vetoed, sparking a week of massive street protests throughout Southern California.

And at a massively covered historic speech before an LGBT crowd filled with people with HIV/AIDS, Clinton said, "I have a vision, and you're a part of it." Up and down the LGBT political spectrum, people pushed him to push the envelope, insisting on LGBT visibility.

At his nominating convention in 1992, Clinton asked Elizabeth Glaser and openly gay Bob Hattoy to speak out about AIDS.

Often interrupted by tearful applause, Hattoy said in primetime:

"I'm a Gay man with AIDS and if there's any honor in having this disease it's because it's an honor being part of the Gay and Lesbian community in America. (Applause)

We have watched our friends and lovers die, but we have not given up hope. Gay men and Lesbians created community health clinics, provided educational materials, opened food kitchens, and held the hands of the dying in hospices. The Gay and Lesbian community is an American family in the best sense of the word. (Applause)... We are Democrats, and yes, Mr. President, Republicans. We are part of the American family and, Mr. President, your family has AIDS and we're dying and you're doing nothing about it. (Applause)...

Martin Luther King once said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Fifty thousand people took to the streets in New York today because they will no longer be silent about AIDS. (Applause)

Their actions give me hope. All of you came here tonight; millions more are watching in America. Obviously, we have hope and hope gives me the chance of life. I think it's really important to understand that this year, more than any other year, we must vote as if our life depends on it. Mine does; yours could - and we all have so much to live for. Thank you.

(Standing ovation)

Act Up. Fight Back. Fight AIDS. Thank you."

The Republicans responded with Mary Fisher, the daughter of a top fundraiser for President George H. W. Bush. Fisher, too, eloquently spoke about HIV/AIDS - and gay men.

"Tonight, I represent an AIDS community whose members have been reluctantly drafted from every segment of American society. Though I am white and a mother, I am one with a black infant struggling with tubes in a Philadelphia hospital. Though I am female and contracted this disease in marriage and enjoy the warm support of my family, I am one with the lonely gay man sheltering a flickering candle from the cold wind of his family's rejection."

And then there was Patrick Buchanan.

"Bob Casey was told there was no room for him at the podium at Bill Clinton's convention, and no room at the inn. Yet -- Yet a militant leader of the homosexual rights movement could rise at that same convention and say: 'Bill Clinton and Al Gore represent the most pro-lesbian and pro-gay ticket in history.' And so they do....

Friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side."

America voted for change - but what we got was the cultural war.

Bob Casey, who is pro-life, spoke at Obama's convention last week, but no one spoke out about LGBT rights or HIV/AIDS.

How can this be? After all, just weeks before the convention, the Centers for Disease Control announced that they now estimate the epidemic is 40% greater than in the previous decade and the rate of new HIV infections each year is over 56,000.

Even more astounding - this at a convention run by the campaign of a man who proudly talked about getting an HIV test with his wife, Michelle. He knows the AIDS statistics in the Black community, which, despite being only 13% of the US population, experienced about 45% of the new HIV infections in 2006.

3gayguys.jpgThe egregious failure didn't go unnoticed. West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran, a delegate who is HIV positive, said later:

"The stakes are so high that I will work like crazy to ensure that Barack becomes the next President of the United States. But I am disappointed that there was no mention from the podium about AIDS in our urban cities or around the world. The pandemic is not over."

Phill Wilson, Founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, was more forceful:

"It was disappointing that on the occasion of this historic nomination, that one of the greatest health threats facing America today was not more front and center during this year's Convention. This is my fourth Democratic Convention and it has never been so difficult to put HIV/AIDS on the agenda. At a time when the AIDS epidemic is worse in our nation's capital than in many parts of Sub Saharan Africa, how can AIDS not be a featured as a priority by our Democratic Presidential nominee?"

What happened? And given the constant pronouncements about the Democratic Party's "proud" diversity, where were the LGBT speakers? Isn't the whole point of "identity politics" to identify those for whom equality is still only a promise, a hope, a dream?

Last January, I wrote "Change? What change?" after John Kerry endorsed Obama. I raised the issue of LGBT invisibility at the 2004 Democratic National Convention - when 11 states faced Karl Rove-inspired antigay initiatives.

