Queer Rising continues its self-absorbed media-hungry approach to activism

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2011

Successful activism walks a fine line. If you get too cautious, you end up making excuses for the status quo, placing “alliances” ahead of goals, and end up as a politician rather than an advocate. To my way of thinking, some of our established organizations have gone way too far down that road.

On the other extreme, reckless actions that are not well thought out can have both immediate and long-term costs, some of which are catastrophic. Groups that come from an “I’m right so f*ck you” arrogance may place pissing people off as their highest goal without considering (or caring about) the consequences of their actions.

And when you have individuals or organizations that are in love with seeing their name in print, be it on a White House cocktail invitation or the screaming headlines of the New York Post, priorities are almost certain to become muddled. The goal becomes more about “visibility” than about what that visibility is supposed to accomplish.

It has become increasingly evident to me that Queer Rising, a small new activism collective, falls in the latter category. They are fond of public display, but seem to have little to no actual knowledge about what they are protesting and even less interest in finding out. Queer Rising’s sole objective appears to be getting their name in the newspaper.

I first became aware of Queer Rising back in March of last year when they lent their voice to the movement in opposition to DADT… and in opposition to HRC. While I have my concerns about HRC’s efficacy, I see little value in taking it to the streets.

Then in July when the National Organization for Marriage’s Tour of Empty City Plazas came to Providence, RI, a few Queer Rising members from New York decided to storm the stage and have a screaming match with Brian Brown. Who cares if the picture of angry screaming activists on someone else’s turf was was widely published by NOM? Who cares if we are now trying to appeal to the good will of Rhode Island legislators for relationship rights?

In March of this year, Queer Rising was back for some more media attention. This time they blocked traffic during New York’s morning commute to protest for the right to marry. Or do bad drag. Or something. But whatever “message” they were purportedly trying to relay, it was clearly secondary to their stated goals of “drag visibility”. Who cares if commuters now link marriage rights with fright wigs and stilettos?

This isn’t to say that they don’t have a flair. Bringing a cardboard cut-out of Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz dolled up in drag along with them on the AIDS Walk for photo-ops certainly drew attention (though I’m not sure how it squares with “drag visibility”.) And there is not only a place, but a necessity for those who are willing to confront the establishment, to challenge authority, and to behave outlandishly.

But Queer Rising seems, overall, to lack the wisdom and perspective to know when an action is going to achieve a goal and when it will only be a burden on the rest of the community. And again they have confirmed my estimation.

New Yorkers United for Marriage (a coalition of Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, Log Cabin Republicans and Marriage Equality New York) has been working hard to achieve marriage equality in New York this year.

These are all serious organizations. And while some may at times put alliances ahead of achievements, I have great respect for a few of them. The visibility they seek has less to do with being either a chummy insider or an angry outsider and more to do with achieving tangible goals.

And tangible goals have been achieved. The Republican leadership in the Senate has promised to allow a vote to come up and not to punish Republicans who vote in favor of marriage (and the majority of funding has come from powerful high-level Republican donors). Democratic Governor Cuomo has made marriage equality a hallmark of his administration and is actively courting Senators. And while the Conservative Party has made a no vote on marriage to be a litmus test for their support, the Moderate Party leader has endorsed the change.

None of which seems to have been noted by Queer Rising.

Deciding to ignore those who have been working the hardest on this issue, Queer Rising came up with a unique political theory of their own. (WSJ)

But the group pushing for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights says Cuomo isn’t mustering support among lawmakers behind the scenes.

Allen Roskoff, speaking for Queer Rising Tuesday, says that if Cuomo doesn’t get the bill passed as promised, then he was only paying “lip service” to gay rights.

And they know that because… well, because they made it up. Who cares if the Wall Street Journal sees this as “a crack in the united effort to legalize gay marriage”? Who cares if New Yorkers United for Marriage now have to heal rifts created by this act? Who cares even if marriage becomes legal?

Queer Rising got their name in the paper.

Viva Visability!!

Andrew

May 17th, 2011

And now they got more press.

