Volume 21, Number 3
Tiffany Ten eyck
Worst Places To Be Black
Mass Destruction U.
Global Recession I
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State of the Movement
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Apparently it’s the time of the year to give talks about the State of the Union, State of the State, and State of whatever. So why not State of the Gay Movement?
As someone who has been doing queer political work for almost 40 years and now has quite a bit of contact with younger lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans young people as a teacher in a New England college— the movement isn’t doing too badly at the moment. But unless it makes some serious changes, it is going to have some rough years ahead.
If you were to tell homosexuals in 1968 that within 40 years the United States would have passed major laws outlawing discrimination based on sexual preference, that the Supreme Court would have declared sodomy laws unconstitutional, that open and proud lesbian and gay parenting would be treated seriously by the legal and medical professions, and that same-sex marriage would be legal (at least in one state), no one would have believed you. Undoubtedly, the movement has succeeded beyond its wildest expectations.
But it is unclear to me that we can keep this momentum. This isn’t because the people working in the movement these days aren’t working hard enough—they are. Or that the movement’s agenda isn’t clear— even if activists disagree about prioritizing gay marriage, there is plenty everyone does agree on. The problem is the “official” gay movement organi- zations—National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal Defense, The Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights—are not soliciting or listening to the views of young people in the LGBT community. In my experience, most young (under 25) lesbian, gay men, bisexuals, trans people, and self-identified queers that I know do not trust, agree with, or see any connection to national LGBT groups. This is, or will be, disastrous.
Most people working in the “official” movement are products of the late 1960s and 1970s. Even though our politics vary widely, we come from a time defined by specific types of oppressions. But after we move on—by death, exhaustion, or sheer tiredness—who is going to be the next wave of agitators, activists, and rabble-rousers?
When I talk to my students, these organizations hold no interest for them. In fact, they see them as having little to do with their lives. As far as I can tell, the organizations themselves have no interest in finding out what younger people want or even what their interests are. What are they thinking? Who do they think is going to be running the movement in 15 years? Who do they think that their funding base is going to be?
I gave a talk in January at the 30th anniversary of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Boston based non-profit, queer advocacy group that has done amazing work over the past three decades, including getting the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to rule in favor of marriage equality. In preparing for my talk, I emailed about 20 of my students to ask what they thought of the state of gay politics today—what issues interested them, what did they think the national gay groups might be doing, wrong or right.
One of the feelings that ran through all of the responses was an explicit recognition of being disenfranchised from the movement. One woman wrote, “I do feel as though there is a disconnect in the gay rights movement between older and younger GLBT individuals” and went on to cite specific issues—like marriage—that lead to this. The same ideas were in other responses. An 18-year-old first year student wrote: “The main thing I would say about the future of the gay rights movement is that it should continue to actively seek out new, young members to the cause. It is important that the fight for social equality and increased rights isn’t lost because it fades and dies out over time. I’m not sure what the best method is to do this, but I think that simply giving young people the opportunity to get involved is a good start.”
Certain issues, such as the situation of LGBT students in schools, stood out as an important concern to many: “There are obviously many issues that I think are important, but as far as youth is concerned, I think addressing the challenges that LGBT youth face in schools and communities is very important—both from an overall discrimination perspective and a safe space perspective. Combating homophobia early on and putting LGBT education programs into schools would likely have a profound impact on subsequent generations.”
Queer youth march in Springfield, Massachusetts—photo from www.gbpflag.org
Queer youth march in Springfield, Massachusetts—photo from www.gbpflag.org
On the fight for marriage equality, all of the students who responded were aware of the importance of equality under the law. As one male student wrote, “As far as marriage, in my opinion, it’s a very important issue from an equality standpoint. Queer people should have exactly the same rights that heterosexual people do and one of those rights is marriage. Civil unions would be fine, if they had the same benefits as straight couples receive. The problem now is that civil unions seem to be an attempt at ‘separate, but equal,’ and everyone knows that doesn’t work.”
But almost all of them were critical of the huge emphasis the national movement has put on this fight for marriage equality. This may be that they have a different plan for their future than older generations—or even than many heterosexuals of their generation: “I think many older people tend to be overly obsessed with the marriage issue. It’s not really more important than any other measure of equality, such as employment non-discrimination laws, hate crime bills, etc. Maybe part of why I feel this way is because I don’t plan on getting married any time soon, if ever. But I also think that our generation is less enamored of the prospect of marriage as a permanent suburban arrangement producing two kids, two cars, and a dog. First of all, that life just seems so boring. I don’t know how anyone could do the same thing for 50 years.”
A great deal of the criticism of marriage equality was politically based as well. A lesbian wrote: “I feel continually frustrated by the movement’s almost singular focus on marriage equality. The relationship that I want for my future has very little in common with the examples of ‘traditional’ marriage I have seen in my daily life. Marriage is a leftover remnant of the traditional and limiting constructions of gender and sexuality—and religion—that seeps through most civic matters in our society. In my mind, the movement is desperately working toward a flawed institution.”
She later noted her specific concerns: “As a woman who wants to raise kids with another woman, and actually have the children, women’s reproductive health, particularly as it relates to artificial insemination, seems as though it could be a more central topic of discussion.... Again, it seems as though movements are focused on those who are currently in that stage of life, rather than expanding into populations of supporters who will be in another five to eight years.”
Other students had a clear political analysis of the issue: “I think the movement’s current focus on marriage equality is misguided and potentially harmful; the idea that LGBT people should want to conform to traditional societal notions about marriage and family life is detrimental to a struggle for true equality. We must ask ourselves why we should strive for acceptance within social structures that deny our rights and look down on us with revulsion; instead of working within the existing system (i.e., fighting for marriage rights, seeking political office), we should define for ourselves what it means to be in a loving, caring relationship rather than asking permission from those in power. In this sense, the queer movement is inseparable from class struggles in this country; we are denigrated to being second-class citizens, but instead of attempting to climb higher in the hierarchy, we must act in defiance of the government.”
What also came through in many of the emails was a sense that these younger LGBT people were eager to interact with older women and men: “I think it is critical that young LGBT, especially young gay men, have the opportunity to communicate and learn from older gay men. These men should serve as mentors and teachers. Before taking [a course on HIV/AIDS] I may have had a basic knowledge of some of the struggles associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but I didn’t understand many of the sociopolitical struggles that occurred within the gay community and in terms of the larger U.S. society.
“I think that an important focus of the movement should be for older gay men (and allies) to relay their own stories of living through the HIV/AIDS crisis to the younger generation. Through personal testimonies and communications, I think there is a chance to bridge the generation gap that I feel currently exists between older and younger gay men. Also, I feel this is important that my generation more fully understand the epidemic so that the struggles of so many gay men, women, and allies are not lost to a few paragraphs in a U.S. high school history textbook.”
Many students also voiced a great desire for understanding the past as well: “The fact that gay youth do not have any grasp of the fight that has been fought or the rich literary, artistic, and political history of our “people” [is a problem]. We are essentially an ‘uncultured’ minority. We lack the renaissance of pride in our past (not pride in our present, but pride in the rich history that has gotten us to where we are). I think the gay youth of our time have the need to be passed on information from older generations of our rich cultural history so that we can better appreciate and understand the context that we live in today.”
If the national groups do not begin to reach out and listen to the political, social, and emotional needs and desires of LGBT youth they will have missed a tremendous opportunity. More than that, they are ensuring that they will have no real future if they do not begin to radically rethink what they are doing. They need reliable and productive ways of reaching out to all aspects of the community, especially those that are the future of the queer community.
Michael Bronski is a film critic, writer, teacher, and longtime activist.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.