Sunday, November 05, 2006


By Robert Halfhill

Dear Mr. Gordon:
I am finding it necessary to write again to point out just how outrageous the Green Party's treatment of GLBTI's has been. It is just as outrageous as it would have been if a Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersexed Green Party Council Member had voted against a fair (i.e. desegregated) housing ordinance, African American Greens had protested the GLBTI Council Member's vote, the Green Party had subsequently honored this GLBTI Council Member by asking him or her to give the Green Party's reply to Bush's State of the Union Address, and when an African American Green had risen to protest this decision, his or her voice was drowned out by other Greens shouting from the audience and you had put your arm on his or her shoulder and asked her or him to sit down! I find it difficult to believe that Jenny Heiser did not know about the controversy over Natalie Johnson Lee's vote against the domestic partners ordinance when she was contacted by Dean Myerson asking her about Lee's giving the Green State of the Union Address on January 17, 2003. (See Ben Manski's email to the Coordinating Committee of 1/22/03.)* My letter to you about Natalie Johnson Lee's vote against the domestic partners ordinance is dated DECEMBER 17, 2002 and the opening paragraph makes it clear that I had discussed this matter with you several days before the 17th. Do you mean that word of this controversy had not reached Jenny Heiser and that she did not know about this matter before Dean Myerson contacted her on January 17, 2003? It is even harder to believe since I discussed this matter twice before an audience of 50 Greens on January 4, 2003 at the Winter Membership Meeting of the Green Party. *(Jenny Heiser was the delegate from the 5th Congressional District Green Party to the Coordinating Committee of the national Green Party. This committee had the task of selecting a Green to give the Green State of the Union Address. Dean Myerson and Ben Manski were members of this national committee. When the national committee asked Jenny Heiser about Natalie Johnson Lee giving the Green State of the Union Address, Heiser did not inform the committee about the problems over Johnson Lee voting against the domestic partners ordinance. When this became known to the local 5th Congressional Green Coordinating Committee, Jenny Heiser resigned as the delegate to the national Coordinating Committee, although the reasons for this resignation or the fact that there was even a controversy were not explained to the Green Party membership at any Green meeting.) As I stated in my presentation against Johnson Lee's vote against domestic partners to the 5th District Green Party membership meeting on January 4, 2003, I had become a Gay Separatist because liberal and even radical heterosexuals treated Gay issues like priority number 32; the attitude seemed and still seems to be: "Yes, we support Gay rights but let's talk now about something REALLY IMPORTANT. Let's discus other minorities who REALLY HAVE IT TOUGH!" I thought I might have been able to break through this heterocentric inability to understand if I told the audience about my own experience with anti-Gay oppression. And since I have already told an audience of about 50 people about my personal experience at that Green Party meeting on January 4th at North Commons, I might as well reiterate it here, i.e. I had developed so much pent up anger and rage because of the constant insults and assaults I was receiving from the other students during my sophomore year in high school when I was sixteen that I wanted to destroy the whole world. So if I had actually done what was in my mind, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine would have looked like a couple of Mother Theresa's! The fact that I had such a grandiose idea for retaliation meant that I was unlikely to carry it out. It would have been a bad sign perhaps, if I had conceived a less grandiose and more doable plan to strike back as did Klebold and Harris. Although more Gay teenagers are singled out for such abuse, we are actually the ones least likely to strike back with such extreme violence. Gays lack the hyperaggression overt and covert in heterosexuals that gives them the desire to murder, rape, and assault people right and left to prove how macho they are. Although we do have enough aggressive impulses to defend ourselves when attacked, this is a potential that has been buried by 2000 years of persecution from the Christ Crazies and the resulting self hatred drilled into us. It will take more years of the Gay Liberation Movement before the majority of my community have regained the self respect necessary to defend ourselves when attacked. But to continue with my own story, my parents got me transferred to a new school, and after about three weeks of not being repeatedly insulted and assaulted, I decided I REALLY didn't want to destroy the WHOLE world. After about another three weeks, I decided that I REALLY didn't hate EVERYBODY. Why I even had a few friends during the last few years of high school. Since I had never told anybody about this except for one friend outside of a therapeutic setting, I began to have second thoughts about whether I wanted to reveal such painful personal matters to a whole audience of people. So I discussed this with Freeman Wicklund. There were a few seconds of initial stuttering before I could tell him about my high school experiences and the anger and hate I had built up. Although I had not planned to ask him for reassurance after I told him about this, I found myself asking him if he thought I was psychotic for having had such thoughts. He assured me he didn't think so. But I still told Freeman that I could see myself flattening someone if anybody uttered certain anti-Gay put downs. After talking to Freeman Wicklund, I realized that I couldn't talk about my personal pain if, in the back of my mind, I was still expecting any sympathy or understanding from a bunch of heteros. But I also realized that it really didn't matter if I received a hostile or mocking response because that wouldn't mean I was a deserving target of such hostility of mockery; it would really say more about the the people who were expressing the hostility or mockery