Caution: a mini-dissertation on the evolution of community standards, and the victory conditions for a protest movement, follows.
What, exactly, is that parade supposed to be about? To Andrew Sullivan, it might be time for taking stock and reflecting on how much better it is, at least for some participants.
Because gay men and women are almost always brought up by straight parents, this history is hard to pass on. And so perspectives can be warped. Those whose livelihoods are built on defending victims have an interest in sustaining a victim paradigm for gay America, in which they are the saviors. And victim narratives are comfortable. They allow us to avoid responsibility for our own problems, while transferring it to others. They evoke cheap but satisfying empathy. They seem to cast us as somehow noble for being “oppressed.” They actually provide status among today’s elites — and can help you advance your own career solely on the basis of your orientation if you want to go to college or get a job at a major corporation.Easy for you to say, preach the fundamentalists of the Church of Intersectionality.
I think it’s time to shuck off this narrative, because it is a crude simplification of the gay experience, because it is profoundly out of date, and because it focuses us on other people we cannot always change while ignoring things closer to home that we can. What we need now, I think, is a narrative more productive and constructive, less about the harm the world can do to us, and more about the good we can give back to the world.
For many, I hope, that will mean just getting on with our lives, without our sexual orientation getting in the way. It’s the sanest approach to being gay, seeing it as an integral but by no means exhaustive way of being human. It will mean earning a living, raising kids in some cases, pursuing careers, sustaining marriages, and everything every straight person does without thinking twice about it. Being gay is not a political act; it is about deeper things than politics: love, above all, but sex and relationships as well.
We will disagree among ourselves about this, I understand. Many see the world entirely as a series of interlocking oppressions that renders everything political. But those of us who see the world as a series of interlocking and expanding freedoms, and who insist on the liberal distinction between public and private, civic and human, beg to differ. My own view is that a gay politics was necessary only so that we could eventually get beyond politics, and live as our straight brothers and sisters do, with our sexual orientation being a nonissue in our wider lives. We seek, in this sense, a kind of irrelevance for our sexual orientation — a world in which the hetero and homo categories define none of us, straight or gay, and the category of human includes us all.
In one way, he's correct: there are any number of participants in the parade who are going about their business, whatever that business is, whilst adhering, wherever possible, to the community standards that still prevail.
In another way, he is calling on people to focus on more important questions. For instance, is it more important how the mayor of Chicago conducts her family life, or that she's governing as a Democrat?
Brookings's Jay Kirchick appears to concur. "For those born into a form of adversity, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admitting that they’ve won." The problem with winning, though, might be that some of the vanguard are prepared to accept victory and go on with their lives, and some of the allies haven't yet experienced victory.
The picture is different for transgender Americans. They have seen some of their progress curtailed, in the form of the Trump administration’s ban on (most) transgender military service and some administrative rulings that remove gender identity from federal antidiscrimination regulations. But it is the conflation of transgender issues with the gay rights movement, a recent development and not one undertaken without some controversy among gays and lesbians themselves, which accounts for much if not most of the evidence cited as representing regression on gay rights.There is always a danger in aggregating, whether it is Student Affairs setting up "Asian and Pacific Islander" as one box for an applicant to tick, or the sexual underground adding ever more letters to the B and the G and the L and the T. There's not one reform that works for everybody, and Mr Kirchick fears that the anger of the people who are still outside the perimeters of acceptable isn't constructive.
Like the African American civil-rights movement (which had its own separationist analogue in the form of black nationalism) before it, the cause of gay equality has been most successful when its spokesmen and women addressed the American majority as fellow citizens seeking the same rights and responsibilities they take for granted.There's a relatively simple challenge to the vanguard: spell out your improvements. That being difficult, Mr Kirchick suggests turning on today's privileged (who were yesterday's oppressed) is a winning strategy for the vanguardists.
Now that it possesses cultural and political power, the gay-rights movement is reverting to the control of its radical element, with many in the vanguard bent on upending the American social order that only recently accepted it. Success has lowered the stakes; responsible leaders (including many of the moderate and conservative gays who played an unsung role in the movement’s success) have retired from the fight, clearing the field for the sort of culture-war topics roiling the left at large.
Under Trump, the gay-rights movement is beset by mission creep. Just what are we trying to accomplish anymore, and on behalf of whom? The ever-proliferating set of sexual and gender identities one encounters is a direct result of the radicals’ hold over the movement. Take, for example, the Wesleyan University Open House, which once described itself as “a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.” Gay is passé.I hesitate to get involved in the sectarian squabbles the author raises here. Mr Kirchick concludes, "For those born into a form of adversity, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admitting that they’ve won."
