I think I was a Human Rights Campaign member before I could legally vote, I was certainly a donor long before I was employed. Over the past few years, though, I’ve felt like HRC’s activities–what they do, not just what they say they do–have made me my question my membership. I recognize the scope of their mission, and the neccessary limitations of their activities; they are like an old friend and I’ve been more than willing to be both understanding and forgiving. When this year’s round of renewal notices began clogging my mailbox I decided to wait before sending them a donation, to take a little more time to think seriously about who and what I was supporting. Today I wrote them a letter, annoyed about something small and how much it demonstrated about something much much larger. Below is my open letter to HRC; feel free to comment, disagree, correct or advise me (heck, you can even agree with me if you like) – it just seemed like I had gone an embarrisingly long time not saying anything when something desperately needed to be said.
An Open Letter to the Human Rights Campaign:
I recently received your email asking me to thank my local representative for voting “Yes” to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was pleased to receive this email and happy to click through and send a message to Rep. Pascrell thanking for him his vote on this important issue. But when I reached the HRC page, I discovered that I think I need to send an email about another important issue.
The form page I navigated to gave me the option to personalize the message to my local representative. It also required that I include certain information about myself including my name, my email address, my street address and my title. I could not submit the form and send the letter to my representative without populating these fields. As a person whose gender identity happens to match both my biological sex and other people’s perception of my gender, I regularly answer the Mr/Miss/Ms question without much thought. As an organization dedicated to the protection of civil rights, I hardly think you can afford to be so thoughtless.
HRC’s mission envisions “an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community,” but I think you need to start by envisioning an organization that respects the real lives of the whole community. Unfortunately indignities and injustices, small and large, are still a prevalent part of the lives of LGBT Americans, the HRC website should not be a place that perpetuates those indignities. The attitude towards certain members of the community, whether it is dismissive or just uninformed, that this incident is only one example of, is at the heart of my decision not to renew my HRC membership this year. As a scholar and activist working on issues of sexuality, and as a human being trying to respect and cherish people’s rights to live their lives free from injustice, I simply cannot support your organization at this time.
The issues you champion are vitally important to the LGBT community in particular and to the future of America and the world as a whole. I look forward to the day when I can, in good conscience, resume my advocate, volunteer and contributor roles with HRC. I will end by respectfully suggesting that, just like your important campaign to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” you undertake your campaign to make HRC truly inclusive of all members of the community, “Not Tomorrow. Not Today. Now.”