More on Hillary and Barack

the marriage of true minds: any impediments?

A future torture victim sat next to me yesterday, on my flight from Paris to New York. She was in her twenties, and strung tight as piano wire, and professed to be half-German, half-Egyptian. She’d been subjected to a random search back at Charles de Gaulle. This put her in a state of steaming outrage, during which she emitted, to no one in particular, vocal and egregious threats: “I hope they bomb that airport. I hope everyone is killed. I feel like I am in Auschwitz.  How dare they serve Coca-Cola on this plane?”  Finally she wrote, in big black letters on a piece of paper, and pinned to the TV screen in front of her:

I hope you are blown to bits and
Everybody dies
Coke Kills

I huddled in the aisle seat, thinking in no special order: a) Given all the security, it’s impossible she has a bomb. b) Then why does she keep talking about it? c) Can the stewardesses see that note? d) I need more wine. e) If the stewardesses see this, she will be taken to Guantanamo. f) If we make an emergency landing so she can be taken to Guantanamo, my flight will be six hours late. g) Should I protest if she’s taken to Guantanamo? h) Do I want to go to Guantanamo? i) I need more wine.

Air France handled things surprisingly well, as it happens. Nobody was wrestled to the floor or cuffed. Instead, a senior, marmoreally-coiffed French woman shunted me from my seat and lectured the passenger for almost an hour. I heard snatches of the one-way conversation: “You can of course think zat. But you cannot say it on an airplane. And you cannot expose it zat way for others to zee.” There is nothing like a dressing-down from une française soignée to put even incipient psychosis in its place. The note vanished, the writer calmed down, the plane landed on time, and no one seemed to go Gitmoward. I desperately hope someone was waiting past customs with Valium, and not an orange jumpsuit.

I’d meant to spend the flight thinking about the Obama administration’s new LGBT human rights initiative; and instead I worried about whether seat 27b had a ticket to a Caribbean prison. Yet this made sense somehow. How progressive are the Obamaites in talking about human rights!  They meet with rights NGOs and flatter their fragile egos; they support the touchy issues, the women and the queers; they speechify. But Guantanamo is still there. The military tribunals still promise to happen in a slow parody of justice. Drones still descend from the sky, with a blue whine beyond appeal, to kill people we don’t like. It’s nice to be part of the class that merits concern, not cages; protection, not jet-fueled murder. This administration does demonstrate more real action on human rights than its bloody predecessor.  But the action is just selective enough to leave you wondering why you were singled out, when so many others still suffer the vast yet individuated violence. As Samuel Beckett wrote, musing on the two miscreants crucified on either side of Christ: “Do not despair: one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume: one of the thieves was damned.”

Reading some of the US responses to Clinton’s speech only reinforces this queasy feeling. Take gay activist-at-large Wayne Besen, who writes:

A historic address of this magnitude was desperately needed to counter the rising tide of backwards and barbaric nations that had recently been persecuting LGBT people to distract from their glaring problems. …

The list of countries that recently declared war on sexual minorities include Russia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Iran, and Zimbabwe. For the contemptible despots who run these underachieving nations, fomenting homophobia makes political sense. .. [S]omething drastic needed to happen to turn back the tide of violence and discrimination that plagued these “loser nations.”

Or, as Besen intones elsewhere,

The LGBT community rarely thrives in backward places that promote ignorance over education and medieval views over modernity. As these intellectual swamps sink, sexual minorities make ideal targets… [P]laces that are leaders in passing anti-gay laws are losers in virtually every other category that defines successful, civilized societies.

I can’t imagine how you could even communicate to Besen that the gays in  “loser nations” like Nigeria or Uganda don’t really like having their countries called “backward and barbaric.”  Besen wouldn’t get it: he’d counter, But the gays are civilized!  It’s the other Cameroonians who live in trees! In other words, he understands why the gays in loser lands deserve to be singled out: they’re better than their compatriots, more successful, more unbarbaric, more like us.

Why would that be so? Well, possibly the foreign gays have a cultural leg up, and have gotten book-learned and Westernized by reading … oh, for instance, Wayne Besen, who’s available on the Internet even in darkest Russia. Or possibly it goes deeper, it’s in the chromosomes, and even in Cameroon the gays are genetically predisposed to be like “us,” park-cruising rather than tree-dwelling, forwards rather than backwards.

