Reading the Far Right: Homophobia, Veiled and Overt

Reading the Far Right: Homophobia, Veiled and Overt

The folks at Breitbart really, really hated the Resist March held Sunday in Los Angeles.

The far-right site, one of several we monitor so you, Advocate readers, don’t have to, is going so far as to call Sunday “The Day the Gay Rights Movement Ended.” Breitbart, which claims not to embrace homophobia (that claim is questionable, and it certainly is full of transphobia), is basically making the argument that the LGBT rights movement used to be OK but has descended into left-wing insanity.

Actually, it’s doubtful that the people behind Breitbart would have embraced the Stonewall protesters, many of whom were transgender women of color and far from wealthy, or any LGBT movement with a shred of diversity or an ounce of backbone. The article reminds us of some people who today find Martin Luther King Jr. far more acceptable than current civil rights activists but would have demonized him as a dangerous radical in the 1960s.

Along with Breitbart’s disingenuous article on Sunday’s march, we found lots of overt homophobia in our reading of the far-right media this past week — plus a claim that what was needed to stop the Pulse massacre was a good guy with a gun.

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“The conversion of the Los Angeles Gay Pride march into the anti-Trump ‘#ResistMarch’ on Sunday marked the effective end of the gay rights movement,” wrote Breitbart senior editor at large Joel B. Pollak. “Once, the gay rights movement stood for tolerance: hence the rainbow flag, which is a symbol not only of pride but also of acceptance. But the message on Sunday was that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) conservatives are unwelcome in that spectrum — and are, in fact, aiding the enemy.”

Pollak contended that the movement has changed “from a force for liberation into a tool for repression.” One reason, he said, is that it “has run out of great causes for which to fight.” He continued, “With the Supreme Court’s June 2015 discovery of a right to gay marriage in the U.S. Constitution, the gay rights movement has little left to achieve. It has poured energy and resources into the new cause of transgender rights, but that is a deeply complicated issue that affects a tiny percentage of Americans.” He also praised Donald Trump, the site’s favorite president, for “specifically name-checking the movement at the 2016 Republican National Convention.”

There is so much that is wrong with Pollak’s column. Given that in a majority of U.S. states it’s still legal to fire a person for being LGBT, or refuse to rent to them, or discriminate against them in myriad other ways, we can’t agree that there are “no more great causes for which to fight.” Federal and state lawmakers are trying to get “license to discriminate” bills passed, LGBT youth are still being kicked out of their homes, and transgender people, especially women of color, face disproportionate rates of poverty and violence. And it doesn’t matter how many transgender Americans there are — no population, no matter how small, deserves less than full equality.

And Trump has rescinded federal guidance for schools on how to treat transgender students, made it harder to enforce President Obama’s antidiscrimination order for federal contactors, and appointed a slew of anti-LGBT Cabinet members and a Supreme Court justice who is no friend to marriage equality. Talk about actions speaking louder than words.

Many LGBT rights organizations have reached out to Republicans and conservatives — the Human Rights Campaign has endorsed a few of them and gotten criticized for it, and HRC and others have sought to get Republican support for antidiscrimination legislation. There are some reasonable Republicans and conservatives out there, but unfortunately the Republican Party for the most part is in thrall to the religious right and its anti-LGBT ideology. Trump, who once at least made a show of being a moderate on social issues, embraced that ideology to get elected — along with ideology that’s hostile to immigrants, women, the poor, people of color, and many others. It all adds up to an ideology that merits resisting.

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For a look at homophobic and transphobic religious right ideology, one has to go no further than BarbWire, which purports to offer a biblical worldview. It carried a column last week by Robert Oscar Lopez, pulling out the old canard that LGBT people are out to “recruit” children.

“The recent hearings in Washington DC, involving Betsy DeVos, make it very clear that the LGBT lobby, as well as its allies, must follow cues of either funders or strategists who have determined that recruiting children into the LGBT identity, and then locking them into it, is fundamental to the LGBT community’s survival,” Lopez wrote.

The hearings involved DeVos’s proposal for federally funded tuition vouchers that would enable children to attend private schools. She was pressed on whether vouchers would be withheld from schools that discriminate against LGBT kids or those with LGBT parents, and she wouldn’t commit.

Coverage of the DeVos hearings, according to Lopez, “repeats the lie that the there are ‘LGBTQ kids’ in ‘schools’ who must receive special accommodations or be ‘discriminated against.’” Yes, he’s denying that such kids exist.

