Browse Tag: glad

Obama, Apparently Your Gay Card Has Expired Due to Inactivity

Politics is not my cup of tea, but I just read a series of Facebook posts about an article posted on the Advocate about the LGBT community’s “Disappointment” with Obama that kinda got to me today. This article is certainly not the first of its kind that I’ve come across; negative commentary on news is always current news these days and I’ve tried to ignore all the political jargon that’s been flying back and forth in cyberspace.

To be sure, these politically polarized online conversations often find ways to invade neutral social spaces offline. I should be used to this by now, but lately — perhaps due to the heightened sensitivity around hte political climate — it’s become even more difficult to avoid (or at least compartmentalize) the experience of becoming an accidental participant, much less an incidental spectator. Despite “Hiding” all the Facebook perpetrator Boo-Obama status updates in my News Feeds and RSVPing “(Hell) No” to radical political action committee meetings where at least two people are bound to punctuate their rhetoric with fist thumping on a non-profit budgeted table, I’ve found myself stumped for words on more than one occasion.

No one — gay or straight, liberal or conservative — should be so presumptuous as to slip in a last minute toast to “Electing a president with some balls the next time around” right before a first round of drinks, or offer the lean-in-with-deep-earnest-eyes-and-place-hand-on-one-shoulder gesture while they try to convince you that, “He’s just like all the others.” I don’t sport any visible Proud Obama Supporter merchandise, so I’ve often been confused about what typically prompts the latter (It’s cause I’m black, init?), but I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I should invest in a “Back Off, I Love Obama!” T-Shirt, lest I get taken by surprise when I’m having a really bad day and respond less than tactfully.

To cut to the chase, I’m not another queer liberal who’s angry with Obama. However, today, as I scrolled through Facebook News, digesting bits and pieces of social commentary in the anger, disappointment, humor, and hate categories, I was forced to think about whether or not I should be.

Is there evidence that members and supporters of the LGBT community should be angry? Yes. Is there evidence that Obama has made promises (ENDA, DADT) that he’s (so far) failed to keep? Yes. Should we hold our leaders accountable at any and all costs? Most definitely.

I whole-heartedly understand and empathize with where people are coming from. We certainly all have the right to be mad for one reason or the other. However, I’m losing patience with people that presume to think that I’m down with taking down “the Man” on a single issue just because I’m part of the LGBT community at large. “Do you think Obama has kept his promises to the gay community?” I answer, No. But…

Dear angry (and mainly white) liberal gay community, I’m more than just a single poll vote — I’m many polls and many votes. Shoot, I’m a database of hard facts about privilege in this country. I’m one of you, one of “them”, many of “other” — a whole and complex being — so please remember that there are too many other political and social issues at stake (for me, for my family, and for my community) for me to burn Obama for side-stepping a hot potato that’s been baking for far too long in the granite-counter-topped kitchens of rich white gay men.

Now, about this article. Richard Just writes:

“Obama argues that he is against gay marriage while also opposing efforts like Prop 8 that would ban it,” he writes. “He justifies this by saying that state constitutions should not be used to reduce rights. (His exact words: ‘I am not in favor of gay marriage, but when you’re playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that that is not what America is about.’) Obama appears to be saying that it is fine to prohibit gay people from getting married, as long as the vehicle for doing so is not a constitution.

Really? This sounds like a critical reasoning paragraph from the GREs (sorry I’m in grad school application mode). Perhaps I need to brush up on my reading comprehension skills but this sentiment doesn’t describe how I’ve been reading Obama at all. How do we go from a president who’s clearly come out against the amending of the constitution to further legislate taking away basic rights from gay people to trivializing his position with semantics? How do we call someone who’s actually been decent about providing transparency (even if it means we see/hear him go back and forth vs getting to hear PR-proofed-and-puppeteered statements) a liar? Didn’t we hear over and over again that he would not be pushing through gay marriage, but rather, working with us to ensure that civil unions were protected? (read: please don’t force me to jeopardize my candidacy, I’ll do what I can, since no one else is doing it anyway).

