Conservatism seems to be the latest fashion among the up and coming (but never uppity!) white homos these days. Gay rags like Chicago's Windy City Times regularly print conservative op-ed pieces, such as the one where Richard Mohr asserted that racism is not a problem "we" gays can afford to worry about. A rash of books have been published, authored or edited by white gay men supporting conservative political agendas and portraying themselves as eminently reasonable. These and other authors give the impression that progressive queers force some sort of orthodoxy down the throats of impressionable gays. Meanwhile, the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Dole and the entire Republican platform in spite of their appalling record on gay and lesbian issues. Who are these guys? What do they represent? Should the matter to the rest of us?
Gay conservatives, such as authors Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer, believe that the one thing we have in common, that we're all "gay," is the only thing that matters. They argue that theirs is the only politically expedient strategy, yet the effect of trying to "boil it all down" to simply gayness is that they "boil it all down" to include only themselves. Sullivan, in his New York Times Magazine cover story (11/10/96), announces the end of AIDS paying only lip service to the realities of HIV and AIDS faced by anyone other than wealthy (or as he prefers to identify, "affluent") GWMs. In his recent book Beyond Queer Bawer attacks drag queens, forgetting that drag queens ignited the liberation movement which gave him the freedom to write about being gay under his own name without being fired, evicted, or jailed for it.
If you disagree with these guys and try to address other issues within the l/b/t/g movement, they accuse you of "political correctness," their code-slam for people who have a conscience and want a better world. The anti-p.c. backlash directly attacks queers of color and all queer women; proponents of this backlash trivialize and silence a broad-based strategy, labeling fights for equity "extremist," and suggest that theirs is the true gay agenda.
The Anti-Gay Agenda of Gay Conservatives
And that's not all! Gay conservatives don't even question much of the hatred of queers that pervades our society. Sullivan, for instance, believes that it is more important to protect bigots' right to be bigoted than it is to protect queers (or anyone else) from discrimination in employment, healthcare, education, or housing. He believes that as soon as a gay marriage law is passed, we should abolish the rest of the gay movement never mind anti-gay violence and discrimination, queer teen suicide, or genocidal healthcare policies against us.
Hijacking the Gay Movement
Unfortunately for the rest of us, the mainstream gay "leadership," desperately trying to refute the Right's accusations that they're a buncha Leftists, allow Right-wingers such as Sullivan and Bawer to shape "our" political agenda. Rather than challenge these conservatives' racism, sexism, class oppression and even their homophobia, the movement has embraced gay conservatives in the name of diversity within "the gay community." What's next gay Klan chapters?
Many gay conservative leaders want what many straight conservative leaders want to retain the entitlements and privileges they have as white men, regardless of who has to suffer the consequences. They seem to define "equality" as the right to be racist, hate immigrants, and support the "free market." These people think that if straights can be Republican and support conservative immigration, crime, and health and welfare policies, for instance, so can gays. Do we have to include these and countless other evils in our big gay tent?
Being Public Enemy Number One When is it a pain? When is it fun?
Some gay conservatives have fallen into the trap of desperately wanting to believe that gays are "just like everyone else." Of course, we eat, breathe, go to work, and go about much of our days just like everyone else. But we are not like everyone else for one very important reason: everyone else hates us. No, not all straights are homophobic. Some even think we deserve civil rights. Ellen may be out of the closet, but the fact is, we live in a heterosexist society.
Most of America sees us as an aberration, a problem, a threat. Some gay conservatives think that by being as much like "middle America" as possible, they will cease to be threatening. And that may prove true for a while.
The fact will remain, however, that our political process functions by inventing enemies. We saw this process work beautifully with the Right's introduction of DOMA. They took a minor perceived threat when a Hawaii court ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional and turned it into a monster threatening to destroy the democratic fabric of communities across the United States. They gave cynical politicians an opportunity to beat up on an unpopular minority (us!) to gain electoral support. They use the same process to attack immigrants, people of color, women, people who have lost jobs and/or homes, people whose jobs don't happen to pay a living wage, single parents, religious minorities anyone it's expedient to attack. Cynical politicians can invent a "threat" posed by any of these groups, or others, and use that threat as a rallying cry to manipulate the public. We must protest the politics of scapegoating whether by conservative gays, politicians, or the media.
Andrew and Bruce, your time has come. So, boys, why don't you ride outta this movement in the BMWs you rode in on. We know where you're parked.
This broadside brought to you by:   anaheed alani, sabrina craig, mel ferrand, debbie gould, jeanne kracher, hana layson, cheryl miller, dawne moon, ada norris, gina olson, dana seitler and various co-conspirators. You can get in touch with us at 312.427.0510
Thanks to the crossroads fund for their support of this project, and to the chicago office of the american friends service committee and the women's health education project. Spring 1997
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