Jeremy Bernard, a DNC delegate, an ANGLE board member and Obama's high profile California finance guy, said this:

"I've gotten a sense from my friends -- and I feel this way too -- that we're tired of being ATM machines. They come and take our money and leave California and they don't really pay attention to what we think or believe. In Boston [during the Democratic Convention in 2004], we were good soldiers because Bush is so bad. But it's the last time. We're not going to swallow our pride like that ever again. In 1992 [during Clinton's inauguration], we were part of a new, exciting world. To think that 12 years later we have moved backwards -- it's horrifying. And the fact that most people didn't think about it [gay visibility] and no one noticed at the Democratic convention -- that's the saddest part."

So expectations were high for this convention. National LGBT leaders and donors seemed to actually serve high up in or have access to the Obama campaign, if not the candidate. And National Stonewall Democrats had been tasked by the DNC to basically implement the new Inclusion Rule - recruiting LGBT delegates from each state as part of DNC Chair Howard Dean's 50-state strategy. That part went swimmingly, with Stonewall reporting more than 350 LGBT participants (delegates and alternatives) attended the convention - approximately 6% of total convention attendees, up 27% increase from 2004. Additionally, people of color accounted for about 40% of the LGBT Caucus.

And the Party Platform was called"the most sweeping pro-LGBT national platform in Democratic Party history," though there was a lot of grumbling that the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" were used instead of "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender." Openly lesbian Wisconsin Congressmember Tammy Baldwin explained that the language was the same as that used in legislation.

At the LGBT Caucus, Steve Hildebrand, the openly gay deputy campaign director of the Obama campaign - who national political reporter Lynn Sweet called "a mastermind of field operations," conceded that the campaign had not done enough LGBT outreach.

"I believe that our campaign has not done the effective job it needs to do to persuade and convince LGBT voters that Barack Obama is someone who will lead for them, who will fight for them, fight for us...That's a failure on behalf of our campaign in my opinion, and I've played a role in it. What we need is for all of you to be our voices in our communities and to work tirelessly to give every single day, as much time as you can give, to know Barack's record and to know John McCain's failed record and to go out and talk to people who care about the future of LGBT people in this country."

Later, Hildebrand told The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld that the gay vote - usually about 4% to 5% of voters in national exit polls - matters.

"I believe that at least 12-14 states this election will be decided by 2-3 percentage points one way or the other, and if we do our collective work persuading LGBT voters to support Barack, I think it can make a big difference."

So - if the LGBT vote is needed, if the LGBT community is contributing its fair share of Big Bucks - where was the love?

On Monday afternoon, DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias talked about the economy, then slipped in this line: "As a gay man, I yearn for a president who believes in equal rights for all Americans."

That was it. Yes, Baldwin spoke - but on healthcare and she was not identified as a lesbian.

Gays got shout-outs from Sen. Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, and Sen. Ted Kennedy in their speeches and during the roll call, the Massachusetts delegation had the audacity to proudly say their state was the first in the nation for marriage equality.

But that was it. Our issues and stories were not even woven into the fabric of the convention themes - though they could have been:

The economy: the Platform calls for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Right now in 31 states, it's legal to fire someone for being gay; in 39 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgender.? Imagine the fear of being found out, or once fired, the fear of never finding a job. Forget gasoline - how do you eat and pay the rent? ?

National security: the Platform calls for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - the Pentagon fires two gay people every day, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. These are folks who are fighting now in Iraq and Afghanistan and who want to sign up - including much-needed linguists.

And for all the talk about religion and faith - we were left out. This is prickly. Obama has every right - like the Clintons - to hold his own private belief about same sex marriage. But it is troubling when a constitutional scholar indicates that the reason he does not agree with marriage equality is because "for me, as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. God is in the mix," as he told Rick Warren.

Well, ask the Episcopal Church if "God is in the mix" for LGBT people, too. They're facing a schism over it!

So - what happened? It looks like, once again, our LGBT leaders were seduced by the proximity to power and, for the sake of personal access or Party unity - didn't press for our unequivocal inclusion onstage. And if the Party and campaign don't think we're good enough for primetime - or more than hospital visitations - why should the American people vote down antigay initiatives?

Thank heavens the private sector and the grassroots - those 75,000 who cheered at the mention of "gay and lesbian" by Barack Obama -"get" the link between equality and visibility and stand up for us better than our LGBT leaders do.

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"I know there are differences on same-sex marriage - but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination."

So, gay and lesbian people are not happy that this is all they got in the acceptance speech?

Please pardon me for my BlanTenT lack of sympaThy.

Wolfgang E. B. | September 6, 2008 9:34 PM

Yeah, I hear that, Monica. I was hoping he'd say "gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender" at least once. He has said it in other speeches though. Maybe we should send him letters on his first day in the Oval Office to remind him about us.

