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Where are Our Leaders?


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Lawrence King Killing Begs the Question: Where are Our Leaders?

By Sara Whitman


As the country considers who to elect as the next President, the so called "leader of the free world," I wonder, where are our leaders? Who represents the LGBT community on a national and international stage?

Is there anyone?

Recent months have brought several disturbing events in our community. Lawrence King was shot in his classroom after being teased and harassed for being gay. Simmie Williams was killed while wearing a dress in Fort Lauderdale. Just yesterday, Duchy Trachtenberg, a Montgomery County Council member who authored a bill outlawing discrimination against transgendered people, announced that she is receiving death threats.

And Joe Solmonese is running around telling our legislators to vote for a non-inclusive ENDA bill?

When King was shot, The LA Times covered the event as a local story. While the LGBT blogsphere immediately spread the news, the mainstream media took much longer to cover the story.

Last year, six African-American teenagers were charged with attempted second-degree murder charges in Jena, Louisiana. There were rallies, online petitions, a legal defense fund was created, The New York Times, New York Post and LA Times all covered the events. John Mellencamp even wrote a song in support of the Jena 6, as they came to be known as.

Why? Because the leaders showed up. They went to the rallies. Among those in attendance? Civil rights activists Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III. Rappers Mos Def and Salt-n-Pepa showed their support, as did New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Rapper-actor Ice Cube took it a step further, funding buses to bring protesters from California.

Who was at Lawrence King?s funeral? Where were our leaders?

In this star struck culture, the way to draw attention to an issue is to put a recognizable face out front to draw the press out. Where were Joe Solmonese of HRC, Matt Foreman of NGLTF, Kevin Cathcart of Lambda, Kate Kendall of NCLR, Neil Giuliano of GLAAD? Ellen DeGeneres did her part, but what about the newly out Cheyenne Jackson? Cynthia Nixon? Melissa Etheridge? Where?s the song from Elton John? It takes leadership to bring make the kind of public statement that surrounded the Jena 6.

But we don?t have that.

There have been, without question, innumerable appearances by these leaders at different events. They give speeches and raise millions of dollars that go toward the LGBT movement. It is hard to imagine asking someone like Melissa Etheridge to put the lesbian hat on one more time to stand and be counted, as she has done for years and years.

But we must.

There are key moments in time when something happens that is so powerful, people must stand together.

In Jena, Louisiana, six African-American kids were unfairly treated by the justice system. There are thousands of African-American kids unfairly treated by the justice system every day. But the story, the noose, the racial divide of the school... those factors made it an essential moment to bring attention to the issue.

Lawrence King was 15 years old. He lived in a center for abused and neglected children. He was shot point blank in the head in his classroom. His killer was 14 years old and pulled the trigger because Lawrence had flirted with him?asked him to be his valentine.

The story is powerful. It was a moment in time we should have brought the attention of the entire country to the issue of LGBT youth. It was a moment to discuss, on a national stage, gender identity issues, as Lawrence?s high heels and make-up ?freaked? the other boys out.

There were some rallies held across the country. Ellen Degeneres did speak powerfully of the event.

But today, when you talk about Larry King, everyone still thinks of the talk show host.

We know who Jesse Jackson is. We know who Al Sharpton is. All of America knows these faces and names. Not only was it a moment in time to bring the issues front and center, it was a chance for the nation to get to know our leaders.

But they were not there. Letters of support were written and left on websites for those who knew what address to access to read, but it wasn't enough.

The moment has passed.

We will elect a new president this November. None of the choices have promised any real effort for LGBT issues. Dutchy Trachtenberg?s security will be increased. Senator Kennedy and Representative Frank will be pushing a non-inclusive ENDA.

Where will our leaders be? With any luck, front and center.

Sara Whitman is a writer/activist who is first and foremost a mother of three boys. She currently serves on the boards of Mass Equality, The Schott Foundation for Public Education and Halcyon Hill Foundation between runs to the grocery store. You can read her blog at www.suburblezmom.blogspot.com.

? 2008 GayWired.com

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