The original column reads:
At the end of this month, the gay community will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which began the gay liberation movement. This season, known in gay circles simply as “Pride,” will be particularly emotional because of the gay marriage avalanche. While gays and lesbians have much to be proud of (such as early health organizing around the devastating AIDS epidemic), gay history since Stonewall is unfortunately stained with selfishness and arrogance, traits that ironically were once themselves called pride — back when that wasn’t a compliment.
Having experienced the closet and coming out as a gay man in my late teens, I understand the common gay experience of overcoming shame and the constant need for self-esteem reassurance. But I have also come to realize that sometimes gay esteem has innocent victims, and I believe it’s time to balance out gay pride with some gay humility.
To examine the gay community’s self-absorption, look no further than the event celebrated this month that has been commemorated with parades for four decades: the “Stonewall Rebellion.” Why is it that in all that time no gay leader has acknowledged that there were non-gay victims at that event, which we should regret, if not apologize for? Stonewall was sparked by a legitimate bar raid on an unlicensed, Mafia-run drinking establishment. The gay “heroes” threw glass bottles and bricks at police and at one point tried to light the building on fire while people were still inside. Even if one celebrates Stonewall’s repercussions for sparking feelings of gay pride and leading to nationwide community organizing, shouldn’t we acknowledge that our self-esteem doesn’t have to come at the expense of other people’s safety?
Another example: During the late 1980s and early 1990s, gay activists insisted that a wave of “heterosexual AIDS” was just around the corner in the United States, even though no data existed proving that was going to happen, and even though HIV spread through heterosexual sex has always been and continues to be a small percentage of the American transmissions of the virus. Out of fear that Americans would not devote energy to treating and curing a disease spread mostly through gay sex and drug use, AIDS activists consciously lied about the size of the minuscule threat to Americans who did not use drugs or have gay sex. As a result, huge sums of money were spent to educate about and prevent a “coming health epidemic” that would never materialize. People made major lifestyle changes to protect themselves from what was essentially a phantom menace.
The gay parenting movement is still more evidence of the fundamental selfishness of post-Stonewall gay America. Whereas many gay couples can and do bring parentless children into their homes in an act of loving and giving, thousands of other gay couples who could have adopted use various technologies and arrangements to make babies that from the start have no mother or have no father. This cruel act — to one’s own child — is almost never criticized in the gay community, which is so focused on everyone’s freedom and self-esteem, it doesn’t seem to want to bother to notice that children are being hurt by being denied up front the right to have both a mother and a father.
The gay and lesbian community today is infected with what I like to call Equality Mania. That’s the belief that there is literally nothing more important than total equality between gays and straights, no matter what the costs. They are willing to sacrifice other good, important values in the name of gay equality — such as the religious freedom of same-sex marriage opponents, the welfare of children and (in the case of gays in the military) even national security.
Forty years into this particular social movement, it’s not too late to re-evaluate priorities and find more selfless ways to help gays and lesbians.
Mr. Benkof, I absolutely agree that some gay humility would be a welcome complement to gay pride. Pride should be about our success in overcoming adversity and about having fun, not shoving every little detail of our differences in everyone’s face for a weekend or making accusations and attacks. It should be more about showing them how similar we are and how much all people in this world really have in common( not that we should try to hide the things that make us unique, either, of course).
But I think you have a misunderstanding of human rights and the situation in this country then and now. It’s true that the Stonewall riots started with an authorized and legal raid on an establishment engaged in illegal activity - but ‘gay’ bars in the city at the time were subject to these raids with disproportionate frequency compared to other such enterprises, Mafia or otherwise, simply because they were known as such. In other words, legal is not the same as( morally) legitimate.
And it’s true that the crowd did unsavory things and there were innocent - and less-than-innocent - victims on BOTH sides and among bystanders: that is a typical, perhaps even defining quality of a “riot”, and tends to happen whenever people gather to fight injustice in an impromptu manner.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but one wrong left to stand is still wrong as well. Something had to give, and it did.
Moving on: Sex has certainly changed since the 80s. Perhaps the reason the hetero AIDS epidemic never occurred is BECAUSE health leaders prepared people for it? Teen pregnancy and STDs are on the rise since the government started pushing abstinence-only programs which kids don’t follow anyway... And women seem to be better than men at following safer sex procedures, so it is hardly surprising that incidence remains higher among people who have sex with no women involved.
As for children, numerous studies have shown that the most important thing is for a child to have parental nurturing and structure regardless of where it comes from, and having two parents of the same sex/gender seems to provide the same boost that having two opposite-gender parents does. Of course, there are well-adjusted children raised by single parents or by steps. But if children have some sort of “right” to the ongoing presence of a mother and a father( something which does not necessarily have a biological basis) at birth, how can you criticize gay couples for conceiving children and not single parents? By the argument that all children deserve one of each, every child born to a single parent should be taken away and given to a couple who wants one. In fact, since there are so many children needing homes and families, isn’t it selfish for ANYONE to conceive right now? Why should the gay community condemn it when most conception takes place among straight couples and no one says boo?
For the record, I am adopted( by a straight couple) and hope to adopt, I believe it is a great thing to do and do not feel a need to conceive a child even though I find the prospect intriguing on some level. But I am not about to criticize people for having their own children( except those who can’t care for them) when we all have a biological drive to procreate.
But then, I don’t expect you to care too much about what I have to say. Given the title and stated purpose of this blog*, I suspect we are fundamentally incapable of understanding each other. I want to be married. I want to enjoy the full legal protections of marriage to the person I love most( which you support but only under a different name, if I am reading right), but more than that, I feel that my relationship with him deserves the social connotations of being and having a husband rather than just a “partner”( trust me, it makes a difference - ask anyone who had a civil union or similar for a while and then got married), and possibly even the spiritual aspect of the union( though only blessed by ourselves and perhaps a spiritual leader who wishes to do so, not in any way by coercing someone whose faith opposes my marriage). If straight people won’t give up the right to have “husbands” and “wives” that they love romantically and sexually, and “marriages” that society respects, I don’t see why my friends and I should accept having those things denied to us.
Your Equality Mania argument is fundamentally flawed: very few of us who want equality so badly are trying to hurt others to get it( nothing is absolute, there are some who enjoy bullying others, I am sure, but they are not the majority as conservatives seem to like to believe) or see ourselves as stopping at nothing. The fact is, I don’t believe that asking people to recognize my marriage with regards to secular matters infringes on their religious freedom, any more than asking them to recognize an interracial marriage, or an interfaith marriage in secular respects, does. I don’t believe that being raised by same-sex parents inherently hurts a child - and hardly anyone who DID believe that would want to raise a child with a same-sex partner. I don’t believe that gays and lesbians serving openly in the military will be hugely detrimental - other industries and occupations seem to have survived just fine, and most servicepeople interviewed seem far more concerned about the reactions of their comrades( represented by vague words like “cohesion”) than about actually working with gay and lesbian individuals.
If I believed that those purported detrimental effects were anything more than irrational fear of change and the unknown, I would advocate a more cautious approach - but that belief or the lack of it is the core of the fundamental difference I mentioned.
I find it interesting that you encourage people to be less selfish in helping the GLBT community, while suggesting that people fighting for change focus on issues that are important to you and ignore issues that are important to millions of other gays.
A few more brief notes after exploring some recent posts on your blog:
If politicians were there to always represent the majority, we might as well have a full democracy with referenda on everything. I believe we have reached the point where it is technologically feasible. The thing is, a social democracy like this one survives and is strong because our politicians represent everyone, not just the majority, and use their judgment. And that is a good thing, not a betrayal of constituents. If you want someone to vote exactly the way you would on every issue, why not take office yourself? Most people are not qualified to do those jobs and make all those decisions. While I do have opinions, and often write to the people who represent me in hopes that they will take those opinions into consideration, I would rather have someone in office who has good judgment than someone whom I agree with 100% of the time. Otherwise, with true majority rule, we would never have any progress, tradition would always dominate, and our society would stagnate and die.
As for DADT, well, I think a repeal is necessary. There is no real data to suggest that it would be harmful, and the continued functioning of uncloseted militaries in other countries seems to suggest it would not. But, regarding the earlier post, I would not object to non-combat as a first stage, I am confident that it would simply prove the non-issue. The problem is that NO action is being taken and valuable personnel - especially non-combat specialists - continue to be lost. That loss is a bigger threat to national security than letting soldiers out of the closet.
*The blog is called “GAYS DEFEND MARRIAGE” and the description reads: “A website for LGBT folks who support marriage as the union of husband and wife—and getting the gay leadership to return to more pressing LGBT issues for our community.”