The picture painted by Karen Ocamb is not very pretty and it's just the tip of the iceberg. The invisibility of the GLBT communities in Obama’s platform and the convention are deliberate and calculated.

The Democrats have gone way out of their way to cut us out and put the brakes on passage of our agenda. Its noting new.

o – They voted overwhelmingly for DOMA and DADT and refuse to repeal them.

o - Bill Clinton, like Barak Obama, made a career of pandering to bigots. After DOMA passed Clinton used your donations (if you sent them money) to pay of radio ads boasting about his signature on DOMA, and to add insult to injury those ads were calculatedly slotted for redneck religious stations.

o – Hostility to our agenda permeates the highest levels of the Democratic (sic) party. Dean and Daughtry head up the DNC and they’re being sued because of their homophobic bigotry by none other than the DNC’s former GLBT affairs director.

You’re donations will go a long way towards paying for Dean and Daughtry’s hefty legal bills and the large settlement they’ll have to pay.

o – This is the same party that bent over backwards to accommodate the bigot business owners and mangers who make huge profits by underpaying us and firing us when we complain. That’s why they shredded ENDA.

o – After it passed both Houses of Congress they simply tossed the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes bill in the garbage.

o - They oppose same sex marriage on bigoted religious gounds and propose handling our agenda as a ‘States Rights’ question, duplicating the bigotry of an earlier Democrat, George Wallace, who wanted to leave civil rights legislation in the tender mercies of all white southern legislatures.

And they learned their lesson from Rove. Now it’s the Democrats who’ve mastered the art of pandering to bigots. They’re very good at it.

Voting for Democrats makes us politically impotent and we’re paying a heavy price for our helplessness: Katrina, poverty, the blight of bigotry, a crash and burn economy and unending wars. It’s not just unprincipled; it's reckless to waste our time, money or votes on either Democrats or Republicans. We should be building mass movements to end their rule and get us out of the last closet, the political closet inhabited by Stonewall Democrats and Log Cabin Republicans.

On November 4th vote for the union led and financed US Labor Party (if it makes it past the Democrat's (sic) roadblocks). If not vote for socialist or communist candidates as a protest or join the scores of millions who sit it out because they’re smart enough to refuse to vote for the lesser bigot, the lesser warmonger or the lesser evil.

I think I take a different more hopeful view. In light of the number of LGBT folks, yes including the T Monica, at the convention and on the platform committee, I am hopeful that the access continues. The measure of the success of an Obama presidency is not in the acceptance speech at the convention, but what he does in the next 4 years if elected. If DADT goes away, if the federal prohibitions against same-sex couples goes away, if inclusive ENDA is passed, if the hate crimes bill is passed, will we really be complaining about what he said at the acceptance speech? The access to what has to be the best Democratic bet to become an elected administration since 1992 is the key factor. What we SHOULD be focusing on is how do we maintain that access once Obama-Biden are elected? The LGBT recruitment into appointed jobs is good, but it is not the end all and be all of access. How do we improve the access AFTER the election to congress. Will the administration help Mara & Co get into congressional offices? Who will be the voice on the floor for LGBT, the one others follow, Barney or Tammy? Those are the questions I really want to see discussed between now and November.

You did put it in a better perspective. I just thought it was too much in the whining catagory to complain on how gays and lesbians were mentioned in the acceptance speech. As you pointed out, the speech is history that doesn't affect anyone's future. What will be more important is what he does after he has given his daughters a tour of the White House.

"Don't touch anything!"

I am actually very happy with this speech. Obama wont be a president who forgets us. Obama wont be a president who resigns under political pressure to do the minimal. He talks about our issues in places people don't talk about LGBT issues (churches etc...). He talks about our issues in places that could cost him dearly and yet he carries us with him.

Two convention speeches, two mentions.

Show me a person who has done better?

Show me a politician who is willing to risk his/her future on our rights? Obama is my candidate because he cares about me, he cares about my family, and he cares about us. It's time to unite and celebrate that he is our candidate and CHANGE will come!


Maybe you weren't there, but my experience of the convention was far different than this. LGB and even T people were quite visible, quite engaged, and quite at the front of consciousness for the entire convention.

The LGBT caucuses were well attended by high level functionaries and party insiders. The LGBT delegate luncheon was keynoted by Michelle Obama herself. We (at least the L and G parts) were mentioned by every major speaker every single night of the convention. In fact, in Obama's speech, we were the only specific constituency group mentioned.

