Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grace In Victory For Obama, Sowing Sour Grapes For LesBiGay Leaders

“Well I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again.
But that's not unusual
It's just that the moon is full and you happened to call
And here I sit, hand on the telephone,
Hearing a voice I'd known a couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall” — Diamonds And Rust, Joan Baez

“They were fast-moving opportunists encased in cynicism and proud of it.” — journalist, Jay Carr

For some reason, it seemed like a lot was going on while we were convened in Texas’ Democratic Convention last weekend. The economy tanked. Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign. And for trans supporters, Barack Obama held a conference call with the LGBT community. (No, I don’t get invitations to those things … I just volunteer on the campaign, organize, get others involved in volunteering and win a delegate slot to Denver instead. That’s plenty on the plate, I reckon.)

The Obama Campaign LGBT conference call focused on bringing in (of all people) HRC leaders, as in Human Rights Campaign or Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters – however you want to slice it. Indeed during the conference call, there was apparently some issue with the HRC (the group) focus and how “99% of the issues voiced” were gay or lesbian, while transgender was mostly never heard. For those in Trans America, we know we’re not Johnny-come-latelys and had long ago thrown our support to Obama (knowing Clinton’s gay/lesbian-only propensity).

Some of the trans participants in the conference call expressed surprise, hurt or “dismay” (as Donna Rose noted in her blog) at the focus of the subject matter due to HRC’s prominence in the call. For those who’ve been at this since the 90’s, especially old-line NTAC folk like me, having transgender being an equal part of something HRC-focused would’ve been the surprise. This opportunism and self-focus was classic HRC. If anything, how the conference call played should serve to remind trans leaders that HRC is still HRC, and is still (as always) gay and lesbian. Period.

“Well you burst on the scene already a legend,
The unwashed phenomenon, the original vagabond.” — Diamonds And Rust, Joan Baez

Some examples of lesbian/gay-centrism in the Obama LGB(t) Conference Call:

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese described the moment as "transformative" and saw it as an "opportunity to move forward in a unified way."

Despite tremendous disappointment at Hillary Clinton's loss, "it speaks to the real power of our community that we have such an ally with Senator Obama and that we can enthusiastically get behind his campaign," Solmonese said. (
Let’s hope “moving forward in a unified way” is unified, and not the Joe Solmonese / HRC version of unity, sans Trans. Chances are, he’ll later come back and apologize for that phrase being misspoken. It’s funny for me to see how the gay and lesbian community is finally coming around to the fact that Sen. Obama has a history of being an ally for us all. Apparently the gay and lesbian community’s myopia for Hillary tended to occlude anything else on the political landscape

Tobias Wolff, Penn law professor and key LGBT policy advisor for Obama campaign.
He emphasized that as our community has matured we have learned that leaders have to earn our trust, and that Obama’s challenge was that (contra Clinton) he hadn’t had the time to do that. (
Interesting choice of words from Mr. Wolff. More than political leaders have to earn trust … hint to the Human Rights Campaign on why they suffer the slings and arrows of the trans community. In fact, most all LGBT orgs have no trust in trans people, never hire, never promote or allow as leaders (i.e. distinct mistrust) though we have no such “incremental” track record. Why would we trust, then? What’s been earned?

Back to the Obama campaign, I find it unusual that they will have as their key LGBT policy advisor someone who seems to have overlooked that Obama has been supportive of GLBT the whole time, has overlooked that the issues focus (Obama with Clinton, and the G&L community’s with Clinton) is a double-edge sword, and has overlooked how some of us in the (glb)T community have already known this and have been actively involved in the campaign while he and others were still working for their courtesan, Ms. Clinton. And Mr. Wolff gets the moniker key policy advisor for LGBT? Must be nice to assume control over a segment (T) that you don’t know and can’t relate to.

Most poignant was former HRC Executive Director, Elizabeth Birch. Her spouse is Hilary Rosen, Hillary Clinton’s LGBT (again there’s that T) Advisory Committee (you can imagine what they were advising on T!)

Despite being hardened by Washington after all these years, Birch said, "on the night of June 3rd, I burst into tears. I was so upset. It was a painful moment."

Birch described her response to Clinton's loss as the emotion one feels for the loss of a "vanquished warrior." She also felt deeply saddened that her young daughter would not get to see a woman become president at "this early formative stage of her life."

