Saturday, January 31, 2015

ACT UP Zaps HRC and a blow against the bland#actupny #BADBADHRC #HRC ‪#‎homeless‬,‪#‎atrisk‬ ‪#‎LGBT‬ youth.

Saturday a group of us from ACT UP met at the Waldorf Astoria to zap the HRC fundraiser where affluent gay homocrats met in black tie to mingle, conspire with other one percenters, and make plans to further erode the mental environment, as well as the core of a once radical movement.  Where queers once linked their struggle with broad based movements for social transformation, the HRC has supported a holy trinity of marriage, military service, and hate crimes laws. Tonight ACT UP was there to remind the group there is a more progressive path.

NYC poster for HRC zap

#BADBADHRC on our way to the Castro to protest at noon outside #HRC store in solidarity with ACT UP and with many other issues raised. @HRC @actupny

Embedded image permalink

In solidarity w/ action in NYC at gala. Posted on their DC HQ blding wall. Stop pinkwashing!

From San Francisco to New York, ACT UP was there to remind the world that there are other agenda items for a queer agenda including: supporting real, sex positive HIV prevention, public sexual culture, homeless youth, and opposition to corporations destroying the planet.

“Our movement once meant something profoundly radical,” noted on member of the group  as we met in the cold outside the Waldorf.  

As we met outside, men in black tuxedos entered the Waldorf with their partners. "Homeless youth are sleeping on the streets. "Queer kids are in the streets.  Where are your priorities?" we asked as they entered.  

Talking before the zap, we recalled the days when HRC first started siphoning off funding dollars from AIDS prevention after protease inhibitors were approved in 1996.  The group has been atrocious on AIDS for years now. By 1998, the group endorsed Republican D’Amato in his losing senate bid, out of step with New York and the movement they seek to speak for.

Photos and caption by Jamie Leo A few images from tonight's @ACTUPNY protest outside of a lavish @HRC gala at @WaldorfNYC. Speaking up for ignored, ‪#‎homeless‬,‪#‎atrisk‬ ‪#‎LGBT‬ youth.

An HRC flag hung in the distance, adjacent to the US flag on the Waldorf, both striking symbols, with queerness blurring with nationalism. 

The ACT UP call for the action was simple:

On Sat Jan 31, join ACT UP to protest HRC (Human Rights Campaign) at their annual gala honoring Fortune 500 companies. While HRC dines with the 1%, a 35+ year HIV epidemic rages on in our LGBT community, still cutting many LGBT lives short.

Health officials warn about the recent sharp increase in HIV infections among young gay men and transgender women, especially among communities of color. We need our national LGBT orgs like HRC to shine a spotlight on HIV and AIDS until the epidemic is over for all populations, especially our most at-risk LGBT people. 

HRC has created an LGBT equality index to score the Fortune 500 companies, but there's no mention of HIV and the thousands of LGBT people with HIV in the workplace. We demand that HRC include several criteria to evaluate companies on their treatment of employees living with HIV, as well as their contributions to organizations and causes relate to reducing the incidence of HIV among LGBT Americans, particularly among the young. For over 30 years, too many have been fired, harassed, outed and discriminated against at work for having HIV.

Also at this gala, many of the corporations that HRC will honor actively work against the interests of middle-class and poor Americans, including people with HIV. ACT UP denounces this frequent practice of '"pinkwashing" whereby corporations with policies and practices that undermine the people's well-being are given positive publicity in exchange for maintaining LGBT-friendly (or just equal) workplaces. This is short-sighted and divisive. We demand that HRC develop other criteria that takes into account the impact of companies' policies on every American, not just LGBT Americans.

WHAT: ACT UP Protests HRC Gala
WHERE: Waldorf Astoria (301 Park Ave -- Meet at 49th and Park)
WHEN: Sat Jan 31 from 5:00PM - 8PM
ATTIRE: Street Fabulous
BRING: Pots, Pans, Signs, Props, Noisemakers
DIRECTIONS: Take the 6 to 51st St or the E,M to Lexington Ave and 53rd St

In the week before the ZAP, ACT UP met with HRC pushing the group to consider broadening its agenda.

