Gay Victimology and the Liberal Kulturkampf
by Justin Raimondo
A Note from the Author: What follows are the first few pages of a book-length manuscript on the gay rights movement, and the whole Gay Question, provisionally entitled: The Ideology of Desire: The Tyranny and Absurdity of Gay Identity Politics. Although I don't get into such issues as the nature-nurture debate, the search for the so-called "gay gene," the Boy Scouts, etc. - all issues covered in the book -- I think this fragment can stand by itself.
The power of the State has been used as a bludgeon against gay people since at least the High Middle Ages. The great irony is that, today, as toleration of homosexuality is growing, the leaders of the gay rights movement seem to be saying: Now it's our turn.
Their argument has by now become all too familiar: we have been imprisoned in straight society, they say, and systematically deprived of the comforts and sympathy owed to every American. We have been persecuted by the followers of an ascetic - and vengeful - desert god, and now we demand full status as an officially-approved victim group, right up there with blacks, women, and other U.S. government-certified minorities. And if the social mores will not yield to our assault, then we will use the battering ram of government power to storm the fortress and take the city. We are victims, and now it is our turn.
The gay activists of yesteryear demanded that government get out of the bedroom. Today a new generation of gay leaders is inviting government back in. The political program of the first activists centered around a campaign to legalize homosexual relations between consenting adults. Their message to all governments everywhere was unequivocal: leave us alone. The gay movement of the new millennium has a different message: far from advocating "hands off!" they want government to actively intervene on behalf of the homosexual minority. At a time when homosexual acts are still illegal in several states, the official gay rights movement is fixated on passing laws that would somehow protect homosexuals from alleged discrimination in housing and employment. From an essentially libertarian movement, which sought to minimize the power of government in the sexual realm, gay organizations and leading spokespersons are today calling for the expansion of state power over nearly every aspect of our lives. This reversal is all the more remarkable because it took place in a relatively short period of time, less than a decade.
The birth of the gay liberation in America as a mass movement can be dated precisely: June 27, 1969, when, late in the evening, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan, resisted a police attempt to close the place down. For three days a neighborhood rebellion effectively kept the cops from carrying on the ancient tradition of shaking down gay bars and busting the ones that didn't pay up. In the official complaint, the (admittedly somewhat shady) operators of the Stonewall Inn were cited for not having a liquor license. The reality, however, is that even if they had applied, it is doubtful their request would have been granted: the state bureau that handed out the licenses was notoriously hostile to gay establishments. The first modern gay liberationists, then, were rebelling against government regulation. The logic of their protest, if applied consistently and carried to its ultimate conclusion, would have led to a demand for the dismantling of the economic and moral regulatory apparatus residing in government. But something happened along the way to divert the gay movement from its original spirit and goal. A central idea of gay liberation, as it was first conceived, was liberation from government. Today, the so-called gay rights movement sees government as the agency, not the enemy, of liberation. From socialized medicine to anti-discrimination legislation to mandatory "tolerance" lessons in the schools - there is not a single scheme to increase the power of the Washington bureaucracy that these alleged liberationists do not endorse. How do we account for this radical about-face?
Part of the explanation is that much of the momentum for the gaylib movement came from the counterculture, and its political expression: the New Left of the sixties. Moving into reformist mode by the time the eighties rolled around, the leftist-dominated gay leadership fixated on passing anti-discrimination ordinances at the local level, an idea that was eventually incorporated into the politically correct canon of straight liberals.
"Homophobia" and the Marginalization of Traditional Values
This legislative agenda was not a reformist water-down of the original, but a complete inversion, a betrayal of not only the style but the meaning of the Stonewall rebellion. In heedless pursuit of this agenda, what was once a crusade for tolerance has itself degenerated into a major source of crankish intolerance. In every important sense, the gay rights movement has become the mirror image of the Religious Right - or, at least a caricaturized version of the Religious Right -- appealing directly to the State to actively promote its view of homosexuality in the schools and the arts. Since both of these areas are dominated by government, they are fair game for the various victim groups that lay claim to their "fair share" of the pie.
