~ By Guest Commentator,Chris Bilal ~
There are more 2008 presidential debates than there are seasons of Survivor and Real World combined and they are being sponsored by everyone from Youtube to Harmonica Sunbeam, so its no surprise that Logo and the LGBT community would soon put their feather boas and assless chaps in the debate game. Complete with Melissa Etheridge (I'm serious) and Madonna (I'm kidding, but I'm sure they wanted her) the debates made for great Logo primetime TV on a channel known for it's campy Noah's Arc reruns.
Not unlike any other network debate it was filled with all the presidential candidates blasting pre-written and memorized made-for-Letterman soundbytes with chipper pearly white smiles telling viewers everything they wanted to hear, but this one had a different appeal to it. More game show, less PBS, these debates would have made even Ryan Seacrest burst out the closet. With contestants ranging from media and financial heavyweights HilBama to the relatively unknown Mike Gravel from Alaska (who knew there are whale hunting, igloo living, polar bear eating gays) this was Democratic all star night. Hillary ever- dull, bland, robotic but playing to the camera like a Cocodorm star, Edwards selling himself just short of a Chippendales calendar, Richardson, the progressive but chagrin Latino bear, Obama the married DL professional and Mike Gravel, your gay daddy. Imagine a melang of your favorite gay celebrities with corporate backing, Ivy League education, legislative credentials, menopausal wives, hedge funds and Brooks Brothers (or Ann Taylor) suits trying to outgay the other and you have the Logo Debates. You could literally close your eyes, listen and imagine everyone in drag channeling their inner Ru Paul.
Admittedly, its fun to see candidates finally answer the questions that everyone from San Francisco to Christopher Street has been dying to ask. I've never seen any American- gay, straight, lesbian or politician so eager to answer LGBT questions, its as if a big (pink) gay light bulb went off that went ding! or disco. But when the cameras are off and the inauguration ball begins you can't help but question how genuine the candor and Colegate smile enthusiasm is and how far it will go.
Like the middle school class president who promises you better lunch and more recess time, you wonder how realistic the responses were, ranging from Free Gay Healthcare for All to gay medicinal marijuana (Damn bitch, I only asked you yes or no about civil unions). Snarky cynicism aside, every election cycle has the solo pro-Gay champion only this time every candidate is and each of them are establishment politicians well versed in dealing with Joe Schmo and Gay Ray while catering to corporate interests not to mention the abortion clinic bombing fundamentalist farmers who have no idea what the Logo network or cable is.
Its fun to be on the cutting edge of progressive gay politics but how do you differentiate between a winning hand and a bluff. There is a line between pushing and patronizing and all of the candidates seemed to have put on their I'm-not-a-homophobe-I-have-a-gay-cousin face. If I didn't know any better I'd be lead to believe that hair and makeup wrote the candidate's lube friendly responses. Moreover, not knocking the groundbreaking debates, but what slightly unsettles me is I feel like it's gay baiting in the reverse, something the Democrats have vehemently complained about and said they would never do. I can't help but feel that much like the Republican party ran on the anti-gay platform, Democrats are taking a chapter from the elephants, playing to the base, and I don't know if to applaud and go to Stonewall or bash them on the Hill. But being the dark room, back alley, Karl Rovian political hack I am, I love the idea, just hate the execution. Instead of George Bush inciting a crowd of cowboy hats into riot with how much he hates gay rights, you have Hillary, a la Oprah, lushing about how she just loves the gays and how Bill loves them too. I was waiting for her to announce that keys to special gay cars were under the audience seats.
Love Hillary to death, but when she's in New York City she talks in the boogie down Bronx accent, and when she's in Mississippi she sounds like she walks barefoot down dirt Route 66 roads lynching anyone who gives her an Emmitt Till look. She has a special and learned knack of playing to the camera, saying anything and doing nothing. Only this time she is playing with the hopes, lifestyles, and futures of millions of people only to go to 1600 Penn and get even with a twink intern.
Unfortunately, the only candidates with an unwaivering, unchanging, neverending mission and a promise were the ones that half of America knows nothing about and that the news media caricatures. In reality, Dennis Kucinich with all of his amazing views of equal rights and liberties will sadly never make it past the primary in what seems like his 30th try and Mike Gravel doesn't have the funding nor O'Reilly notoriety to bring his psychadelic dream of free love to those of us who don't have 500 channels.
On paper, typed in blogs, and shown on tomorrow's Daily Show clips, its all bright-eyed, conversational, coming-of-age and slightly comedic. But in reality, in the situation rooms, Capitol Hill offices and legislative chambers it is the opposite tone. Gay Rights is still a third rail issue that miraculously ressurects and manifests itself every four years and then recedes like murky New Orleans water once the storm is over. In 2009, once the votes have been counted, recounted, and recounted again, Iraq will be the main agenda- Democrat or Republican reign. The only way to champion gay rights is to force it, fry it in trans fat, put it on the table and make complacent Americans eat it and these debates were a great appetizer.
At the end of the day and debate, gay rights is a Civil Rights issue and much like discrimination didn't end with Brown v. Board or the Civil Rights Act, I'm sure the woes of gays- legally, fundamentally, and societally, will not end with the close call election of a Democratic candidate and a Senate bill, but with continued advocacy, perseverance, fighting and what the gay community and Democrats lack most, unity. Gay rights isn't a four year term problem that can be solved with a paper or paperless ballot- its hereditary, genetic and generational and not even Dennis Kucinich french kissing Mike Gravel with an army of gun-toting gays at their command can fix it.
Chris Bilal is a doucehebag former blogger who resides between Harlem and Jersey City with his faux girlfriend Vanessa, her beloved Nintendo DS, his Sidekick ID and two imaginery dogs.