January 16, 2015
Chad Griffin
Human Rights Campaign
1640 Rhode Island Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-3278
Dear Mr. Griffin:
At the initiative of many of its members, ACT UP NY is holding a discussion on the
neglect of HIV/AIDS by most mainstream LGBT organizations.
Considering the status of Human Rights Campaign as the nation’s largest LGBT rights
group, several members of ACT UP proposed that a protest be specifically held during
HRC´s gala in New York.
We request a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible to discuss this issue in general
terms, as well as the specific questions in the postscript below. We ask that the meeting be
held in New York City, ideally by Tuesday, January 20th; and with HRC personnel who
are empowered to provide substantive answers to questions related to your HIV work,
particularly in terms of Congressional lobbying efforts regarding policy and
We ask that HRC provide written responses to our enumerated concerns, and we
welcome any other written materials you feel would be helpful.
ACT UP understands that HRC has begun to devote more attention to HIV, and we hope
to enhance our knowledge of HRC's HIV-related work past and present, along with future
efforts planned. We are concerned that the most powerful lobbying organization in the US
on behalf of sexual minorities is not as prominent as our various communities need you
to be on these issues, and wish to identify ways to help remedy any real or perceived
disconnect between our Queer Community's most powerful lobbyists and our most
disadvantaged members.
We thank you kindly in advance for your urgent attention and timely reply.
On behalf of ACT UP NY
C- Noel Gordon and Marcos Garcia, HRC
Questions to HRC:
Main Questions
1. Does HRC have an HIV Liaison/Coordinator:
a) What are the powers and duties?
b) Do they involve internal coordination inside and across HRC?
c) Do they involve liaising externally with other LGBT and HIV groups?
d) Do they involve external advocacy (what are the main partner groups)?
e) Do they involve legislative initiatives (city, state, federal)?
f) Over what resources (staff, budget) has the Liaison/Coordinator effective control?
g) Why isn’t this information easily available on HRC´s website?
2. Is HRC willing to include HIV discrimination criteria in its corporate equality index?
a) Can this be done by 2016?
b) Does HRC evaluate corporations based on their contributions in the fight against
3. How much of its resources (both internal and external) does HRC devote to HIV?
a) Budget
b) Staff
c) Other resources
4. Describe succinctly HRC´s main contributions to the fight against the stigmatization
and criminalization of HIV, in terms both of main achievements and future plans.
5. Describe succinctly HRC´s main contributions to the prevention and treatment of HIV,
in terms both of main achievements and future plans.
6. Most pertinently of all: has the HRC ever campaigned or lobbied to repeal the socalled
“Helms Amendment”? Passed in 1987, and reconfigured by the CDC a few years
later, it bars Federal funding of sexually explicit HIV prevention materials. That
regulation remains the single most acute obstacle to Prevention education in the United
States, and we are eager to learn any specific details available about previous or current
HRC efforts to effect its repeal.
Supplementary Questions
Note: These reflect concerns shared by many ACT UP members that should be addressed
in a broader discussion, but will not be the principal subject in the meeting.
A) What is HRC´s response to the charge that it engages in "pinkwashing"? Is any
corporate actor whatsoever a potential honoree if the sole attributes graded in your
Equality Index make them eligible?
B) What is HRC's response to the growing perception that it is disconnected from Queer
youth, People of Color, Homeless LGBT, and other disadvantaged sectors of our larger


1. Outreach and collaboration for new policies online and offline:
a) Examples of positive initiatives:
i. Protect Ryan White funding specially to deal with the access to PrEP (ACA
ii. Follow up to the National Strategy on HIV
iii. Re-repeal the prohibition on funding Syringe Exchange
b) Examples of initiatives that need improvement:
i. HRC web pages (balance between issues and communities addressed)
ii. Approach to prevention via Safe Sex kits at Prides
c) Act Up would like HRC to collaborate more with community based
organizations and gay apps/sites to improve policies to deal with prevention and
d) New HHS Guidelines under the Helms Amendment and eventual rewriting of
the Amendment per se.
e) Push for the Repeal Act (yet HRC should also support local organizations
that will deal with reviews at the state level).
f) HRC chapters could work with HIV and with community based organizations,
specially on issues like fundraising for HIV and gay youth homeless shelters.
2. HRC should appoint a Liaison with powers of internal coordination and
appropriate resources (instead of just a fellow, specially a temporary one).
3. Will HRC incorporate a reference to HIV discrimination in its Corporate
Equality Index by 2016?
4. Will HRC consider the disparate impact of a lot of corporate behavior on
particularly vulnerable LGBT communities (specially when dealing with Big