Anyone who questions this agenda is immediately branded "homophobic," and is not only smeared but targeted and pursued to the very ends of the earth. The entire state of Colorado faced a vicious attack, as prominent figures of the Hollywood Left, such as Barbara Streisand, led the jihad against the state that dared repeal its gay rights laws by popular referendum. The advocates of this referendum were widely reviled as hate-mongers by their opponents, and portrayed by the national media as unabashed bigots. When Colorado voters approved the measure, gay activists started a boycott aimed at what they deemed "the hate state." Colorado, they averred, had fallen victim to one of the worst forms of thoughtcrime, the dreaded and malignant "homophobia."
Just as homosexuals had to endure the medicalization of their "disease" when the gay subculture was first noticed by the nascent fields of psychotherapy and sex research, so today the advocates of traditional values, particularly those who take their Christianity seriously, are subjected to the same diagnosis of a pseudo-medical disorder. The theorists of homophobia have developed an elaborate analysis of this newly-discovered condition, one which seem to include all or most heterosexuals. The inventor of the term, George Weinberg, defines it as "the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals." Weinberg sees several sources of homophobia, among them repressed homosexuality, envy, and disapproval of groups and individuals outside the traditional nuclear family structure. His theme of repressed homosexuality, and homophobia as a "reaction formation" - a fear and hatred of one's secret desires - is borrowed from Freud, and is all of a piece with the Freudian dogma positing a strong link between paranoia and same-sex love: Freud clearly considered homosexuality to be a form of mental maladjustment.
As for the envy factor, this may well be true. If so, it certainly contradicts the carefully cultivated image of the homosexual-as-victim projected by the gay rights lobby. For if large numbers of heterosexuals are envious of gays, then there must be some advantage enjoyed by homosexuals; how likely is it that any ordinary person would envy a member of an oppressed and downtrodden class? Hostility to sexual arrangements in which procreation is not the central organizing principle of the relationship fails to explain the lack of hostility to childless heterosexual couples.
In practice, homophobia seems to mean any actions or words that displease certain homosexuals. Not your average, everyday garden-variety gays, but the denizens of the organized gay lobby. There is, in fact, a specialized organization, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), that has taken upon itself the role of guardian and monitor of the gay community's image. The recipient of big money from the Hollywood Left, and boasting a network in virtually every major city in the country, GLAAD's hypersensitive antennae scan the skies for signs of homophobia in the media. In regular alerts to its members, and in the pages of gay newspapers from coast to coast, GLAAD publishes the addresses and phone numbers of transgressors, and urges its supporters to complain.
Such groups as People for the American Way and other left-oriented "civil liberties" organizations pull in millions of dollars from liberals worried about the much-vaunted threat of the so-called Religious Right. This myth of neo-Puritan fundamentalists intent on ransacking America's libraries, and purging all traces of sexuality from public life, is central to the demonology of modern liberalism, the bogeyman at the center of their worst nightmare. How ironic, then, to contemplate the implications of an epistle from San Francisco's GLAAD that denounced the March-April 1994 issue of the Video Librarian for daring to recommend Gay Rights, Special Rights, a video distributed by the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC). The following quote from the Video Librarian reviewer is GLAAD's idea of rampant homophobia:
"It would be easy to dismiss Gay Rights, Special Rights as another rabid, right-wing piece of propaganda, except for the serious and valid argument at its core: Should gays and lesbians be accorded minority group status and thereby gain civil rights protections?"
This attempt at a balanced discussion is considered so self-evidently homophobic that Al Kielwasser, local GLAAD guru, did not even bother to explain why he thought it was so. Readers were merely urged to "send much-needed feedback" to the publisher of the Video Librarian.
Clearly, the intent of GLAAD is to make sure that the nation's libraries are cleansed of material they consider potentially harmful. But why stop with such obviously partisan polemics as the TVC video? Why not extend the proscription of anything deemed anti-gay to the local library's current inventory of books? Just think: we could build a bonfire in which the works of Freud, and all the saints in heaven, would be consigned to the flames. It would be as good an excuse as any to torch the complete works of, say, Norman Podhoretz or Pat Buchanan - and even the books of some gay writers whose loyalty to the cause might be found wanting.
