Wednesday, November 19, 2008

success and ideological divorce

Prop 8 has forced me to give up on the notion that gay marriage, and with it, complete integration of the homosexual community into mainstream America, are inevitable. I still find it quite likely, however, that there will be a time, perhaps not in my lifetime, when gay people will suffer no particular disenfranchisement from the American project. You know what predictions are worth, of course-- if you had asked me a year ago if California would vote against gay marriage, I would have been certain the answer would be no-- and none of us has the luxury of taking it easy, in the belief that gay marriage is just going to come. But my gut tells me that this country moves towards liberty, and towards justice, and I think that sooner or later, gay people will find themselves perfectly integrated citizens.

One consequence of this, it seems to me, will be that gay people will stop being an identifiable part of this country's liberal coalition. As homosexuality becomes less and less differentiated from conventional life, and there are more and more victories for gay normalcy and gay acceptance, there will likewise be less reason for a gay rights movement. And as gay people become fully integrated into the American experience as equal participants, the need for gay people to ally with any one partisan or ideological apparatus will shrink. One of my frustrations with conservative opposition to grievance politics and special interest groups is the fact that some groups of people actually have legitimate grievances (like being denied marriage rights). Sometimes certain groups of people actually have special interests, and as democracy is a system of individuals and groups competing for their own best interests, it's natural to have affinity groups dedicated to pursuing those interests. So the cure for minority politics is to remove the complaints of the minority groups in the first place.

This is, really, in keeping with an ideal most of us hold about any identity group or minority group: that as we progress towards eliminating their differentiated status, we want their status as minorities to mean less and less in terms of politics or culture. In other words, when there stops being a "gay identity" (which is inevitably constraining), there should equally be a end to the gay political identity. (Or at least, as we have come to know it.) If homosexuals are going to truly become just citizens, it's both natural and in their best interests for them to adhere to political parties or ideology based on their visions of political philosophy and public policy. That's democracy, after all, that's our vision of a community of equals who define themselves by their ideals and not through matters of race, ethnicity, sexual preference, religion or sex. (Though, of course, those things will influence our ideals.)

Not that I think gay men and women are likely to become majority conservative, or evenly distributed along the ideological axis. Heritage and traditions are more powerful influences on political affiliation, I believe, that we tend to account for. The social cues and experiences of gay men and women, if a gay culture can survive integration, will probably stay largely "liberal" in the mushy sense. It's impossible, of course, to fully divide what part of any person's political identity is a function of minority grievance and what part is "just ideology". I'm not suggesting that gay liberals are so oriented (uh, politically, that is) because they are gay. It's just that people will rally around the side that argues for them, more often than not, and there are I think quite a few people who stand with liberalism on social issues but not on economics. At the very least, anyone who knows more than a few gay people is sure to know some gay conservatives, and I'm sure more gay people will self-identify as such when conservatism gets out of the business of telling them who to marry, or that they are immoral or sinful. Bad for my ideology, perhaps, on a purely tactical level, but I think good for anyone who believes in a politics based on universal issues and philosophy.

I doubt I'll be around to see the end of the gay movement (through victory) and the requisite ending of the gay/liberal alliance. These things just take too long, and there is still far too much work to be done. If it does happen in my lifetime, I'll miss having the gays in the liberal alliance. They bring the style, if you'll forgive the stereotype, and politics is much more about aesthetics than many of us would like to admit. Plus (generally speaking) you can kid a lot of gay people about their minority status, in a way you can't kid a lot of other people with legitimate minority grievances. I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with this, but it's always struck me that a sense of the ridiculous is an essential element to dealing with oppression. Oppression is at its weakest, intellectually, when the utter absurdity of it is laid bare. You're going to tell me I can't drink at this water fountain because I'm black? Are you serious? You're going to tell me who I can and can't marry? Are you kidding? Put the spotlight on oppression and the intellectual underpinnings of it become so transparently weak, you almost have to laugh.

Anyway-- this is all pretty far flung and hypothetical. For now it's time for opposition, protest, organization and work.


Matoko said...

nah, it is inevitable, Freddie.
8 years ago, prop 22 passed by 30%.
prop 8 by a little more than 4%.
Bigots get old and die off.
Check this, sass guy.
Those oldskool GOP guys, like at the Corner?
The don't unnerstand teh maths.

Freddie said...

My fear, matoko, is that the belief that gay marriage is inevitable provokes people to feel like they don't have to fight for it. And, clearly, they do.

