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A History of the Struggle for Gay Equality: Civil Rights or Counterculture Movement?

The history of the gay rights movement in the United States is fascinating, and its progress raises an interesting question about the nature of its activism. Has the struggle for gay equality been primarily a universalist drive for equity and civil rights, with the inter-related goals of individual liberty, respect, and freedom from persecution? Or is it a social justice movement driven by a countercultural constituency intent on separating itself from mainstream culture? The answer is that the gay rights movement in the United States is a complicated combination of both perspectives.

To date, the successes of the gay rights movement in the United States have been laudable. The repeal of laws that criminalized homosexual sex was a significant gain. As a consequence, gay people can now live openly and are free to marry. It is true that elements of anti-gay prejudice linger, mainly among the ranks of the religious and the socially conservative. It also remains the case that only a patchwork of laws exist across the 50 states prohibiting discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, I think these are the least of the worries for the gay rights movement in the United States. While both civil rights and social justice perspectives have contributed to the success of the gay rights movement, what most concerns me about the current state of the gay rights movement in the United States is the influence of a decidedly countercultural constituency of U.S. society.

The current gay rights movement in the United States began in earnest in 1950 with the founding of the Mattachine Society. Harry Hay, a counterculture figure and a member of the Communist Party USA, founded the Mattachine Society with a group of like-minded gay men, Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings, Rudi Gernreich, Stan Witt, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland and Paul Bernard. Together they set about agitating for the following stated goals:

  • “Unify homosexuals isolated from their own kind.”
  • “Educate homosexuals and heterosexuals toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling the cultures of the Negro, Mexican, and Jewish peoples.”
  • “Lead the more socially conscious homosexual to provide leadership to the whole mass of social variants.”
  • “Assist gays who are victimized daily as a result of oppression.”

The third point in this list stands out. What is meant by the “whole mass of social variants” is unclear, but the phrase presumably encompasses cross-dressers, transsexuals, and polyamorists. The Mattachine Society further asserted that homosexual oppression was socially determined and held that strict definitions of gender roles led men and women to uncritically accept social roles that likened “male, masculine, man only with husband and father” and “female, feminine, women only with wife and mother.” As Jeffrey Excoffier explained in his 1998 book American Homo: Community and Perversity, the Mattachine Society saw gay men and women as the target of a “language and culture that did not admit the existence of a homosexual minority.”

The Mattachine Society and its Communist leaders successfully drew public attention to the plight of gay people in mid-twentieth century American society. Unfortunately, their consciousness-raising efforts coincided with the Second Red Scare (1947-1957) more commonly known as the McCarthy era, a period of considerable hysteria about the threat of Communist subversion. As Craig Kaczorowski has observed, the radical activism of the Mattachine Society did not pass unnoticed. In 1953, a columnist for a Los Angeles newspaper referred to the Mattachine society as “a ‘strange new pressure group’ of ‘sexual deviants’ and ‘security risks’ who were banding together to wield ‘tremendous political power.'” Linking gay rights with the American Communist Party during the Second Red Scare was not especially conducive to winning hearts and minds, and so the Communist founders of the Mattachine Society stepped down in 1953. The Mattachine Society continued its advocacy at a national level until 1961 and, at the very least, succeeded in generating interest among gay people in the cause of civil rights.

Following the decline of the Mattachine Society, new groups emerged, such as the Society for Individual Rights (SIR), founded in San Francisco in 1964, and the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), founded in 1968. Both the SIR and NACHO advocated for the civil rights of gay and lesbian individuals on constitutional grounds using the democratic process. According to a summary provided by the Online Archive of California:

SIR’s goals included public affirmation of gay and lesbian identity, elimination of victimless crime laws, providing a range of social services (including legal aid) to “gays in difficulties,” and promoting a sense of a gay and lesbian community. […] Taking a cue from the burgeoning civil rights movement, SIR demanded equal rights and decried government-sanctioned discrimination.

