Just briefly-- Andrew Sullivan has been running a long series
of reader emails about the topic of male bisexuality. This is well-trod ground, but it's particularly interesting because it demonstrates the degree to which the establishment gay rights movement, epitomized by the bullying majordomo himself, Dan Savage, has become a conservative movement, a movement against freedom.Today
, an emailer epitomizes the closed-minded nature of many older gay men in writing, "You won’t find any truly bisexual men. Your initial reader is either titillated by the taboo of it all or he is a closeted gay man who is in denial. I know from personal experience, and so does every other gay man who finds women attractive in some way." As I've written before, I grew up into a gay rights movement, at a time when its mainstream acceptance was still nascent. My father, a theater professor, introduced my siblings and me to queer people throughout our childhood, and the existence and acceptance of them was an assumed part of the landscape. And these people were queer, in the old sense, not the sanitized, sexless TV gays that are the dominant image of homosexuality today. What I want to point out is how totally alien that emailers attitude would have been to the old, radical, avant garde gay movements of the past. I grew up around self-described homos and drag queens, people often contemptuous of childbearing and monogamy, and deeply opposed to familial and sexual conservatism of all kinds. The central message they delivered was to be yourself and to never apologize for acting in accordance with your own feelings. That remains a beautiful, radical idea, and one worth fighting for. Now, we have someone who probably fancies himself an advocate of gay rights, sneering at thousands of people and instructing them on what they are not allowed to feel. That's the general trajectory of the gay rights movement: from a passionate and celebratory endorsement of self-ownership to a hectoring, narrow-minded movement of conservative scolds, in just a few decades. It's breathtaking.
What, exactly, is the difference between this guy and the conservative housewife who insists that her son cannot possibly be gay? I imagine this modern-day gay rights advocate asking bisexual men if they've just tried not
being bi. Now, you'll note that this gentlemen is perfectly fine with psychologizing thousands of disparate people and ascribing broad pathologies to them as the reason for their feelings. Well, two can play at that game. I detect a kind of panic in this kind of response. The urge to say, "I've experienced this, so it must be true of everyone" is a classic game of self-defense, an insistence on what "human nature" is out of a desire to avoid the personal consequences of the alternative. There is a ugly and bizarre tendency for many gay men to want to extrapolate from their own personal experience into a pat explanation for all homosexual desire. Call it the petty narcissism of being oppressed. More than anything, I'd like to ask this gentlemen: what are you so afraid of? Why does this thought threaten you so much? Perhaps such questions are rude, but then, what's good for the goose....
I don't recognize the gay rights movement anymore. It's about as vital and energetic as a trade show. Somewhere along the line, the message that arose from that movement changed from being "be who you are, without apology" to "we can't help it, so please let us, thanks." That basic, flawed argument has eaten all of the nuance and wildness and diversity that was once at the heart of gay culture. I always want to ask: what if homosexuality were a choice? Are you really arguing that no one would have the right to choose it? It's led to junk science, with tons of people casually assuming that there is an individual gay gene, even that we've identified it, despite all the many problems with a purely genetic explanation. And it treats basic human rights as if they stem merely from some kind of legalistic loophole rather than through a full-throated defense of every human being's fundamental right to self-ownership.
Here's the reality: some men, maybe very few, feel sexual attraction towards both men and women. They find a culture where not only is their homosexual desire subject to the same brute homophobia and bigotry that dogs us still today, but where their bisexual desire is rejected by many in the communities that should be most accepting and most compassionate. No one supposes that bisexuality is as common as homosexuality. The fact of a sexual spectrum does not presuppose that people are distributed equally across that spectrum. But that is no more of an argument against the existence of bisexuality than the very small numbers of gay men and women relative to straight is an argument against the existence of homosexuality. If we are to take part in a movement for sexual liberation and for the legitimacy of all consensual, adult desires, we must not fall into rules of convenience, driven by short-term and short-sighted political expediency. It's wrong to tell people who the must or must not desire, it's wrong to tell people to feel shame for which adults they have consensual sex with, and I'm just as happy saying so to old gay men as I am to that bigoted conservative houswife.