At a meeting of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus on Saturday, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced the creation of a Lesbian Leadership Council. Wasserman Schultz said the new council would focus on cultivating lesbian participation in the Democratic party, which has had a broader LGBT leadership council since 2000.
“We’re going to make sure we have a vehicle here at the DNC for lesbian leadership,” she said. “So we can have lesbians catch up and get them the tools they need and make sure they can be a strong part of our leadership team.”
Wasserman Schultz said details about the new council would be forthcoming, but it seems likely it will take after the DNC’s LGBT caucus, which has focused on issues like a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the marriage equality train currently rolling through the United States. Active participation from a group of queer women could also help push issues like sexual assault, intimate partner violence and economic justice further into the spotlight.
My feelings on this are twofold. First, I think it’s great that the DNC is recognizing where its efforts (in the form of the LGBT leadership council) haven’t been enough. Wasserman Schultz specifically called out the existing council for being skewed toward benefiting gay men in a speech last month: “No offense to gay men in the room, but just like in the straight community, where women sometimes have been left behind and men have vaulted ahead on the leadership track, my message was it’s time for lesbians to step up.” If the council has been around more than a decade and women haven’t been able to benefit from it the way men have, perhaps it is necessary to create a new group focused specifically on them.
Then again, the parsing out of “lesbian” from the LGBT acronym that we have come to understand as representing much, much more is a little worrisome. Will bisexual people have to form their own council, five years down the road, to make sure their leadership is being cultivated? Will trans* people need their own separate councils focused on leaders of various gender identities? What about people who fit into more than one category? If a body created to serve a diverse group of gender and sexual minorities is failing one or more of those groups, why not just make the main group get its act together? Wasserman Schultz said, “my message was it’s time for lesbians to step up.” But do we really need to “step up,” or do those who have been keeping us down need to step off?
That said, this new announcement does show that Democratic leaders are thinking about how to broaden their support among LGBT people by bringing them more fully into the fold. Forming a group specifically for lesbians is more than lip service; it’s action. It’s the creation of more seats at the table for politically minded queer people, who will have a responsibility to bring their otherwise-identified peers along.