June 18, 2002

Counter-Attack of the 'Homo...

Counter-Attack of the 'Homocons': Last week, I scanned this curious Andrew Sullivan-fearing cover story in The Nation, Attack of the Homocons, and e-mailed it to one of my gay conservative readers. He responded with the following fascinating e-mail, which was not intended for publication, and which I have edited slightly:

The thing that's interesting to me on the whole subject is this:

When I first self-identified as being gay and joining the "gay movement" (whatever that is), there was a clear unified message to the rest of America, that "We are everywhere" -- this was post-Stonewall, pre-Anita Bryant.

When did that message change to "We are everywhere, except there, cuz if'n you're there, you must be a self-loathing hypocrite"?

It just seemed (still seems) clear to me, that everywhere means everywhere, including the Churches and the Republican party. I believe it hurts the cause of acceptance if you try to discredit that. Granted, one has his work cut out for him to be gay, Christian, and Republican. On top of that, I understand the feeling of betrayal that the mere existence of such a creature engenders. I've felt it myself.

In 1992, at the Republican Convention, when Pat Buchanan, the political enemy of gay people, and the candidate that Log Cabin (gay Republican Group) worked hard to defeat -- got convention support from a lone gay individualist -- it got noticed all over the place. People, to this day, use it as an example of "self-hating" gay Republicans. [...]

It totally pissed me off.

Until I looked at it this way: We truly areare everywhere. Even in the Catholic Hierarchy, as Orthodox Jews, Mormons, and even, believe it or not, as Muslims. Why, then, should I think that all anti-war, isolationist types who support Buchanan gotta be straight?

My next thought is, If I can figger this out -- what makes it so damn difficult for other folks to understand, and recognize that gay people, across the entire political and social spectrum, have one and only one thing in common -- we get turned on by members of the same, rather than the opposite, gender, and we don't think that entitles you to treat us any differently than the way you expect to be treated.

Period.

The rest is up for grabs.

And besides, if you're of the opinion (I'm not) that there's something noble in defining yourself as not mainstream -- reveling in finding community in being ex-cepted rather than ac-cepted, then wouldn't Sullivan's exceptionalisticness make him even nobler in your eyes, and therefore a welcome member of that excluded, but inclusive-seeking community, who wants to exclude him?

Doesn't it strike you as a little odd, that Stanley Kurtz, in his piece on why Gay Marriage is Bad, tries to discredit Sullivan by referring to his endorsement of a libertine lifestyle, and Goldstein, in this piece, tries to discredit Sullivan by referring to his endorsement of a conservative lifestyle (while living a libertine one)? [...]

Kinda discredits each premise, huh?

Thus, given my respect for the man, plus my obsessive need to understand and explain the *truth of the matter* as it pertains to me and mine, I take comfort in recognizing that mere common sense will lead anyone who reads both pieces to the same conclusion -- and, therefore, neither piece can be persuasive.

http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2002_05_19_dish_archive.html#85111098

(Scroll down to the Stanley Kurtz part)

This is the most telling part of Goldstein's piece:

The gay right exists, just as Jews for Jesus do, but it stands apart from the ethos that marks gays as a people. You can't really be a queer humanist and a homocon.
Sez who? -- and even if everything in that statement is accurate, so what? What initiation rights or secret handshake do ya gotta learn to be a "queer humanist" (whatever that is), just so's you can identify as a part of and not apart from "the ethos that marks us as a people"? Plus I doubt that Jews for Jesus make up 25-30% of the total community of self-identified Jews, or that even all Jews have the same understanding of "the ethos that marks Jews as a people."

To sum up:

I identify as "gay" cuz I'm a guy who likes lookin' at nekkid guys.

I identify as right of center (conservative), cuz I believe change should happen slowly and deliberately, to avoid making the situation worse than it already is -- the law of unforeseen consequences, and the risks associated with throwing the baby away with the bathwater -- a potential cure that is worse than a disease, to use up all applicable aphorisms.

I identify as a Republican cuz I believe in market forces, personal responsibility, limited government, local control, free trade, and efficient use of taxes, and recognition that taxes are my money.

I identify as Christian because I believe in that Amazing Grace that saves a wretch, like me. (At least I'm working toward acceptance of this -- my faith journey has taken a rather meandering path, and I'm still trying to reclaim this wonderful something that I let be stolen from me for a time.)

I believe I can, and do, hold these views without contradiction -- without hypocrisy (I hope) -- with attempted consistency, and with integrity as a goal. Anyone who suggests otherwise, is either wrong, or ignorant, about me, or what it means to me to be gay, or Christian, or right of center, or Republican.

