The Queers Versus The Homosexuals
We are in a new era. And the erasure of gay men and lesbians is intensifying.
Do you remember the homosexual?
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? He was, for a period, a key figure in the conversation about gay rights. He was Will in “Will And Grace,” or Keith in “Six Feet Under,” or Cam in “Modern Family” — a normie-enough dude randomly distributed across the human population and country. Once invisible and closeted, the AIDS epidemic exposed him without mercy in every state in the country. With this unexpected visibility, and in the wake of hundreds of thousands of young corpses, the survivors built a movement that won every gay and lesbian the right to be free from discrimination and to marry and serve openly — and proudly — in the military.
It was the most speedily successful civil rights story in memory. Its case for equality was simple and clear: including us in existing institutions needn’t change anything in heterosexual life. “Live and let live” in equality and dignity was the idea. And the most powerful force behind this success was the emergence of so many ordinary gays and lesbians — of all races, religions, backgrounds, classes, and politics — who told their own story. America discovered what I had discovered the first time I went into a gay bar: these people were not the stereotypes I was told about. They were not some strange, alien tribe. They were just like every other human, part of our families and communities; and we cared about each other.
What would happen if and when we won the battle was always an open question. The question of transgender rights — associated with but very different from gay rights — remained unresolved. But in the new climate of acceptance, transgender people also became increasingly visible and accepted, and they too won a stunning victory in the Supreme Court. The Bostock decision in June 2020 gave those who identified as the opposite sex full civil rights protection. Yes, there were still skirmishes over cakes. But with equal rights, and growing toleration, it seemed as if we’d achieved a settlement that would allow us all — straight, gay, and trans — a chance to get on with our lives in freedom.
And now? Back in culture war hell.
If you read the MSM, you’ll be told this war is back because the GOP has, for cynical reasons, become an even more unhinged hate-machine, now dedicated once again to “targeting the freedom and dignity of queer people,” as one NYT columnist writes today. You will, in fact, almost never see a news story that isn’t premised on this idea. And it’s obviously true that some on the right have never really accepted gay equality and have jumped at a new opening to undo gay integration and dignity — and the rawness of some of the homophobia and transphobia out there right now is palpable. The resurrection of bathroom bills and the move to curtail the rights of trans adults are repulsive and dumb.
But when you examine the other issues at stake — public schools teaching the concepts of queer and gender theory to kindergartners on up, sex changes for children before puberty, the housing of biological males with women in prisons and rape shelters, and biological males competing with women in sports — you realize we are far beyond what the gay rights movement once stood for. It’s these initiatives from the far left that are new; and the backlash is quite obviously a reaction to the capture of the gay rights movement by queer social justice activists.
These activists, marinated in critical gender and queer theory, have picked several unnecessary fights and, especially since the convulsions of 2020, have pushed and pushed a woke revolution until a dangerous backlash was inevitable.
The core belief of critical queer theorists is that homosexuality is not a part of human nature because there is no such thing as human nature; and that everything is socially constructed, even the body. Because heterosexuality is the overwhelming norm, and homosexuality the exception, and because society is nothing but a complex of oppression, homosexuals are defined by their rejection of heteronormativity. To be queer is inherently to exist on the margins; to be odd, peculiar, weird, queer, hated, oppressed, and in revolt and rebellion. To be queer is to be dedicated to subversion, to mock conventions, to deconstruct language, to dismantle the human body, to defy “nature” and, above all, to liberate humankind from the prison of gender.
To be homosexual, in contrast, is merely to be attracted to the same sex, and gays and lesbians run the gamut of tastes, politics, backgrounds and religions. Some are conservative, some radical, some indifferent. Some gays are queers. But most aren’t. And queers now run what was once the gay rights movement. (For a longer, piercing reflection on the takeover, read historian Jamie Kirchick’s new essay in Liberties. For a discussion of the homophobia of the new queer activism, see Ben Appel’s excellent essay in Spiked.)
No one held a news conference and announced that from 2015 on, after Obergefell, the gay rights movement had changed its entire rationale. But they sure gave hints. The Human Rights Campaign, once a relatively moderate group, replaced “gay” and “lesbian” with the acronym “LGBTQ+” and expanded the word “queer” to describe anyone gay, lesbian, transgender, or even straight who defied heteronormativity. They changed the flag from a simple rainbow, to one that included some races (only black and brown — no Asians or whites) and transgender ideology. Their building in DC is festooned with a massive banner declaring their mission: “Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter.” Their new head is a woman who calls herself “queer,” not lesbian.