NACHO, meanwhile, formulated a Homosexual Bill of Rights at its 1968 meeting, detailed as follows:

  1. Private consensual sex between persons over the age of consent shall not be an offense.
  2. Solicitation for any sexual acts shall not be an offense except upon the filing of a complaint by the aggrieved party, not a police officer or agent.
  3. A person’s sexual orientation or practice shall not be a factor in the granting or renewing of federal security clearances or visas, or in the granting of citizenship.
  4. Service in and discharge from the Armed Forces and eligibility for veteran’s benefits shall be without reference to homosexuality.
  5. A person’s sexual orientation or practice shall not affect his eligibility for employment with federal, state, or local governments, or private employers.

The Stonewall Inn, 1969

Following the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village that began on June 28, 1969 (a defining moment in the gay rights movement in the United States), activists founded the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. The Gay Liberation Front rejected the goals and strategy of the Society for Individual Rights and NACHO, declaring instead that:

We are a revolutionary group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. We reject society’s attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature.

The Gay Activists Alliance, on the other hand, continued the more patient work of the Society for Individual Rights and NACHO. As Linda Rapp has noted:

A central tenet of the GAA was that they would devote their activities solely and specifically to gay and lesbian rights. Furthermore, they would work within the political system, seeking to abolish discriminatory sex laws, promoting gay and lesbian civil rights, and challenging politicians and candidates to state their views on gay rights issues.

The Gay Liberation Front folded in 1973, whereas the Gay Activists Alliance continued operations until 1981.

Countercultural thinking in gay rights activism resurfaced in 1990 with the emergence of Queer theory, an ideological position that repackaged the goals defined by Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society in 1950 for the postmodern age. In brief, as Renee Janiak notes in a summary:

To be queer means, “fighting about social injustice issues all the time, due to the structure of sexual order that is still deeply embedded in society” (Warner: 1993). Queer people are not assigned into a specific group or category, which would be comparable with any other type of grouping such as “class” or “race” (Warner: 1993). Queer people have made a change with how they identify themselves, they went from “gay” to “queer.” The self- identification change is due to that fact that “queer” represents the struggle of not wanting to fit into the systems of being “normal.” Queer theory has allowed for new political gender identities (Butler: 1990).

In the new activist lexicon, ‘Queer’ or ‘LGBTQI’ replaced ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ as preferred terms of self-identification, a change intended to signify that gay and lesbian people did not want to fit into “existing social institutions,” now redescribed as ‘heteronormativity.’ Queer activists strive—just as Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society did in 1950—to organize a community composed of “the more socially conscious” gays and lesbians “to provide leadership to the whole mass of social variants” in developing a parallel “queer culture.”

Queer theory gained increased mainstream attention in 2016 when Noah Michelson renamed the Huffington Post‘s ‘Gay Voices’ section ‘Queer Voices.’ Michelson justified the change on the grounds that this “word is the most inclusive and empowering one available to us to speak to and about the community.” The thinking here is that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, etc. are part of a ‘community’ and they share a collective group identity. Following this train of thought, Michelson asserted that “‘queer’ functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of ‘LGBT,’ but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few.”

Michelson and other likeminded activists are obviously free to promote this narrative and to pursue their separatist goals but, in reality, ‘gay’ is a demographic not a coherent community. For many (if not most) gay people in the United States, the gay rights movement remains a civil rights concern, driven by the efforts of gay and lesbian individuals using the democratic process and pressing their case on constitutional grounds. It has been this approach, and not the remote theorising of cloistered academics, that resulted in two of the most recent and pivotal victories in the push for the gay equality in the United States have been Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015).

Established in 1973, Lambda Legal states that its “mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.” Lambda Legal took on Lawrence v. Texas and successfully shepherded it through the lower courts all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court voted to repeal sodomy laws in a 6-3 decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, ruled that the state could not single out gay people for harassment and discriminatory treatment on the grounds of moral disapproval. “When sexuality,” he wrote, “finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.” He observed that reducing same-sex couples to sex partners demeans those relationships “just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse.”

Obergefell v. Hodges finally lifted the ban on same-sex marriage in the United States in a split decision (5-4) handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015. The background to this ruling involved court challenges mounted by multiple gay and lesbian couples in four states: Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Oyez Project noted in its summary of Obergefell v. Hodges:

The plaintiffs in each case argued that the states’ statutes violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and one group of plaintiffs also brought claims under the Civil Rights Act. In all the cases, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiffs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed and held that the states’ bans on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize marriages performed in other states did not violate the couples’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated:

[W]hile Lawrence confirmed a dimension of freedom that allows individuals to engage in intimate association without criminal liability, it does not follow that freedom stops there. Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty.