than it would say about me. I was thus able to realize that I didn't need to flatten anyone if I became the object of mockery. My reason for telling about these personal matters was to try to get through to you heteros and make you see that the persecution Gays receive REALLY DOES HURT AS MUCH AND REALLY IS AS IMPORTANT as the persecution experienced by women and racial minorities such as African Americans, Hispanics, Indians. Asian Americans, etc. Even so, I had decided at the beginning of the January 4th meeting that I really did not have to reveal my personal pain to a whole audience of heteros and I could make my point by limiting my remarks to the importance of the right to marry as exemplified by the case of Karen Thompson and Sharon Kowalski, followed by a few points about why I had become a Gay Separatist because even liberal and radical heterosexuals treated our rights as if they had the importance of priority number 32. Incidentally, if women's or racial minorities' rights had been in question, you would not have dared to tell them that they could "tail end" on Natalie Johnson Lee's presentation. You would have alloted them an entire point on the agenda. That is why I TOLD YOU that I HAD DECIDED THAT GAY RIGHTS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES ON THE AGENDA. In essence, I was not ASKING you for five minutes or arguing that I should have five minutes; I WAS TELLING YOU THAT THIS TOPIC NOT ONLY DESERVED FIVE MINUTES BUT ALSO TELLING YOU THAT I WAS GOING TO TAKE FIVE MINUTES. But in any case, I had decided that I didn't need to bring up my personal pain. But then, during the intermission, someone told me that Gays were only subjected to social oppression whereas racial minorities were subject to both social and economic oppression. Sure! I suppose we are not victims of economic oppression when we are fired from our jobs for being Gay! It was at that point that I realized that the only way I could get through to you people was to tell my personal story which I did after the intermission at the end of the meeting. It was good that I realized that I couldn't count on any sympathy or understanding when I revealed these personal matters, that any hostile or mocking reaction really would say more about the people reacting in this manner than it would say about me and that I was only doing this as an attempt to break through you peoples' heterocentrism in the hope that you would finally get it! You didn't get it. The only response was from a woman who told me that every time I spoke, she knew that I would speak longer than anyone else, that she wasn't interested in my personal life but only in the issues. When I asked her if she could see the importance of someone having to feel like I had felt, she said "no" in a harsh angry voice. It was at this point that I realized that I was dealing with one of those people whose reaction said more about them than it said about me, that I couldn't expect to be able to get through to such people, and that the only thing I could do was to let go of any attempt to get through to her and dismiss her response as not being worth any further consideration. At this point, her response meant no more to me than it would if I had learned that someone on the other side of the world, in Kinshasa or Ulan Bator or Melbourne, disliked me. I was still amazed however that someones understanding of the abuse of a whole category of people and the resulting personal pain it caused reduced to nothing more than a matter of "your personal life." However, for those who want statistics, here's one. The American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement, "Homosexuality and Adolescence," printed in the October, 1993 issue of PEDIATRICS states that 30% of all completed suicides are by Gay youth. And that 30% of Gay and Bisexual males have attempted (not completed) suicide at least once. If 30% of completed suicides are by Gay youth, although we are only 10% of the population, and 30% of Gay and Bisexual males have attempted to commit suicide at least once during their life, then we are killing ourselves far out of proportion -- three times as much as the rest of the population -- the persecution Gays endure is not trivial and unimportant and these statistics should lay to rest once and for all the hetero myth that out rights are trivial and unimportant. I suppose these statistics are not too surprising however. What's surprising is that living on the same planet with you heterosexuals has not driven even more of us to suicide! Although I am aware that I often talk at too great length, bringing this up in the context of the Green Party's trivializing and brushing aside one of the core rights of a key constituent group is the equivalent of quibbling about the mote and ignoring the rafter. And I am sure most of the people who read the letter I handed out on Johnson Lee's vote could appreciate the progression of points since most people compliment me about my letters. However, I would be happy to reprint my letter with marginal notes showing where each point begins and ends, and do the same for the additional points I made about why I became a Gay Separatist and why I expected any party of which I was a member to treat Gay Rights as Equally important as the rights of other groups- to aid any people who are not intelligent enough to follow my presentation without the help of such marginal aids. I had already told David Strand what I thought of his Toming up to the heteros and giving you an opening to say that you were glad there was another Gay at the convention who had a different view. But then I realized that his behavior was just as contemptible as it would have been if he had been an African American in Mississippi , when SNCC was trying to win the right to vote for African Americans, shuffling and Toming before the white folks saying that "this question of whether anyone should be able to just come in and vote no matter what their skin color is complicated and there are a lot of things to think about," I became so enraged I didn't know how I could tell him just what I really thought without making an enemy for life. It is quite likely, if he had been an African American, ingratiating himself like this in 1960's Mississippi, that he would have had members of