Louis Flores

May 18th, 2011

We wouldn’t be in the struggle for marriage equality now were it not for the fact that Mayor Bloomberg appealed a landmark 2005 marriage equality ruling. The author of this article isn’t writing the whole history of the marriage equality fight (at least what happened back in 2005), to give the recent movement some context. The strategy in NY State is legislative today, precisely because the judicial strategy failed in 2005 because Mayor Bloomberg appealed a decision that would have legalised marriage equality using the courts. Politicians are and have been standing in the way, so QR’s direct action strategy is very valid.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/06/national/main671958.shtml

If he really believed that marriage equality is the single most important issue facing New York State, why did Mayor Bloomberg appeal Judge Ling-Cohen’s 2005 ruling ? Granted, maybe the mayor has had an Ah-Ha moment in the time since, but it seems that the criticism by Sen. Duane in some versions of the A wire story moved by the AP seem to still paint the mayor as playing both sides of the same coin.

Shofixti

May 18th, 2011

Is it non-violent direct action in general that you think is unnecessary/counterproductive, or just Queer Rising’s version of it?

Timothy (TRiG)

May 18th, 2011

Sorry, I am unable to turn off my inner proofreader.

a few of those them

And, in the title, it’s.

Sorry.

TRiG.

Eugene

May 18th, 2011

My name is Eugene, I am a member of Queer Rising, and this “article” is riddled with assumptions and poor journalism.

First and foremost, I would guess that you have (1) never spoken directly to a Queer Rising member and (2) never gone to a Queer Rising meeting.

If you had, then you would know that outside of these so-called “attention seeking stunts” we perform, we are also VERY abreast of ALL sides of the issue, of who is doing what, of which organizations are making progress, and how we can help out.

Truth: Our members are on the streets EVERY WEEK participating in the HRC/MENY stop-and-dials (in Queens and Brooklyn), petitioning (in Staten Island), and phone-banking (in Manhattan).

Truth: Our members are also teamed with GetEQUAL and have organized rallies in support of homeless queer youth.

Truth: Our members are part of other organizations like ActUP, the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus, Drag Queen Weddings for Equality, and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club… and therefore have our fingers on the pulse of many other aspects of the gay community.

Truth: When we plan an action, we take GREAT care in focusing our target, understanding our goal, preparing for critics (like you), framing our press releases, contacting the police and/or media (if need be), letting our friends in other coalitions know, and focus on safety.

Come to a meeting if you want to know who we are. The more people we have joining our cause, the more likely we start getting “understanding” from cynics and critics. And the more likely we piece-together some fantastic acts (arrestable or not). Strength in numbers and more minds equals more well-rounded ideas. No fight for civil rights has been won without the role of civil disobedience.

Eugene

May 18th, 2011

What did YOU do TODAY in the fight for equality???

Priya Lynn

May 18th, 2011

Timothy said “But whatever “message” they were purportedly trying to relay, it was clearly secondary to their stated goals of “drag visibility”.”.

When and where did they state their goal was drag visibility?

Timothy Kincaid

May 18th, 2011

TRiG,

Thanks for the proofreading. I’ve fixed the typos

Reed Boyer

May 18th, 2011

I like Queer Rising. I like Queer Nation. I like ACT UP.

Because HRC and the Log Cabin accomodationists have had sufficient time (a generation) to achieve their goals – and “we” are still waiting.

I feel that way (just me, not this “we” that Timothy Kincaid employs at one point – either royally or editorially). And I don’t find Queer Rising to be “a burden on the rest of the community,” because I lack the hubris to speak for any mythical “community” construct.

I don’t have gaydar, a gay card, membership in any “gay community,” a copy of “the homosexual agenda,” nor am I possessed of a “gay gene.” I do not share a Borg hive-mind, lock-step mentality, nor a desire for mere publicity at the expense of any perceived common goal (which includes both “reckless actions that are not well though out” and habitually writing reactionary/contrarian commentaries).

Today is the one-year anniversary of Dominic Crouch’s death, and I am NOT in a pleasant mood.