He went on to observe that, “It is of no moment whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process. The issue before the Court here is the legal question whether the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Constitutionality was the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the interdiction on same-sex marriage in the United States. As Justice Kennedy explained:

Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.

Thus, the successes of the gay rights movement as a civil rights movement in the United States rest firmly with gay and lesbian individuals who have exercised their right to employ the democratic process. The successes of the gay rights movement and the strategy behind them are grounded in the principles of liberalism as defined by John Stuart Mill. In On Liberty, Mill advanced the proposition that:

The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, we shouldn’t attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind gains by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.

The goal of the gay rights movement is full civil rights for gay and lesbian people as individuals so that they may participate freely and openly in American society; where their sexual orientation is of no more significance than that of their heterosexual neighbours. Gay people are not part of a community, least of all a ‘queer community.’ The notion that gay people ought to refer to themselves as such and consider themselves part of a wider class of people that includes genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender only creates confusion. Gay people are individuals with their own priorities as they make their way through life, who only want to be treated like anyone else. Sexual orientation—be it homosexual or heterosexual—is incidental, not a defining characteristic.

Given this reality, it is proper that gay and lesbian civil rights advocates in the United States acknowledge the historical contribution to their movement made by the countercultural constituency represented by Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society. But they should also be wary of the current countercultural interest in Queer separatist activism, as their efforts to build a parallel ‘queer’ culture only impedes the push for full civil rights for gays and lesbians in the United States. The fact that being gay in American society is no longer stigmatized is one of the achievements of the gay rights movement in the United States. This is something Queer theorists should appreciate and celebrate for its own sake.

 

Geoffrey Wale is a blogger and librarian living in Ottawa, Ontario. You can follow him on Twitter @GeoffreyWale

21 Comments

  1. Andrew Eden-Balfour says

    Uhm you do realize that the civil rights movement was also a social justice movement right?

    In fact movements in general that advocate for the rights of minority groups are social justice in nature.

    • Civil rights are common rights protected by law which apply to all w/o favor. “social Justice” is something else, an amorphous catch-all term for those who fail to thrive despite their freedom . That’s how it seems to me.

      • Bill says

        Civil RIghts = equality under the law. Special Rights is what many of those movements become. I’m waiting for the “affirmative action” analog for the LGBTQRSTUV drive to begin. It should be interesting to hear the complaints about black cis-normal persons being omitted from consideration as white males and asians are in some fields now.

  2. This article speaks to the inevitable splitting that occurs as any kind of political “movement” advances through stages of success and/or defeat. The women’s movement- aka women’s liberation, aka feminism, aka lipstick feminism, aka “swerfs and terfs”-is the perfect example.

    Conservatives, and others interested in these organized struggles for individual rights only insofar as they oppose or disdain them, tend not to see the many shades of “ideological” difference that characterize these movements, preferring instead to take the most “radical” expressions as the most representative and concentrate their fire on them.

    There is, however, a problem with framing the bifurcation in the gay rights movement as on the one hand ‘civil rights vs social justice’ and the other as ‘universalist vs countercultural’ simply because on the day that full universalist civil rights are both recognized and protected for each and every individual in a given society, social justice will have been achieved and some sort of pluralist multiculture will almost certainly be the order of the day.

    That said, the difference between the groups referred to in the article is clear. More conservative and/or centrist liberals in the gay community are more or less content with the gains that have been made legally and in terms of the previous “medicalization” of homosexuality. The social acceptance, by majorities in most western societies, of gay marriage and of the simple fact of ‘gayness’ itself, while not perfect, is an almost miraculous development in the lifetimes of many gay men and women.

    Let one of those gay men or women decide one day that, just as a straight woman is not vilified for using lipstick, eye-liner and a particular cut of clothes to emphasize her sexuality/gender at work, they are going to use some other form of dress and cosmetics to emphasize theirs, and they will discover that that social acceptance has its limits and that even the protections afforded by law may evaporate as an employer finds a rationale to remove said person from their job.

    The point is that if you or I have the individual universalist civil right to go to work and walk around town dressed and coiffed in roughly the same way as most everyone else while others. no matter how small a minority. do not have the right to signal their individuality by deviating from that norm and to expect social acceptance when they do so, then those individual civil rights are obviously not as universal as claimed.

