Rosendall to NGLTF: Stick to Gay Rights
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Rosendall to NGLTF: Stick to Gay Rights

[Note: The following letter, printed in the January 5, 2001 issue of The Washington Blade, was prompted by a controversy surrounding the November 2000 annual Creating Change Conference held by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Two open letters, one from a protest group and a reply from NGLTF, appeared in the 12/22/00 Blade. Longer versions of those open letters can be found on NGLTF's website at: The letter below was written by GLAA Political Vice President (and former president) Rick Rosendall. He wrote the letter as an individual; it is not an official statement by GLAA.]

Tuesday, January 2, 2001

Readers Forum
The Washington Blade
(via email to

Dear Editor:

The recent pair of columns on NGLTF's Creating Change Conference (Dec. 22) offers the cautionary spectacle of the gay left devouring itself. It was perhaps inevitable that the advocates of cultural revolution and alienation should end by eating their own.

The protesters talk patronizingly of people of color being silenced, as if black gays need white activists with numbingly bad prose to write on their behalf. A good indicator of silliness is the ever-growing litany of identity categories, as when NGLTF's Elizabeth Toledo, in her response, offers "Lesbian, Gay male, bisexual, transgender, same-gender loving, and Two-Spirited." Presumably, the acronym for this would be LGBTSGLTS. As Norah Vincent wrote in The Village Voice, "gay monikers are starting to look like German nouns."

Toledo practically thanks those who disrupted the conference. She wrings her hands over the ridiculous whining by youth activists about the quantity and quality of free food. She promises a "speak-out session" next year, as if Creating Change has a shortage of boorish radicals insulting their allies and demanding applause for it. She offers a long list of causes unrelated to gay rights to which NGLTF will commit even more of its limited resources.

This is not new: the death penalty, labor unions, the Persian Gulf War, NAFTA -- nothing is too far afield for NGLTF. Objections are dismissed with the claim that all oppressions are related, and the attitude that disagreement itself is a form of oppression. Apparently the gay movement is the only one not allowed to specialize. To understand how far the Task Force has drifted from basic gay issues, consider that there wasn't a single session on sodomy laws at the most recent conference.

By the protesters' standards, whether one has actually worked productively on issues affecting black gays, transgenders, and youth appears irrelevant. What matters is where you rank on the victimometer of identity politics, and whether you accept the queer academic orthodoxy. Whose idea of diversity and liberation is that?

The very essence of effective coalition work is respecting differences while working on common concerns. It defeats the purpose to lose one's own proper focus in the process. In the words of my colleague Frank Kameny, "If you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing very well." Stick to gay civil rights, NGLTF.


Rick Rosendall


Copyright 2001 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.