International porn mogul Michael Lucas is known for being a bit of an opinionated press whore. Which is, to be perfectly honest, fine by us! But in a recent op-ed, in a magazine willing to tolerate his general phobias, Lucas whitened our somewhat jaundiced eye towards him. It’s entitled “Leaderless” and has the porn impresario musing on why we lack a national leader. This is not a new question; we’ve discussed it many times on this website before. But it’s the first time we connected the names “Michael Lucas” and “Martin Luther King Jr.” in the same brain synapse.
It’s been 30 years since the murder of Harvey Milk and yet we still have no powerful gay organizer with as much appeal or name recognition as he did, opines Lucas. We can’t really rely on our eloquent democratic leadership to move on marriage equality or DADT. Meanwhile, our “so-called” gay leaders — the salaried leaders of Gay Inc. — are more interested in rubbing elbows with power than actually holding them accountable or empowering the gay grassroots.
Before we get to his argument, here’s a bit of Lucas’s gripe in his own words. It’s characteristically bitchy and adamantly pro-Jew (just like we like him):
I don’t judge by words. I judge by actions. Politicians take gay votes for granted, and who can blame them? They probably should take our votes for granted because we don’t ask for anything from them in return. Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and gay people still gave him their votes. Indeed, they cheer him whenever he speaks before a gay organization. So maybe we don’t deserve a real fighter. Gays are looking for fashionable icons and nothing more than that.
Last year, I saw Jane Fonda at a Broadway fundraising event for gay causes. This is a woman whose contribution to the world was 25 aerobic workout videos. Many will never forget her visiting Communist troops in Vietnam. At the Broadway event, Fonda got a standing ovation before she even opened her mouth. Why? She’s a tired diva. But when Harvey Fierstein, one of the most celebrated gay artists in America, came on stage, he didn’t get a standing ovation. He gave an amazing speech that was directed at Obama, demanding that the president fulfill his campaign pledges. This event occurred a long time ago when people were still excited about Obama, and yet Fierstein still chastised him harshly for his lack of action.
Maybe the crowd didn’t applaud Harvey because he isn’t a diva. He didn’t produce workout videos, nor did he ever express support for Vietnamese communists. Perhaps if he had, the left-wing gay community would cheer for him. Even that scumbag ex-governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, is invited everywhere. I was actually shocked to see him speak at an event for the Stonewall Community Foundation, an organization that I respect. This corrupt ex-politician, who had to resign because he put his lover on the state payroll, was giving a speech and the entire gay crowd was applauding him? What a shame.
Lucas bemoans the current ineffectual state of gay political organizing, and though he ends by saying, “It’s time for a new generation of gay leadership,” he leaves a gaping (butt)hole of reasoning on where this new generation will come from. Which, of course, is part of the problem: Finding new gay leaders must start with finding new gay leaders.
The U.S. has some amazing, hard-working gay activists right now, but none have articulated a cogent strategy for nationwide mobilization. Even the politi-blogger created Dallas Principles are just a series of guidelines and goals, not a strategy for actually achieving them. It’s possible that in this age of insta-media rehash that MLK and Harvey Milk’s efforts would have gotten snowed under a wave of criticism about their sex lives and other political minutiae like Michael Lucas’ pal Dustin Lance Black. That gay leaders must achieve some amount of celebrity to be effective is not new, but reaching trusted celebrity status is. Which is why Kim Kardashian and is considered a celebrity, when she is not; she is merely famous. Why, exactly, we’re not sure. But for a gay leader to rise from the pack, he or she must also battle the never-ending appetite for, and vomiting up of the always-on media cycle. To which this blog contributes.
Surely, having an entire generation wiped out by the 1980s AIDS epidemic and a younger generation raised with less stigmatization than its predecessor have probably robbed us of some of the drive to dedicate our lives in widespread social disobedience. After all, we admire MLK and Harvey Milk, but few of us want to end up on their side of the gun. That’s why the names you recognize are David Mixner and Richard Socarides, and why we’re only starting to hear the names of Dan Choi and Heath Tucker.
We also have a alphabet goulash of issues such as HIV, HCR, anti-LGBT legislation, DOMA, EDNA and DADT. But I’m tired of hearing how the LGBT community is too fractured in and of itself to ever have a single unifying voice. Truth is, the sooner we are willing to go to jail in droves for rebelling against unfair practices, then we’ll see movement. Power is never given. It’s always taken.