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‘Gay Army’ Confronts Tensions

Posted by pozlife on April 20, 2007

 

By: DUNCAN OSBORNE

04/19/2007

Eric Sawyer, being arrested in a 1999 protest of the NYPD killing of Amadou Diallo, and Larry Kramer, at the LGBT Community Center March 13 to deliver a speech marking the 20th anniversary of ACT UP, were among the old-guard AIDS activists who faced criticism from LGBT young people at an April 12 meeting.





Eric Sawyer, being arrested in a 1999 protest of the NYPD killing of Amadou Diallo, and Larry Kramer, at the LGBT Community Center March 13 to deliver a speech marking the 20th anniversary of ACT UP, were among the old-guard AIDS activists who faced criticism from LGBT young people at an April 12 meeting.

After mounting a single protest, the “gay army” that formed in response to a speech by playwright Larry Kramer is struggling to find its mission and dealing with internal tensions.
“These are really very early days and I don’t think anybody knows what will happen,” Kramer said. “Things are just starting up. They are trying to fight their way through to some meaning.”
The group, which does not yet have a name, was formed following the March 13 speech that Kramer gave at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center to mark the 20th anniversary of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).
Kramer called for the creation of a “gay army with gay leaders fighting for gay people under a gay flag, in gay battle formations against our common enemies” during that address. 

At Kramer’s urging, many in the audience turned out for a March 15 event at the Times Square military recruiting office to protest General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling homosexuals “immoral.”
But at its first meeting, held on April 12 at the Center, members reported that tensions split along generational lines and attendees agreed on little more than when to meet next and to limit future discussions on group governance.
“It’s all very nascent,” said Ann Northrop, a co-host of Gay USA, a cable news show, and a longtime gay and AIDS activist. “Nothing has been decided yet including name or form.”
Attendees, including former ACT UP members, estimated that 75 to 100 people met for roughly three hours. The meeting, which Gay City News did not attend, began with people sitting in a circle. They were asked to give their name, the pronoun they wished to be identified by, and how they felt. The discussion, which was facilitated by a group of young people, was heated at times.
A proposed name, the Queer Justice League, was deemed offensive by some in the meeting because of the use of the word queer. A proposal that meetings run according to Robert’s Rules of Order, longstanding guidelines for parliamentary procedure, was debated, and some young people felt their concerns were not being heard.
“Communities that are marginalized tend to get prickly when they feel they are not being listened to or heard,” said Katie Tikkun, a social justice activist. Whether the group should be an outgrowth of ACT UP, a gay group, or something altogether new was also a point of contention.
“There was a large proportion of people who identify as older gay, white males,” Tikkun said. “There was talk of is this going to be a gay organization? There was also an impressive group of people who were not gay white males.”
Some of the tensions preceded the meeting. One participant, Alex Kent, who did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, wrote that ACT UP was “largely perceived as unwelcoming to young people” in an e-mail on the Queer Justice League listserv.
Following the meeting, Kody Trauger, who did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, was harshly critical.
“I am here to tell you to shut the fuck up and listen,” Trauger wrote on the group’s listserv. “Fuck off older generation of gay activists with huge egos. You say you want my help, my input, my thoughts and ideas about getting youth involved in gay activism, but all you really want is my labor for your work.”
Eric Sawyer, a longtime AIDS activist and a founder of Housing Works, an AIDS service organization, responded in kind.
“I love how the young people in the group keep talking about us older people needing to make them feel included and letting them participate and be heard meanwhile we were letting them run the meeting – in a rather inefficient – all p.c. focused – no content manner – time wasting manner – and then when we tried to guide it a bit we got our heads bitten off,” wrote Sawyer who did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. “Who’s excluding whom?”
There have been just a few angry exchanges on the listserv.
“Some of e-mail language is vituperative, and disturbingly so, but it is confined to a few voices,” Northrop said. Still, they raise questions about the group’s future.
“How it will all play out is really up in the air at this point,” Andrew Velez, a longtime gay and AIDS activist.
The group is slated to meet again at the Center on April 19.

Source: GayCityNews – ‘Gay Army’ Confronts Tensions

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One Response to “‘Gay Army’ Confronts Tensions”

  1. Kody Trauger said

    I want to comment on the quote used by me in this article. It was a harsh response but at the same time, the language and level of critique I used was equal to how it felt as a queer youth to be in the room during the first QJL meeting. It was intended to be a wake up call. Do I advocate using that type of hyper emotionally charged language when actually discussing the issues? no I do not. In fact, the piece that I was quoted from was more of an artistic political free verse expression so my quote was taken out of context. But do I feel that sometimes youth are overpowered and out voiced by older people? yes I do. and in that room we most certainly were. Could I have handled the situation better? yes. was it a mistake to send out my response to everyone? perhaps, yes it was. but we all get fired up sometimes even when we try to remain cool headed. this was one of the rare times when my emotions got the best of me and I apologize if anyone was offended by my choice of words.

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