Bil Browning

The progressive march that wasn't

Filed By Bil Browning | October 04, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: LGBT community, One Nation march, progressive march

Over the weekend I had the chance to attend the One Nation Working Together march that was billed as the "progressive" march to answer last month's Glenn Beck rally for teabaggers. The event had been planned for months - mostly by the NAACP and unions - but it had one small logistical problem. They forgot to be progressive.One-Nation-March3.JPG

Event organizers reached out to the LGBT community late in the game, but a number of queer organizations - both national and regional - signed on to sponsor the event. In fact, more orgs signed on to support the One Nation march than supported the National Equality March which focused solely on LGBT issues.

But while organizers put out statements about how great the march was for LGBT people and we were included in most news reports as part of the communities organizing the event, it all rings hollow. The truth is that LGBT visibility was incredibly muted, LGBT activists with signs highlighting the recent spate of youth suicides were disrespected, and our issues were definitely not part of the larger agenda.

This really highlights the bigger disconnect that most progressives and Gay Inc seem to have with the modern everyday LGBT person. More pictures and thoughts after the jump. Clickety to embiggen the pics.

While Pride At Work put out an e-blast Sunday congratulating themselves for accomplishing so much, One-Nation-March2.JPGI can't help but point out that it's so full of fluff that it would make a marshmallow look heavy. Pride At Work, for those who are unaware, is the gay union group so it makes sense that they would be quick to pump the rally since unions were one of the main organizers.

Our community was well represented from the podium by a diversity of speakers including Mara Keisling from the National Center for Transgender Equality, Darlene Nipper from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Gregory Cendana with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. Additional openly gay speakers included Mary Kay Henry, SEIU; Randi Weingarten, AFT; and Dheepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change. Numerous straight allies, from veterans to ministers, spoke of the importance of inclusion of and support for equality for the LGBTQ community. The entire speaker line up was extraordinary, from Congressman Luis Gutierrez to Wendell Pierce to Rev. Al Sharpton to UAW President Bob King to NAACP President Ben Jealous to the legendary Harry Belefonte.

This was a history-making day of LGBT inclusion in a tremendous progressive organzing effort. We also must thank the One Nation Working Together team, the labor union leadership and the NAACP who committed and followed through on creating space for us as equal partners in this inspiring effort.

That's right, out of 4+ hours of speeches, we were well represented by three speakers according to Pride At Work. After all, some of the other speakers were gay too! They count, right?!

Except that our "LGBT" speakers weren't there for LGBT concerns either. Mara Keisling shared the podium with four other speakers and each read a sentence from a teleprompter quickly followed by the next speaker. They did this round robin game several times, but can you guess how many times the words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual," or "transgender" crossed her lips? None.

The closest we got was her statement, "We march to advance human rights, civil rights, equal protection, and dignity for everyone."

The same segment got shout-outs to school segregation, military spending, the environment, wage discrepancies based on sex, and union busting. Apparently there wasn't enough time to name drop the LGBT community in the mix - even when it's a transgender woman saying it.

Here's the segment featuring Mara. She starts speaking around the 2:30 mark.

NGLTF Deputy Director Darlene Tipper did mention LGBT issues specifically, but you can hear the response she got from the crowd. It's not like she was hugely popular. One-Nation-March4.JPGThe most interesting aspect of Nipper's appearance though isn't what she had to say, but the color of her skin.

One of the most muttered about aspects of the march was that LGBT activists were practically shut out of the march in the beginning. Why? The religious African-American organizers didn't want to champion LGBT issues. To make a speaker on LGBT issues palatable to the audience and organizers, Nipper, an African-American lesbian, was chosen and she framed her message in a very Afro-centric manner.

She was put at the very end of the program when most attendees had already left after standing in the hot sun for four hours to listen to speeches. She did her best, but her message was mostly lost on the hot and tired crowd. It was extremely too little too late. If you watch the video below, you can see the people streaming out of the mall as she speaks.

Sadly, the socialist movement had more attendees than the LGBT community. One-Nation-March.JPGThey brought a huge group of folks while there were small groups from GetEqual, HRC, Stonewall Democrats and other orgs floating through the crowd.

In an e-mail to me, Lt Dan Choi of GetEqual reported on the reception the group got as they carried signs with the faces of six LGBT youth who recently died by suicide.

We attended the "One Nation" progressive march on Washington today and were met with mixed reactions by "progressives."

All we intended was to bring visibility to the recent gay suicides. Some remarked: "Yeah...If y'all just stop killing yourselves, and turn to God..." and "You guys are stupid."

Why wasn't the LGBT community front and center as part of the progressive community? Because, as we've seen with the current crop of "progressive" leadership - both inside and outside of the administration - our rights are not a priority for our friends and natural allies.

