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The Atlantic, James Kirchick Dishonor Pride With a Serving of Crap

The Atlantic, James Kirchick Dishonor Pride With a Serving of Crap


Black trans women are dying, LGBTQ rights are being chipped away, and The Atlantic thinks it's a good idea to publish a neocon who says all our problems are behind us.

On Pride Day, the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn, thousands gathered on the streets of New York and around the country to celebrate everything that the LGBTQ movement has accomplished, and to redouble their resolve to continue the fight for equality. Meanwhile, across town, The Atlantic decided to run an article, written by gay conservative James Kirchick, stating the gay rights movement was over (not linking to it, but feel free to Google "trash by Kirchick"). Why? Because there is some sort of weird obligation by many in the media to give voice to an opinion, no matter how obtuse in its premise, no matter how poorly argued, no matter how much a thinly veiled partisan screed.

The author of the piece starts off by questioning the titles of some of the panel discussions at the 2018 Creating Change conference, choosing some of the ones that sound outlandish to him, such as "The Politics of Colony and Post-Hurricane Politics in PR and USVI" and "Asexuals." Of course this is meant in order to present the conference of prominent LGBTQ activists as out-of-touch, aloof types more concerned with minutia than actual LGBTQ equality. The author chose to ignore panels on allyship, campus activism, developing local community resource centers and local organizations, voter activism, religious intolerance, family advocacy, health care access, elder care, and more. Yes, some were on the bleeding edge of wonkishness and stereotypical social justice warriordom. Others were simply trying to explain issues facing elderly LGBTQ people, racism in the community, and workplace rights, and others meant to tackle the very real discrimination and bigotry that still exists against LGBTQ people. This sets the entire theme of the entire article, which, despite its lofty proclamation is nothing more than a screed against the "PC Left."

Yes, I call it a screed. An argument from verbosity. Spending the effort to type thousands of words to simply say that political correctness is bad by constantly conceding throughout the article countless cited examples of the effects of discrimination. Firstly he starts off by stating that 70 percent of Americans feel that homosexuality should be accepted. Of course this is great news, but ignores that in 2008, 76 percent of Americans said the U.S. was ready for a black president. With the election of Barack Obama, we had exactly that, but also a massive backlash in racist sentiment, and the FBI reporting a 17 percent increase in hate crimes. Of course the author of this piece ignores hate-crimes statistics in his argument and even dismisses them.

Part of the problem with trying to use statistics on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes to make the argument the movement succeeded is that only 33 states have passed hate-crime laws covering lesbians and gays, and only 22 cover gender identity. Additionally, only 29 states require their governments to collect hate-crime statistics, and only 19 of those cover sexual orientation. Basing an argument for acceptance on what appears to be a dearth of hate crimes rings patently dishonest, considering that there is no reliable way to track all of them, that in many states it's not considered worthy to impart particular punishment, nor even to keep track of them. While the article cites a wrestler wearing gay-themed apparel as a point of victory, it ignores that for decades black and Jewish characters have appeared on television, and just within the past three years, blacks and Jews have been targeted a right-wing mass shooters in their own churches and synagogues. Popular entertainment has never and will never mean equality, just entertainment that has been market tested for profitability.

While Kirchick of course celebrates the legalization of same-sex marriage in America as a victory, he quickly skips over the complete lack of federal law protecting LGBTQ people and moves on to cite the growing numbers in the Human Rights Campaign's index of companies that score highly on LGBTQ equality. Again, the author ignores that while corporations are fantastic at providing benefits to the community, 99.7 percent of employers in America are still small businesses. When you add into the fact there are no federal job protections for LGBTQ people, 12 states provide no protection either, with the rest making up a hodgepodge of laws that cover sexual orientation but not gender identity, you find that it's largely a meaningless item to cite, since most of us do not and will not ever work for a Fortune 1000 corporation. I am not a fellow at the Brookings Institution nor a Yale graduate like Kirchick, but I know what selective citation of facts looks like.

When you consider that for much of Kirchick's argument he ignores transgender people, saying that the conflation of them with the broader movement is something new, in order to ignore directly targeted anti-transgender legislation, the rolling back of rights, and outright violence, you begin to see a pattern emerging of selective citations devoid of broader context or even contradictory information. Firstly, transgender people were at Stonewall, and anyone with simple knowledge of LGBTQ history would know that. Additionally, the attempts to remove transgender people from the movement have always been the domain of conservative elements such as trans-exclusionary radical feminists and Log Cabin Republicans, yet throughout the history of the movement, transgender people have been part of it, yet ignored when convenient.