Melanie Nathan

May 18th, 2011

I get bombarded with Press releases from them – so much so that I cant even bring myself to read any of it. Its like over kill. It causes confusion for me as a blogger activist AND also I must say for my own reasons I have resolved not to cover irresponsibility – it makes me feel used and abused!

Eugene

May 18th, 2011

In response to Melanie: If you indeed feel receiving press releases from Queer Rising is a “bombardment” then do us a favor and reply asking to be removed from our press list. Or you can rethink your role as a “blogger activist” and remain impartial to any and all news from any and all LGBT-friendly organizations. Your call.

RB

May 18th, 2011

@ Melanie

Simple solution: “unsubscribe.” Especially useful if you “can’t even bring yourself to read ANY of it.” Saves time that can be better devoted to blogging and judging “responsible” vs. “irresponsible” actions.

Hope your feelings improve soon. If not, bear in mind “There are no victims, only volunteers.” It’s a useful rule of thumb when whinging is imminent.

Timothy Kincaid

May 18th, 2011

melanie,

I know it’s been too long since I’ve said it, but do know that I appreciate all the work that you and the others at Lezgetreal put in for our community. The Syrian blogger situation reminded me of just how important and impactful it is.

Theo

May 18th, 2011

@Timothy:

Great post. It is appalling to use drag in serious political protests. Drag (as opposed to other forms of cross-dressing) is entertainment. Worse, it is entertainment based on an anti-gay stereotype. Wearing drag at a marriage equality protest makes as much sense as dressing up like Richard Simmons or Liberace.

BTW, it is the Independence Party chief who endorsed SSM. The Moderate Party is in Sweden.

@Louis Flores:

The issue was going to the Court of Appeals whether Bloomberg appealed that decision or not. The ruling would not be binding on any other NY judge and would have applied, at most, in Manhattan Had there been no appeal, another case would have commenced upstate or on Long Island within days or weeks.

If you want to direct your anger somewhere, direct it at the Court of Appeals, which not only rejected the claim for equality, but issued a gratuitously harsh opinion.

Priya Lynn

May 18th, 2011

Theo said “It is appalling to use drag in serious political protests. Drag (as opposed to other forms of cross-dressing) is entertainment. Worse, it is entertainment based on an anti-gay stereotype.”.

For you to suggest drag performers are anti-gay shows just how far out of touch with reality you are.

Tom Lowery

May 18th, 2011

Timothy: I do not know how old you are, but as a 49 year old who was around when AIDS was killing gay men in droves, I can tell you that the ONLY group that brought about positive change towards that stigma and action from people in power, were groups like ACT UP. HRC and their like were then and are now largely interested only in staying on the power bus and NEVER respond when public outcry is against their actions or lack thereof. What Reed said is factual. HRC, GLAAD and most other groups love to take our money but when small groups from small towns call for help, they refuse to do anything.

I understand your point, and in some parts agree that they need to more carefully watch their step, but you sound as though you hate the fact that this group is becoming more prominent, which is what most other gay groups do when another group rises up to challenge their place on the power bus.

Those who complain the most about ACT UP or this organization are those who by and large do nothing and say nothing to push for full civil equality. There is an old saying which you would do well to take note of: “those who scream the loudest get the most.” It is time worn, but very, very true.

Pintuck

May 18th, 2011

I despise Queer Rising, Act Up, and any other group which exists primarily to promote the notion that gay people are weird, abnormal, and therefore deserving of a ghettoized, degraded life. They do NOT want equality. They want “separate but equal”.

All of this is to say, I despise queer culture. It harms gay people.

I am gay. NOT queer.

Shofixti

May 19th, 2011

Pintuck – What is the point of equality if you first must become “normal” before you get any? Nothing.

If you despise queer culture, then how can you ask anyone not to despise gay culture? You can’t.

You have incorrectly labelled this as a seperatist movement.

enough already

May 19th, 2011

Shofixti,
I call post hoc, ergo proptor hoc on your comment to Pintuck.

You are making assumptions about the meanings of the words he uses to justify a notion of yours which you already cling to desperately.