Except that isn’t so. As far as a) the chromosomes go, there are plenty of theories about the genetic roots of gayness, but none of them argue it’s linked to a gene for intelligence or Western-ness. And if you tried to contend that, there’d be Wayne Besen to disprove it: clearly not the brainiest fish in the primal soup, and a permanent dilution in the gay gene pool. Moreover, as far as b) culture is involved, I can testify that the lesbians and gays in foreign countries really don’t read Besen ever, at all. Maybe this is evidence for a) after all — maybe their intelligence genetically disinclines them to study him; but then you have to deal with Besen disproving the theory again, because after all he’s gay and he reads himself. Or you’d think so.

By a fearful symmetry, though, the forward Besen and the “backward” lands he criticizes match each other. His rant exactly echoes how the offending parties he condemns rage against the initiative. There, too, people know why Clinton singles out the queers: they’re infiltrating agents of the West, objects of its special and invasive interest. The rhetoric is entirely predictable, because it’s been used so much before. “Africa new frontier for West’s gay rights crusade,” one African news source headlines. In Nigeria, now finalising a draconian bill to ban public expression around homosexuality, legislators rushed to assert their independence:

“Why would America want to dictate to a sovereign country which law to make and which one not to make? How can the depraved ways of a minority become the standard for law making in Nigeria?”

And so on.

Then there’s the question of just how the Obama administration will support LGBT rights elsewhere in the world. Clinton’s speech and the president’s memorandum are rather vague on the techniques. This leaves considerable white space to be filled in by the imagination. On the right, various voices already kvetch because Obama isn’t willing to send the army out to protect the gays. On the neoconservative Commentary site, Abe Greenwald complains:

At the end of this year, the United States will cease to be a military presence in Iraq. Here’s whose influence will grow in Iraq once the U.S. leaves: Al-Qaeda, whose new leader once shot a male teenage rape victim in the head for the “crime” of homosexuality. … Who else stays on in Iraq after the pro-LGBT president has pulled out American forces? Iran, world leader in the public hanging of gay teens.

And, in 2012, when Obama withdraws surge troops from Afghanistan against the advice of our military commanders, what exactly does he think Afghan homosexuals will face in the resurgent Taliban (the same Taliban Hillary Clinton is trying desperately to strike deals with)? The answer is known: they will face something called “death by falling walls.” …

Although George W. Bush is vilified by many in the gay community for talking about the sanctity of marriage, the freedom agenda he instituted did more for global human rights—gay or otherwise—than any speech or memo that might warm your heart.

Never mind that Bush’s own Texas has, statistically, almost certainly killed more teenage gay offenders in recent years than Iran. The point is: the best way to protect human rights is to invade and conquer countries. We’ve already got our hands on Texas. What about the others? By not listing an axis of homophobic evil — bauxite-rich Jamaica! oil-endowed Iran! — Obama failed to make the case for future action. He didn’t even use the homophobes to prolong the invasions we’ve already got going on.

If diplomacy for the neocons is merely a preamble to bombing, for many US and European gays it’s a synonym for money. And in this equation they’re aided by the brouhaha over David Cameron’s incredibly ill-handled statements on LGBT rights and foreign aid last month. This fiasco — threats that Cameron bandied about without even the pretense of a strategy, then tried to abandon after half of Africa reacted in fury — has imprinted itself on the imaginings of activists and reporters alike. If you have an agenda, why not enforce it with cash? Even the US and UK headlines on Clinton’s speech suggested an aid linkage. “U.S. to Use Foreign Aid to Promote Gay Rights Abroad,” the New York Times said.Gay rights must be criterion for US aid allocations, instructs Obama,” the Guardian reported. And of course the chronically inaccurate sporadically truthful blogger Paul Canning spun that spin: “Obama admin to ‘leverage’ foreign aid for LGBT Rights.”

As always, pursuing exactly what Canning says gives an insight into a whole mindset, of which he is the sum, the symbol, and the White Whale. He embraces multitudes, the way a blank piece of paper contains all the dumb things that could be written on it. Canning is very attached to the idea of “leverage,” so much so that when @iglhrc tweeted, “Significantly, neither the memo nor Clinton’s speech said LGBT rights would become a condition for foreign assistance,” his beak bit back:

“It says ‘leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination’. Sounds like conditionality to me!”

But it’s true; neither Clinton nor Obama said a syllable about conditionality. The word “leverage,” which Canning rolls lusciously on his tongue, comes not from the Clinton speech or the Obama memo, but from the fact sheet the White House press office put out to summarize things for reporters. It has no official weight.  The president’s directive instead ordered:

 Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.

