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February 21, 2007

Statler & Waldorf go to HRC

Matt & JimboLast night Statler and I went to the monolithic HRC Building for the State of the Movement panel discussion and community forum co-sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and MetroWeekly. I went primarily to skip out of night class, but also because Statler sounded like he wanted a buddy to heckle with. The panel included: Chris Barron, Log Cabin Republicans; Herndon Davis, National Black Justice Coalition; Matt Foreman, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality; John Marble, National Stonewall Democrats; C. Dixon Osburn, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign; and Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend.

Overall it was a mostly civil discussion of "the movement" in terms of how the above major organizations are and have handled their business up to this day. Pam had something to say about that which I'm sure you'll see on her blog soon. Statler has already spoken her mind and testified on a few topics.

My general impression of the panel discussions was that there is still a lot of optimisim and enthusiasm in movement leaders today, but the people not presented in this panel are those who are making great change on the local level. There were a few exceptions to this in the audience, as in the case of Midge Potts from Springfield, Missourri, a 37 year-old transgender social justice activist who ran for congress in SW Missouri's August 8th Republican Primary. Midge stood up to say how she campaigned door-to-door to farmers and everyday families in SW Missouri on the platforms of direct democracy, debt free America (yeah!), and energy independence. She sounds like someone I would have voted for, but she lost. She mentioned that in meeting people as she campaigned the prejudices "melted from their faces" as she said. She was doing the footwork that really needs to be done by everyone - shaking hands, telling their stories, and making connections with people who otherwise wouldn't meet any of us urban ghetto G/L/Bi/Trans/Whatevers.

Anyhow, while Pam represented the voice of the people via blogging, and the G/L/Bi/Trans/Whatever organizational leaders were representing the organizations' efforts from the top, I didn't see enough people who were making change at local levels, individually or by small groups, which is an element that does a lot of good for raising awareness, but doesn't get a lot of credit - or money. The people I mean are the campus student groups who are ensuring they have representation on campus, individual candidates in rural or suburban areas who can make change and raise awareness, or groups like my rugby team who have touched the lives of every "straight" team we have played in our local union.

I'll probably write more about it once my thoughts form into cogent ideas, but for now I'll give you a play-by-play of my perceptions of the forum disucssion:

- The HRC building gets a 100% approval rating for nice bike racks outside and a very efficient HVAC system inside (it was kinda warm). They get a 0% for water fountain availability!

- Sean Bugg from MetroWeekly was the moderator of the panel discussion, and he's quite woofy. He has a sexy voice too, so was the perfect choice for emcee.

- The queens are still wearing too much cologne - my eyes were burning cooped up in a hot room with all those perfumes.

- Will you two gurls sitting behind us stop whispering and fidgeting? I'm trying to listen to the activists foaming at the mouth!

- Cell phones that went off during the discussion: 5. Class: none.

- The greatest problem facing transgender people today is dry, damaged hair, in my opinion.

- Ironically the hottie from the LCR agreed with my stance that more work needs to be done at the grassroots levels and by individuals.

- There was a remarkable amount of time spent discussing blogs and other new media forms and how they can benefit organizations, and their efficacy outside of organizations.

- Herndon Davis from the National Black Justice Coalition seemed to have the best strategies offered for their constituent community both through smart use of new media and for reaching to the community through churches.

- Several speakers from the audience felt that the legal strategies of the major organizations were 10 years ahead of the movement's progress. Again, let me say that the major organizations are institutionalized beyond their ability to make effective change, and changes in how people think, the awareness of what our problems are, and knowing why we are asking for these rights are not well-enough known by the general public and those who would align with the KKKrazy Konservative Kristians. Once they know enough, fairness will prevail in their minds, but until then they just don't understand what we're bitching about.

At the end of it I briefly got to meet Pam, who like me also blogs from a campus, and a few members from NLGJA, who have interest in integrating bloggers into the journosphere. When I go to things like this and the one at the Washington Post, I wonder where I stand between the journalists news blogs, entertainment blogs, organizational blogs, corporate blogs, and personal blogs, becuase a do a little bit of all of the above, and maybe some (free, 'ahem!') marketing but mostly personal stuff. The real issue for me is that it sure would be nice to earn some cash outta what I've been doing for 8 years one of these days.

Posted by jimbo at February 21, 2007 8:37 AM


The local TooStoned glbt center (http://www.wingspan.org ) does try to make a difference around southern AZ. The Ooh of Ahh has a glbt staff organization, a student glbt union and even a glbt Studies Dept plus a few other groups.

Posted by: Lee at February 21, 2007 4:39 AM

IN regards to all these so called "rights groups" they are just now begining to realize what other groups like "the Christian Coalition" and so called "For the Family" have known all along.

Start off small and in a grass roots effort get followers for the cause, go door to door, smile make the song and dance to get support. Thats why those groups have such a big support.

The problem with alot of these big gay groups is that many of them are not patient or unwilling to do the small things. They throw the big fancy black tie dinners, the big parties of which only those in the "in" crowd are invited to. Handing out awards to the current poster child etc. But for the most part they are afraid to get their hands dirty.

They/we need to do what the other groups have done, use the "enemies" strategy.

Plus I feel there needs to be more cohesion with in the "gay community" I personally feel there is to much division, and internal prejudice in the "gay community"

I hear GHostrider was good. but then I am a DC comic kind of guy ;-)

Posted by: Dax at February 21, 2007 11:35 AM


Your blog sounds so much more professional than my temper-tantrum. Great summary of what was going on and glad we could go and get a pulse of where the gay leadership is thinking about going.

Posted by: Statler at February 21, 2007 12:11 PM

I am a huge fan of Pam Spaulding. As I've said on my own blog, if you aren't reading Pam every day, you should be.

Posted by: Joe.My.God. at February 21, 2007 2:59 PM

I think NGLTF is doing some decent work... HRC is a colossal waste of time & money. I refuse to give a cent to them. Everything they do is very chi-chi and designed to a t, but doesn't make a damned bit of difference. I go to that building (beautiful & LEED-certified I might add) frequently and I'm not suprised you found it warm in there Jimbo!

The amount of hot air generated from that building alone is melting the polar caps.

You want action, then let's talk Lambda Legal - too bad HRC doesn't get along with them, they belong on that panel since they are the ones who have achieved some of the biggest victories & advances for the "movement" yet... (I name Lawrence v. Texas as only one of many...)

All HRC has really done is change the Swedish flag into some sort of square boating flag...

Posted by: TOS at February 21, 2007 9:43 PM

I was interested to read this, since I just noticed this week Andrew Sullivan (who I started reading pretty much every day a few months ago) really, really seems to hate the HRC, for most of the same reasons as TOS here.

Have to say, I got talked into joining HRC last summer at Pride when some woofy canvasser cornered me and talked like he was going to join our rugby team... so there's a chunk of $$ going out of my checking account to them every month. I get all their emails and mailings, and you are right -- everything looks nice, but in the end, I really don't feel very engaged or aware of what they actually DO. Man, I need to cancel that and do something more relevant with my money.

Posted by: Mark in Portland at February 24, 2007 2:13 AM