Then they quietly changed the meaning of the word “gay” so that it no longer referred to same-sex attraction, but to same-gender attraction; and changed the word “men” to include people with vaginas and uteruses, and the word “women” to include people with dicks and balls. Checkmate for the gays! We are all now just bigots with “genital preferences,” just like the Christianist right used to claim. Just to add to the confusion, hundreds of new “genders” were adopted — because some teens on Tumblr once invented them and queer theorists loved them.
Gay hook-up apps now include biological women seeking gay men and straight men looking for chicks with dicks. “NO MEN” some profiles now say — on what was once a gay man’s app. There are fewer and fewer exclusively gay male spaces left. Lesbian bars? Almost gone entirely. Lesbians themselves? On their way out. Dylan Mulvaney is exemplary of the new queer order: a femme gay man who had to take female hormones to stay relevant. (Compare and contrast with disco icon Sylvester’s view of gay liberation: “I could be the queen that I really was without having a sex change or being on hormones.” We are going backward, not forward.)
Then the queers upped the ante and did something we gays never did: they targeted children. If they could get into kids’ minds, bodies and souls from the very beginning of their lives, they could abolish the sex binary from the ground up. And so they got a pliant, woke educational establishment to re-program children from the very start, telling toddlers that any single one of them could be living in the wrong body, before they could even spell.
Kindergartners were told to pick a pronoun, and thereby a sex, as soon as they arrived. Endless kiddie books reiterated the queer theory mantra about gender: “You can be a girl or a boy or both or neither or something else entirely!” And if the sex the child chose did not match their physical body, they were told they could just change it — and change it back if needed — no questions asked. Fun! If a boy said he was a girl, or vice-versa, it was in fact unethical to ask any further questions. From now on, he was a girl. Parents? A problem to be overcome.
The queers regarded any therapy exploring other possible reasons for a child’s transgender identity — autism, family breakdown, abuse, bullying — as “conversion therapy,” and have made it illegal in some states. But the original Dutch study on which this entire medical regime stands specifically excluded any child with any other mental health challenges. It’s not as if the queers ignored the original safeguards, or didn’t know about them; they just consciously threw them away.
In the UK, this kind of queer activism in schools and the Internet led to a huge surge in referrals to sex-change clinics for children, overwhelmingly girls. The Tavistock Centre, the sole facility in the NHS dedicated to the treatment, kept statistics on the children who came to their doors. Among those referred in 2012, ninety percent of natal girls and 80 percent of natal boys reported being same-sex attracted or bisexual. There is no inherent relationship between trans and gay and bi people. So why this staggering overlap? No answer. If a Christianist hospital was busy changing the sexes of overwhelmingly gay kids, so that they became straight, what do you think the gay rights establishment would say? But when a queer facility does exactly that, all the worriers are bigots.
In the past, boys sought sex changes more than girls. Suddenly girls were more common than boys by many multiples — many identifying much later than previous cohorts. Why this weird discrepancy? No answer. The queers even sought to suppress the publication of a book that raised questions.
The British kids received pathetically inadequate mental health treatment — before being approved for irreversible medicalization. From the Times of London:
So many potentially gay children were being sent down the pathway to change gender, two of the clinicians said there was a dark joke among staff that “there would be no gay people left.” “It feels like conversion therapy for gay children,” one male clinician said. “I frequently had cases where people started identifying as trans after months of horrendous bullying for being gay,” he told The Times. “Young lesbians considered at the bottom of the heap suddenly found they were really popular when they said they were trans.”
Another female clinician said: “We heard a lot of homophobia which we felt nobody was challenging. A lot of the girls would come in and say, ‘I’m not a lesbian. I fell in love with my best girl friend but then I went online and realised I’m not a lesbian, I’m a boy. Phew.”
You might imagine that, given this record, the queers would go out of their way to reassure us, to show how tight the safeguarding is, how they screen thoroughly to ensure that gay kids are not swept up in this. But they regard the very question of whether gay kids are at risk as out of bounds. Here’s a queer activist writer, Masha Gessen, saying that one thing “should be off limits” in this debate:
[In the NYT] there’s a [paraphrased] quote from Andrew Sullivan, the conservative gay journalist, who says, Well, maybe these people would’ve been gay—implying they’re really gay and not really transgender. That really clearly veers into the territory of saying ‘These people don’t exist. They’re not who they say they are.’ So that’s why it’s so painful.