“Ongoing efforts” doesn’t sound like a completely new policy — rather, like existing conversations more aggressively pursued. The US has a very spotty record on linking aid to any human rights issue; ask any Egyptian about America’s long support for the military, or any Palestinian about … well, anything. It would be a peculiar and skewed occurrence if the administration launched a first-ever policy of general aid conditionality in the specific and limited sphere of LGBT rights. And most likely, it won’t happen. The idea of “leverage,” and of supporting LGBT rights at the domestic level, will most likely involve private and particular conversations. Any public aspect is adequately embodied by Clinton’s proposal to launch a fund for LGBT rights advocacy.

Canning, however, wants broad aid conditionality; it gives him a sense of agency; it makes him feel that his emails to the UK Foreign and Colonial Office bear immediate fruit in action, in treasuries trembling and programs withering on the vine. Much as the neocons see diplomacy as war pursued by ineffective means, Canning sees it as money given or withheld under a convenient cover. In either case, the Obama statement becomes a field of dreams, a place where imaginings about Northern power get printed or palimpsested on the global South. It’s fun, it’s fertile, but it’s not quite real.

Trying to look realistically at what Clinton and Obama actually said, I still see occasion for optimism.  The contrast with Cameron’s recent blather is telling. Cameron came up with a quick-fix bit of rhetoric, not to benefit LGBT activists anywhere else in the world, but to silence the Peter Tatchells and Kaleidoscope Trusts, noisy Brits who wanted to see their country dominating the Commonwealth in the cause of justice and freedom. It meant nothing except short-term political gain, and when he got burned loudly enough by the stubborn ex-colonized, he flailed ineptly, trying to dog-paddle backwards and away.  There is, by contrast, little domestic political gain Obama and Clinton can extract from their move; the LGBT vote is largely on the administration’s side already. On Clinton’s part, and I suspect on Obama’s also, there’s a sincere commitment. Her speech was intelligent; it reflected an engagement not just with the issue itself but with the reflexive opposition it inspires. They’re trying to develop a strategy, not just a posture. The reaction from the usual suspects — such as Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania — whlle vocal, has actually been subdued by comparison with the Cameron affair, and this also, I think, displays a feeling that there is something substantive here that can’t simply be shouted out of existence.

The devil partly lies in the absence of detail, and in the scope this opens for disaster. Obama’s memo offers the agencies few patterns or directions for action. They’re supposed to come up with their own plans, and no one knows what that will add up to.  A dozen or so Southern LGBT activists were flown to Geneva to sit and applaud Clinton’s speech; the main measure of success will be whether they, and their innumerable colleagues elsewhere, continue to be consulted on what the US government should do in their countries. What if aid conditionality really does rear its head — what if an ill-conceived proposal for tying all funds to repeal of a sodomy law moves publicly out of the embassy in some unfortunate nation? What if a particular post decides on loud, press-release-based advocacy that backfires and stigmatizes local LGBT groups as servants of a foreign power?

In June 2011, the US Embassy in Islamabad took a pointer from Obama’s proclamation celebrating US Pride that May, where he’d perorated that “we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” The embassy hosted what it called “Islamabad’s first ever gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Pride Celebration,” to show

continued U.S. Embassy support for human rights, including LGBT rights, in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.  Over 75 people attended including Mission Officers, U.S. military representatives, foreign diplomats, and leaders of Pakistani LGBT advocacy groups. … Addressing the Pakistani LGBT activists, the Chargé, while acknowledging that the struggle for GLBT rights in Pakistan is still beginning, said “I want to be clear: the U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way.”

That’s from the embassy’s press release. “Every step?” Well, except for steps outside the embassy walls.  It didn’t occur to them that announcing the country’s “first-ever” Pride from behind the turrets of a fortified compound, guarded against a public enraged by American assassinations and bombs, sent a not-very-indigenous message. A South Asian blogger remarked:

Within a few days, the streets of major urban cities of Pakistan … were hailed with the students and political workers of Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious political party, chanting slogans at their highest pitches against homosexuals and America. For them it was a golden opportunity to kill both ‘the evils with a single stone’. Banners were displayed in major cities, especially in the federal capital, within a few days demanding persecution of gays and accusing Americans of propagating and imposing this ‘westernized’ idea. The lash back didn’t remain limited to the Jamaat-e-Islami only but sooner most of the political parties joined this bandwagon to form a coalition against the government for their menial political interests. …

Unthankfully, all the sensational and flowery claptrap peddled around this event turned out to be a disaster for the budding underground Pakistani LGBT movement as the US Embassy conveniently over[looked] the repercussions this event would have brought in an already critical country which is fighting against terrorism and radicalization while sacrificing its peace, its liberty, its sovereignty and countless lives of its law enforcement agencies and civilians alike.

protesting US Pride in Pakistan

The idiocy of all this seems obvious; but it wasn’t obvious to the diplomats involved. With an only-broadly sketched plan, there’s ample leeway for an embassy or two to try this catastrophic kind of thing again.

