Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto


by Carl Wittman
written slightly before 1969 Stonewall uprising, but first published December 1970
Text from Gay Flames Pamphlet No. 9 (including the stray quotation mark ;o)
New York, NY
See also The Red Butterfly “Comments on Carl Wittman’s ‘A Gay Manifesto'” (coming soon)

San Francisco is a refugee camp for homosexuals. We have fled here from every part of the nation, and like refugees elsewhere, we came not because it is so great here, but because it was so bad there. By the tens of thousands, we fled small towns where to be ourselves would endanger our jobs and any hope of a decent life; we have fled from blackmailing cops, from families who disowned or ‘tolerated’ us; we have been drummed out of the armed services, thrown out of schools, fired from jobs, beaten by punks and policemen.

And we have formed a ghetto, out of self-protection. It is a ghetto rather than a free territory because it is sill theirs. Straight cops patrol us, straight legislators govern us, straight employers keep us in line, straight money exploits us. We have pretended everything is OK, because we haven’t been able to see how to change it—we’ve been afraid.

In the past year there has been an awakening of gay liberation ideas and energy. How it began we don’t know; maybe we were inspired by black people and their freedom movement; we learned how to stop pretending form the hip revolution. Amerika in all its ugliness has surfaced with the war and our national leaders. And we are revulsed by the quality of our ghetto life.

Where once there was frustration, alienation, and cynicism, there are new characteristics among us. We are full of love for each other and are showing it; we are full of anger at what has been done to us. And as we recall all the self-censorship and repression for so many years, a reservoir of tears pours out of our eyes. And we are euphoric, high, with the initial flourish of a movement.

We want to make ourselves clear: our first job is to free ourselves; that means clearing our heads of the garbage that’s been poured into them. This article is an attempt at raising a number of issues, and presenting some ideas to replace the old ones. It is primarily for ourselves, a starting point of discussion. If straight people of good will find it useful in understanding what liberation is about, so much the better.

It should also be clear that these are the views of one person, and are determined not only by my homosexuality, but my being white, male, middle class. It is my individual consciousness. Our group consciousness will evolve as we get ourselves together—we are only at the beginning.

I. ON ORIENTATION

1. What homosexuality is: Nature leaves undefined the object of sexual desire. The gender of that object is imposed socially. Humans originally made homosexuality taboo because they needed every bit of energy to produce and raise children: survival of species was a priority. With overpopulation and technological change, that taboo continued only to exploit us and enslave us.

As kids we refused to capitulate to demands that we ignore our feelings toward each other. Somewhere we found the strength to resist being indoctrinated, and we should count that among our assets. We have to realize that our loving each other is a good thing, not an unfortunate thing, and that we have a lot to teach straights about sex, love, strength, and resistance.

Homosexuality is not a lot of things. It is not a makeshift in the absence of the opposite sex; it is not a hatred or rejection of the opposite sex; it is not genetic; it is not the result of broken homes except inasmuch as we could see the sham of American marriage. Homosexuality is the capacity to love someone of the same sex.

2. Bisexuality: Bisexuality is good; it is the capacity to love people of either sex. The reason so few of us are bisexual is because society made such a big stink about homosexuality that we got forced into seeing ourselves as either straight or non-straight. Also, many gays go turned off to the ways men are supposed to act with women and vice-versa, which is pretty fucked-up. Gays will begin to turn on to women when 1) it’s something that we do because we want to, and not because we should, and 2) when women’s liberation changes the nature of heterosexual relationships.

We continue to call ourselves homosexual, not bisexual, even if we do make it with the opposite sex also, because saying “Oh, I’m Bi” is a copy out for a gay. We get told it’s OK to sleep with guys as long as we sleep with women, too, and that’s still putting homosexuality down. We’ll be gay until everyone has forgotten that it’s an issue. Then we’ll begin to be complete.

3. Heterosexuality: Exclusive heterosexuality is fucked up. It reflects a fear of people of the same sex, it’s anti-homosexual, and it is fraught with frustration. Heterosexual sex is fucked up too; ask women’s liberation about what straight guys are like in bed. Sex is aggression for the male chauvinist; sex is obligation for the traditional woman. And among the young, the modern, the hip, it’s only a subtle version of the same. For us to become heterosexual in the sense that our straight brothers and sisters are is not a cure, it is a disease.

II. ON WOMEN

1. Lesbianism: It’s been a male-dominated society for too long, and that has warped both men and women. So gay women are going to see things differently from gay men; they are going to feel put down as women, too. Their liberation is tied up with both gay liberation and women’s liberation.

This paper speaks form the gay male viewpoint. And although some of the ideas in it may be equally relevant to gay women, it would be arrogant to presume this to be a manifesto for lesbians.

We look forward to the emergence of a lesbian liberation voice. The existence of a lesbian caucus within the New York Gay Liberation Front has been very helpful in challenging male chauvinism among gay guys, and anti-gay feelings among women’s lib.

2. Male Chauvinism: All men are infected with male chauvinism – we were brought up that way. It means we assume that women play subordinate roles and are less human than ourselves. (At an early gay liberation meeting one guy said, “Why don’t we invite women’s liberation – they can bring sandwiches and coffee.”) It is no wonder that so few gay women have become active in our groups.

Male chauvinism, however, is not central to us. We can junk it much more easily than straight men can. For we understand oppression. We have largely opted out of a system which oppresses women daily – our egos are not built on putting women down and having them build us up. Also, living in a mostly male world we have become used to playing different roles, doing or own shit-work. And finally, we have a common enemy: the big male chauvinists are also the big anti-gays.

But we need to purge male chauvinism, both in behavior and in thought among us. Chick equals nigger equals queer. Think it over.

