Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

MetroWeekly's Analysis of LGBT Movement: Evolution and Failure

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | October 07, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Metro Weekly, Metroweekly, State of Play

DC's MetroWeekly Magazine came out today with an analysis of the LGBT movement based on conversations with 15 LGBT leaders.Cover - State of Play.jpg

The analysis, entitled "State of Play," and written by MetroWeekly's Senior Political Writer, Chris Geidner, concludes that the LGBT movement is not properly characterized by the word "schism," which some have used, but by the term "evolution."

That's an interesting analysis, given that "evolution," in its scientific meaning, occurs slowly over many generations as a result of variant forms contending with a changing environment and poorly-adapted species failing to reproduce. Evolution is a pretty harsh mistress, and that failure means the end of your existence.

Geidner's article is also notable for beginning with a "characteristically blunt" statement on the topic of failure by Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. After saying "I failed," she noted that her failure was not a singular one.

''The community failed. The movement failed. The organizations failed. Congress failed. The president failed,'' she says. ''Government failed..."

What will all of this failure mean? Is our movement evolving, and if so, what new species will take over after the dinosaurs sink into the tar pits?

These conversations, all conducted during the week of Sept. 27, show unexpected agreements and similarities between organizations with significantly different missions. More fundamentally - and despite differences of opinion and of strategy - the interviews make clear that the relationships between LGBT organizations are not easily defined in terms of a "schism" or even a divide.

The article outlines the disagreements among various organizations and on four key topics that the community has prioritized. It concludes by suggesting that disagreement is healthy, so long as it helps move the ball forward.

The question of whether the ball is moving forward is not something the article addresses. Given the expected Democratic rout in the upcoming elections, I can't imagine the answer is a positive one.

But the article is interesting nonetheless on the question of "what is the LGBT movement now?" Clearly, it's not one thing, or one direction, or one emphasis. And that, I believe, is positive. Freedom can't be achieved by one organization or group. It's got to be thousands and millions working on it. Each group has its own followers, and the more groups, the more people get involved. Some have said that groups should consolidate to more effectively create the change we seek.

I disagree strongly.

The more groups we have working on this, the more people we will attract to the cause, and the more effectiveness we will have. That we are all working on the same issue in the same way with the same people is not what we should be looking for. In fact, it doesn't matter how we are working on this: with lobbying, or street theater, or writing in magazines or blogs, or skywriting over Omaha. It's a numbers game. We're not there yet, but we're getting there.

Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.

Don't turn your nose up at this quote. They own most of our debt.

Here's the article. What do you think?

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"In fact, it doesn't matter how we are working on this: with lobbying, or street theater, or writing in magazines or blogs, or skywriting over Omaha. It's a numbers game. We're not there yet, but we're getting there."

This reminds of the old saying about throwing enough shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. That isn't a strategy. And what "numbers" are you talking about?

What the article does confirm is that we don't have enough participation and that a "strategy to win" has never been created, which I believe would inspire participation.

Let's face it, many people are tired and frustrated and you've expressed that several times Jillian. This November it is going to get even worse.

I am afraid that the entire non-profit LGBT advocacy and activist effort is primarily concerned with their own survival (salaries, etc) or helping Democrats. There are few exceptions, but the whole bunch of LGBT advocates haven't delivered much for the hundreds of millions spent in just that last few years. They're only incentive seems to be raising enough money to continue getting paid.

I launched an effort almost a year ago. At that time I asked all the major Gay Inc. organizations what their "strategy to win" was. None had one. They still don't and that's the problem. The past couple of years almost everyone shifted the responsibility to Obama and the Democrats. We lost. Again.

Progress is being made outside of the tired thinking of HRC, GLAAD and the TF. They've had the chance to convert money and participation into results and they have failed. They even admit to failing.

So, we have nothing and it's about to be 1994 all over again. Let's not make the same mistakes or simply keep throwing the shit against the wall. We need a cohesive strategy that leads to victory with specifics and plenty of math. If we do that we will ignite a real, sustainable movement.


When I posted the comment above it was my hope that others would add to this conversation. THIS is our most important conversation.