No it doesn’t. It’s perfectly possible to believe that transgender people exist, but that children may not know who or what they are before they’ve even gone through puberty. I’ll defend the right of adults to define themselves as they wish and take irreversible medical measures as they please. I’d march in defense of those rights. I’m just saying something that we recognize in every other area: children are different. And children should not be self-diagnosing a medical condition.
In the same interview, Gessen also says that we can’t “distinguish [being homosexual] from being transgender” anymore. To which I have to ask: if we can’t tell the difference among adults, how on earth can we with prepubescent children? And if we can’t, and the treatment is irreversible, the safest option is to let them be until they’re adult enough to decide.
To get past this “do no harm” objection, the queers insist that children will commit suicide if they are not transed. There is no solid evidence that this is the case, and some evidence it is the opposite. But notice too how this is not an argument; it’s emotional blackmail. You can only justify irreversible medicalization if the only alternative is the death of a child. Groups like the Trevor Project even hype suicide stats to bolster their case — an extraordinarily reckless thing to do. To tell a parent, based on no solid evidence, that their choice is “a live girl or a dead boy” is obscene. It has no place in any medical setting.
Of course, since queers deny the natural basis of homosexuality, in their view, no real harm can come from transing gay children. There is no such thing as a male or female sex, so all of this is no more morally problematic than cosmetic surgery. The kids were never gay, they were always queer, and now they have a “queer” body that violates the sex binary, and thereby nudges the revolution along. They can always get a different kind of queer body later, if they have second thoughts, Gessen breezily assures us. Queerness deconstructs the sex binary; it deconstructs homosexuality; and it deconstructs the human body into random parts.
Listening to Gessen, you get a feel for the nihilism, narcissism and amour propre of our gender Robespierres. In their world, there is no solid nature, and no defining line between childhood and maturity. Children should be trusted to make decisions we usually restrict to adults. Queering everything, as Foucault showed, means breaking down any and all prohibitions. It does not surprise me that a postmodern movement that began by saying that children can legitimately consent to sex with adults would eventually argue they can legitimately consent to having their bodies permanently altered before they even hit puberty. If you build a movement on queerness, there is no limit to the norms and safeguards it won’t seek to destroy, including the very existence of a non-queer homosexual life — i.e. the life that most gays and lesbians live.
One more thing: the oldest and deepest slur against homosexual men is that we are not truly men; that our love for men renders us some kind of female. We spent decades insisting otherwise — only to have the queers tell us we’re just performing masculinity. Insisting on our essential maleness was intrinsic to gay liberation; as was the celebration of the intact male body, and its beauty. Just as the religious right told gay men to get used to liking vaginas, so too does the queer left. And just as the Christianists told us we weren’t men, so too do the queers.
If gay men and lesbians want to return to liberal politics, to protect gay children, and to win back the sane center, we are going to have to disown and distance ourselves from this nihilist extremism.
This won’t be easy, and may be impossible. Negative polarization means that each extreme, on right and left, can get away with stuff previously unthinkable — because the alternative is the evil other. To be a gay person and dissent from this assault on homosexuality means brutal personal attacks, social media pile-ons, violence, de-platforming, and cancellation. And the homophobic and transphobic right is on the other side in many ways, with some eager to whip up hatred of gays, so we dissidents have to steel ourselves for the usual claims of treason and hate. In this culture war paradigm, I have almost no hope that gayness, and especially gay kids, can survive both the queer and the Republican onslaught.
But I can’t in good conscience stay silent when I spent a lifetime attempting to defend the simple existence of the normie gay from the bigots on the far right and the fanatics on the far left. This emphatically doesn’t mean eroding trans people’s civil rights. We should oppose vigorously any such thing. We should counter hostility and prejudice toward trans people. We should treat gay kids and kids with gender dysphoria with tenderness, care, and love. We would legislate only where it is absolutely the last and only option.
But we have to be insistent that the gay experience is distinct and different and not intrinsically connected to either queer ideology or the trans experience. We have to demand that children’s bodies — gay, straight, trans, gender-conforming and gender-nonconforming — be left alone. And we must do all we can to make sure that the trans-queer revolution does not result in what it seems to be moving toward: the eradication of homosexuality from public life.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: animal activist John Oberg trying to convince me to go vegan; a sizable number of dissents over my latest pieces on Trump and crime statistics; six notable quotes from the week (including an Yglesias Award and Poseur Alert); 18 pieces by other Substackers we recommend; a Mental Health Break of Mandalorians; a gorgeous view of a Palm Desert hotel; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
From a happy subscriber:
Thanks for all the great work that you and Chris do at the Dish. I subscribe to a number of Substack writers ranging from left to center-right, so I can get a diverse set of views from reliable sources. Not sure there is a better strategy given the state of disinformation through omission, financial conflict of interest, and clear bias in the mainstream sources of media.
