Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why the Gay Rights Movement Has No National Leader



Why the Gay Rights Movement Has No National Leader - NYTimes.com
Every so often, the American social order is reshuffled. And that upheaval is typically accompanied by a prominent face.

Frederick Douglass became the face of the black abolitionist movement. A century later, Martin Luther King Jr. played that role in the civil rights movement. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem became the spokeswomen for the modern women’s movement.

Yet the gay rights movement, which is about to enter its fifth decade, has never had a such a leader despite making remarkable strides in a relatively short period of time.

Gay people have no national standard-bearer, no go-to sound-byte machine for the media. So when President Obama last week extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, there was no alpha gay leader to respond with the movement’s official voice, though some activists criticized the president for not going far enough.

Until 1973, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Today, same-sex couples can marry in six states. How did a group that has been so successful over the last generation in countering cultural prejudice and winning civil rights make it so far without an obvious leader?

One explanation is that gay and lesbian activists learned early on that they could get along just fine without one. Even in the movement’s earliest days following the violent uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village 40 years ago this week, no singular leader emerged. Some historians believe this is in part because it was — and still is — difficult for the average American to empathize with the struggles of gay people.

“The gay movement has always had a problem of achieving a dignity or a moral imperative that the black civil rights movement had, or the women’s rights movement claimed,” said Dudley Clendinen, who co-wrote the book “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America” and now teaches writing at Johns Hopkins University. “Because this movement is fundamentally about the right to be sexual, it’s hard for the larger public to see that as a moral issue,” he said....


3 comments:

GAYTWOGETHER said...

Excellent Post - caught it on Twitter.

Rebecca said...

I began to think this might be the problem a few months ago, and fear. Afraid of the hate and not being able to handle it upfront and personal.
Also caught on twitter

VegasTeaRoom said...

We are the L G B T Q movement.

How the hell does one person represent L's G's B's T's and Q's.

If it were only the L's and the G's I think that Barny and Tammy are right up there.

But we AREN'T SIMPLY the Gay Rights movement.

Is there a AA M2F Lesbian out there with HUGE cred?

Let me know.