Tuesday, January 26, 2010

STOP THE REVOLUTION, I WANNA GET ON!


A year ago if you had asked me where I would be at this very moment I would have looked at you and said, "Huh?"

I've spent the last five days with over 40 LGBT activists from around the country on a mountaintop in someplace called Tennessee.

Hint: Limit your time with activists to four days.

I'm jes sayin'.

It's like not swimming for a couple of hours after eating. It's just safer for everyone.

We have spent the past few days talking.

I've actually learned a new rather strange language called "P.C".
It seems you actually have to care about another persons' feelings when you speak.

Sorry.

I was laughing.

Heartily.

But.

I digress.

You also must make sure that you use the correct verbiage when describing "Bitches" and "Whores".

"Bitches" evidently don't exist outside of kennels.

Tell that to Joan Collins who has built a career away from the kennel.

"Whores" are "Sex Workers".

No.

Really.

I swear.

Examples:

Wrong way
"I told that whore to get over here with my gas money, now!" Said the Congressman.

Correct way:
"I respectfully request that you, non gender specific, Sex Worker join me at my side with sufficient funds to fill the gas tank on my Escalade", said the Congressman.

Get it?

Of course you do.

Where was I?

Oh.

Yeah.

I've been to the mountaintop.

I have been surrounded with some of the most brilliant people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

On a mountaintop.

We have had workshops on how to organize and strategize and pyschedelicize our movement to attain full equally as citizens of the United States.

We have talked (Lord knows) ourselves until we are Blue in the face (which is not an attractive color on me at this time of the year. I look like Latoya Jackson ordering a Jumbo Jack at a drive thru at 3:00 am. But. I digress.). We have fought like brothers and sisters. We have learned so much about each other that I could write a book on everyone here.

Hmmm.

I also have learned that on occasion, rare, but, on, I might be a teensy bit difficult to deal with.

Imagine.

I know.

You can't.

Oh!

Wait!

Last night we got word that our little camp of linguists was being touted on the Blogs as a "Rich Gays cigar and Champagne Secret Meeting!"

I'm pissed.

Not because they were so off base with what they said about us.

But.

Because they were so off base`with what they said about us.

I drank generic Vodka!

That I poured myself!

Zut Alors!

That's French for, "Uh, is there a VIP section up in this Bitch?"

Oops.

I said "Bitch".

Outside of a kennel.

Ouch.

Where was I?

Oh.

Yeah.

Witch Mountain.

Look nosy Bloggy peeps, I would be the first to tell you if we were reinventing the wheel up here in a place so cold my cojones went into hibernation.

We're not.

What we are doing is taking the Bull by the horns and doing something to make our world, our country, a better place for all of us.

If anyone has an issue with that because they didn't get an invite to an all expenses paid trip to a historic place (did I mention that THE ROSA PARKS used ta kick it up in here? Did I? Well. She did.) to actually do something other than moan about what hasn't been done, well, I don't know what to tell you.

Actually I do, but, that kind of language should only be used in a kennel.

An amazing woman, Robin McGehee and a really smart and somewhat hot, young man, Kip Williams, invited me to come and I am honored to have attended this amazing retreat. I got to learn from Dan Matthews of PETA (by the way, let a resident of a kennel throw blood on my ratfur coat. I'm jes sayin'.) and I got to meet the legendary Anne Northrup who has looked after me and told me to shut up in the nicest possible manner.

The others are a blend of something you NEVER see in leadership positions in the major "DONATE NOW" Gay inc organizations.

I won't name them.

You probably don't know them anyway.

You should.

You will.

But. Some descriptions.

We got us some:

Angry,beautiful,poetic and smart Black lesbians who are damn proud of all of the proceeding.

Seniors who think like 25 year olds.

Law enforcement folk.

Gentlewomen.

Gentlemen. Me.

Black Men! Yeah, tell me how often we're included in Gay Inc discussions? Can you say "Prop 8"? Of course you can't. Unless it's followed by "It was the Black Men. DONATE NOW".

White guys! No waiting, we got several, step right up!

Youth of color and those lacking in melanin. All brilliant.

And here is the kicker! We got us some Transgender folk! And we actually see them as people, not just another, "DONATE NOW", push button, make money drop out. How very modern of us.

Try it.

We've got insiders and outsiders.

Tops and bottoms.

Pajamas. That is. What were you thinking?

Perv.

Here's the kicker.

It's my last night here and the elitist camp full of Champagne and Cigars is abuzz.

Uh.

Buzz.

It seems that President Obama (the Black Guy)is maybe just maybe going to make a major announcement about the absurd "Don't ask Don't Tell" policy that throws perfectly good heroes out of the Armed Forces because they are Gay.