3. Women’s liberation: They are assuming their equality and dignity and in doing so are challenging the same things we are: the roles, the exploitation of minorities by capitalism, the arrogant smugness of straight white male middle-class Amerika. They are our sisters in struggle.

Problems and differences will become clearer when we begin to work together. One major problem is our own male chauvinism. Another is uptightness and hostility to homosexuality that many women have – that is the straight in them. A third problem is differing views on sex: sex for them has meant oppression, while for us it has been a symbol of our freedom. We must come to know and understand each other’s style, jargon and humor.

III. ON ROLES

1. Mimicry of straight society: We are children of straight society. We still think straight: that is part of our oppression. One of the worst of straight concepts is inequality. Straight (also white, English, male, capitalist) thinking views things in terms of order and comparison. A is before B, B is after A; one is below two is below three; there is no room for equality. This idea gets extended to male/female, on top/on bottom, spouse/not spouse, heterosexual/homosexual, boss/worker, white/black and rich/poor. Our social institutions cause and reflect this verbal hierarchy. This is Amerika.

We’ve lived in these institutions all our lives. Naturally we mimic the roles. For too long we mimicked these roles to protect ourselves – a survival mechanism. Now we are becoming free enough to shed the roles which we’ve picked up from the institutions which have imprisoned us.

“Stop mimicking straights, stop censoring ourselves.”

2. Marriage: Marriage is a prime example of a straight institution fraught with role playing. Traditional marriage is a rotten, oppressive institution. Those of us who have been in heterosexual marriages too often have blamed our gayness on the breakup of the marriage. No. They broke up because marriage is a contract which smothers both people, denies needs, and places impossible demands on both people. And we had the strength, again, to refuse to capitulate to the roles which were demanded of us.

Gay people must stop gauging their self-respect by how well they mimic straight marriages. Gay marriages will have the same problems as straight ones except in burlesque. For the usual legitimacy and pressures which keep straight marriages together are absent, e.g., kids, what parents think, what neighbors say.

To accept that happiness comes through finding a groovy spouse and settling down, showing the world that “we’re just the same as you” is avoiding the real issues, and is an expression of self-hatred.

3. Alternatives to Marriage: People want to get married for lots of good reasons, although marriage won’t often meet those needs or desires. We’re all looking for security, a flow of love, and a feeling of belonging and being needed.

These needs can be met through a number of social relationships and living situations. Things we want to get away from are: 1. exclusiveness, propertied attitudes toward each other, a mutual pact against the rest of the world; 2. promises about the future, which we have no right to make and which prevent us from , or make us feel guilty about, growing; 3. inflexible roles, roles which do not reflect us at the moment but are inherited through mimicry and inability to define equalitarian relationships.

We have to define for ourselves a new pluralistic, rolefree social structure for ourselves. It must contain both the freedom and physical space for people to live alone, live together for a while, live together for a long time, either as couples or in larger numbers; and the ability to flow easily from one of these states to another as our needs change.

Liberation for gay people is defining for ourselves how and with whom we live, instead of measuring our relationship in comparison to straight ones, with straight values.

4. Gay ‘stereotypes’: The straight’s image of the gay world is defined largely by those of us who have violated straight roles. There is a tendency among ‘homophile’ groups to deplore gays who play visible roles—the queens and the nellies. As liberated gays, we must take a clear stand. 1. Gays who stand out have become our first martyrs. They came out and withstood disapproval before the rest of us did. 2. If they have suffered from being open, it is straight society whom we must indict, not the queen.

5. Closet queens: This phrase is becoming analogous to ‘Uncle Tom.’ To pretend to be straight sexually, or to pretend to be straight socially, is probably the most harmful pattern of behavior in the ghetto. The married guy who makes it on the side secretly; the guy who will go to bed once but won’t develop any gay relationships; the pretender at work or school who changes the gender of the friend he’s talking about; the guy who’ll suck cock in the bushes but won’t go to bed.

If we are liberated we are open with our sexuality. Closet queenery must end. Come out.

But: in saying come out, we have to have our heads clear about a few things: 1) closet queens are our brothers, and must be defended against attacks by straight people; 2) the fear of coming out is not paranoia; the stakes are high: loss of family ties, loss of job, loss of straight friends – these are all reminders that the oppression is not just in our heads. It’s real. Each of us must make the steps toward openness at our own speed and on our own impulses. Being open is the foundation of freedom: it has to be built solidly. 3) “Closet queen” is a broad term covering a multitude of forms of defense, self-hatred, lack of strength, and habit. We are all closet queens in some ways, and all of us had to come out – very few of us were ‘flagrant’ at the age of seven! We must afford our brothers and sisters the same patience we afforded ourselves. And while their closet queenery is part of our oppression, it’s more a part of theirs. They alone can decide when and how.

IV. ON OPPRESSION

It is important to catalog and understand the different facets of our oppression. There is no future in arguing about degrees of oppression. A lot of ‘movement’ types come on with a line of shit about homosexuals not being oppressed as much as blacks or Vietnamese or workers or women. We don’t happen to fit into their ideas of class or caste. Bull! When people feel oppressed, they act on that feeling. We feel oppressed. Talk about the priority of black liberation or ending imperialism over and above gay liberation is just anti-gay propaganda.

1. Physical attacks: We are attacked, beaten, castrated and left dead time and time again. There are half a dozen known unsolved slayings in San Francisco parks in the last few years. “Punks,” often of minority groups who look around for someone under them socially, feel encouraged to beat up on “queens” and cops look the other way. That used to be called lynching.

Cops in most cities have harassed our meeting places: bars and baths and parks. They set up entrapment squads. A Berkeley brother was slain by a cop in April when he tried to split after finding out that the trick who was making advances to him was a cop. Cities set up ‘pervert’ registration, which if nothing else scares our brothers deeper into the closet.

One of the most vicious slurs on us is the blame for prison ‘gang rapes’. These rapes are invariably done by people who consider themselves straight. The victims of these rapes are us and straights who can’t defend themselves. The press campaign to link prison rapes with homosexuality is an attempt to make straights fear and despise us, so they can oppress us more. It’s typical of the fucked-up straight mind to think that homosexual sex involves tying a guy down and fucking him. That’s aggression, not sex. If that’s what sex is for a lot of straight people, that’s a problem they have to solve, not us.

2. Psychological warfare: Right from the beginning we have been subjected to a barrage of straight propaganda. Since our parents don’t know any homosexuals, we grow up thinking that we are alone and different and perverted. Our school friends identify ‘queer’ with any non-conformist or bad behavior. Our elementary school teachers tell us not to talk to strangers or accept rides. Television, billboards and magazines put forth a false idealization of male/female relationships, and make us wish we were different, wish we were ‘in’. In family living class we’re taught how we’re supposed to turn out. And all along, the best we hear if anything about homosexuality is that it’s an unfortunate problem.

3. Self-oppression: As gay liberation grows, we will find our uptight brothers and sisters, particularly those who are making a buck off our ghetto, coming on strong to defend the status quo. This is self oppression: ‘don’t rock the boat’; ‘things in SF are OK’; ‘gay people just aren’t together’; ‘I’m not oppressed’. These lines are right out of the mouths of the straight establishment. A large part of our oppression would end if we would end if we would stop putting ourselves and our pride down.

4. Institutional: Discrimination against gays is blatant, if we open our eyes. Homosexual relationships are illegal, and even if these laws are not regularly enforced, they encourage and enforce closet queenery. The bulk of the social work psychiatric field looks upon homosexuality as a problem, and treats us as sick. Employers let it be known that our skills are acceptable as long as our sexuality is hidden. Big business and government are particularly notorious offenders.

The discrimination in the draft and armed services is a pillar of the general attitude towards gays. If we are willing to label ourselves publicly not only as homosexual but as sick, then we qualify for deferment; and if we’re not ‘discreet’ (dishonest) we get drummed out of the service. Hell, no, we won’t go, of course not, but we can’t let the army fuck over us this way, either.

V. ON SEX

1. What sex is: It is both creative expression and communication: good when it is either, and better when it is both. Sex can also be aggression, and usually is when those involved do not see each other as equals; and it can also be perfunctory, when we are distracted or preoccupied. These uses spoil what is good about it.

I like of think of good sex in terms of playing the violin: with both people on one level seeing the other body as an object capable of creating beauty when they play it well; and on a second level the players communicating through their mutual production and appreciation of beauty. As in good music, you get totally into it – and coming back out of that state of consciousness is like finishing a work of art or coming back from an episode of an acid or mescaline trip. And to press the analogy further: the variety of music is infinite and varied, depending on the capabilities of the players, both as subjects and as objects. Solos, duets, quartets (symphonies, even, if you happen to dig Romantic music!) are possible. The variations in gender, response, and bodies are like different instruments. And perhaps what we have called sexual ‘orientation’ probably just means that we have not yet learned to turn on to the total range of musical expression.

2. Objectification: In this scheme, people are sexual objects, but they are also subjects, and are human beings who appreciate themselves as object and subject. This use of human bodies as objects is legitimate (not harmful) only when it is reciprocal. If one person is always object and the other subject, it stifles the human being in both of them. Objectification must also be open and frank. By silence we often assume or let the other person assume that sex means commitments: if it does, ok; but if not, say it. (Of course, it’s not all that simple: our capabilities for manipulation are unfathomed—all we can do is try.)

Gay liberation people must understand that women have been treated exclusively and dishonestly as sexual objects. A major part of their liberation is to play down sexual objectification and to develop other aspects of themselves which have been smothered so long. We respect this. We also understand that a few liberated women will be appalled or disgusted at the open and prominent place that we put sex in our lives; and while this is a natural response from their experience, they must learn what it means for us.

For us, sexual objectification is a focus of our quest for freedom. It is precisely that which we are not supposed to share with each other. Learning how to be open and good with each other sexually is part of our liberation. And one obvious distinction: objectification of sex for us is something we choose to do among ourselves, while for women it is imposed by their oppressors.

3. On positions and roles: Much of our sexuality has been perverted through mimicry of straights, and warped from self-hatred. These sexual perversions are basically anti-gay:

“I like to make it with straight guys”
“I’m not gay, but I like to be ‘done’”
“I like to fuck, but don’t want to be fucked”
“I don’t like to be touched above the neck”

This is role playing at its worst; we must transcend these roles. We strive for democratic, mutual, reciprocal sex. This does not mean that we are all mirror images of each other in bed, but that we break away from the roles which enslave us. We already do better in bed than straights do, and we can be better to each other than we have been.

4. Chickens and Studs: Face it, nice bodies and young bodies are attributes, they’re groovy. They are inspiration for art, for spiritual elevation, for good sex. The problem arises only in the inability to relate to people of the same age, or people who don’t fit the plastic stereotypes of a good body. At that point, objectification eclipses people, and expresses self-hatred: “I hate gay people, and I don’t like myself, but if a stud (or chicken) wants to make it with me, I can pretend I’m someone other than me.”