The Abstracted Engineer said...

You argue that telling someone whom they cannot marry is as absurd as telling them they cannot drink from a certain water fountain, but I disagree. Would you find it so absurd if I told you that you cannot marry a panda bear?
Though I disagree with Prop 8 ideologically, and I am not anti-gay, I am anti-marry-whatever-tickles-your-fancy, and the temporary ban on gay marriage imposed by Prop 8 will hopefully allow legislators to properly define what a civil union is, making gay marriage more acceptable to some conservatives who blanche at the marriage free-for-all that would have otherwise been inevitable.

Matoko said...

nah, it will just take longer.
But one should always fight for what one believes.
I think the Cali supremes are likely having a very Loving vs Virginia moment right about now.

quellcrist falconer said...

see Freddie?
Ima psychic.

Matoko said...

wrong arrogant preachie scifi avatar.

paul said...

So, off-topic, but I'm just curious; who are you, what exactly is your education/background/etc., and why have all of the people that I normally read (McArdle, Dreher, etc etc) started constantly citing you in the last few weeks? Not that I mind ... I just can't quite figure out why very prominent conservative columnists are now, like, forced to take Freddie DeBoer's thoughts into account.

Matoko said...

lol, freddie isn't a conservo, he's our prisoner.

Matoko said...

and our traduttore/traditore I should add.

Freddie said...

Uh, I'm just a bozo with an Internet connection. I'm Freddie. Private citizen. 27 year old single white straight male agnotheist goofball.

I certainly hope no one links to me out of any sense of obligation, or anything. Hopefully they like some of the things I have to say, or the way I express myself, or how I frame these questions. Kind of hate to think I come off as presumptuous, or something. I don't know, I have to express myself cause I get concerned about things, and also because I am choking with emotions I can't begin to express.

If it's a matter of media credentials, I have none-- there's no way I could get an internship at the New Republic or the Nation or whatever. Just got the mic, only know how to rock it one way, etc.

paul said...

Oh, it wasn't like a "how dare anyone notice you, an unwashed uncredentialed blogger" sort of thing, I just found it sort of surprising that you were suddenly popping up on nearly every blog that I read. And quite well-deserved, I might add; you're one of the most interesting non-shrill liberals I've read.

Freddie said...

To better answer your question, I was a commenter on a lot of blogs before I started my own, and that's particularly how Megan knows me. The name of my blog, which means the Guest, is a joke on that, as well as a reference to the greatest piece of existential fiction ever.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think a divorce between gays and the left is inevitable once marriage equality is in place? There will probably be antipathy towards gays and gay marriage for a long time on the right (at least on the right wing of the GOP) even after that happens. Blacks tend to vote Democrat decades after civil rights, and despite the streak of social conservatism in many black communities.

James said...

I think that what you miss here, Freddie, is the whole "LBGT" angle, soon to become "LBGTQQI". The latter addendum is "Intersex" and regardless of discussion over to what extent these letters actually constitute a cohesive monolith until children born with ambiguous genitals cease being castrated and/or sewn up the whole show is not over. And that's probably going to take quite a while, given that America still tends to slice up perfectly healthy baby boys (although that practice is, very thankfully, dying away and is unlikely to withstand mass Hispanic immigration).

Which is assuming, of course, that once the gays get their way (and the lesbians, of course) they don't split apart (schism?) from the rest of the bunch. Along with the bisexuals, presumably. Whether the sense of freak solidarity would outlast certain sections of the group being considered freakish ("Queer" is an especially tricky one, given the ineluctable connotations which preclude normalcy) is unclear. But I wouldn't say it's safe to just assume that the gays get what they want and it's all over.

To give you some idea of how things have gone here in England, at least (where people get "Civil Partnerships" which everyone calls marriages and are exactly the same upon all levels save nominal) you might want to read this:

Seems like an old gay establishment (Stonewall) versus assorted binary deviants sort of thing, but you also have to factor in the feminist face-off (destroy the Patriarchy vs. Hide from the Patriarchy with like-minded lesbians).

So yes, in short, it gets complicated.

chowderSF said...

