(Pictured above: A sign from the 2016 Folsom Street Fair.)
According to Wikileaks: On October 12, 2015, Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta forwarded an email (October 11, 2015) that he received from Chicago “gay” activist John West to Amanda Renteria, the National Political Director at Hillary for America. In his e-mail to Podesta, West gave a harsh critique of the Hillary Clinton hiring of Clinton LGBT campaign liaison Dominic Lowell. Podesta wrote to Renteria of West and his e-mail:
“He’s a pretty smart guy and some of the suggestions here on lower $ fundraising are worth considering. Very negative on LGBTQ hire. I reported on my last Chicago visit that there is also a lot of ethnic agitation there. Probably a place Biden will try to play so we should pay some attention.”
In his e-mail to Podesta, West gives his impression of both the Lowell hire, and the perception of Lowell in the local LGBT community; here are a few excerpts:
No doubt he [Lowell] is wonderful person and looks to have some solid work experience, but at the same time his hire is confusing and underwhelming. Where was Hillary on this hire? It feels and looks like she had no part in this hire and that is extremely upsetting!
This is a hire we would expect for a Senate or Governor’s race, not for an important & #Herstoric candidate like Secretary of State Clinton. Coming on the heels of the most important ruling for LGBTQ civil rights in the history of our country, while the LGBTQ community is splintering into progressive equality movements of race, immigration, transgender, women’s issues, and other forms of discrimination facing everyone else, except for the exclusive white and affluent gay male community that dominates the LGBTQ D.C based organizations. The optics of this hire are highly problematic within a rapidly changing political environment in the LGBTQ community.
The feedback from my friends, many of whom are highly involved in the discussions and debates that are currently happening along the lines of gender, race, immigration, homeless youth, HIV, Trans-persons, etc. view this hire with cynicism, reacting with “eye roll” and accompanied by significant disappointment over the lack of any boldness in this choice.
Optics – of this hire evokes the exclusionary white male dominated Human Rights Campaign. Even at the HRC gala this past weekend in D.C people, were expressing their disappointment to outright anger with respect to the audience, which had very little diversity present.
I’d think if Hillary was serious about the LGBTQ community she would have had a role in this very important hire, and it feels and looks like she had no part in this hire and that it was left to perhaps the talent director and that doesn’t feel or look good.
Almost since the beginning of the “gay” liberation movement, there have been accusations, both from within and from outside the “gay” community, concerning issues of discrimination based on social and or economic status as well as race. An early example is Dr. Howard Brown, who was chief health officer of New York City during the Mayor John Lindsay administration and one of the first “out” gay public figures in America. During his tenure, Brown described his horror when he first toured the Tombs, a notorious city prison: “Almost all the men in the crowded cells were demonstrably effeminate. I could not identify with them.” In 1969, after the Stonewall Riots, Brown said of the protesters: “[they] were like the homosexuals I had seen in the Tombs—most of them obviously poor, most of them the sort of limpwristed, shabby or gaudy gays that send a shiver of dread down the spines of homosexuals who hope to pass as straight. I could not have felt more remote from them.” He added that the composition of the crowds brought to mind “every civil rights struggle I had ever witnessed or participated in.” In 1973, Brown was one of the four founding leaders of the National Gay Task Force. The attitude of Brown has survived in the exclusive preferences on Grindr which include: “no fats,” “no fems,” “str8-acting only.”
Into the 1970s, there was often an implicit separation between various ethnic and racial groups within the world of “gay” bars. In 1979, Sidney Brinkley, the founder of the first LGBT organization at Howard University, said, “As Black Gay people, we know all too well about discrimination in ‘white’ Gay bars.” The starkest separation between the races appeared at the time in the flourishing “gay” porn industry were the depiction of interracial sex was a rarity.
The inherent instability within the “gay” community that was witnessed in the 1970s, in my opinion, was only temporarily abated in the 1980s, and into the early-1990s, with the advent of the AIDS crisis. Since then, with the introduction of antiretroviral drugs and a subsequent dramatic decrease in the number of deaths due to AIDS, the stark contrast between urban white homosexuality and everyone else is becoming more and more apparent. This current disparity is tragically obvious in the much higher rates of HIV infections in the “gay” African-American and Latino communities. According to the CDC:
“If current diagnosis rates continue, 1 in 6 gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, including 1 in 2 black/African American gay and bisexual men, 1 in 4 Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men, and 1 in 11 white gay and bisexual men.”
For the most part, politicians, corporate America and the media have been complicit in promoting an extremely slanted view of the modern “gay” experience: as suburban, middle-class, educated, highly domesticated, and completely non-threatening. In pop-culture, the image of modern “gay” life has been incessantly promoted and symbolized in the insipid white male couple on “Modern Family” and in the squeaky-clean public personas of Ellen DeGeneres and Nate Berkus; Dominic Lowell (pictured above) has a similarly pleasant Apple-pie guy look. In “queer” theory these were once considered “heterosexist” norms. Even during the disco era, the influential early gay periodical “Fag Rag” revolted as such notions:
These anti-indulgent faggots try to settle down, get a job, a permanent loving mate, go to church…wear the latest from either Sears and Bloomingdale’s. They put down such indulgences as public sex, promiscuity, prostitution…(Although they often do these things privately, secretly.)
Although somewhat crudely stated, this honest opinion revealed an utter lack of unity within the “gay’ community on a fundamental view of how the homosexual orientation should be integrated by both the individual and by the society at large.
