An appeal to Dan Choi: Stop the gender baiting

Posted on 04 Nov 2010 at 5:53pm

DADT activist’s ‘Harry Reid’s a pussy’ comment demeans women, and his apology falls far short of the mark of expressing true regret

C.D. Kirven |  Special Contributor

Editor’s note: Former Army Lt. Dan Choi, a gay man discharged under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, has become well known as a vocal advocate for repeal of DADT. Last month, after a bill that included repeal of DADT failed in the Senate, Choi gave an interview to Village Voice newspaper in which he called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “a pussy” who “will be bleeding once a month.” He later apologized in a Tweet that said: “Go ahead: call me a ‘misogynist.’ I’m still pro-choice, pro-ERA. I also happen to think @HarryReid is a #DADT #FAIL. I appreciate your criticism; I apologize for using the slur, and resolve to educate others in any capacity I’m afforded in the future.”

Dear Dan: As a member of the LGBT community fighting against bigotry, I understand the depth of your passion and also empathize with the difficulties you’ve endured fighting to expose the injustice America so openly projects to the world during a time of war, recklessly turning its back on LGBT soldiers who’ve sacrificed for their country.

A large number of those targeted by the policy are women. In 2009, women made up 14 percent of the Army, but accounted for up to 48 percent of DADT’s discharges.

Your comment after the failed DADT vote in the Senate last month — “Harry Reid is a pussy. … He’ll be bleeding once a month” — is almost too insulting to take seriously. But it needs to be publicly addressed in order for us to move forward as one unified LGBT movement. Women must always stand up and speak out against anyone using female bodily functions to insult someone publicly.

Geraldine Ferraro once said, “We’ve chosen the path to equality; don’t let them turn us around,” and I think it perfectly captures this moment in history. I’m disappointed in your indifferent apology and in the callous way it was delivered. Women are still fighting for equality, so for you as a gay man to trivialize our plight is as insulting to me as the Democratic Party’s hypocritical videos to LGBT youth proclaiming “It Gets Better” while they are still bullying the whole LGBT community with unconstitutional laws.

Your comment betrays the very freedoms that you as a solider have fought so hard to protect.

I’m baffled as to where the feminists in the lesbian community have gone. But I’m a woman before anything else, so I refuse to tolerate anyone publicly demeaning women. Personally, I’m very hurt and disappointed in you as a leader. This truly breaks my heart.

Unfortunately, this type of misogynistic behavior is nothing new in the LGBT community, which overtly displays its lopsided female representation with a limited number of lesbian clubs, magazines and clothing stores. So as a woman, it’s my responsibility to call out anyone openly disrespecting or disregarding the difficulty of our continued struggle. Anything less would be disingenuous to the fundamental principles of our movement and to any progress we’ve made in our almost half-a-century-long pursuit for civil rights.

Gloria Steinem was right when she said the problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn. But as a gay man, you should already know better, so you should do better.

You have the unique opportunity to expand your voice. As an anonymous speaker said, “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” You should lead our community by opposing gender baiting and understanding that those kinds of comments are unacceptable.

As Richard H. Robbins pointed out in Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, “The informal slogan of the Decade of Women became, ‘Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.’” Furthermore, despite the efforts of feminist movements, women in the wealthiest Western countries still suffer disproportionately, leading to what sociologist refer to as the “feminization of poverty.”

At the same time, women produce 75 to 90 percent of food crops in the world and are responsible for the running of households. According to a United Nations report, the international community has fallen far short of its commitments to empower women, with only eight out of 188 member states committing to global gender equality agreements.

As efforts to improve race relations within the LGBT community are almost non-existent, and as sexism slowly leaves the shadows, you as a leader will hopefully seize the opportunity to unify us instead of dividing us along gender lines.

My plea will most likely go unanswered because I’m a middle-class lesbian of color who can’t afford to pay to play. But as a leader in my community, I’m neither cautious nor careful in my demand for reform. So I implore you to become the equality you so proudly represent.

C.D. Kirven is co-founder of Get Equal Now, a Lambda Literary Award-nominated author, a board member with DFW Pride Movement, an artist and a filmmaker. Kirven is currently working on a non-fiction lesbian rights manifesto, The Glass Closet, and a documentary. Contact her at cdkirven@aol.com, cdkirven.blogspot.com or Facebook.com/chastitykirven.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

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