    Is ‘universal’ a gradable adjective?

    That is why, as abhorrent as it obviously is to many conservatives and so-called classical liberals, these ever more ‘subversive-of traditional-culture’ expressions must eventually be recognized as demands that the universal individual civil rights many of us take for granted are not yet universal.

    • That last sentence should read “…take for granted be extended to each and every individual, no matter how arcane and apparently bizarre their individuality may be.”

      • If a school or a company has a dress code that is understood to be denying individual expression of sex/gender identity it would likely be struck down in a liberal jurisdiction.

        That said, it could be argued that dress codes are by their very nature limitations on the self-expression of the rights bearing autonomous individual and that they only continue to be legal because our “liberal” societies privilege companies and organizations over individuals.

  3. KD says

    We started out gay/straight, and this was supposed to be some genetic ontological divide. Of course, when you divide on the basis of genetics, you are essentially engaging in racialism, that is a gay race and a straight race. Since the straight race disproportionately gives rise to the gay race, and not vice versa, its a little strange because there is shared common ancestry (No “one drop rule here”), but in any event, it follows Disraeli’s principle, race implies difference, and difference implies superiority.

    But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, the B’s and T’s and furries and S&M crowd, etc. came out of the woodwork, and some empirical evidence suggests that orientation is somewhat fluid, and it all ends up looking like a choice.

    So like all things Left, is it a choice or genetic? Well, that depends on whether framing it as a choice or genetically determined gets things to the policy outcome desired by the Left.

    But note, only pure racialism can make gay rights the equivalent of the civil rights movement. But the evidence for homosexuality being genetically determined (or biologically determined before birth), and the evidence that sexual orientation is fixed, not fluid, is sorely lacking. So the honest answer is counter-culture, like weed, comic books, Star Trek, and furries.

  4. KD says

    The power a nation-state can project is primarily driven by (1) population size, (2) GNP, and (3) technological know-how. Thus, any nation-state seeking great power status enacts policies to promote population growth, economic development, and technological innovation, so they have a bigger and badder military at the end of the day.

    Grown ups recognize that the great issues of the day have always been settled through “blood and iron”, not debate, so most modern nations have followed national development strategies promoting population growth, economic growth, and technological innovation, to ensure that the nation-state survives in the contest of nations.

    Lately, Europe has been reduced to an American lapdog, and the US has not been very concerned with Europe being able to throw its weight around, so it makes sense that no one cares about population growth in Europe. America has gotten into the act, presumably out of complacency, and China already has 1 billion Han so it doesn’t feel much pressure.

    But the reality is that no nation can become or remain a great power and promote the kinds of policies promoted in modern Western societies. So the question remains, when will the reckoning occur, and will it be driven by internal or external forces.

    • All you butthurt old conservatives who believe society makes people gay would think that, ceteris paribus, gay people would make up a larger percentage of the population of a state (or region or whatever) whose politics are more left-wing than one whose politics are right-wing (i.e., places that are stuck further into the past), yet there’s very strong evidence that that isn’t the case. There are always going to be enough breeders to keep society going, so considering how conservatives feel about gay people, I don’t even know why you’d want us to make babies (aside from the fact that we’re the best).

    • I guess the question your posts raise is a simple one:

      Are you saying that promoting the autonomy of the rights bearing individual as the central unit of political and ethical accounting in western liberal societies is in and of itself leading to the “destruction of the west”?

      I have a feeling that whereas a variety of religious conservatives may rush to agree with you, the great bulk of “classical liberals” would be forced to disagree.

      • EK says

        The debate now going on amongst those who are wondering what the term classic liberal means seems to be drifting in a direction favoring the old classic liberal idea of ordered liberty.

        At the moment, Patrick Deneen seems to be the most prominent voice on this point. Deneen appears to be closely tracking the paleo-conservative point of view, which has always had a dim view of universal natural law and natural rights discovered by a distant and isolated judiciary and enforce by the state. The chief point of difference seems to be that Deneen’s model of natural rights is derived from Catholic theology while the paleo-conservatives’ source of natural rights are the ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen.

