Queer of the Year

Cross-posted at enmasse

To my disgust, Queerty has nominated a straight man: LAPD Chief William Bratton. To be fair, they didn’t exactly name him “Queer of the Year”… they called him “Homo Hero of the Year”, based largely on the following:

It’s easy to forget, in the face of so much vocal opposition to fairness and equality for gays and lesbians, that the ranks of allies supporting us are growing every day. Chief Bratton publicly announced his financial support of the No on 8 campaign as well as his support for gay marriage in July at the urging of a gay couple he’s friends with, saying at the time: “The Constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I see no reason why gays can’t pursue happiness through marriage.”

But it is the way he and the Los Angeles Police Department treated the protesters that makes him Queerty’s Homo Hero of the Year. There are many worthy LGBT folks who deserve mention (and are mentioned below), but Bratton’s proved that even the most homophobic institutions are capable of change when led by people with courage.

The “honorable mentions” that Queerty goes on to cite include California newlyweds Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin, comedian and anti-Prop 8 protester/speaker Wanda Sykes, and Australian diver and Olympic medalist Matthew Mitcham.

I am unimpressed…UK Gay News, on the other hand, names Matthew Mitcham “Hero of the LGBT Year 2008”:

He “came out” to the Sydney Morning Herald in the spring, and then during the summer he became the first openly gay man to win an Olympic Gold Medal when he prevented China sweeping the men’s diving events in Beijing.  Despite being fêted as an Olympic hero “down under”, he is finding it hard to get sponsorship from major companies, who share the “spoil sport” of the gay year with American television who deprived their viewers of seeing Matthew giving his partner the discreet “peck” on the cheek that brought tears to the rest of the world.

(btw, here’s a picture of Matthew’s BF smooching him. And here’s a screenshot from Aussie TV.)

Okay, but…

I’m still looking for someone who had a wider impact than just the sporting world (as much as I do admire Mitcham for his class, and quiet courage). Therefore, I’m going to nominate Seattle-based activist Amy Balliett, who, along with Cleveland activist Willow Witte, founded Join The Impact, a website organized to fight California’s regressive Proposition 8.

“Well,” you might say, “that contradicts your opening post, in that, like Wayne Besen, Join The Impact was formed in reaction to a loss of our rights, and has not actually accomplished anything to advance our rights.” Well, maybe not SO FAR, but I think Join The Impact has accomplished something even more important than fighting a homophobic California initiative. It has awoken complacent queers across the United States — and even beyond — and has been called the Stonewall of the Next Generation. And while some like Peter Staley and Dan Savage have sniffed over the “diminishing impact” of such Join The Impact efforts as “A Day Without Gays” and “Light Up The Night”, I think they miss the larger point: Join The Impact has lit a fuse, and the reverberations will continue to be felt for a long time to come.

I have had my differences of opinion with Rex Wockner in the past, but I heartily agree with his piece on why “Stonewall 2.0 is not fizzling out:

…That’s because Stonewall 2.0 already happened. Stonewall itself lasted three nights in 1969, but it set the stage for much that came after it. Stonewall 2.0 lasted, at minimum, 11 days — and, I suggest, set the stage for much that will come after it.

In David Carter’s book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, one Michael Fader told Carter: “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. … Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us. … There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.”

Sound familiar?

Stonewall 2.0 may or may not be inextricably wed to Join The Impact, the viral entity that coordinated the massive, 300-city, 50-state demos on Nov. 15, but what happened from Nov. 5 to Nov. 15 in California and across the country indisputably fired up a new generation of activists and lit a fire under complacent, comfortable older generations. It was a 2.0 moment — different from the gay marches on Washington, the AB 101 protests, the White Night Riots and other post-Stonewall historical moments precisely because it took place from coast to coast and border to border, and because the method by which it was organized (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, text-messaging) can be reactivated in minutes whenever the moment strikes.

So… despite all the valid points that folks like Staley and Savage raise — and I too thought “A Day Without Gays” and “Light Up The Night” were weak (and the idea behind “A Day Without Gays” was particularly dumb) — I still salute Amy Balliett and Willow Witte, and name them MY pick for co-winners of 2008’s “Queer(s) of the Year”.

Anyone else care to name their choices?

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