Scared Straight

The LGBT movement witnessed many successes toward progressive equality in the past few years. Slowly, same-sex marriage has become accepted in 17 states, workplace discrimination is being combated, and more people are comfortable coming out. In addition, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for the military was overturned as well as the Defense of Marriage Act.

However, all of this joy seems to be a bit over-exemplified. How much does the issue of marriage equality affect the larger LGBT community? The vast majority of LGBT-identified folks is unmarried and suffers from medical discrimination and youth. Despite the acronym, the larger LGBT movement discriminates against trans-people often excluding them from pride parades or under representing their interests. The voice of queer people of color similarly has been left out.

Back in 2009, the queer activist group Bash Back vandalized the New York headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest and most well-funded LGBT advocacy organization in the country. The network justified their action by saying the HRC hijacked the gay rights movement. Other queer advocacy organizations, such as Against Equality and Black-and-Pink, joined the criticism citing the lack of representation by the organization’s board.

Those outside the movement may wonder why such a large schism. The heart of these criticisms lies in the issue of privilege.

The LGBT identity advocated by the HRC and GLAAD is that of affluent, cisgendered whites. While men also hold disproportionate sway over the movement, the role of LGBT women in silencing marginalized voices cannot be understated.

These groups see LGBT as an objectively defined identity rather than a spectrum and see that identity as part of the American civil culture, which includes marriage, careerism, and patriotism. In their eyes, transgender, people of color, the poor, and immigrants have no place in the movement. HRC has become the face of assimilation politics within the LGBT community.

HRC’s top donors include the Coca-Cola Company, Citigroup, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton and Goldman Sachs. Instead of representing the interests of the wider LGBT community, HRC sucks up to the corporate elite in order to gain access to power for the privileged few. This disproportionate representation is reflected in their policies.

In April 2013, the organizers of the SF Pride parade voted to have Chelsea Manning (then ‘Bradley’) become a grand marshal. However, the board president quickly rescinded the title stating that Manning’s actions jeopardized the lives of American soldiers as well as undermined the anti-terrorist efforts of the country. She then censored all speech on the matter for the duration of the parade.

It should not be a surprise that HRC affiliates attempt to vilify critics of the American military apparatus. The three top drone manufacturers in the United States are heavy HRC donors as well as Edward Snowden’s old intelligence firm.

HRC lists military service as a core value in its Allies Guide to LGBT Issues handbook framing the conversation to suggest that hordes of queer citizens actually want to serve the US military. The pamphlet has patriotic undertones with vague messages about immigration and foreign policy. Again, photographs of white faces dot the pages.

HRC’s aggressive support for hate crimes legislation hurts LGBT people of color and immigrants by increasing the power of the police state. The HRC seems to have forgotten about the rampant police harassments during the San Francisco riots the 1970s. LGBT activist Harvey Milk was also heavily surveilled by the FBI and queer activists continue to face police repression today. Undocumented queers run the extra risk of deportation.

The HRC represents the privileged faction of the LGBT movement that seeks to assimilate into the American power elite. This is why they support vast systems of oppression that keep the queer majority behind bars or in the ghettos while championing civil victories only they can enjoy.

To be queer is not to have definitive identity. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual all describe sexual preference in reference to sexual identity. Love, desire, and instinct are left out of the equation. This is why mainstream queers don’t understand transpeople. For these queers, who one chooses to have sex with does not determine that person’s identity.
Sexual orientation was invented by thousands of years of religious doctrine and social practice that manifested itself in our modern institutions over time. Alexander the Great was not gay since that idea did not exist in his society. In Ancient Greece, it was common place for citizens to fornicate with men, women, children and animals alike. Being queer is about non-conformity, not assimilation.