Bobby Parker

Notes from an Arizona radical

Filed By Bobby Parker | March 21, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Arizona LGBT community, Equality Arizona, gay politics, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, LDS Church

Statement: Arizona GLBT organizational leadership just cannot get its shit together. Because of that we are miserable failures, patting ourselves on the back now and then for small successes, when we could have set and achieved Heroic Goals. 1090target.jpgThere, I've said it, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!

As a result of the lack of true leadership: We failed in our attempt to block the Gay Marriage Amendment, when we could have won! And in point of fact, we are so embroiled in a cult of 'personalities' that cannot get along with each other, that we are either failing or going to fail in everything as we move into the future. Sadly, I find myself falling into that trap, which is unacceptable and I'm trying my damndest to figure a way out.

Question: In Arizona, why is there not a strong coalition of GLBT and allied organizations providing a united front in our across the board fight for equality?

Answer: We have no leader. No one has stepped up with the kind of credentials it takes to say, "Follow me, I will lead you to the Promised Land."

Comments for Discussion: I'm from a three decade Mormon background, not born in, but raised from the time I was 30 in the LDS Church. Because of that and my own personality I'm now a creature of Heroic Goals and for the life of me I cannot figure out why Arizona gays just can't get it together. Why? Why are we still embroiled in turf wars and personality clashes that have made us the pitistock (just made up) of the nation?

I've spent lots of time out with ordinary gays over the past few months and I find within our plebeian ranks a huge amount of Goodwill that just has not been tapped. Opposed to that I find GLBT organizations out of touch with the masses, Equality Arizona and HRC are continuing this year of economic disaster with huge dinners expecting the average gay guy/gal to fork over hundreds of dollars to attend. I think not! I can afford to go, but I'm not going to go because I don't want my money to go to a hotel for a lavish dinner and party when it could go right into the coffers of any organization I choose, without the entertainment charge and gratuity. Interesting, I just had the thought that my hundreds would just go to tip the staff at the hotel for the dinner. Where would that get us in our fight for equality?

It is an example of continuing to do what we've always done and just expecting everyone to follow along. Hello! If I am going to give you my not only hard earned, but in this economy my last dollar, I want to know you're going to use it wisely, and I don't see that right now. It's a new day, people, and we cannot do what we've always done and be successful.

So, if it is to be, then it is up to me... and through TBP I am imploring the rest of the gay world out there to come to our rescue and help me figure out how to put together the coalition we need.

What I've Done So Far (Ain't much but a start): I figured we need a charismatic leader, so I picked our local humble hero Kirk Baxter. Our Man of the Year. He resurrected almost singlehandedly Arizona's AIDS Walk, which had been discontinued through some kind of squabbling five years ago. It was a huge success, due to his tireless efforts to put together what was needed to make that happen. Thousands of people showed up in the biggest demonstration of solidarity our city has seen. It is another in a long line of successes for this wonderful man.

Problem is he is HIV positive, and being a new gay guy I've finally come to the conclusion that those still living with HIV are on a daily journey of precarious health. Many, many are totally committed to the cause and work until they are sick...which Kirk has done. And because he is the kind of guy he is, we've overworked him in all kinds of areas, until when we really need a charismatic leader to concentrate on uniting us...he's overtired and completely involved in making sure AIDS Walk 2009 is a success.

Kirk and I talked and he is such a marvelous man. I told him that I have the behind the scenes skills to help him be the kind of leader we need, and I would find whoever else we needed to make it work. I'd do the legwork, if he'd provide the charisma. He didn't seem to balk at that, just accepted it humbly.

He gave me the reason he would be involved. It is his personal opinion that he cannot leave behind to the new generation of wonderful young activists a GLBT system in Arizona that is broken and unable to move us forward. He wants to pass on to the wonderful young people getting involved everyday (I say wonderful again because I have been so impressed with the depth and breadth of their commitment) a system that will help them coordinate their efforts to be successful in GLBT causes at every level.

Given all that Harvey Milk did 30 years ago, for Arizona to be in a place indistinguishable from the Harvey Milk era is unconscionable.

Next, in Arizona there are money men, and they are known as the 'Bills,' because each has that as his first name. Their hearts are huge and they have given of time and money until each has earned a place in Arizona GLBT history. From what I understand, they are still willing to be involved, but are sick and tired of the cult of personalities, too. I think they would be with us in trying something new.

