A Gay Man Decries “Gay Rights”
October 20, 2010
It’s time to challenge the fiction that the “gay rights” movement speaks for all or even most gay people. It does not.
The gay activists of yesteryear asked government to leave them alone. Their political program centered on decriminalizing homosexual relations between consenting adults. But today, as tolerance of homosexuality grows, gay activists are increasingly turning to government to impose their agenda on society. Though state power has been used as a bludgeon against gay people since at least the Middle Ages, suddenly today’s gay leaders seem to be picking up the club themselves, saying, “Now it’s our turn.” This is a great irony—and a potential cause of trouble for homosexuals and turmoil for America.
The birth of the gay liberation movement in America can be dated to the evening of June 27, 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a homosexual bar in Manhattan, resisted a police attempt to close the place down. For three days a neighborhood rebellion effectively kept the police 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 operators of the Stonewall were cited for not having a liquor license. But even if they had applied, it is doubtful their request would have been granted: the state licensing bureau was notoriously hostile to gay establishments. The first modern gay protesters, then, were rebelling against regulation. Indeed, liberation from government generally was a central idea of gay liberation.
But something happened to divert the gay movement from this original goal. Today, the so-called gay rights movement sees government as the agency, not the enemy, of liberty. From socialized medicine to anti-discrimination legislation to mandatory “tolerance” lessons in the schools, there is no scheme to increase the power of government these alleged freedom fighters do not endorse.
As long as homosexual acts between consenting adults are illegal in some states, I believe organizations dedicated to their repeal have a legitimate place in the constellation of human rights causes. Beyond this strictly limited goal, however, a political movement based on sexual orientation is a grotesque aberration. The fact that the gay rights movement has taken on an increasingly authoritarian style is the inevitable result of basing political allegiances on clan loyalties instead of philosophical principles.
In a free society there are no gay rights, only individual rights. For homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, these rights boil down to a single principle: the right to be let alone. Politically, the gay rights movement must return to its early libertarian roots. This would begin the vital process of depoliticizing homosexuality and defusing a dangerous culture war the gay minority can never win.
Even the state “neutrality” that gay “centrists” like Andrew Sullivan advocate would force government treatment of homosexuality as on a par with heterosexuality, as seen in Sullivan’s demands for gay pseudo-“marriage” and open gays in the military. True neutrality, however, would involve not recognition but indifference, inattention, inaction. A neutral state would neither penalize nor reward homosexual behavior. It would neither forbid nor would it grant legal status to homosexual marriage. In a military setting, a neutral state would subject all sexuality to the same rigorous regulation.
Gays must reject the nonsensical idea that they’re oppressed by “heterosexism,” a vile ideology that subordinates and denigrates homosexuals by insisting on the centrality of heterosexuality in human culture. There is no escaping human biology, however much such a project entrances cloistered academics who imagine that human sexuality is a “social construction” to be altered at will. Homosexuals are and always will be a rarity, a tiny minority necessarily outside of the traditional family. The heterosexual “bias” of social institutions is not something that needs to be imposed on a reluctant society by an oppressive state, but a predilection that comes quite naturally and inevitably. If this is “homophobia,” then nature is a bigot. If gays use the power of the state to correct this historic “injustice,” they are engaged in an act of belligerence which will rightly be seen as a challenge to the primacy of the traditional family.
Even many gay liberals recognize that the gay rights model has outlived whatever usefulness it may once have had. The idea of gay people, particularly gay men, as a victim group is so contrary to reality it is no longer sustainable. In economic, political, and cultural clout, gays wield influence way out of proportion to their numbers, a fact which has spawned numerous conspiracy theories. From the medieval Knights of Malta to the mysterious “Homintern” of more modern times, the idea of a powerful homosexual cabal is a persistent theme in conspiracy literature, one that mimics the form and style of anti-Semitic lore.
