Bil Browning

When the liberal agenda isn't so liberal

Filed By Bil Browning | October 26, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Gay Conservatives, liberal agenda, liberal tolerance, Tammy Bruce

It's not very often that this happens! I find myself agreeing with a gay conservative!! Well, not the whole article that Tammy Bruce scratching_head.jpgpublished at the Guardian, but at least this one paragraph. The rest of the article is your standard "the right isn't anti-gay they're just misunderstood!" drivel you so often hear from these types.

The real story of bigotry and intolerance is the fact that it lives and thrives on the left. As a gay woman who spent most of her adult life pushing the cart for liberal causes with liberal friends in a liberal city, I found that sexism, racism and homophobia are staples in the liberal world. The huge irony is liberals spend every ounce of energy promoting the notion that they are the banner carriers of individualism and personal freedom, yet the hammer comes down on anyone who dares not to conform to, or who dissents even in part from, the liberal agenda.

I'll admit that after running Bilerico Project - a site dedicated to giving the entire LGBT community a voice instead of just the usual top-down one-way communication we normally get from Gay Inc and other popular queer sites - I've been amazed at some of the intolerance demonstrated by our "tolerant" community.

There are certain queer mantras that must not be challenged.

  • DADT should be repealed.
  • Hate crimes laws are a good thing.
  • Same-sex marriage should be one of the top priorities for LGBT people.

Unfortunately for liberal cohesion, not everyone is on the same page. While the generalizations above are all well intentioned, if someone throws out a "Yes, but..." the hounds are set loose and the blood sport begins.

No one seems to want to engage in the broader argument that the military industrial complex is huge and, perhaps, we shouldn't be clamoring to join a group killing innocent brown people in the name of justice and apple pie. While I've never heard any of the dissenters say, "I think discriminating against LGBT people is okay and that is my reason for supporting DADT," it seems to be what people hear when the subject of the morality of the fight for inclusion is broached.

When the discussion on hate crimes turns to prison overpopulation and how it overwhelmingly discriminates against non-whites, many of us perceive that as a tolerance for name-calling or anti-gay attacks. The differential between the two - the grey area - doesn't seem to be of interest to most of us.

While LGBT people should, of course, have the right to marry their partners, when someone steps out of line enough to suggest that this one bit of our lives shouldn't suck down the majority of our organizing time and dollars, you'd think that they'd committed heresy. The idea that our self-worth and access to medical care, tax deductions and social standing depends on our marital status is too much for some to comprehend or even take into consideration.

Don't believe me? Check out the archives of posts from our own Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Yasmin Nair, R. Conrad, or Steven Cheslik-Demeyer for some great examples. We get the most complaints about their posts simply because they don't always toe the liberal line in the sand.

It goes a little deeper than that though. From my own experience I can say that I consider myself to be a pretty progressive fellow. I support the rights of LGBT people - including the trans folk that tend to be grouped in when convenient and left out when they're not. Yet I've said some incredibly stupid and transphobic things on Bilerico Project without thinking twice about it until it was pointed out to me.

I would never say that a woman is less than a man, but I've still said some misogynistic and chauvinist statements on the site without even realizing I was doing it. Rinse and repeat for issues surrounding people of color, people with disabilities, and the overweight.

My own prejudices still step to the front occasionally without a conscience decision to be "anti" anything. It just happens when I don't engage my brain and think through some of the issues from a different perspective than my own. Many times when I've been challenged on the site, I've dug in my heels and not defended my point, but defended my ego.

Why? Because I'm a good liberal and I'd never do something as horrible as cross the sacrosanct line that demarcates good vs bad and progressive vs conservative. How dare someone point out that occasionally I step in it? Why should I have to think things through without just having a knee-jerk reaction?

Sometimes, just sometimes, progressives are stupid enough to use the right wings tactics and framing not just to "advance" our cause, but to attack each other.