With a charismatic leader, and money, all we need is a following, and it is there. Gay guys/gals WANT to move forward, are sick of just giving money and expecting others to do it for them, and now want to be involved. They do NOT want business as usual, however, and are as tired of the infighting as everyone else.

As a start, I'd like to call for a Phoenix GLBT Coalition Summit. Let's get everyone of those 117+ GLBT and Allied organizations in a meeting and FIRST decide on the things that everyone can support. The goal would be to publicize the meeting and then publicize the range of areas there is unaimity on. That means that when Equality Arizona goes to the Legislature, behind them they have organizations that represent at the very least 300,000 to 500,000 GLBT folks and hundreds of thousands of allies in Arizona who are united on several fronts. It may be so basic it would be ridiculous to even say it, but it would be a start. From there, with a Coalition formed, we have a place where people can take their challenges and opportunities and together we can decide how we can help. It would not tell any member organization what to do, but would be an informaiton pipeline to and from everyone so that we have knowledge of what is going on around the state. We'd put up a website and and alert network, or use member organizations' netowrks, so that we could open our Harvey Milk Camera Shop door and shout out and everyone on Castro Street (Arizona) could hear us when needed in an emergency.

Equality Arizona has two or three areas of focus. Wouldn't it be great if every one of those 117 organizations knew exactly what EQ AZ is attempting and then decided which part they could help with? Can you imagine the unity they could display with the Legislature? Politicians understand votes, and hundreds of thousands of united voices make quite a statement.

HRC is working on a more national level. How can those 117 organizations help with that effort? We would go through each member organizaton and find out where they are working and where we can join and help. is always a challenge and now it might be the biggest challenge next to unity. I'll bet that if the average gay guy/gal knew the Coalition had a plan to help all member organizations split the pie it would go a long way to the allocaiton of individual contributions. If everyone is fighting for the individual's dollars, perhaps like the AIDS Walk we could donate to the cause and it would be split in an equitable distribution. Hell, I don't know, but right now it's much worse than the 10% tithing the Mormons required. I'm being hit in the mail (snail and email) and in person from every side imaginable for my donation dollars and the percentage of my income all want me to donate is so high I'd have to kill you if I told you!

Well, I've given you something to comment on. Probably hurt a few feelings here and there, but they're not nearly as hurt as my sensibilities when I found out the system is so f*cked up it's akin to hopeless right now.

But I am a man of HEROIC GOALS and what is more Heroic than creating a system that saves the new generation from inventing the wheel? They are poised and ready to accept it.

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Aaron in Queen Creek | March 21, 2009 1:59 PM

Being from a mormon background myself, I have also wished that we could get things together and work as a single group. I wish there was a single LGBT++ "church" that we all belong to and come together every week in fellowship.

But that isn't going to happen.

I'm happy you've had your come-to-Harvey moment.

But instead of exploding over what should not be, why don't you simply start talking about about what is.

I live in AZ. I'm a gay. But I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about.

turf war?
117 groups?
Heroic goals?
AIDS walk?

Each of those could be a separate post.

If your point is that organizations should be communicating more...

Do you remember the old expression, "he who pays the piper calls the tune?" Instead of doing all the guess work, find a group of like mined and well heeled folks and have your meeting. Ask one simple question, what issue is so important to us that we're willing to give our time and money to see that it is addressed. Build a mission statement, form a non-profit and fund it. Then issue a press release explaining your mission and invite people to join you in accomplishing your mission.

Make your mission simple. And remember that the goal of any non-profit should be to shut its doors. What ever you do, don't fall into the trap of funding someone else's mission statement and avoid mission creep at all costs.

Dear Bobby,

Kudo's on what you wrote. I too am unsatisfied with our own community as being disorganized and well, simply not cohesive.

You are right about HRC, to me they are like many others...only interested in baby steps....BS.

You are also right when we need $$$ for our causes. We also need someone like the ACLU to take on ... on a national level...all religions 501c3 status on separation of church and state. We need to take the fight to them right in their face.

We need to reach out to our bisexual community and like Milk...have them come out...publicly. We need to embrace that part of our community and with the numbers we as a group can become the majority...politically.