More thoughts:

I've never seen "homocon" before -- is this a new label? Is it intended as pejorative? Certainly, it seems that Goldstein views them (us?, me?) as a threat to something he holds dear. I dunno. Given what I said before, a certain "same old conservative" connotation isn't so bad. Also, I don't understand the implied pejorative of being just the same as a neocon. Not sure I understand what he means by that. Then again, I'm not sure what a neocon is. New conservative makes no sense, as applied to me -- I've thought of myself as conservative and republican my entire life (Christian has come and gone -- mostly as a result of feeling rejected, as I indicated) -- gay became fixed at age 23, tho I peeked out of the closet at 18, 19. Nothing neo about any of it. I must be missing something.

BTW, although I identify with Rich Tafel and Log Cabin, I have never joined, although I signed some literature at Pride parades before. Activism is not my strong suit, as you learned. I marched with the MCC crowd, usually.

And I love drag queens -- Rupaul is terrific -- my God, what a brave, sincere, nice person. Goldstein's got Sullivan wrong if he thinks Sullivan has something against drag queens. We homos, con or lib, love them. It's merely my own inhibitions that prevent me from donning drag and creating a fabulous lip-synched number to Shania Twain's "I feel like a woman", plus the spotlight thing, plus the scared feeling that I'm not up to the challenge, and that embarassed feeling while nursing a hangover -- plus it's too difficult to explain all this to well-meaning, but somewhat sheltered folk, who might misunderstand it all, and say something mean, unintentionally.

Re lesbians, and women. I plead somewhat guilty. I blame ignorance, for the most part. I grew up with 3 brothers, and no sisters -- and most of the politically informed lesbians I met seemed so damn angry all the time (even Norah Vincent). I likes Dykes on Bikes, tho. Like I said, just not a lot of contact. I mean, when you think of it, if you're gonna try to identify with like-minded folks, lesbians and gay men represent polar opposites when it comes to preferences and shared experiences, so finding common ground is a little difficult.

Finally, the community of spirit I found while fighting the AIDS battles left me with the feeling that we were all united against something truly evil -- that damned virus. It pains me no end, to see all the goodwill generated by the response of our community -- and our collective feeling of the loss of so many friends, trivialized and reduced to internecine infighting about how we should celebrate our uniqueness, while trying to find community. In one support group, we got a new co-facilitator, a Catholic priest, who started off his intro saying he was called to ministry to help the marginalized members of society. There were 6 of us in the room -- 2 computer guys, a lawyer, a school teacher, a lobbyist, and a hill staffer. All gay, all bummed about everybody around us dying, and this boob was trying to score points with God for treating the lepers. Our contempt was thick. Why I should feel community about being ostracized is beyond me. I'd rather work to be not ostracized, OK? And now, that the opportunity for true progress with the hearts and minds of ostracizers is there, these "Queer Humanists" wanna muck it all up by discrediting the most articulate spokesman of my world view. My contempt gets thicker.

Ick.

Posted by at June 18, 2002 08:19 PM
Comments

FWIW, I think that is one of the more eloquent defenses of the right to think, to judge, and to be judged as an individual that I've read.

Your friend makes an excellent case, and thanks to both of you for writing and publicizing it.

Posted by: Dean at June 18, 2002 11:04 PM

On "gay" marriage: I agree with the writer that homosexuals should be treated exactly the same as everyone else. The rationale for state-legitimated marriages is no different for gays than for anyone else. The only interest the state has in marriage is protecting the children that may come from the marriage. That is a justification thousands of years old. It does not apply to those who cannot have children. So "gay marriage" is unjustifiable. Marriage is, after all, not a relationship between two people. That relationship is called love. Marriage is a relationship between the individual and the state, with third parties - the children - as beneficiaries and justification. You can argue whether the state should get into the business of protecting children from their parents, but you gain nothing from destroying the concept of marriage by extending it to situations where it has no justification whatever.

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida

Posted by: Robert Speirs at June 19, 2002 05:48 AM

In respectful disagreement with the above comment-maker, I hope this country allows gay marriage as soon as possible; it will make us nicer, and the whole atmosphere of heterodom will become friendlier for everyone else, which would be great. And gays and lesbians can make good adoptive parents, like anyone else.

I also read the Washington Post piece that Nick Denton wrote about ('Islamic Bloc, Christian Right Team Up') that MW pointed to here; as well as MW's article about the 'libertine right'. It's very pleasant to think that rightists will use the horror of Islamist intolerance as a push-off point into territory as yet uncharted by most American conservatives; but they've carried on this way before, and hasn't been principled or impressive. Just look at the way the Weekly Standard winkingly defends hetero porn, as if confessing that the only way they can come across as something less than puritanical is to contradict puritans/militant control freaks (militant feminists etc.) If conservatives can't see their way around old prejudices about what marriage "means", they are unlikely to have the wit or circumspection to take the advice of Denton and celebrate good natured and kindly meant decadence. Conservatives aren't going to stop being conservative, are they? The greater risk is that they'll get into a comfort zone regarding other people's lack of decadence (and other people's nonconservative enjoyment of it) and slow the pace of their own, *ummm*, commitment to individual freedom.

