March 9, 2019


To live in Washington is to learn the technique of avoidance. My office sits at the corner of 22nd and I Streets NW, an intersection at the heart of George Washington University, frequented by nonprofit canvassers. Colleagues and I avoid walking by these people if possible, which it rarely is, or at least avoid engaging with them as we rush by, not listening to whatever cause they’re selling. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) keeps a steady stream of “fundraising associates” at this intersection, mostly young gay men who think working for the HRC buys some credibility, and young women who look like they were dressed by their gay male colleagues.

Recently a cute guy asked if I wanted to become an HRC member as I walked from office to Metro. “No, sorry,” I said, but he jogged to catch up: “Do you not care about gay rights?” I stopped and in no uncertain terms, barked a treatise on why the HRC does not represent my political interests or those of a queer politic writ large. Their politicking for most of the past decade has centered primarily on three issues: 1) the overturning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” thus allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military, i.e., an intrinsically homophobic war machine whose very existence should be open to debate; 2) the expansion of state-sanctioned marriage to gay and lesbian couples on both the state and national level, which invites the government to enter into their relationships with the promise of certain benefits such as health care and tax breaks, which should be available to everyone; and 3) the ranking of companies as “gay friendly” on an annual “Corporate Equality Index.”

This last project drives me bat-shit crazy, as it labels otherwise horrible multinational corporations as stellar places for gays to work. The HRC’s 2015 list includes oil companies that are wreaking havoc on the environment (Chevron, Exxon-Mobil); pharmaceutical companies more concerned with inflated profits than providing essential medicines to the sick and suffering (GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer); defense companies developing weapons that allow the U.S. and its allies to take over countries and their resources (Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman); financial conglomerates that caused the 2008 global economic crisis and used subsequent public bailouts to pay bonuses to already overcompensated executives (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase); and finally, because of its political maneuvering and takeover of the world’s farming and food, the one that many regard as the most evil corporation on the face of the earth: Monsanto. And yet, because these companies train employees in diversity, or give partner benefits, or financially support the gay rights lobby, they are deemed the best places for us to work.

–D. Gilson, “‘Homonormativity’ and Its Discontents,” Gay and Lesbian Review (reprinted in the essay anthology In Search of Stonewall )

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