NEWS FLASH: Obama is a politician. This shouldn’t be surprising, and it certainly shouldn’t constantly be used to insult him (or anyone else for that matter), especially since politicians are the only pawns we can elect into office. (Outspoken freedom fighters like me do our job on the ground because we wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the world of politics, and that’s the TRUTH). We should try to remember that politicians are subject to politics, bureaucracy, endless debate, soap box fails, and most importantly, our conditional love and support at best. It shouldn’t be so hard for us to see — as leaders ourselves — that sometimes you’ve gotta walk the thin line between proponent and opponent to get to the other side: progress.

I started paying close attention when he didn’t make the daft mistake of running the presidential race on a “black agenda” platform despite pressure to come out and do/say more about the experience of African-Americans in this country. He’s clearly fence-sitting, trying not to cause too many ripples so as not to jeopardize a possible re-election (during a future period where increased tolerance and awareness would better aid us). To do so would mean that he won’t be there to continue digging out the shit from the hole we threw him into in the first place.

And yet, every other day I log into Facebook, some angry liberal is posting about not voting for him, throwing him in the same category as Bush (really? George Double-yuh??), and helping our real opponents, extreme right-wing conservatives, burn him at the stake. I can understand your disappointment. Hell, sometimes I want to wring his neck and shake him into taking a god damn position… like I would do. Sometimes, we need to kick and scream and throw tantrums because this simply isn’t fair… to “us.” But we must never lose sight of the big picture, which includes ALL of us, and I’m not talking about our neighbors or check-box mates. I’m talking about recognizing that we are a part of many different communities that Obama HAS been fighting for — the middle class who can’t afford insurance, small business owners, WOMEN, educators etc. We should Thank Him for his progress in those arenas, rather than continually put him down for areas where his record could show a little more improvement. Isn’t that what good mentors do? Isn’t that what smart citizens should do?

This single-issue approach to ratings and slandering politicians just isn’t helpful. Moreover, it’s hypocritical. If we’re still having discussions about negotiating when and where to come out (based on safety, the age of children in schools, appropriateness in the workplace, generational attitudes re: elders etc), then we shouldn’t expect our president to be excited about outing himself to a sea of still predominantly conservative political voices and media.

And before you retort with, “Well, I’m not the president, it’s his job to…” please think about whether or not you would switch positions with him today, if given the opportunity. If you won’t accept the offer to be Obama for just one day — to be required to listen and engage the voices of over three hundred million people — then fall in line, and support him, especially if you voted for him. If we don’t stand behind our choices, we’d be no better than conservatives who threw Bush to the dogs the minute they ran out of rhetoric to distract the country from his complete and utter failure.

If I lose my gay card because I don’t “hold Obama accountable to the marriage issue” then so be it. One card can’t define me, and shouldn’t define the president of (still) the most powerful country in the world, where citizens are a sum total of the issues they care about. I still choose any president that’s brave enough to approach leadership with this in mind.

Now, don’t let me down, Obama.

New Narratives, New Voices: Why I Hate the Word Diversity

I am so excited about this new workshop I’ve designed to highlight new narratives and redefine “diversity”! I’ll be presenting it at the Join the Impact conference this weekend, so if you’re in Boston, register to attend and check out my session!

Thoughts That Came to Me As I Designed This Workshop:

As a bicultural Nigerian, I identify very strongly with the African immigrant experience and obsess about not doing enough for my parents at home.

On American soil, I wear my afrofeminist label proudly, and fight with words alongside other feminists to raise women’s voices on the web (and the page, very soon).

As a queer community organizer, I advocate for the increased visibility of people of color within the LGBT movement (so that it doesn’t get reduced to the current conversation about “black community and black churches”).

To say that I wear “many hats” is an understatement. But in my fight for “diversity”, I’ve often found myself pigeon-holed into choosing one fight — the “people of color” fight — over others (sexism, immigration etc), and losing critical ground on those other fronts as a result.