Kirchick seems particularly upset that the most recent print edition of Out on the topic of Pride is largely devoted to transgender people and doesn't feature any lesbians at all, and he goes on to complain about how Martina Navratilova was called out for her anti-trans remarks involving sports. When you also consider that not one trans woman has come to dominate any women's sport, and no trans man has either, one begins to wonder why this is such an issue. Add in the fact that Caster Semenya, a cisgender woman, was required to take anti-testosterone medicine in order to compete, due to her body naturally producing more, it makes the argument that such concerns are more based in transphobia than concern for fair competition.

Frankly, if Kirchick is transphobic, he should have the courage to say it outright than to hide it behind handwaving away anti-transgender laws, violence, and discrimination to make the argument that the gay rights movement is over.

At other parts, Kirchick goes on to complain how the word "queer" has come to been seen as a popular term to self-describe in the community by citing of all people, William F. Buckley not liking the term, by saying that the term connotes a "political and lifestyle radicalism." He also goes on to decry the inclusivity by some organizations of peripheral groups such as the polyamorous and practitioners of BDSM at Wesleyan University. As if colleges, especially Wesleyan, have never before been a place where radical groups gather for community and self-expression. One wonders why of William F. Buckley is worthy of citation in an argument about the LGBTQ community in any regard. One might as well cite Strom Thurmond's use of the n word when discussing race in America.

Time and time again, Kirchick continues to cite the "separatist 'queer' left" as an example of why the LGBTQ movement has achieved full victory and has lost its way. As I said before about Kirchick's constant dismissal of transgender history in the movemen, and the continuing discrimination trans people suffer, just have the courage to say what you want to say. Kirchick is a conservative gay man who dislikes the "PC left." Just say that. Write about that. Do not say that the movement is over, because it absolutely is not, and he should know it.

James Kirchick first rose to fame covering the expansion of anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia. For years Russian laws have expanded to limit not only gay rights, but of even speaking about gay people's existence and advocating for their rights. Pride parades have been effectively banned, not since 1992, but since 2012. Same-sex marriage is banned, and under the protection of Russia, Chechnya began violently purging its gay population. All of this is part of an expanding anti-LGBTQ attitude in Russia, and many of these laws and acts are not decades old, but merely years. They have been linked by numerous international agencies and academics to a growing nationalist movement under Vladimir Putin. Of course, nationalist movements would never happen here in America, would they? Of course not, just ask James Kirchick, who is part of the group of conservatives who have decried Trump as a nationalist, authoritarian populist.

Throughout the article, Kirchick seems quite bothered by the attacks on private businesses such as the "gay wedding cake" issue as well as Chick-fil-A. Of course these are protests against businesses choosing to take on discriminatory acts in for the sake of religious freedom. As Kirchick might know from his attacks on anti-LGBTQ sentiment, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church decried same-sex marriage as a sign of the Apocalypse. Additionally, part of Putin's efforts to consolidate power and create a nationalist movement has relied heavily upon appealing to the power of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Certainly that would never happen in our country, what with Trump choosing as his vice president an evangelical politician who once appeared to promote conversion therapy. No, not with Trump's constant pandering to members of the evangelical right, who have long cited LGBTQ people as one of the major threats to their way of life and have embraced a white, cisgender, and heteronormative nationalist ideology. It could never happen here, could it?

No, of course not. Just like electing a man who apologized for neo-Nazis, calling some of them "fine people" and giving mealy-mouthed responses to the attacks on black churches and synagogues would never empower a growing movement of aggrieved white men into the kind of radicalization that took the liberal, progressive Weimar Republic of Germany in the 1920s to passing the Nuremburg Laws of 1935, which stripped the Jews of their citizenship and set the path toward one of the greatest horrors committed by humanity in history.

Of course people are going to fight against the excuse to hide bigotry behind faith. They are going to fight for the minutia and trivialities one might see because all it ever takes is for one small infection to turn septic. Kirchick's willingness to dismiss the abuse LGBTQ people suffer, the lack of access, the creep of the Trump administration, and the very suicides by people that he concedes in his very own article proves that the movement is not over. No matter how many convenient gotchas he cites. No matter how many straw men he sets up, and how many isolated examples he chooses to hold up as the norm and not the exceptions they are, it doesn't change the fact the movement is not over.

What Kirchick thinks is over is the primacy of heteronormative cisgender gay men in the LGBTQ movement. He should have simply said that. He simply could have said doesn't like coastal liberals and the PC left and spared us the insult of his article on the 50th anniversary of Pride.

Amanda Kerri is an Oklahoma-based writer and comedian, a regular contributor to The Advocate, and a former board member for Oklahoma City Pride. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.

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