Updated logo 4U!
A few weeks ago I was hanging out at the DC Eagle (it's true!), when all-of-a-sudden the place was invaded by people in tuxedos. It turned out that the Human Rights Campaign has just had their big awards ceremony or whatever at the convention center. And it pains me to write this, kinda, because I really like some of these people, but there is nothing, nothing more smug than a tuxedoed queen fresh from an HRC event.
Anyway, I was annoyed by the smugness and the patting-each-other-on-the-backness of it all, and I went on a wild tear, ranting to anyone who would listen (before they backed away slowly) about how practically the only time I ever hear about the HRC accomplishing anything, it's always a cocktail party, an expensive fundraiser, or an awards ceremony where the honors are generally given to, um, HRC members or important celebrities like Lance Bass. "What does the HRC actually do?" I wondered. My friend offered, "I think they mostly send out press releases." So true. I'll add that they also put tons and tons of work and money into... cocktail parties, awards ceremonies, and expensive fundraisers (where they raise funds to put on more cocktail parties, expensive fundraisers and awards ceremonies). I mean, rent at the convention center doesn't come cheap! They mean well, I know, but they are irrelevant.
In other words, they are practically useless. They are a glorified t-shirt/tote bag (and Equality Panda™!) vendor. Right now I'm looking at their web site, and the five items on their "latest news" thing basically amount to 1. HRC gives somebody an award. 2. HRC sends out press release. 3. HRC sends out press release. 4. HRC sends out press release. 5. HRC sends out press release. That's one exhausted fax machine!
And so it's with no small amount of satisfaction that I can report that a lot more people are starting to notice that the HRC is a cliquey, do-little organization, and this became stunningly clear recently when it was revealed just how badly they dropped the ball on that gay marriage thingy in California all the kids are talking about. Here's Andrew Sullivan (OMG, I'm linking to him again!):
Here's a simple statistic that might help shake us out of complacency: HRC claims to have spent $3.4 million* on No On 8. The Mormon church was able to spend over $20 million, by appealing to its members. Why are non-gay Mormons more capable of organizing and fund-raising on a gay rights measure than the biggest national gay rights group? I mean: they claim (absurdly, but bear with me) 725,000 supporters and members. In the summer, the major problem for No On 8 was insufficient early funding. If HRC had led, they could have thrown their money weight behind it. If every supporter had given $20 - chump change for the biggest ever battle yet for civil rights - they could have delivered $14 million overnight. So why didn't they?
Even now, in Washington, they are sticking with the same legislative agenda they have had for two decades: a trivial piece of hate crimes grandstanding and ENDA, which is moot in many states. They endorsed Obama on June 6 - only after the Clintons gave them permission. The endorsement was written by a low level staffer. Civil unions at a federal level? That again would require leadership. We were promised ENDA and hate crimes in the last session. What we got was an end to the HIV immigration ban - an issue HRC didn't even ask the presidential candidates about in their questionnaire, and which was pioneered by others (although HRC did come through with Congressional lobbying in the end). It's not that they do nothing; it's that it's rarely enough; and never with sufficient energy or vision.
It's time gay people realized that this group is often part of the problem, and rarely part of the solution. It needs to be swept clean of its deadwood, overhauled, or if it persists in its ways, defunded. When we are in a civil rights movement and the biggest organization is essentially a passive observer and excuse-maker, it's time to demand better.
*I wonder how much of that $3.4 million went towards "overhead."
And all those protests happening everywhere? They're all grass-roots actions, organized by people all across the nation via, you know, the Twitter, the Blogspot, the Tumblr, etc. And while I'm sure that many, if not most, HRC members are participating in this stuff, what about the HRC itself? They want you to sign a pledge. Seriously. Give me a fucking break.
OK, so that's my mean rant about the yuppie, useless, overrated and ineffectual Human Rights Campaign. I'm sure there will be all kinds of comments left by their well-meaning fans. But, you know what? Ask yourself this: can I do whatever it is I want to do for hairdresser rights without a bloated organization with huge capital overhead? Yes. Yes you can. And you don't need to give Lance Bass an award to do it.
UPDATE: If you have a hard time bringing yourself to read Sullivan, you may wish to check out Rex Wockner here.