March 06, 2010
Posted by: Chris
I launched this blog way back in October 2006, just weeks after leaving the Washington Blade and moving to Brazil, as the Mark Foley scandal was breaking. Having overseen years of coverage about Foley, a longtime GOP closet case, I had too much I wanted to say about the man, the gay staffers who surrounded them, and the scandal more broadly.
More than three years later, I've moved back to D.C., the Blade may soon be reincarnated, and Foley-gate has resurfaced in the form of Eric J.J. Massa, a New York Democrat who will quit his congressional seat on Monday in the midst of sexual harassment accusations by young male staffers.
The similarities with 2006 don't end there. Corruption charges leveled at powerful Charles Rangel finally forced the New York Democrat to step down as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, something he should have done months ago when it became clear he was part of the "swamp" that Nancy Pelosi promised she was going to "drain."
With voter anger at incumbents on the rise, many see the charges against Massa as the Foley-esque straw that may break the camel's back, producing a "throw the bums out" midterm election in November, just like in 2006, when Democrats retook Congress from the GOP.
Not so fast, says John Mercurio of National Journal's Hotline:
The media is cuing up the Massa = Foley meme this p.m. to set the stage for a mantra about how '10 increasingly resembles '06, when House Dems rode a wave of GOP ethics scandals back to power. To be sure, there are similarities between the two campaign cycles. Massa isn't one of them.
Foley was forced to resign in '06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages. Massa's conduct may have been egregious. But there's no evidence so far to suggest the male aide he harrassed was younger than 18. More importantly, the Foley case erupted into a partywide scandal only when it was revealed that House GOP leaders had been aware of his conduct weeks before it was reported, but did little to address it. Nothing so far suggests Pelosi et al responded similarly.
Apparently, his Hotline colleague Reid Wilson didn't get the memo. Under the headline "Shades of '06 for Shell-Shocked Dems," Reid reports:
GOPers knew their efforts to keep control would fail, however, in late Sept. of '06, when Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned amid allegations he had inappropriate contact with House pages. …
[Now,] Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) said he would retire after a single term in office; Capitol Hill buzzed with rumors that the ethics committee is investigating alleged harrassment of a male staffer, though Massa denied those reports and said a recurrence of cancer had forced him to step aside.
Mercurio has it right, in my view, and Rangel was also pressured by fellow Democrats to step down much more quickly than was Tom DeLay (R-Texas), for example, whose GOP colleagues changed the rules to keep him as Minority Leader even after being indicted. DeLay eventually resigned, and the public revulsion over DeLay, Foley and the House Republican leadership combined with rising frustration over Iraq to produce the 2006 midterms.
Things may not go well for Democrats this year, especially if they can't close the deal on health care reform and produce tangible improvement in unemployment numbers, but it's not 2006 all over again.
February 26, 2010
Posted by: Chris
If you're listening to the other side these days, it's amazing what you'll learn. Just in the last day or so, we've learned that...
“Slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African-American lobbies are running Raleigh.” -- North Carolina state Sen. Jim Forrester (R-Gastonia)
"“I am still stunned that he would issue such an amorphous, confusing opinion. It's a bucket of warm spit." -- Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore)
3. From yet another rightwing California beauty queen comes not just opposition to gay marriage but apparent agreement with the Christian extremists in Uganda who believe gays should be executed...
"In Leviticus it says, ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible is pretty black and white. I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life." -- Miss Beverly Hills Lauren Ashley
February 17, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Since moving back to Washington a few weeks back, I've had the pleasure of reconnecting with Phil Attey, a friend I know from his days on the Human Rights Campaign communication staff. (Yes, I have friends at HRC; I even dated an HRC staffer a number of years ago -- is that the equivalent of "having one over for dinner"?).
After leaving HRC in the late '90s, Phil has been at the cutting edge of leveraging the Internet and social networking to bring about change (yes, the kind we can believe in). A lifelong Catholic, Phil will very soon be calling on the lessons learned as an LGBT Netroots pioneer in the launch of a sorely needed effort at answering on their own terms those who misuse religion in politics to deny us civil equality.
Phil and I don't always see eye to eye on tactics, but he's no knee-jerk defender of his former employer and I appreciate the way he challenges those of us throw bombs from our blogs to use our voices in a positive way as well. Along those lines, I'd like to share something he posted on Facebook -- Sarah Palin-style -- in response to the blog swarm targeting HRC that I joined yesterday.
It's worth taking the time to read, and I join him in directing our primary focus where repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and other gay rights progress presently is mired -- in the hallowed halls of Congress.
Yesterday, a group of our most prominent bloggers joined forces to ask their combined audiences to make phone calls on DADT. The idea of this excited me, as along with some great Facebook activists have been advocating for months, a united online call to action to flood Congress with phone calls on the issue.
Sadly, instead of calls to Congress, they were joining forces to shut down the phone lines of our nation's largest pro lgbt equality group. Can you just see Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck salivating?
My intent is not to shame the bloggers or finger point. We don't have the luxury of such time. Reality Check: We only have a few months to ensure the DADT repeal is included in this Spring's Defense Authorization Bill, and we need to focus on real action.
Besides, these bloggers are my friends and heroes ... and valued voices in our movement.
Trying to keep this positive, here are three things they could easily combine their forces to accomplish that would not only help to repeal DADT, but spark a grassroots excitement in the progressive community that after we elected President Obama, we've completely lost on the left:
1. Promote a CALL CONGRESS Day for the next Senate or House Hearing on DADT.
Have a graphic designer create a stylish logo, give it a catchy name, and join forces to create an online echo chamber to bring our entire community on board. Trust me, if you do this, all of us on Facebook will help you pull it off and praise you for it!
2. Call for a National "March Into Washington" Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.
Show the critics of the recent March on Washington that marches actually can be used to move Members of Congress on our issues. No money needed, no lofty speeches, just set a day with enough time in advance for folks to get cheap flights to DC, provide them with talking points on DADT and include a link for them to look up the office numbers for each of their Senators and Representative. 250,000 people walking through the Senate and House buildings and into offices would have an impact the likes of which Washington has never seen.
3. Call of a National Day of Congressional District Action.
Let's take a page from Tea Party. Poke fun at them all you want. Call them Teabaggers, racists, bigots, whatever, but please don't disrespect the reality that they just kicked all our progressive asses when it came to Health Care Reform. Not even my hero Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake was able to counter their grassroots influence on the HCR debate. Call for rallies and Congressional District meetings with every Member of Congress when they'll be back home during their next recess. And if you don't think you can actually organize/inspire our community to do our own rallies, at least learn from the great work ACT UP did with their 1992 "What ABOUT AIDS" signs, and create ones our activists can take to hijack the Tea Party Rallies that will be happening across the country on Tax Day, April 15th. ... DADT WASTES MY TAX DOLLARS ... REPEAL IT NOW!
Is it pollyanna to think this will actually happen? Maybe. But as Willie Wonka said to Veruca Salt, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams"
It's time to make some music. It's time to make some dreams come true.
Yours in the united stand for equality,
February 16, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Apparently I'm not the only one to notice that for an inside-the-Beltway organization, the Human Rights Campaign appears out of the loop when it comes to pushing for repeal this year of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld put together an excellent report that asks whether HRC under Joe Solmonese is producing anything like the results that could be expected for the amount of resources that "the nation's largest gay political group" siphons from our community. And today, a number of gay progressive bloggers have launched a "blog swarm" targeting HRC.
Eleveld's video report -- anchored by Thomas Roberts, formerly of CNN Headline News, who it's great to see here -- offers Solmonese and longtime behind-the-scenes string-puller Hilary Rosen the opportunity to make the case for HRC's effectiveness, and… well… lets just say that hopefully they do a better of job of advocacy for our rights.
"HRC needs to be as strategic as possible, as accountable as possible, to every member of our community to be laser-focused on what I call closing these very important deals." — Joe Solmonese, HRC president
"I think they are focused on their mission, I think they work for LGBT equality, I think they work for the movement and I think they feel that responsibility really strongly. At the same time I don't think it's an indictment that somebody wants to strategize with them behind closed doors. That to me is something we should be a proud of." — Hilary Rosen, lobbyist and former HRC chair
What those substance-free defenses fail to mask is what's obvious to many: The entire premise for HRC, formerly the Human Rights Campaign Fund, is that our movement needed an organization run by insiders who know how to leverage our community's small size into big results, to play the good cop to the street activists' bad cop, to play ball with the politicians, even as the rest of the movement protests outside the ballpark.
What happened is that Hilary Rosen's ex-wife, longtime HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch, grew HRC into the org that ate the movement, and we were left with only a good cop playing ball with the pols, and not particularly effectively at that. Only in the last several years, with the rise of the blogosphere, the net roots and a new generation of activists has the movement revitalized as something more than a black-tie dinner that relied on its checkbook to buy its equality.
Solmonese, who has headed up the organization since 2005, represents the culmination of the HRC model, a designer label lobbyist whose primary qualification for running the gay rights movement was that he sitteth at the right hand of Rosen, Birch and Emily's List founder Ellen Malcolm. Alongside David Smith, who has been running HRC "strategery" since before most bloggers were born, Solmonese and company have sucked millions from the movement and managed to botch the very tasks they were supposedly so suited to handle.
These consummate lobbyists gave us the legislative debacle back in 2008 over including, then not including, then promising to include, then jettisoning, transgender rights in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. They backed the wrong horse -- that other HRC whose husband gave us DADT and DOMA -- in the Democratic primary, and despite the Democrats historic grip on D.C., they have failed to either mobilize the community or leverage their resources on Capital Hill, to get anything more than hate crimes enacted into law.
So yes, the blog swarm makes good sense, though its sponsors make their own strategic miscues. Their aim is for HRC to "publicly demand that President Obama take the lead in getting DADT repealed this year," meaning:
1. That means the president needs to state publicly that he wants Congress to repeal DADT this year; and
2. The president needs to take the lead in working with Congress to make sure the repeal happens.
As goals go, these should induce more head-scratching that game-changing. All this effort to get the leading gay rights to make a public demand that the president say something he already said, complete with timetable, in his very first State of the Union address.
More broadly, it repeats the very mistake HRC has been making since even before Barack Obama's inauguration, focusing attention on the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The president made his public commitment and dispatched his leading Defense Department deputies to make his case to Congress.
Now it's time for the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, which has been demanding our allegiance and our dollars for almost as long as HRC, to get repeal done, making a moratorium and repeal itself a part of the defense budget now working its way through Congress.
I strongly encourage readers of this blog to join in making calls to HRC, but to make a point of focusing their attention on Congress as well as the president, and demanding a DADT moratorium and repeal be included as part of the Defense Department budgetary legislation.
But even as we make these calls or send these emails, let's remember that we cannot simply sit back and expect HRC to do all the heavy lifting for us. That's why John Aravosis over at AmericaBlog claims, "You've done your job. Now it's time for the President, Congress and HRC to do theirs," even as he's telling his readers it's their job to call HRC. Our work -- all of our work -- remains unfinished.