I am often asked (however inadvertently) by white organizers to compartmentalize my anger, and then intellectualize it (read: “present at conference”, since diversity has become synonymous with choosing one or two issues to orate about). So, when I was casually invited to present on the “(Lack of) Inclusion of People of Color in the LGBT Movement”, I found myself thinking of the many swords I carry, and wishing that I could hold them all in front of me with  both arms, heavy and close to my heart, so that people could see how wearisome fighting for and against  the intersecting communities I belong to can be. It’s not so easy; I often imagine myself crouched defensively in the center of a circle lined by all the isms, privileges, and human rights violations I face — homophobia, racism, americanism, sexism, feminism, transphobia;  blunt and shining swords lay scattered in the dusty ground around me from switching blades and direction too quickly in concurrent battles for social justice, and sometimes, for survival.

But in my ideal world, I would fight for one kind of justice — and for many — with the same sword. I am tired of having to choose which parts of my identity to include or exclude from my rants. So, in response to the invitation, I decided to design a session that explored this new idea: What is Diversity? And how can we redefine it in the context of a younger, multinational, pro-feminist, and trans-positive movement?

Currently, the “LGBT movement” sounds like the white gay man marriage fight (supported by a smart troop of butch white women). The Q is left out. The I is left out, and inquiring about other letters begets played out, trivializing “alphabet” jokes instead of a sincere commitment to make sure everyone get the invitation next time.

“People of color” narratives often focus on the African-American experience and ignore the complexities of the immigrant subset (Latin@s, Africans, Asians etc ) — and let’s not even talk about non-immigrant Native Americans). As a person of color myself I’m often called upon to present comprehensive solutions to this problem (or “facilitate dialogue” about “people of color issues”), as if all people of color were berated equal; I’m Nigerian/African, and quite honestly, I can’t always relate to the black people in this country.

Feminist perspectives often carelessly leave out women of color, though they’re often able (and encouraged) to intellectualize this popular snafu and re-present well-articulated, buzz-word-filled theses about “gender” and “sexuality” to eager auditoriums across the country. Have you attended a Women’s Studies seminar, panel, or conference session lately? I have — and it’s very scary to hear decisions being made, leaders being influenced, and demonstrations being organized in the absence of (all but 2 or 3) women of color.

Radical lesbian feminists (yeah, they deserve a separate title) tend to be a little bit more diversity-conscious and inclusive of women of color (who also claim that title) but side-stepping the ageism that exists within their version of the movement is no easy feat. I was just at Stonewall Communities “Sex and Gender in the City” inter-generational conference, and I remember feeling like I’d been tricked into attending a roast for young people. Every other joke demeaned, devalued, and discredited the work of millennial social activists because apparently we haven’t been beaten or bled enough — and all we do is invent new labels or throw parties. If I’m not yet qualified to speak to (not for) the various experience(s) of queers in my generation then who the hell is?

And don’t get me started with the sexism that is rampant among gay men. Across every social justice issue I care about, there are people who advocate for the inclusion of people of color, but I’m never as chronically overwhelmed by sexism and male privilege as I am within my fight for diversity within the queer community. In my hetero/femme days, white gay men thought I was “fabulous”, bought me martinis, and invited me to their condos for dinner. That changed the instant I went futch. Now, unless I’m introduced by someone from the inner circle, I remain completely invisible.

Meanwhile, the alternative is mother-managing egotistical turf wars between POC-run organizations over whose “good” is “best” “for the community” so that we can at least pretend to these white people that we all play nice (or know each other) and “collaborate”, while behind-the-scenes (and sometimes in public), we’re fighting each other with armor, creating a meaningless number of snazzy acronym-ed programs, reinventing the wheel because we won’t work together, and squabbling for the same seats at the conference table.

And to top it all off, everyone mentioned in the last five paragraphs is failing miserably at even noticing that trans and intersex people — arguably the most ignored/marginalized of us all — are being completely left out of the picture! Aaaaagh!

[… a zen moment of silence.]

The session I’ve designed for the conference is an attempt to bring different voices together, and will explore what it means to define diversity by the narrow lines of “inclusion” or “exclusion”.

