Recently the New York Times published a story pointing out the sad fact that our gay rights movement seemingly has no one, single, crystallizing leader—our own Moses, if you will, but without all that nasty exodus business.
“Frederick Douglass became the face of the black abolitionist movement. A century later, Martin Luther King Jr. played that role in the civil rights movement. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem became the spokeswomen for the modern women’s movement,” Jeremy W. Peters wrote in a June 20 piece. “Yet the gay rights movement, which is about to enter its fifth decade, has never had such a leader despite making remarkable strides in a relatively short period of time.”
Even Harvey Milk, inspirational as he was, could not be defined as a national figure while alive, as Peters points out. At the time of his death, Milk held the office of San Francisco city supervisor, a position comparable to a seat on city council.
Maybe Peters is right. Lately, it seems the biggest, loudest, most frequently quoted voice speaking out for gay rights is—like it or not—Perez Hilton.
Taking the definition of his title to extreme, as a judge for the 2009 Miss Universe pageant, celeblogger Perez famously asked the now-dethroned Miss California, Carrie Prejean, if she supported same-sex marriage.
She doesn’t. You may have heard. A media fracas ensued.
Seemingly mere moments later, Hilton twisted even more knickers when he called will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas a mean name.
According to the Associated Press, Hilton called will.i.am a “faggot,” at a gathering following the MuchMusic Video Awards after the musician told Hilton not to write about his band on Hilton’s website. This time, Lee Press-on Nails a-flyin’, a physical fracas ensued.
GLAAD, because that’s what the grants pay them to do, got into the middle of the fracas and urged Hilton to say he was sorry. Eventually, Hilton apologized. And then Michael Jackson died and everybody forgot about everything else that was going on.
As Saturday Night Live ‘s Angie Tempura might say, “Bitch, pleeeze!” Personally, I like the word fag. I use it frequently. I work in an office full of fags. One of the fags in my office smokes fags. Sometimes the fags in my office wear faggy clothes. When they do, I usually saying something like, “Ooooh, Mary, that’s a faggy shirt! I love it!”
What really pisses me off is that GLAAD is making me defend Perez Hilton. There’s nothing glad about that.
But back to this “we-have-no-leader” thing. It’s not that we’re entirely rudderless, mind you. Most foot soldiers in our movement trust Cleve Jones. A life-long activist whose character was given new life by Emile Hirsch in Gus Van Sant’s Milk , Jones is calling for a national civil demonstration in Washington. And everyone is invited.
Given all the hoopla over California’s Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage, new scrutiny of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and an administration growing increasingly friendly to the gay community, timing has never been better for a big, visible mass gathering of fags and dykes and those who love us, and their protest signs.
Before the Magic Marker dries on the cardboard, I have just one request for those protest-sign carriers: please, please spell-check. There’s nothing more discrediting than an illiterate (albeit impassioned) plea for anything, let alone equality.
A friend recently told me about a sign he saw being carried by a teabagger (the conservative kind, not the fun kind) at an event here in Houston protesting an appearance by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The protest sign read: “Unleash the Furry!”
We assume the spellchecker-less protestor meant “Unleash the Fury!” Or maybe not. Maybe the protestor thought uncaging a wild animal on Pelosi might change her liberal views. Or maybe it actually was a clever allusion to teabagging (the fun kind). We’ll never know for sure.
We do know for sure that the last big queer march and rally in DC was in 2000, and was so lame, today it is best remembered for its organizers losing track of multiple trashbags full of cash gathered at the gates.
Plus, I got a really bad blister.
Nine years later, it’s past time to make known our increasingly growing hunger as we wait to take our seat at America’s Table. It’s past time—way past time—to sit down, place our napkins on our laps, and dig in.
The Equality March’s demands are simple. Scheduled October 10 and 11 in our nation’s capital, it seeks “equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” (Read more on the march in this issue of OutSmart, “Marching Onward.”)
Maybe rising above the many speakers set to address the throngs at the Equality March’s rally, amid the rhetoric and the ranting, our new leader will be revealed to us. That’s what happened at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston when a largely unknown young man from Illinois delivered a pulse-pounding keynote address. And we all know what happened then. It could happen for us, too.
Like every other aspect of human struggle, our movement’s leaders are like our love affairs. Both can be easily compared to a fireworks display: some start big and bright but soon fizzle, lamely veering off course into fading obscurity. Some end quickly and with a bang. Some are spectacular, colorful, and powerful, prompting ooohs and ahhhs from all who observe.
The real challenge is to not have a stiff neck when it is all over.