August 09, 2006

Generally, my generation wouldn't be caught dead working for The Man

(with gratitude and credit-where-it's-due to Ani)

If queer non-profits were literature, the Human Rights Campaign would be Mark Twain. They're the old dead white guy who's indisputably important and influential, and sure, he's politically incorrect by modern standards, but there's no denying he was a good writer and pretty darn radical for his times. So, yeah, HRC's pretty retrograde on a lot of issues, but if you want to protect marriage and build bridges between Fortune 500 companies and their gay financial analysts, there's absolutely no one better for the job. And yes, their trans politics have sucked giant monkey balls for quite some time (though they're better than they used to be) - but if you want a quick, relatively well-paid summer job in the queer nonprofit world, you take a job canvassing on their behalf.

Which is exactly what I did for a couple weeks, before heatstroke forced me to quit. In that space of time, I had some well-nigh-unbelievable encounters, which I thought I'd share with the Quench-reading world for your amusement.

*knock knock*
Person At Door: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group, and we're -
PAD: Oh, I'm already a member of Human Rights Watch. You should keep better records and stop bothering people!
*slam*

(And you should pay better attention and not slam the door in people's faces before they're done talking ... I'm pretty sure HRC would agree torture and civilian-killing are bad things, but that doesn't make them the same as HRW.)

Me: ... so it's important that you give as generously as possible so we can keep getting out there and having an impact!
Nice Donor Lady: Sure, absolutely! *takes out checkbook* Who am I making this out to?
Me: Human Rights Campaign.
NDL: Human ... Rights ...
Child of NDL: Mommy?
NDL: Mommy's busy, sweetie.
Child: Mommy, I don't feel so - *begins to projectile vomit*
NDL: Ummm, can I mail this in?

*knock knock*
Medical Condition Person: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group and -
MCP: Look, I'm passing a kidney stone/I just got my wisdom teeth out/I'm just house-sitting for a friend who's napping from chemotherapy/I'm just cleaning out my late mother's possessions. Now's really not a good time.
*M.E. slinks away - what do you say?*

*knock knock*
Liar Shouting Through Door: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. Is Joe Renewal home?
LSTD: Are you a solicitor?
Me: Well, as I said, I'm with the HRC, and I'm here to -
LSTD: So you're a solicitor.
Me: Er, I'm sorry, is Mr. Renewal home? Because I'm just here to thank him for his generous support of us in the past -
LSTD: You're a solicitor. Well, *long pause* Mr. Renewal doesn't live here anymore. And if he did, he wouldn't appreciate solicitors coming to his door.

(Oh, for pity's sake ...)

*knock knock*
Cranky Old Bigot: Hello?
Me: Hi, I'm M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil right's group, and -
COB: *spits at me, misses* I don't approve of lesbianism!
*door slams*

(That was ... disheartening.)

Then there was the couple of former HRC staffers, who were disgruntled and didn't donate. I talked to one of them and left, but shortly thereafter, her partner came outside and flagged me down. We chatted for a little, and I said:

Me: Yeah, well, we're both working at queer non-profits, too, although not the same one. I'm dating an intern at [Queer Non-Profit With Much More Street Cred.]
Disgruntled: Wow! And your partner lets you work for HRC?

(Yeah! And your partner lets you say stupid things like that?)

*knock knock*
Confused Lady: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group, and we're out here today continuing our work against discrimination. You may have heard that Congress is trying to push through an amendment to the Constitution that would ban marriage for same-sex couples -
CL: Wait, wait, does this mean you're a lesbian?
Me: (wanting to simplify matters a little) Er, well, ma'am, actually, I'm a bisexual, but you're in the right ballpark, yes.
CL: Well, child, what would you go and be a lesbian for? Don't you want to get married, and raise a family?
Me: *look down futilely at anti-FMA petition* Er, yes, ma'am, I do.
CL: Well then!
Me: Er, well, I guess I'm off to go spread the good word elsewhere, then?
CL: Child, I've read the Word, and that is not what it says.
*door closes none-too-gently*

