The Controversial Right-Wing Position That Homosexuality is Valid.
How we came to this point, and how we might re-center ourselves in preparation for the next wave of culture crusading.
About twenty years ago, my high school organized a political debate between its Young Republican and Young Democrat clubs. On the hot button issues of the day like climate change and the War on Terror, there was definite disagreement in approach.
But when it came to civil recognition of same-sex relationships, we found a rare note of unity. To our generation, the influence of religious fundamentalism was already giving way to a concern for protecting America’s democratic core.
On the right, homosexuality was a matter of personal liberty. Marriage was a matter for religions to sort out. But gay people deserved to be able to see their loved ones in the hospital. Spouses deserved to receive what their partners left them. And the state either needed to match the plurality of consensual adult relationships in this country or get out of the business of policing marriage altogether. We’re all Americans here.
On the left, a newfound relationship to homosexuality after instituting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) offered redemption. Support for same-sex marriage was a moral imperative against right-wing bigotry. Name-dropping the newly minted “GLBT community” (and then “LGBT” not long after) solidified the left’s position as vanguard to the emergent social justice movement.
Of course, in the world outside of our high school, neither party supported same-sex marriage. Politicians on both sides were generally quite against it, and the American left was quick to shuffle between LGBT causes (and to drop transgender people whenever convenient) in a way that prolonged nothing definitive getting done until DADT was repealed in 2010 — a month after Democrats lost control of their unified Congress along with any chance of enacting broader civil rights measures.
All of this backstory is important because in 2015 and 2016, Trump blindsided the American left with his ambiguous support for LGBT people. There’s two things that happened there. First, you had a generation of LGBT people who were finally given the opportunity to get back at Clintonian Democrats for their 90s era homophobia and milquetoast virtue-signaling in the interim.
Second is the perspective more talking heads caught onto: my generation ascended in the American political conversation. The religious right was relegated to a passive vice-presidency, and a heterodox populism took center stage in its place. Everything my high school’s Young Republicans were debating twenty years ago not only became the Republican Party, but became its new head.
We have to understand that aging up of ideas to follow what happens in American politics, and to perceive what’s just on the horizon.
So often when any critical thinker points out what random high school kids or twenty-somethings are tweeting or posting to TikTok, we’re assured that it doesn’t really matter. It’s just kids blowing off steam or publicly processing what they’ve been taught (as if that itself isn’t alarming).
The spectacle of the culture war keeps us frozen in this idea that nothing has ever fundamentally changed in American society, and so ultimately whatever the kids say or think is just a continuation of the struggle we already know. America is still the racist society that enslaved blacks and later segregated them. America is still the homophobic country that drags teenagers off into the night to be converted and pulls on gloves to shake hands with avowed homosexuals so as not to catch AIDS.
New ideas on the left and on the right are just compounded to the existing trauma. We have to be very secure in ourselves and very observant to catch that kids these days are not responding to the same conditions we ourselves grew up in. The LGBT community doesn’t even look like the same community people my age grew up with. Our struggles are not the same, nor even necessarily connected.
I went to college much later than most everyone I know, and those were the years that fine-tuned this perspective for me. I thought that connecting to the activist subculture on campus would be similar to previous experiences I’d had in my teens and twenties. Instead I fought a constant uphill battle to prove that being a “white body” didn’t make me intrinsically right-wing or “the enemy” to every cause I encountered.
I warned everyone about the neo-racist criminal justice ideology pervading campuses years ago when I questioned why the left ought to rally in defense around a black transwoman who admitted to raping a minor. And I eventually shut up about it because most everyone’s response was the same: it sounds like you’re a racist transphobe. Few (and even fewer in public) were capable of differentiating between actual racism or transphobia and questioning the uncompromising demand that a child rapist be set free on account of her skin color and gender.
That story matters because it’s the precursor to today’s battle over critical race theory (CRT) and successor ideology. Every one of those activist kids graduated into a real world of policy-making and meaningful political and cultural agitation. Several of them landed jobs at non-profits on the state or federal level. Others of them wound up teaching or pursuing higher education in curriculum design.