Overlaid with the victim propaganda of the past 20 years, this image of hidden homosexual power combines to produce a quite unappealing character: a creature of privilege constantly whining about his plight. If the gay political leadership is so concerned about the alleged rise of anti-gay bigotry, perhaps they will take care to project a less bash-able image.
As a specialized contingent of an army dedicated to ramming “multicultural” socialism down the throats of the American people, the gay lobby capitalizes on the worst insecurities of its constituents. Holding up the bogeyman of the “Religious Right” to keep the troops in line, the gay politicos point to Jesse Helms and say, “Without us, you wouldn’t have a chance against him.”
But in fact no major religious conservative has called for legal measures against homosexuals. The Christian Coalition, the Eagle Forum, and other grassroots conservative activists only involved themselves in supposedly “anti-gay” political activities defensively, in working to overturn gay rights legislation that attacked their most deeply held beliefs.
The leadership of the gay movement is playing with fire. The great tragedy is that they will not be the only ones burned. The volatility of the issues they are raising—which involve religion, family, and the most basic assumptions of what it is to be human—risks a social explosion for which they must be held accountable. The boldness of the attempt to introduce a “gay positive” curriculum into the public schools, the militant victim stance that brooks no questioning, the blunt intolerance once they gain power in urban ghettos like San Francisco–all this, combined with the fact that the gay rights paradigm itself represents an intolerable invasion of liberty, is bound to produce a reaction from the majority.
It’s time to challenge the fiction that the “gay rights” movement speaks for all or even most gay people. It does not. Gay rights legislation violates the principles of authentic liberalism, and homosexuals should speak out against it—to distance themselves from the excesses of a militantly destructive movement, to help avert societal damage, and to right some grave wrongs. Those wrongs are the political assault being waged on the heterosexual family by the theoreticians of the gay rights revolution; the endless ridicule of religion that suffuses the gay press; and the limitless contempt for all tradition and “bourgeois values” that permeates the homosexual subculture.
And the search for a gay “ethnicity” is as much a dead-end as the effort to forge a gay political movement. In no sense is homosexuality comparable to being, say, Armenian. There is no gay culture separate from the culture in general, and in spite of pseudoscientific claims to the contrary, there is no genetically encoded gay race. There is only behavior engaged in by a diverse range of individuals, each acting from his or her own motives and predispositions.
Efforts to sanctify such behavior, or to explain it in such a way that it has no moral content, are counterproductive as well as unconvincing. Attempting to somehow reconcile homosexuality with the customs and religious beliefs of the majority is to concede the one right that people, gay and straight, really do have–the right not to have to justify one’s existence.
The obsession with “coming out,” and the essentially feminine self-centeredness such a ritual implies, is surely another aspect of the gay movement that has to go. Do we really need to know the sexual proclivities of our neighbors and co-workers, or even our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles?
To expect approval or official sanction for so personal a matter as sexuality is a sign of weak character. To unblushingly ask (nay, demand) such approval in the form of some act of government is an act of unparalleled bad taste. It is also a confession of such a devastating lack of self-esteem, of inner emptiness, that its public expression is hard to fathom. Self-esteem is not a quality to be sought from others, nor can it be legislated into existence.
The history of the gay movement reveals that ideology and Eros are antipodes. Politics, said Orwell, is “sex gone sour,” and sour certainly describes the worldview of gay rights dogmatists. This is evident just by looking at them: Beleaguered on every side by a “heterosexist” society, and usually too homely to get a date, these poor souls have so politicized their sexuality it can hardly be said to exist.
Instead of the preening moralism of gay “visibility,” a sensible resolution of the Gay Question would call for a return to the joys of private life, the rediscovery of discretion and even anonymity. The politicization of everyday life–of sex and the core institutions of the culture–is a trend to be fiercely resisted, not just by gay people but by lovers of liberty in every sphere of human endeavor.
Justin Raimondo is a San Francisco writer. His book Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard will be published in June.
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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (ISI, 2008), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996).
He is a contributing editor for The American Conservative, a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute, and an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.