Family Feuding

Campaign season is the perfect time to remember that in the big picture, we're on the same side

Last Thursday morning, June 10, the humidity was already thick by 9 a.m. But that’s D.C. No surprise there.

Still, it was a beautiful morning, particularly so because that was the morning when Frank Kameny Way was dedicated. Whatever my levels of cynicism, I felt a genuine thrill at the unveiling of this permanent marker being added to this very gay stretch of 17th Street honoring an activist I believe changed the course of history for the better to a monumental degree.

But someone had to prick my cynicism. It was the guy holding the “Vince Gray for Mayor” sign over Adrian Fenty’s head as he spoke. Then it was the Fenty supporter, so bothered by his grassroots rival that he had to jockey for position with a Fenty campaign sign.

Really? Two grown men but not enough maturity between them to appreciate the gravity of the ceremony? It gave me knots in my stomach thinking of the campaign season that is picking up speed daily. What makes me so anxious is not the routine politicking intrinsic to the most political city in the universe, but having to watch it split our community at a time when it could use a heaping dose of civil solidarity.

If it’s not listening to one half of the community bemoan Barack Obama’s lack of action on LGBT promises while the other points out he’s done more than any predecessor, it’s watching Get Equal activists take on Capitol Hill in righteous style while our own gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) counters that a march on Washington puts pressure not on his legislative peers but on the grass only.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club has endorsed Gray for mayor. That’s fine. But there are still plenty of LGBT locals who support Fenty. To both camps, I say please don’t act like the jokers at the Kameny dedication. The Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) vs. Clark Ray fight for the City Council seat will likely see more energy than the mayor’s race. As one of our own goes head to head with our longtime straight ally, I hope that energy manifests itself as enthusiasm for one’s candidate rather than vitriol for his opponent.

One can hope. But, man, I’ve seen some unsavory infighting in our community over the years. Maybe that comes part and parcel with any sort of political movement. Stalin had his Bolshevik comrade Trotsky whacked with an axe. Hitler purged his own bullies the “brownshirts” in the violent “Night of the Long Knives.” Malcolm X met his death not at the hands of some violent white racist, but by a member of the Nation of Islam.

Of course, those are extreme examples intended simply to show that political infighting might be the rule rather than the exception. But if we learn from history, we may be less likely to repeat it, less likely to let our movement for equality fracture.

As the grand schisms of our community are widened locally during these coming months of campaigning, I would hope that whenever one of us feels his or her tension rising in the face of an opposing voice from another member of our community, we remember that we share common enemies in homophobia and transphobia. You might feel GOProud is the enemy; deal with the National Organization for Marriage first. Don’t fret over the Human Rights Campaign’s bureaucracy when the Family Research Council wants you outlawed.

We are not a monolithic community, but we are nevertheless a community. And every time we turn our ire at one another, we may as well be sending gift baskets to Fred Phelps. Go about your campaigning, sell your candidate, go nuts. But try to remember something that Kameny instilled with his dress-code-observing protests: A little decorum goes a long way.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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