Guest Blogger

Time For Gay Power

Filed By Guest Blogger | November 11, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: American Psychiatric Association, NGLTF, Ron Gold

Editors' Note: Ronald Gold was media director for the Gay Activists Alliance in the early 1970's. He was one of the five original cofounders of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and its first media director. He is best known for his role in removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Assn.'s list of disorders. ron gold.jpgHe will spend his 80th birthday this coming April in Bangladesh, where he now lives for half the year, because discriminatory immigration law won't let him sponsor his Bangladeshi mate of 13 years.

The defeat for gay marriage in Maine has made one thing absolutely clear to me. We -gay men and lesbians - are the one group in America it's still okay to hate. Oh sure, they say they don't. It's just that tradition demands that their love for each other have a higher status than ours (and a basketful of associated rights). What's to be done?

Word is out that we've got to do more to show them we're just like them really, and absolutely no threat to their world view. Let me suggest something else: We need to show them we're different and proud of it; that we have perspectives on what it means to be loving humans that they can learn from if they choose; and that they have absolutely no right, under our constitutional system, to tell us who or what we have to be to demand equality.

This wouldn't be anything new. It was the perspective that animated the Gay Liberation Movement just after Stonewall - a movement, I'm happy to say, in which I had a part. Back then, our focus was certainly not on marriage, which many of us considered a failed institution. It wasn't about telling ourselves and everybody else we were born that way, since many of us believed that anybody could be gay (or straight) if they decided that was right for them. It was equal rights now, not just in employment but in housing and public accommodation. And none of us was ready to suck up to "liberal" politicians who put us at the bottom of their priority lists. They were the ones who bore the brunt of our righteous anger, because they were the ones whose consciences might be stirred.

How did we get from there to here? Well, the first thing that happened is that the daredevils and firebrands fell by the wayside when it become possible to get attention with a phone call instead of a zap, and when folks with some real-world experience were needed to run viable political organizations. (A similar change took place with AIDS activism.) The philosophers of the movement also drifted off, to academia or self-realization. And the hardworking folks who were left were mostly seduced by the notion that they - gay men and lesbians - were now a constituent part of mainstream politics.

I think we're at a point now that the black civil-rights movement was when the energy field known as Black Power took hold. People of color had realized there was no way to Uncle Tom their way to equality. And gay people now must realize that just being presentable is not going to make us presentable to those who hate the whole idea of us.

What to do? Violence is not the answer, nor is wholesale dismantling of the gay establishment. But we need new philosophers and firebrands who will return to making demands not pitiable requests; who will make it clear that we have every reason to be angry at not passively understanding of liberal inaction. We need shouters and dramatizers who are able to clarify to the public and ourselves the host of ways we continue to be discriminated against, and concerted media-grabbing actions that will expose and shame the haters.

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"We -gay men and lesbians - are the one group in America it's still okay to hate."

That was full of white,male,abled,cis,class,monoamorous,etc privilege. Not ok.

Gold's comment may have been wrong (I would have at least thrown in bisexuals and transgendered people) and privileged, but yours was more annoyingly PC than the Windows Blue Screen of Death.

First of all, since when is polyamory a suspect class? That's entirely a personal lifestyle choice, and not one upon which people's happiness and fulfillment ultimately depends. "Monoamorous privilege" (nice PC neologism, there) is no more representative of societal injustice than an inability to win a job interview because you have blue hair and a nose ring.

Second, there is some truth to Gold's statement. Recall that despite the persistence of racist and sexist attitudes, discrimination on the basis of race and sex are illegal, and those who experience it always have a legal recourse. Not so in the case of sexual orientation; we can still be legally fired from your job in many states and discharged from the military, and we still have constitutionally mandated second-class citizenship in 30 states. This situation and still considered perfectly acceptable to a great many people in this country, as is the fact that our rights and dignity can be put up to a popular vote.

"Privilege" does not exist | November 11, 2009 5:03 PM

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Yes, exactly. Thanks to Ronald Gold for his wisdom here. It meshes so well with David Mixner's from his two part piece after Maine. link to part one, if you missed it.

Now David uses the term Apartheid, which though true of some of the treatment of blacks here after the Civil War, became our own US version... e.g. the Jim Crow Laws.

We have been accepting our own version of HOMO ('MO) Jim Crow Laws for 30 years. It is time to stop.

Yes go ahead and try to get ENDA passed, UAFA passed, DADT repealed and work on Prop H8 and DOMA repeal. But it would ALL be completely fixed with a SCOTUS ruling under the 14th Amendment ... but, of course with our FAMILY purchased SCOTUS that wont happen...

So back to the drawing board folks. Please everyone let those you are negotiating with it is from the standpoint of the DALLAS PRINCIPLES.

