Sunday, October 10, 2010

LGBT Americans need more than a BFF

The Human Rights Campaign certainly knows how to throw an extravagant party for itself every October in Washington, D.C., but does this carefully choreographed gala actually accomplish anything?

Andres and I were genuinely thrilled to see Ricky Martin take the stage at the start of the nearly four-hour affair. He told those inside the Washington Convention Center he wants “to add my voice to yours” and he is “so happy to be part of this community.” The predictable flurry of text messages and tweets to my editor, colleagues and friends in New York City followed, but the emotional testimony the gay Puerto Rican heart throb provided truly proved far more powerful than simple words can describe.

Mo’Nique’s equally heart-felt and equally compelling speech as she introduced director Lee Daniels and Pink’s challenge to bullies to come find her if they “want to take their anger out on someone” provided additional highlights as the evening dragged on. Senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett’s comments on the rash of recent LGBT teenager suicides and the administration’s commitment to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers were certainly nice gestures. Once again, however, did they actually accomplish anything?

The last few weeks have certainly brought sadness, anger and outrage to those within the movement for LGBT rights and their many supporters. The seemingly endless headlines about teenagers taking their own lives because they faced endless torment over their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression; yet more reported hate crimes in New York City; and partisan politics that derailed debate on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, among other things, have certainly taken their toll. And while it is entirely appropriate for people to enjoy themselves at an HRC dinner, it takes far more than endless backslapping, choreographed moments designed to put someone’s idea of the community’s best face forward and a California teenager’s “Joe (Solmonese) is possibly even a BFF” proclamation to show the country LGBT Americans deserve more than a simple seat at the table.

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