When I was coming out as a gay man in the early 1990s, I searched in vain for books which could help me deal with my difference. With the possible exception of Andrew Tobias’ (then published under the alias John Reid) The Best Little Boy in the World, I didn’t find a single book where the ideas or anecdotes corresponded to my ideas, my feelings or even my hopes. To be sure, there were a few novels I read and enjoyed, but too many included some notion of a gay consciousness, sense of some sort of abstract group identity, defined by the community rather than individual gay men and women.
That is, until 1993, when I discovered Bruce Bawer’s A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society. That wonderful book comes to mind today primarily because of its subtitle–the Gay Individual in American society. The other books developed an abstract notion of gay identity, based on the sociopolitical values of the gay community. As if merely by coming out, we abandon the values and ideas of those around us.
Given the focus on a community identity, it’s no wonder that so many gay activists — and their allies on the left — have difficulty grasping the notion of a gay conservative. So, so many on the left show so little sympathy for the lives of those individual gay men and women whom they would out to advance their partisan agenda.
Not only do they lack sympathy for these individuals, but it seems that some of those involved in the “outing” campaign want to punish them for not being “good homosexuals,” that is, by not adopting the party line on what it means to be gay. It almost seems that they want us to suffer. And their notion of coming out is not to promote the well-being of the individual gay man or lesbian, but so that her or she can become part of an interest group which promotes a left-wing agenda and works to elect Democrats to office.
They see us not as gay individuals, but as members of yet another interest group advancing the left-wing cause. No wonder they treat us as apostates.
While many of the leaders of the gay movement see themselves as part of a broad “progressive” force to change society, gay conservatives know that the modern American conservatism developed in opposition to the growth of the secular state. At least since Barry Goldwater, their focus has been on freedom, the right of the individual to live his life as he sees fit. Individualism has been at the core of American conservatism since its very early days. For example, in the 1960s, at the dawn of the American conservative movement, Chicago students called their quarterly journal the New Individualist Review.
It is this no wonder as Bruce noted yesterday that American conservatives are sticking up for Gays. They respect the privacy of gay Republicans, not necessary because we’re gay or Republican, but because we’re individual citizens. They may not agree some of our choices, but they respect our right to make them.
And that is really the difference between contemporary American conservatism and the ideology that defines the American left. Most of those on the right see us as individuals who should be left to live our lives as we see fit. While too many of those on the left see us as members of a group who should have the attitudes they deem appropriate to that group.
They may claim that they are for gay people and promote legislation which is supposed to advance our cause, yet when it comes to individual dealings with particular homosexuals, too many of them are no different that their social conservative adversaries — for they have a fixed notion of what it means to be gay. And that is why, in most debates, I side with the conservatives for as has been made manifest in numerous blog posts and even Op-Eds, the thinkers on the right, the true heirs of Abraham Lincoln, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan nor interested in bashing gays or even in using the state to advance their interests, but in treating us as individuals and letting us alone to live freely as individual Americans.
Since George Washington, the rallying cry of Americans has been liberty, freedom. And that freedom extends to gay people, whether they’re conservative or liberal, even if they want to live in the closet. We may not agree with their choice, but we support their right to make it. It’s their lives we’re talking about, not ours.
It’s time for gay leftists to stop being such nosy busybodies and learn to appreciate the diversity of our community. And take the time to understand why some gay people may not share their political ideology.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)