The subculture that sees racism and transphobia in an admitted rapist receiving a criminal sentence is the same subculture that sees racism in assessing students and employees on merit rather than by race. It’s the same subculture that sees whiteness as monolithic and intrinsically bad, and which believes in segregating employees, students, and students’ parents in order to address racism in schools and in the workplace.
Five years ago that subculture was mostly limited to university campuses, but today we’re all living it or being exposed to it in one way or another.
This is why I care when I see young leftists on Twitter and TikTok advocating a belief system which asserts that homosexuality is a bigoted bias and can be changed into at least a bisexual preference (presented monolithically as the left’s new definition of homosexuality). This is why I care when the idea that homosexuals shouldn’t have to change or hide who they are — a position to the left flank of both conservatives and liberals merely twenty years ago — is being reframed as a right-wing ideology of transphobia.
I have little personal stake in this matter given my own preference for abandoning sexual labels. I’ve written previously on my distant great-uncle who likely would have been considered a transman by today’s standards. And in general I don’t relate to any feminist framework I’ve so far encountered on gender — I don’t find either plain biology or self-election particularly compelling or even partially universal descriptors for manhood outside of urban and intellectual communities.
But forced conversion — whether through the electroshock abuses of psychiatry, rape, religious bullying, or political indoctrination — is a hard no from me. To even entertain the thought that gays and lesbians ought to be encouraged or forced to change their sexual orientation shows how detached the present LGBT community is from anything I grew up with.
We are not part of the same community. We are not on the same side.
Today this stuff is on social media. Five years from now it could easily be in the workplace, in public schools, in religious messaging, and everywhere else. Ten years from now it could surprise us all by taking the presidency. We’ve seen this process happen again and again before.
Perhaps more likely though, the far-leftward swing of American liberals will result in a reactionary cultural response which one can already see coming to a boil in younger generation’s shifting attitudes towards LGBT people. Academia’s insistence on intersectionalizing everything ensures that even the most moderate centrist caught up in whatever community the left has appropriated will be weighed down by every absurd demand it makes, from exposing children to sexual kinks and “pornographic literacy” classes, joking about “coming for your children,” proclaiming allegiance to BLM, abolishing police, burning down the country, and re-sculpting the Middle East in the image of our own racial fantasies.
Without an iota of self-awareness or concern for impact, the American left is going to solidify popular stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles, lesbians as anarchist man-haters, trans people as ex-gay converts, blacks as felonious criminals gunning for whites, and anyone with a legitimate concern about Palestinian people as a Hitler-idolizing antisemite.
The left’s approach to all of these issues is always the same baffling, sanctimonious devotion to the most phobic specter of minorities. Anyone actually listening to what any of these people are saying understands that the American left is completely out of touch with the base it claims on everything from union membership to defunding the police, and all these countless examples of redefinitions from racism to gender to gayness.
If you care about gay people, if you care about trans people, if you care about one of the most successful multiracial democracies in the world, we have to hold to a center position here. We cannot let the left continue its moral crusade for the cult of social justice. And we cannot allow a reactionary right to continuing fomenting in its wake.
When I was in high school, I was intrigued by the story the American left was selling. Yeah, we had our major disagreements on issues like NAFTA, and I’ve never affiliated with the Democratic Party because of those things. But there was still some degree of affinity I bought into on social issues.
As I’ve gotten older, the direct line between the party of slavery, Jim Crow, opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the contemporary obsession with racializing everything, dismantling color-blindness, and encouraging segregation has never seemed so crystal clear. And even if you want to argue that the major US parties switched, the Democratic Party which implemented DOMA and DADT is the same Democratic Party flanked by a left-wing base out there now championing conversion therapy as a political virtue and opposition to homosexuality as a radical litmus test.
I’m out of metaphors to describe the insanity of America’s left-wing cults. The Republicans I went to high school with saw through it all much sooner than I did, and they had the bravery to carve out a conservative center between two extremist wings high on self-righteousness.
That center core, that’s the only relief from never-ending cultural warfare that I can see anymore. Civil logic, democratic kindness, and individual liberty within reason. Without taking responsibility for protecting those things, the tide will always rush back, and good undeserving people will always be dragged under.
Part of the Medium ecosystem? Follow me for more content like this.