Jul. 13th, 2009

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A friend of mine posted a Washington Blade article on Facebook-- an annual affair in that particular newspaper, I think-- examining the salaries of assorted national and East Coast LGBT organization leaders, and how those salaries compare to the salaries of other executive directors of non-LGBT nonprofits with similar budgets. Not a lot here that's surprising-- Joe Solmonese of the HRC is in the 90th percentile of nonprofit executive director earnings? Shocking!-- but it stirred some thoughts that have been kicking around in my head lately about the rise of activism as a profession, and what those of us on the ground expect of our supposed "leaders."

I've written a lot lately-- more in Facebook than on here, I think-- about leftist queers who do not think that marriage should be the foremost focus of LGBT equality struggles. The argument, as I understand it, is that most LGBT people do not spend most of their adult life in monogamous romantic dyads, so an activist agenda that favors and secures rights for that one particular family form, at the expense of all the other family and household arrangements we form, is prejudiced, misguided, and frequently unhelpful. And even if you are in that kind of arrangement, a lot of the benefits that LGBT activists cite as evidence that legalizing marriage is necessary are only available to people of a certain income bracket. (Access to employer health insurance comes to mind here.) Obviously, a same-sex couple, both of whom work at minimum wage jobs that don't offer benefits, will not have access to rights such as employer health insurance, no matter how married they are. And, of course, there are the questions of mainstreaming and assimilation: will the right to marry become the imperative to marry? Does this focus on marriage necessarily take time and energy from other issues LGBT rights organizations should also be addressing, such as trans rights?

Generally speaking, I agree with all of this, though it must be said that my critiques are more in line with Lisa Duggan and Nancy Polikoff than those of Matt "Mattilda" Bernstein Sycamore. (I don't have a link for Sycamore's work, but man, does ze piss me off. I yelled at hir a few years back when ze made an appearance at Powell's.) What frustrates me about the bulk of critiques of the focus on same-sex marriage-- and one of the principal reasons that I align more with Duggan and Polikoff than with Sycamore-- is the question of responsibility. We may agree that the present-day priorities of most mainstream LGBT rights organizations are fucked up, but whose responsibility is it to challenge and/or change that agenda, and how?

Once upon a time, I used to think LJ cuts were for lazy people who couldn't handle reading. Now I graciously place them in most of my entries. Feel grateful. )

What can we (can I) do to advance the gay agenda we actually want to see? I'm particularly interested in talking to people who have experience agitating for health care reform-- that's a movement I've been wanting to get into, but I'm not really connected to anyone in it yet.


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Revolution nrrrd style now!

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