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NEWS ANALYSIS: Think big, think globally, prominent LGBT activists urge

Is the LGBT community too splintered? Is it too complacent? Does it accept small victories, like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” instead of demanding the whole enchilada?

Leading voices in the LGBT wilderness are crying loudly for a whole new approach toward achieving full equality on a global scale.

Forget about celebrating the pockets of the United States where marriage equality is possible, providing an inequality of rights across 50 states, they say.

Forget about those rare state laws that protect LGBT people, such as those that are being enacted in progressive states like California and Massachusetts, they say, because they are not universal rights.

Remember that being gay is still a crime in almost 80 countries across the world. Remember that being gay can mean punishment by hanging or stoning in many countries.

Listen to the voices of three prominent activists.

Think globally, Harvard scholar Timothy McCarthy advocates

Harvard University scholar Dr. Timothy McCarthy gave a stirring speech last month during the Compass to Compassion consultation at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

McCarthy argued that the gay rights movement has reached the proverbial fork in the road in the journey toward equal rights.

“We are at the beginning of a new struggle,” he said. “We are at a tipping point on raising LGBT issues … and a turning point where we need new direction.”

McCarthy said our modest progress – such as the DADT repeal, hospital visitation rights, etc. -- also shows us how far we have to go to achieve acceptance and full equality.

“Stigmas against us are universal, even if it affects each of us in different ways,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy criticized the tendency of activists in the United States to fight for one task at a time, issue by issue, saying that it limits us by going at it by piecemeal.

“We’re coming at it from a place of weakness, waiting on big, powerful people to do something for us,” he said. “We need to empower ourselves to imagine a bigger and broader movement” that demands equality now, not later.

“It is homophobia that is the problem, not homosexuality!” McCarthy said with fiery conviction. “We must flip the script!”

He advocated that American activists should divert more money toward the global effort to decriminalize homosexuality.

Noting the success of the Arab Spring and the growing Occupy movement, McCarthy said time has come for a “Queer Spring.”

Longtime activist Larry Kramer blasts LGBT apathy

Larry Kramer, the gifted playwright and author who is a longtime LGBT activist, has always been outspoken about gay rights.

The movement is lacking leadership and vision, Kramer said during a recent interview with Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly.

“We're still a leaderless population. The same things I've complained about since the beginning have not been rectified in any way.

“I know that there's a lot more sympathy for (President Barack) Obama than I'm prepared to show him. We still haven't got these things, you know. I don't consider 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell’' some major victory. It's a small, dishonest political move that (President Bill) Clinton did to enchain us, and it's been unknotted. But it's for a very small percentage of us. Everybody acts as if it's a major thing for all of us, and it isn't. And he knows that. It's been a small gift he's given us to throw us a bone. The big gifts, he's not giving us – no one's giving us. And that hurts. I don't see that changing. …

“Name me one gay leader. Who have we got? I don't see anybody. I don't hear anybody saying what I'm saying to the extent that I'm saying it. Where is a gay leader that people can hear? We've never been able to birth him or her.”

Kramer argues that LGBT Americans should be screaming for one thing:

“Equality, pure and simple. From the Supreme Court. That we're allowed to get married, for a start, and get all the benefits that straight people get. That's it. That's the whole megillah, as the Jews say.

“Anyway, we do not have equality. That's what the Bill of Rights says we're entitled to. That's what the Constitution says we're entitled to. And we don't have it. I don't see us getting it for a while, quite frankly, because the other side is willing to spend too much money to see that we don't get it. The Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, primarily, have very deep pockets to see that we don't get it. And they've learned this tactic that I don't think any of us saw coming, which is that the minute we win, find something to sue. Tie it up in the courts. And they can tie 'em up in courts until we're all dead. It's pathetic.”

Kramer condemns the rationale that LGBT Americans should be happy with each small victory on the road the equality.

