Well, if there was every a time for us to get our collective heads out of our collective asses and start paying attention to politics, this is it.
What?s happening on the national campaign trail for president is unprecedented. For the first time in as long as I can remember, we actually have a choice – and not just between two evils. The 2008 presidential contest is not a fait accompli.
We?ll be heading into Super Tuesday, February 5, without a clear choice for either the Democrats or the Republicans. By the time you read this, a handful of primaries and caucuses will have taken place. The results of those few votes may whittle down the field, leaving us with two viable candidates from each party going into Super Tuesday.
It will be Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Dems. I know McCain will be one for the GOP, but I?m not quite sure who the other will be. Rudy Giuliani is having a rough go, Fred Thompson is sleepwalking through the race, and if Mitt Romney doesn?t take the Michigan primary, he can only tread on his silver medal/second place in the primaries position for so long.
What this all comes down to for the LGBT community is that we really do have an important role to play in the months leading up to Election Day on November 4.
The 2007 Gay Consumer Index published by Community Marketing, Inc. and Rivendell Media reported that 78 percent of lesbians and 84 percent of gay men voted in the 2006 midterm elections. We voted much higher than the average in the 2004 presidential race as well – 91 percent of lesbians and 92 percent of gay men. (I need to disclose that Rivendell Media owns Q Syndicate, the company that pays me to write ?Lesbian Notions.? I had no idea the company was involved in this study until I got an e-mail about it from Community Marketing.)
Given our propensity to vote, it is also incumbent upon us to get active in the race for the White House. This is a make-or-break election – if we increase the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and then have a Democrat elected president, we will see national nondiscrimination and hate-crimes legislation signed into law. And that?s just the tip of what could happen.
Our involvement, our presence on the campaign trail – showing up at town-hall meetings wearing clothes with LGBT logos on them, asking pointed questions, holding signs, holding hands – have all made it abundantly clear that we?re here, we?re queer, and we?re paying attention.
But it?s not just the candidates we need to pay attention to. For those of us who have been around the political block a few times, even those of us jaded about the political process, we have to take it upon ourselves to really encourage LGBT youth to get involved. The youth vote is out there for Obama. I wonder how many of them are LGBT.
While the community talks a good game about needing to support our youth, to foster their coming-out as healthy LGBT individuals, and to give them safe schools, what do we do to engage them in the political process?
There?s a generation gap between LGBT youth and those of us who have aged out. While we want to give them the proms we never had, they are looking for more relevant ways to spend their time.
If there was ever a time for our national and state organizations to put some time and energy into organizing the political power and energy of LGBT youth, this is it. If there was ever a time for each of us to take the responsibility of speaking with our local LGBT youth about the importance of an election, this is it.
Step 1: We need to make sure the LGBT youth in our communities who are 18 or older are registered to vote.
Step 2: We need to make sure they?ve been introduced to the presidential political organizing being spearheaded by local, state, and national LGBT organizations.
Step 3: We need to make sure those youth who are politically active have the information and the resources they need to get their peers active as well. It is up to us to reach out to our youth, ask for their opinions, learn from their experience, and give them whatever guidance they may ask for. It is essential, however, for our youth to understand how vital it is for them to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. What will undermine our political progress is the ?I don?t want to be labeled? generation. Sorry, folks, if we don?t label ourselves, then we won?t be visible. If we?re not visible, our issues won?t be a concern to anyone.
Step 4: We need to recognize their activism and share it with them.
Step 5: We need to co-mentor each other. We both have a lot to learn from each other.
No matter what decade it was, I?ve always considered LGBT youth to be the future of our community. With their energy and our collective numbers as a community, we can elect the next president of the United States – because we must.
Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.