And on that one small point, I can agree with Tammy Bruce - a gay conservative. I hope I didn't step out of line.

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There are certain queer mantras that must not be challenged.

* DADT should be repealed.
* Hate crimes laws are a good thing.
* Same-sex marriage should be one of the top priorities for LGBT people.

I'd like to add one:

• LGBT people are always "born that way" and neither developmental concerns nor matters of individual "choice" are ever part of the picture.

As I've said previously, being gay may not be a choice, but being sexually active -- as well as coming out, for most of us -- is each an individual choice. And politically and socially, we must fight for our right to make those choices.

And if you don't like my viewpoint, sue me.

I see it as more of a choice to assume ones place amongst humans (and to exercise the right to obtain one's needs) and to be honest with oneself and one's fellow sentient beings. That would basically be coming out but something about that seems a little more lifestylish and less fundamental to the choice involved. I do think we're pretty much born that way...(genetics or womb sensitization etc etc)...but you're right that it shouldn't matter even if it were a choice. It just happens to be a very ethical and natural one that shouldn't be the choice to drink water and any shame or need to explain why it's a preferred need should be off the table.

One more thought here. Besides fighting for our freedom to choose, it doesn't mean choices default to ethical (as with any choice)...but it allows us that right and with it, we may need to indicate that we are taking responsibility for our choices and actions. I think for some, not making the correct choice is cowardly and dishonest but maybe just weak and kowtowing to moral authority. I really can't predict what I would do if I really had a choice. It's too far removed from my reality and such a temptation to have privilege...that I've already proved by having a closeted life for the benefit of straight privilege...that I worry I am not accepted if I did fail to choose alongside others.

I tend to want to choose things based on who I am. If I had a choice, I would essentially be bisexual which is not the case but fine too! We forget that perhaps, some actually do have this choice and use it often!

Thanks Bil. Yes, its the 3 step dance. Disagree, condemn, bully.

Don't worry - you probably stepped in it somewhere in that paragraph, probably. I'll send the hounds just in case.

And to be honest I've heard from others that you're a transphobic jerk, and they're _so_ sure of it until I mention that we lived in the same city, and you helped me out not minutes after I chewed you out about "stepping in it." Then it's just their opinion. I hate that.

Oh well - can't win 'em all!

Just because someone is a Democrat does not guarantee that the individual is not a homophobic bigot.

Gays have to do their homework and vote carefully.

Yeah I don't really care for your use of the word 'choice'. Do straight people have an issue 'coming out' ? And have you seen the great youtube video on "When did you choose to be straight ? "
If coming out can threaten your job, your safety or your life, what kind of 'choice' do you call that ?
You must factor in the rampant homophobia in our society. I don't have the time nor interest to sue you.
And YES we are born this way- across different spectrums- we are born this way.
What you're trying to describe sounds like the old moniker (and I cringe) 'lifestyle choice'.
Living as you are and being true to yourself should always be second nature.Some of us commit suicide because we cannot conform to what society says is 'normal'. But what is normal for us is really fine as long as we are happy with ourselves. That's the message we must get across to society at large. Regardless of sexual orientation, we all have the right to live peacefully.

Renee Thomas | October 26, 2010 6:37 PM


. . . major big time

Yes but... the military industrial complex has gotten the way it has because they have been allowed to essentially run themselves.

I don't have the same premise as conservatives for wanting DADT repealed. I feel like as a matter of proving we still have a civilian run military, civilians ought to be able to change military policy.

I can't be a radical dyke if I support repeal of DADT. Even though I do think the size of the military is a problem, I don't think reducing the number of gay people in it would affect the size. If a military with more progressive policies deterred conservatives from serving, that is fine by me. But you know, fuck the nuance.

How do you take down the institution of marriage? You open it up to more people.

By the way, because Bil featured my comment in a comment of the week I've gotten shit from another site's commenters. I wasn't aware there was a turf war. LOL. sigh.

