Since the 1960s, gays and lesbians have fought for the right to be included in this nation’s social, political, cultural and economic life. Today, the fight becomes less and less about “human rights” and more about standing up for the status quo.
Conservatism has always been a part of the movement. During the first gay and lesbian protest in front of the White House in the 1960s, the organizers required men to wear suits and women dresses.
This clean-cut version of the LGBT movement created a “gay monolith” as an attempt to convince the same power structure that oppressed them to accept them. This conservative stance still exists today. On the other end of the spectrum, however, there were radicals actually doing something.
After the Stonewall Riots in 1969, an organization called the Gay Liberation Front cropped up for a radical alternative.
According to an underground newspaper, The Rat, the organization proclaimed, “We identify ourselves with all the oppressed: the Vietnamese struggle, the third world, the blacks, the workers … all those oppressed by this rotten, dirty, vile, f-cked-up capitalist conspiracy.”
Today, a more conservative and institutional version of those White House protesters is represented in the Human Rights Campaign.
This organization, founded in 1980, bills itself as the nation’s largest group promoting “civil rights.” Under the surface, the HRC represses movements for equality, especially in the trans* community. The HRC also takes money from corporations that oppress not only people in the LGBTQ community but also the powerless in every segment of society.
On Oct. 27, the organization held a press conference in support of a teacher from Arkansas who married her partner in New Mexico and was fired for violating the Catholic school’s doctrine against homosexuality.
This continued fight for the rights of gays and lesbians brings light and hope to millions who should be able to express their sexual orientation within the bounds of a marriage license. As soon as the fight moves to include those people who express themselves differently than as a gay man or lesbian, the HRC springs into action.
On numerous occasions, the national HRC has squelched other segments of the LGBTQ movement, especially the transgender community.
Bryan Ellicott, in an op-ed in The New Civil Rights Movement, wrote about his “Supreme Court Marriage Rally Transphobic Experience From Hell.”
While at a marriage equality rally, Ellicott was approached by Karin Quimby, an HRC staff member. She then proceeded to tell Ellicott that his presence as a trans* man was unwanted because the “(rally was) about marriage equality … not about the trans* community.”
These oppressive tendencies from a “civil rights” organization that says it includes trans* people are absolutely appalling.
This harks back to the conservative faction of the LGBTQ movement, when certain groups wanted to keep the message specific and “normal.”
Today, the HRC does not support the “do something” part of the equality movement that was so committed to obliterating oppression in all of its forms.
So, while the HRC claims to support “equality,” what it actually means is that it is an institution dedicated to a conservative heterosexist vision of the world, much like that first White House protest. This modern oppression, given a good face by the HRC, is colloquially called the “glitter industrial complex.”
Steven W. Thrasher, a prominent journalist who writes about the LGBTQ community, wrote an article titled “Haaay to the Chief: The Military Industrial Complex Conquers the Homos.”
He writes, “A movement that once overlapped with the labor, sexual, and anti-war movements now won’t even question … anything as controversial as military occupation or corporate greed.”
This is an important part of intersectionality, a word used to describe the crossovers between all those different groups. The LGBTQ community must challenge the basis of its sexual orientation oppression, which ultimately lies in the foundations of universal oppression.
Thrasher’s specific references include the fact that major drone manufacturers also support the HRC, rendering its ability to tackle both gay marriage and human rights ineffective and moot.
In an article on PolicyMic, Hannah Kapp-Klote wrote that intersectionality must be addressed before any other oppression will be solved.
“Progress for LGBT people means nothing if it comes at the expense of others also marginalized and fighting for justice. … We have to recognize that such equality is contingent upon justice for all people,” Kapp-Klote wrote.
I recently spoke to Brian Garcia, a member of the HRC Arizona Student Committee and is a co-chair of Campus Involvement at ASU for the HRC.
Garcia, a global studies sophomore, said: “HRC Arizona has been really focused on intersectionality and comprehensive immigration reform, because some people may be Hispanic and gay and essentially have to come out twice, because they are undocumented. Right now, we are putting on workshops and helping people fill out (immigration) paperwork.”
This is a good place to start, but by no means the end goal of intersectionality. HRC Arizona has goals to help the trans* community, as well as LGBTQ youth in poverty.
For the trans* community, Garcia said “On the HRC Arizona Student Committee, we have a diversity specific reaching out to them and seeing what they need”
As part of the MLK Day of Service, HRC Arizona “focused on LGBT youth, gathering toiletries and clothing to donate to ‘one n ten‘ downtown.”
However, the status quo is still at work in the funding mechanism.
Garcia explained that “the HRC, at least from headquarters in D.C., provide the resources and support. On our end it’s all volunteers in the community and on the ground. They know what’s going on in the field by what we report back.”
Garcia claims that this system of an institution and volunteers is “a good balance.”
While the HRC tries to balance the institutional and individual needs of the LGBT community, the proof is in the pudding that its attempt has failed.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @peternorthfelt