Bil posted a few months ago that Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL makes $90K a year, and now we know where a little of that money is going:
(If you can't see the screenshots, they're two Tweets from her offering $500 for identifying information for a prolific blog commenter, AndrewW.)
Now, we here at Bilerico know AndrewW. He's been around for a while, generally asking for accountability and offering $100 million and promising polling data that can only be released when it's completely stale.
He's a character, that's for sure. But that doesn't make it appropriate for someone trying to be a community leader to attack him personally.
The first thing I always think about when someone complains about how queer people comment anonymously online is the fact that not everyone is out of the closet. There are discussions of internet anonymity in straight forums, but we have a special history when it comes to keeping our identities out of the public sphere. I'd guess that many, if not most, people who comment on queer blogs aren't out to 100% of the people in their lives, so it's only logical that people want to discuss these issues privately and not create a Google-able record of their sexuality, gender history, and extracurricular activities.
Queer people have a brilliant and creative history of maintaining privacy and protecting people's identities as a community. LGBT people were behind the creation of the hanky code and stealth and activist groups where everyone goes by "Mary" and books of pictures of anonymous people not showing their faces. We've been on the cutting edge of technology that allows communication but protects privacy, like pagers and zines and chat rooms. E.M. Forster didn't publish his famous novel that involved gay characters until after he was dead, Yukio Mishima wrote Confessions of a Mask, and Eve Sedgewick's famous theoretical work is The Epistemology of the Closet.
Anonymity and queer people isn't anything new, and it isn't behind a rise of incivility among LGBT people as there are plenty of people willing to attach their names to statements who are plenty uncivil. Take, for example, Robin McGehee's statements on other LGBT activists. She's not a shrinking violet either. (And if Geoff Kors or Robin Tyler or Judy Appel or Carolyn Laub or any of the other activists she criticized offered money for her personal information, that'd be troubling too. This post isn't about McGehee herself.)
Which makes me wonder what exactly McGehee wants with this information, since people don't pay $500 for nothing. Does she want to contact his ISP and get him cut off from internet access? Does she want to contact his employer? Does she want to write him a letter? Does she want to publish personal contact information and let her Twitter followers do the rest?
I'm not saying because I particularly like AndrewW or am a personal friend of his. He disagrees with me more often than not here on Bilerico and doesn't have much of a problem with saying it, usually bluntly. I would, of course, prefer it if everyone applauded all the work I do on this site, but that's not a realistic expectation. When you put your beliefs in the public sphere, especially political beliefs, some people will always disagree. That's just the way the world works.
So I can see how it's not fun for Robin McGehee to have to listen to someone who will never in a million years be pleased with her work. But people who set themselves up as community leaders have an obligation to not let pride get in the way of clear thinking or the larger goals at hand, and tweets like the ones above should make people wonder where her commitments lie.
Since the people I know who are involved in GetEQUAL love Martin Luther King, I should mention that in Stride Toward Freedom, King's memoirs of the Montgomery bus boycott, he says that he offered his resignation as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and leader of the boycott several times. And not for any selfish reasons: white segregationists were distributing tracts about him, posing as concerned black citizens fed up with King, and he didn't want to let his identity get in the way of the larger movement. Even when another minister quit his role in organizing the boycott and accused boycott leaders of misappropriating funds, King's first instinct was reconciliation and forgiveness, not retaliation. It's hard to imagine him offering money to people for help retaliating against his critics.
Not everyone agrees with GetEQUAL's tactics and goals. If everyone did, there'd be no need for the group. But if leadership is their goal, they do have an obligation to make their fight not about their hurt egos, but about the betterment of the community (or full equality now, in their terms).
Unless that's not their goal and it's all about that sweet salary and the applause and feeling good about the work one is doing. In which case, fine, but don't expect much positive work from people like that and they should be prepared for a lot more criticism.