Blake Gopnik isn’t gay, but that hasn’t stopped him from being gay-bashed. As a teenager, he was beaten up in the street for being “gay.”
“It doesn’t take much to trigger a homophobe to wrath,” reasons Gopnik of the unreasonable. “When you’re being gay-bashed, you can’t say, ‘Don’t beat me up, I’m not gay!’ as if it would be fine to beat me up if I was gay.”
Now 47 and, until recently, chief art critic at The Washington Post (he just left that post for Newsweek/The Daily Beast), Gopnik is again a target of unreasonable homophobes. Once again, he’s not backing down.
The writer spoke out last year in the Post against the Smithsonian Institution’s removal of David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video A Fire in My Belly — which depicted ants crawling on a crucifix—from “Hide/Seek,” a National Portrait Gallery exhibition depicting same-sex love. When Gopnik reviewed the show November 5, he raved at length; in the November 30 edition, when he wrote about the hasty removal of the late gay artist’s work, a tribute to a former lover who had died of AIDS complications, Gopnik called those who run the museum “cowards.” (The Mapplethorpe and Warhol foundations have pulled funds until the video is reinstalled.)
The critic also responded to some of the nearly 4,000 angry e-mails he received, including death threats, for expressing his opinion. He was even called a “flaming homo” on a right-wing website run by the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell, the source of this nontroversy. “There was no outcry before Bozell and his organization got involved,” says Gopnik. “The loss to the show is not a huge artistic one, but it’s the principle of having people who are not involved in the show or involved in art deciding what gets put up.”