In a post today, the left-of-center (I think he calls himself a socialist) blogger and gay activist Michael Petrelis offers the same sort of criticism of what he deems “Gay, Inc.” (the various establishment gay organizations) that we’ve been offering, taking those organizations to task for their “collective failure to regularly provide open, on-the-record, unfiltered community engagement.”
In his post, he excerpts Bay Area Reporter Cynthia Laird’s editorial broadside against Freedom (sic) to Marry’s Evan Wolfson for closing a “marriage institute session” at the Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference to the media:
Anyone who was following the federal Proposition 8 trial via Twitter or on numerous blogs knows full well what the community is up against regarding opposition to marriage equality. And for goodness’ sake, if progressive activists and others can’t articulate their views in a public forum, how are they ever going to accomplish the hard, on-the-ground work of talking to people – in public and private settings?
(Well, technically, it wasn’t closed to the media, just off the record which Laird finds is a distinction without a difference.)
Now, while I quibble with the term, “marriage equality,” I think Ms. Laird is on the money. We need open discussions, not just among progressive activists, but also with moderates and even sympathetic conservatives. Petrelis and Laird fault “Gay, Inc” for an absence of, to borrow the leftist blogger’s expression, “unfiltered community engagement,” we fault them for not excluding conservatives, even gay conservatives.
Such open conversations might not only expose “Gay, Inc” to the diversity of views in our community, but also provide insight into the diversity of views in American society at large on same-sex marriage and relationships.
At times, it seems, gay activists are like the movie Avatar, where characters are caricatures, cardboard cutouts, with one side “good” and the other “bad.” In this case, either you’re for “marriage equality” or you’re a “H8er.” There is no middle ground.Indeed, among those who oppose state recognition of same-sex marriage, there is a vast spectrum of opinion, including those who really do hate gay people as well as those favoring same-sex civil unions, but opposing gay marriage because they believe the institution is defined by gender difference.
To effect change, it would help to understand the views of those whose minds you want to change.
In such open fora, Petrelis and I would surely offer different perspectives. He would likely call for more energetic activism. I would fault the gay organizations for not defending marriage as an institution, defending its ideals and responsibilities–and the ability of gay people to fulfill them. And for not reaching out to conservative organizations and for failing to develop plans to appeal to conservative individuals.
Yet, Petrelis and I both agree that more open discussions are needed. Yet, it seems that the heads of the various gay organizations would rather protect themselves from the public, even the gay public. Perhaps, that stems from their extended tenure in their current positions. Their organizations likely would benefit from new leadership, more responsive to the community and more willing to change course.