SIDEBAR: Aren't we in a war? You know, the Bush war? Why then are we throwing away war heroes like Lt. Dan Choi who is fluent in Arabic and is decorated?

Not like a tree. Like a Hero.

The government has spent millions of dollars training folks like Dan and then because some bigot is afraid that some dude (or `dudette) is going to look at him or her in the shower, we throw taxpayer dollars down the drain by getting rid of them when all they want to do is serve the country that they love?

Is that the magic "Fiscal Responsibility" I've heard so much about from the nattering nabobs of negativity on the right screech about, oh so very often?

Well, we don't know what will happen, but, if this stupid policy is done away with, I want to personally thank my Senator, Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate for leading the way.

Okay, what had happened was, I invited Lt. Dan Choi out to Moiself's sunny little burgh of Las Vegas to drum up support for The National Equality March. My good riend and sometime mentor, Gwen Migita of Harrahs corporation facilitated Dan and I getting backstage at a fancy dress ball to actually have a few private moments with Senator Reid. Upon seeing Dans' chestful of gleaming medals and ribbons, the Senator said that he wanted to get rid of the DADT policy and that the President and he were working on it. Since Harry Reid has personally promised me a couple of things and had always kept his word, (including promising to endorse the National Equality March , which he did.)I knew that soon, DADT would end.

I'm hoping tomorrow.

Tomorrow is The President's State of The Union address and our little exclusive and elitist mountaintop is abuzz because we know that without a "DONATE NOW" button, we, the grassroots, were able to push history forward just a touch. We, the real grassroots, were able to do what Americans are supposed to be able to do.

We met with one of the most powerful men in the country and he told us he supported us and to just keep up our fight and to get in the streets and march until we had our rights. He also told us he would do all that he could to help.

If DADT ends soon, I want you to remember a few things.

Without Robin McGehee and Kip Williams and Dan Choi and a woman named Laura Martin (who arranged a major meeting in D.C. with Senator Reid)and all the grassroots activists who came to Washington D.C. (thank you David Mixner!)on a gorgeous Fall day, we would be a lot further back from our goals of full equality for ALL U.S. citizens.

And.

We did it without fancy dinners and parties where people didn't wear shirts (what's up with that? Put your damn shirts back on, I'm not trying to ruin cashmere with your sweat!. I digress.)OR a huge "DONATE NOW BUT WAIT A FEW MORE YEARS FOR ANYTHING TO HAPPEN CAUSE WE HAVE NEEDS AT OUR GAY INC.HQ" button affixed to our butts.

And you know what?

We're still doing it from our mountaintop aerie with free flowing lemonade and coffee!

We're doing it at the LOCAL LGBT center near you.

We're doing it at high schools and park benches and in the middle of the night in places GAY Inc. won't go.

My point?

We , the grassroots activists are doing it.

Are you Gay Inc.?

Get up stand up! Stand up for your rights!

And remember a man named Harry Reid and when people tell you he doesn't know or care about you or your community, you tell them, yes he does.

And you tell 'em, I said so.


Photo Credit: Chris "Causing a Ruckus" Miller

19 comments:

Laura Kanter said...

Derek -
My name is Laura Kanter and I am a full-time equal rights activist in Orange County, Ca - a place where doing what I do is not popular and where being a Jewish woman married to a Black woman is not common. I have been one of the only consistent and loud voices in my area, rarely complaining about what is not done, and mostly working very hard in many ways to create change. I respect your hard work and would love to work with you some day. I also resent the comment you made about people moaning about what doesn't get done. I am not one of the "in" crowd, and don't get invited to the cool stuff like the retreat. But I have spent countless hours knocking on doors, making phone calls, and standing on street corners in Cali, Maine, and freezing cold wet New Jersey trying to get the public to do something to create change. I have created organizations, organized protests, organized meetings and coalitions, provided support for struggling individuals and groups, and I write, blog, and speak and scream relentlessly. I am a friend of Dan Choi's and organized a protest in his honor in Orange County before Robin even knew who he was. I was the one who told her first that she needed to have him speak at Meet in the Middle.

I did feel left out when I heard about the retreat. Upon reflection I think it was in very poor taste to start tweeting about what an amazing time you all had while it was happening - it incited feelings of resentment and made it appear that you are all part of some elite strata of activists that the rest of us can only hope to join. This is not a way to build a cohesive community. Getting us left-out outsiders angry enough to "act up" too is also not productive -it is divisive.

What would have been a more productive and responsible way to share about the retreat would have been to make organized announcements either before or during or even after, about the who, what, and why followed by some detailed discussion about what is next and how people can get involved. The way it was tweeted and shared was irresponsible and smacked of high school like behavior.

