Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The White House Parties Like it's 1999...

I loved this headline so much I stole it from Pam's House Blend. The lesbian and gay community has reason to be at least a little disspointed with our new president. Yes, he's had a full plate, but some of the things he could have done immediately wouldn't take much more than the stoke of a pen. And there's always that bully pulpit!

Here is what waymonhudson posted at Pam's House Blend:
Yesterday, President Obama hosted a "celebration of Stonewall" at the White House, the first of its kind. While it may have been the first time a President spoke on LGBT rights in the White house for 20 minutes, I couldn't help but be surprised by the reaction of the cheering crowd and by people online.

The speech wasn't anything really different from his campaign promises: repeal DADT and DOMA (legislatively), we need respect for each other, we're all equal, etc. It was more words with very little action to back it up.

Yet part of me was moved by the President speaking these words from the White House, acknowledging us and our struggles. That's when I realized this reaction was part of what has given cover to our political leaders for years now, allowing them to lag behind the general public in regards to our rights and equality.

There was time when that speech might have been enough, but that time was years ago- before out elected officials, marriage equality in some states, employment protections from top companies, and a general trend towards inclusion.

It was a speech for 1999, not 2009.
In fairness, there are usually always at least two sides to every story. For another perspective on the day read: Welcome to Your White House, by Cathy Renna posted on The Bilerico Project Facebook page.
The title of this post is one of the first things President Obama said yesterday at the Stonewall commemoration at the White House yesterday. Were there cocktails? Yes. But this was not a typical cocktail party. Were there many "A-listers?" Yes. But this event should not be easily dismissed as an "A-list gay event."

In the past few weeks, there has been a firestorm of debate and discussion about how we move our community forward under the current leadership. I have personally been very vocal about how our impatience should be a motivator, something to be channeled in a smart, assertive and effective manner.

Yesterday was another opportunity to do that the best way I could, so I did. Want to get past the sounds bites and headlines, as well as what I think is the less productive intra-community attacking that is happening? [...]

I had the singular honor or working with some of the White House staff to secure some Stonewall veterans for this event. Through our firm's work with SAGE and other groups and individuals, we have spent the past few months doing a lot of work related to the 40th anniversary. We were fortunate and thrilled to have two real Stonewall veterans step forward and attend - Jerry Hoose and Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt.

They are decidedly not A-listers, but got treated better than the A-listers and with tremendous respect by all.

Their contributions were recognized by the President - along with others like Dr. Frank Kameny, who was also present.

Leah and I were even asked to take them back to meet with the President and First Lady prior to the speech.

It was, in the words of Jerry (pictured with me on the left), "one of the most exciting things I have ever done in my life."

For someone who helped get this pioneer and still involved activist - who by the way got into the White House using his government-issued Food Stamp ID - it meant a lot to us to be part of helping make that happen.


Comrade Kevin said...

I just wonder if we are ready for a protracted battle of the Culture Wars on the topic of homosexuality. By all means keep advocating and fighting, but I really think on this matter, the impact could be nastier than we could have even imagined.

I know too well the way homophobia in present in the minds of many.

BAC said...

Kevin, I've been out of the closet for more than 30 years, and I can tell you from real-world experience it's not possible for things to get "nastier." Pick any gay newspaper, in any major city and you will read about harassment and violence directed at lesbians and gay men. There will never be a "safe" time to advocate for what is just or right. Just ask anyone who has EVER been part of a social justice movement.