I'm curious though...what is solidarity and is it important? Where's the line between solidarity and conformity?

... it shouldn't matter even if it were a choice.

Thank you, that's really the heart of what I'm saying.

A gay man should have the right to enter into a relationship with a straight woman, if he chooses. Conversely, a straight man should have a right to have a gay relationship if he chooses. So ultimately, whether one is born this-way or that-way isn't really the issue, is it?

Sorry, comment above was meant to be a response to John Gagon, second comment in this thread.

Gay men already have the right to enter into a relationship with a woman.

I feel I would be gay even if it was a choice...knowing what I know now. But the issue is actually heterosexual privilege. Heterosexuality is preferred and heterosexual behavior is treated as special and pure. So even if it was a choice, there is still one choice that is treated as the better choice.

I mean, it's great there are people who choose the road less traveled. (I pretty much feel like I was dropped into the wilderness through no choice of my own.) But, that doesn't make the road most traveled any less privileged.

Susanna I Astarte | October 27, 2010 3:35 AM

AJ I still can't really agree with you. It almost sounds like you're coming from a 'let's fix the gays and make them straight' standpoint. Are you ?
Are you trying to redefine what it means to be gay ?I maintain that finding who you are can be a journey. And when you finally discover what truly makes you happy - you want others to have the same happiness. If you are unhappy with yourself, you will inevitably try to make others miserable. Whether you try to justify your sexual preference as 'choice' - or whatever else you may want to tell yourself- I still say there's a spectrum of preferences under which we are all born. In trying to play devil's advocate by giving examples of someone dating outside their normal preference- I would simply venture to say they may have been bi and unaware of it. In many cases- it really is someone try desperately to conform. A lot of us seek love in all the wrong places for years. The silly argument you make is same one echoed by eHarmony. They once told me I was welcome on their dating site - so long as I dated a man. I told them what to do in no uncertain terms. If you are Bi that's great- I am happy for you! Some of us fall under different categories and that's OK. Matters of the heart are dictated by the heart.

And so if you base being gay as a "born this way" issue the result is you create a class of "condemned" which would be a person who for whatever reason "chose". That is the equivalent of the religious dogma which condemns "acting against God's will". It says ..."I am not a sinner because I was born this way but there's your sinner over there because he or she is naturally attracted to the opposite sex but chooses a gay lifestyle".

I am a Christian but I don't believe that crap about a loving relationship being an abomination. I place sin where Jesus said it is and that is when your thoughts are to harm others. That would include covetous thoughts, murderous thoughts, hatred and literally any emotion or thoughts outside the commandment he gave to love others.

@Grrrlromeo: Yes, a gay man can pair up with a straight woman, but he is also pressured by society to pretend he is straight -- men like Cole Porter, who said, in effect, "I love my wife, and she doesn't mind my hitting the sack with a man every once in a while" rock the boat socially, and are still frowned upon -- they are supposed to shut up about their desire for other men.

As for the other commenters who responded to my point, I think we are maybe confusing the scientific issue of whether sexual orientation is innate (I think it is, although not necessarily genetic in any simple sense), and the political question of whether gay people should have the right to live openly as gay people without economic and social ostracism -- those are two, entirely separate questions. The first is a matter of science, and the second is a matter of culture and politics.

Scientifically, I think sexual orientation probably does have something to do with brain structure -- and in that sense, it is not a choice, because I cannot change my brain structure voluntarily, short of hiring a neurosurgeon to do it for me.

However, politically, I think we must own our choices to be openly LGB. (I'll leave "T" out of this discussion -- I have less personal knowledge, and gender identity is at least as complex as sexual orientation, yet it is not the same thing and is best discussed separately.) Ideally, homophobic society does want to "fix" us, but they don't know how from a science standpoint. Their next best stance is to pressure us into pretending we are straight, to live in the closet from adolescence until death. We could go along with this, and many do; but for those of us who don't, our open and direct resistance to this social pressure is a choice that we make.

