LGBT anarchists like Denver’s ‘Ariel Attack’ don’t represent the ideals of the majority of the LGBT community — and we need to make sure the mainstream knows that
Just a reminder, the right wing doesn’t have a lock on the lunatic fringe. Recently, the Democratic headquarters in Denver was attacked by vandals who smashed windows and generally tore up the outside of the building.
I admit that my first suspicion was a "right wing whacko," and given the level of rabble-rousing at recent Town Hall meetings by Republican activists, it seemed like a no-brainer.
Then Fox News announced that the person arrested was a Democrat, and perhaps the attack on the headquarters was a bid to win sympathy for the Democrats.
What the heck?
Well after a little — and I mean very little — digging, it turns out they are not telling the full story. Go figure?
The problem is the alleged attacker is part of the LGBT community — and that made me cringe.
Maurice Schwenkler, aka Ariel Attack, is a transgender person from Colorado, and her only involvement with the Democratic Party is this: Ariel had worked as a paid canvasser for a 527 organization, the Colorado Citizens’ Coalition, on behalf of a Democratic candidate for state representative last year.
Aside from the paid gig, Ariel has no affection for Democrats. In fact, she often writes for a blog with the title "Queers Against Obama."
That is hardly the kind of person Fox characterized in their stories.
Her connections with anarchist groups seems confirmed by the pleas on anarchist Web sites to aid in Ariel’s legal defense. In fact, according to the Denver Daily News, these groups managed to raise the $5,000 bail for Ariel online.
So while the right wing has a heyday with this alleged Democratic plot, the cold reality is this: A transgender radical is accused of vandalizing the Democratic headquarters because she was mad at the president. More troubling is that she was affiliated with a local group called Denver Bash Back.
The Fox News folks have yet to paint the LGBT community with their broad brush. They are too busy trying to blame this on the Democrats. But you can be sure they will get around to it.
Does this bother me? You bet it does.
I have often spoken of the need for LGBT people to shake off their complacency when it comes to obtaining their rights. I still say that. I still support marching in the street and making our demands for equality crystal clear.
The problem with this kind of activity is that it muddies the waters. How many people will be able to separate those protesting an unjust system by exercising their freedom of speech from these angry anarchists whose agenda includes bringing the entire system down?
I know African-Americans faced the same problem when the civil rights movement was at its height. Where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference marched in protest, groups like the Black Panthers took a much more militant stand. For a lot of white Americans it was tough to see the difference.
I know this because I watched my family in heated discussions late into the night about supporting civil rights but not wanting to be seen as supporters of violence.
Others were less thoughtful. It was easy to see scenes of violent riots juxtaposed with nonviolent marches being disrupted with fire hoses in the same newscast.
For many the difference was indiscernible — and that is what may happen now.
Once the words "violent transgender activist" start popping up in the mainstream news it won’t take long for some folks to begin seeing all LGBT people as dangerous. Confirming their fears, the actions of a small handful of LGBT anarchists could do big damage to the quest for equality.
Some might conjecture now would be a good time to slink back into the shadows until this all blows over. I don’t share that view.
I think now more than ever is time to be visible. America needs to see more and more of us. Participating in nonviolent protests and making our voices heard should not stop. It is part of our rights as citizens.
We must continue our longtime involvement in politics both national and local. We must be a visible presence in the public’s eyes as good citizens and good neighbors without disguising who we are.
We have to live as proud, out LGBT Americans who are everywhere in all walks of life.
If we don’t, the images of a few violent anarchists will look like the only face of LGBT people.
We can’t ignore the anarchists. They, too, are part of who we are.
But we can put them in perspective and that will take some soul searching on the part of all of us.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 4, 2009.