Ultimately, our equality is all our responsibility, and it's up to each and every one of us to keep the pressure on all the key players -- within our movement and our government -- to dispense with business as usual in Washington and end the gross injustice done to gay men and lesbians putting their lives on the line for our freedom.
December 21, 2009
Posted by: Chris
And so it seems like since the holidays last year that I posted here, and I'll say more in upcoming days and weeks about the twists and turns I've taken since my summer break from blogging. The good news (at least I hope you'll see it that way) is that I'm back, and I plan on posting on a much more regular basis -- if not the 5-7 posts a day I was averaging during my Brazilian period.
Christmas 2009 finds me back in Memphis, my hometown, where I spent the Yule season last year as well. Visa restrictions and an empty wallet forced me to leave behind my partner and all my friends in Rio De Janeiro and São Paulo this summer, and after a few months in Atlanta, I'm back home visiting family before I make the long drive back to Washington, where I plan to settle down for at least the immediate future -- unless the booming (by comparison) Brazilian economy coughs up a job offer first.
The six months my boyfriend and I have spent apart are by far -- almost double -- the longest physical separation in our relationship since we met in February 2005. My heart is filled with saudades, a Portuguese word without literal translation, although longing and missing someone or some place or thing come pretty close. The emotional toll, and the stress of not knowing when or how we will see each other again, much less live together again, has been almost debilitating at time. Of course, those feeling are only amplified by the arrival of this time of year.
Still, love conquers all, or so they say, especially with an assist from techological marvels -- finally I own an iPhone! So in the spirit of the season, and to wish you and those you love a very merry Christmas, here's a special gift: rare 13-year-old video footage of Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn in one of their final performances as the Sweeney Sisters on Saturday Night Live. It somehow got skipped in this year's SNL Christmas Special, and you won't find it anywhere else on the Net, or at least I couldn't.
Without further ado… here come the bells, there go the bells, so many bells!
You can also view it using QuickTime after the jump...
June 08, 2009
Posted by: Chris
I had to smile when I read a post welcoming me back to blogging from a somewhat unlikely source: Michael Petrelis. It was something of an understatement for Michael, a longtime gay, AIDS and human rights activist, to write that we have had "a sometimes adversarial acquaintance over the years."
During my tenure editing Southern Voice in Atlanta, the Washington Blade and the other publications in the Window Media family, Petrelis left me his share of screaming voice mails. He was usually complaining about our decision not to give what he considered adequate coverage to a story or, more frequently, to source stories from outside the usual Beltway suspects.
He was a pain in the ass, frankly, to me and my reporters, but then again, that's what the long lost art of activism is all about. I still differ with him on his methods at times, as well as on substance occasionally, but then and now Michael was at times spot-on in his criticism. I particularly took to heart his complaint that we should never do a story about HIV/AIDS without at least one quote from someone living with the disease, and I worked with the reporters to make it something of a rule for our coverage.
Anyway, Michael has long been an ally -- along with Andrew Sullivan, the Gay Patriot folks and my co-blogger Kevin -- about the massive waste of potential and resources that is the Human Rights Campaign. It was on this point that Michael welcomed me back to blogging. And I have to say, thanks Micchael, it's good to be back.
(Photo of Michael Petrelis protesting U.N. secretary general via Clinton Fein)
May 26, 2009
Posted by: Chris
It's been about 100 days since the last time I put fingers to keyboard here on the blog, an absence much longer than I ever anticipated. In fact, back in February when I wrote that last past, I had absolutely no plan to take a break of one day or one week, much less three months. That long break came more organically, I would say, though that makes it sound more healthy than it deserves.
I may write more about the why's for my break at some later date, but the short version is that my partner and I suffered a setback in our hope to bring him to the U.S., and for some time I simply withdrew -- in disgust, in exhaustion and in impatience -- from the politics and law of my home country.
For the last few weeks, I've begun re-engaging and now I feel ready to begin re-blogging. And what better day to begin than the day when President Obama names his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the day that the California Supreme Court announces its decision on the constitutionality of Prop 8.
More on those topic later today, but for now -- let me just say a very special thank you to Andoni for filling in the gaps when he was able, and to all of you who continued to read and who offered encouragement to me, as well.
Now… back to blogging!
January 15, 2009
Posted by: Chris
His voice will be missed in the gay blogosphere because he managed to stay true to his Republican loyalties while at the same time strongly advocating equal rights for gays. It's not an easy task; just ask my co-blogger Kevin.
Scott made the decision to stop blogging while working on the Republicans Against Prop 8 effort, and he made clear in a farewell interview with the Advocate that he's not walking away from politics or the Net, just his Boi From Troy persona:
One thing I have learned while blogging is that none of us fit nicely into compartmentalized boxes -- even into those boxes we define ourselves with. As a gay, Republican USC football fan, my readers would get crazy when I talked about other passions I had, like Georgetown basketball, some boy, or obsessively racking up frequent flier miles. We are all individuals, and we should not hold it against folks who don't fit the predefined community molds.
Million dollar question -- what comes next?
Freedom! Although I hadn't been blogging as regularly lately, once I declared that I was no longer "Boi From Troy" it was very liberating. This doesn't mean I will give up writing, and I won't be leaving the Internet. I still have my column at Spot-on.com and still consider myself as a blogger -- I just won't be Boi From Troy.
I look forward to hearing from Scott in whatever form his voice will take in the future.
(Photo of Scott Schmidt with Maria Shriver via BoiFromTroy.com)
December 20, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Readers: For some reason, Typepad is not posting all the comments to all the recent posts, especially where the number of comments exceeds 30 on a particular. I am still seeing your unpublished comments on the back-end, and I can assure there is no conspiracy or censorship at work (geez!). It's just a Typepad hiccup of some sort.
I promise I am looking into it. In the meantime, I would encourage you to comment on posts with fewer than 30 comments.
P.S. Just came across this old photo at my parent's home and couldn't resist sharing it. Stylin' and profilin' since circa 1976-77, when I am guestimating this photo was taken. And if you look over my shoulder, you get a hint of my brother, two years older than me, wearing matching duds.
December 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
A quick heads up that I'm wrapping up an e-mail debate with Leah McElrath Renna, author of the Huffington Post piece slamming Barack Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation -- a piece that I then slammed in my first post on the subject. It's been a fun and interesting exchange, and I'll post a link to it when it goes live on Newsweek.com.
I'll also repeat here what I've said to Leah privately by email: I cringed a bit yesterday when I read that first post. Ahh, the joys and perils of late-night blogging. I'm especially red-faced that I actually called her "honey." I was intending the tone of voice we gay guys regularly use toward one another. But the reader can't know that, and the word obviously has a sexist history in male-female discourse, which is why I regret using it.
December 07, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
(And it isn't just because I saw "Milk.")
I'm repenting from flouncing off this blog on the day after the 2008 elections, and repenting from walking out on the gay movement. I was angry as hell, probably more angry and anguished and frustrated than I've ever been since I first took up gay activism at age 18 as a member of the American University's Human Diversity League (aka the gay student union on campus as it so maddeningly called itself at the time). Yes, more angry and frustrated than when I was burying gay friends on a monthly basis in the early 1990s. More anguished than when I stood on the floor of the 1992 Republican National Convention and breathed the full brimstone of Pat Buchanan's infamous hate speech in the Houston Astrodome. And more frustrated than when Bill Clinton fucked us over from start to finish in 1993 on gays in the military.
How, you may ask, could I possibly be more angry, anguished and frustrated on that November morning of 2008 than in all those dark moments of our collective past?
Because when AIDS was consuming the gay community in Washington, D.C., I had brothers and sisters to turn to who didn't need it explained to them. We shouldered it together, and we were united without having to explain anything to each other.
Because in 1992, I was at the Astrodome with a group of people who would be galvanized in one evening to launch the gay Republican movement into a national political force, and would put their names, their money and their reputations on the line to fight everything Pat Buchanan stood for. And I knew a number of gay activists on the left would cheer us. (And they did, and not just because we would help defeat President Bush that year.)
Because in 1993, as Clinton mangled and butchered our hopes in him, and eventually threw us under the proverbial bus, there were still brave people like David Mixner who had the balls to throw their access and their insider cache away and get arrested protesting on the sidewalk in front of the White House against their friends Bill and Hillary to register the horror and rage we all shared. Because there were at least some people left at the head of the this movement with hearts and brains.
And on Election Night 2008, thousands of gays danced in the streets as Proposition 8 -- which held all the political currency of everything we've gained in the last two decades -- went down the toilet in California.
That's why I was furious beyond belief. And that's why I couldn't pretend I was okay with any of this crap anymore. So I just let it rip - the brutal and naked anger after years of watching this movement be slowboiled like meat in an open pot until it became devoid of all its substance. After watching the Human Rights Campaign turn from a real potential power in the 1990s into a monstrously empty, amoral, celebrity-dazzled temple of irrelevance, and how it sought to zombify our collective identity for the sake of ongoing revenues much like how corporations sell laundry detergent and toilet tissue. And consistently crush and squash any other group that could threaten its money, its image or its overwhelming predominance.
And, to be a bit selfish, after I'd given ten years of my life to gay activism to help create some sort of political leverage over the Democratic Party in this country -- something the main gay organizations adamantly refused or simply have failed to ever do -- I felt like it was all wiped away in the dual reality of an Obama triumph and a Prop 8 collapse in California, the one state we could ever claim as our greatest field of strength. And people were celebrating!
And yeah, I know you all didn't know about California as you danced in the streets that night. I get it, okay? But what you don't understand is that, to me, the fact that Obama was the main event for you and California was a footnote is precisely why I was so furious. You were all the very borgified zombies I'd feared a Hillary juggernaut would turn you into. The Democratic Party's success had become all encompassing to the extent that the main event for gays -- unlike one since Colorado Amendment 2 -- wasn't on your emotional menu on Election Night at all. I was so angry, and my brain was so full of poison, that I honestly felt I had better walk out the door rather than let any of it come out for real.
But alas. Had how many hundreds of gay men in the 1980s felt the way I did on November 5th, we'd have no gay movement at all today. We'd have no gay marriage in California to take away. We'd have no failed promises from a White House to protest. We'd have more graves to visit, that's for sure. And we'd have little to be proud of ourselves over.
So I repent. I was wrong. I mean it. I ended up just walking around the block and catching my breath. I need not comment on how much of what I warned about is coming true with incredible speed. I'm not interested in being right, or being heard. I'm only interested in being effective now.
I don't repent my anger one bit. I'm back, friends. And I'm still very, very pissed. The rage is as white hot as it was that morning. I'm going to do something productive with this anger, and I hope you'll join me.
Indeed - and I say this with a hat-tip to heaven - I'm here to recruit you.
November 06, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I was disheartened, as I'm sure many of you were, to read my co-blogger Kevin's bitter post, "We now interrupt this fairy tale for a bit of reality." We are all passionate about our politics and our movement for civil rights, and I can imagine how Kevin felt when he saw the election of a candidate he does not support coincide with the passage of anti-gay ballot measures in four states. I was frustrated enough by the latter, even though I was euphoric about the former.
