Connect with us


Our culture of victimhood

Enough already — Obama doesn’t hate gays so stop whining



President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

President Obama received high marks in an unscientific straw poll of LGBT voters the Blade conducted during Capital Pride. (Photo by Pete Souza, courtesy of White House)

To hear the president’s progressive critics describe Obama’s first term, you’d think it was George W. Bush all over again.

From former Army Lt. Dan Choi to the folks at Equality Matters to a horde of disgruntled liberal bloggers, Obama can’t catch a break. He’s anti-equality because he won’t publicly endorse marriage. He didn’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fast enough. His Justice Department can’t be trusted.

Rather than praise Obama and others responsible for scheduling this week’s first-ever Senate hearings on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, Choi slammed the process, complaining that the scheduled witnesses for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing are “exclusively white and privileged.”

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said Obama should “stop trying to have it both ways” by remaining in opposition to same-sex marriage while saying his position could evolve as he demonstrates support for married same-sex couples in other ways.

“When he says his position is ‘evolving,’ he’s not for same-sex marriage or against it,” Socarides said. “If the president wants to be on the right side of history, he needs to start leading on this issue now, or he’s going to be left in the dust by other progressive leaders who are already on board.”

Socarides, of course, served as principal adviser on gay issues to President Bill Clinton from 1993-1999, when Clinton signed both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. Clinton didn’t just sign DOMA, he bragged about it in 1996 campaign ads broadcast on Christian radio stations. And while Bill Clinton belatedly and reluctantly announced support for same-sex marriage, his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, still describes marriage as between “a man and a woman.” Her opinion is factually wrong, given that same-sex marriage is the law in a handful of states, D.C. and a growing list of foreign countries.

The idea that Clinton acolytes, including former adviser Paul Begala, are joining the chorus of Obama critics is laughable. Sure, Obama ought to endorse marriage equality and he will sometime in the next two years. But he long ago left the Clintons in the dust when it comes to advocating for LGBT equality.

Maybe it’s because I was in D.C. covering the entire George W. Bush era and remember all too well the dearth of positive gay news during that time — save for a couple of momentous court rulings — but the Obama criticism rings hollow. His list of pro-LGBT accomplishments is long and unrivaled for an American president.

Is the culture of victimhood so entrenched in the LGBT community that we can no longer recognize a true ally when he invites us into the White House? Obama has told us repeatedly that we should continue to push and criticize and many of us have and will. But the mindless harping — “evolve already!” — will have one lasting result: to depress LGBT voter turnout and donor enthusiasm in 2012.

The Human Rights Campaign was assailed for its early endorsement of Obama’s re-election, an absurd criticism given the sorry lot of homophobes running for the Republican nomination. After three years of progress and polls shifting in favor of LGBT equality, Michele Bachmann and her allegedly heterosexual husband Marcus have brought the discredited practice of “ex-gay” therapy back to the headlines. One of the top GOP contenders thinks homosexuality is a choice and that we can be “cured.”

Kudos to Truth Wins Out for going undercover to expose what we all suspected was happening at the Bachmanns’ counseling center: the discredited practice of reparative therapy.

It would be entertaining if not for the incalculable damage “ex-gay” therapy causes to young people confused about their sexual orientation.

The revelation begs the question: Is Michele Bachmann’s husband also a client? Has Marcus Bachmann undergone therapy to “change” from gay to straight?

The Bachmanns have lied about the clinic’s work for years and denied accusations of trying to “cure” gay people. The video from TWO proves it. In it, a counselor tells the TWO investigator that it’s possible to be “totally free” of same-sex attraction.

This would all amount to yet another GOP sideshow if not for new polls showing Michele Bachmann taking the lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa.

The state of the Republican Party should be cause for great alarm, not just among LGBT people, but sensible Americans of all stripes. The Tea Party faction of the GOP is willing to force the United States into default, unleashing untold financial disaster, all in the name of destroying President Obama and reclaiming the White House. The job of president won’t be worth spit if the country defaults on its debts and we’re sent into another Great Depression, something the last Republican president nearly wrought.

Mainstream Republicans, including those at Log Cabin, must denounce Bachmann and the media should continue to hound her at every stop until she directly answers questions about the dangerous practices underway at her family’s counseling center. In addition, if federal money went to support this clinic’s work, the government must investigate and demand a refund.

There is too much momentum in the LGBT movement now to risk a Romney-Bachmann ticket prevailing next year. Obama’s critics are right to demand more, but there comes a time in politics to sober up and deal with the reality of what’s attainable and which battles require more time to win.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

Continue Reading


  1. Steve

    July 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Perfect, Kevin

  2. laurelboy2

    July 21, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Kevin, you wrote”…Maybe it’s because I was in D.C. covering the entire George W. Bush era and remember all too well the dearth of positive gay news during that time…” How convenient of you to forget that W’s PEPFAR program was unquestionably the most progressive and charitable gift this country has ever given to fight AIDS worldwide.