I've never felt MORE a part of the process rather than less. Sure, it's splitting hairs because having gone from nothing to something sure helps - and we're not "all the way there" as many would hope. But I think the LGBT communities were very well respected and represented last week.

If you knew half the work that went into making the events of last week happen, I don't think you'd be chastising our LGBT leaders as much. I think it's a stark and clear difference from just four years ago and considering there is still a significant portion of this party that dislikes us - I think we did quite well.

It has nothing to do with proximity to power - it has to do with knowing that change is incremental and we advanced several increments from the last convention.

Could it have been more, sure. Could it have been much less - yes and it always has been far less. Try looking at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. At least this time we got fresh, cold milk in that half-full glass instead of a few drops of buttermilk as in the past.

Jerame -

You underscore my point....I was home watching everything I could on CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, the networks - plus reading news coverage - etc. From what I read online from LGBT reporters and participants - it was very exciting and inclusive.

BUT THAT DID NOT TRANSLATE TO THE PUBLIC WATCHING AT HOME! That's why I got so upset. The only way that folks at home knew that there was LGBT anything was through the references in the major primetime speeches. AND, given all the excitement from the LGBT folks there, it was really shocking to me that the only thing from Obama was hospital visitation - and mind you, I was very moved my the history of the event. For all the great stuff that happened behind the scenes - how it translated to us at home was no discrimination = hospital visitation rights.

I am obviously coming from a point of history that seems different from those who have posted here. I stopped counting the number of friends I'd lost to HIV/AIDS at 150 - and that was in 1990. So I was fuming that there was no speaker on HIV/AIDS - especially after the CDC released its recent new numbers. I had transsexual AIDS Diva Connie Norman, AIDS activist Michael Callen, author Paul Monette and Bob Hattoy screaming in my memory about this.

Please note that I applauded the work of National Stonewall and I think the work on the grassroots level has been terrific - LGBT folks are the ones finding the money to battle this antigay initiative here in California - I have not heard of money from the DNC or the Obama campaign or whatever - we're on our own.

And I mentioned the excellent work in the private sector - as Gary Gates at the Williams Institute and HRC's latest report indicate.

As we discovered in the Clinton Administration - and the Johnson Administration when he abandoned his War on Poverty to pay for the War in Vietnam - feeling good about promises made can turn into quite a let down.

The fact that we didn't publicly get - with so many millions watching - more than hospital visitation from the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party makes me wonder - and makes me question the ability of our leaders with access to power to translation that access into an experience I can grasp at home.

That said, I'm glad you had a good time and came home energized.

That's probably a good point, Karen. It may not have translated well onto TV - having been there, I don't have the filters the mainstream media put on the event to guide my experience.

From the inside, we sure were made to feel like first class members of the party. Caucuses and luncheons don't tend to get press anyway, but the MSM was so focused on potential Hillary drama, they all but ignored anything else until she spoke Tuesday night. By then, it was too late to pick up on the nuances of this convention because they had to start right in with "what Bill was going to say" and "whether Obama was able to deliver the speech he needed to."

I think you'll see that translation of power, albeit not as profound or as direct as we may want it to be. There was definitely a very queer air about this convention and I think much of the party has realized that we are here to stay.

There's always room for improvement - and certainly letting the general public in on the inclusiveness is key - but I think we had a hell of a showing in Denver and I'm proud to have been part of it.

We have some smart people working with the DNC and in the Obama campaign. I have a lot of faith in these folks to do the right thing. I think the overtness will come in time, but we have to get folks used to a black man as president first. Then we move on to a liberal, gay-friendly, pro-choice, anti-war black man as the country becomes more comfortable. It's a whole new game and we're all learning how to play it.

You have some legitimate complaints, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. It was the most inclusive and affirming convention ever and we should be proud of that. Those leaders you mention worked hard to get what we got. Maybe it wasn't enough, but look what we've accomplished in 4 years that we didn't think was possible just 4 years ago.

We've killed two marriage amendments in predominantly red states, we've gained marriage in CA and had our unions recognized in NY, we've seen movement on a flawed ENDA (but it's movement) and the list goes on and on. The LGBT movement is actually moving forward again and I don't want to see that point lost in a discussion of whether or not we're moving fast enough.