the White Citizens Council, and probably even members of the Ku Klux Klan, saying he was one of the "good ones." But I am certain that the adjective "good" would not have been followed by the innocuous word "ones" but by a six letter word beginning with "n." That, however, would not have stopped some younger, testosterone-crazed machomaniacs in the Klan from hitching him to a car and dragging him to his death like some heteromaniacs would do to an African American man in Texas nearly forty years later. Because, in their testosterone crazed view, the only good one is a dead one! I had to ask Michael Bayly how I could make this point without making an enemy for life. He gave me some suggestions and, after letting the letter rest in my mind for a couple of weeks, I was able to write the letter that you received a copy of, which, in essence, made my points without all the rhetoric and invective about Uncle Toms. On Saturday, June 28th, at the Lavender Greens Pride table, I asked Strand if he now understood why, on a core rights issue such as marriage, it was never appropriate to temporize by saying "this is complicated" and "there are a lot of things to think about here." He replied that "the domestic partners ordinance wasn't about marriage." Damn it. I thought that I had at least cleared this matter up with him! I thought that he had at least understood the connection of this limited domestic partners ordinance in one city to the right to get married. Look here, to start with the basics, being married prevents hostile relatives from tearing you and your spouse apart for ten years as they did in the Karen Thompson and Sharon Kowalski case. A mere city domestic partners ordinance would not have made Karen and Sharon's case as open and shut as a statewide same sex marriage law or even a statewide domestic partners law would have. The ordinance in question would not have even covered all the citizens of Minneapolis but only couples with a least one member employed by a company doing business with the city of Minneapolis. And Karen Thompson and Sharon Kowalski lived in St. Cloud, not Minneapolis, so the Minneapolis ordinance would not have helped them even if it had been in effect in Minneapolis at the time of Kowalski's accident. But the effect of obtaining even this limited step towards equal marriage is still important even if it only applies to couples that have one member working for a company that does business with the city of Minneapolis. Ordinances and statutes are intended to apply to as many future situations as can reasonably be foreseen. So the fact that this ordinance would only help a hypothetical future couple who will have at least one member working for a company that will be doing business with the city of Minneapolis makes it no less important to help these hypothetical future couples. And this is true even though this ordinance would only give this couple a signed notarized legal document with which they could convince a future, hypothetical court to recognize them as "a family of affinity" in less than the ten years it took it took Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson to win this court recognition. And the fact that marriage rights protect a couple from being torn apart by hostile relatives make marriage rights no less a core right than the right to vote, even without the 1041 rights that go along with marriage. Even this limited step means temporizing about "many things to consider and think about" is not being able to see the forest of the justification for groups having marriage rights for the trees of all the details of how to implement these rights. Such quibbling and temporizing is neither ethically appropriate nor logically sound in situations where core rights are debated. I still plan to remain in the Green Party as long as this situation of a Green Party elected official voting against the rights of a constituent group whose rights are even included in the Green Party platform NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN! I first began working with radical political organizations when I became active in the Congress of Racial Equality in Lexington, Kentucky in 1962. In this period of forty-one years, I have known people in groups to get turned off and not come back merely because two people had a little spat at a meeting! The fact that fifty people keep coming back to Green Party meetings in spite of your everlasting consensus process in which you spend more time discussing whether to discuss a topic than discussing it demonstrates that you have tapped into a deep well of alienation from the system currently in power in this country. This alienation stems from the Supreme Court, for the first time in this country's history, nullifying a popular election and selecting the President, the American system's empire building abroad, the draconian cuts in social services, etc. etc. etc... I hope the Green Party will be able to harness this alienation in future elections and not be a flash in the pan as every third party has been since the Democratic and Republican parties broke out of their third party status and became major first/second parties. Meanwhile, I was so disgusted when I saw that I hadn't gotten anywhere with David Strand that I didn't even sit at the Lavender Greens table during Pride Week or attend the party he had after Pride. If he is going to become an enemy for life after a full and frank expression of the views that I can no longer keep to myself, that's just the way it will have to be. I saved the time and effort of writing multiple letters by sending you a copy of my letter dated June 11th that I sent to David Strand and others. I am saving time again by sending a copy of this letter to you to David Strand and others instead of writing multiple versions of a letter it has already taken seven to eight hours to complete and another ten hours to correct and proofread.

cc: 1. David Strand 2. Bill Kingsbury 3. Rick Osborne 4. Doug Benson and Duane Gajewski 5. Ken Pentel 6. 5th District Green Party Steering Committee 7. Scott McLarty 8. Josh Jore 9. Michael Bayly 10. Freeman Wicklund 11. Sandy Berman 12. Tamir Nolley 13. Mel Stevens 14. Eric Makela 15. Phil Duran 16. Mary Jean Mulherin 17. Stephen Harvey 18. Kellie Burriss


Post a Comment

<< Home