On December 3, members of the Occupy Los Angeles Queer Affinity Group joined community organizers in West Hollywood for a march in Solidarity with Occupy Los Angeles. We believe that this was an important step in beginning to expand the movement beyond City Hall and into our surrounding communities. We had the opportunity to work closely with MCCLA (Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles) and expand outreach to local activists.
The march began in Plummer Park at 10:30am with a number of speakers providing some context to the importance of the Occupy Movement to LGBTQ people and how it provides an opportunity for us to reinvigorate our own movement, communities and issues (more detail below). We then very visibly and vocally marched down Santa Monica Blvd to the Matthew Shepard Human Rights Triangle, where we also had the opportunity to briefly close a BofA branch with shouts of “banks got bailed out, we got sold out” and “shame, shame, shame,” a very gratifying moment for all! We then march back to Plummer Park where we networked and talked about other Occupy LA events to participate in. We will have a follow up meeting on Saturday 12/17 @ 10:00am in Plummer Park to discuss forming a new community Lavender Coalition (for more details and to participate contact me at email@example.com).
I feel that this was a truly invigorating day for our community, and we plan to continue to build linking the local community to the Occupy LA movement. The Occupy Los Angeles Queer Affinity Group played a major role in helping to plan and coordinate this community event and will continue to stay involved. Here are a couple of links with photos and local press coverage:
Link to pictures of the march from the Queer Affinity Group's Facebook page:
West Hollywood local media coverage:
I am providing some expanded detail on the message articulated by our speakers, as well as the full text of my own speech to the group to provide some context on our thinking and where we would like this movement to go. I hope this provides some context and will also generate feedback and expanded participation. The OLA Queer Affinity Group would welcome feedback from the larger Occupy LA movement, and from individuals not active in our group to help us continue to focus our message and strategy. How to appropriately maintain connections with Occupy LA and managing being in solidarity with Occupy LA, but not speaking for Occupy LA, etc. and how we handle the relationship as we move into other communities is an issue we will bring to the GA for discussion and feedback.
Any commentary will be greatly appreciated! Thanks for your attention and participation.
The following presents major highlights of speeches presented at the march:
Gay Elder, Don Kilhefner, who played a pioneering role in the creation of the Gay Liberation movement, was co-founder of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center and with Harry Hay, of the Radical Faeries, started the morning with his address to a group of about 100 marches providing a historic context linking the early Gay Liberation movement and what we are doing today. He stated:
“What we are doing here today is historically important…. (citing the current economic situation) we are in big trouble, and it is people like you and me who are going to be the solution to that problem by raising consciousness, by taking action like today … The occupations at City Hall, Wall Street, etc. are very important because they are the Big Bang. After the big bang comes the hard work of organizing. We need to have an LGBT Occupy Office here in West Hollywood that is visible, that is open where people can come and organizing can take place. We need to have pamphlets and leaflets being made, which describe what the problem is – those who are into visual culture need to be producing those video for YouTube, etc, etc, etc. And we need to have actions periodically, well focused, organized actions which underline what it is we’re fighting against…. We see a connection between what our younger people are trying to do in the community today and what we did 40 and 50 years ago that MUST continue.
There’s a beautiful, beautiful convergence taking place between early Gay Liberation and what you are doing here. It’s grass roots in nature. It doesn’t have much money – you have to remember that the Tea Party is being funded by the Koch Brothers, by the Coors Family, etc. etc. We don’t have that – BUT we do have something they don’t have – that’s the enthusiasm, the intelligence and the issues are on our side – so again, the Elders in the community bless what’s going on today and want to be part of it.”
Reverend Neil Thomas of the Metropolitan Community Church Los Angeles, then addressed the crowd saying:
“We need to remember as LGBT people that as part of the 99% our issues are everybody else’s issues, and everybody else’s issues are OUR issues and we need to see the intersections that we have around the issues that the 99% are facing – that what we’re doing here today is starting to stand up and to see the issues of all our issues – universal healthcare, that everyone should have the right to an education, no one should have to worry about whether they can afford to have a surgery if they need it and no longer should we have to see all of those folks that we’ve bailed out having more and more money given to them while people like you and I continue to struggle with our mortgages, with our rent, with food on the table….