I was a kid in high school when you were active with the Gay Activists Alliance. Living in Washington, D.C., it was a common occurrence to read in the newspapers about gays being fired from their federal government jobs simply for being gay. It gave me great hope when eventually, the papers also carried news about your organization, and the fact that gays were fed-up and fighting back. I had already visited the Mattachine Society office in DC, and had the privilege of meeting Franklin Kameny, and hearing from him what the goals of the movement were at that time.
The existence of GAA and Mattachine gave me great hope, learning that I was not alone, and that there were others organizing and blazing the way for all of us.
Even though we are all annoyed that the Obama administration is not moving fast enough for us, we need to be mindful that we need his judicial appointments to eventually right some of the wrongs against us, by fair EQUAL application of the US Constitution, as well as a real separation of church and state when it comes time to the legislators listening to the many religion-based arguments against our rights.
Thank-you for your contributions then, and now.

I forgot to mention this. You write that philosophers of the movement drifted off to academia or self-realization. It is sad to recall that the largest loss of an entire generation of activists and philosophers was due to AIDS. The miracle is that somehow the movement managed to make progress, even under such horrible circumstances. One of the ways that this occurred was by people like Larry Kramer with Gay Mens Health Crises and ACTUP. It may be hard for todays younger LGBT to understand this, but the fear and shame and hopelessness was so great in the many early years of AIDS, that many persons who knew that they were sick were too shamed to even seek medical attention. Most LGBT physicians at that time were not Out themselves, and those thinking about it decided that it was a good time to stay closeted.
The political environment was highly hostile throughout the '80s under Reagan/Bush, and the in-your-face, we're fighting back attitude of ACTUP again not only was a morale booster to everyone, but real progress began in terms of funding and social services because of ACTUP.
Like you say, we need the philosophers again to brainstorm and to articulate visions and actions that will seize the moment and re-energize the momentum. Not just cute comments on blogs or spectacles on Youtube.

Your words are much appreciated, Mr. Gold. I'm very much in agreement with your observation and warning about missing the point by trying to prove "we're just like them" when we have so much that is different to celebrate and contribute.

Reading the posted comments I am reminded once again that intergenerational conversation, compassion, RESPECT and understanding is so important if we are to bring the movement forward even a little in this brief sliver of time we are here for those who will come many generations after us.

Congratulations on your upcoming 80th!

All I can say is that I hope we are able to bring about the change in law needed to allow you to bring your partner to this country if that is your choice...

Thank you for all you have done...

Showing "them" that GLBT folks are more like "them" than they are different failed in Maine. It arguably failed in California too. In addition, the assimilationist strategy fails those who are gender variant, especially because our differences are so much more visible.

Violence is a poor answer but direct and visible action can do a lot more to instruct those who have heterosexual and cissexual privilege about the harm we experience, the consequences of our oppression in our daily lives. Privileged people just don't get how bad it can be sometimes and our community has not really done much to show them. We certainly did not do that in California or Maine.

Let's stop talking to people about how we are affected and start showing them. Show them our anger through non-violent but publicly visible direct action. Run TV ads that SHOW, and not just talk about, how our families and children are harmed by the status quo. Stage sit-ins to peacefully disrupt those government actions that are denied to us. March in every city and town as much as we can.

I think the current group of LGB(t) political groups are too far inside the system now to advocate and facilitate these kinds of actions. I'd like to see some organizing around the principles of not letting the oppressors get away with it as easily as they have been. I will personally be exploring these issues and will try to get something going myself. We need numbers, however. Singular action will do nothing but brand the actors as isolated radicals or even delusional.

Fantastic post! Thank you for all your tireless work on our behalf for the past 40 years! Its brave men and women like yourself who made the world a better place for me to come out as a teenager back in the 90s. 30 years before, I would have been thrown out of school and run out of town (it was a Catholic school). In 1999 they put me on Homecoming Court. That long social distance between was run by heroes like yourself. Thank you.

Hey all you want action... Check out the almost perfect civil disobedience of this 10/year old.

Via Queerty comes a story from the Arkansas Times about Will Phillips, an elementary school student who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance in school because of discrimination against gay people:
"I've always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer," Will said. "I really don't feel that there's currently liberty and justice for all."
?After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will's mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day.

A columnist for the Arkansas News has stood up for Phillips against his angry substitute teacher. Predictably, fellow students have taunted the kid and called him a "gaywad," but he says he doesn't see his quiet act of protest ending any time soon.

This is Ronald Gold. Yours is the sort of response I was hoping for. I applaud your intention to act, and when you get something started, let me know. Good luck!

Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do, Ronald. I think this is on the money in a lot of ways.

"We -gay men and lesbians - are the one group in America it's still okay to hate"

So this makes his recent post make more sense. He doesn't even think transgender folks even exist, I suppose.