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Militants and Mainstreamers February 12, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.

The question I want to address is about splits in the broader movement.  “The movement” being called many different things – LGBT rights, LGBTIQQP rights, gay liberation, gay and lesbian equality, etc. etc.  There’s also another movement, which we are at least tangentially a part of, and that is against poverty and homelessness, particularly homeless youth.  I am not very well-versed in the broader movement against homelessness, other than that many groups, like MPIRG, focus on affordable housing to help alleviate the problem.  This is helpful for those who have some education and can eventually become financially independent, but a 15 year-old runaway isn’t really benefited by affordable housing, typically. Other than the cursory research I have done for this activist project, I haven’t really become very informed about homelessness as a whole.

However, I know a LOT about the LGBT rights movement, as I have been involved in it for the past year and am currently researching the movement in South Africa.  So, are there divides?  Absolutely.  There’s a comment on Alexandre’s post about 60s activism that illustrates that there is definitely a radical faction that is fed up with the slow-moving, moderate, compromising ways of the the mainstream LGBT organizations.  The other issue is that while marriage and adoption are the forefront of mainstream gay organizations’ issues right now, there are all kinds of issues surrounding hate crimes, workplace discrimination, domestic partner immigration, bullying and prejudice in schools, the “ex-gay” concept, faith communities and their homophobia or rejection from gay culture, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, which has very high rates in the LGBT community, domestic violence, also high rates for LGBT communities, tolerance and education for others, health care discrimination (i.e. refusing to treat transgender people, limiting access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, inability of domestic partners to make medical decisions) etc. etc. etc.  How many of these issues do we hear about on a regular basis?  How many of these sound more life-threatening and more practical than the right to marry?  To many people, most of them do.

Many of the radical factions of the LGBT movement (and we’ve read about ACT UP a couple times, for example), use direct action action and disruption.  After the passing of Proposition 8 in California, there was sort of a revival of the grassroots, radical fervor that characterized the time periods of the Stonewall Riots and ACT UP.  The website, JoinTheImpact has managed to straddle the mainstream goal of marriage equality, but use tactics like not showing up for work, demanding that people come out to their family and friends (committing to at least 3 people), marches, virtual protests, boycotts, and other activities.  This group has gained the sanction of groups like Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, while using tactics more direct and active than either group normally engages in.

Some less sanctioned, and far more radical groups include Bash Back! – a group that “rejects all forms of state power,” and sounds like an updated, more anarchist, less single-issue kind of ACT UP.  OutRage! is a another direct action group, similar to ACT UP and Bash Back!, but located in the UK.  Lastly, Radical Women is a radical feminist organization which fights oppression and discrimination of all kinds, including homophobia and racism.  There are also celebrities who sometimes advocate more radical behavior – for example, Melissa Etheridge has vowed not to pay taxes until she has equal rights, and in a less radical approach, a few, like Wanda Sykes, have decided to come out as LGBTA, in order to show support in more conventional ways.

This is just a sampling of the various organizations which exist, often under the radar until they take action against a church, for example, as Bash Back!, OutRage!, and ACT UP have all done.  With the exception of ACT UP, these groups take on a wide variety of issues – transphobia, homophobia, women in the workplace, age of consent laws, etc. etc. etc.  These are not single-issue radicals, but those who feel that oppression is not being dealt with effectively by mainstream groups, and so they tackle many of the same issues, but in very different ways, and with less of a tolerance for compromise.

– Jane



1. obnoxioususername - February 13, 2009

While researching news stories on proposition 8 for my literature review, I found this quote:

“If they’re going to legislate away my rights based on fear and hatred and ignorance, I’m going to give them something to be f**king scared of”-posted by an anonymous reader on the blog queerty.

I think that the gay marriage debate may start to polarize the US on LGBT rights, and we will be seeing a lot more militant LGBT action soon.

2. DG - February 15, 2009

Jane, thanks for this overview of the splits and dissent in the LGBT movement — I was glad to learn more about these internal dynamics. I’d be curious to know if you think that the amount of factionalization has increased more recently, or if these divides have been there and active for quite some time now.

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