(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #167, October 19, 2001)
NCSF Policy Statement discusses “Sexual Minorities in the Post-September 11, 2001 World”
I recently received the following Policy Statement written by Judy Guerin, the Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Inc. (www.ncsfreedom.org), an organization about which I have written many times before. I believe it says some relevant and important things of which we all need to be aware.
“The tragic events of September 11, 2001 have profoundly changed the lives of all Americans. Nowhere is this more true than for sexual minorities, especially the gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, SM-Leather-Fetish and various alternative sexual expression communities. Accordingly, it is essential that our communities undertake a serious reassessment of, and a recommitment to, the work we have all been doing toward greater tolerance, freedom and respect.
“The intense impact on our communities is apparent when one considers the following facts:
“First and foremost, Americans may have to find ways to resist or deal with greater governmental intrusions into our liberties and privacy. Airport searches, national identity cards, increased authority for law enforcement wiretaps and other intrusive measures are likely to be implemented at Federal, State and local levels. While these intrusions will affect all Americans, they are of particular concern to our communities, for whom privacy and freedom of assembly are such central issues.
“Second, there is a very real risk that these intrusions into privacy and increased powers for law enforcement officials could become intertwined with latent hostilities to sexual minorities. Once public and political hostility toward certain groups who are “different, not like us” begins, there is a risk it will spread to other non-conforming groups, of which we are a prime example in the minds of certain right-wing groups. I suspect that many of you have seen the reports of a television show dialogue between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, in which the September 11 tragedy was depicted as divine retribution for America’s so-called moral decay, with gays and lesbians given as prime examples of that decay for which we are all now being punished. What was so disturbing about this was not that these conservative zealots expressed that view, but that there was so little shock or outcry against the utterance of such vile sentiments.
“Third, on a national level our communities were just beginning the difficult task of building credibility and working relationships with a new Administration whose social policy inclinations are very different from that of the Clinton Administration. That uphill battle will be even more difficult now, both because it will be more difficult to get policymakers to focus on our issues and because, as noted above, one effect of this tragedy may be to bring out some of the more unfortunate conservative attitudes—“toughness,” emphasis on “traditional American values”—in a way hostile to alternative lifestyles. We believe our messages will need to be modified to address this new “hostile climate.”
“Finally, the tangible economic effects of the tragedy will have particularly adverse consequences for our communities in a number of ways:
“• Our communities depend on member participation and on contributions of time and effort by individuals. All of that suffers in economic hard times, and in times of increased nervousness about governmental hostility.
“• We depend on events to a substantial extent as means of generating both funding and participation. With everyone more nervous about travel and less able to afford trips, the big events—such as the Creating Change conference and Black Rose 2001—are likely to suffer and smaller events may even be canceled.
“• Contributions are the lifeblood of our activism. With few exceptions, we don’t have huge grants from corporations or foundations. The economic slowdown threatens deep declines in personal contributions that could greatly reduce our efforts and might even force some organizations to shut down entirely.
“• And it must always be remembered that our communities have an economic aspect that essentially consists of many small businesses: GLBT-oriented bookstores, fetish clothing stores and small mail-order operations, alternative theatre groups, bars and night clubs, etc. These small businesses are uniquely vulnerable to the combined effects of our economic downturn and increased concerns by community members at public scrutiny of their lifestyles.
“For all of these reasons, now is the time for recommitment to our goals and ideals, for resistance to the natural tendency to recede from activism and from public activities and instead to “tend one’s own garden,” as Voltaire put it. We at NCSF, along with other GLBT and freedom of expression groups, must increase our outreach activities and our efforts to maximize and broaden the involvement of individuals, especially at the local level.
“All of you in our communities must also rededicate yourself to our cause. By this I do not just mean that you should contribute effort—and money, of course—to national organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other effective national organizations and to your local community groups. That is extremely important, but is only a part of what we all must do to keep our movement alive and to prevent the slide back into more intolerance, more discrimination and less freedom.
“More fundamentally, I urge all of us to rededicate ourselves to participation in the daily-life activities that are the core of our communities’ growing strength. Attend GLBT, SM-Leather-Fetish and other alternative sexual expression and freedom of expression events, both locally and regionally. Support relief efforts that focus on our communities—the New York City Anti-Violence Project is a good example. Patronize the small businesses—merchants, theaters, galleries—that help our lifestyles thrive. Above all, do not retreat into isolation and inactivity. We have made great strides in recent years. Our momentum, acceptance, economic strength and political effectiveness have grown exponentially. Now is the time for all of us to vow that we will not allow that progress to be reversed, that instead we will redouble our efforts to achieve the further gains that we all know are both essential and possible.”