“There are no LGBTQ kids since sexuality does not develop into such strong identifications until the late teens, by which time people should be out of school and figuring out how to make a living in the world at large,” he contended. “The unhealthy dynamics of gay life that have led activists to feel so desperate to drag children into their network are precisely why it is dishonest to present a rosy and untroubled image of homosexuality to children at an age too young to deal with the consequences of gay sex.”

We probably don’t have to lay out everything that’s wrong with that. Lopez also claimed LGBT people have to increase their numbers so their organizations can get funding or because “the LGBTQ community knows it faces its own demographic winter.” He further argued, “It’s entirely possible to quit the LGBTQ lifestyle and just decide to go with the opposite sex, labels and ideologies be damned.” Well, some people do have a fluid sexual orientation or gender identity — but that’s certainly not what he’s talking about. In this guy’s world, only heterosexual and cisgender people are OK. And any child who shows signs of being anything other than that, well, just pray it away — which is more like bullying them into the closet, or worse.

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In another column published by BarbWire last week, theology professor John Barber (it’s not clear if he’s related to site founder Matt Barber) asserted that there’s no such thing as a gay Christian — even a gay person who refrains from acting on same-sex desires, he said, can’t be a real Christian, because Jesus would have taken those desires away. “Without the dominion of sin being broken, the picture of the gay Christian is equivalent to a unicorn sighting,” Barber wrote.

That concept is rejected even by some Christian denominations that don’t approve of same-sex relationships, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormon Church, which say a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person can be faithful to the church’s doctrine by remaining celibate. It’s also certainly contrary to the experiences of those who identify as gay and Christian. And some mainline Christian denominations are far more accepting, with the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and more offering church marriages to same-sex couples.

But that wouldn’t fit Barber’s definition of Christian. And those who are campaigning for greater acceptance of LGBT people in various churches, according to him, are driven by a “sinister spirit” to conduct “the total restructuring of the historic, Christian ethic on homosexuality.”

Well, Barber is free to believe what he wants and to fight it out with other Christian bodies. But don’t forget that the Bible has been used to justify slavery, the execution of nonbelievers, and many other things now considered reprehensible. Maybe someday the justification of homophobia and transphobia will be considered equally un-Christian.

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Oh, and yet another BarbWire contributor, Julio Severo, spent a recent column excoriating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month. And even though Trump hasn’t issued a proclamation for Pride Month or scheduled a reception for it (as Obama did every year of his presidency), Severo saw Trump as complicit in the dreaded “homosexual agenda.”

“The same homosexual principles that drove U.S. diplomacy under Obama now drive the U.S. diplomacy under Trump,” Severo wrote. “The only difference is that while Obama was vocal about these principles, Trump gives a tacit support, by allowing his own administration to speak for himself. If the saying ‘silence means assent’ is correct, Trump’s ‘silence’ is a message.”

Oh, and by “homosexual principles” he seems to mean the condemnation of anti-LGBT persecution around the world. “Obama used the U.S. government to lead the world, by his bad example, into accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal,” Severo commented. “By tacit or explicit support, the Trump administration is leading the world in the same bad example.” Severo also gave credence to the hate-fueled stereotype that gay people prey on children.

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June marks not only Pride Month, but the anniversary of one of the worst tragedies visited upon LGBT people — the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando June 12, 2016. Almost every major news outlet in the nation is covering the anniversary, and Breitbart took some of them to task for being insufficiently anti-Muslim.

Not that Breitbart reporter Adelle Nazarian put it exactly that way. But she wrote, “The media has made little to no mention of the fact that a jihadist, influenced by a radical Islamic ideology, was behind this crime. Instead, most of the stories in the press have painted the incident as a generic form of ‘hate.’”

Actually, most of the coverage of the crime in the past year (including in The Advocate) has noted that gunman Omar Mateen, who died in a shootout with police, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a.k.a. ISIS. The media, however, also acknowledged that Mateen may have had other motivations. And some of the stories Nazarian cited focused on memorials to the victims and the perspectives of survivors; not everything has to be about Mateen’s motives.

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One more thing on Pulse: NRATV — the National Rifle Association’s online video channel — marked the anniversary with a broadcast in which host Grant Stinchfield called the victims “sheep that were just, sadly, trapped there.” NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch replied with a variation on the organization’s theme that a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun, saying that any group of people going to a social gathering should have a “designated concealed carrier,” like drinkers taking along a designated driver. Somehow, the idea of more people with guns in crowded public venues doesn’t make us feel safer. (Thanks to Media Matters for the alert on this.)

We’ll be back next week, still monitoring the extreme right-wing media so you don’t have to.

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