Hopefully, the group will start to find its way.
But few are holding their breath. 

This, of course, was not the first such zap of the HRC.   We’ve been after them for years.  Back in 2008 we zapped a similar fundraiser.  Five years ago, I drafted an essay about the impetus behind the impassioned struggle against the group.  “You can’t spell LGBT with HRC, Trans Rights Now!” our banners declared with a fist a blazing, on a similarly freezing night seven years ago.

RHA 2008 HRC zap banner. this author to the right with the purple hat.


Shepard, B. (2010).  DIY Politics and Queer Activism. In Team Colors Eds. (Craig Hughes, Stevie Peace, Kevin Van Meter).  2010.  In the Middle of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States. (p.163-82) Oakland: AK Press.

On October 10th, 2009, the President of the United States spoke at a gala dinner for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). While he was doing so, the office of HRC was vandalized. Those responsible dubbed their gesture an act of “glamdalism.” They explained their gesture in a “Communique from the Forgotten:”

The HRC is not a democratic or inclusive institution, especially for the people who their claim to represent. Just like society, the HRC is run by a few wealthy elites who are in bed with corporate sponsors who proliferate militarism, heteronormativity, and capitalist exploitation.[1]

HRC is known for its support of a strict gay political agenda, including militarism (repealing Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell), marriage (the right of gays to marry), and law-and-order social policies (hate crimes legislation). Queer activists have come to describe this “holy trinity” of assimilationist gay organizing as a rejection of the movement’s roots in anti-capitalism, and sexual liberation, and critiques of militarism. Yet, for as long as there has been gay activism, there have been assimilationist-minded gays who have clashed with queers for suggesting there is something bigger and brighter to life than this.

"Queerness,” argues L.A. Kauffman, “[is] more a posture of opposition than a simple statement about sexuality. It [is] about principles, not particularities.” Kauffman affirmatively quoted queer activist Karl Knapper's statement that “queerness is about acknowledging and celebrating difference.”[2] So while the HRC gets press coverage and receives corporate sponsorship, queer activists embrace a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to activism and queer world-making which aspires to create a space for difference, democracy, and self determination.

This essay considers a few recent episodes in the decades-old clash of queer cultures. It considers the struggles of activists to create a more authentic and vibrant image of queer life than the glossy, bland, commercialized image of citizenship offered by groups such as HRC. To do so, the essay highlights the efforts of groups such as Radical Homosexual Agenda, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and others in the queer direct action lineage spawned from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and gay liberation. The essay considers efforts of queers to create an alternate public commons via DIY approaches to community building. These efforts include zine making, direct action zaps, music, poetry readings, and storytelling, all of which make for an abundant approach to queer living. They speak to a clash of discourses, with identity-based models of politics favored by the HRC in conflict with an identity-bending queer politics that favors a universalizing view of human interaction, based on care, connection, and support for social outsiders as well as a connection to broad struggles for social justice.

The Problem with the Human Rights Campaign

I was walking down Smith Street in my Brooklyn neighborhood when a young man with a clipboard stopped to ask me if I was interested in gay rights. Looking around, I noted that we were standing in front of Starbucks, the symbol of urban monoculture; this was the place where these two attractive and coifed young gay men had picked to canvass. I looked up at the mermaid on their logo, remembering the flack Starbucks had taken a few years earlier when they tried to remove her nipples. What was wrong with the logo? activists asked, accusing the coffee chain of de-sexing the symbol.[3] As I stood there, it occurred to me that the Human Rights Campaign was doing the same thing with gay rights. Was I for gays? Sure. But not this agenda.

