On One Hand

July 14, 2009

Second-Wave Queerism: A Renewed LGBT Movement

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 7:28 pm

The LGBT community, and our push for legal equality and social tolerance has gone stale. It’s time to turn our eyes inward now.

We are being torn apart by consumerism, body image crises, ageism, negativity and segregation. In a mainstream society that is much easier for LGBT people to be a part of (but not too easy), LGBT people with more wealth or status keep one foot in and one foot out.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard white self-identified gay men qualify their association with the “community” by expressing distaste for most of its members, accusing them of promiscuity or “shallowness.” The catch phrase is “I’m gay, but… I’m not into the scene, because…” We overwhelmingly show disdain for our peers’ lifestyles; but if eight in ten of us are saying we are not fully part of the community because we think we can do better, then what is the “community?” What is are we? Can anything we pour such negativity into survive and be beneficial to us?

Do we really think everyone around us is wrong, or are we projecting our own discomfort with being queer onto our peers, who we view as competitors or burdens to ourselves?

Similarly, we’re wrenched into body image disorders, as gay men spend more time in the gym than any other demographic group – and we still don’t like what we see in the mirror. Men want to be more “masculine.” Women are underrepresented in leadership roles. Men want to look better and have better bodies. Women socialize in different circles. Men want to seem well-off. People of color are in their own groups separate from the rest of the community, pushed out by lack of awareness of their issues. There is much bitterness to go around. The LGBT media are sick with affluenza.

What if we forgot all that and started over?

The gay movement began on the streets. In 1969, a bunch of transvestites and gay men in the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village in New York City, fought back when cops tried to bust the place for serving homosexuals – which was illegal at the time. The Stonewall Inn patrons lashed out, and for three days Christopher Street was in chaos while the cops tried in vain to arrest everyone or at least get them under control. More gay people just kept pouring out of the woodworks. The event was called the Stonewall Riots and those three nights before the rioters and police called a truce are credited with drawing the nation’s eye and giving LGBT people their first real taste of social power.

The patrons of Stonewall were poor, flamboyant, and gritty. They didn’t lift weights or picture themselves in magazines with rippled abdominals and bulging pecs. They didn’t go on “all-gay cruises” advertised in fliers by airbrushed models with perfect, glistening teeth. They didn’t look like cosmopolitan versions of G.I. Joe. It was a scene laden with drugs, with hustlers, with estrangement from families and it found leadership in obscure and indirect voices of hope: rumoredly gay-friendly Hollywood actresses and literature from gay artists and poets who were half-closeted despite having subliminially homoerotic work.

The Stonewall rioters lived in the ghetto, and were locked out of institutions of power or high-paying jobs. And while many gay men in that day led closeted double-lives, few of the ones who fought back in Stonewall had that luxury. They got taunted and harassed all the time. So pushed for change in spontaneous public marches and acts of defiance like the White Night riots in San Francisco when Harvey Milk’s assassin was given a pathetically light sentence for the murder of a gay leader.

Over time we improved ourselves. We merged with the feminist movement and with lesbian groups, we became aware of bisexuality, and we learned to welcome transgendered people too. We formed formal organizations to push for rights and built ourselves an extensive media with everything from gay-themed newspapers to our very own cable channel. We opened up frank public discussions on sex and sexual safety.

But what, of substance, has the LGBT movement added to itself since 1990? Besides a few more letters on the acronym. That was 20 years ago, remember, and at the peak of the AIDS crisis, when collective stress, again, made community solidarity high. Sine then we’ve gotten new laws, and we’ve legalized same-sex marriage in several states, which is an outward change rather than an inward one.

We live in a time of re-thought black civil rights and third-wave feminism – it’s time for a new wave of queer social thought.

I want a distinctly new movement, that is based on the most modern academic thinking and the most progressive social realities. I want to be willing to examine white power in the gay community. I want to be willing to examine sexism in the gay community. I want to be willing to make people living with HIV/AIDS an important component of our community. I want to talk about body image and talk about drugs.

Our key principles should be:

A focus on diversity, and building allies between the LGBT community and other disenfranchised groups.

A focus on intersectionality, and on LGBT people of different cultures and races.

To value the diversity of lifestyle choices in the community – ranging from committed, monogamous relationships to polyamory. When we defend gay rights, we first worry about human rights (housing and employment nondiscrimination, adoption, hate crimes protection) before their behavioral rights (building monogamous relationships or not building monogamous relationships), though all are important.

Positive attitudes towards the gay community itself, and towards the range of values, personalities and lifestyles therein.

Awareness of poverty, within the LGBT community and outside it.

An embrace of feminism and women’s issues.

Awareness of HIV/AIDS and the need for better healthcare policies.

Awareness of body image issues, and the fact that gays and lesbians alike go through many of the same body image crises that straight women go through worrying about weight.