We are the group that is always the easiest to lop off when the going gets tough - when people start to feel "uncomfortable." We are the group that gets "support" if we'll promise to keep our mouths shut and not remind people of butt sex. We're the group that should quietly give our dollars and our votes while our teens give their lives, but "progressives" can't be bothered to give a damn.

LGBT organizations that purport to represent us and our issues signed on to this march to increase our visibility and support among progressives - even though some of these same orgs refused to even add their name to a list of orgs supporting the National Equality March. I hope they're satisfied with the results they got.

When I saw one of the LGBT organizers of the march the week before it happened, I was complaining to them about how little support our community got from the "progressives" who were planning it. The person agreed, but made it a point to say that our community had their own page on the march's website and a customized logo that included a rainbow. "No one else got to customize their logo," they said.

Pride At Work's e-blast ends with an exhortation for LGBT people to vote in November. Now "is not the time to sit on the sidelines," it says.

By signing off on supporting this march for "progressives" which was shamefully inadequate and disrespectful to LGBT issues, Pride At Work and the other orgs who signed on plopped our community squarely outside of the mainstream. They silenced the LGBT community; they sidelined us for the "greater good" of electing "progressive" Democrats who continue to pay lip service to our issues while ignoring our very real needs.

And they did it for the price of a rainbow.


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"Why wasn't the LGBT community front and center as part of the progressive community?"

Maybe they're pissed about those "crazy shenanigans" that sought to "embarrass Democrats." Those childish stunts weren't helpful. Evidence is mounting.

You are, without a doubt, the most relentlessly ignorant person I've ever encountered. You just refuse to stop beating this drum, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, until you've deafened everyone.

What's your explanation Jordan? Tell us how effective GE is. Please.

The explanation is simple. Religiously based progressives don't like us, disapprove of us and this was organised with a heavy sprinkling of religiously based progressives

I expect you are exactly right, Maura --- or at least, this is one of several reasons why this march was a dud for LGBT folks.

You know, the community sees stuff like this, takes it in, and gets pissed off for a few days, but when a few step out to respond to it by going after Reid, the DNC, etc or by refusing to vote, suddenly we're politically impractical. As if it's reasonable to pitch a fit only when it's guaranteed to fall on deaf (conservative) ears.

I strongly believe that we'll get more respect not by supporting other issues outside our community, but by encourging/making others to support ours. We stay so long in our echo chamber that we forget that the mainstream is rarely listening in. If we really want change, I feel every action needs to be geared with that objective in mind.

And with one target issue at a time. Lord knows we're small enough as it is, and fragmenting the community among 5+ issues to the mainstream looks like a very heavy, heavy load, and getting pissed off when one is moving forward ahead of the rest because one's pet issue is not being addressed only promotes the perception that we can never be happy.

Anyway, sorry for the hijack.

If we focus on equality and not get confused and confusing with other issues, two-thirds of America will stand with us.

Two-thirds of America will not stand with Socialism.

Two-thirds of America will not stand with Labor.

Two-thirds of America will not stand with us for most Progressive issues.

We don't need a coalition, we need to the courage to talk to friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers and ASK for their help. There is no sense in confusing our simple issues with unpopular ones.

Educate, enlighten and enroll.

Not to ask simple questions but....

1/3 of America is "Socialist"? Where are you getting that statistic?

2/3 of America won't stand with "labor," even though most of the country is working class?

2/3 of the country won't support "progressive issues," even though a majority voted for a president that ran on a progressive campaign?

And our issues are "simple"? Of course! That explains why our work is almost done.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 5, 2010 8:28 AM


"Thursday, April 09, 2009 Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism."


"Friday, April 23, 2010 Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. adults nationwide say that capitalism is better than socialism. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 18% disagree, while 21% are not sure. Adults under 30 are closely divided on the question."

"Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans Majority of Americans positive on capitalism, entrepreneurs, free enterprise, and small business by Frank Newport PRINCETON, NJ -- More than one-third of Americans (36%) have a positive image of "socialism," while 58% have a negative image. Views differ by party and ideology, with a majority of Democrats and liberals saying they have a positive view of socialism, compared to a minority of Republicans and conservatives."

Well, thanks. I didn't know about those polls at all.

Could it be that at the time of those polls Obama was still seen positively among young people so calling him "Socialist" only popularized the term? Do we know if these people understand what socialism actually is, since most people who oppose it don't seem to have even a passing familiarity with what the term means?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 5, 2010 1:14 PM

I suspect that most people identify socialism as an economic stytem that favors workers and that the uptick in support for socialism has more to do with rage at Obama's depression (and yes I undertand that his predecessors and Congress had a hand in it) than with identifying him as a socialist.