I have never second-guessed your sincerity or your commitment. As far as I am concerned you have been a bright light for the LGBT Community. We need more people like you. More people willing to give a art of their life for our equality.

We are at another defining moment for our community. It is imperative that we organize around ideas and strategies that show a clear path to victory. Soon, it will be 1994 all over again and we will have lost 16 years of what can favorably described as "incremental" progress. We can't repeat the recent past.

The cultural conversation continues to make more progress than we do as a community. We have powerful shows like Glee. We have a pop star willing to make demands of the US Senate on our behalf. We have a record number of gay-straight alliances in our schools. We have new forms of communication that allow us to "speak up" end share in real time. We also have 5 young people who have galvanized the national conversation around our plight. Their deaths have highlighted how incredibly unfair and hurtful religious beliefs can be. It has become the biggest LGBT story of the year and we ...... watch. The cultural conversation is doing more than we are. We should be leading that conversation and contributing to it.

I want everyone that cares about our equality and/or the recent loss of innocent life to think about our movement. Think about HOW we can WIN. I am not prepared to repeat the last 16 years. We need to create a strategy to win and stop being satisfied with "try everything" and hope that "one of these days" we'll prevail. We're smarter than that. We're more creative than that.

We can WIN if that becomes our focus. NOW is a good time.

I feel that we lack solidarity. I don't mean consensus or agreement. I mean, we often refer to each other as groups as opposed to individuals.

We have totally distorted views and prejudices of those groups. And everyone thinks they're incapable of prejudice.

And what that means is when it comes time to push, we're reluctant to push with each other in the same direction at the same time.

I also think this whole "we don't need consensus" is what people tell themselves because they know they can't reach consensus....or maybe when they're not willing to put their thing aside for this other thing that has a better chance. Not that we need consensus all of the time, but when it started looking like we had a chance to pass DADT, we should've rallied around it sooner.

It's not about which legislation or issue is more important. It's that, as cheesy as it sounds, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

One thing I do agree with is the fact it is a numbers game. The problem is we are winning it slowly but far too slow for most of us who are talking about it at this point in time. I have little doubt that in say fifteen or twenty years we will enjoy the equality we currently seek. It is after all happening a little at a time on a city by city and state by state basis.

There are three major forced that oppose this movement toward our acceptance and equality as I see it. One is the Conservative Religious Right which range from the Fred Phelps of the world, to those who just quietly smile at you but hold their prejudice inside where it is not seen openly. Then there are those in business who also oppose our equality because they feel it is another cost for them to bear or be burdened with. Lastly there are those who feel that the Government already has too much control over the lives of their citizens and oppose our equality for that reason. As time passes such things will fade and the demands of those being wronged will grow louder to the point of overshadowing those who oppose those who demand equality. It will just take time.

We however need to do our part as well. Those of us who hide in their closets and do not speak up to be counted as one who opposes the forces who would seek to keep us within the greater LGBT community as second class citizens are also doing us all a dis-service. Those who put aside their moral views of what is right in favor of economic comfort hurt us all as well. It will take us all working together and using the argument of reason with the slow push of our rights to equality that will prevail in the end.

As for me I plan to vote this election as I have in all the national elections for many years. I will not stay away from the polls though the idea of it has crossed my mind given the lack of progress we have seen this last two years. My vote may not be of much use given the climate of the electorate and the mood of many voters, but I will vote never the less. Hopefully if enough who see things as I do, our cause will not be as bleak as many think it may be.

No sh*t they failed.

And it wasn't just because of republican legislators. Maybe Mara (and Solmonese and other characters) should take some responsibility for that failure and step down... remember "the buck stops here"?

Do you have people in mind to replace them?

From the article:

''The community failed. The movement failed. The organizations failed. Congress failed. The president failed,'' she says. ''Government failed – part of why government failed is because they didn't prioritize us. Partially that's because we didn't make them, partially it's because the Republicans were just obstructing everything, partially it's because our community didn't step up enough, partially it was because our community was scattered in what they wanted. But we failed together.''

