Notes of a Hoosier Working Class Queer: The Enemy Within (and How to Fight Back)

We stand in opposition to all forms of oppression including but not limited to racism, sexism and homophobia. – Socialist Party USA, Third Point of Agreement

I saw an article the other day that made me smile; it seems the siblings on the street are finally getting fed up with the antics of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), so now they’re organizing several massive rallies against the LGBT powerhouse under the banner of “Bad Bad HRC”. The spark that lit the demonstrations was the “1% elitism” of the organization and their neglect on HIV/AIDS and homelessness issues. Specifically, their grievances were:

No concern for needs of poor and low income LGBTI people;

No agenda promoting affordable housing, a living wage and access to higher education;

No action response to the national outcry against police killing Black, Brown & Transgender people;

No global plan that respects the work of local LGBTI folks and group’s working on international issues;

No incorporation of progressive and economic justice concerns in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index – PINKWASHING certain corporations;

HRC MUST STOP supporting The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) and RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY;

HRC is soft on HIV /AIDS;

HRC sucks LGBT donor dollars without putting anything back into direct services such as Homeless Queer Youth, Asylum seekers and refugees; and Fund raise by claiming victories to the exclusion of other LGBT organizations and grass root community and activists who played major roles in such victories. So why would that make your humble writer smile? For one very simple reason, the HRC doesn’t represent me and chances are pretty good they don’t represent you either. The HRC is a multimillion dollar “non-profit” that rakes in a pretty good amount of cash from our struggles. Now I can hear somebody in the back say “Well wait a minute, Walter, what if they’re using that money to help us?” Help us? Help who? The HRC has no qualms about throwing us under the bus if they can pat themselves on the back.Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been a major goal for a lot of us, mainly because we’d like to be able to get a job without worrying about if we’re gonna get fired for our sexuality or gender expression. In 2007, the HRC endorsed a version of ENDA that cut out gender identity protection. To them, it was more important to get a version of the bill passed, it didn’t matter that it left our Trans siblings out in the gutter. And it doesn’t stop on the floors of Congress, back in 2013, during the rallies held in front of the Supreme Court when the argument for Windsor v. United States were going on, somebody held up a Trans Pride Flag and the HRC demanded that the person take down the flag. Why? Well according to them, our Trans siblings had no stake in the marriage fight; it wasn’t a fight about or for them. Later they apologized for the incident, but it smelled more like a PR face saving stunt than anything else.

Let’s look at some numbers, the HRC claims over 1.5 million members nationwide, what are these multitudes doing? According to former organization president Joe Solmonese, “it’s about sending e-mails to elected officials, volunteering time or lobbying members of Congress.” So that’s what it is? An army of soft-soap lobbyists who shoot off pre-fabricated emails to their elected representatives (and probably get pre-fabricated responses in return). Working class queers such as me are out there trying to fight for a better life and the biggest organization supposedly on our side is nothing but a bunch of professional lobbyists dictating to amateurs. But it’s not just membership numbers, what about the money? Where does it come from? Well if the rich know anything, it’s how to throw lavish parties and the HRC is certainly no exception, tickets for their annual fundraising dinners run between $275-$300 according to the prices I could find online. And for that, you can rub elbows (or least be within viewing distance) of the A-list of Hollywood stars and politicians! I don’t know about you fellas, but 300 bucks is nearly two weeks’ pay for me. Big money dinners are out of my price range, especially since the money ain’t going towards fighting for all of us, just some of us.

Now that you have the background on what the HRC really does with the money and what their version of activism is, what is their reaction to this newly hatched outrage against them? They did what any elite group does when the unwashed masses finally say “enough!” and demand answers, they called the police. According to news reports, in anticipation of demonstrations against their San Francisco offices, the officials of that branch of the HRC called the San Francisco police for a protection. So when the demonstrators arrived, they had the boys in blue waiting to greet them. By all accounts, the demonstrations were peaceful and I couldn’t find any reports of arrests or violence, but calling the police? If you don’t know your history, police have not been our allies (or allies of any segment of the working class really). The Stonewall Riots of ’69, a landmark in our history, were instigated by New York City police officers raiding the Stonewall Inn. Police still today routinely harass us for being who we are; our Trans siblings are particularly vulnerable to police harassment. Calling the police on the demonstrators may mark a major schism in our collective movement here in the United States. The HRC seems to have completely severed themselves from us working class queers. They won’t help us, they won’t answer us, all they want is our money and if we dare question them, they call the cops. Who are they really representing? Who are they fighting for? As the old song says, “Which side are you on?” Now I don’t want to be completely negative here, I want to give solutions, not just a rant. So what can you do to fight against the corporate elites of the HRC? What can you do to break their claims that they are the largest group representing us?

The answer is surprisingly simple, go back to your roots. Our community, our movement wasn’t born in a CEO’s office and delivered by a board of directors; it was born out of a need for regular folks to stand up for themselves and make a better life. If you know a sibling under the rainbow banner who is struggling financially or mentally, reach out and help them and give it all you got. I know we’re not rich money-wise, but pitching in for a meal or offering to help out around their house can lift a great burden off their shoulders. And not just you, get other people involved, help each other out. Be a community again. What about activism? Certainly none of us have big connections in Congress or in the statehouse, but we got voices and we got marching boots. Take to the streets, a representative can ignore a few pre-fabricated emails, he can’t ignore a bunch of demonstrators outside his office, he can’t ignore a bunch of demonstrators marching on the street. And more importantly, the press can’t ignore it, make a noise, people will listen.

If you’re looking for groups to join and help out with, there are several right here in our home state of Indiana. The Indiana Youth Group is a major LGBT group working within the state, helping out many LGBT youth since its inception in 1987. And if you live in the Wabash Valley (the Terre Haute area), Wabash Valley Pride is an excellent grassroots organization helping both in the community and on the activism front. If there’s no group in your area, start your own, there are plenty of resources out there to help you and your siblings get your feet on the group and working together.

As it is said in the Socialist Party, “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” and that is the key that will liberate us from the stranglehold of corporate non-profits like the HRC; we may not be rich individually, we may not be strong individually, but when we pull together, when we gather into one mighty voice and one set of helping hands ready to lift us up when the chips are down, we can take back our movement and we can achieve freedom and equality.


Walter Beck

is a poet, queer gonzo journalist, activist, and performer from Avon, IN. His poetry has been featured in numerous rags, mags, and journals, including Assaracus, BURNER, Yes Poetry, Allusions, and many others. He currently works as a freelance writer for the LGBT Pink Panthers Movement and also freelances articles for the Greater Indianapolis Socialist Party. You can find him on Facebook.

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