But the devil lies also in the way that Clinton’s initiative necessarily entangles LGBT movements around the world — mostly progressive, mostly loud in their opposition to unjust and oppressive domination, many resolutely radical — with the US, its rights record, its power, and its imperialism.  And the truth is, this may be terrible, but we are at a point where such imbrication could no longer be avoided. We’re stuck with being fully a part of the world we live in, and with trying to maintain our ideals and values despite, not through and with, our friends.

When I started lobbying the UN about fifteen years ago, queers had no power. Nobody offered them the slightest regard; nobody noticed their politics or positions; with the possible and partial exception of the Dutch, there wasn’t a single country willing to make even a rhetorical genuflection to the rights of LGBT people as a serious issue anywhere in its foreign policy.  This absence of clout was wonderful, inspiring. The lightness of being it brought was not only bearable, it was beautiful, an afflatus of innocence that bore one ecstatically aloft in places the merely practical could never reach. Trying to advocate in this atmosphere of glorious irrelevance, one was never corrupted by the blandishments of power; no one wanted your support, so there was not the least temptation to sell it. In powerlessness lies moral purity; the former is the latter’s fount and succor. One can easily be absolute for truth and right when nobody pays attention.

Now, of course, there are states that pay attention to us. And for better or for worse, we have to deal with their histories and practices, their virtues and their sins, because these affect us. If we don’t watch out, they will all become our own. When South Africa sponsors us at the UN Human Rights Council, we have to recognize that it is seen as an imperial power on much of the continent it underpins. When the US speaks out on our behalf, our future words thrum with the undertone of its assertions, like a basso ostinato. The echoes of its peculiar idealism and its failures, its invasions and its abuses, from Martin Luther King to Rumsfeld, from Guatemala to Abu Ghraib, are disharmonies that will resound in what we say and do. We have to decide when to speak with them and when to speak against them, and reserve and exercise the right to the latter as well as the former.

We can’t, as movements, reject all those who want to aid us. Maturity means negotiating, not denying, these obstacles. Politics means accepting the burden of having — however little — power. But we also have to be willing to stand up to our friends and risk their enmity in the name of what we see as truth, instead of clapping hands mechanically and taking handouts with uncritical gratitude. Indeed, nobody needs to be grateful for Hillary and Barack’s support. Never thank others for recognizing human rights, unless their case is such that they show real courage or risk some tangible  cost in the act. Otherwise, they’re doing nothing more than their duty, to you and to the world. And a duty demands no recompense. Acknowledge it, but feel no obligation. You owe nothing in return.

Instead, each movement in each country needs to figure out whether it will accept America’s new assistance, and if so, how to do so on its own terms. Hillary and Barack’s one-two performance carries opportunities. More largely, though, and in the ethical sphere, it offers a renewed challenge: to maintain values in the face of power.

23 thoughts on “More on Hillary and Barack

  1. Well, it seems Mr. Long is up to his same old filthy tricks that have harmed his reputation, damaged Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program, and eroded respect for his work. His MO is to viciously attack anyone who steps on what he sees as his turf — which is basically anything outside the US. If anyone comments on what he selfishly regards as his fiefdom, they are demeaned as dolts and fools who just don’t understand. Yes, Scott Long is the only person who understands the world and everyone else is just too ignorant or uneducated to “get it”. How odd, because I actually do have readers throughout the world — and they like what I have to say. And, most of them cant stomach Scott.

    I’m sure it is only a matter of time before I get my apology, just as one had to be given to Peter Tatchell.

    Tatchell said, “I defend the right of people to criticize me. But Mr. Long’s attacks went beyond criticism. He made false allegations, which misrepresented my human rights campaigns. It is these untrue claims that are the focus of my objections.”

    Given your unethical and sleazy past, Mr Long, you simply lack the moral character and personal integrity to be making such judgments and be casting such aspersions. Your record speaks for itself, as done mine.

    A perfect example of your lack of ethics and borderline racism comes when you write: “Besen wouldn’t get it: he’d counter, But the gays are civilized! It’s the other Cameroonians who live in trees!”

    No, Scott, this is not something that I would think or say. This was a disgusting smear that was concocted in your own troubled mind and written by your bigoted own hand. Perhaps, this is a case of projection?

