Dan Savage got into a kerfuffle with the Ken dolls of GOProud last week after they endorsed the very anti-gay Mitt Romney for president. They were highly offended when Dan referred to them as the GOP’s “house faggots” in a tweet, choosing to ignore what he was actually saying and focus on the fact that he used the F-word. Then they just generally whined about how Dan is a bully. As I said at the time, people can argue over whether Dan’s choice of words was best. That’s fine. The general point he was making, though, is solid, and since the GOProud boys won’t drop it, Dan has responded with a lengthy, important essay about the tendency of some gay men to be self-destructive. I agree with it for the most part, but I have a couple things to add, so let’s take a look:
Gay people abuse drugs, alcohol, and tobacco at higher rates than straight people do. We also commit suicide at higher rates. The haters on the religious right argue that these higher rates of self-harming behaviors are proof that the gay “lifestyle” is inherently dangerous and unhealthy. And since legalizing same-sex marriage or banning anti-gay job discrimination might result in more people choosing the unhealthy gay “lifestyle”—because being gay is a choice—society should discriminate against gay people for their own good.
The haters have it backwards. It’s not that self-hatred in many gay people causes personally-destructive behavior. It’s that the external hatred all gay people have to endure—discrimination, oppression, bigotry, and rejection by family members poisoned by “faith”—can lead to substance abuse, punishing sexual excess, and suicide. Being gay doesn’t damage us. It’s the way we are treated for being gay that leaves many of us damaged.
This is all true, and I would add that being treated that way over the course of a life does indeed plant the seeds of self-hatred. The Religious Right would like to believe that gay people are filled with self-hatred because we know we’re hellbound sinners, blah blah blah, but no.
Dan then goes on to describe the ways he’s seen some gay men absolutely destroy themselves, with drugs, alcohol, sex, and notes that they tend to feel a need to take others down with them. He then points out this:
And for the record: having been damaged by hate and homophobia as a child explains but it doesn’t excuse self-destructive behaviors in adulthood. You’re responsible for the choices you make.
YES. The GOP likes to talk about being the “party of personal responsibility,” but with GOProud, this simply isn’t the case, as Dan will explain. I could write an essay about self-destructive patterns I’ve witnessed in people — and myself — but the key here is that actual adults have a responsibility to themselves and to those close to them to find those patterns and do something about them, for god’s sake. We are not what happened to us, and we choose how we respond to what happened to us. But again, that’s an essay for another day. I’ll simply say that Dan is on precisely the right track in the comparison he’s about to make between the self-destructive behaviors associated with sex, booze and drugs and those that manifest in other ways, for instance in the Professional Victimhood exhibited by leaders of GOProud:
Anyway, mixing it up with GOProud last week got me thinking about why a gay man would endorse—much less “commit significant resources” to help elect—a man who has pledged, if elected, to do as much harm as he possibly can to gay people. I mean, what kind of faggot supports a politician who would do him harm?
Oh, right: the same kind of faggot who would harm himself with drugs or alcohol or sex. The kind of gay men who don’t like themselves or other gay people much. But while most self-loathing, self-destructive gay men are content to abuse booze, drugs, or dick, the self-hating GOProud boys abuse themselves with politics. And just like gay meth addicts who aren’t satisfied harming only themselves, the boys at GOProud aren’t satisfied harming only themselves. They want to harm other gay people—they want to harm all gay people—by getting Mitt Romney elected. And just like your meth-addicted friend who pushed the drug on you, or your drunk friend who mocked you for stopping at four, or your sexually out-of-control friend who insisted that you were a prude if you didn’t play the come dump with him down at the bathhouse, the GOProud boys want you to abuse yourself the same way that they’re abusing themselves. They want you to vote for Mitt Romney for the same reason your meth-addicted pal wanted you to use that stupid drug.
Because they’re damaged.
I agree that that’s a big part of it. I would imagine that there’s a lot of internalized self-loathing going on for a gay person to stand up for the current slate of bigots who have the keys to the GOP. Dan points out that he’s specifically not talking about principled gay conservatives who believe in “small government” or whatever, but who will refrain from supporting people who openly incite hatred against them.
But there’s another element at play called white privilege, and I always go back to this. Maybe I notice it because I’m a white guy from the South who got interested in politics by reading the works of the late Molly Ivins — “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point — race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.”
Southern conservatives never really have that experience of questioning the status quo, and the white conservative men and women who represent GOProud are included in that. Put simply, they value their white privilege more than they care about the issues that affect LGBT Americans, because those just aren’t their issues. Put even more simply, they got theirs, and the rest of y’all can jump off a cliff for all they care. They position themselves alongside other wealthy Republicans who are motivated by the same sort of feudalistic sentiments, and they simply aren’t concerned with the fact that many gay teens end up homeless or dead, or that discrimination faced by LGBT people of color is far greater than that experienced by white conservatives who just happen to be gay. Marriage equality might affect them, but they can also afford lawyers to draw up contracts for them. They got theirs, and supporting politicians who would help, rather than hurt, in these areas, simply isn’t getting them tax cuts in their view. Sure, if asked, they might say, “oh, those are of course terrible things,” but then they whine about people like Dan Savage and other liberals who are actually trying to do something about it.
So yes, I imagine a lot of them are completely self-loathing and self-destructive, and I imagine some of them are simply just too eaten up with their own imagined elevated status in society to care about the peons in the LGBT community who have less than they do, and I imagine that, regrettably, for some of them, it’s both.
You’ll want to click over and read the whole thing, and the updates, as GOProud’s Chris Barron is deliberately misinterpreting Dan’s comments — or he just doesn’t understand them — to try to score cheap points and maintain his own professional victim status. He really wants y’all to weep for him, because he’s being so bullied right now. Perhaps he should take that whole “personal responsibility” thing to heart and work on figuring out why he’s willing to support people who hate him and would actively discriminate against him, and yet seems to so fervently detest those who would lift him up.