Not too long ago, at a gathering for gay and lesbian alumni of my alma mater, as we all criticized the leadership of the “No on 8” campaign and offered suggestions to mount a better effort to overturn it, I was surprised and delighted to find that nearly everyone there (at least those who spoke up on the topic) agreed with my assessment that Geoff Kors, the head of “Equality California” should be kept as far from the operation as possible. Others there, including those further to the left of the political center than I am to the right, thought Kors should step down from his leadership position immediately–if not sooner.
Their criticism of this head of a major gay organization reminded me (yet again) that many gay activists and just regular gay folks who follow gay politics have offered similar opinions of the man I recently dubbed hypocrite of the week, HRC’s Joe Solmonese.
As I pondered their criticism, I recalled a conversation I had about twelve years ago with a friend in Washington, DC. He wondered then how quick all too many capital area gays were to smear anyone who criticized the DC-based gay leadership, as if such criticism were tantamount to treason. One of us cited the hits Andrew Sullivan received in the gay media for taking on HRC and even Bill Clinton.
Gay people just weren’t supposed to attack our “leaders.”
For all the grief (much of it merited) Andrew gets today from those of us to the right of the political center, we need recall that he was a pioneer in challenging the gay orthodoxy, the first openly gay person with a significant presence in the media to challenge the gay orthodoxy. Then, he was a lone voice, showing considerable courage, given the nasty responses, the name-calling he endured for speaking his mind.
His example made it easier for all of us to speak our minds.
So, today, when we see how commonplace it has become for gay people, of all political stripes, to criticize the heads of the various gay organizations, let’s not forget Andrew’s example. In the 1990s, at great cost to him personally, Andrew spoke his mind. And made us all realize that we don’t need follow in lockstep with the unelected “leadership” of the various gay organizations. And that we are not betraying our community when we challenge their orthodoxy.