I have been a friend and supporter of Robin and Kip and Willow, JTI, MIM, and the NEM. Of course 100's if not 1000's of people on fb could say the same. I did feel very left out and had wished I was there in Tennessee. But now that I have had time to really think about the way you all handled what was clearly an amazing opportunity, I am glad not to be associated with this behavior that lacks grace and humility.

I am disappointed in the way you all handled this. It was crude and unfortunate. You can dismiss my comments as coming from someone who is simply envious, which I may have been at one point. But I am not envious now. Only sad that those of you who were fortunate to participate were not also humble enough to recognize that there are many many others who are not on the cool list, who are not idolized podium protesters, but who (like me) have risked everything for what we believe in - for what you believe in too.

You all can make up whatever defense you want to about the reaction of those who are not impressed - not impressed NOT by what you are doing -but by the way in which you are doing it. The way in which this was handled has alienated and hurt people. To me that is the most destructive thing you can do at a time like this and it makes me profoundly sad.

I would be honored to continue this discussion with you and anyone else who is interested.

In SINCERE solidarity,
Laura Kanter
laurakanter@mac.com

truth4all said...

The chest thumping by those attending the DC March continues...

To say that without the march we would be a lot further back in terms of equal rights simply proves you're only paying attention to your reflection in the mirror, not the reality around you. Sure, the march was empowering to a lot of people, and important in terms of motivation, but it was just a march, and it didn't accomplish anything legislatively. There were other marches before you, many others. And given the tremendous set-backs in LGBT Equality which occurred AFTER the march, it seems a bit delusional to hold it up as some Civil Rights milestone.

I agree completely with Laura Kanter...the dissemination of information is appalling and embarrassing. How do you people ever hope to succeed at anything if all you can do is crow atop a pedestal? You decry others for talking about problems, then spend the rest of your time whining about how nobody appreciates you.

I'm all for any group doing what it can, for any individual working in any way they can for equal rights. But while you're busy pointing out how successful the march and those associated with it have been, why not point out some truth, which is how truly unsuccessful this whole grassroots effort has been. Talk to some people in Maine or anywhere else civil rights are being taken away again. "Sharing your story" is a strategy that needs to be put to bed. It was useful in another time, when LGBT issues were for the most part unseen and unknown, but it serves no real purpose now.

This group is becoming like Wall Street. Doling out big bonuses despite the fact the war is being lost. Maybe, just maybe, you should think outside the box you've locked yourself up in. If we succeed, it will be through the courts, as the current Prop 8 case seems destined to prove.

Cat Martini said...

Well said! A gorgeous article that made me wanna stand up and lead another march! Right now! With my cocktail in one hand and a bull-horn in the other! Let's go!

FYI: we are sooooo linking to this tomorrow!!!

DEREK IS A DEMOCRAT said...

Dear Laura,
I think your points are very well made. I am tremendously sorry that you were offended by the tweeting. I actually heard from people all over the country while I was there that people were tweeting "Jesus moments". I am new to activism. My field is politics. I don't know how the guest list came about, however, I was honored to be invited. I was also TRULY shocked to find out that what we were doing even mattered outside of us on that hill.

If I came off as flippant it's because I try to be as flippant as possible so that I don't become so enraged by my second class citizenship. I learned a lomg time ago that humour works better for me to get things done than the rage I used to have. That doesn't mean that I don't take what I'm fighting for seriously, I just handle it in my way.

I wouldn't know 99% of the activist world if they hit me in the face, but, I would like to know you. I'm from West Covina, so, I get what you are saying about The OC. We're compadres on that one!

Let me know how I can help you out, we are all in this together.

I can't apologize for any behavior on my part (I did enough of that over the past few days, activists are way touchy!), but, I have a feeling that you would have been a great addition to the week.

With Love,

Derek

Nelson G. said...

For the purposes of clarification, could you provide some insight as to how the selection process - those who were invited to go to Tennessee - occurred?

Thanks.

dwashington314@gmail.com said...

As to how the selections were made, I have no idea.

I even asked, "what is my role here and why was I invited?"

I was told that my work as a coalition builder for the National Equality March impressed them and they wanted me to play the same role. I was also told that because I always "kept it real" it was important that I be involved.

As you can see from my writing, I don't take activism as overly seriously as some and I try to explain, when needed, that sometimes good intentions can veer into a sort of PC hell.

I'm also aware that under the surface, I am a Black guy who is very honest about the role of race in LGBT leadership without being whiny or overly sensitive (though to some people, any mention of race is overly sensitive).

So, in order to know more about the selection process, you would really have to go to Robin and Kip.

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