A focus on street-level activism! We want the general public to see that there’s a movement going on, with grassroots support rather than impetus from big organizations like the Human Rights Campaign that are often caught up in wealthy and powerful circles. We are not here to create new institutions of power for LGBT people, we are here to bring down institutions of power or make them more egalitarian.

So what’s the way to achieve that? A blog? A magazine? A website? A march? A rally? Regular meetings at a Downtown cafe?

What do you think about all this?



  1. Really good, thought-provoking post.

    I recently posted about the marriage equality movement in Ireland on my journal here:

    I think that the LGBT community in Dublin has found their way to try to achieve the above in a person…a drag queen, specifically. “Panti” has done a helluva lot in Dublin to strive for many of the goals you describe above. This week she has been on a national radio talkshow speaking about same-sex marriage. She runs a drag pageant “Alternative Miss Ireland” every year which raises thousands of euro for HIV/AIDS charities and she was a founding member many years ago of Ireland’s first LGBT youth group. Her bar “Pantibar” is basically a community centre which hosts frequent nights for the large Brazilian and Phillipino population of Dublin and “bear” nights as well as debates that have attracted many politicians including Senators and MEPs (Members of European Parliament) and quiz nights to raise money for BelongTo, the LGBT youth group. One of the highlights of the year is her céilí (traditional Irish music/dance night) to raise money for the Emerald Warriors, Dublin’s gay rugby club. She keeps a much-read blog at pantibar.com and arranges Pantibar as a meeting place before the well-organised marriage equality demonstrations (with free tea and cake!).

    Her message is always about embracing the diversity within the community and trying to make people recognise and celebrate that diversity.

    I don’t know how best to achieve those goals, but I can say that a figurehead has worked well over here.

    Comment by brian33 — July 15, 2009 @ 10:10 am | Reply

  2. Embracing the human community

    I totally agree with everything you wrote, Matt.

    The gay movement is so fractured, that it needs scraped and reformulated.

    We got to stop this self bickering and embrace all that is good and beautiful.

    If we have to march in the streets, tweet, blog, or just preach from a soapbox, one thing is certain. We can’t be the same gay movement ever again.

    Mega hairy muscle hugs of support. Let gay men lead the way to a better world of self betterment and self fulfillment. Love ourselves and others will love us back.

    Comment by bufftuff — July 15, 2009 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  3. Uhnnf.

    There were a lot of things I wanted to say in response to this post, which was thoughtful and thought-provoking as usual, but every time I started, I couldn’t find a way to make it sensible in this format (non-conversational), so I gave up. I did attempt to comment on three separate occasions, and discussed it with friends over two separate lunches, though. I never mastered the format of authentic LJ discussion, I guess.

    In general, your posts are engaging all over the place and deserve much better in the way of responses than the nonsense I usually contribute, and the silence that greets a lot of them. For what that’s worth.


    Comment by mwittier — July 23, 2009 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

    • Re: Uhnnf.

      Please don’t be afraid to contribute!

      This comment is great, I’m glad you had an ongoing discussion. But I don’t care how insubstantial you think your comment would be – it still helps move things along, gives me ideas, gives other people ideas, etc…

      I think it’s often the most inane observations that trigger the most profound insights.

      Comment by ononehand — July 27, 2009 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

      • Sorry about both the excessive quotation marks and commas; if I start cleaning, I won’t post.

        In essence, what I wanted to say is this:

        • It varies a lot, generationally, this sense of what defines a community (or even if, in fact, one exists.) I mean that not only in terms of in which decade anyone was born, but also it varies with aging, and the passage of time (speaking from experience.) Since everyone is always aging, and new people are always coming up, the idea of a true consensus that works for everyone is sort of freakishly complex.

        • It’s possible to not feel connected to the ‘community’, and not have a sense of distaste involved; for me, personally, sexuality is not an aspect of my identity that ranks very high. At the top of the list of things that define me would be creativity, absolutely; sexuality is maybe not even in the top ten.

        • There’s a phenomenal, short book titled Party of One: A Loner’s Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus, that points out that the world is created and refined daily, by and for, extroverts. If only because they’re far more inclined to step up and boss people around, they create a sense of what is socially acceptable and ‘the norm’. Rufus points out that introverts (she prefers ‘loners’; she wants to take back the term, ala ‘nigger’ and ‘queer’) are never going to band together for solidarity; it runs contrary to their very nature. They aren’t even likely to ever realize their number, their history, their place in the world, because they don’t connect.

        I bring this up for two reasons: ‘loner’ would definitely factor much higher on my list of self-defining attributes than ‘sexuality’, and that has been constant through all of my life. (Please look at this link for a definition of the term loner; it has such perjorative connotations that it’s hard to respect it sometimes.) But I suspect that there are many men and women, who are not predominately heterosexual, who are also loners. Figure out a way to bring them into ‘the community’ and not violate their sense of self, and you’re a better man than me (which I already suspect may be true.)

