I understand the magnetic allure of Washington, DC. I worked there for several years and it could, at times, be mesmerizing.
I’ve attended press conferences on the steps of Capitol Hill with Ted Kennedy and marveled that I was standing next to the real icon, not a replica from Madame Tussauds wax museum. I have stood only a stone’s throw from President Clinton, as he greeted foreign dignitaries on the White House lawn. (I might have actually thrown the stones at Bush)
It makes one feel, well, important.
From a media perspective, there is also nothing like being swept into the tidal wave of presidential politics. Last year, I made national news by slamming candidate Barack Obama for sponsoring a South Carolina gospel tour featuring “ex-gay” singer Donnie McClurkin. My second foray into the spotlight involved Sarah Palin’s church promotion of an “ex-gay” conference in Anchorage.
Getting thrust into the national storyline means hundreds of news stories that feature your name and the bright lights of television. Of course, such massive media hits are important and serve a larger purpose. But, the downside is our movement can become intoxicated with Washington at the expense of broader issues.
Let me be clear, it is crucial that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement have a strong voice in Washington. It is vital that we support our national lobby groups. Solutions at the federal level are often preferable because they apply to conservative states where it may take decades to achieve equality.
Still, this past week underscored how the gay movement’s engagement with Washington has become an unhealthy obsession. I have seen hundreds of articles and e-mails with people opining on Obama, the Democrats and the gay movement. (I’m as guilty as anyone else. Indeed, my column last week was about the administration’s timidity on gay issues)
It seems every person wants to be the star of Meet the Press, every activist is now Chris Matthews and we are all experts at political chess, prattling endlessly in the cyber salon about the machinations of the administration. Everyone with a computer is now a master strategist and can regurgitate the records of previously obscure members of Congress.
Political discourse has become an aphrodisiac that has seduced our community away from equally important issues. Perhaps it is time we go into rehab and free ourselves from the Washington crack pipe. It is a cheap high that rarely lasts and often leaves us broke and unsatisfied.
We all wanted King Obama to sweep into office, wave his magic wand and make discrimination disappear. I really wish he would, but it is clear that he won’t – or at least not as quick as we desire. So, why don’t we pry ourselves away from DC for a moment and try using our resources in alternative ways?
Anyone remember AIDS?
Ever hear of the multi-million dollar ex-gay industry that pumps out reams of propaganda to portray gay people as sick and “sexually broken?” Few people seem to notice, even though these groups spread harmful myths and poisonous stereotypes that impact our daily lives.
What about increasing funds to help GLBT youths who are thrown out of their homes? Or, scholarships, so these teens can succeed in life and maybe one day run for Congress?
How about focusing on the abuses against GLBT people overseas?
The aforementioned issues will not get you on a Congressman’s speed dial. It is unlikely that you will win a sparkling trophy or have a marble bust made of your head. The cable shows may not be dialing you at a frenzied pace. But, you might have a disproportionately positive impact and even save a few lives.
The other problem with our political addiction is that it breeds bad messaging. We are coming across as a powerful lobby that is demanding action as payback for money and votes. While there is a place for such muscle flexing, it masks our true agenda.
The immediacy of our cause has to do with the trauma we all faced as children. Now that we are strong, we don’t want one more GLBT teen to commit suicide while Congress dithers. It is unconscionable for another youth who dreams of serving his or her country to be turned away while Obama plots his reelection. It is an insult – right down to the core of our soul – when our government tells us that we can’t marry the person we love.
Our movement is not about Obama’s career, nor the happenings in Congress. What we seek is to reclaim our basic dignity and end needless suffering – both goals that one is unlikely to achieve solely in the glamorous quicksand of Washington.
While our fate in DC hangs in the balance, how about returning some balance to the GLBT movement by ending our fatalistic fixation on all-things political?