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23 June 2009, 12:00 pm 3 Comments

Zack's Ramblings: Zero Sum Gays

This post was submitted by Zack Rosen


Original illustration by Ryan Blomberg

et peeves? I got ‘em. There are some standard-issue annoyances, like people who take up both sides of the escalator or guys who wear bandannas around their necks at bars and look like my childhood dog. But I find that the more I peep into the fraught and exhausting world of gay politics, the more things I find to get irked about. Next I’m going to find out that bears really do shit in the woods, but there’s only so much I can handle at one time.

Back to the point. I’m really starting to lose patience with the idea that there is only one “gay cause” that matters, and anyone who dares dedicate themselves to a different one is somehow working against progress. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“What did you do this weekend?”
“I went to a pro-marriage rally.”
“Pro-marriage? You dare waste your time and energy on submitting gay people to a flawed, heteronormative institution? What about [insert other cause here.]
“Fuck you.”

Then, a big fight ensues. I use marriage as an example, but it can be anything. DOMA opponents butt heads with DADT attackers. ENDA supporters clash with people who believe in harsher penalties for homophobic, schoolyard bullying, and so on and so forth. Am I the only one out there getting sick of this?

I understand that there is a limited amount of funds and manpower out there to dedicate to a given cause and that we probably could achieve something faster if we all agreed, but that’s not going to happen. We are wasting time and energy selfishly insisting that “our” cause is the best. Causes are, by nature, selfish. That’s why people pick them up. I would hasten a guess that the biggest opponents of DADT have some connection to the armed forces. Marriage activists want to get hitched someday and enjoy all the attached benefits, and all these people are going to fight hardest for the cause they believe in the most. Aren’t we all better served if people use their particular skills and passion to further a small part of the whole instead of wasting time arguing?

Repeat this after me: It is impossible to be gay by committee. If we all sit around and refuse to move forward on our own agendas until the rest of the world agrees, we’d still have to socialize strictly in private homes. The culture we have now, for whatever it’s worth, is an amalgamation of many people’s efforts to create the gay world in which they wanted to live. Frank Kameny’s early civil rights work, amid the efforts of many other such freedom fighters, led to the relative amount of liberties we enjoy today (small though that may be.) Writers like Larry Kramer and Edmund White created fictional accounts of gay life at given times, allowing us to have artistic records of what life used to be like. Still others dedicated themselves to building bars, clubs (and yes, bathhouses) to address the lack of social gathering spaces in the gay life.

Can you imagine if any of these groups were harassed for following the wrong calling? If Larry Kramer was attacked on some online message board because he spent time writing “Faggots” when he could have been picketing the White House? Or later, if his ACTUP efforts were deemed unnecessary because we still couldn’t adopt kids?

My point is that there is a big gay world out there, and a big, adversarial straight world opposing us in so many ways that it makes my head spin. Whatever you decide to do with your energy, however you decide to make minute improvements to your world, is essential. There is room for everyone’s causes. Your efforts toward allowing us to donate blood don’t in any way diminish someone else’s wish to be a scout master, yet people are are acting as if it does.

As kids, aren’t we all taught to get out there into the world and make a difference? I would hate to think that someone would lose that message because the area where they have chosen to make a difference didn’t meet the mass gay consensus of “the” cause we should be worrying about.

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  • Gay Species said:

    Great comments. I am reminded of Kramer’s queers’ atrocious staging a sit-down on the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hour, in order to piss-off people already supportive of AIDS research. It’s not the way to win friends and influence people, especially those already on your side. SMART politics need not be COERCIVE, and if Kramer had bothered to get out of NYC, he may have seen a few facts that escaped him while b/f and he were doing the baths. For example, Ronald Reagan’s silence (to still the flames of quarantine) and his huge budget increase for AIDS research. But that requires someone who can think, not merely emote. Larry’s drama belongs on stage, but not the world’s stage of fools and buffoons.

    But Larry prefers miracles. I suggest he pray, instead.

  • Ed said:

    “lead to the relative amount of liberties we enjoy today (small though that may be.)”

    I am totally confused by the idea that we have a “small” amount of rights. Are there laws protecting LGBTQ people from a handful of specific issues? No. But we have more rights and freedoms than heterosexual people in most of the rest of the world. We can vote. We can protest in the streets. Irony of ironies, TNG is one of-God only knows how many-LGBTQ blogs on the internet. Talk to gays and lesbians in the Middle East about “liberty.” There, the internet is used to track them down and kill them. In urban American 2009, we can walk down the street during the day, and most of the time at night, pretty much anywhere and not have to worry about being murdered. Sex between two same-gender, consenting adults will not result in you being hung in the US.

    This is why I say “inter-generational memory” is important and the lack of a more visible presence, for whatever the reasons, of community elders is hurting us. I say all this with a good-natured smile on my face. It think you make some really important points in this piece, but it lacks perspective. Seriously, in what world can a man openly declare himself, not only gay, but have the freedom to determine he is an “alterna-queer” and discuss his love of masturbation, checking out other guy’s boners in the shower, explain that poop is a reality of gay sex (a high fiber diet with omega 3 oils can help keep things downstairs cleaner), and still claim that he is even marginally oppressed?

    Yes, there are oppressed queers, but not any of the ones writing for this blog. We need to remember our audience. There are young queers out there reading this blog, listening to what we say, and looking for queues from us on how to shape their lives in the future. Zack is right! We need to tackle all of the issues confronting our community and not take a pick-and-choose approach based on our own parochial interests, but what message does this send to kids being called a “faggot” or “bull dyke” and beaten up everyday? “Hang in there kid. One day you will grow up and have a relatively small group of rights and grow up and get more of the same?” Is that the message we want to send them?

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