        The second reason is personal: I don’t really want to be part of a large community. I don’t mean that in the honky-entitlement sense of “I got mine, too bad for everyone else, your gain is my loss”, I mean really: the idea is exhausting to me. Flies in the face of my nature. I just plain don’t understand how I belong to this group; factor in that I’ve been celibate/unattached for a considerable amount of time: I’d feel like an impostor.

        • Note how I had to qualify that statement immediately above: “not predominately heterosexual.” Lord, that’s a pretty huge and diverse group. And doesn’t the (historically) recent alphabet soup of acronyms (don’t get me wrong, the inclusion and outreach is a great thing) really mean that the community consists of anyone who is not something? If so, how do you find common ground? I don’t mean that flippantly: I’m asking.

        • Finally, and most controversially, I have to admit that your cry for street-level activism, for showing the public that there’s a movement: as much as I don’t feel organically inclined to be a part of a community that I don’t feel really identifies me (and this is selfish and perverse even, I admit) I still feel a sense of identity as a gay man, at some level, and resist being ‘represented’ by a group, or even more so by a movement.

        Having opined/whined all of that, this part I am down with entirely: “we are here to bring down institutions of power or make them more egalitarian.”

        That I’ll fight for; just don’t enforce a battle dress code (rainbow/bear/twink/femme/butch) or require consistent mob attendance (churchity church church) for salvation/participation/legitimacy. (I’m being facetious here, not putting words in your mouth.)

        Sincerely and wordily, I know-


        Comment by mwittier — August 15, 2009 @ 12:49 am

  4. New study shows online dating overwhelming preference of gays.

    A note to the Publisher:
    We know that this is off-subject. It’s an out-and-out. no-fooling, no disguise, PR release promoting our web site, Guys That Lie.com (we protect women gay guys from guys who lie to them online).


    If you’re unhappy about the release being off-subject, it also contains new and valuable scholarly research on gay online dating from Online Personals, the commercial bible of the online dating industry.

    If you wish, you have our permission to just use the research stuff and delete all mention of Guys That Lie – However, if you do – we just hope that you can handle the guilt…

    So here goes:
    San Francisco, CA.
    87% Of Gay Men And 58% Of Lesbians Use The Internet To Find A Partner
    That’s the latest count according to Online Personals Watch, the bible of the online dating industry.
    Clearly online dating has become the gold standard for meeting in the gay community. Whether to find a quick match, or something more serious, it’s a wide net that can be cast with very little effort.
    So what’s the problem? The problem is that almost none of these dating sites do any pre-screening! None! Nada! Zero! Zip!
    A new site to the rescue! Guys That Lie.com, a site It’s all about the things you’d like to know about that guy you just met online. Like — how old is he really? Is he healthy or a Typhoid Mary? Harvard graduate or jr. high school dropout? Is he really a brilliant brain surgeon — or a failing door-to-door aluminum siding salesman?
    What about money? Has he got it or not? Does he actually own a chic condo on Park Avenue or does he share a sleazy basement apartment with three other losers? And is he really available – or is he cheating on his long-time, live-in partner? And what about a criminal record? Yes or No?
    “GuysThat Lie.com,” according to Crystal Jacquez, its managing editor, is built atop more than 100 of the most powerful databases on the web. It affords an intense and invasive look into the personal backgrounds of tens of millions of guys – in order to help online daters find out if they’re dealing with a congenital liar or with the real deal.”
    Where does the site get its information?
    “Well,” continues Jacquez, “if the guy has ever paid taxes, state, local, or federal – If he’s ever paid a gas or electric bill, or a telephone or cell phone bill, or a cable bill — If he’s ever owned or rented property, including a home or condo, brought or leased a car — If he’s ever used a credit card or even applied for credit or ever bought anything on credit – Then we’ve got him in one of our databases.”
    Plus, if he’s ever gone to a college or university, or held down a job — or if he ever sued anybody or has been sued – If anyone has ever written about him in a blog or on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter — If he’s ever been busted, or served time, and, in many cases, if he ever even gotten a traffic ticket – he’s in there somewhere – and you can read all about it – free!”
    “How difficult is it to use Guys That Lie?” Asks Jacquez. “Actually it has a starkly simple and intuitive interface. There are 33 highly personal questions you can ask about this guy, all on the homepage

    Simply click on any question about him that you want answered – Then type in his name – Then click again and get the real story instantly! That’s all there is to it – and it’s free and you don’t even have to register. And those 33 questions answer any and all of the questions posed at the beginning of this news release.”
    Guysandlies.com was originally designed to checkout guys who men and women meet on online. “But,” according to Jacquez, “we’re getting a lot of email telling us that its also being widely used to check out friends and relations, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, in-laws, teachers, enemies, people in the news, whoever…”
    Crystal Jacquez, managing editor
    Guys and Lies.com
    415 678-8610

    Comment by Anonymous — November 30, 2009 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

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