Jarred

May 19th, 2011

I despise Queer Rising, Act Up, and any other group which exists primarily to promote the notion that gay people are weird, abnormal, and therefore deserving of a ghettoized, degraded life. They do NOT want equality. They want “separate but equal”.

I’m a software engineer living in a nice suburb in Western New York. I enjoy a good drag show on some weekends. I know some of the performers outside their drag persona. They are nice people who hold professionals who show up at a nice paying job every Monday morning, wearing an outfit appropriate for the office.

I’d say you’re stereotyping. I’d also say you’re playing into one of the bigots’ biggest strategies: get those within a minority group to oppress and attack each other so they’re less able to defend against the marginalization thrust upon them all by the bigots.

Jarred

May 19th, 2011

Tom Lowery: I’ve also heard some activists who were alive at the time comment that many people originally thought that Martin Luther King Jr. was way too “extreme” and “radical” until Malcolm X came on the scene. They like to remind people that such concepts really are relative and that pushing the envelope has its merits.

Priya Lynn

May 19th, 2011

Pintuk said “I despise Queer Rising, Act Up, and any other group which exists primarily to promote the notion that gay people are weird, abnormal, and therefore deserving of a ghettoized, degraded life.”.

To say they exist primarily for that reason is simply delusional. Making up lies about people you hate is what the anti-gays do, it demeans the entire LGBT community when some of our members do the same thing.

I’m actually going to agree with Shofixti on this one, must be a sign of the end times.

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2011

Tom,

I’m 47. I’ve been active in the fight for a long time.

Robert

August 26th, 2012

Mr Kincaid,

I supported your views in the “language” debate you posted, to the point I almost got deleted, but now I wonder about your integrity. You bemoan your language in regards to anti-gay activists, but have no qualms about denigrating those on the gay activist side that you disagree with on a personal basis. Rude and downright disgraceful. I suppose I should have read your writings prior to so adamantly defending your viewpoint, as it is clear you only wrote that piece to appease your inner guilt, and not to move forward with more compassionate and adult language. How sad that you denigrate those on your side with anti-gay language and disparaging remarks about members of the community who do their best to be active, even if it doesn’t agree with your sensibilites.

So, it’s ok to denigrate your own and one must be more conscience of the way one addresse thier adversaries.

Who’s side are you on?

Robert

August 26th, 2012

Also, linking to your own stories is not the same as backing up your assertions. One would think a “journalist” would know that. That’s how the FRC deals with issues. They write a story and then link to it as support for their argument. 2 of the 3 links you note in your article are your own distorted views. And I noticed in the first link (Jim Burroways story about the anti HRC flag) that every comment was supportie of the action and that the originator of the rainbow flag was the creator of the unequal flag. I’m pretty sure most people have grown weary of HRC, except the very rich who get to go to those cokctail parties at the White House.

Robert

August 26th, 2012

And for shame on those pesky drag queens. You now, the ones who stood up and fought at Stonewall. You denigrate them now, but in a real fight they are the best of the best.

Priya Lynn

August 26th, 2012

Robert said “And for shame on those pesky drag queens. You now, the ones who stood up and fought at Stonewall. You denigrate them now, but in a real fight they are the best of the best.”.

Robert, thanks for being inclusive and non-judgemental.

Robert

August 27th, 2012

Priya Lynn,

I’m hoping that’s not sarcasm, it’s hard to tell on a blog, but I love my drag friends, my favorite bar my entire life was Marlena’s Bar in Hayes Valley San Franciso, where the owner, some bartenders, and a majority of clientele were drag performers. They did more for the community than most people combined. I hold them in high esteem, and don’t tolerate their denigration, by those who would forget their importance, not only to our daily fights, but to our history as a whole.

Priya Lynn

August 27th, 2012

No, Robert, its not sarcasm, I mean that sincerely. It offends me greatly when people demean any part of our community or say that some part of our community doesn’t belong.

Robert

August 27th, 2012

Priya Lynn.

I wholeheartedly agree.

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