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Posts for May, 2011

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!!