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Celebrating Stonewall When the State of the Gay Union Stinks

Kelly Jean Cogswell

It’s that time of year when queers hold barbecues and parades, and lift their Cosmopolitans to the dykes and drag queens that helped start the modern LGBT movement. Our institutions honor an activist or two, usually a jovial sort that won’t offend any of their funders, and point to Barney Frank, Ellen, Rachel Maddow, queers marrying in Massachusetts, and then declare, “Yes, we’ve come a long way.”

Right, I say. Take a whiff. The state of the gay union stinks. Young queers are still swamped by hate, targeted by schoolmates, Sunday Schools, censorious families — and when they aren’t the direct objects of violence, often do violence to themselves. Transgendered women are slaughtered in the streets. Dykes are beaten by cops, and no one comes to our aid.

All last year, our “friends” in the Democratic Party ran a presidential campaign erasing queers whenever possible. Obama courted the evangelical vote campaigning with the likes of ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, preaching hell for queers, and bigot Kirbyjon Caldwell.

The homophobia and hate sewn by these creatures is reaped in violence and ignorance and HIV. Queers of color are getting infected in huge numbers at home. Abroad, where our global HIV/ AIDS programs haven’t recovered from Bush, we endorse homophobes like Rick Warren, Obama’s inaugural prayer-giver, that have established entire empires of anti-gay hate encouraging people to pray away their disease, and keep “clean” by promoting abstinence, burning condoms, and viciously targeting gay men.

We’ve won same-sex marriage in a few states. In most states, however, such rights are increasingly banned and, in the anti-gay process, queers are thrown back into a repeat of Reagan’s culture war. The biggest difference in today’s anti-gay campaigns is how they increasingly target minority communities, putting LGBT people of color at greater risk. Efforts like that expose the failure of LGBT programs that have written off immigrant and minority communities as irrelevant, irredeemable, or perhaps, unprofitable.

Most recently, the administration of our “fierce defender” Barack Obama submitted a brief to a federal court arguing that gay marriage would certainly lead to child abuse and incest. They even wrote, “[T]he public policy doctrine, which has long recognized the sovereign authority of the States to decline to give effect to the laws of a sister State at variance with their own legitimate public policy.” What? Could they possibly be saying it was a good thing that states once had the right not to acknowledge interracial marriages?

Talk about depravity. What are queers waiting for? A colossal mouth to appear outside our windows yelling, “WAKE THE FUCK UP! WHERE’S YOUR PRIDE? OR YOUR SENSE OF SELF-PRESERVATION?”

We should riot again. We should send packages of cow patties to the White House saying, “Return to sender.” We should think of Lawrence King or Duanna Johnson and block traffic at courthouses until we see justice done. And we should imagine what it is we really want. Freedom is more powerful than health insurance, marriage, or even a vote. A rigged election may have gotten protesters out on the street in Iran, but it was the attempt to squash even their freedom to protest that kept them there.

When did our dreams of liberation give way to sterile demands for equality? How did equality deteriorate into piecemeal campaigns for legal rights like same-sex marriage, which we largely support by wishful thinking and donations to the “Human” Rights Campaign fund?

What stops us queers from leaving our houses and protesting? An election was stolen in 2000, and all we did was send a few angry emails. This president campaigned with a mouth full of narcotic promises. He was elected with lies and is trying to set legal precedents that will keep us in the gutter, where his deeds declare we belong. How long will we excuse his scorn as political tactics or mere mistakes? How long will we vote for Democrats who time after time declare the best policy is to wait? How long will we finance ineffective, racist lobbyists completely out of touch with the communities they are supposed to represent?

Long-time activist Cleve Jones is calling for a March on Washington in October. Why not? We need a new beginning. Even now, we should focus on the spirit of Stonewall, not all the nebulous accomplishments since. It’s time to celebrate change itself. That terrifying and miraculous thing that arrives sometimes after years of labor, sometimes like a tsunami.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Kelly Jean Cogswell was the editor for The Gully Online from 2000 to 2006.  She writes regularly on her blog, A Dyke, Abroad.

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