Speaking Out Against Rudy

Iwoke up on Tuesday morning to a story in the New York Times on Rudy Giuliani's mayoral vindictiveness and a picture of me with the caption: “ANDY HUMM: The gay activist says he muzzled himself to keep financing for AIDS programs.”

I felt as if I had been put into the stocks – selling out for the money!

I did tell the Times that when I worked as a middle manager at the Hetrick-Martin Institute during the Giuliani years, the leadership of the agency, founded as an advocacy group for LGBT youth, refused to criticize the mayor, even when he did things like roll back AIDS education initiatives in the public schools. About the only agency that did stand up to Giuliani was Housing Works and it paid dearly for it, as the Times story documented.

I'm sure the agency heads who refrained from criticizing the mayor would argue that it was the price to pay for being able to do life-saving work. At some point, however, their failure to oppose and reverse systemic Giuliani policies such as restricting AIDS education and failing to confront anti-gay bullying in schools arguably hurt more people than were being helped through social services.

That said, I was grateful to Hetrick-Martin for never interfering with my outside roles as a gay activist and journalist in those years. I was at various times a spokesperson for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a writer at LGNY, the newspaper run by the team now helming Gay City News, co-host of a weekly cable news show on the Gay Cable Network (now “Gay USA” and still going), and a panelist on WNET-TV's weekly reporter's roundtable, “Informed Sources.”

As badly as I may dress and as much as I've failed to watch my weight, I have some pride. In 33 years as a gay activist I've tried to speak out as forthrightly and honestly as I can, particularly when it has come to exposing the shortcomings on gay and AIDS issues of Giuliani, who is lazily but habitually referred to as “pro-gay” by the mainstream press.

Even when I was appointed as an unpaid human rights commissioner by David Dinkins – whom I supported for election and for whom I had and continue to have affection – Giuliani's mayoral predecessor had to deal with my public criticisms in the press. One such example was when I spoke out against his giving the police department leeway to stop the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from holding an alternative march on St. Patrick's Day. That was, I argued, an unfortunate retreat – a year before he had bravely marched with them the one time they were allowed into the Ancient Order of Hibernians' annual trek down Fifth Avenue (though without their banner and only under the mayor's patronage).

When Giuliani forced through a domestic partners bill in 1998 weaker than the one proposed by then-City Councilman Tom Duane, the mayor was praised by the Empire State Pride Agenda, but I went on NY-1 to criticize the deal. Andrew Kirtzman, the WCBS reporter who then hosted NY-1's “Inside City Hall,” responded by accusing me of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

When Giuliani held an LGBT Pride reception at Gracie Mansion, I helped organize a protest outside with a sign reading, “Rudy's Had Two Marriages, Let Us Have One” to highlight his opposition to same-sex marriage. And I've written many articles for this newspaper documenting Giuliani's numerous instances of opposing LGBT rights initiatives, not to mention his recent retreats from the pro-gay rights positions he once took.

I'm working on getting a correction from the Times for Tuesday's story. I've already received an apology from the reporter, who did not write the picture caption that offended me.

But mainly I want my readers and viewers to know that muzzling myself, especially when it comes to the likes of Rudy Giuliani, was and is anathema to me.