WTF Wednesday: the rise of “reverse homophobia”
[Trigger Warnings: heterosexism, pedophilia]
Queer people have officially made it. We experience a marginalization that is popularly recognized as existing (although getting straight people to acknowledge and act on their responsibility for it is… uh… less popular). How do we know that whatever we want to call it, homophobia or heterosexism, has become a commonly understood Thing with a capital T?
Because straight people are now complaining about how it’s nothing compared to what they have to go through for being straight.
The road to this began long ago. The first article I wrote for Velociriot (way back in 2012) actually touched on this issue, so this is hardly a new phenomenon. But it’s no longer cryptic online groups that are talking about the need to celebrate straightness in a society that’s, supposedly, so very “heterophobic”. No, now it’s would-be presidential contenders like Michele Bachmann that talk about how “the gays” have bullied “the American people” who apparently are only straight with the campaigns against the various right-to-discriminate bills that have cropped up around the country. You see, we‘re apparently oppressing them, in violation of the constitution!
Bachmann isn’t alone in this fight to reframe the debate as being about “reverse homophobia”. Conservative media figures, most obviously Rod Dreher, are helping this sort of bizarre thinking along. Dreher skirted into this sort of territory before, at the National Review, a conservative leaning site. In a 2002 editorial, that no longer leads to a direct page but is widely quoted elsewhere, he credited child abuse and the various cover-ups in the Catholic Church to “a secret, powerful network of gay priests”. By 2010, in more public forums he instead pointed to hierarchical issues within the Catholic Chruch. It might be easy to graft him into a story of heterosexist rhetoric becoming less socially acceptable in the US in light of that.
But don’t be fooled. He is actually more committed than ever to the notion of powerful, dangerous queer people that mean ill towards others. Only now, instead of their victims being children, it’s him and other straight people! In a staggeringly long screed published last Friday, Dreher pulled together a narrative of straight oppression. It’s long, long-winded, and frankly boring so I’ll simply cut it down to its highlights:
I hear all the time from religious conservatives in various fields — in particular media and academia — who are afraid to disclose their own beliefs about same-sex marriage because most people within those fields consider opposition to SSM to be driven solely by hatred. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a man who is probably the most accomplished and credentialed legal scholar I’ve ever met, someone who is part of this country’s law elite. The fact that I can’t identify him here, or get into specifics of what he told me, indicates something important about the climate within law circles around this issue. On this issue, he lives in the closet, so to speak, within his professional circles, and explained to me why it has become too dangerous to take a traditionalist stand in law circles, unless one is prepared to sabotage one’s career.
He [the same man referenced above] also said that religious conservatives really don’t understand the McCarthyism that’s about to come at them. Simply affirming what their faith teaches about sexuality in context of the gay rights debate really is, and will increasingly be, seen not as evidence of one’s poor thinking, but rather as evidence of one’s personal evil.
[even more blathering]
Has Andrew ever been threatened by a potentially career-ending complaint that expressing his beliefs create a “hostile work environment”?
Quite literally, the closet is no longer for queer people to reference, as a metaphorical place they are shamed into by a culture that still thinks of us as inferior, in the very social standards and political policies that Dreher is defending his right to support. Likewise, McCarthyism, which is often forgotten for its effect of purging LGBT government employees (among other marginalized groups from public work), is what we should describe the mild criticism faced by some opponents to the shallowest version of LGBT rights imaginable. Finally, a man who is gay, and therefore is liable to face the kind of discrimination in his place of employment that is entirely legal in 18 states (and it’s more if you only look at private sector protections, or require those statutes to be trans-inclusive), knows nothing of the threat of workplace discrimination known to straight people.
This is the ultimate end of the basic debate over the existing of a system (variously named) that privileges straight people, ideas, understandings over those who are or are held by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and other queer people. We have gotten to the stage where the script is widely accepted enough that bigots have to publicly flip it. I’d throw some confetti, but this is a pretty hollow victory. If you haven’t heard it around much yet: heterophobia. It’s all the rage as far as nonsensical arguments go.