Hey Freddie,
I liked this post of yours. I somehow stumbled upon some conservative blogs and like a few others here, found you. Have you bookmarked to see what else you might say in the future... ;)
As a lifelong gay (the only kind---so no james, it's not a choice), I find your argument intriguing and plausible. It's probably just me, but the uproar over allowing people to marry being made by bible-believers, to me is a bit surreal. Let me get this straight...some people, who I will never, ever meet - (I mean, they will never have to see my partner and I embracing each other....god forbid having to explain to the children that it is just two people who love each other), that they feel the divine motivation to do whatever it takes to deny me happiness? I guess my BIG question to these people is where are the frightening fears based? Is it the satisfaction of pushing their ideals on others? Their religious fanaticism? Now, I consider myself an average person, brought up will manners, morals and an honest empathy for others. It just would never occur to me, to go to great lengths working to take rights away from other people. Is it a liberal thing..?... It's late, I am rambling, sorry. Thanks again for giving me some new things to consider,,,,,and keep it up!

Matoko said...

Freddie, culture doesn't shape people as much as people shape culture according to their needs. Culture 11 kinda gets it, but they are more like a snapshot or a saggital section of a frozen specimen, one small slice of the spacetime continum.
The old successful form of marriage wasn't 1man+1woman, it was polygamy. For hundreds and thousands of years. Agrarianism and then Industrialism made 1man-1woman family units both possible and evolutionarily successful. That became the preferred cultural form. Now homosapiens sapiens has evolved birth control and reproductive therapy and adoption protocols, so the old taboos don't apply. We evolve new forms of marriage as the need arises.
Some more primitive tribes cling to the old taboos out of ignorance and superstition, and a kind of hangover from the EEA (environment of evolutionary advantage).
But eventually they too will be forced to evolve.
Evo theory of culture 101.

Mike Rock said...

@The Abstracted Engineer - marriage is a contract between two mutually consenting adult people. When was the last time you heard a panda say "I do"? *FAIL*.

heyref said...

@The Abstracted Engineer - Also, the panda bear isn't allowed to drink from the water fountain. And that's OK.

Mark said...

Interesting post, but I think that if the gay community started voting more conservatively (it is already conservative; it just doesn't vote that way), it would represent some of the most rank hypocrisy we've ever seen.

In the aftermath of Prop 8, we've heard a constant refrain about how African-Americans don't seem to understand that gay marriage is all part of the same struggle for human rights as their struggle for voting rights in the south.

But gay marriage is not the last human rights issue in our lives. Joining the Republican party would be a rejection of the commitment to human rights (like it or not, the Republican tent has a lot of racists, sexists and homophobes in it) that has been used to indict the conservative views of other groups.

If gay people started voting Republican in large numbers, they'd be voting against their social self-interests, it would make them the same kinds of pawns as those Kansans who are so concerned about abortion that they would vote against their economic self-interest. And it would convince a lot of people that the struggle for gay rights was ultimately a struggle for the rights of rich white men.

Bucko said...

There's always been a strong streak of conservatism among gay men, usually expressed in Libertarian self-sufficiency. When coming out leads to being disinherited (as it nearly always did), people were forced to make it on their own without the support of their families (and their money).

This often leads to a bitter sort of misanthropy. Add to this the extra cash that comes from earning an executive wage without the monetary responsibility of raising kids (frequently in a two-income household) and fiscal conservatism is in their best interest.

Stir in lots of misogyny: aside from their hags (and, maybe, siblings), gay men have traditionally had precious little use for straight women, and there's always been an antipathy between gay men and lesbians. At many gay bars, even now, the presence of women is most unwelcome and they need to produce multiple forms of ID just to walk in the door.

And although it's much better than it was, say, 25 years ago, there is a pointed racism that infects many otherwise intelligent gay men that is shared in confidence if never really publicly stated.

Then there's the odd social conservatism of so many in the leather scene...

Mark said...

@Bucko - I agree with your analysis. A lot of people presume the nobility of the minority, and it's unfortunate that gay men - so obviously oppressed and hated - may turn out to vote for those who would kick their own gay sons out of the house.

On the other hand, this self-interested fiscal conservatism and libertarianism may be a phenomenon of generations where gay men were disinherited. There's no arguing that it happens less and less now, and so the outcome may not be as cut-and-dried as we think as the population ages.

JeffB said...

Actually, you'd find a lot of conservative gays if you took away the blatant discrimination we face in society. You'd find gays who remain liberal, as well, just for different reasons than the ones that have energized us in recent decades. I happen to think that we will achieve full equality in your lifetime, and sooner than you'd expect. At that point, we will fall pretty much all over the political spectrum, like everyone else, and we will concern ourselves more with the economy, national security, etc.