The Politics of Intersectional Lobbying
The gay right’s movement has yet to adopt a pro-Black agenda
“Shut up, Christopher” she said to me as we got out of the Congressional office. “Do not speak.” This was some of the best advice I ever received from the legendary lobbyist, women’s advocate, and my former colleague Joanne Howes.
Howes is one of the most successful female lobbyists in U.S. history. She was one of 7 women who helped put Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket as Vice President in 1984. She was one of the 12 women who founded Emily’s List. As we marked International Women’s Day on March 8th this year, I was reminded of this singularly grumpy and wonderful Joanne, who taught me a lot about lobbying.
One thing that she taught me is that gender is about both political structures and the lived experience of the individual. Whether lobbying for health care, more broadly, or Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer, specifically, there is no extricating someone’s gender or race from their health conditions or from the policy process.
These themes are noted in my forthcoming book “LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States” from Routledge. I argue that intersectional lobbying recognizes that: (1) policy problems cannot be solved without addressing the citizen or individual inclusive of their intersecting and irreducible parts (Crenshaw, 1991). And (2) that lobbying is both structural and performative such that lobbying is the performance of returning power to the powerful. Thus, lobbying as both performance and structure can be seen through the delivery of power in the policy process. This can be affected by the way lobbyists prioritize issues and inflict degrees of discomfort and disruption to the machinery of politics, whether this is through committees, on the Floors of Congress or with individual offices.
LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States
LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States argues that the issues and tactics prioritized by the mainstream gay lobbying…
Intersectional lobbying is central to public policy because it considers the policy implications that surround the reconstituted target population. In turn, there is a growing understanding that essentialized lobbying — where public policy issues and target populations are reduced down to a singular element — is not good policymaking.
The problems with essentialized or incremental lobbying can be seen in the reproduction of oppression in the gay right’s movement. Here, business models that fuel lobbying privilege white, gay, male major donors. The result, in part, is an approach to lobbying on LGBTQ issues that uses both white and heteronormative tactics.
The gay right’s movement has yet to adopt a pro-Black agenda.
This is despite the fact that it has always and will always be the case that those on the margins of the queer and trans movement make the biggest difference. Instead, gay rights organizations are repute with examples of large organizations telling small organizations that they have to wait their turn. And of intersectional issues being told they are ‘loser’ political issues.
Intersectional LGBTQ lobbying teaches us that lobbying plays an important role in disrupting power, bringing discomfort to those in authority and educating the public. However, disruption relies on understanding the political game.
For instance, the structures that surround the policy process control the overall process. The Heterosexual House always wins, despite the fact that some individuals take home cash. The Heterosexual House is a structural fortress of winners and losers. Of making big people small, the poor, poorer, the marginalized ever more marginal, and many of the wealthy into monsters. Of dominance and obliteration.
In the same way, the personal experience of individual legislation is ultimately surpassed by the structural experience of lobbying. Lobbying as performance is also lobbying as interference.
In all, intersectional lobbying is about the way acknowledging the full person-hood of an individual serves as a challenge to the existing political order of things. Intersectionality is a disruption to power dynamics. In the LGBTQ example, it is a challenge to heterosexual public policy.
My book subverts a set of systems that act against the LGBTQ community. This subversion comes by putting marginalized populations at the center of any discussion, asking for more, prioritizing loser issues, bringing discomfort to the powerful, and challenging business as usual. To challenge the status queer.
Dr. Christopher Pepin-Neff is a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Sydney. He is the author of the forthcoming book: “LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States” being published by Routledge.