New On The Dishcast: John Oberg
John is an animal advocate and social media professional. He has served as the director of new media for The Humane League and the director of communications for Vegan Outreach, but he’s now an independent advocate funded through individual donations. He’s also a powerlifter — and a real blast to hang out with. In this episode he tries to convince me to give up meat.
Listen to the episode here. There you can find two clips of our convo — on whether humans are evolving into vegans, and dispelling the notion that all vegans are scrawny. That link also takes you to commentary on last week’s episode with Chris Stirewalt on Fox News and media history, as well as many more dissents over my latest takes on Trump and crime statistics.
Browse the Dishcast archive for another discussion you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Sam Ramani on Ukraine, Ben Smith on going viral, Tabia Lee on her firing as a DEI director, and Patrick Deneen on a post-liberal future. Send your guest recs and pod dissent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dissent Of The Week: No Laughing Matter
A reader writes:
I had a whole dissent written up for your Kennedy and Carlson essay, but I sat on it because I wanted to find out if your strange and nauseating take had been an aberration, or if you were, in fact, starting to head down a particular road. I guess I was prescient: your essay about CNN and jackass (I never refer to him as anything else) confirmed it for me.
I feel like something in you is giving up. Maybe it’s the whole “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” thing. Because it seems like you’re more than ready to normalize jackass and the whole fucking circus. The fawning descriptions of what’s good about Carlson, and the knee-slapping nod to jackass’s comedic stylings, ring far louder and clearer and truer (for you) than anything else you said in those essays, except for maybe your ending: “Get used to it.”
No, Andrew, I will not. If you want to, fine. But I’d rather do anything, anything else than have a good laugh about the sexual abuser’s word delivery, who his type is, and how he’s the “lone ranger telling the truth.” Like maybe, oh I don’t know, work harder for something better. I’m sure working harder for something better is just naive poppycock to you, which is why giving up is infinitely more appealing.
I can see Trump’s and Carlson’s appeal. That’s all. You know I loathe Trump and have turned down invitations to appear on Tucker, who says he “hates” me. But I am worried that a moribund Biden could lose to an energized Trump. Maybe the only way forward is another Trump-Biden matchup and another Biden victory. I’d be fine with that. I just don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. And I’m worried too many people do.
Several more dissents over Trump and crime statistics are over on the pod page. As always, keep the criticism coming: email@example.com. Follow more Dish discussion on the Notes site here (or the “Notes” tab in the Substack app).
In The ‘Stacks
This is a feature in the paid version of the Dish spotlighting about 20 of our favorite pieces from other Substackers every week. This week’s selection covers subjects such as the Durham report on Russiagate, AI girlfriends, and detransitioners. Below is one example, followed by a brand new substack:
Matt Labash and an elderly reader muse over Martha Stewart’s cover for Sports Illustrated.
Turns out E Jean Carroll has been on Substack for quite a while. Hamilton Nolan — a labor reporter and Gawker alum — just joined.
You can also browse all the substacks we follow and read on a regular basis here — a combination of our favorite writers and new ones we’re checking out. It’s a blogroll of sorts. If you have any recommendations for “In the ‘Stacks,” especially ones from emerging writers, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The View From Your Window Contest
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The results for this week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today. Here’s a sneak peek at an entry from our super-sleuth in Milwaukee — a biologist who provides an animal report every week:
So I perked up when I saw this “European gentleman / North American thug” meme reappear with a completely different animal:
I asked myself, are these even the same species? Nope — not even close. Badgers, in fact, are a polyphyletic taxon (imagine squadrons of scientists crossing themselves at the term). Polyphyletic means that the group “badgers” is not justified by shared ancestry. They just happen to look alike, sorta, and so the grouping bears no reliable information about their evolutionary history.
Badgers look alike not because they are closely related but because they are all diggers, both the American and European ones creating huge underground nests. The European badger is social, though, while American badgers are solitary.
Both species, along with bears, some bats, and many of their weasel and skunk relatives, share a fascinating physiological trait called “delayed implantation” — that is, the female can be fertilized and then stop the embryo’s development in its tracks until a more convenient time to be pregnant and give birth. A badger might mate in January or July, or both, but actually implant the embryos in the following December, giving birth in the next January or February. This is thought to be regulated by day length.
Whether they were conceived last January or last July, this is the season to enjoy a few minutes of baby badgers frolicking in the European forest. Happy spring!
See you next Friday.