Be Transformative, Not Transfixed!
The Lethe-soaked question of what comes after the marriage cases ignores the reality that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s lives are not yet free, equal or secure, even with the positive outcome of these Supreme Court decisions.
Here’s a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the LGBT movement in the US; and from that, a possible blueprint for the work ahead.
Strengths: A compassionate and mobilized base of millions of LGBT people, their families and friends, most of whom vote progressive, some who volunteer, fewer who give and all who support equality and justice. Young people’s attitudes trend strongly for equality. Legal and social service groups are brilliant and innovative. A vibrant infrastructure of grassroots groups is active on issues regarding trans people, people of color (POC), youths, seniors, immigrants, criminal justice and HIV/AIDS.
Weaknesses: The queer movement is focused on formal legal gay/lesbian equality only and still does not address the economic, racial and gender-based inequities affecting low-income LGBT folks, transgender people, people of color (POC), women and others in queer communities. Large parts of the US (the South, Midwest and Southwest) are zones without rights. Very few people actually give time or money to queer organizations and LGBT advocacy groups; this over-weights the influence of a few funders. Mainstream parties “handle” rather than support us—the Democrats see us an ATM; the Republicans, as a punching bag. LBT women’s issues are absent from the mainstream movement’s agenda. The leadership of the queer movement is aging, and there’s still not enough investment in young leaders and POC leaders.
Opportunities: Twenty-nine states with no LGBT rights protections are exciting sites for new work. A global movement is active and creative on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Investment in young queer leaders and emerging institutions presents exciting chances to build a politics that is not single issue. Immigrant rights and trans organizing provide solutions for how to address the interaction of sexuality, gender, race and poverty. Opportunity exists to solidify an electoral coalition of youth, women, Latinos, African-Americans, progressive men, labor, environmentalists and LGBT people into a progressive voting bloc for the next five decades. Faith-based organizing in every denomination creates great leaders, new frames and a base of support. Social media is a queer space of organizing and movement building.
Threats: The religious, cultural, economic and political right that targets LGBT people, women’s economic, reproductive and sexual freedom and is organized around a racialized notion of national culture. A religious liberty framework is being deployed to undermine all civil rights laws. Social policy retrenchment as economic conditions worsen hurts millions of our people, and requires stronger alliances to forestall. Like what happened with abortion rights, the demobilization of donors and volunteers post-marriage is a risk. Over-criminalization, the national security state and over-policing harm the lives of many in LGBT communities (trans, immigrant, POC, sex workers, youth, HIV+ people, urban-based).