Posted by: Gissing at June 19, 2002 07:33 AM

Question for Mr. Speirs. Would you outlaw marriage for infertile hetro couples (due either to medical problems or advanced age)? As I have never heard any propose outlawing marriage for these people, I will assume that you are a hypocrit/liar until you respond.

And probably afterwards too, unless your answer is damn good.

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at June 19, 2002 09:17 AM

Funny, Reread the letter and tho the writer refers to Kurtz's article against gay marriage, I don't see where he staked out a position on gay marriage. In any case its a shame the previous commenters latched on to this since I was riveted by the remarkable eloquence from the start discussing everything BUT gay marriage, on which I incidentally agree with Robert. Thank you Matt!

Posted by: Lloyd Albano at June 19, 2002 04:24 PM

Lloyd -- Don't thank me, thank the writer. But thanks for the thanks.

Incidentally, I've always found Andrew Sullivan's writing about homosexuality and Catholicness to be the *least* interesting sub-section of his work. I may be a minority on that front, but I suspect it gives lie to the widely held concept that "if Andrew Sullivan didn't exist, someone would invent him." Yes, there *are* examples of out-group tokenism in the media, but I've never believed that AS is one of them.

He had a great quote recently about how Goldstein & whoever else must be so pissed off that the world is more complicated than it should be. One of the great things I've learned in the last nine months is that Americans have the damndest inability to fit into the boxes assigned to them. We are a better country because of that.

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 19, 2002 05:21 PM

Interesting to note that the person referred to as a Buchanan supporter in "got convention support from a lone gay individualist -- it got noticed all over the place," was most probably Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com fame.

Posted by: Bill Quick at June 20, 2002 09:12 AM

"Marriage is a relationship between the individual and the state, with third parties - the children - as beneficiaries and justification."

Tried to get a marriage license lately? There is no litmus test around the question of parenthood.

Marriage in the US is a relationship between a couple and the state. The benefits accrue mostly to the couple, though it should be noted that they flow to the couple through the state, which is composed of citizens nearly all of whom share the ability to enter into a similarly recognized legal relationship and derive a similar set of benefits.

The justification for marriage as a civil contract is not exclusively procreation. Society benefits from civil marriage in providing a templated set of standards and practices that relationships may choose to conform to, thus reducing the need for expensive and cumbersome duplication of effort on the part of any couple seeking to formalize their particular relationship with any number of legal niceties like hospital visitation, joint ownership of property, inheritance, and yes, even parental rights and responsibilities.

Goldstein lost me when he tried to paint homocons as being against civil rights for homosexuals while conveniently truncating the position of many of us in such a way as to make it seem that our opposition to, say, ENDA or hate crimes legislation was anti-gay and not anti-useless legislation. Certainly as long as anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation (which is over 30 years old at this point) exist then sexual orientation should be a necessary component of same. But the point of contention for homocons is that hate crimes legislation especially and, to a lesser extent, anti-discrimination legislation in general do not go about the task of meeting their goals in ways appropriate to our system of government.

A proper alternative to hate crimes legislation is the professionalization of the criminal justice system that exacts personal liability for a failure to uphold one's public duty. If municipal and state police along with their judicial counterparts could be universally depended upon to do their job regardless of the circumstances of a victim's sexual orientation, race, religion, national origen, gender, handicap, etc. then there would be no need for legislation that strengthens punishment based on motive rather than intent.

If, in the case of anti-discrimination legislation, the intent is to prevent termination not based on failure to perform job duties, then write legislation that says that rather than legislation that seeks to Balkanize our nation and set special interest groups up in competition with each other for the sole purpose of benefiting legislators who are unable to write effective legislation.

As a homocon, I want the same rights and responsibilities--the opportunity to be a truly equal citizen--that our consitution promises. Nothing more. And absolutely nothing less. The left is to be praised for setting proper goals in the struggle for civil rights and to an extent which the right has yet to match. But ultimately, the path by which the left seeks to implement those goals provides little hope that their achievement will be a lasting one.

Posted by: Joe Bush, III at June 21, 2002 09:15 AM

Hey Joe -- Thanks for the thoughtful note. One interesting tidbit, from left field ... Your position isn't that different than Ralph Nader's. Nader, who for the most part eschews identity politics (in favor of a more "systematic" approach that views everything from the starting point of corporations running roughshod over citizens), always responded to questions about his Gay Rights stance by saying, simply: "Equal rights, equal responsibilities."

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 21, 2002 11:41 AM

I find Sullivan to be monotonously predictable, and Paglia's psuedo-psychoanalysis of everyone and everything she disagrees with turns me off. But I just read Goldstien's piece, and it makes no sense.