There is much in Kevin's post to be commended. I have written for years about the ideological intolerance of many gay liberals, as well as the need to be realistic about what the Democratic congressional leadership will deliver on gay civil rights. But I am far more hopeful, to use an overused word, that the size of the Democrats' majority come January, along with the expected long honeymoon for the Obama administration, might bring about far more concrete progress than Kevin expects.
I do believe that 2009 will bring passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- with or without transgender protections -- and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act -- with gender identity included. The question is whether the passage of those two long-standing, popular measures will be viewed as enough to satisfy the gay donors and supporters who are at the core of the Democratic Party. I would certainly hope not, since both bills have been achingly close to passage for more than a decade, and require the expenditure of absolutely no political capital by anyone.
Leftist gay groups may well decide to expend what little political capital we have with the new Congress and administration by pushing for trans-inclusion in ENDA. Certainly, trans workers deserve the protection, but it remains unclear whether the votes are there, and the number of Americans benefitted would be miniscule by comparison to other pending items on "the gay agenda."
All that said, I would hope that my good friend Kevin remembers that the success of our political process and our civil rights movement depend very much on the engagement of people like him -- who would hold our organizations and the new D.C. powerbrokers to task to live up to their campaign promises.
Now is not the time, as we stand ever so closer to achieving tangible progress at the federal level, to cede the field to the loud-mouthed, close-minded minority on the left who care more about venting their sense of political righteousness on their fellow gays as they do fighting against our real enemies, and changing hearts and minds among the "mushy middle" that we still can reach.
For more than a decade, I have dismissed the rantings of these bitterniks on the left -- "sticks and stones" and all of that -- because their ideological intolerance says far more about them than their silly, predictable attacks would ever say about Kevin or Andoni or me -- and everyone else who puts themselves out there.
I hope you will join me in encouraging Kevin not to give up -- on this blog, on the movement, or on the process -- because, to borrow a Clintonism -- we don't have a person to waste. When that voice is as clear, as intelligent, as independent and as provocative as Kevin's, then the loss is all the more unfortunate.
November 05, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
I want to congratulate Barack Obama and add that he will indeed be my President, too. It's not just a slogan, but it's real and from the heart. I hope God will bless and protect him, and help guide him in facing the many challenges awaiting him in the coming years. I share Chris' pride in the historic aspect of Obama's decisive election as the first African American U.S. President - something that I always wondered whether I'd see in my lifetime. That it has happened, and that American women also advanced so decisively in this political season, are truly wonderful symbols of where America stands in the long march of political and cultural evolution.
But why gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend. The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays. And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.
Our defeat on Proposition 8 in California is the biggest, most glaring wound on the landscape, and will be infamous for decades to come. This is the greatest loss of gay civil rights since the Bowers v. Hardwick decision of 1986. Latino voters came out in huge numbers for Obama, and also voted for Proposition 8. Worse yet, African Americans clogged California's polling places to vote for Obama with a fervent zeal, and with equal fervency voted overwhelmingly against us (currently as much as 70% voting yes on 8). Obama won the state by about 2.5 million votes, and Yes appears to be winning by about a half-million votes. A similarly glaring defeat came in Florida, another state that Obama carried, where a gay marriage ban passed by about 2 million votes. Nationally, the anti-gay wave just about ran the table in all the states where gay issues were on the ballot. Only in tiny Connecticut did voters reject the opening of a constitutional convention to throw out that state's court decision legalizing gay marriage earlier this year.
I understand the emotion around Obama's message of "hope." Who wouldn't want to be hopeful with all their heart and soul at these moments of great fear and uncertainty about the global economy, two wars overseas and the ever-present threats to us at home? But exactly why should gays be so bathed in political hope at this moment? I'd like to see a convincing case made by the Democratic leadership coming into nearly unchecked power in Washington in January. But I'm afraid the reality will be something else entirely.
The experience we are very likely to share as a community over the next two years might be exactly what we need in order to shake this moribund, brain dead movement of ours back to life and make it relevant, saavy and effective once and for all. That's about all I can be hopeful about now.
I've said it endlessly before, and I'll say it again: the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations. The cold reality of that is evident in their total lack of deeds on the national level. That we hang breathlessly waiting to merely be mentioned in a presidential candidate's speech is a pathetic but true reflection of our situation, and sadly it has been all we've gotten in return for our slavish loyalty to one party. Now that this party will have unprecedented power for the next two years, all we have is hope that they will live up to their flowery words.
But here is the cold reality: despite the likelihood that the next two years will be a peak in Democratic political power in Washington, the Defense of Marriage Act will not be repealed (in full or in part) by 2010, or even during the Obama presidency, no matter how long it lasts. It won't even come to a vote in the next Congress, and President Obama will not make any effort to promote such a vote in the next Congress. The current ban on gays in the military will not be overturned by 2010, nor probably by 2012. Federal recognition of gay marriages and civil unions by Congress, either for immigration purposes or tax benefits, will not happen in the next four years. And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act might -- might -- see the light of day before 2010 and will have the votes it needs to become law, it will undoubtedly draw an even more fervent, punishing, self-defeating challenge on the issue of transgender rights from the left.
When I learned on Facebook this morning that dear gay friends of mine in New York were dancing in Times Square, and other friends in Washington were celebrating in front of the White House and actually comparing the experience to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- while gay marriage was going down the toilet in California -- it was astounding to me. And deeply saddening and alienating. The level of unreality that seems to be intensifying in the gay urban ghettos back home is just amazing to me; I probably was just as guilty of it before I was able to move away and get some more perspective. Who knows.
I will probably get nothing but angry comments for this post, but frankly, I don't care. To be honest, I don't really know what good it is for anyone who dissents on the prevailing gay political dogma to blog much anymore. Despite the fact that 27% of gay Americans dissented yesterday in the voting booth, they are demonized by their fellow gays with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism. When you dissent on a gay blog and take a more conservative or opposing view, the folks who agree with you send private emails but don't participate, and there is an army of conformist, venomous partisans ready to use every kind of personal attack to try to silence you. It becomes an exercise in punishment rather than participation. Dale Carpenter said it best, and the kind of personal destruction practiced by gays on other gays in the political sphere today is only matched by the anti-gay movement itself in victory after victory at the polls against us. I see no bright, shining lights of hope in any of this. I am, in fact, ashamed.
The last thing I ever wanted was to write something like this post - and as it comes true over the next two years, the idea of gloating over it is beyond unseemly. I hate the way things are. I don't want them to get worse. I would much prefer to be happy about yesterday's results and the trajectory of gay rights in America. But the reality that I see that is informed by history, by experience, and by the cold, hard numbers of this election, and it couldn't be shaken off no matter how much I might want to delude myself, and that's why I'm writing this. And it's also why I am saying goodbye to Citizen Crain.
Movement politics used to be about strategic thinking, and about making a clear, undaunted moral case for your cause. It used to be about raising the level of intelligence, grace and tenacity of an aggrieved community and really struggling every day to unite them, body and soul, behind an effort whose might would be its righteousness. The gay movement used to be about thinking outside the box, including the one we ourselves might be in, and taking nothing for granted. But something happened over the last several years that changed all that. Now it's just a huge pathetic joke, a gigantic string of twitters, "status" one-liners, bitchy snits, gossip, celebrity worship and empty groupthink. A gigantic co-opting of our energies by a political party that does nothing in return. Besides a whole lot of fundraising. Where some of its veterans, like Kate Kendall in California, have managed to not just "know hope" but actually make real strides, the wide swath of gay leaders in power right now have done nothing but fail miserably time and time and time and time again in recent years despite having political winds at their backs, and if they don't make a gigantic strategic shift immediately, the next two years will be their Waterloo.
I'm so dispirited and, frankly, fed up, that I doubt I'll be blogging on this site after today. I know I won't be missed, and I certainly won't miss the drudgery of the personal attacks. I've just grown tired of fighting, and I'm far too involved in my new life in Brazil to be of any use to this site anymore. As much as I love and support my friend Chris in his endeavors, including this site, I find the idea of going my own way, and going back to just my own little blog and my own personal contributions to changing my little corner of the world, very liberating. I'll be far more useful.
But if this is where I part company with you, I'll do it with this last thought: I beg all of you with any energy left in you to wake up. I beg you to stop deluding yourselves about what it's going to take to really change our situation in the United States. Stop believing promises and start demanding action. Stop scapegoating, and blaming 'enemies' and shifting responsibility for all our failures onto others, and take responsibility for everything we face. Stop living the reality show and start living in reality. And if you were active in this election cycle, don't delude yourself into thinking that the fight is "won." It is, in fact, almost completely lost as of this moment if you stand down now. Do more than just "know hope" -- think different. Wake the fuck up and see reality, and demand results -- from our gay leaders, from our Congress, and from our new President.
That's all I've ever tried to encourage here, and it's about all I have left to say here.
November 02, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Hello there, dear blog readers. I know it has been a good long time since I was keeping up with regular blogging duties, and a number of you have even expressed concern about how I'm doing. Well, the honest answer is that I've been better. Regular readers know that the year 2008 has been a very difficult year for me personally, and the last couple of weeks have unfortunately brought a new challenge.
You may remember that around this time last year, my partner and I moved to Buenos Aires for three months because I had used up the 180 days I am allowed to be in Brazil each year under my tourist visa. This time around, after a lot of thinking and discussing and soul-searching, we've decided we are going to have to be separated for the last two months of the calendar.
So this week I'll be headed back to the U.S., and meu bebezinho will be headed back to his hometown to be with his familiy. After almost four years together and more than two years of living in limbo down here, the prospect of being separated for two long months has been particularly discouraging, even disheartening, for us.
But endure it we must, and after a whirlwind week or so of winding up our apartment rental and moving things into storage, it's time once again for us to say "goodbye" -- if only temporarily.
I will arrive back home just in time to cast my vote in the presidential election, something I hope each and every one of you will be doing as well, if you haven't already.
September 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I mentioned in a post a few months ago that I am doing some guest appearances on a gay-oriented radio show out of San Francisco called Radio Out Loud. (For those of you on MySpace, the program has a profile here. And don't forget to add me, too.)
Apparently the nice folks there have enjoyed our political chats as much as I have -- they've invited me to be a regular guest on the weekly show.
This week I yammer on about the presidential race, comparing the major party candidates and adding some about the third-party contenders, especially Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party nominee.
Check it out on Sunday and help count how many times I say "umm"! I think I'm actually getting a lot better at that. ;)
August 08, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It has seemed like a lifetime that I've been on the road, living out of a suitcase and relying on the kindness of friends in Memphis, Atlanta, São Paulo and Washington, D.C. Finally yesterday I arrived back in Rio De Janeiro -- reunited with my other half and ready to resume my regular blogging schedule.
My two months back in the States were almost double the longest length of time I've had apart from my partner since we met almost four years ago. The distance seemed multiplied by illness and death in both our families during this same period and at times it felt like we would never be together again.
But here we are, back in Rio, and now life may resume what has passed for normal for us for two years now. I want to thank many friends for their support, with special appreciation for William, Cynthia, Steve, Jeff, Chris and Robert, as well as to my parents, for going above and beyond each in their own way. Last but not least, thanks so much to all of you who have taken the time to post comments or send me notes expressing your support and sympathy. It's meant the world to me!