A note on exploitation of children: kids can take care of themselves, and are sexual beings way earlier than we’d like to admit. Those of us who began cruising in early adolescence know this, and we were doing the cruising, not being debauched by dirty old men. Scandals such as the one in Boise, Idaho—blaming a “ring” of homosexuals for perverting their youth—are the fabrications of press and police and politicians. And as for child molesting, the overwhelming amount is done by straight guys to little girls: it is not particularly a gay problem, and is caused by the frustrations resulting form anti-sex puritanism.

5. Perversion:  “We’ve been called perverts enough to be suspect of any usage of the word. Still many of us shrink from the idea of certain kinds of sex: with animals, sado/masochism, dirty sex (involving piss or shit). Right off, even before we take the time to learn any more, there are some things to get straight:

1. we shouldn’t be apologetic to straights about gays whose sex lives we don’t understand or share;

2. it’s not particularly a gay issue, except that gay people are probably less hung up about sexual experimentation;

3. let’s get perspective: even if we were to get into the game of deciding what’s good for someone else, the harm done in these ‘perversions’ is undoubtedly less dangerous or unhealthy than is tobacco or alcohol.

4. While they can be reflections of neurotic or self-hating patterns, they may also be enactments of spiritual or important phenomena: e.g. sex with animals may be the beginning of interspecies communication: some dolphin-human breakthroughs have been made on the sexual level; e.g. one guy who says he digs shit during sex occasionally says it’s not the taste or texture, but a symbol that he’s so far into sex that those things no longer bug him; e.g. sado/masochism, when consensual, can be described as a highly artistic endeavor, a ballet the constraints of which are thresholds of pain and pleasure.

VI. ON OUR GHETTO

We are refugees from Amerika. So we came to the ghetto—and as other ghettos, it has its negative and positive aspects. Refugee camps are better than what preceded them, or people never would have come. But they are still enslaving, if only that we are limited to being ourselves there and only there.

Ghettos breed self-hatred. We stagnate here, accepting the status quo. The status quo is rotten. We are all warped by our oppression, and in the isolation of the ghetto we blame ourselves rather than our oppressors.

Ghettos breed exploitation: Landlords find they can charge exorbitant rents and get away with it, because of the limited area which us safe to live in openly. Mafia control of bars and baths in NYC is only one example of outside money controlling our institutions for their profit. In San Francisco the Tavern Guild favors maintaining the ghetto, for it is through ghetto culture that they make a buck. We crowd their bars not because of their merit but because of the absence of any other social institution. The Guild has refused to let us collect defense funds or pass out gay liberation literature in their bars—need we ask why?

Police or con men who shake down the straight gay in return for not revealing him; the bookstores and movie makers who keep raising prices because they are the only outlet for pornography; heads of ‘modeling’ agencies and other pimps who exploit both the hustlers and the johns – these are the parasites who flourish in the ghetto.

SAN FRANCISCO—Ghetto or Free Territory: Our ghetto certainly is more beautiful and larger and more diverse than most ghettos, and is certainly freer than the rest of Amerika. That’s why we’re here. But it isn’t ours. Capitalists make money off of us, cops patrol us, government tolerates us as long as we shut up, and daily we work for and pay taxes to those who oppress us.

To be a free territory, we must govern ourselves, set up our own institutions, defend ourselves, and use our won energies to improve our lives. The emergence of gay liberation communes, and out own paper is a good start. The talk about gay liberation coffee shop/dance hall should be acted upon. Rural retreats, political action offices, food cooperatives, a free school, unalienating bars and after hours places—they must be developed if we are to have even the shadow of a free territory.

VII. ON COALITION

Right now the bulk of our work has to be among ourselves—self educating, fending off attacks, and building free territory. Thus basically we have to have a gay/straight vision of the world until the oppression of gays is ended.

But not every straight is our enemy. Many of us have mixed identities, and have ties with other liberation movements: women, blacks, other minority groups; we may also have taken on an identity which is vital to us: ecology, dope, ideology. And face it: we can’t change Amerika alone:

Who do we look to for collaboration?

1. Women’s Liberation: summarizing earlier statements, 1) they are our closest ally; we must try hard to get together with them. 2) a lesbian caucus is probably the best way to attack gay guys’ male chauvinism, and challenge the straightness of women’s liberation; 3) as males we must be sensitive to their developing identities as women, and respect that; if we know what our freedom is about, they certainly know what’s best for them.

2. Black liberation: This is tenuous right now because of the uptightness and supermasculinity of many black men (which is understandable). Despite that, we must support their movement, particularly when they are under attack form the establishment; we must show them that we mean business; and we must figure out which our common enemies are: police, city hall, capitalism.

3. Chicanos: Basically the same problem as with blacks: trying to overcome mutual animosity and fear, and finding ways to support them. The extra problem of super up-tightness and machismo among Latin cultures, and the traditional pattern of Mexicans beating up “queers” can be overcome: we’re both oppressed, and by the same people at the top.

4. White radicals and ideologues: We’re not, as a group, Marxist or communist. We haven’t figured out what kind of political/economic system is good for us as gays. Neither capitalist or socialist countries have treated us as anything other than non grata so far.

But we know we are radical, in that we know the system that we’re under now is a direct source of oppression, and it’s not a question of getting our share of the pie. The pie is rotten.

We can look forward to coalition and mutual support with radical groups if they are able to transcend their anti-gay and male chauvinist patterns. We support radical and militant demands when they arise, e.g. Moratorium, People’s Park; but only as a group; we can’t compromise or soft-peddle our gay identity.

Problems: because radicals are doing somebody else’s thing, they tend to avoid issues which affect them directly, and see us as jeopardizing their ‘work’ with other groups (workers, blacks). Some years ago a dignitary of SDS on a community organization project announced at an initial staff meeting that there would be no homosexuality (or dope) on the project. And recently in New York, a movement group which had a coffee-house get-together after a political rally told the gays to leave when they started dancing together. (It’s interesting to note that in this case, the only two groups which supported us were the Women’s Liberation and the Crazies.)

Perhaps most fruitful would be to broach with radicals their stifled homosexuality and the issues which arise from challenging sexual roles.

5. Hip and street- people: A major dynamic of rising gay lib sentiment is the hip revolution within the gay community. Emphasis on love, dropping out, being honest, expressing yourself through hair and clothes, and smoking dope are all attributes of this. The gays who are the least vulnerable to attack by the establishment have been the freest to express themselves on gay liberation.

We can make a direct appeal to young people, who are not so uptight about homosexuality. One kid, after having his first sex with a male said, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about, making it with a girl just isn’t that different.”

The hip/street culture has led people into a lot of freeing activities: encounter/sensitivity, the quest for reality, freeing territory for the people, ecological consciousness, communes. These are real points of agreement and probably will make it easier for them to get their heads straight about homosexuality, too.

6. Homophile groups: 1) reformist or pokey as they sometimes are, they are our brothers. They’ll grow as we have grown and grow. Do not attack them in straight or mixed company. 2) ignore their attack on us. 3) cooperate where cooperation is possible without essential compromise of our identity.

CONCLUSION: AN OUTLINE OF IMPERATIVES FOR GAY LIBERTATION

1. Free ourselves: come out everywhere; initiate self defense and political activity; initiate counter community institutions.

2. Turn other gay people on: talk all the time; understand, forgive, accept.

3. Free the homosexual in everyone: we’ll be getting a good bit of shit form threatened latents: be gentle, and keep talking & acting free.

4. We’ve been playing an act for a long time, so we’re consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it’ll be a good show!

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Lady Gaga: The Prime Rib of America (On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)


by Lady Gaga
SLDN rally: “For the 14,000”: A Rally for the 14,000+ Discharged
Portland, Maine
September 20, 2010

Good afternoon. Can you all hear me?

I wrote this speech, this address, myself, I’ve spent 48 hours trying to find the perfect thing to say. My address to you today is called “The Prime Rib of America.”

I do, solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic, and I will bear true faith and allegiance to do the same, and I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the uniform code of military justice, so help me God.

Unless, there’s a gay soldier in my unit, sir.

That is the oath taken every day by service members of the Armed Forces when they enlist to serve their country. Equality is the prime rib of America, but because I’m gay, I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer. There are amazing heroes here today, whose stories are more powerful that any story I could tell, any fight I’ve ever fought, and any song that I could tell. I’m here because they inspire me. I’m here because I believe in them. I’m here because “don’t ask, don’t tell” is wrong. … It’s unjust, and fundamentally, it is against all that we stand for as Americans.

The Pentagon and senators such as John McCain have cited that the military is a unique institution, they have cited that homosexuals serving openly cause disruption to unit cohesion and morale. So what this means is, that they’re saying that straight soldiers feel uncomfortable around gay soldiers, and sometimes it causes tension, hostility and possible performance inadequacies for straight soldiers who are homophobic. And even though some studies have been done to show an overwhelming and remarkable lack of disruption to units with gay soldiers, I will, for a moment, entertain this debate. As I am less concerned with refuting the fact that, in the workplace, in any workplace, there are tensions, there is even more of a possibility to have tension when you’re fighting for your life. But I’m more concerned that John McCain and other Republican senators are using homophobia as a defense in their argument. As the nexus of this law, openly gay soldiers affect unit cohesion, like it’s OK to discriminate or discharge gay soldiers because we are homophobic, we are uncomfortable, and we do not agree with homosexuality, and I can’t focus on the field of duty when I am fighting. “We have a problem with you.” Wasn’t that the defense of Matthew Shepard’s murderers? When they left him to die on a fence in Laramie, they told the judge, ‘Oh, Matthew’s gay, and it made us uncomfortable, so we killed him.’ ‘Oh, he’s gay, it makes me uncomfortable, send him home.’ As a side note, both Matthew Shepard’s killers have life sentences in prison, and laws have since been passed that homophobia cannot be used as defense anymore in hate crimes in our judicial system.

Doesn’t it seem to be that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is backwards? Doesn’t it seem to be that, based on the Constitution of the United States, that we’re penalizing the wrong soldier? Doesn’t it seem to you that we should send home the prejudiced, the straight soldier who hates the gay soldier, the straight soldier whose performance in the military is affected because he is homophobic, the straight soldier who has prejudice in his heart, in the space where the military asks him to hold our core American values, he instead holds and harbors hate, and he gets to stay and fight for our country? He gets the honor, but we gay soldiers, who harbor no hatred, no prejudice, no phobia, we’re sent home? I am here today because I would like to propose a new law; a law that sends home the soldier that has the problem. Our new law is called “if you don’t like it, go home.” A law that discharges the soldier with the issue, the law that discharges the soldier with the real problem, the homophobic soldier that has the real negative effect on unit cohesion. A law that sends home the homophobe, a law that sends home the prejudiced. A law that doesn’t prosecute the gay soldier who fights for equality with no problem, but prosecutes the straight soldier who fights against it. Or perhaps that was a bit spun. … To be fair, it sends home the straight soldier who fights for some freedoms, for some equalities, but not for the equality of the gay. He is the one — or she is the one — under this new proposition who will be discharged for disrupting the military. If you are not committed to perform with excellence as a United States soldier because you don’t believe in full equality, go home. If you are not honorable enough to fight without prejudice, go home. If you are not capable of keeping your oath to the Armed Forces to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and I will bear true faith and allegiance to do the same, unless there’s a gay soldier in my unit, then go home.

