Opinion » Ted Rall

Gays Sucked in

What happened to the gay movement of the 1970s?



I miss the gays of the 1970s. When they were wild. On the fringe. A threat to decent society. Decent society sucks.

I miss the gay-rights movement that came out of Stonewall. I miss the hilariously profane gay pride parades that prompted upright straights to assert, with (ahem) straight faces that if only gays didn't act so flamboyant, so disrespectful, so gay--then straight society might well condescend to "tolerate" them.

"The speed and scope of the movement are astonishing supporters," The New York Times points out. And hey, if playing Ozzie and Harriet behind a white picket fence is your thing, congratulations. This is your moment.

But gays and their allies are deluding themselves if they believe that achieving marriage equality is anything but a pyrrhic victory for liberals and progressives.

Gays and lesbians may not realize it yet, but adopting the cultural trappings of America's hegemonic majority culture is a suicidal move. This is why those fighting for the right to enter into state-sanctioned marital pacts are pushing against an open door.

Right-wing support for marriage equality ought to make gays suspicious. Several possible Republican presidential candidates have endorsed or softened their positions on gay marriage. And 80 percent of voters younger than 30 are for it. Even on the right, gay marriage has few enemies left.

Why would it? As Jon Huntsman wrote in The American Conservative recently, "Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause." Close but not quite. The sad truth is that the LGBT movement has abandoned its progressive roots. It has become a conservative movement.

"From asserting a powerful political critique of the heterosexual organization of society--to which monogamous marriage between two people is central--the loudest, strongest sections of the gay movement have set their sights on becoming just the same," mourns Ray Filar in a UK Guardian piece titled "How Conservatives Hijacked the Gay Movement."

Not convinced? Think about the other big LGBT issue: trying to convince the U.S. government to allow open gays and lesbians to join the military. Wouldn't it have been better for them to argue against militarism?

I don't get it. The big advantages of being gay were that you didn't have to get married or go to war. Why give that up?

Most liberation movements seek to advance society. After the Stonewall riot, the gay movement struggled to free not just gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people, but straights as well from a dominant heteronormative narrative that oppressed everyone. They pushed to destigmatize sex and the expression of sexual identity, and presented alternative means of sexual bonding and child-rearing such as triad and polyamorous relationships.

Of course, these "wild and crazy" approaches merely recognized demographic reality: By 2000, nontraditional families outnumbered the "normal" nuclear family headed by a father married to a mother with children.

Filar mocks the conservatives running today's gay movement: "We're just like you, honest! Please like us!"

It would've been so much better if we--the straight "normal" majority--had become more like gays. The gays of the 1970s, anyway.

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