Sunday, June 15, 2014

Controversial LGBT Poster Debuted At Brooklyn Pride, First Project of "The Reformers"

(Some Of) The Faces That Sell-Out The LGBT Community

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The Faces That Sell-Out The LGBT Community (LGBT Sell-Outs)

At the Brooklyn Pride festival yesterday, the city's LGBT community turned out for food and entertainment, a street fair, and a rude wake-up call.

A poster showing the faces and names of 16 LGBT leaders, who, over the years, have stopped fully advocating for the community on whose behalf they serve, was taped up along several blocks of Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. Some posters were affixed to the front doors of Port-A-Potties, a popular place for festival-goers to congregate.

Outside one Port-A-Potty, a group of gay men surveyed the poster. One remarked of the leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the United States, by observing, "HRC doesn't hire people of color."

This observation is backed up by criticisms made by many LGBT civil rights activists, most notably, by the San Francisco-based blogger and activist, Michael Petrelis. When Mr. Petrelis blogged about HRC's sudden funding of LGBT equality efforts in Alabama, Mr. Petrelis noted the lack of any people of color in HRC's partner for that state. Mr. Petrelis is not involved in the postering effort in Brooklyn, but his observations help to underscore how many activists raise criticisms about the LGBT community's leaders, which our leadership organizations never fully address.

The failure of LGBT community groups to be fully accountable and transparent to the broader constituency forms the basis of the controversial "LGBT Sellout Faces" poster that was taped up along the route of the Brooklyn Pride festival.

Besides poster-sized forms that were taped up along the route of the Brooklyn Pride festival, a flyer of the poster was also handed out by activists calling for reform of LGBT community groups and their leadership. At one point, a flyer was handed to a volunteer for HRC. The volunteer said he refused to take an "anti-HRC flyer." A companion HRC volunteer refused to take the flyer, as well. But a third HRC volunteer, perhaps a supervising volunteer, accepted the flyer, and this third volunteer inquired about the nature of the flyer.

When a reform activist told the third HRC volunteer that the flyer represented LGBT leaders, who have "sold-out" the community, the volunteer noted that former HRC President Joe Solmonese, who appeared on the flyer, was no longer in a leadership post at HRC, but the volunteer asked why was the current HRC president, Chad Griffin, appearing on the flyer ? The activist responded that under Mr. Solmonese, HRC was not responsive to the LGBT community's demands for reform, which is why he was forced to step down. Mr. Griffin, in his relative short tenure at HRC, has created controversy by claiming credit for the nation-wide movement for marriage equality, a claim that flies in the face of the truth that grassroots activists have been pressing for equal civil marriage rights for decades before Mr. Griffin's ascention into HRC's top leadership post. The HRC volunteer replied that volunteers are "told to respond" by saying that "HRC repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell," referring to the U.S. military's former discriminatory policy against LGBT recruits. When challenged with the truth about how U.S. servicemember veterans, such as Lt. Daniel Choi and others, as well as members of the grassroots group GetEQUAL lead the charge to press Congress and the White House to repeal DADT, and that HRC was busy soliciting donations from military contractors to fully press for a revolutionary end to the Defense Department's discrimination against LGBT servicemebers, the HRC volunteer responded that volunteers are "told to respond" by saying that HRC was responsible for passing the Matthew Shepard Act, referring to the hate crimes law named after a student, who died in 1998 of torture-related injuries he received in a vicious hate crime attack in Laramie, Wyoming. The way HRC claims the progress and successes in LGBT equality made by other groups is a long-standing complaint about how HRC disrespects the grassroots role of many LGBT activists and their grassroots organizations. As it appeared pointless to continue the conversation with the third HRC volunteer, the activist distributing the "LGBT Sellout Faces" flyer walked away, leaving the HRC volunteer with a copy of the flyer.

In the last year, many grassroots LGBT activists have been questioning the equality movement's leadership. In New York City, voters rejected the fordmidable mayoral campaign of former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Former Speaker Quinn, the highest-ranking LGBT politician in New York City government, spent 15 years in office without having enacted one transformative LGBT equality law during her incumbency in office. In the same year when former Speaker Quinn's political career came to an abrupt halt, LGBT activists succeeded in unseating former Gay Men's Health Crisis CEO Marjorie Hill. GMHC, as the agency is better known, suffered a series of grave financial reversals under Ms. Hill's leadership. Other agency officers, such as Dirk McCall, separated from GMHC during the management reshuffle. In San Francisco, LGBT activists are working to unseat San Francisco Board of Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is viewed by many as a neoliberal Democratic politician working to serve wealth campaign contributors and real estate developers instead of San Francisco's LGBT constituency.

The "LGBT Sellout Faces" poster was the first project of "The Reformers," a new activism group formed by the documentary filmmaker Wolfgang Busch and the blogger Louis Flores, who are calling on a political and nonprofit overhaul in LGBT leadership.

The Reformers photo TheReformers600_zps705e6c92.jpg

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