Hillary Clinton Is Not A Good Ally

In the wake of her serious AIDS blunder and subsequent non-apology1.Gawker: Hillary Clinton’s Reagan AIDS Revisionism Is Shocking, Insulting, and Utterly Inexplicable, it’s worth wondering what level of commitment Hillary Clinton has to LGBT people in the United States. She is content to celebrate marriage equality2.Tweet and attempt to mock3.Tweet occupants of the GOP clown car as they try to figure out how to overturn it, despite being late to the Democratic Party in terms of her support for it. But even if you chalk up her years of resistance to marriage equality to “evolution” and her concession of DOMA to be a political necessity – both of which are extremely debatable positions – it is inarguable that she does not respect the fight that LGBT people have fought for decades and continue to fight in the pursuit of equality and justice. Her record is inconsistent, and lest we forget, GL(B(T)) rights were not considered to be part of the Democratic Party’s national platform until very recently. But most of all, Hillary Clinton’s praise of The Reagans’, and particularly Nancy Reagan’s, quote-unquote low-key activism is an insult to those who died, those who survived, and those who work and volunteer tirelessly to continue the battle against HIV today.
It is an insult to suggest that Nancy Reagan, who denied her dying friend’s request4.Buzzfeed: Nancy Reagan Turned Down Rock Hudson’s Plea For Help Nine Weeks Before He Died to be transferred to a hospital that could have treated him, was an activist of any sort. It is ahistorical to treat the Reagans as thought they were anything but viciously homophobic5.Mic: These Horrifying White House Transcripts Show How America Used to Think About AIDS. It is simply not the case that it was “difficult to talk about” the epidemic as it was building – it was a matter of life or death for thousands of gay men nationwide, many of whom were screaming at the top of their lungs, yet it was a laughing matter for Reagan’s cabinet.
It is an insult to the activism that took part across the country as the epidemic spread. While Ronald Reagan was refusing to act on the crisis, fury and desperation were rampant. Suggesting that their legacy is one of compassion and not complicity erases the legacy of mass movements such as ACT UP, as well as countless local community clinics and organizations that tried to help the afflicted and combat the stigma that tore apart communities, many of which continue to do so today.
It is an insult and a disservice to LGBT people across the United States, whose history and culture are not inherited or taught in school, whose acceptance into the political mainstream has been recent, incomplete, and heavily qualified, who are still at risk of targeted violence, whose historical neighborhoods and cultural artifacts are being developed or destroyed, who do not enjoy anti-discrimination protections at the federal level, who are witnessing a backlash of “religious freedom” legislation of a monumental scale6.The Atlantic: Can States Protect LGBT Rights Without Compromising Religious Freedom?, to claim allyship and then turn the villains of the crisis that rocked us for decades and turn them into saviors.
And to LGBT people who are in positions of authority within your communities, especially as leaders and mentors to gay men who grew up after the worst of the crisis 7.Which is not over, especially not for gay men of color, especially in the South, I would ask this: if we don’t denounce revisionism unequivocally when it’s coming from someone who may become the most defining voice in the country for LGBT rights, are we not laying an inadequate foundation for our future movements? Is it not our right and our responsibility to demand that our story be told as it happened, without concessions to people it is politically convenient for those seeking power to pardon? And even if it won’t change your vote, are you being honest if you say this isn’t an issue?

Edit: Clinton has posted a response on Medium. It’s factual and informative, but I still find faults:
  • Why was she talking about AIDS at Nancy Reagan’s funeral in the first place, if not to praise her?
  • This piece doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the Reagans were not only not involved in starting the conversation, they were instrumental in silencing it. I will not hold my breath waiting for a condemnation.
  • It’s probably not a good look to use your own gaffe as a chance to toot your own horn.

References   [ + ]

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