Alex Blaze

Bucking the supposed liberal gay orthodoxy

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 10, 2007 8:55 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, ENDA, James Kirchick, John Aravosis, John Cloud, liberal gay orthodoxy, transgender

OK, I'm a day and half behind on everything out here, so I'm not going to respond to the main idea of John Aravosis's Salon column about how transgender people "imposed" themselves on the gay rights movement. It's easy to point out just where he's wrong, on so many levels (if we're only supporting people who are like us now, then why in the world should straight people support the ENDA at all?), and I've already posted on why I think that we're basically dealing with the same thing when it comes to homophobia or transphobia.

What I did find frustrating was his insistence that he's the lone, brave voice of dissent from the liberal gay orthodoxy. We hear that a lot from conservative gays, that it's not safe to be both conservative and gay, that they're such a small minority that no one knows that they exist, that they have to buck the powerful to have any voice at all.

Bullshit. I'm calling their bluff on this idea of a silencing liberal gay orthodoxy.

And I'm pretty sick and tired of hearing about the supposed liberal gay orthodoxy when I see a disproportionately small representation of liberal gays in the mainstream media.

The most well-connected and powerful gays and lesbians in this country are mostly conservative, centrist, or libertarian, they're well-heard, and the rest of us are forced to have them be our voice in straight media. When the New York Times needed someone to editorialize over the discovery of anti-retrovirals, who did they call? One Mr. Andrew Sullivan, who now edits The Atlantic Monthly and maintains one of the most-visited blogs on the internet (for good reason, it's a well-written blog). There's no need to establish his conservative credentials, and not just because of his recent book entitled The Conservative Soul.

When the Larry Craig scandal broke out, who did CNN call to speak for the gay community? Dan Savage, who I'm sure is a wonderful person and whose column I enjoy, who also supports Democratic candidates financially and verbally, cannot be called "progressive" in any meaningful sense of the term. There's a reason he falls back time and again on Andrew Sullivan when someone challenges his politics. His syndicated column and local newspaper and its blog probably reach more people than any other queer in print opinion journalism.

John Aravosis, who has one of the most-visited political blogs on the internet, is now the representative of the gay community that Salon went to to write about the ENDA split. Sure, he's against Bush and is for many positions that are oddly labeled as "liberal" although a majority of the country supports them so they're more appropriately labeled "centrist", like raising the minimum wage, ending the war in Iraq, and making health care more affordable. I wasn't at all surprised to find out that in contradiction to most of the rest of the liberal blogosphere, he wasn't bothered with Hillary Clinton's hawkishness and pro-wealthy class politics since while his positions more often than not land where the Democrats in Congress currently are, they're not very progressive and often arrived at through conservative logic.

There are the editors of gaystream publications who seem to often turn out to be conservatives, libertarians, or apoliticals. Chris Crain, anyone? All the while they have no problem posting blatantly Islamophobic columns.

And there are other, not-so-big names, like Time's John Cloud, who wrote a wonderfully bubbly character piece on Ann Coulter (she's not really homophobic - she goes to drag shows!) and about how her usage of the word "faggot" is A-O-K, and TNR's James Kirchick, who just wants the US to invade the rest of the Middle East so that those A-rabs don't bomb gay discos in America, aren't you scared?

The established gays, the ones who get published in straight media and have the opportunity to speak for the community, are mostly centrist, libertarian, or conservative. (Well, I don't know where the boys from Queer Eye fall on the political spectrum.) They're generally voting Democratic right now because of the absolute incompetence of the Bush Administration and the power of the Religious Right in the GOP, but, hell, even the LCR's won't endorse Bush. If an OK-with-the-gay, anti-war brand of Republican came to power, well, we'd see how they'd vote. I mean, just think about the estate tax and the terrorists!

There are some notable exceptions, like The Nation's Richard Kim, but he's just one person, with I'm sure a few others. And to extrapolate a liberal gay orthodoxy from him in the presence of such powerful and famous conservatives, centrists, and libertarians, well....

So it's hard not to giggle a bit when Aravosis wrote:

I know firsthand that it's not safe in the gay community to ask questions about how the transgendered fit in.

Yes, so unsafe, that he wrote about it first on Americablog, and after seeing the initial response from gays, he went to Salon. If he gets any more scared of people hearing his dangerous position, he'll be writing an op-ed for the Washington Post, stopping by CNN's The Situation Room, then appearing on Dateline NBC.