Later, some believed that collectively the “gay” community was in transition. Randy Shilts alluded to this theory in his landmark 1987 book “And the Band Played On,” whereby “gay” male culture as a whole has been crossing through a series of phases, with rampant promiscuity being “central to the raucous gay movement of the 1970s,” slowly moving onto “serial monogamy, a series of affairs that may not last forever but that at least left you with a vague awareness of which bed you slept in most evenings.” One of the book’s more prolific characters believed: “that promiscuity was a means to exorcise the guilt and self-alienation ingrained in all gay men by a heterosexual society clinging to obsolete values of monogamy.” The final stage in the process is the comprehensive acceptance of “gay” marriage on both an individual and community wide basis. Highly influential Catholic priest John J. McNeill took up much the same theory in his book “Taking a Chance on God” from 1988. He wrote: “Usually after a period of sexual and social experimentation, a gay man or lesbian woman will yearn for a more stable, committed relationship that combines both physical and emotional attraction.”
But the idea appeared to fail; by 1997, “gay” men seemed to have abandoned the “safe-sex” practices of the AIDS era. Legendary activist Larry Kramer bemoaned the new reality in an outraged 1997 Op-Ed for The New York Times, stating:
…enough gay men are once again having enough unsafe sex that the rates of H.I.V. infection, gonorrhea and syphilis are returning to frightening heights…Promiscuous gay men must hear the message, “Enough already! Haven’t you learned anything from the last 17 years?
He went on to write that the majority of “gay” men are “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by the promiscuity of a few, “as most gay men live calm, orderly lives, often as couples…” Since these statements, in fact, STD rates among “gay” men have not decreased but increased exponentially; recently, Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, warned: “We’re concerned about our high levels of syphilis among men who have sex with men – really we’re back to the level of disease – burden of disease – in gay men that we were seeing before HIV in this country.”
In addition, the passage of “gay” marriage has not had the moderating influence that some thought, as the vast majority of “gay” men have chosen not to marry. Before the Supreme Court decision legalizing “gay” marriage – according to a 2016 Gallup Poll, which included “gay” men as well as lesbians: 7.9% of “gay” adults were married, that percentage rose to 9.5% after Obergefell v. Hodges, but has since leveled off.
In this context, I think the John West e-mail is highly significant in that it reveals the concerted effort by some within the LGBT community, a faction which he described as “the exclusive white and affluent gay male community that dominates the LGBTQ D.C based organizations,” and with the cooperation of certain politicians (Hillary Clinton), to promote a particular view and image of the homosexual person and of the “gay” lifestyle. West correctly points out this elitism in what he perceives as the disappointing hire of Lowell by the Clinton campaign. And, although the criticism by West seems to be primarily based upon the appointment of a white male, he also cites a number of growing factions within the LGBT population, including immigration and transgender issues, which he believes is “splintering” the entire “gay” community.
Recently, I saw signs of this angst, and even anger, which is resulting in a fracturing of the apparent tranquility in what is probably the most tolerant of cities in the US: San Francisco, California. At the last Folsom Street Fair, I was bemused by a cordoned off section of the Fair which was reserved for those who did not identify as male (cisgender men.) This was remarkable as the Folsom event was always known for its radical forms of sexuality that are noted for a lack of limits – not for restrictions. Overall, I think this is an omen that the “gay” community is beginning to tear itself apart. This is also evidenced in what is clearly the apparent endless multiplication of “gay” sexual and gender identities and the distrust and hysteria which separates the various factions. It’s a victimology gone out of control. And, the white “married” power-players in the gay enclaves of LA, San Francisco, and New York City don’t look like victims anymore. In fact, they have become the oppressors with their narrow view of what it is to be “gay.” Despite a plethora of rainbow flags, the decidedly monochromatic and middle-aged female populated picture (see below) from Clinton’s front-page of her LGBT section of the campaign web-site is a throng of stifling near-uniformity. Because for most, the “gay” dream of happiness, economic success, and blissful and wholly satisfying monogamy, reserved for the white bi-coastal elite, has proven highly difficult to realize. Currently, the majority of “gay” men contract HIV from a “main partner.” In addition, even amongst the incredibly accepting societies of Northern Europe, “gay” men have increased incidence of mental illness; and married “gay” male couples exhibit higher rates of suicide. Something has clearly gone wrong, but it seems to have gone wrong from the beginning. For a harmonious world of love and acceptance is what those in power within the “gay” community sell to the confused and the naive. Only, it’s an illusion.
“Nearly 70% of HIV+ MSM are estimated to have contracted HIV from a main partner…Our data suggest that reported monogamy may sometimes reflect intent or a non-traditional definition of monogamy rather than engagement in sex with only one partner. Nearly a quarter of men who indicated that they had only had sex with their partner for the duration of their relationship also reported engagement in anal sex with at least one non-main partner in the past 90 days. This supports previous research showing ‘monogamy’ to be an ambiguous term…”
“Open, Closed, or In Between: Relationship Configuration and Condom Use among Men Who Use the Internet to Seek Sex with Men”
Sonya S. Brady, et al.
AIDS Behav. 2013 May; 17(4): 1499–1514.
“Despite the Netherlands’ reputation as a world leader with respect to gay rights, homosexual Dutch men have much higher rates of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts than heterosexual Dutch men.”
“Exploring a Dutch paradox: an ethnographic investigation of gay men’s mental health”
Sanjay Aggarwala & Rene Gerrets
Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care
Volume 16, Issue 2, 2014
“The risk of suicide was higher among same-sex married individuals as compared to different-sex married individuals…Among same-sex married men the suicide risk was nearly three-fold greater as compared to different-sex married. This holds true also after adjustment for HIV status. Even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality such as Sweden, same-sex married individuals evidence a higher risk for suicide than other married individuals.”
“Suicide in married couples in Sweden: Is the risk greater in same-sex couples?”
Björkenstam C, et al.
Eur J Epidemiol. 2016 May 11.