I am working on resources for large sums of $$$ to help in a big way. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] but put in the subject line your name...just in case I get flooded with emails. We need someone with deep pockets that can allow their money speak like a big mouth but with dollars.

As someone who just moved from Phoenix to Los Angeles...I understand the need to reach out to state level resources...but I am thinking much bigger.

Good luck and thanks for your post.


Neither the ACLU nor any other legal organization can get a church's tax-exempt status revoked. At least not directly.

The IRS has to investigate and find that they've violated the rules that govern their tax exemption. Anyone - the ACLU, HRC, you, me - can put pressure on them to do so.

I've had cause to speak with and spend time with Kirk on a lot of things, and he deserves everything you gave him in terms of praise.

You left out his work in creating Body Positive -- and his removal as the shift to Southwest Center happened is one of those turf wars.

But you spoke to Phoenix HRC and EQAZ, and you left out Annie Lloyd and H.E.R.O., which is doing *all* of those things you asked for.

Right now.

You left out Denise Heap's efforts in the East Valley.

And, of course, being trans, you left out the fact that except for HERO and SAGA, Arizona is pretty bereft of genuine efforts o behalf of transfolk -- notably EQ AZ, since Arizona HRC has a better record.

You failed to mention the efforts surrounding 1VCC -- and a solid, local community center, a hub through which things can be routed, is critical.

Head over to CCH on Monday night, and learn for yourself what all you are missing Mr. Parker. And then come see me.

I'm chair for a little house that Kirk helped to start and get running, and I wanna talk to ya :D

I worry that your post won't actually help anything, Bobby, but instead will just cause hard feelings. Arizona is a small LGBT community state...

What happened to the two guys who wanted to pass British legislation in the Arizona statehouse? I'd heard they were just raising money with no accounting - and the "hidden agenda" was helping their gay wedding website. Plus, wasn't the British guy convicted of fraud in England?

From your use of "Arizona" and "our city" as synonyms, I'm guessing you're from Phoenix? If so, my best advice for you to see how it can be done is to look south.

While I lived in Tucson, I amazed at how well organized and successful the LGBT community there was, especially for a smaller city in a red state. Wingspan is just an amazing community center, the City Commission on LGBT Issues does a great job pushing for as many rights as the city can grant, and the progressive straight organizations back up the gay community's lead.

I worked for the Tucson Planned Parenthood affiliate as their public policy coordinator (before it was merged with the Phoenix affiliate). Even before I got there, LGBT rights were a huge part of their legislative agenda and we generated thousands of emails to legislators in support of gay and trans rights. This was all a testament to the strong leadership and guidance of the Tucson community since I couldn't even get Equality Arizona to return my phone calls.

I know Tucsonans can get a bit of a "second city" chip on their shoulder, but seriously, ask some of those folks how it can be done. I mean, they got a DP registry unanimously passed through city council with little public opposition years before Phoenix even tried. And the different groups know how to work together. Listening to them might give some perspective on how to solve the Maricopa-based dysfunction.

P.S. Or, if you don't want to travel, just blindly follow Kyrsten Sinema. That's what I'd do if I lived in Phoenix. No lie.

Frustration and anger are strong emotions. The tale of Harvey Milk no doubt led me to the same feelings. So much time has passed and we have not moved much further it seems.

Though the strong leadership example of Harvey Milk drove me to hopes of advancing the lgbt community forward in rapid and vast ways I realized even Harvey Milk himself had a long wait and multiple failed attempts in his short time as an activist. When you put yourself out there, as a symbol of the lgbt movement, it makes for an easy target, like these national and statewide organizations as well as the individuals who have stepped forward as leaders.

As an individual I am just as responsible for the lack of our community moving forward as anyone else. Even with lack of money to donate I still have time and resources I can volunteer to the organizations who need the help, and the need far surpasses the time and resources I am able to give.

If our community is in dire need of young leaders than our time can be invested in mentoring and serving as positive role models for lgbt youth, like 1n10’s Micheal Weakley. I have had an amazing opportunity to serve my community through the collaboration of Equality Arizona and Americorps. I hope to continue to participate and grow with and within my community regardless of whether I am a part of an organization or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.