On Monday, the Stonewall Democratic Club voted to expel me. After months of challenging the club’s entirely political support of “pinkwashing” status quo, moderate Democrats. I leave knowing it was my sustained criticism of their betrayal of decades of tireless LGBTQ activism that inspired their ire and motivated them to concoct a way to force me out. Yet, my activism continues.
After an alley brawl on Cinco de Mayo in West Hollywood I posted a video of the drunken gay bashing on my personal Facebook page (a video that went viral) and I wrote: “Faghags need to be checked so often.” Stonewall Executive Board, save one, demanded that I resign from the club for encouraging violence against women — an accusation as preposterous as it was insulting. One officer claimed that my sharing a video should be handled like the rich donor asked to leave after “what happened to Gemmel Moore.” To liken the death of a young man to the sharing of a viral video is disrespectful of Moore’s memory and disgusting to anyone not on a rabid personal vendetta. For this they expelled me, claiming I advocated violence against women. Simply ludicrous! They twisted my words in order to silence dissent within the club.
I have spent my adult life advocating for equality and justice. I was a member of ACT-UP, Queer Nation and numerous LGBTQ Democratic clubs. I was a cofounder of the Bayard Rustin LGBTQ Club of Solano and Napa counties. I sat on two Democratic Central Committees while I lived in Northern California. While with Stonewall in Los Angeles I have focused on educating federal and state representatives in Los Angeles County and asked congressmembers to cosponsor more LGBTQ bills. I have worked with Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority drawing attention to the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth. The persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya has also been part of my activism for the last year. I have also worked with a local GSA. A rainbow flag flies over Culver City, in part, because I was involved. I work to improve the lives of people.
The club works to advance careers of establishment moderate Democrats by pinkwashing them with a Stonewall endorsement. The club’s endorsement process is designed to protect incumbents and well-financed, well-connected candidates, many of whom donate money to the club. Last November the club endorsed incumbent congressmembers across the board. Even though the club was provided with information on how few LGBTQ bills some Los Angeles Congress members had cosponsored, they were all endorsed by the club. Either with a stellar record or weak record, all received endorsements.
The endorsement process fails to advance progressive candidates. Endorsement interviews are held behind closed doors, and input from the members is thwarted. All questions posed to candidates are vetted in advance by the political director, Jane Wishon, a straight, white woman who claims to be an ally. If she doesn’t approve the question, it is not asked. The questions she approves are softball questions that can usually be answered by looking at the candidate’s website. Then a diversity of members are trotted in and allowed to only read the softball questions pre-approved by Jane. This process silences issues that people of color or transgender members may want to ask. Questions unique to LGBTQ people are few and far between. Questionnaires are never shared with membership. The club asks questions that are asked in other Democratic clubs and fail to address concerns of LGBTQ people. As a person who has been in many Democratic clubs and as a life-long activist, the endorsement questions and secretive nature of the process is an embarrassment. When I raised my concerns to the political director I was told, “I’ve made my decisions. If you don’t like it you can leave.” The LGBTQ community deserves a political organization focused on their needs.
A few months back I arranged a meeting with the Los Angeles Homelessness Authority’s Youth Manager along with the club’s president, Lester Aponte. We were going to discuss homeless LGBTQ youth. Lester failed to show up and offered no explanation. It was embarrassing and shameful on the part of the president.
Over the course of months as an elected steering committee member I paid close attention to Stonewall’s oft-proclaimed commitment to feminism and women’s well-being; it was the club’s pointed disinterest in women that became glaringly apparent. As the #MeToo movement grew it was proposed the club could become a resource for people seeking to file complaints against an employer because most people do not know how to go about filing a discrimination complaint. The club president works at Young & Zinn, a law firm that defends employers from such complaints. The president killed the proposal because he deemed it a conflict of interest with his job and therefore not good for the club. Stonewall has a president who defends employers against discrimination complaints, and he used his position to keep information away from women who might need it. Mull over that.
The last year at Stonewall in Los Angeles has been frustrating. The club has grown weary of my calls for activism and challenges to their relentless support of the status quo by “pinkwashing.” I have been expelled for the flimsiest of reasons. The club lacks interest in activism to improve the lives of LGBTQ people, people of color, women and others. Stonewall is not a LGBTQ club. It is not a feminist club. It is not progressive club. Stonewall in Los Angeles pinkwashes candidates unworthy of an endorsement with the word “Stonewall.” It’s been 49 years since the Stonewall riots, and the name has been co-opted and severed decoupled from its activists’ roots.
The Stonewall Democratic Club is ossified, obtuse and obsolete — and unworthy of the sacrifices in lives, sweat and tears of the marginalized LGBTQ folks on whose shoulders they have climbed solely to hobnob before the camera, any camera. It’s just a matter of time before this anachronistic cabal implodes from the weight of its own cronyism; may the good people there get out and go on to bigger and better work for our community. My activism, it goes without saying, will continue, proudly, fervently and without apology.