As part of a fishbowl conversation, local organizers and allies to communities of color will share their perspectives on the LGBT movement, the role of diversity (or lack of it) and the perceived effects of augmenting / silencing different voices. The fishbowl will be followed by a brief Q&A and open brainstorm around how we can move forward from the popular, yet very narrow discussions of inclusion/exclusion that exist within the LGBT movement.

Diversity is a dynamic collection of perspectives; it is an ideology, a concept, not a quantifiable attribute… or at least it shouldn’t be. To apply diversity (vs. coasting along using it as a buzzword), we MUST recognize that truly including people — as whole beings — implies that we don’t just acknowledge, but address ALL parts of their unique identities, and empower them to fight for all movements to which they belong, because in doing so, we empower the only movement that matters: the human one.

I hope to see you at the session.

Session 4 (3:30PM – 4:45PM)

A Fishbowl Discussion and Workshop Featuring the Big Fish below:

is a Nigerian immigrant afrofeminist queer woman of color, media activist and social commentator at Spectra Speaks, a self-proclaimed “iQWOC”, and the founder of Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston)

ANA CHAVEZ is native to Miami by way of Providence, an Ecuadorian queer woman of color and youth arts educator, and the founder and recipient of the RISD Diversity Awards

CARNELL FREEMAN is a local Bostonian, a gay black professional in finance and HR recruiting, an experienced Connecter and the founder of Men of Color Creating Change (MOCCC)

is a fierce queer femme Puertominican nacionalista, a poet by the name of Idalia, who has a 9-5 fighting for cultural competency around latin@ issues in the corporatized health industry

BONAE L’AMOUR (AKA BAO) is an Asian American queer-identified transguy from New Orleans, a photographer with a consistent blog, and the founder of MAGLOA – a safe haven for academically gifted public school students in Boston

ROBBIE SAMUELS a white, queer, feminist, trans man with extensive community organizing, event logistics and fundraising experience, and the founder of Socializing for Justice, a cross-issue progressive community, network and movement in Boston

Organized by: Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) –

Glad about GLAD’s Inclusive Outreach for Annual Winter Dance Party

I wasn’t even supposed to blog today — it’s so nice outside, and I don’t know how long this sun will last so I gotta make this quick. I cannot contain my excitement, intense feelings of hope, and pride in my community as GLAD’s Annual Winter Dance party gets a makeover this year.

Friends across multiple social and professional networks are seriously buzzing about this party — hey, I’m here blogging about it! I’ve been promoting the Winter Dance all week, and have found that many of my friends were already making group plans to attend. Moreover, my new connections (including QWOC+ Boston newbies), have been reaching out to me about it, too — via Facebook, Twitter, email etc — so clearly both offline and online word of-mouth marketing is working full throttle to ensure a fun, energetic, and diverse attendee list at the event on Sunday.

For those of you who don’t know, Gay Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is a non-profit public interest law firm that fights for LGBTQ equality under law throughout New England. Basically, they file BIG legal suits against bodies (including the Supreme Court? Daaang) that discriminate against LGBTQ people, but more importantly, they win :).

Their legal efforts have truly (and practically, down to the dollar) improved the lives of the LGBTQ community; groups and individuals who faced discrimination now have justice for it, and the rest of us can rest assured of increased legal protection due to their remarkable wins. GLAD has performed unimaginable, modern-day miracles. Take for example, their recent win against the US Tax Court, who blocked a transwoman from deducting the significant medical expenses she incurred from her sex reassignment surgery. OR, their ground-breaking Aids Law Project win against the Supreme Court in 1998, which holds that people with HIV are protected from discrimination — right to healthcare, for one — under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

GLAD has been fighting for me for years. So, how is it that an LGBTQ community organizer like myself had no idea who they were up until just over a year ago? And how is it that I only knew ‘of’ them because a friend of mine happens to be their Special Events Manager (ah Robbie, dare I say you’re behind this new makeover? ;)); I knew nothing about their work or accomplishments in the legal realm until relatively recently.