Now back to the business of blogging, and thanks again to Andoni for doing such a wonderful job holding down the fort in my absence.
July 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
A difficult journey of more than three years ended this week, as my sister passed away after a long period of incapacitation. Services were yesterday. As much as I would like to write about these many months and the impact they have had on me and my family, I also want to respect my sister's wish that our family life remain private and out of bounds for what it is that I do.
So instead I'll just say a very sincere thank you to the many friends who have been so wonderfully supportive during this time. It is a great relief to all of us to know that she is no longer suffering.
Now, after a long absence, back to blogging…
July 04, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's been a quiet week of blogging for me, and I want to thank Andoni and Kevin for doing such a great job holding down the fort. I've alluded before about having returned early for this trip to the U.S. because of a difficult time for my family. Some of you already know that my sister is very near death after a prolonged period of incapacitation, and these final weeks have been wrenching for all of us.
This past week, I have taken a detour from my family time in Memphis to come to Atlanta, which was my home for most of the 1990s. Unfortunately, grim news followed me. My time here happened to coincide with a visit by the very kind family who took in my beagles, Cliff and Norm, when I moved to Brazil in 2006. They shared the very sad news that Norman had passed away some six months ago, and Clifford had run off two or three months before that.
The news came as a complete shock, somewhat compounded by my not knowing for so long it had happened. (Long story there.) I remain grateful to them for providing a home to my dogs for their final years, and they did their best to reassure me their neighborhood is densely populated and chances are good that Cliff was simply taken in by another family.
That isn't hard to believe, actually. Everyone loved Cliff and Norm. In the 15 years these lifelong littermates were my nearly constant companions at home and at the office, friends and coworkers would come by as much to hang out with "the boys" as to see me. When I began the heavy travel schedule to Holland and then Brazil, there was never a shortage of friends more than happy to adopt them for a long-weekend or even a couple of weeks.
I was a bit of a mess when I said my goodbyes to Cliff and Norm back in October 2006, because I knew I might not see them again. They were far too old to endure the travel to Brazil, and I had no good way of caring for them properly down there. I do know that their final year or so was happy, because the friend's family who took them in loves dogs and has a big backyard with lots of room for exploring.
Still, I feel some guilt about how the boys were impacted by my life decisions, dating back to 2005 when I moved for the first time into a condo setting. Beagles need space because their noses are always compelling them to explore. Our short walks to the park in Colombia Heights couldn't compare to time spent sniffing the winds and rummaging around the backyard.
Of course I hope that Cliff remains alive and thriving, but I will let go of my own relationship to him, and say thanks to them both for so many years of unconditional love and faithful companionship.
June 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
As I begin my second week visiting Memphis during a difficult time for me and my family, I stole some time away to make a few long-needed tweaks to the blog. (Thanks very much to all of you who have posted supportive comments and messages here or on Facebook.)
As for those tweaks, for those paying attention to such things, they include:
- Filling in the Blogroll and Sources links at the upper right of the blog banner. Check out the Sources link if you're curious my take on the best gay political blogs, gay general blogs and news sources, and the best political blogs and news sources in general.
- For the link called Columns that's intended to include my weekly syndicated gay press columns, I'm directing folks to the San Francisco Bay Times, which has published each and every column since I started in November 2006 after leaving the Washington Blade. There's also a link there to almost 100 of the editorials I wrote over a number of years at the Blade. (There are another 50 or so Blade editorials that pre-date the linked compilation, as well as -- gulp -- some 200 editorials I wrote during my years editing Southern Voice newpaper in Atlanta.)
- I reformatted my own "About" page to fit the "new" blog format, and updated the text a bit from when I wrote it almost three years ago. I also went a bit hog wild with "citizen" quotes; not sure they will stand the test of time.
- Adding links in the "About" section on the righthand column that includes background links on my co-bloggers Kevin and Don George.
- In addition to my own Facebook profile, I've added one for the blog itself. If you're on Facebook, I'd love to have you as a friend and to include you on the profile for Citizen Crain as well.
- I've increased the size of the author IDs that appear before the headlines to each blog post. While I can revel with the best of them in the praise I get for blog posts written by Kevin and Andoni, I had to draw the line when a friend told me my "beautifully written" post about Ted Kennedy was my best ever -- except Kevin wrote it.
That last change didn't come soon enough to prevent my getting credit on Andrew Sullivan's blog for Andoni's post on HRC's misplaced priorities. Special thanks to Patrick, Andrew's assistant, for correcting that one.
I'm still working on other changes, including the return of the photo albums that disappeared after the blog's makeover in January. If you have any other suggestions, please do let me know.
June 06, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This is just to let you know that the reason for the quiet blog this week has been the result of a difficult time for my family. I am flying back to the U.S. on Monday, and will try to do some posts between now and then and, of course, once I'm back in the States.
Thanks to all for your patience.
March 11, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Top 13? Well yeah that's the way it worked out in an article in Edge San Francisco, one of the chain of LGBT news sites across the U.S. The article took a look at the range of gay blogs out there with this lil' tease:
For the recent law school graduate concerned with the social advancement of queers everywhere there’s "Citizen Crain" or for those who consider Perez Hilton a role model, there’s Trent’s "Pink" blog. Whatever it is you may be searching for, these 10 blogs are likely to have it!
Yes it says 10 blogs, but I counted 13. Regardless, here's the blurb about this here blog:
Started by a former Harvard-educated lawyer, who takes on politics and government, this guy does not write much in the way of pop culture and currently has a heavy focus on what makes the current presidential candidates viable options - or not - for LGBTQ causes. With a bit of spin in his blogging, backed by a journalistic feel and quotes to boot, the blog can feel a bit heavy. In the end, spin or not, this Southern, Christian, right-wing boy-turned-gay journalist/lawyer makes you think, which is always good.
A bit heavy but makes you think. Fair enough. Those who know me know the (much) lighter side; I've just always had a bit of a struggle finding my "lighter" voice on here. Any suggestions? Is it a good idea to even try?
I cringed a bit at the header that calls the blog "Citizen Chris." In case you've ever wondered, the Citizen Chris - Citizen Crain misfit is the fault of no one but good ole Citizen Me.
When I launched "Citizen Crain" in a big hurry during the Mark Foley scandal in October 2006 as a Yahoo-based blog, I was overconfident about my ability to master SixApart's Movable Type software. A few weeks later, with an ugly blog and a lot of frustrating late night design attempts, I ditched in favor of SixApart's much much (much much) easier TypePad.
But Yahoo was stingy about giving up CitizenCrain.com, so I went with an alternative URL using CitizenChris. Eventually I wrangled CitizenCrain.com away from Yahoo and pointed it at the CitizenChris TypePad URL, but the latter has been out there so long that I'm pretty much stuck with this lasting badge of early blogging shame.
And that, I'm sure, is more than you ever wanted to know about that. Be sure to check out Michael Wood's blog reviews in Edge. I was also pleased to see the fine gents at Malcontent were included, along with obvious entries like Queerty and Andy's irrepressible Towleroad.
January 29, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I'm happy to announce that another regular reader of The Citizen and a longtime friend and associate of mine will also be doing some guest blogging. Don George is always in the middle of things in Atlanta's gay and lesbian community and in a wide variety of causes has always put his money where his mouth is.
Don is a retired physician who practiced for years in Massachusetts before coming down to Atlanta, where he lives now with his partner. In addition to medicine, Don has worked as an engineer, inventor, teacher and in real estate as well. A lot of the work he does now is in philanthropy, much of it through his own Andonios Foundation.
Way back in 1996, when William Waybourn and I proposed creating Window Media, a group of gay and lesbian publications, Don was the very first person to get out his checkbook, and it's by no means the only gay business he helped launch.
In contrast to Kevin, our other guest blogger, Don is a lifelong Democrat, something he attributes to growing up in the inner city in a lower middle class household. He sits on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union and regularly contributes to a wide range of political candidates, including so far in the Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Barack Obama -- with Obama receiving more than the others to date.
I have long appreciated Don't outside-the-box thinking, even if we don't always agree, and his articulate writing style has put him on the New York Times op-ed pages -- albeit in letters -- more times than I can remember. I know that we'll all enjoy his contributions here; look for them under his blogger nickname, "Andoni."
January 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Ever since I launched Citizen Crain in October 2006, it's been all me, all the time, posting on a variety of (usually) gay-related politics and news subjects. As a result, the really dynamic debate often happens in the comments section, where readers weigh in and debate me and each other. I'm especially proud of the comments on this blog because they are generally substantive and thoughtful in ways I find in very short supply elsewhere -- especially the "amen chorus" blogs that try my attention span.
So I thought I would try an experiment here at the Citizen that I've seen tried successfully on a number of other blogs. I'm inviting several friends who I think will add provocative, thoughtful commentary to submit guest posts here -- not to be an "amen chorus" so much as a "hey but what about this chorus" instead.
There will be some views from my right and others from my left, but each one of us will share a commitment to an open and respectful debate and cutting through the spin and bunk that obscures the real issues at the stake in the gay rights movement and politics generally.
First up, from a bit to my right, will be Kevin, a fellow U.S. "love exile" here in Brazil, where his public affairs consulting firm advises international corporate and non-profit clients in the U.S. and elsewhere on policy and trade strategies.
Before moving down to São Paulo -- where luck would have it we both are today -- Kevin was a 20-year veteran of the Washington political scene. We first met around 2000, through his role as Director of Public Affairs for the Log Cabin Republicans, whose national office he co-founded in 1993.
Kevin was a journalist's dream, always ready with a provocative quote and never shying away from a challenge or a battle, whether with gay Democrats and the Human Rights Campaign (one and the same?) as well as the forces of intolerance within the Republican Party.
Unlike me, Kevin remains a registered Republican although his voting trends independent. If you've visited Club Whirled, his hilarious, eloquent, touching and often personal blog, then you already know that he thinks in an independent way as well.
Please join me in welcoming Kevin, and if you would like to suggest other guest bloggers, or you're interested yourself, please don't hesitate to let me know.
January 08, 2008
Posted by: Chris
CLICK ICON BELOW TO
LISTEN TO THE LIVE BROADCAST
CALL-IN NUMBER: (646) 716-8574
Join us for live New Hampshire coverage….and be part of the conversation!
January 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
After 15 months on the blogosphere as Citizen Crain, I thought it was long past time for a makeover. The old design was adequate, borrowing some patriotic-ish colors from the TypePad template. But the new one puts my own "stamp" on the blog.
This new design actually pre-dates the old TypePad design. When I first prepared to launch the blog in October '06, I used Apple's iWeb software to create a design that played off of the newspaper "Citizen Kane" idea as well as a spy theme, since the blog name also brings that to mind.
After hours playing with the design and preparing to launch, I discovered that as good as iWeb was for design, it pretty much sucked as blog management software: no comments (!) or many of the other basic blog elements that we've all come to know and love. Apple may have improved iWeb since, but I ditched it off the bat and headed to TypePad.