As people of faith, we are standing along side with solidarity with the Occupy Movement. I have to say, quite honestly, that the church has sold itself out to the dominant culture – at MCC, and as other people of faith, we are starting to reclaim that new language of progressive values that I believe Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha and all of the great leaders have brought to us…. I am so delighted to be a part of this, so grateful that I live in this era when we are starting to see a stand up for the people. As you can tell from my accent, I come from a country where we believe in radical change – just a couple of days ago we had a general strike in the United Kingdom and I think that’s what we need to call for in the United States of America – is a general strike, where we take back power, where we take back control. Thank you for being here today and thank you for being a progressive.”
Nice opportunity here, for me to remind everyone of the December 12th Occupy the Ports – A Day without Goldman Sachs action!
Next, Suzy Horn and Amy LaCoe, two long time Transgender Activists addressed the crowd emphasizing the need for the Transgender community to be actively engaged in this movement especially addressing the discrimination and economic hardship Transgender individuals face. Suzy Horn reminded us that Transgender people have always been in the movement forefront and that the Occupy Movement feels like home. Suzy eloquently rallied us, saying:
“You get out, you march, you fight! There’s not that many of us here, but it’s like a snowball rolling downhill – it gets bigger and bigger because the 99% cannot and will not be denied. We need to get out and fight – ALL OF US! There’s a “T” at the end of LGB and we are part of the 99%. We will fight with you, all we ask is to be included. Thank you all for being here, I’m proud to be here – it takes me back 40 years! I love you all.”
Finally, I’ll transcribe my whole speech below (John Waiblinger of the OLA Queer Affinity Group) since it represents my efforts to link our issues, LGBTQ issues with the larger Occupy Movement – I asked all the member of the Queer Affinity Group to join me as I spoke:
WOW my friends – this is finally a movement of PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY where we all finally have a new voice to talk about what’s wrong and more importantly what needs to be done! My name is John Waiblinger and I’m with the OLA Queer Affinity Group, with my friends here…
It blows me away to think that the whole Occupy movement started on Sept 17 in Zucotti Park – less than 3 months ago and already we’ve created a whole new political dialogue in this country! What I love about the Occupy movement is that it’s a leaderless movement, full of individual leaders where people are empowered to act AND THEY DO….
Many of you may not know the the original Occupy Wall Street.org website was registered and created by a group of our Transgender sisters (Justine & Zoee among others) and it’s good to know that Queer people have been incredibly active in Zucotti Park – and just like at Stonewall those sisters know how to act up!
This is a movement of individual action and empowerment – it’s amazing what one person can do. I’d like to acknowledge Timothy Hane for conceiving this march and taking the intiative to get it rolling – the Occupy movement has given us all a context in which to organize action around and that’s what we’re doing. Thank you Timothy for getting the ball rolling and look what can happen – so everyone – each and every one of us can make a difference.
I’ve been down at City Hall since Oct 1st and participated to extent that I’ve been able … I thought, look at all the LBGTQs here – we need a group and along with a couple of my other friends here, we created the Queer Affinity Group and we’ve been active down at City Hall – not just about Queer issues, but about all the economic and social issues that affect us – the 99% -- and that’s how it works – you just get active and DO IT. And we’ve been so incredibly welcome and it’s fabulous to be allied with, in collaboration with, AND WITH A BIG LARGE CROWD that is a larger progressive movement.
The Occupy movement may have been evicted from Solidarity Park at City Hall, and 250 people arrested (mention people from our group) but you CAN’T EVICT OR ARREST AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME – General Assemblys still continue every night and we are now working on how to broaden and grow the movement beyond occupying any specific space.
I’m going to share some of my thoughts and ideas and things we’ve discussed at our group meetings and hope to provide some context on what we can accomplish.
For way too long the Regressive Right Wing political forces have held captive the political dialogue of this country with their talk of deficits, cut backs and social repression. ENOUGH! I am so tired of the rhetoric that we need to give tax breaks and incentives to the banks, the corporations, the wealthy because that’s how jobs get created. They’ve had their tax breaks and the regulations to protect the people have been gutted throughout the Bush years – and I ask you, where are the jobs? We don’t need more of that – it is working people and the middle class the builds the economy and produces the wealth of this country and it is high time that we put our interests first – our healthcare, our education, our social services, our decent wages, our full equality and right to live in vibrant communities with housing and full social justice for everyone.
I’m proud to be here and Queer in a united struggle for economic and social justice --- High time we all joined together to address the real problem – the greedy corporate power structure that doesn’t give a shit about any of us, but LOVES TO PIT US AGAINST EACH OTHER.