All expressions of the idea that homosexuality is in any sense a choice are immediately and vehemently protested by GLAAD as "homophobic," in spite of the considerable dissension on this subject not only among reputable scientists, but also among gays themselves. In the absence of any scientific proof for the gay determinist hypothesis, articles in the press suggesting another view would advance our knowledge of this area by at least carrying the discussion forward. But if the gay ayatollahs of GLAAD have anything to do with it, then those articles will never be published and there will be no discussion. As an example of their dogmatic hectoring, a June 1995 missive from GLAAD berated syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith for referring to Chastity Bono's "sexual preference":
"Of course, most mainstream journalists have begun to use the more accurate terminology, 'sexual orientation.' 'Preference' carries the unfortunate implication that lesbians and gay men can be changed; it's a term that appeals to the homophobic imagination, in which evil queers prefer immorality over righteousness."
In it's perpetual attempts to intimidate editors, writers, publishers, and movie producers, GLAAD is representative of that curious anomaly of the new millennium: the illiberal liberal. The irony, and the great danger, is that GLAAD is endorsed and subsidized by alleged proponents of "free expression" and openness -- whose money is going to subsidize a new and politically correct version of the Library Police.
In 1980, GLAAD's campaign against the movie Cruising demonized this realistic drama as heterosexist propaganda dedicated to the proposition that, as gay film historian Vito Russo put it, "homosexuality is not only contagious but inescapably brutal." The militant movie mavens of GLAAD reached a crescendo of shrillness in the controversy over Basic Instinct, an elegant movie about a murderess with lesbian tendencies. GLAAD's moral and aesthetic standards are sub-moronic: if a gay character in a movie or television drama is portrayed in a less than flattering light, or even ambiguously, it is GLAAD's cue to get out the picket signs.
This campaign to sanitize homosexuality in the movies soon expanded to include an organized effort to inculcate GLAAD's view of the subject in public school textbooks. In California, GLAAD chapters were urged to attend meetings of the State Board of Education's ad hoc "Committee on Hate/Violence," which is, we are told, "an important platform of curriculum reform." The strategy is to piggyback onto the current campaign against racially-motivated "hate crimes" in the public schools: "Given the committee's focus, the public can demand the Board's attention to the role that textbooks can - and must - play in combating homophobia. After all, unless the Board of Education begins to spend tax dollars on books that include fair and accurate information about lesbians and gays, our schools will continue to teach a curriculum of hate and violence."
What could be clearer than this clarion call for state-subsidized gay propaganda aimed at children? As a parent put it at a meeting of the Queens (New York) School Board Distict 28, in reference to the imposition of New York City's infamous "Rainbow Curriculum": "Remember that the Children of the Rainbow [teacher's manual] specifically tells teachers that in all subjects they are to mention the gay and lesbian lifestyle. This means that in math, reading, and writing, our children will have to hear about this. And remember, this is the first grade." The whole process, he correctly concluded, amounts to "indoctrination."
These parents want to know why homosexuality must be discussed in the schools at all. Gay activists answer: because we are victims. Violence against homosexuals is endemic in this society, and it is the responsibility of the public schools to prevent this by promoting "tolerance."
Christian fundamentalists and other advocates of traditional morality, in opposing social engineering projects such as New York City's "Rainbow Curriculum," declared that homosexuals were trying to recruit innocent young children into their ranks. But they needn't have worried. For the insipid and defensive propaganda of the tolerance brigade would only serve to repulse the very students who might be inclined toward homosexual behavior. What budding young homosexual would not sneer in derision upon being told he has to do a book report on Daddy's Roommate or Gloria Goes to Gay Pride? Such drivel would not recruit anyone, not even the likeliest candidates, and instead would have the opposite effect. Deprived of the aura of rebellion and the forbidden, the allure of homosexuality would practically vanish. Stripped of its otherness, homophilia would soon lose a good deal of its erotic charge, at least for a great many potential practitioners. The irony of the gay activist agenda in the schools is that its full implementation would eventually result in considerably fewer homosexuals. Perhaps GLAAD and the fundamentalists - who have more in common than is at first apparent - can get together on this one.
May 19, 2001
Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and the author, most recently, of An Enemy of the State: The Life Of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000).
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