The real answer to your question lies in the growth of socialist and revolutionary groups and their non-sectarian unity around the war, etc. which is demonstrated in the size and militancy of conferences like the US Social Forum and the Labor Notes Conference, both held in Detroit this year.

Read it again Alex. Labor, as a group, means "organized labor." I said two-thirds would stand with us for our full equality and the same two-thirds would NOT stand with other groups, such as Socialism, labor or progressives.

Less than a third the American population think socialism is good (that's half of two-thirds). Less than 9% of the private sector is unionized.

Yes our issues are SIMPLE. Our fellow citizens were taught that we were wrong. They did not chose that belief, it was given to them even before they could even think. "Homosexuality is wrong" covers all of our issues. It doesn't matter if it is ENDA, DADT or DOMA or bullying and teen suicide - it all comes from the same source.

Yet, we do nothing about that. Instead we play politics hoping someone will save us. Or we yell in the streets and alienate people.

Absolutely. That's why I don't concern myself much with DADT repeal - it's not about me or my community at all.

I was in the socialist contingent, my political background is in LGBT work, and I'm bi.
Jarrod, I have to quibble - - "I strongly believe that we'll get more respect not by supporting other issues outside our community, but by encourging/making others to support ours."

I think the trick is to not compromise our principles while simultaneously showing other groups we're not just there to benefit ourselves. I always point to Harvey Milk - he got queer folks organized to support the Coors workers' strike, the strike was successful, and then the unions turned around to help Milk and co. get out the vote.

We should never work uncritically with groups that are moderately homophobic, but we can't afford to demand that everybody come to us and work on our issues if we clearly don't care about theirs.

You've made the point Zac - in the 1970s nearly 20% of American workers were unionized. Today, it's less than 12% and still declining. In the private sector it is less than 9%, a level not seen since the 30s.

Using math, I don't see any reason to align LGBT equality with organized labor.

At the same time one-third of union members are anti-LGBT (just like the US Population) because of religious reasons. So, why? Why create that alliance? Especially considering that our equality is not based on political ideology, but religious bigotry.

We should reach out to ALL our fellow citizens with the simple human principle of equality and not confuse it with anything else. It doesn't make sense to confuse the issue.

Did this march have an explicit list of demands? Or was it just a "We aren't Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party" march? Did they even do anything to explicitly support the health care reform bill that Obama and Pelosi are getting so beaten up over?

Our GLBT orgs should not be enthralled by every cause that calls itself "progressive" --- how many of those orgs checked out the fine print before signing up? In fact, was there any fine print set to paper (or website), even?

Ronald Reagan, running for California governor, was once criticized for accepting a campaign donation from the Log Cabin Republicans. He replied (my paraphrase), "I can only presume that they gave me money because they support my positions, not neceesarily because I support theirs."

I think there's a good chance that something similar happened here. You can't join the chorus at the last minute and expect to be one of the big stars in the show.

DaveinNorthridge | October 4, 2010 9:59 PM

All I want to know, is "Did we ask to speak?" Or did we just assume we'd be asked? If it's the latter, don't blame the event.

Yeah, I'm with you.

Also, this stuff about 'our community's issues' always makes me feel pushed out. The rights of poor workers are crucial to my community, the rights of people with disabilities, the rights of atheists, the rights of women. It is not as if I stop being a poor disabled atheist the moment I start being queer. Asking me to sell out low income workers is asking me to sell out my family, asking me to sell out black people is asking me to sell out my neighbors, asking me to sell out disabled people is asking me to die, and so on. If you make your movement about white, able bodied, wealthy, Christian, cis, policitcally moderate gay men, who the fuck do you expect to stand with you when you have thrown away most of the queer people already?

I also could have lived without the really condescending tone about the black lesbian who spoke. "The most interesting aspect of Nipper's appearance though isn't what she had to say, but the color of her skin." Really, that is vomit worthy. What, should the representive for queer people be a rich white cis dude once again, rather than a black woman talking about race, class, and sexuality? Maybe if instead of counting on gay inc orgs you actually looked at the rest of us queer people who live in our poor, black, disabled, etc. communities as well you would find us. Queer rights are not more important that black rights, or vice versa.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 5, 2010 8:02 AM

'Progressives' are by and large people from the old communist and socialist parties who left the movement to drown in the swamp of Democratic (sic) party politics. Like most Democrats, they don't want to be seen in public as being too close to the queers, at least not this close to an election.

Heres a video (from JMG) that shows a decided left turn and unification in the socialist movement as old enemies reuinte around new issues.

