John Aravosis Has a Point

October 8, 2007 at 9:48 am 12 comments

John Aravosis, the force behind the influential AmericaBlog, has a must read opinion piece on Salon about the continuing drama around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

In the piece raises a number of points which have been swirling under the surface of the LGBT community moniker. Some of his points I agree with and some I don’t. I definitely agree with the following excerpt:

Conservatives understand that cultural change is a long, gradual process of small but cumulatively deadly victories. Liberals want it all now. And that’s why, in the culture wars, conservatives often win and we often lose. While conservatives spend years, if not decades, trying to convince Americans that certain judges are “activists,” that gays “recruit” children, and that Democrats never saw an abortion they didn’t like, we often come up with last-minute ideas and expect everyone to vote for them simply because we’re right. Conservatives are happy with piecemeal victory, liberals with noble failure. We rarely make the necessary investment in convincing people that we’re right because we consider it offensive to have to explain an obvious truth. When it comes time to pass legislation, too many liberals just expect good and virtuous bills to become law by magic, without the years of legwork necessary to secure a majority of the votes in Congress and the majority support of the people. We expect our congressional allies to fall on their swords for us when we’ve failed to create a culture in which it’s safe for politicians to support our agenda and do the right thing. ENDA, introduced for the first time 30 years ago, is an exception to that rule. It took 30 years to get to the point where the Congress and the public are in favor of legislation banning job discrimination against gays. It’s only been five months since transgendered people were included in ENDA for the first time.

The right-wing conservative have shown a tremendous amount of patience and willingness to lay out and follow a long-term strategy for achieving their goals. Liberals, in particular LGBT activists I would say, are prone to yell and scream for about 15 minutes about an issue then get bored and move on to the next hot topic du jour. Except when it comes to attacking our own.

Entry filed under: Advocacy, Blogs, Congress, LGBT, Liberals, Politics.

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jonolan  |  October 8, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I reserve the right to disagree with all of the “right” and “wrong” components of the cited quote, but agree that the liberals consistently refuse to check with the US population to see if they’ll actually support the special interest legislation they’re trying to get passed. They’d probably have a better success if they actually tried to address and modify the nation’s opinions.

  • 2. Webster  |  October 8, 2007 at 11:00 am

    The abandonment of the transgendered has effectively divided our community–and it’s a legislative trick anyway, meant to kill the bill. It’s “transgendered” this time–and it will be some other issue next time. Anyone who thinks ENDA will pass in any configuration hasn’t been watching our totally ineffective Congress over the past few years. And, if by some unbelievable miracle, ENDA does somehow pass, Bush will veto it. In the meantime, we will have been left–as Aravosis has already demonstrated on the comments on his blog and on the comments on his Salon article–we will have been left as a shattered and bitter community over this issue.

    “We are none of us free until ALL of us are free.”

  • 3. Christopher  |  October 8, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Aravosis seems versed on the way conservatives look at issues.

    Maybe he acquired this insight from all the years he worked as an intern for radical, rightwing (and recently indicted) Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Steven? I’ve heard from sources I have in DC that Aravosis isn’t quite the bleeding heart liberal he wants his loyalists to believe which would probably explain how he can defend the likes of Ted Stevens and his antigay and homophobic positions which happen to be informed by the religious right.

    The gay rights movement in America is roughly 40 years old, if you accept Stonewall as the cultural and political beginning of the movement. While status quo, make a living off their blogs DC queers are more than happy to accept crumbs from our lawmakers, many of us are not and that includes me.

    LGBT stands for:

    1. lesbian
    2. gay
    3. bisexual
    4. transgendered

    It’s all or nothing. Let the battle begin immediately.

  • 4. Bloggernista  |  October 8, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I know John and I respect his commitment to full LGBT equality. John understands the way the legislative game is played. A lot of people who are suddenly screaming and yelling do not.

    He is asking some serious questions that we need to discuss. I am support an inclusive ENDA, but we have to be much smarter in how we build support to move the bill forward.

  • 5. Aaron  |  October 8, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Unfortunately for Christopher and other taking that line, the political reality is that T will sink LGB. If all or nothing is the battle cry, be prepared for nothing.

  • 6. Paulbe  |  October 8, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Persuasion only really works in a nation with a free and open Press. Outside of Blogworld, America does not have a free and open Press.

  • 7. Christopher  |  October 8, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    If all or nothing is the battle cry, be prepared for nothing.

    Yeah Aaron, sure.