It is simply not p.c. in the gay community to question how and why the T got added on to the LGB, let alone ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman.

AAAAHHHH!!!! He's bucking political correctness! Damn liberals imposing their orthodoxy, Aravosis is a brave voice of dissent! It makes him feel very censored:

I could have chosen to never touch upon the question of the role of the T's in the LGB community. But that kind of self-imposed censorship is the reason we're in the pickle we are today.

So censored is he by this political correctness that he can only reach millions of Americans every day, not tens of millions.

Ultimately I agree with him on his central point, that gay and lesbian people need to familiarize themselves more with the T-folk and their politics, but I don't see why that ends with opposing trans-inclusion in the ENDA, especially considering that a majority of Americans already support trans job protections.

But when you look at things from his political perspective, as a moderate who favors minimally competent leadership, an end to this senseless war, basic liberal positions that have become mainstreamed but not passed by the government for various reasons, and textual gay equality, as someone who once he gets his marriage is bidding adieu to the G movement, then you can see why he would want this legislation to be as easy to pass as possible, even if it absolutely will not unless Bush finds Jesus and turns liberal. The less work to get those Senate votes in line with where America is, the better.

I like his blog, I really do, but he's not a martyr, he's not the only person questioning trans-inclusion (as evidenced by, um, Congress), and he's definitely not silenced by a gay orthodoxy. He's like that one skinny boy who's hanging out with other boys twice his size and complaining about how fat he is, and they're left wondering, If he's fat, then what does that make me?

Because if he's silenced, with his A-list blog, columns for Salon, appearances on MSNBC and CNN and wherever else, meetings with Representatives and Senators, lunches with former presidents, conference calls with future presidents, and editors of all the major publications in America on speed-dial, then, well, what does that make us?

John Aravosis should get off his cross, because it's exactly his pandering to the worst fears of trans-jacking in the gay community and his giving fair-minded straight people a pass on supporting them men in dresses that will only increase his popularity as a polemicist.

(As I'm about to post I realize that people are going to take this mean that I'm a John Aravosis hater. I'm not. I just don't like how he gets to represent me and the community and then complain that he's silenced. That's all.)

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | October 10, 2007 9:27 AM

A lot to digest there, Alex; one of the things that your seamlessly and quickly resuming blogging from your location in France has brought home to me is how the Internet now transcends distance and international boundaries. As one who remembers kinescopes (film, yes film, of black and white TV screens)being flown across the Atlantic in the early 1950's so that Americans could actually SEE Queen Elizabeth II's coronation just SIX hours after it actually happened, I continue to chuckle when I get impatient with a two-second delay while a U-Tube loads.

It's interesting to note the recurring theme of who gets the right to speak on behalf of this or that group. In the past few days Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post ("Black America's diversity within") has questioned why "editors, reporters, columnists and television producers keep only two phone numbers on speed-dial for use whenever any news breaks concerning a black person". He refers to the fact that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are often seen as the only "authentic" spokespersons for what he considers a much more complex and diverse black community.

I don't know the precise answer to the question you pose about who appointed so-and-so (you know many more names than I do) to speak for our community. (You now have me gunshy about how many or what letters to use in shorthanding it!). Fortunately the same Internet that now facilitates your continuing to speak your mind on these issues as if you were still in Carmel Indiana provides one personal answer. YOU appoint who speaks for you and others who are of the same mind. Keep at it, my friend.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 10, 2007 3:41 PM
Yes, so unsafe, that he wrote about it first on Americablog, and after seeing the initial response from gays, he went to Salon. If he gets any more scared of people hearing his dangerous position, he'll be writing an op-ed for the Washington Post, stopping by CNN's The Situation Room, then appearing on Dateline NBC.


I touched on this point, too, here in a omment to Bil's "Aravosis - inspired open thread" and also in one of my 5 letters on Salon. I couldn't agree with you more! ;-)

He isn't the only one...

Don't forget Chris Crain and Andrew Sullivan....

Notice they are all:


straight looking


Shocking, eh?

But what do I know, I am simply part of a vain, liberal circle jerk.


Well now this could have been a shorter post, eh?

I just don't like how he gets to represent me and the community and then complain that he's silenced. That's all.

*laughs* Way to sum it up.