    Truth be told, Mr. Long, you were a master of whining about what was wrong internationally, and a total zero in terms of fixing the problems that you were once in charge of addressing. Things got much worse on your watch — you constantly told us in your snippy little HRW reports — but your verbosity subsided, curiously, when it came to providing actual solutions, or even original ideas. To use one of your fancy words, Mr. Long, your original contributions were “nugatory.”

    Between your fatal character flaws, notorious pomposity, noted arrogance, inflated sense of intellectual heft, propensity at character assassination and failure to create any meaningful change — I take your insults with a badge of honor. Keep em coming!

    • Oh, dear. This is an excellent study in contrasts. I call Wayne Besen backward and uncivilized, and he calls me arrogant. Fair enough! But before that, Wayne Besen calls half of humanity backward and uncivilized, and he insists he’s just telling it like it is. Go figure.

      Besen cheerfully associates himself with the patronizing colonial attitudes of Peter Tatchell,, and if he likes that company, he’s welcome to it. In the meantime, though, you don’t have to be a Stuck-up Sue to see that sitting in the plush US while insulting the “civilization” of the global South is bad politics as well as racially tinged rhetoric. Or if you do, then please pass the arrogance pills around. We need more people calling prejudice by its proper name.

  2. Here’s where I disagree with you Scott: There is an implicit assumption in your post about the “we” and “us” you keep referring to as a bounded community of people with the same goals and aspirations. The “we” can never be anything other than gay, and it is only through this logic that “we” can consider Hilary and Obama to be “our” friends. It is only through this logic than I am expected to ignore the fact that they can erode my freedoms as a human being living in the Arab world and to salute them for championing my right to fuck in peace. You’re right though, LGBT rights are now inexorably imbricated in the imperial project. That is perhaps an inevitable outcome of the whole “we” project, the creation of an entire political movement solely on the lowest common denominator of which orifices I like best. It is also perhaps a function of the wholesale replacement of social justice with the language and legal regime human rights, and the irony of the latter’s cornerstone being asking the abusive state to protect individuals from its own abuses – or better yet asking another abusive state with more power to stop the abuse. It is not help “we” are being offered, but further invitation to join the fold of empire and pretend that we are all working towards the same goal. We are not. The US championing any sort of rights rings as hollow as the Arab League sending “human rights monitors” to Syria. In these specific cases, both mean it, sure, but what of the impending disaster of their larger projects?

    • SO just let me clarify. In using the “we” I do mean a somewhat loosely bounded community, but I don’t mean to imply the same goals or aspirations (aside from a somewhat general tropism toward freedom, differently defined). I think of it more as a “we” created by what Althusser called interpellation (I am very aware this will reduce Wayne Besen to frothing fury, but that’s partly the fun of it). For Althusser, interpellation is how ideology, or more broadly power, produces the subject. In a very basic analogy: a policeman on the street shouts “Hey, you!” You turn around, or your shoulderblades contract, because you recognize intuitively that you are the kind of “you” a policeman might shout at. The interaction produces you, so to speak, as a subject of policing. In the same way, Hillary shouts, “Hey, you! LGBT activists!” — and a certain number of us turn around, or flinch, because in one way or another we consider ourselves included in the call, for better or for worse. This doesn’t imply that we see ourselves as implicated in the same way. A bourgeois might turn around and say to the policeman, “Officer! Can I help you find the criminal?”–whereas a working-class stiff might just instinctively disappear into the nearest alley. Nonetheless, there is a kind of community of those called, inasmuch as each realizes that the “you” being addressed implicates the “I.” I certainly wouldn’t say my own reaction is parallel to, or can be assimilated to, the reactions of an activist in Lebanon or Bangladesh; as an American citizen, Clinton means me to respond in a different way, as a political agent, and not as “victim” of violations. However, it is surely better if I recognize that the way I react should be affected by –and certainly will affect — how people in Bangladesh or Lebanon respond to the call; and their responses will probably also be more calculated if they are in a position to figure out how folks like me are going to answer as well.

      So I was trying to say there is a “we” but no unanimity of reaction, certainly not between the parts of the “we” in the North and those parts elsewhere. And as a manufactured, interpellated “we” it’s always contingent, built by slicing out those other aspects of self that nonetheless continue to impinge on how each self regards the interpellation.

