Thursday, March 30th, 2023

Changing the world (even without a leader)

Billy GloverOctober 15, 2009.

Once again we hear voices saying, after the recent National Equality March on Washington, that the LGBT community movement needs a leader.

This seems to me to indicate a total lack of understanding of how this movement has been so successful in going from a single closeted organization in 1950, and a single LGBT publication in 1952, to the thousands of organizations and hundreds of publications and resources that we have today. The only question we should be asking ourselves is why there are so many LGBT people who are unaware of just what this community and movement does have. There is lack of communication among the various elements.

It must be said that anti-gay bigots seem to know more about what is going on in this movement than we do. It is doubtful that many of us have actually thought about all the resources we have. I urge everyone to take a look at Gayellow Pages, the print version or on-line version. Each group or publication is so busy trying to do the job it chose to do that they do not know what others are doing. It may be good that today we can have specialized resources, much as medicine now has “specialties,” but we then face the same problem medicine is facing, a lack of general physicians, since everyone wants to specialize and have more influence.

But the reason we have been so wildly successful is that mostly we have all worked for the main purpose of gaining our civil/equal rights. Only in the last decade have we started specializing in having organizations for each of the areas, thus we have Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, et al. (as well as the ACLU) to work on legal issues. We have organizations for religious work, such as Dignity, Affirmation (Methodist and Mormon), Kinship (Seventh Day Adventist), etc. We have an organization working for youth, GLSEN, and there are groups for each profession: medicine, anthropology, law, journalism, etc.

And while most of our LGBT newspapers and magazines try to give coverage to all of our areas and groups, they don’t always seem to do a good job. It seems that many editors and journalists think that we want to know more about the latest celebrity to “come out” than we do about what activities are going on in our community. How often do papers cover our libraries/archives? Do we know of the LGBT book clubs? and the travel articles seem to think we would not want to know where the local gay center is in major cities but only where the closest bar and bathhouse or cafe is. We don’t need an LGBT guide to tell us where a local museum is — general guides do that.

And too often when an issue is in discussion, a “specialized” group says they are not interested in it but only in their little domain — as if a religious organization has no interest in gay bars being attacked by police, or a legal organization has no interest in films that are pro or con.

There are a few efforts to get us informed on coverage of LGBT issues. Daily Queer News tries to give us links to what is in the news that we should be aware of. For entertainment news there is Coming Out Support Weekly. And there are others. But if we don’t know about these resources, they can not help build communication and cooperation within our movement. And thus the hundreds of good leaders working in various organizations, local and national, will not be able to support each other.

Celebrate our diversity. There is no competition among us except to se what we can all do to educate ourselves and the public on the truth about homosexuality. There is no reason to oppose a march or say we must only work on a federal/national level or that we must attack on organization that has chosen to work on only one aspect.

We must practice what we preach. We have to acknowledge that there are really gay Republicans as well as Democrats. That some of us are members of PLAGAL and are pro-life, while many of us are pro-choice. There are those who are allies and work with PFLAG, many of whom have LGBT children. And there is COLAGE, for children who have LGBT parents. There is no reason those who fear the lies of the religions cannot work with those who choose to stay in the religious community and try to bring about better understanding and change.

We can be proud of each generation that has added to our work, from the founders of Mattachine, ONE/HIC, and Daughters of Bilitis in the 1950s to those at Stonewall and those who did the various marches — and those who join us each day.

Those who marched last Sunday will someday be pioneers. We are all pioneers, and we must have done something right.

We are slowly but surely changing the world.


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  1. Harlan Pruden


    This is all correct, however, it is once again spoken for a very privileged euro-centric view; for us, two-spirit Indigenous people of this land our existence pre-date the 1950’s; however this simple truth is rarely brought to light.

    The fact of the matter is that our community is often overlooked and marginalized. For example, LGBT history usually only looks to the summer of 1969 as its beginning [Stonewall Rebellion] or in your case the 1050’s when in reality we, two-spirit people (who entered in community blessed same-sex relationships), had important parts within our communities for thousands of years before these dates.

    There was a time on this land when two-spirit people were accepted, honored, celebrated and full members of their communities. We had a model of inclusion and true equality that we believe would benefit the current LGBT movement if non-Native people would take the time to try understand it.

    Harlan Pruden
    Co-Fouder and Council Member
    NorthEast Two-Spirit Society

  2. Billy Glover

    I’m glad you have reminded me that your area of glbt is not being covered-and I do think even I have not found much info and find little listed in Gayellow Pages. I thought of you when, if my memory is right, someone at the march mentioned that we need more Native Americans/Indians, in government-idon’t think Clinton did too much and neither so far has obama.

    Little is mentioned usually about Harry Hay and John Burnside having lived at San Juan Pueblo and worked to keep a dam from the Rio Grande-ifmy memory is correct.

    I wish the lgbt media would cover your resources and add your history to the parts covered—and as you know, we constatly have to remind young people that historians and the media are incompetent and unethical when they impjly that this cause started with Stonewall in 1969. What they are admitting is that they never heard of the movement until the general media “discovered” it, when it happened in New York. Sort of like this country didn’t exist until “discovered” by the Pilgrims et al.

  3. Tabby

    Nice post. There’s also a really neat and informative iphone app called “GayGo” and it shows local gay-friendly businesses.

    I think its easy to focus on how we are often marginalized and then feel as if there’s not much to do… but the more people who do, the more this problem will be fought against and changed… in my opinion.

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