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Hanging together

Hanging together


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.

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Richard Goldstein