Birch closely identified with Clinton and saw her candidacy as a "dream" for overcoming sexism and inequality. "It's a heartbreak in Hillary losing," she stated. (
Note the above statements closely, then read below:

Birch added, however, that it is also just as important for her biracial children to see a "very gifted, wise, strong, very powerful man like Barack Obama who is Black and who looks like them take a leadership role in this country."
Am I the only one to notice this? Birch was so hopeful of seeing a woman president (something close to her own aspirations) that she was emotionally devastated by Clinton’s loss, having thrown herself fully into the campaign. Yet, her daughters are biracial … and there was no consideration of how devastated they could’ve been if the primary went the other way!

It was a “dream” for Clinton to be elected (something my contacts on the Hill have confirmed ever since 2005, how GLBT orgs were planning for President Hillary Clinton). Yet, her emotions on Obama’s nomination seem like much less than ebullience. It’s “important” for her children to see someone like Obama in leadership, but it sure sounds more like she wanted her emotions attended to instead of her kids’. Why would it be any less a victory seeing anyone African-American in that leadership role? Have they not waited long for this historic day to happen as well?

“There are people in this town that try to put me down,
They say I don’t give a damn.
But the people in this town that try to put me down
Are the people in the town
That could never understand a black man
Don’t take it no more!” — Ode To A Black Man, Phil Lynott

Something just strikes me as a bit personally selfish in Birch’s obsequy for the Clinton campaign. But then, that’s HRC as well: they have a long, well-demonstrated and consistent streak of selfishness, more so than any other org this side of conservative America. It’s all about them and nobody else has ever mattered.

Birch expressed congratulations to Obama's supporters and pleaded for their patience in seeing Clinton's supporters in the LGBT community come over to his side. She predicted that it would happen within days.
There will be patience, and they will be welcomed in. Hopefully our Johnny-come-latelys will be mindful that there are trans people here who’ve already been here, and let's hope they don't throw their weight around and squash us against the wall and into the corner. Understand that we’ve been involved in the Obama campaign (and splitting the GLBT bloc vote) because this was our only hope from the minute this became a two-person campaign.

One last hope: maybe they can learn from Obama and how he has conducted his campaign, especially with the way he’s outreached to Hillary supporters – including the gay and lesbian community. The Obama campaign could’ve very easily been vindictive, but they weren’t. Instead they’re welcoming, and even offering these same gays and lesbians who’ve worked hard to see Obama lose the nomination, a place in their campaign, a voice and even some prominence. Grace in victory is a virtue.

Too bad that HRC hasn’t learned similar traits. And no doubt, when they read this, I’m certain they’ll continue their vindictiveness. They’ll ask for patience and understanding … but they won’t offer the same. Such is life from their imperious perch in society.

Meanwhile, in Trans America, it’s just another hot, humid day in hell. Maybe a good day for some blockwalking ….

It's all come back too clearly ….
And if you're offering me diamonds and rust,
I've already paid.” — Diamonds And Rust, Joan Baez

“I will not remain quiet when some "Johnny come lately" criticizes my generation." — Van Henderson, from the book The American Legion

1 comment:

Polar said...

Well, as you know, I wasn't sold on either Hillary or Obama. However, it has been very interesting - and not entirely surprising - to observe how HRC's bleedership has left the good ship Hillary, just as the keel made its final descent into Davy Jones' locker, and attempted to stroll right onto the promenade deck on the good ship Obama with their unsheathed battleaxes in hand. (any comparison of Hilary Rosen and Elizabeth Birch to battleaxes is strictly intentional)

I realize that HRC brings money with them, so Obama's people have
to take notice of them. Massive amounts of cash will be needed to defeat McCain. I just hope they have a good polygraph machine and skilled operator, to employ whenever Solmonese speaks.

Obama will have my vote in November, but I'm not overly excited about him, and I wasn't excited about Hillary, either. I'm not sure anyone is capable of doing what the next President needs to do - reverse 30 years of corporatist Republican laws. Maybe he is. I think Kucinich and Edwards were, but they didn't make the cut. I suspect that, to get there, Obama will have to agree to keep a lot of the Democratic status quo. As for the T community, we will probably continue to be irrelevant to our friends, prevaricated about by HRC, and reviled by the GOP.

For once, you seem more the optimist than I, Ness. That could be positive.