BUT THAT DID NOT TRANSLATE TO THE PUBLIC WATCHING AT HOME! That's why I got so upset. The only way that folks at home knew that there was LGBT anything was through the references in the major primetime speeches. AND, given all the excitement from the LGBT folks there, it was really shocking to me that the only thing from Obama was hospital visitation - and mind you, I was very moved my the history of the event.

Karen, what else would you have suggested to play on MSM? With every major speaker mentioning our community, what else could they have done? No TV stations covered the LGBT caucus, but I'm not aware that the MSM covered any caucuses...

The first thing I saw that pissed me off was CNN putting up facts on the bottom of the screen over and over for the full four days. They had a section where the pointed out the numbers and percentages of minorities at the convention. When they came to "us," it was "Gay and Lesbian Delegates." I even called and complained but got some wet-behind-the-ears know-nothing kid that didn't do a damn thing with my suggestion because it never changed.

Then, reading Karen complaining that gay and lesbians were only mentioned once in the speech and I was even more miffed. Yes, there were bisexuals and transgender people there and were made to feel good at the LGBT caucus, but they were still as unappreciated overall as spam in your E-mail box. The convention is over and all the good feelings will be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Yeah, Obama says gays and lesbians should have the right to visit their partners in the hospital. Transgender people won't even get that consideration.

Anne Marie Staas | September 2, 2008 10:37 PM

Karen, it was a real "Wait a minute...." moment for me, too. From the high of hearing him him say, "our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters" to the "huh??" of hearing "visit the person they love in the hospital."

I felt sort of betrayed. Or at least let down. Then immediately started rationalizing that he had to say something that would play in Peoria.

Jerame and Bil -

First - I started my professional career in the MSM - leaving as a producer of CBS Network News so I was not looking at this through a filter I don't understand.

Second - what I was writing about was my utter disappointment that there no LGBT and AIDS speakers on LGBT and AIDS issues from the podium. That, too, has nothing do do with a filter - plus I watched a lot of it of the coverage on CSPAN.

Third - the reason I quoted Bob Hattoy so extensively was because he spoke in 1992 at a time when Bill Clinton had a lot of the line - remember there were the "bimbo eruptions" - and he was a Hanoi Jane Fond-loving "draft dodger" - and the represented the Baby Boomer generation - those disgusting hippies - everything the GOP hated - as Patrick Buchanan clearly pointed out.

But here's what Bob said: "I'm a Gay man with AIDS and if there's any honor in having this disease it's because it's an honor being part of the Gay and Lesbian community in America. (Applause)

We have watched our friends and lovers die, but we have not given up hope. Gay men and Lesbians created community health clinics, provided educational materials, opened food kitchens, and held the hands of the dying in hospices. The Gay and Lesbian community is an American family in the best sense of the word...."

Contrast that, please, with NOTHING from the stage on HIV/AIDS and only references to us 16 years later.

That is not to dismiss all the work and inclusiveness backstage. But - unlike in 1992 - it didn't come across to a wider audience that gays were anything more than a special interest group to be ticked off in the usual litany.

I say that is simply not enough - and I asked the question - as I did in my previous post "Change? What Change?" - if some of the reason we were rendered invisible on the stage was because LGBT leaders might not be pressing hard enough on our behalf. ANd if they are pressing hard, why are they not being heard and action taken?

And all the great work you cited, Jerame - about killing the antigay bills - YES - that was done on the ground by the grassroots.

I'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water. But I also do not find it acceptable to simply dunk the baby's bottom in the bath and call him clean after eight years of not having his diaper changed, either.

Thank you for engaging in this conversation with me. Believe it or not - I do understand your point of view. But Bob Hattoy was a friend of mine - and as tearful as I was witnessing the first Black man be nominated - it does not compare to the incredible sense of pride I felt when Bob stood proudly at that podium in primetime - not knowing even how much longer he had to live - and talked so movingly about the LGBT community and people with AIDS. Bill Clinton had courage in putting him up there - but it was the result of much pressure from gay folks in the Clinton campaign and outside. And I just question why that didn't happen this time.

William Monroe | September 3, 2008 12:49 AM

What is said, and not said regarding our community at political conventions doesn't really cause me concern. Conventions are theater staged for mass consumption. What does concern me, though, is the ever increasing lack of interest and reaction by our community to the philosophies and statements of office holders and seekers. I attribute this apathy to two things; that younger gay men and lesbians in major urban areas have little or no life experience predating the dawn of what I call the age of superficial acceptance, and the corporatizing of the gay rights movement under the HRC banner. The first means the bulk of our people have no idea from whence we've come, and the second absolves them of any personal responsibility for advancing the cause beyond writing a check now and then. The bonds between GLBT people that gave rise to organic organizations like the Gay Men's Health Crisis in NYC, Shaunti Project in L.A., and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force to care for sick people and lobby for AIDS related research money simply do not exist any more. That few even noticed the our marginalization in Denver should suprise no one.

