Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Casting the Vote for Inclusion, Advocacy, and Alliance

Written by Ruthie O

A few years ago, my roommate told me about some article floating around in the gay community. This article suggested that Republicans who support same-sex marriage should be rewarded with a public showing of support. By voting for LGBT-friendly Republicans, other Republican candidates, hungry for more votes, would also begin to support same-sex marriage. You are reading this right: the article was calling upon the LGBT community to rise up and vote Republican for the sake of the LGBT community.

 

I am here to tell you that this logic is crap.

The flaw in this logic is how this article defined the LGBT community. The writer seemed to forget that the LGBT community consists of women who need access to domestic violence services, undocumented immigrants who deserve a path to citizenship, and transgender folks who, in most states, still need legal protection against employment and housing discrimination. If the LGBT community was only made up of white middle-class men with easy access to health insurance, then the argument may have been sound. But, in reality, the LGBT community is rich with diversity, and therefore, rich with diverse needs. Therefore, voting for a candidate who would vote for same-sex marriage, but who also supports the widespread deportation of undocumented immigrations would not actually be supporting the entire LGBT community.

My ranting and raving against this argument came down to one point: to truly advocate for justice, we cannot only advocate for our own individual special interests. Instead, we must acknowledge the pluralism of our communities and demand justice for all of our brothers and sisters.

This article has stayed with me over the years. I am an ally, not LGBT myself, but I have seen the same problematic liberation strategy manifest in my own community: the feminist community. Throughout the years, I have observed how mainstream movements tend to move towards easy—and often exclusive and narrow-sighted— solutions, rather than transformational justice.  And this is especially true during election seasons.

My ranting and raving against this argument came down to one point: to truly advocate for justice, we cannot only advocate for our own individual special interests. Instead, we must acknowledge the pluralism of our communities and demand justice for all of our brothers and sisters.

Single-issue voters identity a self-serving political cause that drives their voting decisions. For the mainstream LGBT movement, the issue tends to be marriage equality. For mainstream feminist organizations, this issue is often abortion (and now, inconceivably, birth control access). Abortion seems like the quintessential women’s issue; after all, it literally is all about the vagina. And yet, if we look at abortion as simply an issue of vaginal autonomy, we miss a huge chunk of the complex web of power and oppression that surrounds reproductive justice. By simply framing abortion as a women’s issue, we ignore the leagues of transgender men who are directly impacted by anti-choice legislation. Same with people with disabilities, who fear that the rhetoric of the “justified abortion” will lead to the elimination of their very community.

My main point is this: voting for pro-choice candidates, regardless of their stance on other issues, may end up actually hurting members of our own community—the people who are most often brutally silenced and neglected by mainstream political discourse.

I am not writing this to promote for the Democrat party; this is not about supporting one party or another. The two-party system is heavily flawed, and both parties center on economic policies that are hurtful to the poor and people of color. No, this is about discovering our priorities and our alliances. After years of soul searching, I discovered that I needed more from a candidate than a pro-choice stance. Now, I want a candidate who opposes war, imperialism, inhumane immigration policy, tax cuts for the rich, and the corporate takeover of our social, economic, and environmental wellness. I want a candidate who supports fully funded public education at all levels, the DREAM Act, protection for abused, undocumented women, and funding for services for people with disabilities. I may be delusional, but I want it all.

Trickle-down liberation doesn’t work; it never has, it never will. Sometimes, that means I have to vote for an obscure third-party candidate. Sometimes it means I simply skip that part of the ballot. I will not sell out my undocumented students or my transgender friends so I can have access to birth control. I refuse to accept the premise that my issues are the most pressing political issues today. I am still not sure who I will vote for this November, but this I know for sure: I am not willing to sacrifice the diverse and dynamic community I love for the sake of political expediency.


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