The other night I had dinner with a friend of mine. I hadn’t seen her since shortly after the election last year.
“How are you doing?” I asked. “Any better?”
“No,” she said. “I still can’t believe it. I still can’t sleep. I keep asking myself how did this happen? I can’t believe we lost the election! Now what?”
Indeed, now what! We all keep following the new reality series “The Trump Circus,” waiting to talk about, write about or tweet about the next outrageous Trump tweet, the next betrayal of a Trump supporter, the money being made by the Trump family, the undying support of his followers, the Trumpettes, Fake News, or the changing of the guard in the Trump White House.
But while the media and the public are fascinated by the Trump Circus, we’re missing the real news that’s impacting our real lives.
Personally, I’m sick of the Trump Circus and I’m looking for leadership—true leadership! But where?
If you’re like me and you’ve registered as a Democrat or given money to an LGBTQ organization or an LGBTQ endorsed candidate, you’re probably receiving daily emails from every LGBTQ organization, every supporter of LGBTQ rights and, if you’re a lesbian, every women’s rights organization. The lists are overwhelming—organizations that are doing good work: Human Rights Campaign, The Victory Fund, NARAL, EMILY’s List, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the BOLD Democrats, Planned Parenthood, Equality California, Honor PAC, the LA LGBT Center, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, The Trans Chorus, Vox Femina, GLAAD, and The Williams Institute.
I’m sure I’ve left some out, but I’m too overwhelmed to check my deleted emails. And let’s not forget the candidates running for office and the electeds running for reelection — all sincere supporters of LGBTQ rights—Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, John Chiang, Kosper for Congress, Ann Kirkpatrick, Bill Nelson, Judy Chiu, Alex De Ocampo, etc, etc, etc.—you get the idea. I know a few of these people. A few I’ve even supported. But for the vast majority of them, I have one question: “WHO ARE YOU and what have you done to earn my support?”
In the old days, before marriage equality, before Equality California and before AIDS decimated the community we loved, there was a small group of friends who knew each other and worked together in the first PAC (political action committee). It was the 1970s and we were devoted to achieving civil rights for the gay and lesbian community by making and changing city laws and in defeating the horrible anti-gay Briggs initiative. We called ourselves MECLA, a non-descript acronym for the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles so people would feel comfortable in writing a check to a gay group their accountant wouldn’t question—checks we would bundle for a pro-gay candidate who feared a gabby accountant, too. By 1979, our group had become so successful, not only did candidates openly accept and solicit our money, but Gov. Jerry Brown keynoted a major fundraising roast for gay mega-donor, Sheldon Andelson.
In the early 1980s, we started a new group, “The Book Club,” where we met monthly to talk about AIDS and how to pressure elected officials into becoming advocates for research into AIDS drugs and ending discrimination. By the late 1980s, we started speaking out loudly and demanding political recognition from presidential candidates as an organization named ANGLE—Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality. There was ACT UP, Queer Nation, LIFE Lobby, the Center, MCC—and us, the checkbook activists at ANGLE—and we all marched together and got arrested over AIDS, the veto of AB 101, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
I miss those days, those associations, that LGBT and AIDS activism. I didn’t realize how much until the Trump Circus announced via Twitter that he was banning open transgender service in the military. Something that was almost a done deal was suddenly taken away—by Twitter! Lives were ruined—by Twitter. And no one in LA marched or got arrested or did anything.
All that money I contributed—for what?
And now, this Tuesday night, Aug. 8, the Trump Circus has brought us to the brink of war with North Korea. No marches. No protests. No leadership. But at least the trans military ban is on hold so those brave service members can fight and maybe die for the country—that still treats them like second-class citizens, just like the rest of us LGBs.
What now? Indeed. I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight, either.
— Diane Abbitt, an attorney based in West Hollywood, is former co-chair of MECLA, co-founder of ANGLE and former PAC Chair for Equality California.