Mara is where she is only because of how she basically joined up with the HRC. There were many real trans activists like the NTAC who were pushed aside because they didn't play ball. She's accomplished zilch in the time she's been in place and even though there's a paucity of trans activists who are in upper level positions to replace her, it's not as if she was some expert activist/lobbyist when she took that job either. There are a lot of highly intelligent and educated people in the trans community who could do better than her.

As for replacing Solmonese... do you honestly think there's anything whatsoever, in any way unique about his skills and abilities?

Yes, there is something unique about Solmonese. Solmonese.

This idea of needing to replace people follows the Tea Party logic. And I think it's flawed. If you pick a new person to represent you in Washington who is less of insider, then you lose the insider connections. If HRC is a Washington lobbying organization, then the most important tool for lobbying is inside connections. If you don't think lobbying is an effective means of change, then why concern yourself with what HRC does?

"If you don't think lobbying is an effective means of change, then why concern yourself with what HRC does?"

Because it is a waste of $50 million a year. HRC has nothing to show for their 30 years and +$550 million. That's also some pretty expensive evidence that lobbying doesn't work.

Goodness, Andrew;
Here we are, agreeing yet again. If we keep this up, people will start talking

Well, I don't donate to HRC. I don't really feel like it's my money. But is it that people think lobbying itself isn't effective, or just HRC's lobbying? I personally think it's the latter.

Lobbying can be valuable in the context of business where there is a lot of special interests trying to protect their particular 'share." We saw that during the Healthcare debate. It is incestuous.

Our problem is that we are still a "moral" issue like abortion. Moral beliefs are non-negotiable. Lobby has absolutely no effect on a Baptist politician from a State that is full of Baptists (Alabama).

HRC wants us to believe they have changed votes with the $550 million we've given them. They haven't. They have switched a single vote in the US Senate during 30 years of lobbying. A year ago Solmonese told me that HRC has changed "many votes" and I said give me the list - he never did. It doesn't exist.

Lobbying can be helpful on a local basis. Cities and some States are making big strides and it is because members of our community are talking to friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers.

I'd rather see HRC's money (which is really used as DNC money) go to local and State LGBT organizations. It would have a much greater impact.

This post should have received a lot of response. It is our biggest challenge to create a winning, cohesive strategy.

When it gets worse and we are more frustrated we can either quit or figure it out. It seems many have simply quit. That's bad.

I recently received an email which spoke of the "Night of Terror" on November 15th, 1917 when police arrested 33 women protesting the fact Women did not have the right to vote. They were imprisoned, beaten, starved, and treated in a manner they could not get away treating dogs like at the direction of the Federal Government. If we wish to see LGBT Rights, the issue will have to be pressed in much the same way I suspect. There are enough people who believe we should have the rights now in the general population. It will take those of us to demand those rights we should have anyway under the law in order to get them. Nice talk and meeting Congressmen at dinner parties is not going to get it done. Thirty second news snippets will not either. It will take a long protracted protest like those women did in order to get their rights and like those of African American ancestry did in the 1960s to get their rights. The ball started rolling back with the Stonewall Riots. It however has faltered. It needs to be set in motion again. If the HRC does not have the guts to do it, then it is time for everyone to just give up on them and find those who do have a voice to be heard, and the guts to speak up to lead.

We should continue to win hearts and minds on a local level but we need to press this point on the national stage if it means massive protests every month.

The majority of our fellow citizens believe we are "equal," they feel different about "equal rights." But, I agree with you we need to change hearts and minds. Unfortunately, "protest" doesn't change any minds, in fact it simply irritates people.

There hasn't been a successful protest in America in the last 20 years. Sure, a few little gatherings, but not a single "successful" protest.

GetEQUAL took to the streets (with $1 million) and still couldn't get more than a half-dozen people to join them. That's because the world has changed and we understand that protest and other "street theater" is ineffective and counterproductive. GetEQUAL alienated every other liberal and progressive group by "embarrassing Democrats." November 2nd is going to set us back 16 years. We can't just repeat the last 16 years of advocacy and actions - it didn't work. Unless we create a strategy to "win," we'll end up in the same place.