Rebecca Juro

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Filed By Rebecca Juro | March 25, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, HRC, LGBT Equality movement

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.

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Where was NCTE in all of this. I haven't heard a peep out of them either before, during or after. At least TAVA, through me, participated in the blogswarm.

What are we going to get with all of this attention? Well, for one, we are going to make it impossible for the military to hide from the DADT debacle, unlike when we lay down and took it in the 90's. We have made real headway in the last 20 years in the GLBT movement and almost all of that was a response to a rebellious catalyst.

The real fight for marriage started in SF in 2004, and the ensuing brouhaha made marriage attainable. The response to the AIDS crisis? Only when ACTUP started public demonstrations did anyone even pay attention to the gay men dying all around them.

We've always had to have grand gestures, and always will. We're an easy people to ignore, if we let them.

Demanding - the same strategy as the Tea Baggers?

I think your strategy is just generating attention. The Tea Baggers get a lot of attention, but no respect and no results.

I agree we needed to get HRC's attention and to demand some accountability, but what about your accountability? You just said HRC has been ineffective for their 30 year history (I agree), but how will your creating attention with high-profile demands be effective and lead to sustainable results?

If it can be shown to lead to positive results, it should be supported.

Wendell Cochran | March 27, 2010 10:44 AM

is just getting attention? Isn't effective? Gets no results? Not unlike Stonewall, the Indians at Pine Ridge, Alcatraz, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in D.C., and the Black March to Selma, street level activism scares the hell out of self-serving politicians. Genteel rhetoric is fine for diplomatic intercourse, but it seems that it takes more than words to inlicite action from those holding power. A good firm goose in the ass is called for: It doesn't harm or hurt the goosee, but its a sure fire way to get their attention. I'm pulling for this new group.

Your examples are from the 30-50 years ago. Have any fresh evidence. I understand that these stunts get "attention," but to what end? How is that attention converted into people joining us?

By most accounts we have plenty of attention. People know about our struggle. What we need more than attention is people joining us. These stunts don't do that. Angry demands don't do that.

Demanding - the same strategy as the Tea Baggers?

I think your strategy is just generating attention. The Tea Baggers get a lot of attention, but no respect and no results.

I agree we needed to get HRC's attention and to demand some accountability, but what about your accountability? You just said HRC has been ineffective for their 30 year history (I agree), but how will your creating attention with high-profile demands be effective and lead to sustainable results?

If you can demonstrate that these activities will to lead to positive results, it should be supported. Otherwise, you're just like the HRC you've condemned.

Linnea Gutierrez | March 25, 2010 11:28 PM

I just had to disable "blocck reported attack sites" in my Firefox because it refused to load this article. Are "they" at it again?

To the apparent dislike of a few, what we did is working!! It starts with acknowledgment, movement and reaction. We are just beginning to get into the reaction segment. So far it has been very positive.
What we did is fifth wave warfare, asymetrical warfare by another name. Leadership without leaders. A leaderless resistence! We can't win on their terms, so we'll fight the good fight the only way that we can. Go people go!!!!

Great article.
I was heavily involved in the fight for LGBT liberation in the 1970s when the respectable MONIED folks would have nothing to do with rights or marching or anything like that.

That changed with the horror of HIV in the 1980s when the Reagan Gov't ignored us - monied or not. Everyone became involved. But after the glory years of ACT UP we have left the driving to 'influential leaders' who are so enraptured with access to power they are unwilling to get their hands dirty and show some courage like Lt. Choi. Just managed rallies and power galas.

I stopped supporting HRC way back when they endorsed GOP Sen. Al D' Amato in his last successful election bid. He threw them a crumb and they groveled - just as they do today.

Find other organizations to support - or better yet, let's hit the streets.