        Your amended last sentence (above) recalled to my mind the Ranters of the mid-17th C. I think a nation of Ranters would necessarily be very unstable and would quickly be replaced with something much less permissive.

      • KD says

        That is good question. The historical reality is that modern western liberal societies grew up in a particular cultural context.

        If we look at John Stuart Mill (who may or may not be a classical liberal), he was pretty clear that he believed that his vision of liberty was only suitable for the English and those who resembled the English. He recommended “Enlightened Despotism” to modernize the not-so-English populations. (He was a good English empiricist/blank slate fellow despite what might be characterized as “racist attitudes” by modern standards.) That is to say, individualism was not universal, it was contextualized to a historic particularity–and Mill cannot be characterized as dismissing non-Western people as inherently inferior or backwards like Gobineau or other 19th century theorists might.

        Likewise, Victorian England was all about individualism, but the space of the individual was the market. Victorian family relations were extremely paternalistic. But when England perceived an existential threat across the water in 1914, 40% or so of young British men volunteered to fight for the Queen. It is pretty clear that individualism in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century co-existed with paternalism, patriarchy and nationalism.

        If you look at the early Neo-Conservative theorists (Daniel Bell, James Q. Wilson, etc.), they never took aim at “individualism”, they took aim at “excessive individualism” or “expressive individualism” or “acid/abortion/amnesty” individualism.

        As for my view, I don’t know how you can have a market system without some notion of a rights-bearing individual, and I think a market system is essential to a modern society. So you can’t dispose with individualism entirely. On the other hand, I would not concede that the market is the end-all and be-all of human societies.

        As a practical matter, any society that seeks to survive must be able to protect itself, and it does so by sacrificing its individual members. Further, this collective defense is strongest when the victims volunteer to be sacrificed with minimal coercion. Thus, it is essential for any society to inspire its young with a vision that goes beyond individual well being. Everyone must look forward to the Lottery.

        This collective security is the primary function of the state, and the sole reason for the emergence of the state (to protect against rival state formations). Enduring groups (like nations) want to survive, and when they are threatened, they will do what is necessary to protect themselves, including sacrificing their individual members. This will always happen in the real world, and if a group elects “not to play”, it will be swiftly replaced by one that does. I don’t know how, on an individual rights/autonomy framework, you can talk any individual into signing up for this kind of work. It really requires more of an Aztec mentality.

        So dream away, but as a practical matter, when any society faces an existential threat, individualism will be tossed into the memory hole until the threat is resolved. Moreover, unsentimental thought rooted in description of how people behave (Realpolitik) is a much better tool for basing policy prescriptions than a 1000 pages of rights-based theories.

        • Thanks for an excellent response.

          Whereas you seem quite conscious of and willing to examine your own qualified version of “liberal individualism”, many posters on these threads seem to be unaware that they also want to limit individualism.

          The fact that they seem to want to justify their own positing of a “collectivist value” by accusing people demanding more radical individualism than they themselves are comfortable with of being “collectivists” is an irony a tad too delicious for an old non-PC leftist like me to let slide.

          In my experience, conservatives who know they are conservative (and not just right-wing liberals) are much easier to discuss and disagree with than liberals of either the left or the right. But that may be because leftist Canadians of my generation were affected not just by the emergence of the New Left in the 60s but by the existence of a real social democratic political party that grew out of a strange brew of Christianity and prairie populism.

          It’s probably why Tommy Douglas was voted the “greatest Canadian” in 2004 and why it’s sometimes difficult for me to understand the rage that is slowly consuming Anglophone cultures in fires set and fed by a liberalism that has done yeoman duty for centuries and now really needs to be set aside.

          • KD says

            Part of my problem in addressing your question is that “classical liberalism”, in as much as it is a thing, is an ideology. In my view, ideologies are not true, they are merely useful or not useful.

            The primary purpose of ideology is to create a sense of identification between a group in mass society and an elite or vanguard, in order to engage in mass politics.

            If we look at the explicitly racialist ideology of Progressives or the implicitly racialist ideology of the Trumpist, it is clear that these ideologies are reaching broad swathes of people in society. I don’t really think that “classical liberalism” can ever have mass appeal, at best it remains a school of thought in the academy. Moreover, the “classical liberals” that I am aware of seem put off by the crudity and the vulgarity of the competing ideologies of the present, which I take to be an elitist sentiment, not a bad thing per se, but not useful if you are engaging in politics in a democracy (or an order which legitimates itself on the basis of popular sovereignty).

