Tonight is the Twentieth Anniversary Gala of HRC Cleveland. For those unaware, HRC is shorthand for Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization lobbying for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality. I feel like I should be at the anniversary celebration tonight but, as always, I have an issue with big fundraising events.
Don’t get me wrong – this boy LOVES a throw-down party as much as the next guy. And I also acknowledge that people working tirelessly for social change sometimes need to get together and celebrate their efforts, bask in the love and support of others and just have fun. The thing is, I guess that in my heart of hearts, it all seems like a big, expensive pat on the back for the organization – and I am DEFINITELY not singling out HRC with that remark. But – to buy two Gala tickets at $175.00 each, plus rent two tuxedos (I know, I know – I should own one by now), the evening is already at $600.00 without valet tips, cash bar, silent auction item bids, etc. I have always had a personal issue with that – if one really SUPPORTS the goals and mission of an organization, why not just DONATE the $600.00 directly to the group? That money would go a LOT farther (and you wouldn’t have to suffer through some dry salmon or boring chicken dinner).
I guess maybe am slightly jaded with the whole “not-for-profit” thing. A decade or so ago, I was an “A” Gay – I went to every fundraising event for every LGBT-focused organization that I could. I supported as many different organizations as my wallet would allow. I was, to borrow the nickname from my dear friend Jan, a “professional gay.” I was out and about and, with each new event, each new dinner, ANOTHER cause emerged, ANOTHER organization came courting my support (dollars). That’s probably when I should have bought that tux, LOL!
After a while, I needed to step back and recharge, both my bank account and my emotional batteries. And of course, priorities change. I will admit that for the past five years or so I have been essentially a one-issue activist (LGBT-inclusive immigration reform), with a slight undercurrent of support for marriage equality as well. Those issues, especially LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, seemed to take a back seat to the larger issues of LGBT employment discrimination, DADT repeal, bullying, transgender rights and and hate crime legislation. So, I stepped out of the “A” Gay spotlight, moved a bit underground and lobbied as hard and as long as I could for issues that really mattered to me personally. Again – I TOTALLY support the work of HRC National and ESPECIALLY our outstanding local Cleveland chapter but they weren’t a good “fit” for me at the time…
So here we are today/tonight – Section 3 of DOMA has been repealed, I married my longtime partner (five years) a little over two weeks ago and now immigration law applies to us just like any other married couple. Whew. And who’s to say that HRC didn’t play a huge part in the DOMA piece? Anyway, regardless, I find myself sitting here now, wondering if Martin and I shouldn’t have tried to make that dinner. I hope the evening is glorious for everyone.
Will I ever be an “A” Gay again? I doubt it, or at least in the same way I was before. I used to think that being an A-Gay meant throwing a lot of money around, being out, visible and “PC” in public. I have come to understand, finally, that being an a-gay (lower case on purpose) is not about being public, it is about being committed and driven, giving money as well as other resources (time!) to support social change for LGBT peeps. Maybe instead of striving to be an a-gay, I will instead aspire to be a more well-rounded i-gay: involved, invested and immersed in the battle for social change, specifically as it applies to LGBT people but also as it applies to ALL people. Now that is a label I could get behind…
I think my hero, Hillary Clinton, said it best: