Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Gay Agenda

Dear Barack,

First of all, congratulations on the end of one journey and the beginning of another. We are all looking forward to your presidency, and many of us, I am sure, are thinking about how to share your burdens. So much of what happens next is about activating what already works: I was thinking about this after our third snowfall in so many days here in Shoreline. I didn't want to get up and shovel again -- but I did, because there are a lot of elderly people in my neighborhood who have worked hard to be independent and stay in their own homes, and a bad fall could end that in a matter of seconds. So I was out shoveling and scraping, along with the Italian sons, who drive in from the suburbs to make sure their parents' walks are clear; and the Black and Latino kids from the projects around the corner, who were trying to make a little money before school started. Then a couple guys came down the street and said to me "Put that shovel down Dr. Radical!" and it turned out they had been sent by my old college friend, Tim, an African-American man from Louisiana who used to play professional football, and has invested the bulk of his earnings in Shoreline neighborhoods. By doing this, a great many of his efforts go towards providing decent housing for poor people. Tim also hires guys from Shoreline who have been in prison and gives them the jobs they need, both to get parole and try to make new lives. Did I mention that Tim is busy developing land for a school back in Louisiana, and that he is particularly concerned about the educational prospects of girls?

So you see what I mean? There are a lot of people who are ready to step up, because they are stepping up already by thinking about somebody else every day and doing something about it. I think you know that, or you wouldn't be investing so much of your presidency in talking to us about it.

But I don't think you know much about the gay agenda. Oh yeah, yeah, there is one -- it's not just some right-wing scare tactic. There is. And part of what makes me think about this is the story in today's New York Times about queers of color and their allies picketing Pastor Rick Warren's Martin Luther King Day appearance in Atlanta. King's message of tolerance, protesters said, would have included gay and lesbian people. But actually, that is not true. It did not. We know that Bayard Rustin was marginalized from the movement because of his homosexuality, and only brought back to coordinate the 1963 March on Washington because of the highly-principled A. Philip Randolph, president of the influential Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

My point is that on that day when Martin talked about his dream, Bayard had a dream too, which was that the sexual acts he performed and his love for other men, Black and white, would not subject him to the double jeopardy of being a Black gay man. And that dream has also not yet been realized.

So without further ado, let me tell you what the gay agenda is:

That when anti-gay activists talk about special rights that queers are asking for, you remind them of the special wrongs we have endured. Like losing our jobs, being subject to arrest for gathering socially, being beaten and raped by the police, having our intellectual life censored, being imprisoned, being committed to mental asylums, having our children taken away, being thrown out of our homes as children and being forced to survive by selling sex acts to strangers, being bullied and beaten at school and on the street, electroshock treatment, being killed, being expelled from school, being subjected to endless public denigration and hatred as a group, having our belongings and money be stolen by the families of our deceased partners, being evicted from our homes, being excluded from hospital rooms when our loved ones are ill, being dismissed dishonorably from the military and losing our benefits, being permanently excluded from all benefits, financial and legal, that accrue to people who are married, and employment discrimination. To name a few. You tell them that, ok?

That you put all the reports that have been commissioned over the years that have reluctantly concluded that GLBTQ people are not only as good, but better, soldiers than straight people, in the public record; and by executive order, end all discrimination against GLBTQ people in the military. While you are at it, you might remind the Joint Chiefs that people in the military do not have access to freedom of speech as civilians do. You can order them to immediately issue a standing order to all commissioned and non-commissioned officers that they will no longer be permitted to voice their opinion that gays in the military are disruptive to a good national defense. They will convey explicitly, if they feel the need to discuss us at all, homophobia in the ranks, and all forms of prejudice and discrimination, is disruptive to a good national defense.

You can solve your Rick Warren problem by getting religion the fuck out of politics. Everybody is entitled to hir own faith, but they are not entitled to bludgeon the rest of us with it, and that act should not be facilitated by the President, the Congress, or any other elected official. This is not about being against religion per se; it is about the separation of church and state. Church and state may, and should, speak to each other; they should not speak for each other.

Issue an Executive Order canceling the Defense of Marriage Act. Leaving marriage "up to the states" when the federal government does not recognize gay and lesbian marriage as a legal contract is a punt. When people cannot take advantage of federal tax laws, transport their families over state lines, keep their health benefits, or know that they can retain custody of or access to children when they move to another state, their marriages are not equal to the marriages of straight people.

Tell the IRS to immediately investigate the non-profit status of churches that are investing large sums of money in anti-gay initiatives. Tell the IRS to agree back off when they agree to stop engaging in discriminatory activity.

There's more, but you have a lot to do, my friend, so I will stop here. So as you move forward, Barack, don't be tolerant like Martin Luther King, Jr., great as he was in so many ways. Be tolerant like A. Philip Randolph, who truly knew how to accept a person for who s/he was and the talents s/he brought to this great country.