“You’re from HRC?” I asked the young man.
“Yes,” he nodded, earnestly.
“But does HRC support gays when they are busted in vice sweeps?”
“No,” the man nodded.
“Does HRC protect bath houses when they are getting shut down?”
“No,” the man nodded, with the same banal facial expression. He did not get where this was going.
“Then what do you support?”
And as if on cue, he started listing the “holy trinity.”
“There is more to it than that,” I argued, and I began to talk about the legacy of Stonewall, the roots of gay liberation in sexual freedom and queer anti-militarism. I was starting to rant at this guy, who continued looking at me earnestly. Fighting these guys is like throwing darts at Jello. I walked off.

I first heard about HRC in the mid-1990s, when they started angling support away from AIDS activism towards their “holy trinity.” Then, in 1998, the group famously endorsed Republican Al D’Amato for Senator in New York. And then they held their Millennium March on Washington in 2000, an assimilationist-oriented mega-rally intended to be “one of the largest and most powerful civil rights demonstrations” of the period leading into the new century, with little to no support from the grassroots.[4] Activists called it “a march without reason.” All the while, HRC was pushing support for gay rights with policies such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a 2007 bill banning workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity, at the expense of the trans-inclusive Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). By the late 1990s, these kinds of battles—between assimilationist gays and queers hoping for more—had become a driving force in queer activism.[5]

Over the years, 'zapping' HRC fundraisers has become something of a yearly ritual for queer activists. Zaps are disruptive direct action tactics aimed at embarrassing public officials, especially those linked with homophobic practices. According to Joe Kennedy, these actions are best understood as “direct actions which confront oppressors.”[6] “The incessant 'zaps' of groups such as Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance forced gay and lesbian concerns onto the public agenda for the first time.”[7] Members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power zapped President Clinton when he spoke at an HRC dinner in 1997. In 2004, the anarchist-inspired Queer Fist zapped HRC's fundraising event in New York. ACT UP’s co-founder Larry Kramer was on hand with a sign asking, “What have you done with all that money?”  

Four years later, New York’s Radical Homosexual Agenda (RHA) zapped two more of HRC's fundraisers. I drafted a few notes for one of these actions, under a working draft called “A Few Creepy Things about the HRC (Why queers should be weary of the assimilationist Human Rights Campaign)”:

1)      They refuse to defend pleasure. While the GLBTQ movements are rooted in defense of sexual self-determination, you will never hear the HRC say anything about pleasure. In a world with war, violence, and hatred, many queers rightfully recognize the transformative political possibilities of pleasure. Today, as the New York Department of Health has stirred up hysteria to generate another round of bath house closures, you will not hear the HRC say a thing about the importance of these vital institutions for queers.

2)      They don't defend public sexual culture. For as long as many can remember, pubs, molly houses, movie theaters, gay bars, baths, and even cruising spots have provided a context for queer possibilities and cultural development. They helped constitute queerness as a way of being in the world. As such, attacks on homosexual venues served as an attack on gay identity. Gay liberation began in the late 1960s with the recognition that official intimidation constituted all too regular a feature of gay and lesbian social life. Liberation meant queers would fight back. Flashpoints included the police raids and ensuing riots at California Hall in San Francisco in 1965 and the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969. In the end, assaults on queer spaces spurred the call for gay liberation. Yet today, the HRC rarely support the rights of queers to converge in public commons such as the Christopher Street piers, bath houses, and clubs.

3)      While queerness represents difference, HRC represents homogenization. “We are just like you,” HRC pleads to straight people. For HRC, queer sexuality is something to keep quiet about or apologize for. For the liberationists, gay sex was something to revel within and create global solidarity around; "Perverts of the world unite!" was a central Gay Liberation anthem. Gay liberationists recognized that while many homosexuals claimed they were just like everyone else, the dominant culture did not see them that way. As such, gay liberation, in alliance with women's liberation, created a vision of sexuality as cultural transformation. Autonomy of the body from the state was a central principle of both movements. Both movements questioned basic tenets of family structure and patriarchal authority in America. Over the years, the distance between HRC and these sentiments has only become wider and more pronounced.

