Kate Clinton

Be The Math

Filed By Kate Clinton | May 09, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, LGBT organizations, participation

My dear girlfriend cheerfully admits she is a numbers nerd.

She can read, remember and interpret a pie chart or a power point graph like nobody's business.pie chart.jpg

While she's parsing the percentages, I tend to muse about the color palette they've chosen. Why that yellow with fuchsia?

Not to imply that she sees things in black and white. She loves data and thanks to the recent work of the Williams Institute, the Movement Advancement Project and many academic LGBT studies, she has hard data aplenty to mull over.

And I've decided a teal palette is universally appealing.

But check out these stats.

There are 8.9 million LGBT adults in the US.

Of self-identified LGBT people only 20% said they were fully out. 80% said they were fully or partially closeted.

Of that 8.9 million, fewer than 304,000 donors gave $35 or more to 52 of the largest national and LGBT organizations. Fewer than 18,000 donors gave more than $1,000.

And that was in 2007 when people actually had money! Or the illusion of money. There are fewer than 3 million unique names of people in all the databases of the 52 organizations in the US and many of those are the names of our straight allies.

After putting away her lab coat, my can-do galpal goes right to the drawing board, gets out the slide rule and the calipers and meets with people to try to figure out strategies that will increase LGBT ownership and support of our movement.

I tend to go into a blind murderous panic. Pardon my apocalypticism, but those numbers are appalling. Even a soothing teal won't help.

Coming out is still the basic building block of our movement. Come out.

Okay, more.

You know what is involved. Enjoy the down time of your family's shunning you. They often come around.

When they do, insist they get involved.

Insist your friends come out. Demand help from your straight friends and allies. Get out your checkbook and join at least one LGBT organization.

Volunteer. If you can swing it, donate more. Donate in the name of your favorite homophobe.

Cancel your special annual gay pride brunch overlooking the parade and get out in the streets.

Be counted.

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You're so right, Kate. How can we expect to count if we don't stand up and be counted?

battybattybats battybattybats | May 9, 2010 10:40 PM

Hmmm imagine if those still closetted mad sure they contributed to the cause financially and were at least able to be public allies...

While being out is best maybe there's important room to consider whats the Ethical options and obligations for those who decide to remain in the closet?

Our community isn't going to get involved and contribute UNTIL they believe we can win. They have NEVER seen a way to win. That's what keeps people on the sidelines.

Until we focus on winning, instead of "trying everything" and hoping for "one of these days," we'll keep floundering.

This will require accountability, something we continue to reject. We don't deserve to win until we take winning seriously.

Of that 8.9 million, fewer than 304,000 donors gave $35 or more to 52 of the largest national and LGBT organizations. Fewer than 18,000 donors gave more than $1,000.

And we wonder why we haven't gained our rights yet.


Until there is a clearly defined "Path to Victory" people will remain on the sidelines and in the closet.

60% being "partially" out makes sense. It's a lot of work to be out to "everyone," depending on how people define that term. Even so, people won't come out if they think they'll lose their jobs.

Still, this shows that the Christians are a lot better at fundraising than we are. Those are dismal numbers.

One does not have to be out to support the fight for our community's civil rights. It helps but it's not a requirement. Writing a letter or phoning your congressional representatives doesn't have to include mention of your own orientation or gender identity. Even lobbying friends, neighbors and colleagues can be done as a "straight" ally, if one is so inclined.

Though being out helps along in immeasurable ways, there's still an element of physical danger that one is risking in certain locales. That's no reason to be apathetic in our struggles, however, something I have pointed out more than once. We can be advocates without becoming targets.