      But this lack of unanimity also applies to how people in the South might react, I think. When Cameron did his shtick, there was a broad reaction among African activists that led to the open letter. It wasn’t universal; not everybody signed; the Malawians, for instance, didn’t, probably because however bad the British intervention was, they thought things might have been worse without it. However, the large number of activists and groups who did sign on was partly a response to a specific historical circumstance, British colonialism. They saw Cameron as resurrecting attitudes that dated back to Cecil Rhodes, and they spoke back accordingly. i don’t think there will be quite the same collective response in Africa to the US initiative. Partly this is because of the different way it was rolled out. It’s certainly not because there haven’t been imperial US interventions in the continent. The US supported apartheid, waged proxy wars in Namibia and Angola, paid Mobutu, propped up various generals in Nigeria, is killing Somalis, and so on. Two things may be at play:
      a) there is considerable false consciousness, because these US actions somehow don’t seem to add up to a consistent picture of imperial intervention;
      b) or precisely because they don’t create that picture in the minds of African publics, African queer activists figure they have a bit of leeway to use American support in ways they can’t use British.
      Or something else may be at work. I can’t judge. But I don’t think the African response to Clinton’s speech will be as direct as it was to Cameron’s.

      But there will be different ways of reading it in other places. I will confess that I think, as movements, sexuality activism and sexuality advocacy is/are/will be moving more and more toward the instrumental and pragmatic perspective represented in b) above. That is, work on sexuality is increasingly a part of power politics. States are interested in it. That can’t just be ignored. Hence movements have to figure out how to place themselves within those relations of power. They’re not just going to be dealing with it from the US; they’ll have to cope with South Africa, maybe India, certainly Brazil, and other “friends” that have histories, baggage, and strings attached. But one can still carve out a place by rejecting certain kinds of power relations absolutely; there’s no compulsion to accept anything passively. Activists in MENA have a different historical relation to the US, and a different discourse about it, than activists in a lot of subsaharan Africa. If they were to come up with a common position vis-a-vis Clinton’s initiative — a common position of rejection, hypothetically — it would carry a weight comparable to what African activists said back to Cameron. That would be one part of the “we'” that the US has interpellated, talking back. More power to them.

      A wider question is: is it possible for a whole bunch of movements addressing sexuality in different parts of the world to come together and articulate general principles about international intervention — addressing issues of imperialism, of aid conditionality, of pressure in international fora, and other things? I don’t know. Would that be worth activists in the South trying to achieve? Is the interpellated “we” at a point where enough “I”s could come together in such a project? I’m just asking.

      This says nothing about your point re: the limitations of rights discourse as against languages of social justice or (one I particularly like that is rather less heard from anymore) liberation. Rights is a very limited language that has an inherent bias toward pragmatism. but that is a bigger discussion.

      • A wider question is: is it possible for a whole bunch of movements addressing sexuality in different parts of the world to come together and articulate general principles about international intervention — addressing issues of imperialism, of aid conditionality, of pressure in international fora, and other things? I don’t know. Would that be worth activists in the South trying to achieve? Is the interpellated “we” at a point where enough “I”s could come together in such a project? I’m just asking.

        Scott, I would like to explain if you may, what do you mean by these terms “general principles about international intervention”, “issues of imperialism, of aid conditionality, of pressure in international fora and other things”

        I think you are right at a certain level in your analysis. There are so many angles when it comes to “fixing” problems in the world. And somehow this is why I did jump when I read that line Hillary said: “LGBT rights are human rights”. I thought right off the hat, “well then, let me marry T my beloved boyfriend of 5 years who lives in New York and have our union recognized by the federal government, and then we’ll talk.”
        Then I was like wait a minute: “Shouldn’t that line on all the front pages on the internet be a good thing for me and the gays all over the world (especially the struggling part)? And for some reasons, I was like: “not really”!

        For me it’s a deeper reform of the institutions that need to engaged. LGBT rights like many other non palpable rights are considered rights of 3rd generations.
        In the West the institutions have achieved a certain level of success in protecting rights of first and second generation.

        In countries considered in the “south” there is so much that need to be done at every level. People living in such misery that I have been crying from day one since I moved back here, people who cannot read, write, cannot go to hospitals because there is no hospital… The corruption at every level of the society, the obscurantism, the lack of education that conditions people to rely on old and really twisted traditional and/or religious beliefs… Where do you start?
        It seems to me now that I am confronted to that EVERYDAY reality, that maybe in order to achieve success in protecting and promoting LGBT rights, there should be a hierarchy or maybe a priority in what to promote first.
        My thing is education. I think the great chance I had, was that my mother (for once I ll give a mom some credit in the upbringing of a gay man haha) gave me books for an early age, made me listen to Puccini, taught me german, and always told me to keep my mind open to life… This opened so many doors in my little imagination that I was able to open real doors in my real life.
        I did start my own charity here, I am sponsoring underprivileged kids in the sport of tennis and the learning of classical music. And I have to tell you, in less than a year, you can see the difference in how these kids and even their immediate environment (parents, friends…) somehow have opened their minds. Ok I am being carried away right here, but I think it worths also a shot.
        I don’t know what the process should work, and I think LGBT NGOs are doing some fantastic job.
        I do believe that maybe some should also think about diversify or broaden their horizons.

