Hillary’s Brief for Gay Rights- The Progressive- 1/1/2012
I want to live in the LGBT community Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about in her historic speech on LGBT Human Rights.
The community where inspirational, courageous LGBT people lead the effort to bring the world to embrace human rights for all people. The one where LGBT people spend and sometimes give their lives to achieve human rights. The one where LGBT people work side by side those toiling to end racism, religious persecution and sexism. That community.
In her powerful speech Clinton, and by extension the Obama Administration, firmly fixed the work of integrating sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI) into the international human rights framework. She made her case in plain, powerful language outlining several of the arguments against such integration and then debunking them.
First, to the notion that human rights and LGBT rights are separate and distinct, she said that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights. Second, to the issue that being gay is a Western invention, she said that being gay is a human reality. Third to the belief that religious and cultural values can justify violence against LGBT people, she forcefully asserted that violence is not cultural, it is criminal. Fourth, she emphasized that though we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose in a world where we protect the human rights of all.
To the final question of what’s to be done, Clinton noted that minorities cannot achieve full human rights without the leadership and commitment of majorities. She assured LGBT men and women worldwide whatever their circumstances - connected to a network of support or isolated and vulnerable - that they are not alone. She urged nations to take leadership and committed the Obama Administration’s will and wallet to the advancement of SOGI Human rights Internationally.
After my thirty plus years of LGBT work, it was staggering to hear a full-on, forceful no-nonsense brief for LGBT human rights, not some pro forma rah-rah at a fundraising dinner for an LGBT applause line and campaign donation. The claim was argued not to the LGBT choir but to an international gathering.
I was still reeling that night when I saw the off-Broadway production of Standing on Ceremony, The Gay Marriage Plays, a night of six wonderful actors giving staged readings of ten short plays. I’m sure the hope is that the play will do for gay marriage what The Vagina Monologues has done for, well, you know. Actually The Vagina Monologues has become a grassroots organizing and fund-raising phenomenon and an international force against violence against women, so if the Marriage Plays did achieve that status it would be a good thing.
It was a fine, enjoyable night of entertainment. But watching it through the lens of Hillary’s challenge reminded me again of the limits of the LGBT community I live in. Only two of the ten plays were written by women. The narratives were all from a decidedly upper to middle class perspective. There were no African American actors, certainly no talk of jumping the broom.
Please do no think me ungracious. Just as I know that the Obama Administration’s domestic LGBT record is imperfect, I know the play does not aim for the lofty ideas of some eight-hour Ring Cycle.
Sometimes I have felt like I’m living in a gayted LGBT community with restrictions about membership, income, pool use, children, pets. I worry that when we achieve full federal marriage equality that we will go the way of other utopian communities. Passion and funding will dry up, devastated by the ravages of Mad Vow Disease. Hillary Clinton’s speech on International Human rights reminds me of the LGBT community I want to live and work in.