Saturday, April 24, 2010

How gays win full rights

Marc Ambinder, the Atlantic magazine's "politics editor," has posted a current blog post titled Gay Activists v. The White House: The Inside Story. He could better have called it something like "In which Marc Ambinder shows he doesn't understand how outcasts pry their way into the system ..."

Confidently predicting that next December, after the midterm elections, the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) law will be repealed by the rump Congress, Ambinder pretty much tells gay people: "Trust Daddy Obama; he'll take care of your pretty little heads."

Ambinder says everything would be hunky-dory if gay activists would just trust their legitimate leadership (that's the Human Rights Campaign Fund) and the nice political operatives in the White House like Jim Messina and Rahm Emmanuel. These Democratic power brokers certainly know that repeal of DADT is a popular idea (94 percent approval in one poll). They'll take care of us in an orderly way.

Well hooey. That's not how change works.

This week Lt. Dan Choi, the personable West Point grad and Army linguist (pictured above), chained himself to the White House fence to protest being discharged for being gay. And the President got heckled by Get Equal at a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer in Los Angeles.

In adopting an adversarial stance even toward our "fierce advocates," these LGBT rabble-rousers are just doing what we've learned in the last thirty years during which we've made huge gains for our outsider community. No other disempowered group has made such progress since Reagan's election in 1980; in fact, successive Republican administrations have rolled back civil rights and worker protections; both parties have conspired to hide the poor and enrich financial barons; and religious nutters have chipped away at women's control of our bodies. But gays have been winning -- we can get married in five states for crying out loud and even conservatives usually say we should be able to live relatively unmolested.

How did we get there? Not by shutting up and counting on our straight allies. We've yelled and demanded -- and also litigated, and voted, and come out to families and co-workers. We haven't been afraid to make a stink. Even the most mild mannered of us -- and actually most of us are more mild mannered than flamboyant -- has demanded our equality from an unwilling society. And we've made nearly unthinkable progress.

Sorry Ambinder. The Prez promised DADT repeal. He hasn't yet delivered. So he's an appropriate target of the most noisy, imaginative agitation we can pull off until he does what he says he'll do. That's how the liberation game is played.

This anti-militarist wishes we weren't having to pick this fight for a right I wish no one felt moved to use, but that's another struggle. Full rights first.


Darlene said...

You've come a long way, baby, but you still have a long way to go. Keep on agitating.

Nance said...

I agree with you that it's actions and noise that have moved the cause of LGBT rights forward. Now, if only we could get women of all affectional and sexual preferences activated again! The POTUS isn't focusing on one big front at a time; why should we? Iron-Jawed Angels to the gates!

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