            Which is another interesting dimension of “individualism”–it seems primarily connected with “democracy” which in turn legitimates itself based on the “Will of the People”–and there can be no “People” without a collective identity.

            As far as post-60’s politics, I think there was a shift in the Left from class struggle and the labor movement to identity politics, which coincided with a drift toward neoliberalism and pro-corporate policies. Rather than unite workers, Social Democratic parties worked to assemble coalitions of the fringes, ethnic minorities, aggrieved women, sexual minorities, and immigrants. This left the working class without any voice, and for good or bad, the only place they have to go is the Right, not the classical liberal right but the nationalist right which can serve as an ideological vehicle to express their class based interests. And actually, if you look at Poland or Hungary, the workers are doing better than they would under European social democratic parties.

          • KD says

            My main objection to collectivism from the Left is that I belong to several of the “polluted categories” that need to “re-educated” (or perhaps “liquidated”) to purify the Progressive Volk of racism, sexism and homophobia.

            My objection to collectivism on the Right is that it is primarily racially-defined identitarianism, which I don’t regard as politically constructive or particularly appealing. I think primacy should be on culture and language, not ancestry, although I am happy to engage in “real talk” about crime statistics and the like.

            But I don’t see how you can have a constructive Left or Right wing mass political movement without patriotism or moderate forms of nationalism–which I wouldn’t discount as “collectivism” though it is. [I have a great respect for Christopher Lasch, who was regarded as a Leftist in his time, but who would clearly be viewed as a man of the Right in contemporary times.]

  5. James Badon says

    Bunch of errors in this piece:

    – Harry Hay was an ex-CPUSA member, not a member. Mattachine had nothing to do with communism or the CPUSA and never advocated for either.

    – There is zero evidence that Mattachine ever sought to take up the “cause” of polyamorists, transsexuals or cross-dressers. Mattachine actually has a history, so the author could have simply researched that history to determine whether it was interested in assisting any of those groups. It wasn’t and it didn’t. In fact, up until the unfortunate invention of “LGBT” in the 1990s, gay rights advocates took great pains to educate the public that being gay should not be equated with being a cross-dresser or a transsexual.

    Not sure why the author was so keen on smearing Mattachine in this way, but it’s pretty obvious that he was trying.

    As for the here and now, the most important thing to understand is that self-described “queers” are not the same as gay or LGB people. “Queer” as used to day is a postmodern ideology, which pits itself against the “conventional norms” of society. It includes heterosexual people. It includes a lot of people whom we call” SJWs.” It’s toxic. It is not to be confused with LGB people, who are simply a group of people who are demarcated by sexual orientation, and the vast majority of whom reject the ideology of “queer.” In fact, “queers” did their level best to derail and sabotage the marriage equality movement, as they saw it (correctly) as LGB people moving to integrate themselves with society’s norms and institutions. They despised it and they did everything they could to bully LGBs into giving up on it, particularly when marriage was losing at the ballot box. But despite all their efforts, LGB people told them to take a hike. Marriage became their top priority and they won. Polling suggests that young LGB people are very marriage-minded, and we should expect a continuing divergence between LGB people and “queers” in the years and decades ahead.

  6. markbul says

    ” the McCarthy era, a period of considerable hysteria ”

    By that time, tens of millions of people were already dead in Communist countries. They didn’t die of ‘hysteria.’ The anti-communist right was on the right side of history – bless them. And the fellow-travelling left was wrong. Wrong morally, wrong politically, and wrong pragmatically.

  7. I dont see the aticle recognising the depth of attitude changes between the McCarthyist era and the 00’s. Where is the 1970s emphasis on free choice to behave differently? The whole ‘gay-is-genetic’ position seems to have got strength in the 1990s with the popular acknowledgement of the mapping of the genome, despite no trace of a gay gene being found in evidence.
    The slanders of straight moralists as self-hating, closeted gays was confabulated with ‘gay panic’ murders of gay men soliciting sex from straight men and medicalised as ‘homophobia’, a complete and successful adoption of Soviet goodthink, converting political difference to mental illness.

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