When I thought about a redesign, I looked around at the blogs I thought had the coolest look, among them the gay blog Scott-o-rama. (He has since done another redesign that I'm less crazy about.) I checked out the designer responsible, Lisa Sabin-Wilson from E Webscapes Design, and was very impressed with the other blog designs she had done.
So I signed up with Lisa, and showed her my old iWeb design template. She souped it up and improved it considerably and now you see the results. My thanks to Lisa for all her hard work and patience with me. We still have some tweaks in the works, so feel free to offer up your suggestions -- as some of you have already done in response to the last post I had up under the old design.
There will be some adjustment, of course. I still remember when we launched the redesign of the Washington Blade in early 2002, the paper's first new look in more than a decade. You would have thought we went ex-gay. But within weeks, readers adjusted and the response we got was overwhelmingly positive (and it's still in use today).
As for the blog redesign, I don't expect to please all of the people even some of the time, but I'm excited to take the new look public. And stay tuned -- there are more changes at the blog still to come!
December 19, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The end of the year will bring some exciting changes to "Citizen Crain" that I hope will make it more interesting and relevant to those interested in gay politics, news, culture and more. Some of the changes will be cosmetic -- ye olde Typepad template is finally gonna get souped up into something more customized -- and some will be more substantive.
The changes could begin as early as this week, with more on the way soon thereafter.
In the meantime, several of you have had trouble posting comments on the blog, apparently getting an error that says the comment has been trapped by a spam filter. I can assure that I have not tagged any words as automatically spam-worthy and have only banned two commenters in the history of this blog.
The problem stems from Typepad's addition of a spam filter to all of its blogs. I'm not sure why they did it, since spam has never been a big problem for me, but I can't opt out. Your comment isn't "lost," however. It goes into a spam folder, and I can publish it from there. Feel free to give me a heads up (click "Email Me" below my photo on the right) if your comment is trapped. Typepad promises that the filter "learns" after I publish a trapped comment, so hopefully the glitch is temporary.
And as always, thanks for reading and feel free to pass on your suggestions for how to improve the blog.
December 05, 2007
Posted by: Chris
An interesting debate is shaping up over how or whether gay media and bloggers will cover the arrest of gay Senate aide Mike McHaney (pictured here from his Friendster profile) for allegedly showing up for a three-way involving a 13-year-old male. I have argued that sex scandals like McHaney's illustrate the illogic and, at least, the over-emphasis on "hypocrisy" as the only factor in whether a sex scandal is newsworthy or blogworthy.
There can be little doubt that if McHaney were an aide to, say, Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott or some other anti-gay Republican, the blogosphere would be having a field day with the arrest. But as it turns out, McHaney works for gay-friendly Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat.
The logic here is what fascinates me. It would be hypocritical for the aide to an anti-gay Republican to be busted as a sexual predator, but it's not hypocritical for the aide of a pro-gay Democrat. What does that say about pro-gay Democrats exactly? That we expect this sort of behavior from them and their staff? Or is that so long as you don't legislate morality, your own immorality and that of your staff doesn't "stick" on you?
Matt over at The Malcontent points out the one-sidedness:
Say what you want about Larry Craig, but no one is calling him a pederast.
And herein lies one of the chief problems with the leftists who decide whom they choose to out based on their political party: While they busy themselves with Republican closet cases and politicians who aren’t in favor with HRC, they tend to lose sight of equally bad or worse behavior in their own midst.
Now comes a response from Joe.My.God, who has been among the first and most extensive with coverage of gay sex scandals involving anyone right of center politically. Joe passed on the McHaney scandal entirely at first, then posted about it in response to my report that McHaney previously worked as Joe Solmonese's scheduler at HRC. Even still, Joe posted mainly to explain why he thinks the scandal still isn't blogworthy:
Sex crimes, gay and straight, occur every day. Does the gay blogosphere have a moral imperative to cover the crimes of relative nobodies, just because they work for politicians, especially when the perpetrators have no known anti-gay track record? I don't think so.
I've exhaustively covered the stories of major hypocrites like Ted Haggard and Larry Craig, and dangled unproven theories such as the recent Trent Lott hooker nonsense. But I've also left other unpleasant stories about Democrats and Republicans alone, for the reasons mentioned above.
By Malcontent's standards (and probably Chris Crain's), my hands are not clean. There may indeed be some "meat" to the McHaney story, that remains to be seen, and Crain is absolutely correct that we need to call out our own, even if it damages the movement. I just don't agree that we've been doing that bad of a job.
Joe's thoughtful post touches on the two central problems I have with how left-leaning gay bloggers handle the sex lives of those involved in politics (or, in Haggard's case, religion).
First, this exaggerated focus on the importance of hypocrisy as the only newsworthy or blogworthy angle to the sexual conduct of those in politics leads to all sorts of horrible intrusions into personal privacy. Gay bloggers on the left routinely traffic in rumor and unconfirmed innuendo involving the alleged intimate details of the sex lives of those they "report" on, whether or not misconduct or a crime is involved.
Second, these bloggers traffic in a double standard that says sexual misconduct is blogworthy only if it suggests hypocrisy; that is, only if it's committed by conservatives or those who work for them. Or, in the case of those bloggers who attempt to out conservatives and their staffers, no mis-conduct is required at all -- simply alleged gay sexual conduct, or even gay affiliation, such as showing up at gay parties or bars.
Of course I understand that hypocrisy is newsworthy and blogworthy, but if sexual misconduct says something about the credibility of conservatives, why doesn't it say anything about the credibility of liberals when it happens to one of their own?
If McHaney worked for Trent Lott, for example, we'd be told that the scandal reflects on the legitimacy of Lott's position on gay rights and moral values. Why doesn't the same hold true for McHaney's boss, gay-friendly Democrat Maria Cantwell? Is liberalism associated with a culture of permissiveness in which a Senate staffer could spend work time setting up a three-way with a 13-year-old? Or in which someone with a history of sexual impropriety could be shipped around among a top gay rights group, two Democratic presidential campaigns and a U.S. senator without anyone raising a red flag?
I don't necessarily think so, certainly about the permissiveness theory, but my point is it's one-sided and unbalanced -- and dare I say it? hypocritical -- to only make political judgments about the sex scandals of those you disagree with.
November 14, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The latest attempt at attacking my character by a transgender activist comes from Autumn Sandeen, who submitted a false and libelous post about me on Pam's House Blend. With the smug sarcasm we've come to know and love from so many of our trans activist sisters, Ms. Sandeen accuses me of plagiarizing her on the Richard Curtis cross-dressing blackmail scandal:
I really liked Chris Crain's New York Blade article Cross-dressing and blogger hypocrisy. As well I should: It sounded a lot like The Hypocrites' Exposed Closets And The 'Flinch Factor'.
After a few choice excerpts of Sandeen's earlier PHB post and my Blade column -- which was actually in both the Washington Blade and the New York Blade -- she concludes:
The similarities seems between the two pieces seem so ... correlative? Perhaps I should mention here that my piece was posted here at PHB on November 1st, and Chris Crain's was posted on November 9th. Since we know Chris reads PHB, it really does look like I might really be doing all of the "thinnin around here, Baba Looey!"
There are a few problems with Ms. Sandeen's false and libelous accusation. Not only would I never plagiarize -- much less borrow ideas from the likes of Autumn Sandeen -- the Blade column she responds to was based on a blog post I published on Oct. 31, one day before Autumn Sandeen's Nov. 1 post she claims I copied.
Also, I sent out the Blade column to dozens of newspaper editors (any of whom could confirm receipt) by email on Oct. 31 -- again, one day before Autumn Sandeen's post:
Subject: A late-breaking column by Chris Crain about the Wash. gay blackmail scandal
Date: October 31, 2007 8:09:53 PM EDT
Pam Spaulding has promised Sandeen's offending post will be taken down, and I appreciate the quick response. But since it was out there, it can't simply be erased. It ought to be retracted, by Ms. Sandeen herself, and an apology ought to be forthcoming.
I have a great deal of respect with Pam Spaulding, and I do regularly visit the Blend, although to be honest I'm put off by all the smug nicknames they use for anyone they dub the enemy. I do not, however, read anything by Autumn Sandeen, who was responsible for several of the most hateful emails I've ever received over the course of a decade in the gay press. (Nothing I got from the Phelps clan can touch her!)
It's unfortunate that Pam has chosen to give Sandeen's vitriol a larger pulpit than it ever would have on its own. The particular irony here is that Sandeen's attempted character assassination was based upon my having agreed with her -- well, actually, she agreed one day after me -- about how even media lefties treated the cross-dressing angle of the Curtis scandal for laughs.
No good deed goes unpunished.
UPDATE: Thank you to Kevin Naff, the Washington Blade editor, for publicly standing by my column in his own blog post today.
UPDATE: Both Pam Spaulding and Autumn Sandeen have posted apologies alongside the original post. That was the right way to handle the situation, and it is appreciated.
October 11, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Regular readers will notice a few changes to the blog today, some subtle but the primary difference is the addition of several new advertisements from the Gay Ad Network. Mark Elderkin, the founder of Gay.com, launched the Gay Ad Network in August to pool together the premium gay media websites and blogs -- there's an incomplete list in the graphic below this post -- to reach a higher grade of corporate advertiser than the member websites could on their own:
"Independent web publishers have been successful in creating great quality content and attracting loyal and passionate audiences, but they have been less effective in attracting national advertisers due to their limited individual size," said Elderkin. "By developing content-rich marketing programs that span our aggregated audience, we can provide unique marketing vehicles for our advertising partners."
I am delighted that Gay News Watch and this blog have both been accepted into the network. Initially you'll see public service announcements in the ad slots I've set up for the Gay Ad Network, but eventually somebody will love me enough to pay for the honor of getting your attention.
I am wary, of course, of cluttering up the site with too many ads or detracting from your experience as a reader. But as my partner and I continue on our international journey -- we're both soon to be expats, but more on that in a few days' time -- some revenue driplets will make a difference.
And as I said just a few days ago when celebrating my first blog birthday, thank you very much for your support.
For a complete news summary on gay media, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/gaymedia
October 07, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Amidst all the hullabaloo this week over ENDA and such, I missed marking the one-year birthday of this here blog, which commenced Oct. 3, 2006.
I knew even before I decided to leave the Washington Blade and move to Brazil that I would start my own blog. I had been along with my close friend and colleague Steve Koval the primary blogger for the Blade Blog ever since it debuted in August 2004. Even still, I launched Citizen Crain in a hurry, only a couple of weeks after I left the Blade, because the Mark Foley scandal was enveloping Washington, and it killed me to stay silent, when I had been covering Foley for years.
Despite those years writing for the Blade Blog, having my own was an adjustment for me, after a decade of writing 1,000-word editorials week in and week out. I appreciate those of you who wade through my longer posts. It was also an adjustment to write without pre-publication feedback. I made some early mistakes, and was taken to the woodshed (thankfully in private) by my friend Andrew Sullivan for what he saw as my campaign to villify Jeff Trandahl, the chief House clerk who oversaw the page program.