His lables don't stick. While refering to Sullivan, Paglia, and Vincent as "Homocons" throughout, he has a couple of paragraphs condemning them as, or comparing them to, "backlash liberals". Okay, its fine and right for the Left to attack attack liberals, but he is confusing liberal and conservative. Not that he attacks all liberals. He approves of Human Rights Compaign and 70% of the gay community for supporting Al Gore, who ran as Clinton's heir to neoliberalism, which is as dirty of a word in Leftist circles as liberalism is in conservative circles. And Paglia as a consevative is laughable. Unlike Human Rights Campaign and 70% of the gay community, she voted for Nader.

Maybe Paglia is just one of that group of secret consevatives, like Mr. Welch and Bill Maur, who voted for Nader just so they could throw the election to Bush. (And damn if their evil plan didn't work.)

I thought the silliest quote in the article was this:
And for the large contingent of gay people who were middle class before they were queer, acceptance even on these stilted terms is a seductive offer. The gay right is a broker of this deal. It provides a training manual in assimilation, complete with lessons on how to make straight people comfortable, how to present your gender properly and how to distinguish yourself from others of your kind by attacking their failure to conform.
"Middle Class" is defined by money. Except for the relatively few (although real) number of gays who are disinheirited after coming out, they will still be middle class after they come out. And those who were middle class before they came out have no need of a training manual in assimilation: They can ACT like white middle America becuase they ARE white middle America.

Polically, I disagree with think we should have a party and close down the gay movement for good." At that point, Mr. Sullivan can become the "conservative only" that he truely is, while we progressives can check "Gay Rights" off of our list and move on to the other items on our agenda.

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at June 21, 2002 01:08 PM

Ick asks if 'homocon'is intended as a term of abuse. Sure it is, just as 'neo-conservative'was until it was adopted by the Commentary crowd. I suppose it's just like the (IMHO, rather shaky) logic behind 'reclaiming'queer. The best way to piss off your opponents is to steal their toys.

Posted by: Craig Ranapia at June 21, 2002 02:44 PM

Craig -- minor point of clarification: "Ick" wasn't the guy's name or pseudonym, it was the sentiment with which he ended his mail (or more precisely, the place where *I* ended his mail for editing purposes).

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 21, 2002 03:30 PM

Just a comment to the poster from Tallahassee.

Does that mean you believe the state should not support a heterosexual marriage where one (or both) parties are sterile? Should fertility testing be required before a state-sanctioned marriage is permitted?

Just asking...

Posted by: Bellicose Kat at June 21, 2002 05:36 PM

I identify myself as a liberal, and support for gay rights is a component of my liberalism, but I think it's pretty dumb to insist that you're somehow not supposed to be a gay conservative. "Liberal" and "conservative" are vaguely defined big bags of political positions that don't really logically imply one another, and it's pointless to try to force them to.

As for gay marriage, I know that making children was not my or my wife's primary intention in getting married, and may never be our intention at all. (I'm not one of those dour anti-child advocates-- I like kids and people with kids. But I didn't get married to have them.) So by the procreative argument against gay marriage, our heterosexual marriage was just as illegitimate and the state shouldn't have allowed it.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at June 21, 2002 07:39 PM
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truely is, while we progressives can check "Gay Rights" off of our list and move on to the other items on our agenda.

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at June 21, 2002 01:08 PM

Ick asks if 'homocon'is intended as a term of abuse. Sure it is, just as 'neo-conservative'was until it was adopted by the Commentary crowd. I suppose it's just like the (IMHO, rather shaky) logic behind 'reclaiming'queer. The best way to piss off your opponents is to steal their toys.

Posted by: Craig Ranapia at June 21, 2002 02:44 PM

Craig -- minor point of clarification: "Ick" wasn't the guy's name or pseudonym, it was the sentiment with which he ended his mail (or more precisely, the place where *I* ended his mail for editing purposes).

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 21, 2002 03:30 PM

Just a comment to the poster from Tallahassee.

Does that mean you believe the state should not support a heterosexual marriage where one (or both) parties are sterile? Should fertility testing be required before a state-sanctioned marriage is permitted?

Just asking...

Posted by: Bellicose Kat at June 21, 2002 05:36 PM

I identify myself as a liberal, and support for gay rights is a component of my liberalism, but I think it's pretty dumb to insist that you're somehow not supposed to be a gay conservative. "Liberal" and "conservative" are vaguely defined big bags of political positions that don't really logically imply one another, and it's pointless to try to force them to.

As for gay marriage, I know that making children was not my or my wife's primary intention in getting married, and may never be our intention at all. (I'm not one of those dour anti-child advocates-- I like kids and people with kids. But I didn't get married to have them.) So by the procreative argument against gay marriage, our heterosexual marriage was just as illegitimate and the state shouldn't have allowed it.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at June 21, 2002 07:39 PM
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