  3. MPetrelis

    July 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    kevin, this is an over all good editorial, one that i hope gets the attention of the clintonistas. it’s pathetic the way richard socarides bashes all that obama has done and is trying to do regarding ending the crappy DOMA and DADT problems created by his old boss. duncan osborne at gay city news wrote about how socarides said and did nothing publicly to oppose those hateful policies, and indeed, created talking points to deflect criticism away from bill clinton. you can read duncan’s findings here:

  4. MPetrelis

    July 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    oops, forgot to include the link to the debate prep points socarides wrote for bill clinton, before a debate, to help him slickly wiggle out of being held to account for signing DOMA:

  5. Yitzchak

    July 23, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Thank you, Kevin. I couldn’t have said it better myself. If we in the gay community have any sense, we’ll be supporting President Obama in droves in 2012. Is he perfect? Nope, but he is, hands down, waaay better than anyone the Republicans are going to run.

    • laurelboy2

      July 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      I can’t imagine being naive enough to support a candidate based on one issue – LGBT matters. It’s the economy, international relations, etc., stupid, and Obama is a dreadful failure.

  6. Bill

    July 24, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Kevin, as always well stated. While many will agree that BO isn’t perfect, he has advanced our rights more than all presidents combined. For me, there are two other major reasons to reelect BO. First is the Supreme Court. With the current 5/4 split, it is imperative that BO select the next justice. Second is the full implementation of healthcare reform (by 2014/15). The GOP isn’t even a consideration in this vital matters.

  7. Aiizaku

    July 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    The “Evolve Already” campaign in no way pushes a anti-Obama campaign, but challenges him to go futher, this is what Obama in the beginning of his presidency stated he would like to see his American’s do, dare to demand more from our leaders and more importantly for the LGBTQ community to stop selling your own freedoms short. Sitting back and giving money to a organization who’s CEO makes a quarter of a million dollars annually isn’t how you do it. It takes getting out there and pushing aggressively. You might snubb your noes at grassroots orgs which you call extremist but in reality hold the biggest direct voice in a social and political influence in our country these people that you say are trying to attack Obama arn’t from the money bags lobbiest groups, these are minories, these are your blue collar, these are your rural families that can’t afford to lose there lives or freedom for our communities apathy.

  8. Aiizaku

    July 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    BTW victimhood would mean we sit on our butts and whine, we don’t we get loud, we get agressive, and were int he streets and we are risking our lives for the freedoms of others. A victim to me is more of a dear staring at headlights…are you going to do something or are you just going to stand there and get hit?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’



National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

Continue Reading


Thanksgiving is a time to share

Take a moment to think about what you can do to help others



This Thanksgiving, many of us will once again celebrate with family and friends around the dinner table. Sadly at too many tables friends and family members will be missing. They will be one of the over 766,000 Americans who lost their lives to coronavirus. May the shared grief over lost loved ones cause us to try to bridge our differences and lift each other. As those of us with plenty sit down for dinner let us not forget the many in the world not so fortunate and think of what we can do to make their lives better.

In the midst of the pandemic we defeated a president who through his words and actions tore our country apart — a president who managed to poison relationships among family and friends. We elected a president who we felt would try to unite the nation. But we know that has yet to happen and the recent reaction to the not-guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial shows us that. The use of race-baiting in the recent Virginia governor’s election shows us that. We still suffer from the implicit permission the former president gave to some Americans to once again give public voice to their sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. That didn’t suddenly end with his loss. While we cannot pretend those feelings weren’t always there it seemed we had reached a point in American society where people understood you couldn’t voice them in public without rebuke. While it will take many years to put that genie back in the bottle we need to try if we are to move forward again. Around our Thanksgiving table is a place to begin. I am an optimist and believe we can do that even while recognizing it won’t be easy.

Thanksgiving should be a time to look within ourselves and determine who we are as individuals and what we can do to make life better for ourselves, our families, and others here in the United States and around the world.

Around our Thanksgiving table we should take a moment to think about what we can do to help feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give equal opportunity to everyone who wants to work hard. Maybe even give some thought as to how we change policies causing institutional racism to ones giving everyone a chance to succeed. It is a moment to think about how we can open up the eyes of the world to understand how racism, homophobia, and sexism hurt everyone, not just those who are discriminated against.

We must renew our efforts to heal the rifts in our own families and make an effort to try to see each other in a more positive light. If we start to do that with those closest to us we might have a fighting chance to do it with others.

