Alex Blaze

Me on Jamie Kirchick on Matt Foreman

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 07, 2008 10:14 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, The Movement
Tags: coalitional politics, ENDA, HRC, intersectionality, Jamie Kirchick, marriage, task force, The Advocate

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!

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With friends like this, who needs enemies?

It appears that someone just hasn't been paying attention, or has very selective hearing, when it comes to the conservatives and their friends, and what they have to say about our community.

Rebecca Juro | February 8, 2008 2:28 AM

This kind of Queer never learns. Not because he can't, but because he doesn't want to. He's too busy planning his next deck party or selling tickets to the next HRC gala to take the time to see and understand the real, everyday issues of average, middle and lower class Queer Americans.

It's not surprising, not at all...we've been suffering with exactly this kind of willful ignorance from a certain "LGBT" organization for literally decades now.

Matt Foreman is a Civil Rights hero. Period.

Excellent post, Alex.

Jamie Kirchick is the conservative, zionist version of Pat Buchanan or Karl Rove. He’s a Kultur warrior who defends the zionist apartheid regimes’ persecution of Palestinians, calls for nuclear attacks on any Middle Eastern nation mad enough to stand up to Bush and, like Rove and Buchanan, tries to demonize all muslims as the Greatest Threat to Western Civilization since The Red Menace, the Yellow Menace or whatever their racist minds can conjure up. It’s unlikely he’ll ever enlist because like Cheney, Buchanan, Bush and the others, he prefers that others do the fighting and dying. He’s a Precious National Asset and above all that.

Kirchick doesn’t have a clue about our movement or why it’s so profoundly radical. Our agenda for full equality is not is going to be fulfilled short of deep-seated change and that’s true for our allies; African Americans, immigrant workers, women and above all trade unionists. We have in common agendas that are reasonable and that urgently need implementing, and we’re allies because we can’t win without sharp struggles.

ENDA is an example. It was a fine but limited bill until Barney and his friends tore it to shreds and then dropped it. They have no plans to pass real antidiscrimination, hate crimes and hate speech bills that on harshly punishing racists, immigrant bashers and antigay bigots because that’s their base. Their bills will be timid and in line with the needs of business and bigot churches and even those bills, if they can get by Pelosi, Clinton and Frank, are meaningless if our standard of living is sabotaged by corporate predators and we’re endangered by their war policies.

What escapes Kirchick is that GLBT folks have been in on every great battle in US history. We’re the ones who’ve needed democracy and an end to intolerance so we were at Bunker Hill and Gettysburg, we spearheaded the feminist and suffragist movement and stood up in the fight to build unions and support civil rights and liberties. We were instrumental in the Vietnam antiwar movement doing the same now. The fact that we’ve been the target of witch hunts and that the right fears and hates us so much means that’s not gone unnoticed.

American society is being propelled down a path that will inevitably lead us and our allies into a head butting contest with the powers that be for real, fundamental change. The battle to preserve ENDA from the tender mercies of Barney Frank and the Republicans is helping mold a new left wing in our LGBT communities.

In the past we’ve fought for others, but now it’s our time. Its time face up to bigots, protect ourselves and fight for full equality. Our battle for equality is compulsory. However if we continue spinning our wheels in Democratic and Republican closets while waiting to be ‘saved’ we’ll get nowhere. Now is the time to defiantly step out of their political closets and join our allies, in our own name to fight for our common agendas.

The significant issue here is the shift to the right in the GLBT community. Why would The Advocate ask a rabid opponent of Matt Foreman to comment? Clearly, the only reason can be that they wish to give a bully pulpit to conservative opinions. I make the same argument in my article in this month's Echelon Magazine - there is a marked shift to the right going on amongst the movers and shakers. We underlings will, of course, be last to know.

I'm wondering about that too, Jillian.

But I really don't think that the Advocate's take on anything political should be taken all too seriously, especially after the editor said something last year to the effect of "If the Advocate were started now, it wouldn't be called 'The Advocate.'"

It's kinda sad that we don't have a solidly political national gay mag of widespread popularity in the US.

Think globally, act locally.

Our struggles really should be guerrilla warfare. Attack the bigots at home and locally, get ordinances passed in your city and counties, then to the state level if possible. Go after your local city and state leaders, find equality at the local level, where you can make a difference.

If the states have protections, then it doesn't make a difference what type of games the federals play.