Trandahl and Kirk Fordham, who both found themselves in the white hot glare of press scrutiny based on someone else's odious conduct, are both good people who deserved better, including from me. I continue to believe that I raised important questions about how the closeted and semi-closeted gay Republicans on the Hill dealt with "the Foley problem," but I no doubt fell guilty to assuming the worst in the way I asked the questions.
Since that scandal, I've reveled in the freedom to opine on whatever subject, without worrying how my view might impact a larger institution, like the Blade , Southern Voice and the other gay papers I edited. (Some would say I didn't worry so much about that before, but in fact I did.) Because a blog is so personal, it was personally very gratifying that so many of you have visited over the first year.
I appreciate the early links and support since from Andrew and the guys over at Gay Patriot, North Dallas Thirty and The Malcontent. I've always felt more accepted by gay conservatives, perhaps because of my own Republican past or because they "get" my criticisms of "gay-friendly" Democrats. But the truth be told, I am much more comfortable as an independent and except in local D.C. votes I haven't pulled the lever for more than a handful of Republicans in more than a decade. When I watch the news, I generally view positive developments for Democrats as positive for me, and the contrary with Republicans.
I'm not sure exactly how to label myself, although "progressive" probably fits the best. Reading Andrew's book "The Conservative Soul," I was struck by just how hard he was working to reclaim the conservative name, even as those who self-identify as such had moved leagues away ideologically. I long ago gave up that fight, and maintain a very optimistic view about the march of human progress in all things.
Some commenters on this blog and elsewhere have accused me of sucking up to Andrew or trying to be his twin. I'll plead innocent to both. I disagree with him regularly, including on very big things like the Iraq war, which I opposed from the outset. At the same time, I will freely acknowledge here what I have never told him personally: I have been an ardent admirer of his work and the way he has lived his life since his days at the New Republic. I am one of many who have been greatly influenced by the example he sets, and I am happy to say so.
I also want to give special thanks to a couple of bloggers who helped me out in simply figuring out the medium. At the top of that list is Jeremy Hooper (pictured), who blogs over at Good As You (G-A-Y). He has endured with cheerful patience my endless questions about the inner-workings of Typepad and HTML. He was so kindly and gentlemanly, in fact, that I had assumed he was some elderly retired gent sharing niblets of what he knew about the world of the Net. You could've knocked me over with a feather when I saw his photo recently -- "Que gato!" as they say down here in Brazil.
Speaking of Brazil, I'm grateful for the small but incredible network of gay bloggers opened up to me by my move here. At the top of that list are two of my very best friends here in São Paulo: Marcos (Carioca Virtual) (pictured) and my fellow gringo Kevin (Club Whirled), who like me left behind the Beltway life for the love of a Brasileiro.
I enjoyed a very blogger moment just last weekend when the three of us adopted-Paulistas (as natives of São Paulo are called) were at a birthday party here for a friend from Belo Horizante when we were joined by Juliano, the popular blogger over at Made In Brazil -- a must-read English language blog for all things gay, Brazilian and fashionista. (Juliano, like Jeremy, is a very pleasant surprise to the eyes in person. Not all bloggers are the stereotypical scruffy, underwear clad slobs).
More thanks go to Augusto, a Brasileiro living in Canada with his U.S. boyfriend, who commiserates with me about America's discriminatory immigration policy. Augusto's must-read gay-sensitive film reviews are over at Queer Beacon. And although he's Colombian and not Brazilian, Andrés Duque (Blabbeando) has been a lifeline for gay news from Latin America, and a wonderful supporter along the way.
But the Brazilian most responsible for this blog is my partner Anderson, who has come to accept that I'm glued to my MacBook at all hours, even when the beaches of Ipanema were calling our names from just three blocks away. His love and support have meant everything to me.
And last but certainly not least, thank you. I am grateful that you take the time to visit, whether or not you agree with anything I have to say. Thank you as well for all your comments, on the blog and by email as well. I hope you will join in the debate here. We'll all be the better for it.
July 18, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The two corporate gay behemoths announced they are cosponsoring a “forum” featuring the Democratic candidates for president. Initial reports called the event a “debate,” although it turns out the candidates agreed only to appear one after the other on stage, where they will “engage in conversation” with, of all people, lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge and HRC chief Joe Solmonese.
Logo and HRC called the event a “historic first,” even though the Democratic field subjected themselves to real questioning on gay issues by ABC’s Sam Donaldson in a similar forum four years ago, broadcast nationwide on basic cable channel C-SPAN.
But progressive gay bloggers weren’t upset by that downgrade of fortunes. Their beef was over the exclusion of fringe candidate Mike Gravel, who wasn’t invited to participate because, according to HRC, the former senator from Alaska didn’t meet a cutoff for candidates to have raised at least $100,000 in campaign funds — later amended to mean $100,000 in the last quarter.
It was ludicrous, of course, for HRC to claim that the $100,000 cutoff wasn’t aimed at Gravel. It was similarly silly for HRC to argue that the cutoff was intended to limit the event to “candidates who could actually be elected,” considering an invitation was extended to Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose campaign like Gravel’s is all protest or ego, or perhaps both.
But Gravel and Kucinich are alone among the Democrats in the race to have come out in favor of marriage equality, so the diss by HRC-Logo got Gravel, and the bloggers who have his back, hopping mad. Gravel often comes off like Billy Crystal’s “grumpy old man” on “Saturday Night Live,” so it was a cinch for him to go from zero to livid over his exclusion.
“Fighting for a hated minority is a pretty dumb way to get elected president,” grumped Gravel with a Huff and a Po on Huffington Post. “And obviously it hasn't helped with my fundraising. But I want to live in a country where there are no second-class citizens.”
Leftie gay bloggers swooned in response, but does Gravel’s claim make any more sense than HRC-Logo’s? Since Gravel has zero chance of being elected president and has no constituency except the “none-of-the-above” anti-war folks that he and Kucinich are splitting, a play for the gays isn’t dumb at all. It’s a smart, even obvious move. Far from hurting Gravel in the wallet, some gay bloggers began fund-raising for him, arguing gay donors should do their part to hoist him over the $100,000 cutoff.
Still, none of that stopped the bloggers from soaking in the thrill of victory when HRC-Logo reversed its decision and invited Gravel to the big dance.
“The progressive gay blogosphere has arrived and the rest of the political world is cordially invited to take notice,” boasted Mike Rogers, who cut his blogo-teeth outing closeted Republican staffers on Capitol Hill, in a piece on Huffington Post.
Rogers is right that we can learn quite a bit from this gay blogosphere triumph, but he might not like the real lessons. The influence of the blogosphere generally has long been sidelined by quixotic quests, lost causes and misdirected “netroots” resources. The gay grovel for Gravel is unfortunately a classic case.
How exactly does it help the cause of gay rights to be associated with a man whom most Americans dismiss as fringe and probably unbalanced? Is the push for gay marriage boosted or burdened if Gravel and Kucinich are seen as its champions?
It’s not just that they have no chance of actually winning; the same could be said of Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, but at least they are serious candidates taken seriously by the public and the media.
Gravel and Kucinich, like Ron Paul on the GOP side (who, gulp, also apparently supports gay marriage), are nothing more than political sideshows, and it doesn’t help convince legitimate, mainstream candidates to take our views if they’re espoused by the likes of these guys.
What’s worse, the exclusion of Gravel was much less potent a problem with the HRC-Logo “forum” format than the exclusion of real journalists to ask real questions of the candidates who might actually win. Four years ago, Sam Donaldson pressed John Kerry and the others on gay marriage, forcing them to explain their opposition to our equality.
Does anyone expect Melissa Etheridge — and I’m a fan — to do the same, and as effectively? Anyone who has heard Joe Solmonese’s chatfest on XM Radio already knows he makes even a big softie like Larry King look like, well, Sam Donaldson by comparison.
Fortunately, in addition to responding to the leftie bloggers on Gravel, HRC and Logo also heard criticism from others about their panelists. Now a top-notch, mainstream journalist is being recruited to participate. Now that's a victory worth actually celebrating, for those whose eyes remain on the prize.
July 13, 2007
Posted by: Chris
"Bloggernista," an occasional reader of this blog who hides behind a pseudonym on his own, takes a shot at Andrew Sullivan and me for criticizing the Human Rights Campaign-Logo "forum" of Democratic presidential candidates. In a cross-post on his blog and Pam's House Blend and Bilerico, he writes this under the headline "Fight the Right, Not Each Other":
Even now as the Senate is set to debate the federal hate crimes bill, much of the energy among progressive LGBT activists is focused on attacking the Human Rights Campaign for a political forum featuring presidential candidates. … This just goes to show that we are not nearly as politically sophisticated as we would like to believe ourselves to be and that our activism is steeped in personal self-expression rather than a focus on political effectiveness. … HRC staff should have recognized that eternally bitter homocons like Andrew Sullivan and Chris Crain would piss all over their efforts no matter what…
He goes on to acknowledge "comments" by Pam Spaulding that criticized HRC for not including a real journalist as a moderator and Bloggernista's own view that Mike Gravel should have been invited.
You just have to love the irony in a blog post with the headline "Fight the Right, Not Each Other," which then proceeds to fight each other, and not the right.
So "Bloggernista" thinks Andrew Sullivan and I are being "eternally bitter homocons" for registering criticism about the HRC candidates forum, while Pam Spaulding's "comments" about the event were on point. How does that work exactly? Pam and I raised the same issues, as did Andrew. But we're bitter while her points are well taken. I'm glad we're not wasting time on senseless fights with each other!
In fact, I posted a second time yesterday crediting HRC with deciding they need a real journalist moderator and saying I wasn't bothered by the exclusion of Mike Gravel. So, in reality, "Bloggernista" and Pam were more critical of HRC than eternally-bitter me.
Here's our fundamental difference in strategy, from my point of view (and crazy me for thinking the blogosphere was supposed to be the kind of place we had these types of open discussions without shushing each other up): "Bloggernista" seems to think we win our equality by "fighting the right." I disagree. I think we win our equality -- and much faster, btw -- by pressuring those who say they support our rights to expend political capital on our behalf.
Otherwise, they will act only after the societal consensus is so overwhelming that there's no risk at all to supporting us. "Bloggernista" can wait for that distant day, and in the meantime make himself feel better by pointing out obvious silliness of "wingnuts" and the like. I'd rather focus on the here and now, and converting gay-friendly rhetoric into the passage of gay-friendly legislation.
You want to see the hate crime law passed? The immediate problem is not "the right." It's whether leading Democrats will make it a priority to keep the amendment in the DoD authorization bill and then not blink if Bush threatens veto.
June 26, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The Human Rights Campaign launched a blog today called "Back Story," which promises to "weigh in on issues, provide some perspective and commentary and hopefully add to the daily dialogue," according to an initial post by Joe Solmonese, the gay group's leader.
I've added the blog over at Immigration Equality to my daily read, not only because gay immigration rights are a personal issue for me, but because I.E.'s Adam Francouer is refreshingly open in discussing tactics and encouraging feedback. Having spent 10 years observing the gay rights movement, I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see one of our organizations treat strategy as something other than a "state secret" that only the rich and well-connected can discuss behind closed doors.