Or, moreover, if you serve this country, is it acceptable to be a cafeteria American soldier? Can you choose some things from the Constitution to put on your plate, but not others? A buffet, perhaps. I’m not talking about citizens — we have a right to grieve, to protest, we have a right to this rally — but I’m talking about soldiers. Should the military be allowed to treat Constitutional rights like a cafeteria? In the military, is it acceptable to be a cafeteria American? What I mean to say is, should soldiers and the government be able to pick and choose what we are fighting for in the Constitution or who we are fighting for? I wasn’t aware of this ambiguity in our Constitution. I thought the Constitution was ultimate. I thought equality was non-negotiable. And, let’s say, if the government can pick and choose who they’re fighting for, as exemplified in laws like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” shouldn’t we as Americans be made aware of this imbalance? Shouldn’t it be made clear to the citizens of this country, before we go to war, shouldn’t I be made aware ahead of time that some of us are just not included in that fight? “We’re going to war for you and you and you and you, but not you, because you’re gay.” You can risk your life for this country, but in the end, you’re not fighting for yourself; you’re fighting for straight people. … You are not included. You are not included when we say “equal.” You are not even fully included when we say “freedom.”

I’m here today in this park, in Maine, to say that, if the Senate and the president are not going to repeal this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, perhaps they should be more clear with us about who the military is fighting for, who our tax dollars are supporting and, ultimately, how much does the prime rib cost? Because I thought this was an “all you can eat” buffet. This equality stuff, I thought equality meant everyone. But apparently, for certain value meals, for certain civil rights, I have to pay extra, because I’m gay. I’m allowed to stand in a line next to other men and women, I’m allowed to get shot at and shoot a gun to protect myself and my nation, but when it’s time to order my meal, when it’s time to benefit from the freedoms of the Constitution that I protect and fight for, I have to pay extra. I shouldn’t have to pay extra. I should have the ability, the opportunity, the right to enjoy the same rights — the same piece of meat — that my fellow soldiers, fellow straight soldiers, already have included in their Meal of Rights. It’s prime rib, it’s the same size, it’s the same grade, the same cost, at wholesale cost, and it’s in the Constitution.

My name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. I am an American citizen, to the senate, to Americans, to Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Susan Collins — both from Maine — and Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Equality is the prime rib of America. Equality is the prime rib of what we stand for as a nation. And I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat that my country has to offer. Are you listening? Shouldn’t everyone deserve the right to wear the same meat dress that I did? Repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” or go home. Go home. Thank you.

Lt. Dan Choi gives Harry Reid his West Point ring & discharge papers


Lt. Dan Choi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Netroots Nation
Las Vegas, NV
July 24, 2010

The moderator: “This morning Dan Choi gave me this to give to you. That’s his West Point ring. He says, he says it doesn’t mean to him what it did mean to him anymore. And this is his discharge.”

Harry Reid: “I just want to say about the ring. My son, my youngest boy, played on three national championship teams at the University of Virginia–soccer champions–and he gave me one of those rings. And I love that ring, that was terrific, but i didn’t earn the ring; my son gave it to me. He [Choi] earned this ring. And I’m gonna give it back to him. I don’t need his ring to fulfill the promise that I made to him.”

Moderator: “When it’s signed, Senator. When it’s signed.”

Reid: “That’s good enough with me. When the bill is signed I’ll keep it safely and give it back to him.”

[applause]

Choi gets on stage.

Reid: “When we get it passed you’ll take it back, right?”

Choi: “I sure will, but I’m gonna hold you accountable.”

Pride 2010 Update



Be sure to check out new additions to the archive during this year’s LGBT Pride Month. Apart from the formal speeches, a couple texts stand out. In particular, make sure to read Gloria Nieto’s statement “Poverty is a Queer Issue”. Also, David Mixner writes of the importance of preserving queer history.

Crisis in the LGBT Community: We Are Losing Our History by David Mixner
Remarks by President Obama at the LGBT Pride Month Reception
Remarks By Secretary of State Clinton at An Event Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Month

Poverty is a Queer Issue by Gloria Nieto
Google: Celebrating Pride 2010
On Equality by Alexi Giannoulias

Please email me if you have other important texts to add for Pride 2010!

Poverty is a Queer Issue


by Gloria Nieto
June 29, 2010
(source)

Over the weekend, Pride weekend in many parts of the world, I visited with old friends.  What was completely astonishing to me was the state of poverty that we find ourselves in right now.

All of us are well over 50.  We are the only ones to lose our home at this point.  The other friends are barely holding on.  Of the four of us out the other night at the Egyptian museum, only one of us has a job.  The other three hobos, I mean homos, have all been gainfully employed all our adult lives.  One has owned and operated several businesses over time.  Her unemployment just ran out on Friday.  She is one of the 1.3 million who were dropped that day.

My unemployment ran out back in April.  No income since then so my spouse is trying to keep both of us afloat.

The other friend is on disability and her partner is her paid caregiver.  The Governator is about to drop that program so that poor disabled will continue to bear the burden of this Depression.  They live a half hour drive out of town and cannot afford to move in closer to town so they are facing down foreclosure also.

I have to give a shout out to fellow blogger Patricia Nell Warren  for also talking about the financial crisis many lgbt folks find themselves in, including herself.  We are losing our houses, our savings, our dignity in this disaster.

In all the latest rumblings about LGBT rights, I wonder how we get more of our own folks realizing the recession is a queer issue?  ENDA is a jobs bill, so is DADT.  But ultimately my life and ability to be a participating member is tied up in the Senate and their lack of understanding of our realities, straight and LGBT.

