September 16, 2024

Speaking of gay conservatives...

Over the past few weeks I've been reading Queer Wars:The New Gay Right and Its Critics by Paul Robinson. Its a University of Chicago Press book that seeks to explain the ideological positions among prominent gay conservatives. As they're a curious species that often require a spirited rebuttal, I thought Robinson might be able to dissect the foundations of their thought to a guy like me who finds such a position often paradoxical.

But the book has been rather a disappointment, as though the gay conservative were an alien creature and Robinson's instruments of rhetorical analysis no longer register.

A big chunk of the book takes on Andrew Sullivan, pundit-wannabe-intellectual barebacker Brit. His blog is actually one of my daily reads--though I find myself agreeing with him more and more these days as he becomes ever more disillusioned with the modern Republican party, organized religion, and the war in Iraq. During the early days of the war he was infuriating, but I have to say I always found him principled, though I rarely agreed with those principals.

The problem with Robinson's analysis is that he is only concerned with a narrow subset of principals dear to a gay conservative's heart. His tome only deals with how the gay rights movement links up with other justice movements, gay conservatives's views on gender, and their relationships to radical sexual movements. This sort of analysis I suppose is useful if you are an insulated member of one of those three movements, but it fails to account for the positions someone like Andrew Sullivan has taken on interventionist politics, tax reform, torture of detainees, and the nature of statism versus federalism which, precisely because Andrew Sullivan divorces them from having anything to do with gay sexuality could potentially have a lot to say about the nature of his particular brand of "gay conservatism." The British Sullivan's rabid self-Americanization, which could potentially have a lot to say ideologically, is dismissed by Robinson as "frightening." Sure, it's frightening, but it deserves more than such a flippant dismissal.

In attempting to parse Sullivan, Robinson marshals other critiques from the left, including Urvashi Vaid. He recounts a conversation between Vaid and Sullivan Vaid wrote about in her book Virtual Equality:

"At a gay and lesbian retreat we both attended, Andrew Sullivan and I discussed the involvement of the gay movement in racial justice. I argued that tackling racism was inherently important for the gay movement for two reasons: because it was the right thing to do, and because a large number of gay and lesbian people are people of color. I maintained that antiracist work was integral to our work against homophobia because the same forces in society justified both forms of prejudice, and because gay people as a minority need allies in order to win politically. Andrew disagreed. He said that when I described made the gay and lesbian movement sound like a subset of a broader racial justice movement. While he had no quarrel with such an antiracist movement, he thought our gay movement needed to stay focused on gay and lesbian issues alone. He was uncomfortable broadening the movement on pragmatic grounds, because not everyone in the gay community was committed to racial justice." And the argument stops right there
The argument stops right there for Robinson, as well. There's no attempt on Robinson's part to understand what might be meant by such an intriguing line as "not everyone in the gay community was committed to racial justice," which is not to imply that Andrew Sullivan is racist but to wonder about the hierarchies at play within a gay conservative worldview.

Almost finished with the book, the summation on these queercons takes a page from Richard Goldstein's book: the position of a gay conservative likely stems from their hopeless effort to assimilate into straight society by jettisoning the more offensive aspects of gay culture--effeminacy and promiscuity. Those who fail to line up with their 'traditional' views of gender and sexuality are thrown to the wolves, and not only that, but their attempts to become virtually normal are bound to fail as long as certain sexual acts are linked to particular gender identifications. Its pretty unremarkable. I would have liked to have seen a more global discussion of a gay conservative's ideology. Perhaps this dvd will help.

Posted by jason at September 16, 2024 08:06 PM

gaycons' narrow set of principals? I always thought they seemed stuck in high school.

Posted by: glen at September 16, 2024 10:38 PM
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