Created on Monday, 21 June 2010 18:48
Written by Freedom Socialist Newspaper
Lead, follow, or get out of the way!
Fed-up queer activists reignite grassroots action
by Jordana Sardo l Freedom Socialist Newspaper
eel the buzz? The new generation of lesbian-gay-bi-trans- organizers is bolder and brassier than ever. These refreshingly grassroots activists are bustin’ out amid a profound shift in popular attitudes toward sexuality and gender roles. Gay proms proliferate.
Prominent names in entertainment, from Latino pop star Ricky Martin to Country Western’s Chely Wright, proudly declare their liberation from sexual closets. Over 4,000 gay-straight alliance groups pepper the country’s schools. Polls indicate that 58 percent of people under 35 support gay marriage. Sixty-nine percent support gays serving openly in the military; and 89 percent support workplace equality.
So what’s to fight about? Plenty!
For starters, federal law remains decades behind the times and the Obama administration continues to enforce discrimination against queers. Folks like those in New York’s Queer Rising, are “tired of just waiting around for rights,” and are moving to claim their full personhood now.
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Vol. 31, No. 3,
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit homophobic treatment on the job. Currently 29 states have no protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The situation is even worse for transgender people: 38 states allow bosses to fire or refuse to hire someone based on gender identity. A recent survey of transpeople report that 97 percent are harassed at work, and 48 percent had lost jobs or were denied promotions.
Nevertheless the trans community was abandoned in the 2007 ENDA bill drafted by gay Democrat Rep. Barney Frank. Hundreds of outraged LGBTQ and allied organizations formed United ENDA to push for trans-friendly protections. As a result, Frank’s 2009 ENDA was transgender-inclusive. Still, ENDA remains “stuck” in committee. So queers are turning up the heat.
Activists from GetEQUAL, a newly formed national direct action network, paid “house calls” to Congress-folks demanding they walk their talk. They also staged sit-ins at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, DC and in San Francisco.
No silence in the ranks
The notorious Clinton legacy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) was headed for the dustbin until the Obama administration decided to delay due to midterm elections. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a supporter of repeal, suddenly about-faced claiming he wanted to await results of a study on how troops would react. But the troops are way ahead of Congress and military leaders.
Under DADT, nearly 14,000 service people, disproportionately women, have been discharged for being gay: 792 of them during Obama’s term. But they are not disappearing quietly. Lt. Dan Choi, Iraq war veteran and Arabic linguist, faces discharge after announcing his homosexuality on national television. When Choi spoke at a rally organized by Seattle OUTProtest, he delivered a stirring love poem in Arabic and declared that “patience is not a strategy” and “the time for asking is over.”
At a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer, GetEQUAL activists heckled Obama for upholding the sexuality gag-rule while claiming to be a “fierce advocate” for sexual minorities. The incident was broadcast over mainstream news. Congress got the message that civil disobedience could greet inaction over discrimination.
Beyond the ball and chain
It’s outrageous that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), another Clinton holdover, denies 1,100 federal benefits and responsibilities to queer partners.
Marriage is essentially an economic contract between a couple and the state. Because the traditional nuclear family is so profitable to capitalism, hetero pairings are bestowed with many advantages, such as healthcare and Social Security benefits. Queer marriage challenges this patriarchal arrangement, which is why the right wing will never cease its opposition. When California’s Prop. 8 ban on gay marriage passed in November 2008, LGBTQ and allied youth hit the streets in the tens of thousands, igniting the new wave of activism.
Queer youth are still demanding action. On Valentine’s Day this year, Queer Rising protesters chained themselves to the Manhattan Marriage License Bureau. They were arrested, but charges were dropped after activists packed the courtroom.
Resistance is broadening
Frustration is growing with the Obama administration and “respectable” homosexual organizations that merely serve as fundraisers for the Democratic Party. National networks, like Equality Across America and Join the Impact have used the Internet as a tool to build actions and civil disobedience. Collaboration is increasing: Queer Rising joined forces with GetEqual and Talk About Equality to mobilize a Don’t Ask protest outside the White House this spring.
More and more LGBTQ groups are recognizing the importance of multi-issue organizing. Many had contingents in this year’s immigrant rights marches. Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network joined others to protest tea party mobilizations because that movement is “a magnet for various racists and xenophobes trying to scapegoat immigrants and others.” Pride at Work staged a flash-mob dance in the San Francisco Westin’s lobby to demand a boycott until the hotel negotiates fairly with UNITE/HERE Local 2. A New York group, Queers for Economic Justice, emphasize the interconnections of class, race, gender and sexuality in community organizing and in print and online video resources.
Today’s gender-bending rebels are rejecting all forms of discrimination. They are creatively applying pressure to the powers-that-be.
Where to next? The sky’s the limit. Today’s 21st century queer freedom fighters, in solidarity with other oppressed groups, have the chance to go beyond the rainbow to achieve the real revolutionary change we all need.
• No support for “gay rights” legislation that fails to protect transfolk and queer immigrants.
• Not one more queer vote, volunteer hour, or dollar for the Democratic Party — devote clout to building an anti-capitalist third party instead.
• Move new LGBTQ direct action networks forward by adopting explicitly multi-issue agendas, including amnesty for immigrants, defense of organized labor, and opposition to police brutality and to war — in order to be a voice for the entire queer community.
• Form united fronts to defeat rightwing bigots and resurgent Nazis.
• Support the inspiring struggles of queer allies around the globe.