Karen -

When I read your post I couldn't believe my eyes. I have written (nearly) the same sentiment about Obamas words - predominately in comment sections of blogs - for the past few days.

No one seems to get it. Is this the furthest we have we have progressed in the last 8 years? in the last 16 years? Hospital visitation rights?!?!?!

Nearly 30 states have amended against us. ENDA has been bungled and maimed. Hate crimes legislation gets inflated and deflated over and over again. The constitution-desecrating DOMA remains in place and has spawned 40 mini versions of itself like Russian dolls.

The Stonewall Democrats sent out an email at the end of last week that said: "As you know, last night Senator Barack Obama - in his nomination speech - called upon politicians to discontinue their attempts to scapegoat LGBT Americans for political gain."

Not only did Obama pitch an underhanded softball to the most maligned minority community in the country, but the leaders of the community are furthering his lame shout out with a distorted and exaggerated claim.

I wish Obama had done what the Stonewall Democrats claim he did. Unfortunately, he didn't even come close. He used his least powerful rhetoric to appease the community that needs him - and supports him - the most.

We support him through his McClurkin charade. We support him when he ignores his background as a constitutional scholar and suggests that civil unions are an acceptable alternative to marriage. We support him after his "God is in the mix" bullshit.

As a community, we demand nothing and in return we get less. And we do it over (Clinton) and over (Kerry) and over (Obama) again. If history continues to prove itself, you can bet we will do it again even after Obama proves that his bravado is hollow.

Thank you for being a voice of sanity. I keep hoping that at some point someone will hear and pay attention and instead of being the 3rd largest group of sycophants at a national convention someone might actually make a scene that is worthy of the crap we have been force fed.

What will it take to stop the cycle of abuse?

Honestly - what would the straw that breaks the camel's back look like? How much are the LGBTs willing to take before they finally start to give it back?

Patrick and Karen,
I feel you pain . . . NOT. All you both seem to care about is your own personal concerns, not spreading it over the entire TBgl community. Sorry, but your anger and concerns don't play well in Teeville. If you wish to show indignation, then expect not to get any sympathy from bisexuals and transgender people. This is 2008 and after three conventions where trans people have attended we are still invisible to the candidates.

So, how do both of you feel getting crumbs from others like the trans community has gotten from the gays and lesbians in charge for over two decades? Doesn't feel good, does it? Well, welcome to my world. Since you're under the bus with me, could one of you check out that oil leak over there? Live with it.

Well, Monica, I certainly understand your indignation and I agree with your gauntlet toss.

But, I don't think it serves the T community at all to stand aside - especially in this kind of argument where we are ALL fighting for recognition - and revel in this dismal situation.

Quite often, in fact as often as I can, I've made a point of linking the multi-pronged marriage equality debacle with the struggle for inclusion and recognition of the transgender community.

In a diary post at Pam's Blend (that she did not promote http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=6735 ) I suggested that instead of mentioning hospital visitation as an example of Democratic generosity, that Obama would have made more sense saying something like:

"I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to be allowed to earn a living (ENDA) and to live lives free of discrimination."

After I posted that diary I knew it didn't fully or clearly make the point about T inclusion that I intended. I was to committed to using his words to make a point. The whole reason I manipulated his statement was to highlight how Obama's hospital talk is outdated AND to point out an issue that is sorely missing and vital to our movement in 2008.

I do not think that T should play second fiddle or wait in the wings or do more work before claiming a spot on our 'to do' list. We all have to push together, at the same time, in the same direction, to get this old, shitty, used car (that we call equality) up the hill.

The difficulty is that I am a commenter, not a poster. I do what I can in writing comments to stand up for my T friends - in blog posts that address the issue directly and in more general posts as well.

Surely you understand and have faced yourself, the challenge of trying to make a point and deliver a strong argument while managing to hit every button that needs to be hit in every argument that MUST be made. It truly is an uphill battle - especially within the LGBT community that refuses to consider (for the most part) the criticisms and shortcomings of the strategies employed to gain justice for all of us.

I'm doing the best I can and I will continue to try to specifically mention the T community in every argument I make. When I don't make that argument or when I don't make it clearly enough, I want you to add to my voice.