Unfortunately, the initial posts on HRC's Back Story aren't too encouraging, at least when it comes to encouraging real discussion and "adding to the daily dialogue." Most of the early entries by HRC's designated blogger Chris Johnson — who handles the group's "blog outreach," as if we needed further evidence of staff bloat — are either glorified press releases or news blurbs repeated on a thousand gay websites and blogs.
It's not fair to judge a blog by its early posts, so there's still hope HRC might offer more meaty discussion and even (gasp!) take a few risks. I know firsthand that it takes awhile to grow accustomed to the blog form, and its drive-by commentary is still an imperfect fit for me. But I can make one very specific suggestion to HRC: enable reader comments.
I've been plenty critical of HRC, of course, in my years editing Southern Voice and the Washington Blade , in syndicated columns since and here on this blog. But I have always given over more space for responses and criticism than I took to use myself and, of course, this blog includes comments, and I don't censor.
In the early days of the web, I added a comments section to SoVo and the Blade websites, but we had to remove the feature after a small but determined bunch used it to write incredibly personal, nasty and defamatory comments about individual staffers (no, not me). The Blade recently opened up its site to comments again, and I wish them well with it.
Every comments section depends on a certain degree of respect and decorum, both qualities all too often missing from the Internet. But if I can handle the heat, and so can the Blade and Immigration Equality, then HRC can, too. Otherwise, we're left to conclude what we already suspect, that "improving communication with members," one of Solmonese's goals for "Back Story," is really just a one-way street.
June 22, 2007
Posted by: Chris
A few weeks ago, I made my big gay announcement about Gay News Watch, a new website that compiles, sorts and customizes all the gay news and views from the U.S., Europe and worldwide. I'm very pleased to say that traffic has been better than anticipated for a start-up project, and is growing every day.
Several of you commented at the time, however, that you were disappointed you couldn't subscribe to Gay News Watch via RSS feed. Well, be disappointed no longer. Starting today, an RSS subscription is available, either by going to the site and clicking on the RSS symbol in your browser URL window, or simply by clicking here, or if you want more info first, by going here.
But that's not even the most exciting part. I've partnered with a fantastic company called MuseStorm to create headline ticker "widgets" that you can use to add Gay News Watch headlines to your blog, website or MySpace-type online profile. You can see an example in the right column here, which I created using my own design, background, text color and size specs.
You can create your own Gay News Watch widget by going here. The ticker will scroll the last 20 headlines on Gay News Watch, which means you'll always be displaying the breaking news from the last 24 hours. So by simply pasting a snippet of code into your blog, website or online profile, you can be your own gay news service.
And even that's not all. (OK, I'm starting to sound like a QVC salesman, so sue me.) With a click of your mouse you can also create Gay News Watch headline ticker desktop widgets, either from Yahoo by going here, or from Google by going here.
There's more good stuff where that came from. Soon you'll be able to download Gay News Watch desktop widgets for your Mac Dashboard, Vista Gadget, mobile phone and even your favorite instant message application.
OK enough with the sales claptrap. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
March 22, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It seems that Sean Bugg over at Metroweekly here in D.C. isn't the only former competitor who has a bone to pick with me. Duncan Osborne, longtime associate editor of Gay City News and its predecessor LGNY, jumped into the fray today with an editorial dismissing me, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Petrelis and anyone else with the temerity to criticize the Human Rights Campaign as "idiotic."
There's history there. I went up against Osborne when I oversaw the New York Blade for some five years, and I will certainly credit the LGNY/GCN crew with being fierce. When my company, Window Media, purchased the Blade, LGNY changed its masthead so as to claim to be the only "gay-owned" gay newspaper in New York. That came as a something of a shock to me and the other 26-some-odd homosexuals (including the principle of our equity firm backers) who owned the Blade. Then, when LGNY went under and was salvaged by a publisher who happened to hetero, the blurb mysteriously disappeared.
More recently, Osborne went off on me last September during the National Lesbian & Journalists Association conference in Miami for daring to characterize the gay press as liberal. With CSPAN cameras rolling, Osborne angrily defended the supposed objectivity of GCN, which regularly publishes first-person coverage from a left-wing slant. When I asked him why, then, his gay newspaper devotes space each week to a list of Iraq war dead, and the overall Iraq death and injury toll, he claimed that was conservative support for America's troops. 'Nuff said.
When someone's head is buried that far into ideological ground — from whatever stripe — an honest debate can be hard to come by. So it's not surprising that, in addition to labeling us "idiotic," Osborne conveniently misstates the criticisms of HRC before taking down his newly created straw man.
Where to start:
- I never criticized Joe Solmonese for making too much money. I only said that I refuse to be told by someone who only joined the movement a year ago to the tune of a cool quarter-million annually that I am somehow "bad for the movement."
- I never criticized the financing logic behind HRC's shiny new headquarters; I questioned siphoning $26 million out of the gay community's limited resources at a time when we were losing the marriage battle in Washington and around the country. Having visited the offices, I can also vouch that it is nicer than most Washington law firms I've seen. More wasted money.
- I assume since Osborne didn't mention it that he's peachy with HRC paying off former president Cheryl Jacques, pushed out in 2004 after only one year, a massive severance that included $160,000 payment in 2006, two years after she left. More wasted money.
- I never said HRC "was wrong to back the Democrats in 2006." That, dear Duncan, would be idiotic. I have said until I'm blue in the keyboard that of course Democrats are better on the whole than Republicans on gay rights and there are definite advantages when they control Congress and other legislative bodies.
My central criticism of HRC, should Osborne choose to actually address it, was that the organization under Jacques and now Solmonese has aligned itself too closely with the Democrats, treating the interests of the movement as secondary to those of party, when they conflict. Or, probably more accurately, drinking Howard Dean's kool-aid and buying into the idea that what's good for the Dems has to be good for the gays, even if it means our issues take a backseat and our lives aren't defended.
When Solmonese et al told the Boston Globe that their aim was for HRC to be positioned like labor unions as a Democratic Party special interest, well that just said it all. So tell us, Duncan, why is it you think the path to political oblivion followed by organized labor makes sense for the nation's largest gay rights group?
(Illustration courtesy of GCN)
March 17, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The Boston gay paper Bay Windows published an excellent article by reporter Ethan Jacobs on Friday detailing recent criticism of the Human Rights Campaign from the gay blogosphere, your's truly included.
Of greatest interest to me was how Joe Solmonese, HRC's president, said he decides which critics are worth listening to and which are "bad for the movement." Just what makes an HRC critic "bad" according to this joey-come-lately to the struggle? Well, either they are too partisan (allegedly Andrew Sullivan) or too personal (allegedly me) in their critiques.
It's true, of course, that Andrew has been a vocal supporter at times of the Republican Party and George Bush. He has also been among their most strident critics. Can Solmonese or anyone else associated with HRC (or its supporters) demonstrate anything close to that level of partisan independence?
Solmonese told Bay Windows that he regularly reads the "thoughtful" criticism of HRC by Pam Spaulding over at Pam's House Blend and appreciates it. Well of course he does. She is a proud progressive Democrat. Is that the only direction Joe's head will turn?
It's unconscionable for Solmonese to dismiss criticism from someone like Sullivan, who has a far longer and more impressive record on gay rights than Solmonese himself, as (supposedly) "a conservative Republican." Agree or disagree with him on any given issue, Andrew Sullivan has already done more for the lives of gay people and those with HIV than Solmonese will if he stays on the job at HRC for another 10 years.
On the substance of the charge that HRC is partisn, Solmonese points out to Bay Windows that HRC backed a few Republicans in congressional races last fall. That's like saying a bill is "bipartisan" if it has 125 Democrats and one Republican as sponsors. In reality, HRC endorsed fewer Republican congressional candidates this cycle than ever before and even abandoned gay-friendly GOP incumbents in favor of Democratic challengers.
But my primary criticism of HRC under Solmonese has never been about not supporting Republicans enough. And neither Sullivan nor I has ever suggested that the two parties are equal on gay rights. Those are red herrings that HRC likes to use because so few gays are sympathetic to the GOP.
To the contrary, I have stated the obvious time and time again: Democrats are far better at every level of government than Republicans on gay rights, and that difference is magnified when their party leaders are compared. With the exception of a couple of gay and gay-friendly Republicans in local D.C. races, I haven't voted in the GOP column in recent memory.
But all that says far more about just how bad the Republicans have been than it does about how good the Democrats are. My criticism is from the left, not the right, and it is that HRC does not stand up to Democrats enough when they are too weak-kneed to spend political capital on our issues.
In the end, Solmonese's dismissal of me as having some sort of "personal fascination" with him is a bit ironic, since he admits (finally) to Bay Windows that he is the one who has taken things too personally:
HRC has made several attempts to respond to the current wave of criticism from bloggers, but more often than not those efforts have only further alienated bloggers and, in one case, the LGBT media more broadly. Last month Crain wrote a column for the San Francisco Bay Times critical of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD) and HRC’s response to a Snickers ad aired during the Super Bowl that the two organizations argued was homophobic. In response Solmonese wrote a letter to the paper accusing Crain of having a “fascination” with him and arguing that “[g]iving Chris Crain a platform to spout his misguided rhetoric sets back the work of the entire movement.” His response was criticized not only by Crain himself on his blog but by [blogger Michael] Petrelis, who accused Solmonese of being “thin-skinned” and of declining to answer legitimate criticism, and by the Bay Area Reporter, which published an editorial accusing HRC of acting like “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” by attacking its critics.
Solmonese admitted that his letter to the Bay Times struck a sour note and said, “I think that that is a really good example of where it was the one and only time I let what I felt was a personal attack get under my skin.” He said he would never again “lose sight of who our real enemies are” in responding to criticism.
I'm a bit shocked to think that Solmonese needed reminding I'm not "the real enemy." I have been involved and committed to the gay rights movement for far longer than he has, and I have sacrificed much more. After a half-decade of working as a pro bono lawyer and activist within the movement, I left a lucrative law career in 1997 to go into the gay press — all because of my commitment to that struggle. I'm not asking for a medal or sympathy, but to have that commitment questioned by someone making almost a quarter-million dollars annually in the very first year of his very first ever gay rights job is just beyond silly.
What's most surprising is that Solmonese (and the communications department at HRC) still hasn't grasped the role the media (old and new) plays within any power structure, including non-profit political lobbies and civil rights movements. The Bay Windows story does an excellent job of highlighting how that tin ear has damaged HRC's image so much in recent weeks and months.
We in the media are here to ask the tough questions and demand accountability. When we see things going astray, it's our job to say so. It's not (at all) personal; it's professional. It's also the kind of thing it would be nice to see HRC do more of on all of our behalf.
January 30, 2007
Posted by: Chris
My apologies to regular visitors that the blog went dark over the weekend. I've tried to post consistently ever since I launched the blog in October. Those of you who've blogged yourselves know how difficult that can be, and it has certainly been a big change from writing every week, or every other week, for the Washington Blade, Southern Voice and their sister publications.