On many fronts we have begun to rely on our checkbook to represent us. Media is expensive and has been pretty effective in making change in this country. Campaigns talk about how much money they have spent instead of how many people they had volunteering. HRC on the national stage, EQCA in California have gotten good at spending money but they seem to have forgotten about why people give them money. We need to remind them, tell them what we want, and STOP giving them money if they don't do what we expect from them.
Money is necessary for political action, but money sent to orgs that don't deserve it is an impediment to progress. Keep donating, but give to the groups who are unequivocal about fighting for equal rights.

Angela Brightfeather | March 26, 2010 1:28 PM

Just the other month, HRC walked out of Raleigh, NC with about $50,000.00+, and now they close the doors and head for the hills with that money and refuse to participate in anything that might be considered a bit "rough", to say nothing about showing any organized leadership.

I sincerely hope that those who organized and spent over a year in preparing for the HRC robbery here in Raleigh that took place, note that they helped to feed the face of those who ran away when the chips were down. I hope they have learned their lesson and start to put their varied talents into the GLBT community where it really counts, right in their own back yards, instead of working their lovely little butts of helping those who turn around and don't give a tinkers damn about them when it counts.

Oh, and lets call this one another Solomonese misspeak about his promise to accompany Dan Choi into the mouth of the dragon. No knight is he who abandons the needy and promises to do acts of sacrifice, but when the gauntlet is thrown down, is nowhere in sight. Such knights will be known as knaves and stripped of their fine armour, no longer to sit at the round table of the king.

My goodness people. What are you all thinking. Joe might mess up his dolche and gabbana leaning up against that wrought iron fence at the White House, and we can't have that.

There is a network of folks working in this area - which i call "Direct Actionists" or "DAs" -

[email protected]

With that group, and others, we managed to get a lesbian bi-national couple ON STAGE at the Nat. Immigration Rally on Sunday in DC. after organizers said NO on Friday. We zapped their offices w/phone complaints and got a great outcome.

DA is here to liberate us! NOW.

Here are the details on the immigration action:

To bring back an old Peace saying "Right-on!"
IT IS TIME WE TAKE OVER THE LEADERSHIP ROLL! If it was not for Us T-People taking action The first the Civil Rights movement might never have happened! Now does anyone know how exactly to heard the cats and get the organizations combined to work together? The leaders of the GLBT community read this blog!!! Lets find common ground and common directions! Let's bring back positive activism! Can a summit of leaders meet together A.S.A.P and lead US?

Maybe if the community embraces accountability and the meeting is to figure out how to win - not fight.

One thing that gets my goat - how is it we forgot about the ENDA scandal with HRC in the first place? We were going to teach them a lesson for negotiating a non-transinclusive ENDA, yet we've trusted them with our rights since... the cliche commes to mind, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

I'm all for grassroots activism and LGBT people individually and collectively standing up and demanding equal rights.

I'm not, however, sympathetic to this HRC bashing. I'm stymied by how many people just don't get it: HRC *is not* an activist organization. They don't do activism. They are a *lobbying* organization. They lobby Congress to support pro-LGB(T) legislation. Their lobbying function isn't a dramatic one. It doesn't get on CNN or in the newspaper. They're not chaining themselves to fences or blocking legislative offices or throwing crap at people. They are working silently in the background to do something that *actually does help* to advance our cause: negotiating with lawmakers to advance a LGBT *legislative* agenda.

Let's get real: HRC has long courted its influence in Congress and is *not* going to get involved with some theatrical antics that could alienate the very people it is working to influence. How productive would it be for HRC to stage a sit-in in Pelosi's office to get on the news if it means it loses access to her ear when LGBT legislation (or anti-gay legislation) is on the table?

Please, people--we need the activism, for sure. But we also need HRC doing what it does. You don't always--or even often--actually *see* what they're doing, as so much of it is offstage, but make no mistake: their work is vital to our interests.

