En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Gay City News
Subject: TGNCIQ Justice
Type: Media Coverage

The Blogs Versus Obama

Web opinion leaders are critical;
Is the gay street following?

 


Justin was sitting with his boyfriend on the Christopher Street
piers on a Friday afternoon when he was asked for his view of Barack Obama’s
presidency.

 


“I
wouldn’t say good or bad,” said the 16-year-old, as the couple sat wrapped in
each other’s arms. “He’s kind of in the middle.”

  

Last summer, Justin had a job in a clothing store. Now he cannot find a
summer job, and that matters because he is saving for college. Not
surprisingly, he was most concerned with the economy, but also the two wars the
US
is mired in. He wants Obama to do “things that are generally good for us, to
keep us out of war, to get things back on track, the way things used to be.”

 


Issues
such as gay marriage can wait until “we’re financially safe. We have to do one
thing at a time,” Justin said.

 


Similarly,
Kenn Nadel, 53, wants Obama to fix the economy. “I don’t know how quickly he
can get things back on track,” said Nadel, who worked in magazine publishing
until he was laid off in April. “The public in general needs to feel like they
can spend more money.”

 


Nadel was
heading to Folsom Street East, a June 21 leather party on West 28th Street, with two friends, Ed
Collier, 51, and Collier’s partner, Adam Scott, 45. Collier first mentioned
“our reputation overseas” as important when asked for his view of Obama. “Our
last president really screwed us up overseas,” he said.

 


In two
dozen interviews on the street in Manhattan and
Brooklyn, gay, lesbian, and transgendered New Yorkers generally first discussed
the economy, healthcare, the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan,
and issues that are not specific to the queer community when asked to evaluate
Obama.

 


While they
expected action on gay issues, most were willing to wait until later in Obama’s
term for results, and only two saw such issues as their primary concern. For
some, if they had to choose, they might not select a gay choice.

 


“As an
HIV-positive gay man, I would rather have healthcare than gay marriage,” said
Manny Rodriguez, 42, as he stood outside the office of Make the Road New
York
in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.

 


That
contrasts with angry criticism on a few gay blogs over the past month. The
bloggers have pilloried the White House for what they view as its inaction on
repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and enacting a
federal law that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and
gender identity. While the blogs represent a segment of the community, it is
not clear how large that segment is. It is equally unclear that the agenda the
blogs are pressing on the White House is one the broader community would
choose.

 
 

“I think
for me, but I think for a lot of the community, there’s a sense of betrayal,”
said John Aravosis, editor of americablog.com, one of the “top gay blogs,” as
he put it. “Betrayal comes from friends. You don’t feel a sense of betrayal
from people you didn’t respect… I think the community felt a bond with him.”

 


In
addition to his blog, Aravosis has been widely quoted in the mainstream press,
where he represents his views and the community’s view as one and the same. In
an interview, Aravosis was combative when pressed on the extent to which his
views were shared by the broader community. He eventually hung up the phone
saying he had to return to work.

 


On his
blog on June 22, Aravosis described himself as one of the “top gay rights
leaders with constituencies online,” along with Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage,
as well as Pam Spaulding of pamshouseblend.com, Joe Jervis of
joemygod.blogpsot.com, and Andy Towle of towleroad.com. Spaulding and Towle did
not respond to emails seeking comment.

 


Aravosis
told his readers he had written to “four White House contacts” and asked that
they hold talks with these “new gay leaders, online, who are equal in caliber
and import to many of the offline groups.”

 
 

David
Hauslaib, editorial director at queerty.com, a blog that has been tougher on
Obama and for longer than any of the others, did not see his blog as a leader.
“I will never pretend that queerty is the voice of the gay community,” he said.
“I think it’s a gay voice… I think it’s unwise for any person to claim that
they represent an umbrella voice of the gay community.”

 


Jervis
sighed when asked if he read that he was labeled one of the “new gay leaders”
by Aravosis. “It’s okay to call us opinion leaders or taste makers,” he said.
“I certainly couldn’t expect to march down Eighth Avenue and have an army step in
behind me.”

 


Notwithstanding
the more humble posture shared by Jervis and Hauslaib, the bloggers are
advocating for particular policies, and they are claiming their work has had an
impact.

 


On June
17, Obama signed a memorandum that expanded the job benefits available to the
unmarried partners of federal employees. While some bloggers derided the
benefits as insufficient, they also claimed that their pressure had forced the
White House to make the announcement.

 


And they
may be having an impact on the community’s relationship with the White House
and the Democratic Party. The gay blogosphere has called for a boycott of a
June 25 fundraiser in Washington,
produced by the party’s Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council. The actual
influence of the bloggers might be measured by the amount raised at that event.

 


The
established gay advocacy groups in the nation’s capital have boards and members
that, to an extent, keep an eye on their work. Who watches the blogs? “Nobody,”
Jervis said. “It’s the wild, wild West.”

 


What will
result from this mix is anybody’s guess. “I think that’s something we’ll only
know in hindsight,” Jervis said. “We’ve never been in a situation where we’ve
had an ostensibly gay-friendly president in the White House simultaneously with
the massive power of the gay blogosphere.”