It was finally explained to me during my last visit to DC.  It is an obvious answer, really.  None of the legislature, Senate and House alike, ever see needy people every day.  There is always money in DC so since they don’t go outside of the comfort zone of the Hill and their homes, why would they see the other realities.

There is no urgency on the economy.  There is no urgency on anything.  When I heard the President tell the folks on the Gulf Coast that they were not going to be forgotten, I thought well what about the rest of us?  You have forgotten about us and left us.  We have no help and there is no help on the horizon.

Abandoned.

Let me ask this – how many unemployed people were invited to the White House cocktail party last week?  All the glowing reports of words from the President are irrelevant without action.  There is no action because we have been forgotten and left behind.  Again.

This continued depression has a strong effect on our community.  How many lgbt centers are struggling?  The AIDS prevention money was stripped from the California budget so who will be the next wave of infected gay men in California?  How many activists are sidelined because they have no resources and cannot devote time to planning or activism because we are crippled by poverty.  Getting turned down repeatedly for jobs doesn’t do a lot for a person’s self esteem, trust me.

There is a price to pay for this disaster.

Unfortunately, those who should be paying for it are summering in the Hamptons.  The rest of us are stuck with the bill, both financial and emotional.

So during this month of Pride, while we celebrate all our victories over the years, try to remember those on the sidelines, struggling to keep our heads above water.  Equality should mean an equal chance to contribute to our communities, live  a good life, and hold our heads high.

Mr. Fierce Advocate, this is your chance to make a difference for all of us.

Remarks at Creating Change in 2000


by Coretta Scott King
Atlanta, GA
November 9, 2000
(source)

I think we all need a few days to recuperate from the stress-filled election we have just experienced, but not much more, because we have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination.

I say “common struggle” because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.

My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny… an inescapable network of mutuality,… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.” Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.

In addition to this fundamental moral principle, there is a very practical reason why people involved in human rights should support each other and work together. And that reason is that the whole of us united makes us stronger than the sum of our parts. This principle of synergy is eloquently summed up in the equation “One plus one equals three.” In other words, there are things we achieve together that we can’t achieve separately.

In a way, we have just had an object lesson in the power of coalition unity. And I think we have just seen the future of American democracy flash before our eyes last Tuesday. The coalition that gave Al Gore a popular majority can surely be as powerful as the New Deal coalition that transformed America in an earlier era.

So what comes next for the NGLTF, the King Center, and indeed all organizations working for human rights and social justice must be a new emphasis on working together in coalitions. With this commitment, we can pass comprehensive hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and secure full funding for AIDS research, prevention, and treatment. We can defend affirmative action and support a broad range of common legislative and policy priorities.

It is encouraging that we have seen more gay and lesbian candidates elected to political office. It is important for lesbian and gay officeholders and their constituencies to achieve greater visibility as supporters of laws that benefit the entire community. I think this will help educate the American public that lesbian and gay people seek the same goals of quality education for young people, cleaner air and water, safe streets and better health care that straight people want. We have to work harder for the broader vision of the compassionate and caring society that demands decent living standards for all citizens.

Now that the election is finally behind us, we must turn our full attention to building a tightly knit coalition of human rights groups that can act swiftly and effectively for needed policy reforms. Let’s make this first decade of the 21st century an era of unprecedented expansion in freedom and democracy.

And as we work for needed reforms, we must also look ahead to the next elections, mindful that we need more people of color in America’s federal, state, and local political institutions. And we also need more women and more lesbian and gay officeholders as well. This is how we make our political institutions reflect the diversity of the American people.

In closing, my friends, I just want to say that Im proud to stand with you today as we build a great new American coalition for freedom and human rights for all people. Despite the formidable challenges we face, I believe that we will succeed in creating a more compassionate and just society.

I’ll conclude my remarks tonight with a few words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Press Club in July of 1962. The 38 years that have come and gone since then have done nothing to diminish the relevance of his remarks. Indeed, they seem particularly appropriate to the challenge we face today.

“We are simply seeking,” said Martin, “to bring into full realization the American dream – a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character; the dream of a land where everyone will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality – this is the dream. When it is realized, the jangling discords of our nation will be transformed into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, and men everywhere will know that America is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Why We Fight


by Vito Russo of ACT UP
ACT UP “9 Days of Protest” Demonstration
Albany, NY,
May 9, 1988
Also delivered at the ACT UP Demonstration at the Department of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C. October 10, 1988
(source, includes video)

VITO RUSSO: A friend of mine in New York City has a half-fare transit card, which means that you get on buses and subways for half price. And the other day, when he showed his card to the token attendant, the attendant asked what his disability was and he said, I have AIDS. And the attendant said, no you don’t, if you had AIDS, you’d be home dying. And so, I wanted to speak out today as a person with AIDS who is not dying.

You know, for the last three years, since I was diagnosed, my family thinks two things about my situation. One, they think I’m going to die, and two, they think that my government is doing absolutely everything in their power to stop that. And they’re wrong, on both counts.

So, if I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from homophobia. If I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from racism. If I’m dying from anything, it’s from indifference and red tape, because these are the things that are preventing an end to this crisis. If I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from Jesse Helms. If I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from the President of the United States. And, especially, if I’m dying from anything, I’m dying from the sensationalism of newspapers and magazines and television shows, which are interested in me, as a human interest story — only as long as I’m willing to be a helpless victim, but not if I’m fighting for my life.