I have to agree John HRC does a lot of work behind the scenes and they LOBBY for our rights I understand all the frustration the LGBT community has with HRC but maybe some of that comes from no real Grassroots activism going on in this country and the misunderstanding that most have of HRC and their work. I am of the opinion that we need all organizations working from all ends I'm glad that GetEqual is here to get everyone involved even people like my husband and i that (as most of you) cant afford to keep giving money to HRC by the truckload but lets not bite off our nose despite our face and stop supporting HRC for what they do as well as continue to grow GetEqual and do what we can to support what seems to be a great grassroots movement that is happening

Exactly what does HRC Do? Is it just an Elitist organization for monied Gays? With all of the money collected and spent what has been accomplished? Hey Joe's suits cost more than the entire budgets of most of the other groups! If you were lied to by someone continuously for years would you not eventuality speak out? Please, John take a good look at HRC! Then compare it to other successful groups(Garden Sate Equality would be one)!

It is sad and unfortunate that Regina lacks a plain understanding of written English.

Where did I say that there should be no counterpart to HRC, or that HRC deserves a free pass?

I'm saying that HRC has a specific role, and that other roles need to be served by other organizations. HRC cannot be expected to do it all, nor should it be criticized for failing to do that which is not its purpose to do. If you want confrontational theatrics, look to activist groups, not to HRC.

And as for those saying HRC has done nothing, umm--how do you *know* that? How do you know that the number of legislators who now support, say, repeal of DADT were not directly influenced by HRC? How do you know that the legislative landscape would not look a lot more hostile to our cause if not for HRC? Do you really want to undermine its efforts (and yes, there are those who *are* slamming HRC, including calling for people to stop donating), when you can't possibly know what the consequences of that would be?

I hear people saying that we're frustratingly close to some major accomplishments and that HRC is failing to push us over the line. Well, the way I see it, HRC did a lot to help get us *to* the line.

I support GetEqual and other grassroots LGBT activist organizations. I do my own individual activism as well. *And* I support HRC for what it does. We're all in this together, and we each have something unique to contribute. No organization is going to do it all, and untimately no organization can do any of it *for* us. We have to work together, and that means at the very least standing behind those who stand up on our behalf.

That should have been directed at Erich, not Regina. My bad.

Erich Riesenberg | March 27, 2010 10:59 AM

It is downright sad Democrats in general and John in particular lack an plain understanding of civil rights history.

Giving HRC a pass is not doing it any favors, if the HRC actually wants to accomplish. The HRC needs a more active counterpart so the politicians can turn to the HRC as the staid lobbyist.

It is simple and it is what works throughout the world.

Straight Grandmother | March 27, 2010 11:30 AM

Roll the busses!!!!! I am tired of polite lobbying behind the sceens HRC style. Everyone from my generation remembers ACT UP! We need Lt. Dan, we need a show of force. Again roll the busses!

I was expecting a "told ya so" to be coming eventually.

It's interesting that these people who have virtually the same interests and background as HRC are so "betrayed" by them. They're not as jaded though.

Mental E'Kliptz | March 28, 2010 3:17 AM

WOW, the very things I said on GetEqual's FB page can be found here with someone else's name on it. How about that!!!

Um, are you accusing someone of something here, or are you just assuming that you're the first and only one to come up with certain ideas?

If you're accusing someone of plagiarism, then do so. If not, then acknowledge that different people have the same ideas, and those ideas are not owned by any individual. That's why we have political parties and activist groups, so that like-minded people can connect and work together on issues of common interest.

Sorry, but I have a very limited tolerance for these kinds of accusations, especially when they're just thrown out there without even a scrap of verifiable evidence.

Mental E'Kliptz | October 11, 2010 12:58 AM

WOW! Months later and I was just informed that you actually tried to come for me, Rebecca. The proof was right there on the GetEQUAL FB page. It didn't take a genius to see or even research it. One of the people who commented on this article took what I said and put their name on it. What I find hilarious is that the comment is no longer on here. Interesting, perhaps?

I have very limited tolerance for a so-called professional conducting themselves in such a middle school manner. No need to blow it out of proportion with your limited tolerance, but thank you for your concern.