“I think we should have learned by now that this ‘pebble at a time’ attempt to make right is just that. They're pebbles. We need bricks. Until we're ready to throw bricks, we're not going to get anywhere. You can name any kinds of wonderful things [HRC has] done, but they still have not changed the basic problem: We are not equal. We do not have equality. They do not look at the big picture, they look at the small picture. As does every other gay person, who is just happy to go home at night and go back into their state of denials.

“It's a very, very passive population, and that is our great tragedy. I love being gay, I love gays. It hurts me to say this. These are all lessons that I've learned painfully since 1981, but until we learn to fight back we get what we deserve.”

Kramer urges taking to the streets to demand our rights.

“If there's 20 million of us, that's 20 million soldiers. When we get angry enough that we don't have what we deserve, when we get angry enough that the taxes we pay don't get us what they get everyone else, then maybe we'll do something about it. I don't see that happening. So, therefore, we stay like we are, and leave it to the HRCs of the world to pick up the tiny pebbles.

“It's not a mysterious process. It's called visibility, anger, unity. We don't have that.”

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle talks about future

San Diego activist the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, currently in Geneva, Switzerland, for a two-day conference on HIV and human rights, is part of a new movement advocating for a global approach toward LGBT rights.

"Globalization has made some of us profoundly aware of our connection to each other and the LGBT movement is reshaping the global south's attitude to gender and equality issues in a new and some would say threatening way,” said Ogle, president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.

“We can no longer fight for issues like marriage equality in California or even the USA without taking into consideration how our efforts affect our LGBT brothers and sisters in places where the movement is seminal and without resources to fight the same organizations who are denying our rights in the USA.”

Ogle is one of the founding members of the new COMPASS Coalition, which was born out of the Compass to Compassion consultation in New York.

“The COMPASS Coalition is the beginning of a deeper dialogue and sharing stories and resources as to how we do this and do it with respect to the different perspectives we bring to the table and the struggle for global equality,” Ogle said.

“We hope to build deeper connections to emerging LGBT leadership in places like Uganda (where the movement has many strong international connections already) but what about the other 75 countries where there is even less infrastructure but you can still go to jail for coming out?

“We have to think big because the problem and challenge is big,” he said.

“We can no longer expect to make progress on domestic LGBT issues without it either positively or negatively impacting millions of LGBT human beings and their allies and families in places we may never visit.”

Ogle said the coalition aims to put a human face on the issues.

“The call to liberation and to live authentic loving lives is being heard all over the world - that is a good thing! The more we tell our authentic stories, the more threatening we are becoming to the forces who have a different worldview,” he said.

The consultation drew international attention, particularly in Africa, where reporting by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and several bloggers were noted in emails circulated by members of Uganda’s Parliament, where the notorious “Kill The Gays” bill may be revived soon.

“The stakes are not only suddenly higher but the possibilities are limitless. I watched Equality California fall apart this year, not because it is not doing good work, but because its vision was too limited. It is one example of how our movement may slowly run out of steam if we all do not wake up to the unique possibilities of our time,” Ogle said.

“The powerful LGBT economy should apply itself to leveraging support for emerging LGBT organizations and businesses in these 76 countries and extending the HRC Corporate Index to create powerful business relationships with LGBT people in companies working in hostile environments for LGBT and ally employees. What would that mean for a company like Qualcomm or Sony with subsidiary companies in some of these parts of the world?

“Could we help LGBT employees in the global south work to improve their working and social environment (begin with affinity groups in each country working on rights or access to health services) and leverage our solidarity with them,” Ogle said.

“Here in San Diego we have a very closely knit family of companies who share best practices for LGBT people and it makes for good business to attract and retain the best employees to keep their companies competitive. This business ethic could be applied to other countries and with the easy access to the internet, Skype and inexpensive international travel, each company could create their own unique partnership with their colleagues overseas.

“We should not underestimate the power of a few people reaching out to each other and the enormous personal education and satisfaction this can bring. These relationships will profoundly change us personally and as a movement will give us a new sense of vision and mission that we as Americans desperately lack right now."