As part of QWOC+ Boston’s diversity-via-partnership-building strategy, I had gotten to know almost every single social justice organization that was doing work in the LGBTQ community — and not just by name. I was well familiar with their service-based programs and their event programming; I’d discussed future/potential collaborations with their development staff and other organizers; I’d met many of their board members at fundraisers, informal social gatherings, and networking events. Yet, GLAD stayed under my radar.

Here are a few reasons I think they didn’t appeal to me:

  • Nothing about the way GLAD presented themselves — their special events, their press releases, their dry online presence — seemed intended for younger people. The subtext was too heavily focused on a gay movement many of us were still learning about and hadn’t fully plugged into. How could I care about national legal issues when my mental health was in jeopardy from having no sense of social community in my own city?
  • GLAD’s special events were waaay too expensive for recently-out-of-college me, and seemed like they had been planned mainly for an affluent, philanthropic white gay male donor list e.g. they hosted live auctions with items going for thousands of dollars, like long oversea vacations for people with more flexible work schedules (and 9 friends in the same tax bracket)
  • Because of this, even when I could attend via complimentary tickets to QWOC+ Boston, I often felt like one of the youngest attendees. And, needless to say, I was usually one of a handful of people of color in the room
  • Again, the legal, political, lobbying, bill fighting stuff just didn’t resonate with me and the people I knew. I represented a group of young professional people of color and allies, who were still trying to create a multi-identity accepting and inclusive community in Boston. A national white male gay rights movement seemed even further away from my reality back then (just a few years ago), when I was still growing QWOC+ Boston. I didn’t think my support (or lack of it) in any form would have an impact at all on the work that GLAD was doing.

That was me, then. Flash forward four years later, where I’m now a loyal follower of GLAD in part because I’m a little older, financial stable in my career, and more plugged in politically. Since equality for all is extremely important to me — I fight for it daily, in my own way — I want to get involved with organizations like GLAD, and I’m sure others do too! So, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m very encouraged by their recent efforts to appeal to a more diverse group of potential donors.

I’ve made a few observations about the GLAD Winter T-Dance’s event marketing that I’d like to point out:

  • A Tea Dance is a gender-neutral event format — it appeals to both male and female identified attendees, unlike a dragqueen show (gay boys), or wet t-shirt contest (Cali Dykes). Okay, just kidding, but you get the point. That’s a diversity tip we should all store somewhere. Love it.
  • A lower price point (cheaper than a $75 mini-fundraiser faster, but boasts more sentimental ‘value’ than a $10 admission fee to a nightclub) will undoubtedly induce a huge wave of excitement; people love to support causes that are within their financial means (see post on Valentine’s Day). And now, there’ll be no need to remind them to tip the bartenders! Love it.
  • Music, music, music! DJ Mocha spinning “Dance” hits! Yes! Who doesn’t wanna party on a Sunday? You’re even allowed to Suggest Songs for the Playlist via a Facebook Widget. That’s great for the DJ AND the eager dancing crowd that may wanna “shake it up” per the Bay Windows advertisement. What’s more, is that they’re providing a Jazz Lounge for the people who just wanna schmooze (and preferably not over a loudspeaker). Love it!
  • In addition to the big-money raffle prizes, GLAD has (as always) the “Choose Your Own Raffle” section, featuring gifts like Red Sox vs. Yankee tickets, Spa Massages, Dinner and a Movie for Two Packages etc. Over 20 of these, apparently. So I’m delighted that the prizes they choose to highlight on their website could be for anybody. Love it!
  • In addition to using all the popular social media channels (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), GLAD offered an even bigger discount to community member by providing special codes to small groups. I was delighted to receive an email that said I was being offered two complimentary tickets to attend, but that I could also share a discount code with QWOC+ Boston members as well. Social networking, viral marketing, and community engagement all in one?? I LOVE this!

These “special features” may have everything to do with GLAD’s long overdue success with at least exciting a younger, gender-neutral, multicutural crowd about their upcoming winter event, or nothing at all. I’ll know for sure on Sunday. But regardless of what the turnout is like, I am encouraged by their efforts, and am looking forward to having a good time with my friends and fellow POC community organizers on Sunday. I love fresh starts.

Go GLAD! :)

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