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the prevalence of the word queer. Once the sort of epithet that William F. Buckley Jr. would forever be ashamed of uttering on national television, “queer” is now affirmatively deployed by homosexual and heterosexual alike despite the discomfort it still causes many gays—due not just to its history as a slur, but the political and lifestyle radicalism it connotes.
And again, there’s the uncomfortable merger of sorts with the transgender movement. As a demonstrative example, the most recent Pride edition of the pioneering gay magazine Out is devoted largely to transgender issues and doesn’t featuring a single living lesbian within its pages. Although many gay people are sympathetic to the transgender cause, it nonetheless sometimes comes into conflict with gay concerns, as in the case of transgender participation in women’s sports. Martina Navratilova, one of the most prominent lesbians in the world, was denounced as a bigot by transgender activists for arguing that “it’s cheating” that “hundreds of athletes who have changed gender by declaration and limited hormone treatment have already achieved honors as women that were beyond their capabilities as men.” As she explained later, she was merely trying to ensure that “girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible.”
Even if the connection to the transgender cause makes a certain sort of sense, left-wing activists are also exploiting the gay-rights movement to push agendas utterly extraneous to gay equality. Twice in the past three years, anti-Zionist activists have hijacked the stage at the Creating Change conference to attack Jewish delegates and Israel, the only country in the Middle East that even remotely respects the dignity of LGBTQ people. Meanwhile, it has become an annual ritual for followers of the Black Lives Matter movement to halt gay-pride parades in major cities across North America to protest the very presence of uniformed police officers, despite a recent survey finding that 79 percent of LBTQ people (and 77 percent of nonwhite LGBTQ people) support a police presence at Pride celebrations. Considering that law enforcement used to terrorize gays—indeed, that one such episode of police brutality inadvertently helped stir the modern gay-rights movement 50 years ago this week—it is the height of absurdity to antagonize police departments eager to protect gay people, much less demonize gay cops.
Starved of real enemies, many in the gay community are turning on their own. Among many queer types, the three words gay white men have become a euphemism for all that’s wrong with the world. Them, the LGBTQ web channel launched two years ago by Condé Nast, is a stew of resentments against this entire demographic group.
That might not be what's at work here. Consider some history. First, the Pride parades began explicitly as a celebration of difference. If Normals think of the sexual underground as perverse, why not make the most of it? Thus, community standards might mean delegates of all the alphabet soup in the reviewing stands turning their backs when the pedophile delegation (it has an acronym too) marches up: evidently BDSM is acceptable, but messing about with little boys is not. Second, making the most of it can mean turning Normals' terminology against them. "Queer" as an affirming term is a page, hell, it affirms the title, of Dick Gregory's autobiography.
The vanguard might be discovering that when the same-sex attracted people who are comfortable with the sex they have been born into get to live relatively Normal lives, somebody else has to go on with the fighting. Thus Tammy Bruce is probably asking for a privilege check.
When gay marriage became the law of the land, that was success from a nation that is constantly working to become more fair and free. Now, we’re being told that’s not enough. There is now a new grievance in the perpetual racist, sexist, homophobic America. We are now to use that as an economic weapon or as another cudgel with which to extort political power and reinforce divisions among us instead of moving forward with our victories.I'm inclined to agree.
For the Democratic Party machine, however, there can never be success, there always has to be a new appended wrong or violation, some new campaign to convince you that victimhood will never end, and you must always resent, well, everyone. Including those who may think differently or simply disagree politically. That is the racist, sexist and homophobic position, as they work for their own constituencies believing the lie that they will always be victims and can never become equal willing partners in society. It’s insulting, damaging and limiting.
Andrea Germanos of Common Dreams, not so much.
"The current Pride Parade is shameful—a corporate extravaganza that completely ignores the profound fights we're still waging all over the world," said Larry Kramer, author and LGBTQIATS+ rights activist, in a press statement earlier this year. "We must send a powerful message to the homophobic, racist Trump administration and regimes and corporations everywhere that are killing our brothers and sisters."Maybe I should be cheerful when the socialist wing of the sexual underground has marginalized itself from the mainstream of the sexual underground and has to hold a counter-parade to protest a protest parade that has itself entered the mainstream.
Sunday's march featured two moments of silence. One honored those whose lives were "lost to homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism, to HIV/AIDS, and to violence in all its forms." The second paid "special tribute to the trans women of color murdered throughout the country merely for proudly being truly themselves," as well as "those killed by police or while incarcerated, those who have died by gun violence or by lack of access to housing and medical care."
Or perhaps I'm overthinking all this and it's time for a nap.