        Gosh it is Sunday. It should be beach time for me.
        That’s all folks!

  3. Flattered as I am by your attentions, which are obviously extensive, you must have some huge file somewhere, you seem to have spun yourself in a circle in order to get at me this time.

    How can you note the lack of detail as to how the initiative will be enacted and then hit me for finding an indication of how it might? Why would they put ‘leverage foreign assistance’ in a press briefing if it’s not based on explaining something to the press? There’s nothing actually wrong with my headline, the word ‘leverage’ was used and what does that sound like? What I told IGLHRC. IGLHRC actually say in their PR ‘we don’t know what this means but we think it means this …’!

    Of course it “will most likely involve private and particular conversations” – but that is still ‘leverage’.

    The other point is that you ignore completely what was announced which IS concrete, some of which I reported. And you ignore the problem with refugees and asylum seekers. But then if you did mention that you might have to stop portraying me as as an idiot for five seconds and that wouldn’t do, would it?

    I am pleased to see you note that not everyone in Africa signed the statement on the UK’s aid issue but, like with me I guess, you then go into the minds of a couple you spotted who did not sign to try and guess their motivations. Again, you ignore that not only did a number not sign but there was the Gay Kenya statement and the Council for Global Equality statements which offered different analysis and approaches. I assume that you know of them? Or is it just a ‘majority rules’ numbers game, as you tried on me in your last attack? Some ‘global south’ voices are more important than others?

  4. My mistake for wasting my time on this sad, lonely, little site. Judging by the empty comments section, no one really cares what Scott Long has to say, domestically or overseas.

    Scott reminds my very much of a lefty Newt Gingrich. Both or legends in their own minds that wildly overestimate their intelligence. Both are pompous blowhards who act like know-it-alls, yet they can hardly grasp the subjects they pontificate about. When both write or speak — it is always to show off what they think they know, instead of communicating effectively the subject they are speaking on. Both are pseudo-intellectuals who constantly underachieve because they lack personal discipline and are prone to overreach and exaggerate. (See apology to Peter above)

    So, this is what your career has become? Commenting to yourself on a vanity blog that no one reads. A bitter constituency of one and a pathetic LGBT movement “has been.”

    Just. Plain. Sad.

    • It’s a general rule that when anybody starts a statement by saying, “I don’t know why I’m wasting my time doing this,” it means they don’t think they’re wasting their time. So I assume Wayne Besen attaches more importance to this vanity blog and its coven of readers than his “I know you are but what am I?” playground taunts let on.

      My only brush with Wayne was two years or so ago. I had no idea who he was at the time; but suddenly he and the clinically loony stalker Michael Petrelis materialized on the Internet with a project to boycott Jamaican products, to punish the island for homophobia. Unfortunately, they neglected to inquire of any activists in Jamaica whether this was a welcome or strategic move; and when Jamaican activists said they didn’t want a boycott, Besen decided that Americans knew better, and proceeded to call the Jamaicans all sorts of names. He also determined that because the Jamaicans’ statement was too articulate to come from a barbaric and backward land, someone more civilized must have written it for them. He emerged from this episode with a permanent dislike for me, as the presumed dancehall Svengali behind the Jamaicans’ un-American claim to independence; and I emerged from it thinking he should make some saner friends than Petrelis, and perhaps should study the rest of the world a little. Since then, nothing much has changed.

      As for Canning, despite the fact that I’m sitting here eating a pretzel, I fail to see what logical loop he thinks I’m in. I said nobody knew exactly what the Obama/Clinton statement portended, but it contained nothing explicit about aid conditionality. Canning said he knows perfectly well it is all about aid conditionality. And since the statement contains nothing explicit about aid conditionality, I conclude he’s wrong. Canning runs a site that calls itself a news source, and I find it both instructive and amusing to point out how his conception of what’s “news” is guided by his political opinions. I suppose when nearly 150 African activists and organizations coalesce around an open letter, it is news regardless of whether you agree or disagree with it. Not to Paul, though, because he knows what they should think even if they don’t think it.

