One can only imagine the conversation that took place between The Advocate and America's third-favorite gay conservative, Jamie Kirchick, when he was asked to write an opinion piece on Matt Foreman's resignation....
The Advocate: Jamie, you're gay and, like, into politics, right?
Jamie Kirchick: Yeah....
TA: Can you write something up about Matt Foreman leaving the Task Force?
JK: Can I just gripe about the gay left instead?
TA: Whatevs. It's not like anyone reads The Advocate for politics anyway!
Because I find a column entitled "Matt Foreman's Questionable Legacy" that barely mentions Foreman to be quite bizarre. But I find the actual arguments to be plain incorrect.
Kirchick's complaints about those darn libruls fall into a larger history of arguments between gay liberals and gay centrists and conservatives, between those of us seeking freedom and those of us seeking normality, between those who see homophobia as part of larger systems of oppression and those who think that Americans just woke up one day and decided to be homophobic.
It would be easy to write off his column by saying that not every gay person is a cis, rich, white man and these other issues he bemoans the Task Force's involvement in are actually pretty important to a lot of people in the community. It would also be easy just to point out that gay oppression has to come from somewhere, so there is a vested gay interest in issues like reproductive freedom (seriously, he picked that issue as something that has "absolutely nothing to do with gay rights").
But that doesn't get to the heart of the argument and isn't all that persuasive to these sorts anymore. Someone on the powerful side of an axis of identity is going to see their experiences along that axis as universal, i.e. white people think that everyone lives like them or would be better off doing so, etc. And arguing that gay oppression is part of a larger system of oppression fails because these people actually do believe Americans woke up one morning and collectively decided to be homophobic. (Or they adhere to that argument's close relative that homophobia is simply a fear of difference and a product of negative stereotypes, no matter how many differences Americans accept with out ascribing negative stereotypes to them.)
This fundamentally comes down to a question on the nature of one's gay politics, how being gay affects the way one looks at the world. Kirchick argues that coalitional politics assumes that one can't be gay and conservative (which is ridiculous, there are plenty of gay conservatives). But that isn't the point - the point is whether we see being gay as just knockin' boots with people of the Same Sex or whether we see it as something that affects all aspects of our lives.
Kirchick's brand of insular gay politics begs the question of where exactly does this mentality stop. Are gay issues just those pieces of proposed legislation that include phrases like "same-sex couple" and "sexual orientation" (same-sex couple recognition, hate crimes legislation, ENDA, DADT)? Do the issues include those that are listed in the HRC's checklist of things to support (AIDS funding, comprehensive sex education)? Do they include issues that would make gay people's lives better more than they would benefit straight people's (universal health care, opposing the war)? Or are they just whatever Kirchick says they are, shut up and fall in line?
And wouldn't Kirchick be the one advocating that in order to be properly gay one has to support a certain agenda? He finishes his column with two more specific criticisms of Matt Foreman, two criticisms that actually mention his name instead of just complaining about gay liberals: that he opposes same-sex marriage and that he opposes the trans-exclusive ENDA. On the second, that's been debated ad nauseum this past year on this site, and I'm sure you all already have an opinion there.
But the first is, like, what? What sort of evidence does he have that the XD of an organization that supports same-sex marriage quite publicly secretly opposes it? Well, some people he worked with signed the Beyond Same Sex Marriage text, a not so radical document that says that same-sex marriage isn't the only issue gays should worry about, that there are other sorts of families to support, and that there are other related issues that need to be addressed.
So, basically, some people at the Task Force said there were other important issues in addition to marriage and Foreman didn't resign in protest. Kirchick's serious credibility problem on the issue of marriage.
This is all more interesting in light of that column Kirchick wrote back in August calling for gays to support Bush's agenda in the Middle East:
Gay people have a special role to play in the war against Islamic totalitarianism. We are not just random potential victims like anyone else in the West — we are special targets. As such, gays must speak out with special fervor about the threat this mortal enemy poses to Western freedoms.[...]
Gay people have fought long and hard against domestic political opponents in the battle for civic equality. We have not apologized about our way of life or equivocated about the continuing injustices we face. Likewise, the medieval adversary of Islamofascism is one that we must stare down with even greater fervor.
So fighting Islamofascism, whatever that means, is a gay issue, but sexual liberation and reproductive freedom aren't? Does that make any sense?
Well, in the context of the power at play here, it does. Kirchick, like other conservatives, is scares shitless of the Middle East, so that issue is important to all gays. Gays are less likely than the population at large to have quality health care, but that doesn't include him, so it's not an issue.
I could go on and on about the logical fallacies of such an argument, but it's not and never has been about logic. It's about these sorts getting what they want while maintaining the privilege they receive in other areas of their lives, whether it comes from being rich, white, male, American, or anything else they think gay rights activism isn't related to. It's about having a fundamentally different relationship with queerness than other gays do. It's about seeing gay rights politics as trying to get a checklist of legislation through political bodies instead of trying to improve the lives of gay people.
And it might have a lot to do with this (from the column):
In 2004 about 25% of self-described gay voters supported Bush for president (the actual number is likely higher, given the fact that many gay people probably don't feel comfortable identifying themselves as such to a pollster).
Look, I'm not the one who said that conservative gays are more likely to be closeted and dealing with more internalized homophobia than liberal gays. Kirchick did!