Constructive Impatience

By Joan Garry

Originally published on Advocate.com December 30 2008 1:00 AM ET

I'll admit it.
The Rick Warren selection stung. I really tried not to
take it personally. I raised many gay dollars (insert funny
visual here) for the president-elect. I received more
than a handful of e-mails with the subject line "I
want my money back."

My 81-year-old
mother said it in her own inimitable fashion: "That
wasn't very nice of [Obama]. After all you people did for
him...." (This may be the only time I have ever
laughed heartily when referred to as "you people.")

My partner says
she is done. She doesn't want to go to the inauguration
or any of those balls with me. I get her point. And it's not
because I'm not a very good dancer.

During the
primary and general election season, everything was so
clear. The president-elect is in the right place in
terms of his record and on policy positions on issues
facing LGBT Americans. Our community had to work like
crazy to get him elected. Many of us did. Conversely,
another thing was clear. The gay community's support
would not bring him a single electoral vote he needed.
And might lose him a few. I get that too. We are,
after all, the most effective weapon in the cultural war --
the last and best hope of the religious right. Just
ask Rick.

And so like many
of us, we look for signals during the transition so that
we can continue to believe the promise. And there have been
some. LGBT community leaders met with the most senior
folks in the transition team. The team members were
smart, supportive, and impressive. And yes, we all
celebrated the announcement of Nancy Sutley to the chair of
the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

But here we are
on the cusp of New Year's Eve -- and we've got Nancy Sutley and we've got
Rick Warren
.

Unlike my
partner, I am not angry. I'm just plain perplexed. For a
team that has had flawless execution, what gives?

I have come to
believe that the team needs some help. A very smart friend
of mine e-mailed me yesterday. She said:

"We can't let the
right wing co-opt yet another good and well-meaning
Democratic president. That is our responsibility. The poor
dupes never know what hits them until after it is
done. Barack will only be different if we stay
connected to him and smart."

Best e-mail I've
gotten in a long time.

So with that as a
very lengthy preamble, here are three ideas:

1) Hurry up and
hire some gay people.

Our community has
been working since February to pull together
résumés. Jim Messina told a group of LGBT
leaders that our process has been a model for other
constituent groups to follow. I've seen the
résumés. I serve on the board of advisers of this
Presidential Appointment Project.
The Obama administration would be lucky to have any
number of these folks. And the administration needs
their voices. The more diverse the voices around the
table, the fewer missteps.

2) White House
Initiative on LGBT Americans

In 1999, Bill
Clinton created a White House Initiative on Asian
Americans and Pacific Islanders. #13125 to be
exact.
The goal? "Increase participation of Asian
Americans and Pacific Islanders in federal programs."
Talk to some of those who were engaged in that effort
nearly a decade ago. It worked and it paid off.

So, now think
about all of the federal programs that have relevance to
LGBT Americans. From health care to AIDS to employment to
family issues. The list goes on and on and on. A
coordinated effort might be the only way to integrate
us fully into the fabric of federal programs designed to
benefit ALL Americans. The Obama administration eschews
constituency politics and avoids thinking of people in
unique silos. Conceptually, I love that -- I want to
be considered in my totality, not just as a gay
American. However, I believe that an initiative like this
would in fact be one that would bring us together.

3) Send a message
that this administration understands that equality for
LGBT Americans is a CIVIL RIGHTS issue. Appoint the first
openly gay member of the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights.

Don't look at us
as gay Americans who have issues. Look at us as
Americans who have been denied basic civil rights. This is
how our second-class citizenship SHOULD be viewed, and
it fits perfectly with Barack Obama's vision for a
UNITED States.

A quick look at
today's commissioners? A woman, several
African-Americans, an Asian American, a Native American.
Even a white man from the Heritage Foundation (don't
even get me started about the Heritage Foundation).

So, to my fellow
LGBT friends and our straight allies, to those who
raised money and gave money, to those of us who have
dedicated time and energy to the visibility of the
second-class citizenship of gay and lesbian Americans:
Let's use the Rick Warren choice as an opportunity to
be impatient. I for one plan to be impatient constructively
(as demonstrated above).

Join me. My list
is a place to start. And hardly exhaustive. Perhaps you
have some ideas? 

- This article
was first featured on The Huffington Post.