Saturday, November 13, 2010


I accuse LGBT activists of complacency, apologism, and collaboration.

This morning, I woke to this on my Facebook wall :

apologist,collaborator,Melanie Nathan,Alan Bounville,Lez Get Real,American Equality Bill,Kirsten Gillibrand

The blogger Suzannah B. Troy had warned me that if I was going to express myself publicly, that I should expect to be criticised. That's only fair. But I want to respond to what I see as attempts by certain LGBT activists to ''control'' the discussion about LGBT civil rights. In particular, I am writing this open letter to Melanie Nathan, but it applies to other LGBT activists, who have bought into the idea of incrementalism that never seems to happen.

Dear Ms. Nathan :

On Nov. 2, Alan Bounville began a radical water-only fast in order to stage a protest over the fact that, after over one year since Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) stated that she supported extending civil rights to LGBT Americans, Sen. Gillibrand has since introduced no legislation that would accomplish that which she has said she supports. For 36 days prior to beginning his fast, Mr. Bounville and other LGBT activists, including Iana Di Bona, Joe Birdsong, and Lt. Dan Choi, to name a few, held vigil outside Sen. Gillibrand's New York campaign office. The purpose of the vigil (and now the fast) has been to hold Sen. Gillibrand accountable for her support ; if she supports extending civil rights to LGBT Americans as one way to end de jure and de facto discrimination against LGBT Americans, then what is the Honourable Senator doing to deliver on her support ?

During the year before the fast began, and particularly during the 36 days of the vigil, Sen. Gillibrand's office chose to issue no statement about how she was going to deliver on her support of LGBT civil rights. If she wants to play ignorant, today, now that it is Day 12 of the fast, then how do you account for the fact that Sen. Gillibrand had 36 days before the fast began for her staff to communicate to her about the American Equality Bill ? Futhermore, before Mr. Bounville began his fast, there were other activists, who said that Sen. Gillibrand would make a good ''target'' of an action, precisely because she was an ally. Reasonably, it shouldn't have taken too much advocacy to persuade a United States Senator to do something that she has stated that she already believes in. So, when you wrote, ''Leave her alone!!!!'', you also needed to address your criticism to other activists. Don't hold back, go find the others, too. Go on your witch hunt of LGBT activists, who don't want to wait for you or Sen. Gillibrand to get your acts together -- ''when the time comes,'' as you wrote, whenever that turns out to be, maybe someday ? -- before we see some legislation that makes good on Sen. Gillibrand's support for LGBT civil rights.

Melanie Nathan,Kirsten Gillibrand,American Equality Bill,Alan Bounville,Civil Rights Fast,Civil Rights Act


What Mr. Bounville has done by having chosen to begin a fast, has been to create an urgency around LGBT civil rights. He has created a moral dilemma. You wrote that Sen. Gillibrand owes Mr. Bounville, ''[n]othing.....'' Yet, you hold every LGBT activist, who supports LGBT civil rights or the American Equality Bill, responsible for the moral dilemma of Mr. Bounville's fast, but you don't hold Sen. Gillibrand responsible. Instead, you wrote, ''Leave her alone!!!!'' Aren't we all responsible for the moral dilemma ? During the time that the vigil took place outside Sen. Gillibrand's office, Corey Jackson, 19, committed suicide. Who owns the moral dilemma of Mr. Jackson's suicide ? During the vigil, it was also reported that an Arkansas school official mocked the recent spree in LGBT teen suicides. Who owns the moral dilemma of that ? Also during the vigil, a Bronx gang carried out attacks against gay men. Who owns the moral dilemma of that ? This isn't all about Mr. Bounville.

The part that is unfair about Mr. Bounville's decision to begin a fast is, indeed, on the people who love and care about him. He is a radical political activist, and his choice of a political protest is undoubtedly radical. He believes in creating change now. It is uncomfortable to think that we have to work in a hurry to add ''sexual orientation'' or ''gender identity'' into the Civil Rights Act, but that is what Mr. Bounville created by chosing to go on a fast : he is forcing us to work in a hurry. He is responsible for beginning the fast. If you are feeling the effects of the moral dilemma he has created, remember that that was his intent. Meanwhile, if you are so worried now, where were you and others during the vigil, in the time before the fast began ? Were you amongst the activists, who chose to sit on the sidelines ?

''She will make her own better draft when the time comes.''

You wrote that the American Equality Bill ''would not be doing our civil rights justice.'' I'd like to know what you or Sen. Gillibrand believes would be better than the American Equality Bill ; show us the ''better'' answer. You wrote that, ''I know from inside her office.'' What do you know, and when did you know it ? If you say that you know what Sen. Gillibrand's position about the American Equality Bill is, why don't you write about it, so we can all know. If Sen. Gillibrand owes Mr. Bounville ''[n]othing,'' does that mean that Sen. Gillibrand owes me nothing, owes Mr. Jackson's family nothing, owes the victims of the Bronx gang attacks nothing, owes her voters nothing, owes LGBT Americans nothing ? In your eyes, why don't you let us know to whom is Sen. Gillibrand is accountable ?

When you wrote that the American Equality Bill ''does not even have grass root support yet,'' where do you need support to come from ? Arkansas ? Wyoming ? The Bronx ? From the Human Rights Campaign ? What Mr. Bounville has done by having begun a fast is by-pass every activist, ally, or hater, who is willing to wait it out, willing to pray that another online petition will be enough to make things better, willing to wait for after the election, willing to wait for the next Congress, willing to wait for the next President, willing to wait until the next change in the make-up of the Supreme Court. Mr. Bounville has exposed that there is an artificial social construct around the LGBT gay rights movement, namely, that a few select activists or organisations have complete ''control'' over the direction of the movement. He and other activists have caught you asleep at the wheel, and now you are angry.


Make no mistake, the moral dilemma created by the fast is real, and some notable activists do not support the fast. I sympathise with Mr. Bounville's family and friends. Nobody wants to see him get hurt. We all share their concern ; it is the only humane reaction anybody can have. The point of the vigil and the fast, as I see it, has been to see if Sen. Gillibrand shares their concern. My letter, some of my e-mails, and my call to Sen. Gillibrand's office haven't been returned or answered. You wrote, ''I know from inside her office.'' I repeat, what do you know ? What do others know ? What actions are you and Sen. Gillibrand's office taking, to prolong this unnecessary fast ?


  1. On Mel's FB some of many comments

    Thank you Melanie for having the courage to say what many of us LGBT activists have been saying for the past couple of weeks. Strategy is just as important as passion.

    It alarms me that the "fast" advocates have resorted to insults instead of facts to maintain their campaign.

    Mike Airhart The theme of the fast campaign has become, "If you're not with us, you're a bigot."
    about a minute ago · LikeUnlike
    Melanie Nathan Thanks you Mike
    a few seconds ago · Like

  2. Really, Comm? The fast *advocates* are the ones insulting those who disagree with the fast? I beg to differ! I am a fast advocate and have been civil to opponents in discussions, and it is the fast detractors that have been name-calling and insulting to me and others! Above you produced no evidence of insults from fast supporters, just HEARSAY.