It wasn't all bad, though, I have to admit. For every creepy old man that lured me into his house in order to call me a pedophile and give me Bible tracts, there was a ten-year-old who ran out to give me her allowance because "those people you were telling my dad about are stupid, and I wanna help!" For every totally infuriating house of complacent lesbians who had given to ACT-UP in the nineties and thought their job was done, there was a house of ultraconservative Republicans who invited me inside during a thunderstorm, toweled me off, and gave me a refill on my water bottle. For every door where the mere mention of "gay and lesbian civil rights" provoked an airing of all the wrongs of affirmative action, there was a single mother who said, "sure, I think it's a sin, but I had a baby out of wedlock, so I'm a sinner too" and proceeded to raid her kid's piggy bank for five bucks. Even the spitter turned out positively: one of her neighbors saw me on the curb crying, and in a fit of civic pride assembled an honor guard to take me around the block to show me that this was not what her town was about!

My secret favorite house, though? This one:

*knock knock*
Person At Door: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name's M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group, and -
PAD: I know who you are.
Me: Oh, great! Well, we're out here today continuing -
PAD: Listen, if you're asking for money, you should know that I just gave $2,000 to the Task Force last month, and I don't plan to give a penny to the HRC until their trans politics improve significantly.
Me: Well! I can certainly respect that! Have an awesome day!
*door closes*

I wonder, can I tell someone who's not giving me money that not only do I respect them, I kinda agree with them, too?

5 comments:

emily2 said...

"but if you want to protect marriage and build bridges between Fortune 500 companies and their gay financial analysts"

how this is "retrograde"? i hate to burst your bubble, but in the world outside of the ivory tower, it's pretty timely and even forward-thinking in some respects. "protect marriage" assumes that marriage is already an option for gay people. outside of the state in which lovely cambridge is situated, it isn't an option. and massachusetts recently gave the green light for that option to be tested by the whim of the general population.

i live in new jersey, which is probably the only other state that is going to give same sex marriage a go-ahead, but we'll see about that. i could give a million reasons why marriage is a right that is essential to protecting the family (in the current structure of laws), but i'm sure it's already been explained ad nauseam. but i guess my point is, we're not even there yet. how can fighting for it be "retrograde"? it defies logic.

and building bridges with large corporations with deep pockets is key to gaining and retaining a foothold in the political process.

i'm all for fighting for the option of marriage and building bridges with organizations with lots of money and clout.

so i'm confused as to why you consider those tactics "retrograde" in light of what is actually possible in the near future.

maudite entendante said...

A couple things:

1) I don't live in Cambridge. In fact, I live in a state with a constitutional marriage ban on the ballot for the next election. And I grew up in a state whose governor recently vetoed a pro-marriage bill.

2) If you read what I actually wrote, it says that "HRC's pretty retrograde on a lot of issues, but if you want to protect marriage and build bridges between Fortune 500 companies and their gay financial analysts, there's absolutely no one better for the job." In other words, marriage is not one of the issues HRC is retrograde on. In our more postmodern moments, some segments of the queer community may argue that fighting for marriage is assimilationist, heteronormative, antifeminist, capitalist ... etc. But there's no denying that it's something we don't have yet, and thus, while it may not be radical to fight within the system, it's certainly (to my mind) pretty damn progressive.

3) What might be considered "retrograde" are things like the following: refusing for years to include gender identity in ENDA; pouring the vast majority of its 2004 PAC money into funding an anti-gay-marriage candidate (Kerry) simply because he was a Democrat, rather than opposing state-level marriage bans, all 11 of which passed; endorsing Al D'Amato (not the best on LGBT rights) over Charles Schumer (who has a much better voting record) because D'Amato, the incumbent, was more likely to win; fostering a mostly-white, wealthy, mainstream image at the expense of other segments of the community (including its own staff - like the prominent black staff member who quit in the 1990s amid charges of a racist work environment); asking people on their membership forms to identify whether they're straight ...

