Hanging together

By Richard Goldstein

Originally published on Advocate.com August 15 2005 12:00 AM ET

I’ve done
my share of dissing gay conservatives, or homocons, as I
call them. When the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed
Bush in 2000, I accused them of looking for love in
all the wrong places. When they predicted that nothing
in our lives would change after Bush won, I thought they
were basking in the grand illusion of the stigmatized by
believing that their money would protect them from
discrimination.

Times have
changed. It’s clear now that the bigots who dominate
the Republican Party are a clear and present danger.
And it doesn’t matter to them how privileged
you are: A sodomite is a sodomite is a sodomite,
especially if you’re out.

Slowly but surely
homocons are facing this fact—and changing. Last year
Log Cabin decided not to endorse Bush—a logical but
also a courageous step. I never thought I’d say
that, but a new mood is rising. The current crisis is
forcing us to find common ground.

Call it a popular
front, an alliance of clashing ideologies that can only
exist in a state of emergency—and our situation fits
that bill. I’m used to being called a
fearmonger when I warn that all the progress we’ve
made can be rolled back, but consider the laws that
have been passed recently. Denying us the right to
marry is just the start.

In some states,
public institutions are forbidden from offering any
domestic-partner benefits. Doctors can refuse to treat us as
a matter of “conscience.” Books about us
are being yanked from library shelves. And as the
courts tilt even further to the right it’s possible
that “crime against nature” laws, as
they used to be called, will make a comeback. If
that’s not a crisis, I’m Rick Santorum.

The least we can
do in this climate is unite. And I have to hand it to
the Log Cabinites: They are helping to make that process
possible. Patrick Guerriero, their current leader, is
far more flexible and friendly than his partisan
predecessor, who once took out full-page ads in major
newspapers deriding our leaders for focusing on phony issues
like discrimination. Under Guerriero’s stewardship
Log Cabin has joined the rest of the movement in
supporting gay rights laws. In this climate of common
cause, homocon pundits who once specialized in attacking the
Left are toning down their rhetoric. I haven’t been
called a Commie in over a year now.

Sensitivity is
certainly a better organizing—and
fund-raising—tactic than nastiness. But the
idealist in me believes this shift isn’t just a
self-interested strategy. What makes it possible for the gay
right to embrace a unity agenda even though parts of
it may offend their philosophy? As a lefty the answer
is evident to me: It’s social reality.

There’s
nothing like a backlash to make you realize that, in the
eyes of our enemies, we’re all the same
abomination. And when a group of individuals is marked
for mistreatment, it soon develops a sense of shared
interests. This may be the GOP’s greatest achievement
where we’re concerned: It has brought us
together.

Can there be a
queer politics of empathy—not just an alliance of
necessity but a real affection for each other—and a
realization that we must stand together or suffer
separately? The answer is yes, if we focus on W.H.
Auden’s admonition “We must love each other or
die.” It’s time to embrace the bond that
bigotry creates—and I’m willing to do my part
by keeping the insult dog at bay.

I can’t
say I’d be comfortable in a room of gay Republicans.
(I’m suit-ophobic.) But I’m ready to
manage my fear—and mistrust—of homocons
since the message I’m getting from them is that
they’re willing to be seen in the same room as
me.