4)      They support the logic of crime and punishment, marriage, war, and patriarchy. In the year after Matthew Shepard’s death, queer groups nationwide took positions on recommending or rejecting the death penalty for Matthew Shepard's killers (Log Cabin Republicans for, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force [NGLTF] and Lambda against), but HRC refused to take a position. Their spokesman explained that debates over social justice issues were “not germane” to their mission.

               5) They do not represent your interests. In 1998, the HRC endorsed anti-choice        Republican Al D'Amato for the U.S. Senate. The endorsement of a man who had           supported Reagan's budget cuts, the repeal of abortion rights, and criminal neglect     of the AIDS carnage was an act of profound political amnesia. HRC    maintains the 1998 endorsement of Reagan-loving, tax-cutting, anti-queer Senator Alfonse D'Amato and the 2000 Millennium March were part of a pragmatic  strategy designed to see their agenda enacted into law. Yet the group has very few results to show for this strategy. ENDA did not make it through the Senate, while   the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act, which codified marriage as exclusive to hetero couples, was signed into law by their hero, Bill Clinton.

Instead of supporting solidarity among queer people, HRC dumped transgender people from ENDA. Publicly, HRC executive director Joe Solmonese has said, “We absolutely do not support, and, in fact, oppose legislation that is not absolutely inclusive.”[8] But behind the scenes, Solmonese eliminated trans protections from ENDA to make the bill more palatable to straight people.

Even though ENDA passed in the House and failed in the Senate, HRC hailed the bill as a “victory” because they got a majority of House members to support “gay rights.” But the real victory is that 360 LGBTQ groups—including all national groups except the Log Cabin Republicans and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)—opposed ENDA, telling HRC that they could not turn some into second-class citizens so others can get ahead. The real victory is that, from Stonewall to Seattle, trans people continue to battle on the frontlines for a better world.

Still the HRC pushes hits holy trinity of military service, marriage and Hate Crimes laws.   High on the HRC agenda, such policies are problematic because they emphasize law-and-order over social justice and equal protection under the law. HRC never came close to securing anything resembling justice for people who are gay and in the armed forces, but they accepted the premise of an imperial military. Despite heavy lobbying, the group failed to beat back the pernicious Knight ballot initiative in California.[9] As a result, activists are left wondering what the HRC has done with their millions and millions of dollars gained from fundraisers in gay communities. What are they doing with all that money? Many have argued that HRC is pushing the wrong agenda.
After gay marriage lost in a legal fight in New York, seminal gay historian and activist John D’Emilio penned an essay for the Harvard Lesbian and Gay Review in which he challenged the logic of shifting the movement away from a critique of patriarchy, marriage, and heteronormative institutions such as the military. He notes in the essay, “Marriage Fight Is Setting Us Back”[10]:  

Please, can we speak the truth? The campaign for same-sex marriage has been an unmitigated disaster. Never in the history of organized queerdom have we seen defeats of this magnitude. The battle to win marriage equality through the courts has done something that no other campaign or issue in our campaign has done: it has created a vast new body of anti-gay laws. Alas, for us, as the anthropologist Gayle Rubin has cogently observed, “Sex laws are notoriously easy to pass…Once they are on the books, they are extremely difficult to dislodge.”

Rather than push heterosexuals to respect queers as different (as many have come to do), D’Emilio worried that assimilationist gay groups such as HRC have embraced a counterproductive strategy that fails to challenge people to integrate the lessons and rich examples of queer experiences in their lives. This was what RHA was thinking when it chose to zap HRC.

