A Measure of GratitudeBy PAUL SCHINDLER

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 348 | Nov. 25 – Dec. 01, 2004

Letter From the Editor

A Measure of Gratitude

In the newspaper’s two op-ed columns this week, Nathan Riley and Steven Goldstein offer cogent arguments that the gloom that has settled over many in New York and in the queer community since George W. Bush’s re-election is not fully warranted and, if unaddressed, could hobble our ability to fashion a meaningful political response.

Relying on the findings of researchers and academics who have taken a more detailed look at the views expressed to pollsters on Election Day than was possible on the part of journalists immediately reporting the electoral outcome, Riley concludes that the emphasis on “moral values,” and specifically opposition to same-sex marriage, has been significantly overstated. Riley notes that issues like same-sex marriage were most significant in intensifying Pres. George W. Bush’s support among social conservatives, not in garnering the votes of so-called swing voters.

Starting from a similar premise, Goldstein lays out a bold road map for the community to safeguard against being scapegoated, or taken for granted, by future office seekers. In Goldstein’s view, our efforts must be persisent, emboldened and professionalized, and must draw more explicitly on the support and talents of straight allies, whom he believes are willing to help.

Much was written throughout the 2004 campaign about the unprecedented level of grassroots act-ivism—in the Howard Dean campaign, with MoveOn.org and with America Coming Together, the labor union-inspired voter mobilization effort. We all know that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) volunteers and financial contributors played a huge role in that effort. Obviously, the resulting mobilization was not equal to the demands of the task, but the effort is a model we need to duplicate in years to come. It’s hard to imagine the Christian right easing off for the foreseeable future.

Interest in participating seems, at least initially, to have survived the election. On the Sunday following the vote, an estimated 1,000 turned out at Cooper Union to hear playwright and longtime AIDS activist Larry Kramer issue his latest, and perhaps sternest, warning to the queer community about the need to engage in order to save our lives. The following evening, about 400 people attended a town hall meeting at the LGBT Community Center that featured commentary from leaders of some of New York’s largest gay and AIDS services organizations. A follow-up to that meeting held last Thursday drew about 300 people, but, as Duncan Osborne reports in this issue, that gathering foundered on dissatisfaction with some of the ideas put forward, especially the argument that the community needs to be attentive to the moral sensitivities of the Republican opposition.

Disenchantment with the message of any one group in the community need not sideline people interested in making a contribution. Our community has groups that focus on political gains—in Washington, Albany and at City Hall. Other organizations are making notable progress by fighting for our rights in the courts. There are groups that battle the AIDS epidemic, on fronts ranging from public policy advocacy to direct neighborhood services. Women’s specific health needs are the focus of important efforts, as is the issue of violence, at home and on the streets, aimed at women and queer people generally. In recent years, important community efforts have mobilized around the LGBTs in communities of color and in neighborhoods gripped by poverty, as well as focused on queer youth. Gender-variant Americans have also begun to sound an organized political voice.

All of these community initiatives require and deserve support—both in financial contributions and in volunteer time. The opportunities out there range from the most establishment-oriented organizations to those with the strongest ties to the grassroots. It’s hard to imagine that there is not an organization out there whose mission statement and style suit the interests of any potential community activist.

Next Wednesday, December 1, is World AIDS Day. For some in the community, that could be a place to start, or perhaps re-start. Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Housing Works, Body Positive, the Latino Commission on AIDS, the Hispanic AIDS Forum, the Minority Task Force on AIDS, God’s Love We Deliver and the Harlem Directors’ Group, among many other groups, will conduct events in the first week of December and participation is welcomed.

More generally, December is a traditional time of giving and as queer New Yorkers look to make end-of-year charitable donations or to recommit themselves to goals for the new year, the needs of our community should be uppermost in our minds. We have a lot of work to do, but there is still hope for progress despite the recent political reverses.

So, get out there!

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