    Like we’ve gotten sooooooooo much already from the House that Pelosi built over the past year.

    Why not just throw transgendered people under the bus now too? Don’t want to rock the establishment boat in an election year.

  • 8. John Aravosis  |  October 8, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Christopher, I wasn’t an internet, I was a lawyer on Stevens’ staff, and that was 13 to 18 years ago before I came out. As for my gay and liberal bona fides after that time, that’s what Google is for. Oh yeah, and I have this blog you may have heard about, it kind of contains my opinions on everything.

  • 9. Lish  |  October 9, 2007 at 2:27 am

    Here’s another point Aravosis makes in his Salon article:

    “It is simply not p.c. in the gay community to question how and why the T got added on to the LGB, let alone ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman. I’m not passing judgment, I respect transgendered people and sympathize with their cause.”

    Aravosis might have had a legitimate case had he stuck to justifying the Congressional Democrats’ legislative strategy for passing ENDA. Instead, he used ENDA as an excuse to launch a misguided and divisive broadside against LGBT solidarity. In the process, he exposed his own transphobic ignorance, insulting trans people with tabloid stereotypes straight out of right-wing talk radio.

    When I confronted Aravosis on his blatant disrespect for trans people he made this public reply:

    “I’m sorry if not using buzz words and code words that people don’t understand, like gender identity, offends you, but I think I gave a pretty accurate definition of pre-op transsexual, did I not?”

    No John, I think you gave us a pretty accurate picture of how much contempt you have for trans people.

  • 10. Christopher  |  October 9, 2007 at 5:42 am

    John –

    Fortunately, the tiny group of self-annointed gay activists such as yourself who are willing to throw transgended people under the ENDA bus do not speak for the majority involved in the on-going struggle for LGBT equal rights.

    The National Center for Lesbian Rights has adopted a far more informed, intelligent and mainstream position on the issue:

    The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, and the Transgender Law Center joined the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Equality Federation, the National Center for Transgender Equality, PFLAG, the Stonewall Democrats, and more than 150 other organizations in announcing the launch of a united campaign to win passage of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), H.R. 2015. Called United ENDA, the campaign continues the unprecedented display of unity in our community over the past week, as organizations and individuals from across the country have joined together to oppose any efforts to weaken ENDA by removing protections for gender identity and expression, which would be particularly devastating for transgender people.

    I liken gay activists who are willing to sacrifice the equality of transgendered people to jews who worked for Hitler in WWII. Contrary to conventional views, a surprising number — perhaps as many as 150,000 jewish men were high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals in Hitler’s SS.

    How could this be? The Wehrmacht’s growing manpower needs meant numerous “exemptions” were made in order to allow a jewish soldier to stay within military ranks and thus spare the soldier’s parent, spouse, or other relative from incarceration or far worse.

    Thanks for the suggestion I use Google. Using Google led me to this interesting diary over at Kos penned by AHiddenSaint who questions your sanity.

    AHiddenSaint writes:

    I mean seriously people it has come down to this. Each post and comment he makes on Americablog about the issue of Transgender Inclusive makes him look insane on the subject. I mean look at this.


    Your argument boils down to the assertion that America really does accept transgendered people far more than I’m willing to realize and therefore we’d have no problem passing a trans-inclusive ENDA. Great. I’m game. Show me the votes. Show me that you have the votes to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA, that the bill won’t go down in flames, that Democrats won’t be forced en masse to vote in favor of some hideously anti-trans amendment lest they lose their jobs next election, and I’m there for you. You think this is some easy game, that we actually have the votes, but some of us simply don’t like you and find you icky and that’s why we’re concerned. Fine, then I’ll call your bluff.”

    Speaking of “bluffs,” now I’ve called yours.

  • 11. Mad Professah  |  October 10, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    I agree with Bloggernista that Aravosis has a point, but I think that on balance he is not doing the GLBT community a service by airing his disagreements using such divisive and inflammatory language. I do agree with some of his comments about the political naivete of many GLBT activists but I strongly disagree with his position on gender identity and his lack of comprehension of the salience of gender to the fight for equality based on sexual orientation.

  • 12. Bloggernista  |  October 10, 2007 at 12:07 pm


    While its great to see the UnitedENDA campaign, it should have been started as soon as the bill was introduced. Actually, it should have started before that. From experiences at the state level the national organizations should have known that this was not going to be an easy fight and should have prepared for it.

    To pull together at a moment of crisis is expected, but to pull together to create a real and effective strategy before a crisis begins is a stronger sign political sophistication.


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