"In a recent Rasmussen opinion poll, only 53% of Americans think that capitalism is better than socialism. While only 20% believe that socialism is the way to go. Adults under 30 are almost evenly divided in the Rasmussen poll; 37% opt for capitalism while 33% prefer socialism, a staggering 30% remain undecided." Thursday, April 9th, 2009

"In the latest Gallup poll more than one-third of Americans (36%) have a positive image of "socialism," while 58% have a negative image." Gallup, February 4, 2010

These polling trends will continue as long as Obama's depression and war drag on and on. And yes, we all know Clinton and the Bushes and Congress played their part. But it's basically his show.

I am not at all surprised that "a staggering 30% remain undecided" in the under-30 population, because there has been so little quality education in this country on political-economic theory --- that 30% probably doesn't even understand the basic differences between capitalism, socialism, communism, economic fascism, etc. They have no clue whatsoever, so what else can they be other than "undecided"?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 5, 2010 1:19 PM

They're learning, just like my generation did in the sixties and my grandparents did in the 30's.

i think this thing was poorly planned and executed

and if your average glbt didnt show up maybe it was because there was little to no notice beforehand

i really wanted to attend but with about a week's notice in my case i couldnt make plans

in its conception...a great idea. i think that uniting many groups to make a point that equality is obviously for all people, is great, too bad they tiptoed around mentionung gays, but, well, typical

Rick Sutton | October 5, 2010 12:58 PM

Damnitall, Bil, do we ALL have to lay out a marker NOW, to look back in December, and say, to anyone who will listen:

"I told you we'd lose the Congress because of such and so....(fill in the blank, whatever it takes to make us look intelligent)"

I've seen this movie, and read the book. I don't want the sequel. We seem to hate power sometimes. It doesn't end well. For any of us. Need proof? Here's a sentence that should send shivers down your spine:

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Sessions.

Or, House Government Affairs Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.

Both with immense power, over all our important issues, and many more. And a two-year mandate to shove it up the President's ass, whatever it takes, however it hurts, wherever they can.

The march organizers didn't reach out to the GLBT community as well as you and I would've liked. Choi was mistreated by some of his fellow attendees. Big Whoop. Welcome to everyday America. Deplorable. But relatively routine.

Should they have done better? Damn straight, no pun intended. Will they next time? I hope so.

I feel your pain, but can we do this, for now? Stop our hand-wringing over what isn't working, spend 29 days on the Democratic Congress's control, and sort it out next month?

I'm betting we can pull this out. The autopsies will be plentiful, on blogs and in the mainstream media.

Kudos on Jerame's job, BTW.

I agree Rick with your comments.

I was at the One Nation Rally. Exactly what else could the organizers have done for our community? It's not like a march and rally in DC are some foreign concept to us. We probably have more experience than they do in organizing rallies on the mall. From my vantage I never saw any LGBT groups at the rally. I saw HRC pictures on facebook, they were gathered at the WWII memorial. I never saw SLDN at the event, but they posted they were there. I did see a few individuals with pro equality signs in the crowd. Is that the organizers fault? We know how to pick up the phone and talk to each other and get organized. Don't we? I am tired of the blame game. Like Rick said, who are we going to blame when Jeff Sessions controls our fate!

I have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

janiice J carney | October 5, 2010 4:00 PM

this was put together in weeks, not months, I am on a rocky train back ro boston. hard to key this. i see none of the complains arrested here. you are shotting yoiurself in both feet.

julia mandes | October 5, 2010 4:32 PM

Bravo for a truly racist, privileged piece of journalism that seeks to drive a further wedge of trumped-up "us versus them" - you should have titled the article:

"The One Nation March was not Inclusive of LGBT Rights because the Black Organizers (and Black People in General) are Homophobic."

That paragraph about the lesbian speaker from the Task Force was especially horrific. Of course she is going to speak in an "Afrocrentric" manner - she's a Black woman, duh. White people speak all the time - how often do we describe it as "Eurocentric"?

I am tired of White gays (and for the record, i am a White lesbian) lamenting on how "homophobic" the Black community is when they: a) never spend any time in Black gay events or Black gay spaces, b) do NOTHING to address institutional and systemic racism in our community and in society at large, c) know next to nothing about Black history, art, and The Black Freedom Movement, and d) spend no meaningful time with People of Color or in activities that are predominantly People of Color spaces. Yet, they are experts on how People of Color act or "should" act. Ugh.

Julia Mandes

John Rutledge | October 6, 2010 12:49 AM

My partner and I were there. We are regular MSNBC viewers and fans of Ed Schulz so we knew about the rally from his show. I did think it odd there was little to no mention of it in gay media. Anyway, we thought it was a beautiful and inspiring day. We were struck by the diversity. America's melting pot was on full display, wonderfully coexisting. I did not get it was a gay event. It was an American event, with all the colors of the rainbow. I was touched when Rev Al Sharpton talked about gays and straights together.Nice surprise. We went with no expectations, to support everyone working together. We left uplifted and inspired, with some hope restored.