I need to hear you scream at the insanity with me - not at me. It is obvious that neither of us are going to get anywhere without both of us participating in our common struggle.

Well, Patrick, You can bet I'll be a screamin' . . . with you.

Hey, I think the muffler under this bus is a bit loose. Can you hand me that 1/2" wrench?

While we are under here, Monica, I think we ought to wreck the breaks. This bus needs to go flying over a cliff...as soon as possible.

This baby has been poisoned by all the bathwater it has been steeping in.

The Obama campaign knew, of course, what sort of filter the event would be run through, and decided exactly how much queer could be allowed to get through. I'm sure it was more inclusive for the people there, as it was for me. I don't have American TV here, so I got 100% of my coverage through various websites and blogs (including TBP and PHB).

The hospital visitation rights part was kind of disappointing, especially considering that that's controlled at least right now through state law. And it's pretty much the easiest thing for people to support (considering that the "right" to see who one "chooses" is pretty libertarian... is Obama running as a libertarian-style Democrat now?).

When I heard Obama mention hospital visitation I took it as an example of something gays and lesbians deserve in living "lives free of discrimination". The fact that he mentioned it doesn't necessarily mean it's more important than ENDA, hate crime legislation, or same-sex marriage. It's a good example of a right that'll resonate with people at home.

The complaints about leaving out transgender people and bisexuals are legitimate (I'd argue that to most straight people bisexual=gay, but that's for another time). The lack of dialogue about HIV/AIDS is also annoying. And of course, Obama's support of civil unions means that we won't "live lives free of discrimination".

I was still thrilled with the speech. I was starting to think we wouldn't get mentioned at all, but calling us his "brothers and sisters" felt more inclusive than anything I've heard from any presidential candidate.

What about the wives of candidates?

Remember Teresa Kerry wanted to be Momma T to us.

We are brothers, sisters, children...and we all sit at the kids table.

and we do it with our mouths shut like little fools.

"Mom! Patrick threw his mashed taters at me!"

"Patrick! You behave yourself or I'll take your GI Joe and Ken dolls away from you!"

"Ah, mom! Monica dressed them up in Barbi's clothes!"

I don't get what you're trying to say here, patrick. What do wives (and Teresa Kerry) have to do with anything?

Referring to someone as your "brother" or "sister" is a statement of commonality and equality. If Obama says we're his "brothers and sisters", then that means he's our brother as well. I don't see any patriarchal slant to the statement.

Antonio stated "I took it as an example of something gays and lesbians deserve in living "lives free of discrimination."

This is how it seems to me as well.

So many of us tripped over the ten-dollar bill in the excitement of finding that dime. Rather, perhaps we rolled our eyes as our faces reddened and missed the rest of the sentence.

A life free of discrimination is quite an all-encompassing statement; much larger than the small example given.

That small example, as noted, will play well to the masses as all want to believe they are compassionate and that we should not be denied this marvelous luxury of hospital visitation. Frankly, that's viewed as a peanut by the general public.

Our community is part of the general public in many ways so it stands to reason we could miss the implication of the greater promise.

I'm with you here, Sacto. I think folks are missing the forest for the trees. The second part of Obama's comment was to be able to live free of discrimination. Visiting loved ones in the hospital was just an example of the KIND of discrimination we face, not the sum total of the discrimination we face.

Hospital visitation is the most powerful image he could conjure for the average voter because we've ALL been in that boat. There are few in this world who haven't had a loved one in the hospital and who couldn't relate to the idea of not being able to see them. This is Obama's brilliance in that he can paint a picture with so few words.

And I just want to reiterate. Equality for gays and lesbians (I'm sorry T's, but you really did get the shaft comparably) was the line that got the most raucous applause for every speaker. It was loud, it was spontaneous, and it was obvious that the arena's were filled with LG(BT) supporters.

If that didn't translate to TV and to the nation, then just watch the RNC where they will tell us repeatedly about the sanctity of marriage and the perfection of man and woman as a unit. You will not see a positive reference to alternative sexualities nor will you hear of an LGBT caucus nor will you see more than a few LCR's pretending they were included in something they clearly aren't welcome to but for their money.

So, while we opine for more, I just keep saying - Look at what we HAVE achieved. It's a pittance in the grand scheme, but comparably, we're miles ahead of where we were.

The masters tools may not dismantle his house, but it's much easier to figure out which ones will once you're inside.

It's a new way of thinking for a new kind of politics.