This post goes out with love to Cheryl Clarke, poet, activist, intellectual and friend. Popsie did not live to see today, but he left his great lesbian daughter to carry on the mission.


Anonymous said...

Great post, TR. Another suggestion: scolding HBO for not broadcasting Bishop Robinson's opening prayer at the inauguration concert.

Susan said...

Great post, and great agenda. If half of it happens it will be amazing.

Bardiac said...

It's almost time!

Great agenda. Thank you :)

JackDanielsBlack said...

Just now listening to Rick Warren giving his invocation at the invitation of Barack Obama. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Obama's gay rights agenda. He'll abolish don't ask don't tell in the military and that will be about it.

Clio Bluestocking said...

This is an agenda that I can fully support.

By the way, I turned my back on Warren's invocation in protest. Not that it mattered, but I figured someone should show dissent.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the president doesn't have the authority, via executive order, to cancel a law passed by congress and signed by the President. Let me check my Constitution.....

Nope, nothing in there about this power.

Sfrajett said...

Lovely dedication to Cheryl, a dear friend who makes a killer martini and who gives nothing but love to her queer people (and who I have fallen out of touch with for far too long). Thanks for this.

Tenured Radical said...

Anonymous 10:54 --

A strict constructionist this way comes. But sweet pea, this is not how any President has employed, or interpreted the legality of, executive orders.


GayProf said...

I had hoped for at least a little shout out to the gays during the inaugural speech (comparable to his victory speech). No such luck.

DCJ said...

It's a nice agenda, but I fear that Obama will spend most of his political capital elsewhere. I do expect him to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but beyond that I am not too hopeful. The things I know he won't do (based on my understanding of him and his politics) is "getting religion out of politics" and using the IRS to go after the non-profit status of churches. Not only do I think Obama personally disagrees with those ideas, they would also probably constitute political suicide for 2012 (unless the economic turnaround is so magnificent that waves of goodwill for the president will overwhelm such cultural issues.

I'd like to see all those things happen though. But it just looks politically impossible to me.

Azulao said...

Lordy, I wish that the IRS would investigate the HELL out of churches! And I say this as a formerly committed and still sympathetic church member (who left her church through no fault of the particular church at all, because my church didn't do this).

It's not good for churches, let alone anyone else, to spend large sums of money on policking. It's unethical, it's lying, it's disgusting, it's irreligious. I was totally revolted by the actions of churches to get Prop 8 passed in California.

If the IRS got serious, I think getting religion out of politics might also happen. Which would do nothing but strengthen the true spirituality in the religions, because God knows, "Sit down and shut up" is a very effective spiritual discipline.

But I'm afraid I agree with David on the likelihood of all that.

Plus, was it my imagination or did Mr. Warren *seriously* need a better haircut?

DCJ said...

Also, just an addendum: Couldn't the Defense of Marriage Act be overturned in the courts?

Anonymous said...

You folks crack me up!

Azulao said: "It's not good for churches, let alone anyone else, to spend large sums of money on policking." [I think poliTICKing was meant]

My response: But of course it is just peachy to spend/donate nearly A BILLION dollars to get Obama elected? How is THAT for some moral equivalence? Breathtaking if you ask me.

- Christians voting on issues that they use the Bible as a guide are NOT un-Constitutional.
- Churches encouraging voters to vote on certain issues is NOT any more un-Constitutional than a gay person is encouraging voters to vote on certain issues.
- All this falls under freedom of speech.

Also, some honest talk would be helpful in your "gay agenda" outline. Let's cut the bull and admit that the ultimate end in the "gay agenda" is to make religious speech hate speech enforced by the State. That way there are no eeeevil Christians talking about the immorality of homosexuality on Sunday mornings. Then you all can feel good about yourself and utopia is realized.

Little problem there though. You'll have to get past the fanatical Muslims with that one. Ahh, it's going to be an interesting next few years.

Got your popcorn?

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I totally expect you to send my previous comment down the memory hole.

We all know that when directed at conservatives/gop "dissent is the highest form of patriotism." But when directed at liberals/dems/insert-protected-class-here it is pure hate speech to be vilified.

I get it.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear Eric,

Splutter, splutter, splutter.


Anonymous said...

Splutter. I'd expect nothing less from a "college" professor. Thank you for reinforcing my worldview TR.

DCJ said...


I think idiots should absolutely have the right to say whatever the hell they want, as loudly as they want. But if it helps your cause to feel persecuted, I wouldn't want deny you the satisfaction.

I mean, it's true, after all, Christians HAVE had an awfully rough go of it in this country for the last couple hundred years. Who will finally stand up to defend them?