Wednesday, November 22, 2006

YDA in Jackson, Mississippi

I wanted to update you on the latest news from the Young Democrats of America. The last general meeting was this past weekend in Jackson, Mississippi with a theme of "Rebuild. Remember. Retake."

Attending from Georgia were: myself (National Committeeman), Flora Brooke Hesse (National Committeewoman), Kirk Miller (YDA Rules Chair), Billy Joyner (YDG President), Benson Manica (YDG Secretary), Kyle Bailey (Atlanta Stonewall Democrats), and Shelby Highsmith (Atlanta chapter).

Apart from various trainings on Fundraising, Press Relations, and Voter Files, panel discussions explored the emerging "religious left" and the strategy for winning back the South. Former DNC Chair Don Fowler of South Carolina spoke as did the newly elected House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. At Saturday's luncheon, we heard from the leaders of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats party that formed in 1964 as a protest to continued segregration and black voter suppression in Mississippi. On Saturday evening, a special movie presentation on Iraq entitled "The Ground Truth" was shown with a discussion afterward with one of the movie's stars, US Marine Corporal Sean Huze.

There was a postmortem on the elections done in the Campaigns Committee, for which Billy is the deputy chair and I represent the Southeast. Overall, the campaigns did well, even though Georgia lost its races. There was plenty of data collected during the campaign, and a professor at the University of Notre Dame is analyzing the numbers in order to give YDA a full report by its February meeting. There is the likelihood that some funds will be available to local chapters in 2007 for use in local races. If your chapter has contested city elections next year where the youth vote could make a difference, please let Billy Joyner or myself know so that we can keep you in the loop as the process for doling out this money is determined.

In other news, Billy Joyner was elected the Chair of the State Presidents Association of YDA, which is a great honor for our fearless leader!

YDA adopted its budget for the 2007 year, as well as started a restructuring of its charter and bylaws. The action taken in Jackson included adopting a board structure with 6 non-YD members elected to 4 year terms. There were further technical amendments dealing with future national conventions.

The next YDA meeting will be in February 2-4 in Washington, DC in conjunction with Founder's Day and the Winter DNC meeting. The DNC meeting starts on Feb 1, and the DNC has promised to get passes to any YD who wants to attend. As always, any Georgia YD is welcome to attend, so please let us know if you want to go. We do not know which hotel will hold the event, but it will likely be within walking distance of wherever the DNC is meeting. At the DNC meeting, YDA plans to push the DNC to fulfill its long-neglected promise to include youth in state delegations for the Democratic National Convention. Since 1980, there have been no youth participation targets despite being clearly called for in the rules. YDA would love to have a large turnout to pressure the DNC to formally include youth in ALL state delegations in 2008.


Mark your calendars for July 18-21, 2007!!! The YDA National Convention will be held in Dallas, TX at the Adams Mark Hotel. For those who have attended previous conventions in San Francisco (2005), Buffalo (2003), and Tuscon (2001), you know these conventions are a lot of fun and great way to get together with YDs from across the nation, settle on a national YD platform, and elect national officers.

Confirmed speakers include Hillary Clinton and John Edwards so far. The convention website will not be up until January, but some financial details are available for you to start saving your pennies. The Adams Mark Hotel is the largest hotel in Texas, and for rooms with two queen size beds, the cost is $125/night (or $31.25/person with 4 people in a room). For those who want your own room, a king size bed is available in the Royal Tower for $145/night. Registration will cost $60/person. American Airlines is offering a 5% discount off airfare for conference attendees, and if 10 or more people fly Southwest, an unspecified discount will apply.

With the convention being in Dallas, we will likely have a driving option for those interested in that. The downside of Dallas is that in order to maximize Georgia's votes at the Convention, we must have 34 people in our delegation. Fundraising will obviously be key, and YDG will work with local chapters to offset the costs. The experience of the national convention is worth it, though. Dallas has world class shopping and entertainment, and it promises to be a good time for everyone. I hope you will make plans to attend.

This weekend also featured bizarre jockeying in the clusterfuck that is the YDA campaign for 2007. We identified no fewer than 9 people who were claiming to be running for YDA president. One truly surreal episode involved a candidate my state favors who faced with vociferous threats from the LGBT caucus that if he didn't come out, he could forget running for office. The odd thing about these comments, other than their viciousness in tone, was that the candidate about which they complained is already out! He simply had never announced it to people at YDA, and no one had ever bothered to ask him. Of course, they all whispered their speculation, but they didn't ask the source. Had they asked him, he would have simply told them that yes, indeed, he is gay. In fact, he's been living quite openly in a relationship for 4 years now!

Some might claim he was closeted because he didn't announce his sexuality, especially when someone tried to spread a rumor that he was homophobic, of all things. Those of us who knew him best had a great laugh about that, although at the time, none us knew for sure if he was gay or not. Some of us suspected, but we really didn't care. I knew where this guy stood, so it didn't matter much to me. My initial impression about the gay whispers was that he's a metrosexual kind of guy who didn't sleep around YDA, so they were saying he was gay. But really, had I or anyone else just bothered to ask, he would have told us.

Why is it that asking about someone's sexuality is so taboo? It's like there's something wrong with being thought of as "gay". Most people I know who don't wear their sexuality on their sleeve, are quite open when asked. There are varying degrees of being out, but seriously, with the candidate in question, you'd pretty much have to be deaf, blind, and mute to not at least strongly suspect this guy is gay. He's got way too much sense of style to be straight.

For a moment, let's pretend this guy was deep in the closet despite being heavily involved in a very gay-friendly organization like YDA. Normally, I'm all about people taking whatever time they need to come to grips with their sexuality and to come out on their own terms. I'm also sensitive to the concerns of my fellow LGBT citizens who don't have supportive families or live in areas or have jobs where being out would threaten their livelihoods. At the same time, I also understand the vehemence of Democrats who say "HELL to the No!" when it comes to closet cases in powerful positions. The closet is truly poisonous, and it leads to destructive behavior. At the very least, it's self-torture on an emotional level.

Anyway, people need to understand that the LGBT community is quite diverse. Not everyone in it is loudly out, and for many of those people (including the candidate in question), it's a non-issue. There's no closet, which people would know if they'd ask. It was really very silly as far as "controversies" go, and it's looking like this candidate will end up as the #2 on a ticket that is being put together. The fact remains, #1 or #2 on the ticket, this guy is openly gay and has been for quite some time.

The gay bar in Jackson was a sad, sad place. But we managed to make it fun even though it was "bring your own liquor". Kyle gave a dance performance on stage Saturday night to rival just about any gay club in the country! No really scandalous hook-ups occurred while we were there, which is unusual.

Jackson isn't a bad place. I just wouldn't want to live there.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Hey now Jason... while I agree with almost all of this post especially the third from last paragraph, I disagree with your assessment of the gay bar. My few hours there was the most fun I had all weekend--it was almost a cross between a dive bar and a gay bar, which is great because it is laid back and has good people. Just my opinion...

Props on YDG's leadership gains! Jackson isn't a bad place, I just really wouldn't want to live there. See you all in DC!!!