Instead of competing with each other for the small piece of pie they’ve allocated for social services, let’s stand together to demand a redistribution of that 40% of the resources that the 1% owns – THERE IS NO DEFICIT REQUIRING CUT BACKS IN PENSIONS, WORKER SALARIES, MEDICARE, ETC. ETC. -there’s plenty of wealth and resources in this country to go around – IT’S HOW THOSE RESOURCES ARE DISTRIBUTED THAT’S THE PROBLEM.
AND there are no special rights – just HUMAN RIGHTS and everyone deserves full equality and economic justice.
There’s a lot of myths in the media about my people, LGBT people, Queer people – however WE want to identify OURSELVES.
The myth of “DINK” (“double income no kids”) is a fallacy created by corporate marketing powers in an attempt to reduce the diverse LGBTQ community into a marketing “niche.” LGBT individuals and families struggle like all others and are part of the 99%. We are not a “demographic” or a “niche” and we reject these corporate characterizations.
- In reality, large numbers of Queer men and women are living in poverty, perhaps as many as a quarter of lesbian/bisexual women and one in seven gay/bisexual men – and this is especially the case with queer people of color. Lesbian/bisexual women are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive public assistance and one in five children being raised by same-sex couples in the United States lives in poverty
- Unemployment among transgender people is twice the national average
- Only 16 states + the DC have policies that protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment – ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 and is still not law- we need to get on that!
- 20% of homeless youth are Queer
- And in terms of human cost, Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers -- between 30-40% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide
I could go on about my people, but instead I’d like to draw some connections. One of the things that pisses me off most about the current right-wing rhetoric is the de-humanization of all our immigrant brothers and sisters. I know well the feeling of being demonized and having my humanity dismissed with name calling – ILLEGAL, ALIEN, FAG, DYKE, IT – it’s all the same game to take away our humanity. And it’s been done to my African American brothers & sisters, my Latino brothers & sisters, my Asian & Pacific Islander brothers & sisters, my Indigenous People brothers & sisters, my less-abled brothers & sisters, the list goes on and on…
And they do this to obfuscate the real problem, the REAL INHUMANITY, and that is the grossly unfair and uneven distribution of wealth and resources in this country… Really, does anyone really need a 30,000 square foot house, or 2 or 3? When so many are homeless? Really, is a CEO’s labor that damn valuable that it deserves compensation at a rate 475 times greater than the average worker? Cause I’m not seeing how they’re contributing to the betterment of this world … all I see is rape and pillage for short term profit…
Let us not be confused – we must ALL stand together and fight together for what is right and what is fair – we must fight ALL oppressions. Too often, our mainstream LGBT organizations are single issue oriented and dominated by corporate funding and tied to the existing insider, political processes.
I say we need to revitalize our political struggle and ally with the new progressive movement that Occupy represents – there’s so much we can do for both ourselves and our allies – it’s time for us, the people to take action and make demands…
So before we march and take some action, here just a few things I like to bring to your attention:
This afternoon at 2, the MLK Coalition of LA will be having a planning meeting for a major action for mid January – Kwazi (identify yourself) has leaflets – get some..
Remember the action to shut down the ports on December 12th
Next Saturday there will be a Human Rights are Immigrants Rights march downtown – you can get leaflets from me (and)
Taylor who just spoke can tell you what his union is doing to fight for housekeepers at hotels right here in West Hollywood
On Sat 12/17 we will be having a follow-up meeting here in Plummer Park to talk about follow-up to this march and forming a Lavender Coalition – see John O’Brien – he has leaflets and join us.
As I said, there’s a General Assembly of Occupy LA every evening at 7:30 at City Hall – if you haven’t been, check it out..
After we return from the march back here to Plummer Park, let’s take a little time to talk to each and make some connections – we can try an open mike… let’s see what ideas people have – come back and NETWORK and think about what you can do.
So then, let’s march -- remember, we are a non-violent, peaceful people, and let’s conduct ourselves accordingly – we’re going to march down SM blvd to the Matthew Shepard Triangle, pause there to remember all our brothers and sisters around the world who have been killed by hate and then back – we’ll stay to the sidewalks and we’ll be loud and visible. We got some monitors in the day glow vests – they’ll help keep us organized.
So let’s do it – grab a sign, grab a flag and let’s go…
We plan to continue organizing in West Hollywood, so please join us. Contact me directly for more information, come to the December 17th meeting in West Hollywood, and give us your feedback.
Thanks for your attention to the long post – I hope it helps to get the dialogue started on what we can do in expanding Occupy LA throughout neighborhoods in Los Angeles.