To Me, The LGBT Movement Seems To Be Moving Towards Irrelevancy

Posted on 30 Oct 2010 at 11:45am

Remember the Women’s Movement of the 1970′s? — A movement with it’s myriad of issues? When many think of the women’s movement these days though, it’s thought of as a one issue movement — and that one issue is abortion. If you’re currently not part of the women’s movement, can you quickly name one other current issue of the women’s movement issue?

And if you can name a second issue, I would still argue that you’re in the minority; that many others would be hard pressed to name a current women’s movement issue beyond abortion that doesn’t deal with reproductive rights.

In this way, I believe the women’s movement has become functionally irrelevant to the politics of the United States. We do have the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act from a couple of years ago, but I’d be hard-pressed to name any other legislative initiatives from women’s movement of recent years.

Let me work off of that hypotheses that a movement becoming a one or two issue movement is working itself to irrelevance. In my mind, this is what’s happening to the LGBT movement — we are functionally becoming irrelevant because our federal focus is so narrow.

Right now, we have two major national issues — marriage equality, and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). It appears to me that passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has fallen off the LGBT community’s national discourse.

Want an example? Well, what was the subject matter, at the recent media conference between the President and five bloggers, of the LGBT community related questions? You can look it up: the two LGBT specific questions were about marriage equality and DADT.

This is not to knock the LGBT bloggers who met with President Obama — the questiona they asked were on the two issues that our community appears to care the most about.

But in asking those questions on those two issues, did we learn anything from the President on marriage equality or DADT that we didn’t already know? Was any national news made from the media conference that made it into the mainstream media (MSM)?

If we become a movement only interested in those two issues, I believe we in the LGBT community will work ourselves into national irrelevance; I believe we in the LGBT community will basically become a clanging bell of a sounding alarm that legislators will just ignore as an irritating noise.

I can think of some questions that I would have liked to have asked of the president at that media conference. For example, some questions I would have like to have asked if I were invited to that meeting:

• The Family Acceptance Project put out a press release this week, entitled “Critical Study Finds Direct Link Between School Victimization Of Gender-Nonconforming LGBT Youth With Depression And Quality Of Life In Adulthood.” In the release, they reported that LGBT young adults who did not socially conform to gender roles as adolescents reported higher levels of anti-LGBT victimization, with significantly higher levels of depression and decreased life satisfaction in young adulthood. This research shows that the negative impact of anti-LGBT school victimization affects both quality of life and the LGBT young adult’s capacity to enjoy life. Most crucially, the findings show that anti-LGBT bullying in school largely accounts for this psychological harm.

The issues related to school bullying go far beyond LGBT youth dying by suicide after severe bullying related to perceived membership in the LGBT community. Is there going to be any initiatives coming from your administration regarding quality of life for LGBT youth? Remember, we are talking about how bullying impacts the “jobs, jobs, jobs” of LGBT young adults — the gainful employability of bullied LGBT youth.

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• We hear a lot about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers being able to serve openly in the military services. But, what about the Department of Defense civilian employees? Even though the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a memorandum in June of 2009 that addressed antidiscrimination policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in the federal government, I’m told that the climate in DOD isn’t good for the LGBT employees.

When Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in unequivocally repealed via congress or the courts there obviously should be a major training component included as part of the change of policy. Yet when we look at the DOD’s civilian employee side of the house, there hasn’t been a major training component for LGBT antidiscrimination in the Department of Defense — especially in how gender identity, which was added to the OPM’s antidiscrimination policies last year. So there are two questions here: 1) How is the DOD going address the poor employment climate for LGBT civilian employees, as well as the lack of a training component in the implementation of LGBT antidiscrimination policies, and 2) does the lack of a training component for LGBT antidiscrimination policies for DOD’s civilian employees in any way signal how the DOD is going to deal with LGB antidiscrimination for military servicemembers when they’re finally allowed to serve openly?

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• While anyone can become infected with HIV, some Americans are at greater risk than others — And this includes gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities, transgender women of all races and ethnicities, Black men and women, Latinos and Latinas, people struggling with addiction, including injection drug users, and people in geographic hot spots, including the United States South and Northeast, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Many states — such as California — have cut services to HIV infected citizens because their budgets in this economic downturn have become exceptionally tight. Your administration does have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and it calls for increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV. With states cutting back on what resources they’re putting towards people living with HIV, and the United States being under its own budgetary pressures, where do you think the resources are that can be brought to bear that will increase access to care and improvement to health outcomes for people living with HIV?

I could go on, but I believe y’all get my point.

In all this, we can say a lot about how our national LGBT organizations have had few legislative victories over the years, but the HRC, The Task Force, NCLR, GLAAD, GLAD, Lambda Legal, NCTE and many other organizations are focusing on a broader range of issues than just marriage equality and DADT. It seems to me that the focus on marriage equality and DADT is partially coming from the focus of LGBT media — both legacy and new media — and that emphasis has also been picked-up by mainstream media. And too, it also seems to me that the focus on marriage and DADT is coming from the collective LGBT community “us” — the issues that we in the LGBT community talk about with our peers, friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances regarding community’s issues.

As the LGBT community seems to more and more narrowly focus on marriage equality and DADT, to the exclusion of other community issues, I believe that the LGBT community is moving closer to legislative irrelevance.

Tell me how and why I’m wrong — I want to be wrong. But even though I want to be wrong, at this point I don’t think I am.
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