      There’s a common thread here, about our Northern friends knowing what’s best for people. But there’s nothing new about that – except they keep trying to prove it, over and over.

      • LOL. OK, a White House briefing ain’t news. Of course not. How silly of me.

        When did I call myself a ‘news source’?

        I am hard noting your ignoring Gay Kenya’s statement and use of *150*, say it agin,*150* activists as a battering ram.

        Let’s see you fisk the Kenyan statement. Or are you chicken? I think we can guess.

    • Maybe the LGBT movement should have its own DWTS and then all the activists you think are “has been” would go and dance and loose weight and maybe Cher will even tweet!
      See it’s not that Just. Plain. Sad.

  5. Dear All,

    First, I would ask you to forget my english. Reading all your beautiful written (insulting) pieces above, I almost didn’t want to comment on this at all. But then it went on and on and it must be 5AM where I live (somewhere in Africa) and I wonder how you guys can just be such toddlers in the sand box fighting over toys… I know all of you (should) have a passion for your work, I have met and seen some in action, therefore I don’t understand why you will be shooting at each other like some bitches fighting outside a lower east side club at closing time (Yes I have been there).
    Scott, I think you should try to write a comedy, a novel, something funny. People may not realize that but you do have a lot of sense of humor! I mean I was on the floor reading the first part of your blog, that story was so hilarious! I so can picture the girl, germans can be so sensitive when they think something is going wrong! Gee I had a german lover on time in Paris, He almost kidnapped the concierge of my building when He found out that I was having an affair… But that’s another story!

    I don’t know Wayne, but I can feel your anger. Damn Scott, that was harsh! I thought when someone goes through what you went through with your illness (embolism right) the person swears to become like a really cool guy, did you see the light? If not that’s maybe why…

    I guess what I am trying to say is that I feel helpless, living here in Africa. I lived almost my entire life in sheltered Europe and America, and although things were not perfect, trust me I always felt FREE. Somehow, even if things were sometimes bad, I knew that there was always another choice, another exit door (like that time I couldn’t go to that new club uptown in NYC, because all my friends considered 23rd street, the line with Belgium, I knew I could hang out in east village).
    Now I am back here, and I live in a country with no anti sodomy laws, but still being openly gay here seems like a mistake. I am feeling trapped and lonely. No one wants to hang out with me, in fear of being labeled… Especially gay people.
    Africa is a very special place. Our socio-cultural context makes it very difficult to understand how things work here. Trust me, I am just starting to have a grip on reality since I have been back here. And it has nothing to do with gay rights, or human rights for that matter, most of the time. It’s just something different. I always say to you western activists, come live in our homes for a while. Send your young interns to Africa for on the ground work. Don’t involve any reports, or charts, or fund raising goals. Just come hang out with us on every day life for a good period of time. Trust me dear, it will change your perspective.

    I remember my few contacts with LGBT activism few years ago. Oh, Scott! I flew from Paris to NYC, just for that interview and in one look, you crushed my dreams of ever getting an oscar winning movie based on my life saving my fellow gay african brothers and… Jesus Christ, I must stop!

    Guys please just accord your violins, the truth of the matter is in all your great dedication to promoting awareness on LGBT rights. Stop fighting. Gay people being denied any of their fundamental rights need you. They need your voices, your great work to one day feel like, they do have choices, options.

    Would you stop beating on each other please? It’s appealing only if you guys are wearing wrestlers strings and are covered in moroccan oil. Seems we kind of all agree that won’t happen anytime soon, I’d suggest that you shake hands, kiss and make up.

    DIVA O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L

  6. I really find it ironic, i mean this un justified attack on Scott who doesn’t claime that he knows better than any one but the truth is that when it comes to LGBTIQ communities away from the US and other countries that are so-called ” civilized and progressive” yes scott knows better simply because he’s been every where giving a real hand to those communities to start their own movements based on their own needs. What makes Scott a role model is that he always drops behind this typical, superior and “white” discourse about lgbt rights that on one hand :1- Serves the goals of the state by trying to maintain the lgbt community within the system whether it’s political or social
    2- Doesn’t try to be culture sensitive enough to develop in terms of the different needs of LGBT communities every where. Scott is not only a very productive and inspiring intellectual but he’s a true human rights activist that i think you should be learning from instead of Attacking.

  7. Pingback: On ‘gay conditionality’, imperial power and queer liberation: Rahul Rao « Kafila

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