I recognize my life is privileged having just returned from a 14-day transatlantic cruise. My Thanksgiving weekend will be spent with friends in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and we will remember our experiences over the past year. For many it also begins the Christmas season and the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend each year Rehoboth Beach lights its community Christmas tree. So surely we will talk about what that season means to each of us.

For me each year it means thinking about which charities I can support as the requests for end-of-year gifts arrive. It is a time to think about volunteering some precious time for a cause you care about.
Wherever you live, there are many chances to volunteer and do your part to make a difference for others. The rewards of doing so will come back to you in abundance. As anyone who has helped someone else will tell you the feeling you get for having done so is wonderful.

So wishing all my friends and those of you who I may be lucky enough to call friends in the future, a very happy Thanksgiving. May this holiday find you happy, healthy and sharing peaceful times with those you love.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Continue Reading


Fighting for equality for decades, trans elders still face endless hardships

Lisa Oakley rejected by 60 long-term care facilities in Colo.



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 20 will mark the 22nd International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international event honoring and commemorating the many transgender people murdered in transphobic hate crimes every year.

Since 2013, at least 200 transgender people have been murdered in the United States alone, 80 percent being Black and Latinx women. This number is undoubtedly an underestimate, as many murders go unreported and trans victims often are misgendered by law enforcement.

These murders are not isolated crime statistics. They grow out of a culture of violence against transgender and non-binary (TGNB) people that encompasses stigma, exclusion, discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to essential resources, including health care, employment and housing. 

These challenges result in early death. In Latin America, for example, it has been reported that the average life expectancy of a transgender person is only 35 years.

This climate of stigma and transphobia is particularly challenging for TGNB older people, who face extraordinary hardships due both to the cumulative impact of lifetimes of discrimination and regular mistreatment in their elder years. Due to isolation from family and greater medical and financial needs, trans older people are more likely to require professionalized elder services and care. 

Unfortunately, these services and the facilities that provide them are often either unavailable to TGNB elders, or hostile to them. A national survey of LGBTQ+ older people by AARP found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed were concerned about how they would be treated in a long-term care setting. This includes the fear of being refused or receiving limited care, in danger of neglect or abuse, facing verbal or physical harassment, or being forced to hide or deny their identity once again. 

This is a sobering reality. In October, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders filed a claim against Sunrise Assisted Living in Maine, which openly denied admission to an older transgender woman because of her gender identity. 

In Colorado, Lisa Oakley was, astonishingly, rejected by 60 long-term care facilities, which her caseworker ascribes to Lisa’s gender identity. One facility that agreed to admit Lisa would only house her with a male roommate. 

After waiting far too long for welcoming care, Lisa eventually got help from SAGE and other community supporters and found a home in Eagle Ridge of Grand Valley. Fortunately, Eagle Ridge has participated in specialized training to be LGBTQ+-welcoming. While Lisa feels welcomed at Eagle Ridge and has made friends, she has been forced to live far from a community she loves. 

These cases in Maine and Colorado are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the discrimination faced by TGNB elders. That’s why it’s so important that Congress pass the Equality Act, which would once and for all prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in key areas like employment, housing, and care and services.

And while legal progress is important, it’s not enough. TGNB elders need more equity in their day to day lives. Older transgender people are more likely to experience financial barriers than non-transgender elders, regardless of age, income and education.

They’re also at a higher risk of disability, general poor mental and physical health, and loneliness, compared to their cisgender counterparts.

These experiences have been part of everyday life for trans elders for far too long. We continue to see them struggle with the long-term effects of transphobia and violence every day. That’s why organizations like SAGE are stepping up our support for TGNB elders by investing $1 million to support TGNB-focused services and advocacy both in New York and nationwide.

And we are continually amazed by the resilience of TGNB elders, creating communities built on their strength and courage. 

Their resilience is nothing new. It dates back generations and was evident during the Stonewall Uprising. Over the years, trans luminaries like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Victoria Cruz—leaders of the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement—and countless others have repeatedly proved that they will not be invisible.  

We see this determination in so many programs and activities led by trans elders at SAGE. 

For example, the TransGenerational Theater Project brings together transgender people of all ages to create theater from their experiences and perspectives. These types of elder-driven programs serve as powerful reminders that transgender older people are leading their lives with resilience, creativity, and perseverance, despite the dangers they face. 

Transgender and non-binary elders have survived and fought for equality for decades. They are brave. They are strong. They are leaders. Here at SAGE, we will continue to walk side-by-side with them as we continue the fight to ensure TGNB elders get the respect, change, and acceptance they deserve.

Michael Adams is the CEO of SAGE, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ elders.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts