BY Eric Gonzaba ON March 23, 2015
I joke with some of my friends that soon, especially with what seems like the inevitable embrace nationwide of same-sex marriage, gay men will be flocking to the Republican Party, eager to distance themselves from gay activism or stereotypes as lefties, eager to act like their gay identity doesn’t tie themselves to a certain political ideology. I say joke, but I do think there’s something to be said that the end of the gay marriage debate might bring about an end to bringing national attention to LGBT issues, and with that, reassurance within our own queer communities that we have attained equality and are now living in a just society.
Gay marriage is a partisan issue and with that, LGBT people have largely united as a voting bloc against the conservative American political party. Self-identified LGBT Americans overwhelmingly voted for the reelection of Barack Obama (some 77% in support). That’s about 7% more than gay support to McCain, who, unlike Romney, did NOT support a federal amendment banning gay marriage. So why do I suspect there’ll be a conservative resurgence in our communities (but, most especially, among gay men)? Am I just some crazy skeptic, like Republicans who think global warming isn’t real because it snowed this winter?
No, I say this because advocating for marriage is, lest I sound like a “Mean Girl,” so0o0o0o0o conservative. Ask them yourselves—conservative gay columnists like Andrew Sullivan have argued as early as the 1980s that the Right should embrace gay marriage. They say, despite our communities’ transgressive roots, “a need to rebel has quietly ceded to a desire to belong. To be gay and to be bourgeois no longer seems such an absurd proposition.”
That, in fact, is part of the problem. Is our community really challenging “common assumptions and core institutions,” as John D’Emilio put it in a recent OutHistory post? This conflation of marriage equality as the main indication of LGBT progress has remade gay politics from being about class, gender, racial, and sexual liberation to one about money and societal comfort.
In Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke, 2007), Jasbir Puar discusses how the American gay community has sought integration and political rights through consumerism, exuding patriotism by doing what Americans do best—spending! Take, for instance, how the gay community is targeted by the tourism industry. After all, who better to target for travel to than the gay male, who, as the stereotypes tell us, is rich, educated, and without pesky children. In other words, they are prime consumers. As Alexandra Chasin suggests, gays and lesbians are bombarded by advertising that suggests their spending would eventually bring about their “full inclusion in the national community of Americans.”
This is nothing new for a social movement. In the past century, several disenfranchised groups, especially African Americans, sought progress not just by appealing to morality or political rights (the right to vote, hold office, etc.), but through consumption. They found a route to political success by appealing to economic freedom, the right to sit at a lunch counter or to buy a new washing machine at a segregated store. However, there is something extremely insidious about our embrace of a gay politics centered on spending and the conservative message that “we are just like everyone else.” If we are to believe the tourism industry, gay politics is all about being white and rich, which in turn means there is little demand to address the needs of racial minorities or those with lower socioeconomic status. It also produces an excuse for normative society to exclude sexual orientation as a suspect class in need of protection.
I’m not saying that you LGBT Americans can’t be conservatives. Everyone is allowed to believe what he or she wants (Senator Inhofe and his snowball on the Senate floor trying to debunk immense scientific consensus on climate change, is a great example that Americans really do have that freedom.) I also think you’re allowed to “care more about the economy and our nation’s security more than [you] do the government recognizing [your] relationship with someone,” as one young gay conservative told the Blaze last year.
While this divide is certainly problematic (I feel like Democrats probably care about national security too), LGBT communities certainly can turn Right if it aligns with their interests, though we should probably ask ourselves why so many don’t. Look at those enlightening (if not tangential) roundtables with black conservatives on Sean Hannity’s Fox show. While it’s great to give a forum to people with different viewpoints, one has to wonder why 90% of African Americans vote Democratic. It’s certainly not, as conservatives say, just that they’re pawns of the Democratic party; after all, Democrats have lost 3 of the last 4 midterm elections, certainly not indicative of a superb mind-control operation.
So yes: perhaps the emergence of a society okay with gay marriage will mean an end to an LGBT coalition. However, as a wider community, we ought to consider whether queer factions should want to leave such a political union. Even if we don’t want to be the radicals we once were (and we certainly should rethink that), we owe it to our progressive allies in any political party (Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or gasp!—Communist) to continue our aim at a more egalitarian society.