Speaking of which, Window Media, the gay publishing company I co-founded in 1997 with William Waybourn, announced last week that it was closing the Houston Voice, which the company purchased in 1998. It was a very sad development for all of us who have worked with the publication over the last eight years, but one that was understandable and certainly not unexpected. Only those of us who have been on the inside know how much time, effort and money was spent trying to make the publication a financial success.
The Houston metro area ranks in the Top 5 nationally in population, but the city generally eschews zoning laws and so is sprawled out over an enormous area. The gay community is sprawled as well, though its soul has always been in the Montrose neighborhood. Houston's gay leadership was also especially decimated by AIDS in the '80s and '90s. In my travels, only San Francisco seemed as hard hit emotionally and psychologically.
The Voice never really found its voice, despite all our efforts. Houston has a solid, quality gay monthly in Outsmart magazine, but the Voice struggled to find its place amidst an ever-changing roster of competitors, including the beloved weekly bar rag TWT (which folded in the early '00s and then re-emerged last year), the weekly statewide newspaper the Texas Triangle (which also folded around the same time), several publications launched by the Dallas Voice to move into the Houston market, all of which they eventually withdrew, and a half-dozen smaller independent ventures, which also eventually failed.
With the rise of the Internet, gay Houstonians can get their national and international news online, of course, but the Houston Chronicle does a spotty job of local gay coverage and Outsmart can only do so much on a monthly schedule. The passing of the Voice leaves a void that hopefully will be filled soon.
As for the void on this blog, I blame São Paulo. My good friend Jeff DeKorte is visiting us in Brazil for a few weeks, and we took him to Sampa this weekend to see the sights and meet our many friends there. An amazing and exhausting time was had by all. (In the photo above, Jeff is in the orange, I'm in the blue and Ipanema Boy is in the green. In the yellow is João Neto, one of the Brazil's top DJ's.)
I even met the man behind Made In Brazil, hands-down the best gay Brazilian blog (in English or Portuguese), though unfortunately it was only in passing. Who knew he was as gostoso (that's "hot," as Paris Hilton would say) as the Brasileiros he so often features in his blog?
I'm ashamed to say my friend Jeff, who started a travel blog as he left the States, managed to post over the weekend, even as I didn't. Jeff and I have been good friends ever since I moved back to Washington in 2001, and I've had a great time introducing him to Brazil. He is no stranger to travel, having headed up AOL's travel channel until he left last month.
But his style of travel is distinctly different from my own. Those who know me know that I tend to travel by the seat of my pants, not worrying especially much about planning packed agendas, preparing hours in advance for flights or pondering the wiles of traffic before deciding when to call a taxi. I go with the flow, and probably enjoy the adrenaline of rushing last-minute more than arriving early at the airport and sitting in the gate.
I knew, from a few short trips with Jeff in the past, that he was a different sort — the type that begins packing three days before a flight and worries at least 24 hours before about when to leave for the airport. So it should have come as no surprise when my boyfriend and I returned from the gym about two hours before our flight from Rio to São Paulo that Jeff was already sitting on the sofa in his pressed polo and cargo pants, packed bags sitting beside him. We were sweating from the gym, with packed bags only a twinkle in our eyes.
"Why are you so dressed up?" I asked without thinking.
"I like traveling in pants," came his reply.
"Yes you do!" I laughed. "And you ought to call your blog that — 'Traveling in Pants.' Because I much prefer traveling by the seat of mine." And so he did. Check it out when you can.
Speaking of travel blogs, I've been remiss in not pointing out the remarkable adventures of a former Washington Blade colleague of mine. Fernando Junco, or Nando as he went by at the office, worked on the sales staff as something of a traffic cop and managed to keep his head and his sense of humor while the rest of us harumphed about on deadline.
A few months ago, he decided to set out on a budget adventure through Mexico and Central America, and finally down through South America to Brazil. Reading his travel blog, he's had some incredible experiences, though the loooong road has no doubt taken its toll. Take a look for some vicarious thrills through a part of the world that gay American travelers so rarely manage to tred.
December 23, 2006
Posted by: Chris
The guys over at GayPatriot, "blogcasting from the worldwide headquarters of the not-so-vast right wing conspiracy," this week celebrated their 1,000,000th visitor since Bruce Carroll first launched the blog back in September 2004.
Back then, GayPatriot was Carroll's response to efforts by Mike Rogers at Blogactive to "out" gay Republican staffers working on Capitol Hill. But since then, Carroll and co-blogger Daniel Platt have established a welcome niche on the Net for gay conservatives. They deserve congratulations for pressing conservative views within the gay community and gay-rights views among conservatives — a doubly thankless and unpopular task, to be sure.
I first came into contact with Bruce back in April 2004, when as editor of the Washington Blade I published an op-ed he submitted about the backlash over gay marriage that election year. I didn't agree with Carroll's view then, and I've often disagreed with him and Platt both, but I've always found their perspectives to be fresh and interesting and thought-provoking.
I, too, come from a conservative background, but my politics have been more changed by my sexual orientation. I found the takeover of the Republican Party by social conservatives during the 1990s too much to stomach and ended my affiliation with the GOP in December 1998 — the day the House impeached Bill Clinton. I actually wrote an editorial about it for Southern Voice, Atlanta's gay and lesbian newspaper, and I'll try to dig it up for old time's sake.
These days, I feel more independent than ever, free to air my views without worrying about how it will reflect on anyone but me. But I find it difficult to embrace the "conservative" label, even without attaching it to the Republican Party. I am reading and enjoying Andrew Sullivan's latest book, "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back," and I highly recommend it wherever you fall on the political spectrum. Sullivan does a painstaking and devastating job of demonstrating how social conservatives, whether Islamists or Christianists, are not really "conservatives" at all. What's unclear to me, as I wind up the book's last section, is whether Sullivan can successfully reclaim the name from the ashes of what was (a question that could be asked about the Republican Party as well).
In this respect, "The Conservative Soul" reminds me of the classic work by another gay conservative, Harvard University pastor Peter Gomes' classic "The Good Book," which puzzled through the most challenging biblical passages used to justify slavery, repression of women and of gays. Gomes was an unabashed apologist for the Bible, just as Sullivan is for what he calls true conservativism. Once I've finished "The Conservative Soul," I'll offer my own two cents. In the meantime, here's to GayPatriots — the blog and gay patriots generally — fighting the good fight to reconcile "traditional values" with non-traditional lives.
December 05, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Apologies to those of you nice enough to visit the blog since Sunday. I wrote a short post on Monday morning to explain that I was en route back to Rio, to arrive this morning, but I forgot to "publish" it. So there were no new posts. My bad!
October 03, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Welcome to citizencrain.com, which will be my blog about all sorts of topics, including those I have covered for almost a decade while working as editor of the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspapers, as well as overseeing the editorial operations at five other gay and lesbian publications: the Express Gay News and 411 Magazine in Fort Lauderdale/South Florida, the New York Blade, the Houston Voice and David-Atlanta Magazine.
Expect more bells and whistles to follow, but for now, let's get blogging…
If you've got feedback, send it my way at email@example.com
October 01, 2006
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post
A little about me...
My email address is here.
MySpace profile is here.
My Facebook profile is here.
The home page for this blog is www.citizencrain.com
I launched this blog after almost a decade editing gay and lesbian publications for five U.S. cities: the Washington Blade; Southern Voice and David Magazine in Atlanta; the New York Blade; Express Gay News and 411 Magazine in Fort Lauderdale; and the Houston Voice. I am extremely proud of the journalism record we set during that time, and I value more than I can say the dedicated colleagues I worked with at each of these publications. Leaving, as I've written, was very bittersweet.
In a previous incarnation, I was a lawyer, litigating mega-sized lawsuits between mega-sized corporations for two mega-sized law firms: Covington & Burling in Washington and Alston & Bird in Atlanta.
Before that, I was a Southern boy, growing up in Little Rock, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn., attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville and then Harvard Law School in Boston. Like everyone else in my family, I was for many years a conservative Christian, unfailingly loyal to the GOP.
Coming out and returning to journalism shook all those old loyalties, and I have for some time considered myself independent and free-thinking in all things, as hokey as that might sound. If you’re interested, I wrote recently about how the curves in life’s path have taken their toll on pretty much all the pre-conceived notions I had about things.
Starting now, in the fall 2006, I’ve gone solo again, but not really. I am in the process of moving from Washington to Rio De Janeiro to be with my partner after two years very long distance. His unconditional love and support has changed my life, and so I am happy to change more of it to be with him. Since he is Brazilian, we have not been able to obtain a visa to bring him to the U.S., and my country does not allow gay citizens to sponsor foreign same-sex partners for citizenship here. His country does. So for the time being, we’ll (finally) be together in Brazil, a place I have loved from the first time I stepped foot there.
“Citizen Crain” was a nickname I picked up from friends in college, after my ambitious campaign to be editor of the student magazine immediately after finishing up a year as editor of the student newspaper. It was, of course, a not-so-complimentary take-off on “Citizen Kane” that followed me in recent years, what with the multiple publications owned by Window Media, the company I co-founded.
These days, the idea of “citizenship” has intruded into my life in unwelcome ways, as I’ve described. Even still, I believe in the concept of a “good citizen,” whether it knows national boundaries or not.
I also like the sound of it because it captures how I view my role: as one citizen in a community with others, doing what I can to make the world a better place. That may sound corny, but 15 years immersed in politics, law and journalism — and even a decade in Washington, D.C. — haven’t robbed me of that idealism. I hope you haven’t lost it, either.
Those who are familiar with the publications I edited know not to expect this to be a “rah-rah” blog with an ideologically-driven “Amen corner” of any stripe. I seek out those who make me question my own views, and I try to be similarly provocative to others. If you’re looking for validation and reassurance about any particular world view, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you believe we can all gain from an honest, direct, no-holds-barred dialogue, then welcome, and please contribute your thoughts.
And finally, after a decade writing about gay-gay-gay and serious-serious-serious, I’m looking forward to branching out a bit, looking at other areas of life and lightening things up a bit. I hope you’ll help me out there as well.
I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!
UPDATE (January 2008)
It's about time for a brief update here. In June 2007, I launched Gay News Watch, a website that compiles in one place all the latest gay news, entertainment, gossip and much more and lets you decide how you want to view it: by geography, by topic, by buzz, by reader ratings and more. Plus related stories are linked together, so if you want to see all the articles about the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries, it's as easy as clicking here.
In October 2007, my partner and I moved to Buenos Aires because my tourist visa for Brazil was set to expire for the year. As I write this, we are winding up our time in exile from exile and will soon return to Rio. I still make regular visits back to the States, usually staying in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, although traveling elsewhere as well.
Just this month, I relaunched the blog with a new design that was a collaboration with Lisa Sabin-Wilson of E.Webscapes Design Studio. I love the new look, if I do say so myself, and along with all the 2008 political news has reinvigorating my blogjo -- not that I ever lost it. A few more changes are in the works, including some guest posts from a few friends to spice things up a bit.
So I hope you enjoy, and please take the time to post a comment and offer your thoughts. That's what it's all about, after all. Thanks again for reading!
(Photo by William Waybourn)