4) That said, I do believe that HRC, while not the most representative of the entire breadth of the queer community, has an important function. They're mainstream, they're "respectable," and they do a good job at what they set out to do: bring gay men and lesbians (but not so much the bisexuals and trannies, 'cause they're too weird) into mainstream America. Whether gay men and lesbians want to be there or not - and whether bisexual and trans folks feel we should be there too - is an open question, and a valid topic of debate.

emily2 said...

whoops, i thought i caught a tone of sarcasm with the following statement: "HRC's pretty retrograde on a lot of issues, but if you want to protect marriage and build bridges between Fortune 500 companies and their gay financial analysts, there's absolutely no one better for the job," - in that [statement 1] hrc is retrograde in a lot of issues and [statement 2] but if you're into "marriage protection" and cozying up to big business, implying that those issues are retrograde, hrc is the organization for you.

kind of like the tone of the following statement, "republicans are retrograde on a lot of issues, but if you're into outlawing the morning after pill, vote GOP!" sorry, not a great analogy, but i hope you can see what i'm getting at.

sorry about that!! :(

i guess i saw something that wasn't there.

in any event, i guess my knee jerk reaction can be attributed to what i perceive as a lack of focus after encountering all of the impasses in attempting to get relief for same sex couples from judiciaries in several states. for example, suddenly, this "beyond marriage" manifesto appeared that seemed to bite off more than it could chew. like, before even getting to point B, people started signing into point C, D, E, etc. and tearing off into the great beyond, before any victory had taken place.

i'm just afraid that, by signing into these overarching arguably leftist collaborations, it's too much too soon. sure, in a perfect world, everything sounds awesome, but it look a long fracking time just to convince my future in-law that i wasn't the devil incarnate and that my "relationship" was as normal as her married hereosexual son's. associating myself with a movement that is "too progressive" for mom, dad, crazy in-law, republican cousin, etc. just doesn't seem like it would get me anywhere.

and no, i'm not upper class nor white.

as to your point #3, i suppose they've taken a risk-averse approach and alienated a segment of the population they claim to serve, but i guess their philosophy is, if they opt to include too many people, the population at large becomes turned off, and the entire community gets nothing. "a little in the near future is better than nothing indefinitely" appears to be their philosophy. maybe they're onto something. or maybe they're not. i can't say for sure, but i can understand their strategy.

as to point 4, i'm one of the queers who would very much like to be integrated in society and "mainstreamed," if you will. i don't think it is a bad thing at all. and it doesn't hurt any LGBT folks who don't want to be mainstreamed. in fact, if the option exists for a lesbian to become part of mainstream society by whatever institutions are available to everyone else, a lesbian who does not wish to be part of it, can still opt to exist outside of the "norm." i mean, even straight people can opt to live without being legally bound to anyone else for their entire lives, but at least they have a choice.

SORRY AGAIN!

carry on.

emily2 said...

[and i guess i also responded to your last comment and "wannatakeitoutside"s post on the main page at the same time]

anyhoooo... i wish i had read IGF before commenting... but now that i have... read this. i think it pretty much sums up my feelings. the debate in the comments comes from a wide variety of voices. good stuff. my favorite comment: here.

[note: the main page is excellent and comes from a variety of viewpoints - conservative, moderate, classical liberal, independent. however, the side blog is written by a virulent anti-(lefty)liberal who'd rather just bash (lefty)liberals all day than promote gay rights; although i don't consider myself a lefty, his schtick gets really tiresome and predictable. proceed with caution. =D]

Escapetochengdu said...

Right on! HRC represents everything I loathe about DC politics. The fact that they supported Lieberman over Lamont is shameful. HRC has done to queer rights what AARP did to seniors in the Medicare prescription drug bill.