Looks like the movement for LGBT equality is finally getting interesting again.
Last Thursday, we saw two gay soldiers chain themselves to the White House fence to protest DADT, dual sit-ins staged at both the DC and San Francisco offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to protest the lack of action on an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and a massive blogswarm which produced not only dozens of blog posts on the topic of ENDA, but also enough calls to the Speaker's office to jam up her office phone lines for at least part of the day. All that in just one day, along with all of the ensuing fallout of these actions, but that's not all.
It seems the balance of power in American LGBT advocacy is finally shifting back to where it should have been all along. Apparently, the Human Rights Campaign actually locked down their headquarters last Thursday afternoon, fearing protesters... LGBT protesters. Why? No doubt at least in part because of the refusal of HRC President Joe Solmonese (documented in both video and print) to join DADT activist and spokesperson Lt. Dan Choi on his march to the White House after indicating he would earlier. It illustrates where the vast majority of our community is now culturally and politically, and how very far outside of that mainstream HRC has drifted. Most importantly, it demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that HRC knows it too.
Remember how it used to be? We transfolks would be screaming bloody murder about HRC and their self-serving political games, but none of the LGB media really paid us much attention, did they? Now it's even the monied elites who once ignored us who are screaming for HRC's collective head, as loudly and insistently as we ever have.
Note to non-trans LGBs: I hate to say "We told you so," but...
Let's not forget that aside from the initial rally Lt. Choi appeared at, no major organization, not HRC or any other, had any formal sponsorship or participation in any of the actions that took place on Thursday. We did all of it ourselves, and while it can't be said that it went off without a hitch, I think it certainly can be said that it proved that we can stage significant, impactful, coordinated actions on and offline that don't require the financial support or the sponsorship of a major civil rights organization in order to be effective.
If we really want to change the way LGBT advocacy is done in this country and by whom, this is our chance.
If there's anything it seems that HRC is just completely unwilling to do in the service of LGBT rights it's getting their hands dirty with real face-to-face street-level activism, the kind that involves civil disobedience, police, media attention, arrests, and press conferences. On Thursday, the LGBT activist community clearly demonstrated that there's plenty of us who don't have that problem, and that we're a much larger and more active group than anything HRC can muster.
To me, this pretty much says it all, everything we've been saying all along, everything that needs to be said, about the Human Rights Campaign:
When the call went out to the LGBT activist community for real street-level action instead of merely words in the fight for LGBT equality, instead of joining with their LGBT sisters and brothers on the front lines the Human Rights Campaign leadership ran away and hid, locking the door behind them.
It's probably fair to say that I'm at least a little biased as a political analyst, but even from the most centrist perspective I can muster this one fact stands out above all others: When the community called, HRC ran the other way. Real leaders, if they truly wish to be considered as such, just don't do that. HRC, by their behavior, has acknowledged their new lesser status within the movement, and the reality that it is now the collective community of politically-active LGBT's, connecting for the most part online without the sponsorship or oversight of any major civil rights organization, who are now beginning to take the lead in our movement's major political actions and demonstrations.
The reins of this movement's advocacy efforts are ours for the taking, and take them we should. We have to make it clear to the politicians from Obama on down that speaking at an HRC event doesn't count as speaking to the politically-active LGBT community anymore, no more than speaking at a meeting of rich business owners counts as speaking to America's union members.
The Human Rights Campaign has had thirty years of continually leading this movement into a ditch politically with quiet and polite pleading and negotiation. They've failed us, plain and simple. Money, after all, can only take you just so far. It's time for a different way, a way that says to people "Hey, we're not kidding around here, this is life and death for us, particularly in this economy. We need our basic civil rights and we need them right now, not next year, next month, or even next week, but right now and we're not going to shut up about it until we get them.".
If we really want change, we have an opportunity to make some ourselves, for ourselves, right now. Last Thursday's actions proved we can do it, and they showed us who we can depend on to be there for us and who we can't. Now, we have to prove we can do it well.
I don't know about you, but personally I can't wait to see what happens next.