If I’m dying from anything — I’m dying from the fact that not enough rich, white, heterosexual men have gotten AIDS for anybody to give a shit. You know, living with AIDS in this country is like living in the twilight zone. Living with AIDS is like living through a war which is happening only for those people who happen to be in the trenches. Every time a shell explodes, you look around and you discover that you’ve lost more of your friends, but nobody else notices. It isn’t happening to them. They’re walking the streets as though we weren’t living through some sort of nightmare. And only you can hear the screams of the people who are dying and their cries for help. No one else seems to be noticing.

And it’s worse than a war, because during a war people are united in a shared experience. This war has not united us, it’s divided us. It’s separated those of us with AIDS and those of us who fight for people with AIDS from the rest of the population.

Two and a half years ago, I picked up Life Magazine, and I read an editorial which said, “it’s time to pay attention, because this disease is now beginning to strike the rest of us.” It was as if I wasn’t the one holding the magazine in my hand. And since then, nothing has changed to alter the perception that AIDS is not happening to the real people in this country.

It’s not happening to us in the United States, it’s happening to them — to the disposable populations of fags and junkies who deserve what they get. The media tells them that they don’t have to care, because the people who really matter are not in danger. Twice, three times, four times — The New York Times has published editorials saying, don’t panic yet, over AIDS — it still hasn’t entered the general population, and until it does, we don’t have to give a shit.

And the days, and the months, and the years pass by, and they don’t spend those days and nights and months and years trying to figure out how to get hold of the latest experimental drug, and which dose to take it at, and in what combination with other drugs, and from what source? And, how are you going to pay for it? And where are you going to get it? Because it isn’t happening to them, so they don’t give a shit.

And they don’t sit in television studios, surrounded by technicians who are wearing rubber gloves, who won’t put a microphone on you, because it isn’t happening to them, so they don’t give a shit. And they don’t have their houses burned down by bigots and morons. They watch it on the news and they have dinner and they go to bed, because it isn’t happening to them, and they don’t give a shit.

And they don’t spend their waking hours going from hospital room to hospital room, and watching the people that they love die slowly — of neglect and bigotry, because it isn’t happening to them and they don’t have to give a shit. They haven’t been to two funerals a week for the last three or four or five years — so they don’t give a shit, because it’s not happening to them.

And we read on the front page of The New York Times last Saturday that Anthony Fauci now says that all sorts of promising drugs for treatment haven’t even been tested in the last two years because he can’t afford to hire the people to test them. We’re supposed to be grateful that this story has appeared in the newspaper after two years. Nobody wonders why some reporter didn’t dig up that story and print it 18 months ago, before Fauci got dragged before a Congressional hearing .

How many people are dead in the last two years, who might be alive today, if those drugs had been tested more quickly? Reporters all over the country are busy printing government press releases. They don’t give a shit, it isn’t happening to them — meaning that it isn’t happening to people like them — the real people, the world-famous general public we all keep hearing about.

Legionnaire’s Disease was happening to them because it hit people who looked like them, who sounded like them, who were the same color as them. And that fucking story about a couple of dozen people hit the front page of every newspaper and magazine in this country, and it stayed there until that mystery got solved.

All I read in the newspapers tells me that the mainstream, white heterosexual population is not at risk for this disease. All the newspapers I read tell me that IV drug users and homosexuals still account for the overwhelming majority of cases, and a majority of those people at risk.

And can somebody please tell me why every single penny allocated for education and prevention gets spent on ad campaigns that are directed almost exclusively to white, heterosexual teenagers — who they keep telling us are not at risk!

Can somebody tell me why the only television movie ever produced by a major network in this country, about the impact of this disease, is not about the impact of this disease on the man who has AIDS, but of the impact of AIDS on his white, straight, nuclear family? Why, for eight years, every newspaper and magazine in this country has done cover stories on AIDS only when the threat of heterosexual transmission is raised?

Why, for eight years, every single educational film designed for use in high schools has eliminated any gay positive material, before being approved by the Board of Education? Why, for eight years, every single public information pamphlet and videotape distributed by establishment sources has ignored specific homosexual content?

Why is every bus and subway ad I read and every advertisement and every billboard I see in this country specifically not directed at gay men? Don’t believe the lie that the gay community has done its job and done it well and educated its people. The gay community and IV drug users are not all politicized people living in New York and San Francisco. Members of minority populations, including so called sophisticated gay men are abysmally ignorant about AIDS.

If it is true that gay men and IV drug users are the populations at risk for this disease, then we have a right to demand that education and prevention be targeted specifically to these people. And it is not happening. We are being allowed to die, while low risk populations are being panicked — not educated, panicked — into believing that we deserve to die.

Why are we here together today? We’re here because it is happening to us, and we do give a shit. And if there were more of us AIDS wouldn’t be what it is at this moment in history. It’s more than just a disease, which ignorant people have turned into an excuse to exercise the bigotry they have always felt.

It is more than a horror story, exploited by the tabloids. AIDS is really a test of us, as a people. When future generations ask what we did in this crisis, we’re going to have to tell them that we were out here today. And we have to leave the legacy to those generations of people who will come after us.

Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes — when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this earth — gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free.

So, I’m proud to be with my friends today and the people I love, because I think you’re all heroes, and I’m glad to be part of this fight. But, to borrow a phrase from Michael Callen’s song: all we have is love right now, what we don’t have is time.

In a lot of ways, AIDS activists are like those doctors out there — they’re so busy putting out fires and taking care of people on respirators, that they don’t have the time to take care of all the sick people. We’re so busy putting out fires right now, that we don’t have the time to talk to each other and strategize and plan for the next wave, and the next day, and next month and the next week and the next year.

And, we’re going to have to find the time to do that in the next few months. And, we have to commit ourselves to doing that. And then, after we kick the shit out of this disease, we’re all going to be alive to kick the shit out of this system, so that this never happens again.

VITO RUSSO