So, as slimy as the phrase "lifestyle choice" has come to be regarded, we do make lifestyle choices -- everyone does, gay and straight. What the homophobes argue, though, is that because we make choices they and their churches don't approve of, that it is entirely fair that we be socially punished in various ways. That is the part of the social argument that we should be challenging, not the matter of whether being LGB(T) is scientifically a "choice" or not.

The homophobes have this attitude because they regard being gay as criminal (despite Lawrence v. Texas) and an offense against proper society, and morally indefensible, based ultimately on all the religious crap. I think, politically, it is weak to argue, "You have to accept us because we don't have any choice about it." By saying thus, we are acknowledging that, ideally, we ought to be "fixed" -- and I can't go along with that. Moreover, although tolerance might be a compassionate attitude, homophobic religions don't teach that form of compassion -- in fact, Leviticus says we should be executed instead of tolerated.

I think it is both stronger and more valid to say, "I have a right to be an individual, and that includes my choice to pair with a member of my own sex if I so choose -- too bad if you don't like that."

That's about as clear as I know how to make it. And if I've failed to make it clear for others, I will have to let it go at this.

A.J. I am a ditz and when you get into all this "scientific facts" and "various theories" it makes my eyes glaze over. But I have to agree with you when you state ...'I think it is both stronger and more valid to say, "I have a right to be an individual, and that includes my choice to pair with a member of my own sex if I so choose -- too bad if you don't like that." '.

Thanks. My mantra since childhood has always been that this is my life and I shall live it as I please.

Isn't the discussion on the 'military-industrial complex' (its size, purpose, place in society) separate from the discussion of glbt citizens serving openly in this military?

A conversation about "perhaps, we shouldn't be clamoring to join a group..." is not the same as whether we should be allowed to openly join the group.

In fact, the examples you mention, Bil, (re: the sacred cows of joining military, 'against equality', of marriage, etc...) seem to me further evidence of liberal/progressive intolerance.

We don't need to hold the glbt community hostage to a checklist of 'liberal/progressive' political points. There seems to be a dislike, or distrust, of the institutions of marriage and military that drives these broader conversations.

I've found the 'liberal intolerance' to be in much of the criticism of those glbt who want to take part in these institutions.

As an aside - I've always found it interesting to visit various web sites, from the most conservative to the most progressive. In these disparate climates there is an amazing similarity. Anger, arrogance, demeaning of anyone who disagrees with the onsite gospel, personal attacks - these are the commonalities on the 'net.

It is almost impossible to find a discussion that is dispassionate, that tries to understand and address the fears and concerns of the 'other side'. We tend to treat each other as anonymous 'nom de 'net' rather than as people behind the names.

And that observation applies to conservatives as well as progressives.

Yeah, and the usual response to this line of thinking is something like "We've got to stick together in the face of the enemy, and by 'stick together' I mean 'everyone agree with me!!!!'"

Whatever. Part of the problem is that our political discourse doesn't allow for much nuance. Another part is that our political system trains us to look for an enemy and assume the worst about them. And another part is that so many of us were bullied that we grow up and do it to each other.

I agree with you, Alex, on the lack of nuance. It's not like we're presented with many examples of thoughtful argument in most of our venues - be it msm, 'net, etc...

And it is hard to separate the personal from the political - if possible at all at times.

How did we get to a point where you can visit the conservative sites (be they 'gay' sites - e.g., IGF, Gay Patriot, etc.. - or broader political sites, e.g., National Review, etc...) and Obama is a 'socialist' and Palin is a hero.

While visiting 'liberal/progressive' sites (Bilerico?, Pam's, JMG, or Alternet, etc...) finds Obama to be a 'Republican capitalist' and Palin to be the devil. (these are broad caricatures, please know.)

To your point, Alex, perhaps we're too well trained...

Or maybe it's just easier to be angry and hate, whatever the object. I'll admit to knowing that feeling as well.