On February 23rd, 2008, members of the RHA brought noise, drums, chants, and three-foot-tall pink cardboard middle fingers to greet an HRC fundraiser at the midtown Hilton Hotel. Others passed out stickers that said “Can’t Spell LGBT with HRC” in response to HRC’s long-running neglect of trans issues. Inside the fundraiser, two women from RHA disrupted HRC head Joe Solmonese’s address, throwing flyers and unfurling their banner reading “Can’t Spell LGBT with HRC!” with a pink middle finger. “It’s remarkable that HRC celebrates a legacy of protest, yet they are very quick to stamp out dissent when called out for betraying their community,” noted Jess, after she was escorted out.[11]

For critics such as RHA, the HRC’s betrayal of trans people is just one of many reasons to reject the group’s work. HRC isn’t just derailing the needs of the majority of the queer community -- as RHA members argued through the zap, they’re also narrowing our vision of the potential of queer relationships.

A Historic Split

Conflicts between assimilationist groups, such as Human Rights Campaign, and more radical groups, such as Radical Homosexual Agenda, date back to the earliest days of gay liberation—and even earlier than that. Queer pioneer Harry Hay was kicked out of the homophile Mattachine Society in the 1950s because of his organizing history with the Communist Party. In the days after the Stonewall rebellion in 1969, activists who wanted to focus exclusively on gay issues broke off from the multi-issue Gay Liberation Front to form the Gay Activist Alliance.[12] In following years, the split would ebb and flow but would never quite fade away. By the 1970s, Harry Hay worried that gay culture was so focused on bar culture and intertwined in the day-to-day ins and outs of capitalist social relations that the unique liberationist impulse of past struggles was becoming obscured, if not lost entirely. So he formed the queer group Radical Faeries, a group still active today.[13]

The split between social justice-minded queers who speak out for social and sexual civil liberties and gays who just wanted to fit in was particularly glaring during the twenty-fifth anniversary of Stonewall in 1994. Many worried that, rather than critique a social system that supports war, patriarchy, and racism, the GLBT movement was drifting more and more toward a detente with the status quo. So some activists, including Harry Hay, formed their own counter-march to challenge the gay movement’s drift away from struggles for sexual freedom and social justice.[14]

If there is one New York activist who has been an eye witness to this split, it is AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power icon Bill Dobbs. A veteran of Michigan’s chapter of Gay Liberation Front, ACT UP, Queerwatch, and New York City's SexPanic!, he was there marching with Harry Hay during Stonewall Twenty-Five, with activists who challenged the Millennium March in 2000, with New York's Queer Fist zapping HRC in 2004, and Radical Homosexual Agenda  in 2008. When the New York Public Library held an exhibit on the fortieth anniversary of GLF and Stonewall, Dobbs wrote a few observations:[15]

The cry was Freedom, Gay Power, Lesbian Power, Liberation. Looking through the exhibit, there are very few references to what is now the ubiquitous gay brand, Equality. Equality is an important touchstone, but in a single short word, it has people asking for more of the same. Equality or change? GLF [Gay Liberation Front] stood for radical social change. Equality is the status quo in lavender wrapping, the empty equals sign of Human Rights Campaign. Alas, our collective dreams have shrunk. From sexual outlaws, visionaries, revolutionaries, and liberationists to the HRC chapter of the Rotary Club in a few decades. How did that happen?

Yet, as Laurie Essig points out, “Queers are still out there—making connections between homophobia and patriarchy and racism and capitalism. They still think that liberation is not serving in an imperialist army or the mimicry of the heterosexual bourgeoisie in marriage.” She continues, “You can hate queers and wish they’d shut up, like the HRC probably does. Or you can love queers and wish more of them would glamdalize the dreary world of ‘freedom=being like everyone else,’ like I do.”[16]

Many of today’s queers build on the lessons and history of the liberation movement. Peter Tatchell, co-founder of the queer direct action group OutRage and also a former member of the GLF, similarly mused about the meanings of the Stonewall era for his activism.

Our vision was a new sexual democracy, without homophobia and misogyny. Erotic shame and guilt would be banished, together with socially enforced monogamy and male and female gender roles. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone—queer and straight. Our message was "innovate, don't assimilate." GLF never called for equality. The demand was liberation. We wanted to change society, not conform to it.[17]

Shortly before President Obama was to speak at the Human Rights Campaign's dinner last October, a group called Queerkidssaynotomarriage posted a call for queer activists to expand an agenda beyond marriage toward issues which actually impact their lives.