How can it be that we are miles ahead of where we were when Obama has to use coded language - hospital visitation - to speak to the greater idea of our lack of equality?

As Karen pointed out in this post, there have been speakers - queer identified speakers - that have addressed the convention and aired on network television years ago. But this year there was no LGBT voice allowed to identify itself as such or address us or our issues.

Not to mention everything that has happened in the years between Hattoy's appearance and Obama's acceptance speech. There has been enormous loss in our standing AND few but significant successes. The 30 states that have amended, the 40 mini-DOMAs, the rise and fall of ENDA and hate crimes mostly happened in the public eye. Certainly the marriage decisions have attracted attention if the others didn't.

With those victories the language and prominence of our claim rose. And with the numerous defeats the stakes grew while the topic pervaded.

Obama didn't break the silence on our issues. This was not the first time we have been addressed at this level. We have endured far more than is worth getting excited over being a brother or sister of a candidate and we have earned far more allegiance than is hidden within the coded language (if that is how you want to take his words) of hospital visitation.

It is all patronizing when we are a brother, sister, child, other, minority, object, and/or token. In the same way that Obama patronizes us with this langauge, we are also disparaged everytime he defends the Palin family yet says nothing in defense of our families.

Their (hetero) bastards, broken homes, divorces, adultery are off limits/invasions of privacy. Our relationships and the children we have are always fodder for either party to use to their advantage.

They helped LBJ win and he, with virtually unanimous Congressional support and a bushel full of lies that would make Clinton and Bush’s WMD lies seem like child’s play began an invasion and attempted occupation of Vietnam that went on until the last US troops hightailed it back to San Diego in 1975. By then well over a million Vietnamese non combatants had perished in massacres like My Lai, under sheets of napalm, in US terror bombings and artillery barrages aimed at civilian areas and from the effects of chemical weapons like Agent Orange. LBJ’s war killed 58,217 GI’s, wounded anther 153,452 and left 1,947 MIA. Some of those same ‘New Leftists’ learned the hard way (in Nam) why it’s never a good idea to go part of the way with the enemy.

The enemy in this case is the party that shredded to please the very bigots who make money underpaying us. They tossed the hate crimes bill overboard when it was desperately needed – violence against us always goes up in an election period. They, as much as the Republicans, are responsible for DOMA and are solely responsible for DADT. Biden, for instance, voted for both as many other of Democrats. A complete list of who voted for DOMA is can be found at http://uspolitics.about.com/od/gaymarriage/a/DOMA_2.htm . One of them is Barbara Mikulski, D., MD.

The Democrats (the leaders, not their supporters) talk like our enemies, avoiding any hint of supporting our agenda. They act like our enemies, trashing our agenda line by line. They not only tolerate a nest of bigoted vipers in the DNC, they use your contributions to defend them and they’ll use you contributions to pay the settlement for their homophobic firing of the DNCs GLBT director.
Given all that, what exactly is the point in ignoring their words and deeds? What’s so hard about calling them what they are? They’re accomplices and accessories of the republicans in the war, in appeasing bigots, and in playing a fiddle duo while the economy crashes and burns?

and here is the first part of my post.

It's a new way of thinking for a new kind of politics.

That not new at all, Gerame. Activists from a dozen movements have been burrowing from within, trying to take control of the Democratic (sic) or Republican parties for decades. Their only problem is they have no, zero, zip, not gonna happen, nada, not a chance in hell in terms of clout. They’ll never be able to compete with people who can write checks for millions with a smile on their face, and that’s a fact. That’s what happened to ENDA.

In 1964 the Democrats campaign song was “All the way with LBJ." Many New Leftists had delusions of changing the Democrats from within and they changed it to "Part of the way with LBJ." (The New Left was really the Old Left hiding in tie-dyed shirts and bell bottoms and included the youth groups of the Socialist and Communist parties and SDS, a group affiliated with ‘progressive’ unions.)

Throbert McGee | September 4, 2008 7:08 PM

On the "hospital visitation" issue -- I was also disappointed to hear Obama give the impression that this is the major problem (or the only problem) facing same-sex couples in the absence of legal recognition for our relationships.

But then again, I can't blame Obama much, given that our own LGBT spokespeople do this all the freakin' time -- that is, put hospital visitation (or estate inheritance) front and center when talking about same-sex marriage, for simple reasons of rhetorical and political expediency. In fact, these issues could probably be solved without instituting same-sex marriage laws, and thus don't make very compelling arguments for the necessity of SSM.