It’s hard for us to believe what we’re hearing these days. Thousands are losing their homes, and gays want a day named after Harvey Milk. The U.S. military is continuing its path of destruction, and gays want to be allowed to fight. Cops are still killing unarmed black men and bashing queers, and gays want more policing. More and more Americans are suffering and dying because they can’t get decent healthcare, and gays want weddings. What happened to us? Where have our communities gone? Did gays really sell out that easily?[18]

The critique is not new, yet advocacy for the HRC “holy trinity” continues to dominate a national GLBT agenda.

During their February 2008 HRC zap, RHA was quick to point out that there are alternatives to the “holy trinity.” Rather than throw away their dollars to a group which fails to show progress or success, even on their agenda queers should support local groups who provide vital services and win real victories, like ACT UP or the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (a trans legal group that I discuss later in this essay). Or better yet, if one does not like what HRC does, RHA suggested queers get together and start a grassroots group to fight for justice or create community. “HRC will keep trying to out-shout us with their money and advertisers,” argued RHA.[19] But they never represented authentic queer experience, and they never will. It is up to queers to do that. The DIY spirit the RHA refers to speaks to a vital ethos of queer world-making: more than putting energy into a critique, generations of queer activists have worked to create a richer, more colorful approach to living of their own invention.

[1]    Quoted in: Laurie Essig, "Queers Attack Gays and Lesbians. It’s about Time. Class Warfare." 12 October 2009. Accessed 11 November 2009 from
[2]    L.A. Kauffman, "Radical Change: The Left Attacks Identity Politics," Village Voice 20 June 1992, p. 20
[3]             Talen, Bill.  2003.  What should I do if the Reverend Billy is in my store? NY: Free Press. 
[4]             Millenium March Official Newsletter. For a brief discussion of this march see: Benjamin Shepard, “The Queer/Gay Assimilationist Split: The Suits Vs. the Sluts,” Monthly Review, May 2001.
[5]             Benjamin Shepard, Queer Political Performance and Protest: Play, Pleasure and Social Movement (New York: Routledge, 2009).
[6]    Joe Kennedy, Summer of 1977: The Last Hurrah of the Gay Activist Alliance, (Westport, Ct.: PPC Books), p. vii.
[7]    Kennedy, op. cit, p. vii-iii.
[8]  Jacobs, Ethan. 2007.  ENDA Vote Postponed.  Bay Windows.  4 October.  Accessed 18 January, 2010 from
[9]     California Ballot Proposition 22 was supported by 62% of voters in March of 2000.  For a critique see:
Rofes, Eric.  2002.  Beyond Patient and Polite: A Call for Direct Action and Civil Disobedience on Behalf of Same-Sex Marriage. In Shepard, Benjamin and Hayduk, Ron.  From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization.  (p. 150-55) New York: Verso

[10]  John D’Emilio, "The Marriage Fight is Setting Us Back,” Harvard Lesbian and Gay Review November-December 2004. Accessed 2 December 2009 from
[11]  RHA, "Radical Homosexual Agenda Flips HRC the Bird, Demands Trans Rights," Accessed 1 March 2008 from
[12]  Don Teal, The Gay Militants, New York: St. Martins Press, 1971/1995.
[13]  Michael A. Bronksi, “The Real (Radical) Harry Hay,” Z Magazine. Accessed October 16, 2006 from
[14]  Richard Goldstein, The Attack Queers. Verso. New York, 2002.
[15]  William Dobbs, Post to Radical Faeries'
      Subject: Re: [RadicalFaeries] resistance; i put the dreams in the dryer. 15 June 2009.
[16]  Essig, 2009, ibid.
[17]  Peter Tatchell, "Our Lost Radicalism," The Guardian London. 26 June 2009. Accessed 17 June 2009 from victimhood-stonewall?commentpage=1&commentposted=1
[18]  Queerkidssaynottomarriage, “Queer Kids of Queer Parents Against Gay Marriage!: Resist the Gay Marriage Agenda!” 9 October 2009. Accessed 12 October, 2009 from
[19]  RHA, ibid