Reframing Gay Rights

By now, every Lefty blog in the universe has linked to the supremely idiotic report of Dr. James Dobson’s attack on SpongeBob SquarePants as a tool of the radical homosexual agenda that has the nation’s children in its dastardly grips. (Special props to the ever-clever James Wolcott for anointing the purveyor of this madness SpongeDob Stickypants.) We collectively laugh, and we sigh, shaking our heads in disbelief that anyone could be so manifestly stupid, so needlessly bigoted. We note in our sardonic way, how strangely preoccupied with homosexuals men like Dr. Dobson seem to be; the good doctor, we suggest, perhaps doth protest too much.

And yet it seems that maybe, just maybe, we on the Left aren’t fully prepared to address this prejudice as seriously as we should; maybe we are a little too flippant, a bit too amusedly dismissive. Were this about gender, or race, I don’t believe we’d see quite as many jokes, quite so little outrage. But not so with gay rights. When it comes to gay rights, we titter and hem and haw and wonder if our timid support lost us the election.

Other Liberal causes are defended without reducing the defense to one-liners, and when we can’t control the discussion, we bemoan our lack of ability to do so. In the furtherance of gay rights, however, and in defense of gays and lesbians against vitriol spewed incessantly by the likes of Dr. Dobson and his ilk, we seem unwilling to exert the same amount of righteous ire. The tenor of the discussion remains ridiculous, which is perhaps what makes it easy to be so unserious in our response, but as the anti-gay movement steadily increases the intensity of its endeavor, we must engage its architects with the gravity it requires.

I’ve written before about my consternation with the framing of gay rights advocacy, that we tend to talk about who someone fucks as opposed to who they love, which are, as anyone who’s survived their 20s knows, two very different things. I find the Left’s unwilling ness to insist upon separating the two notions extremely frustrating. Allowing the discussion to stay firmly rooted in the assumptions of the Right’s court, letting them make this discussion solely about sex, leaves the door wide for the continual reduction of the debate to pedestrian and hateful comparisons of homosexuality to deviant sexual acts, like bestiality and pederasty.

A wise start to reframing this argument is to leave behind the repeated invocations of the standard and tiresome fare, “It’s not a choice.” If Liberals are to be true to their words that my rights end where yours begin, then we must acknowledge that whether homosexuality is a choice or not has no bearing on whether we defend the rights of gays and lesbians. The whole point of a free country is allowing people the freedom to make decisions for themselves as they best see fit, including whether to choose a partner of the same sex. A same-sex relationship does not infringe upon anyone else’s rights, so whether it’s by design or choice shouldn’t make a dime’s worth of difference to any Liberal intent on protecting the freedom and rights of all Americans.

Discomfort with the notion of choosing a partner of the same sex is simply not a viable option for straight Liberals. If the only way we can get right with defending gays and lesbians is to tell ourselves that’s the way they were made, then we are poor advocates for their rights. I acknowledge that many gays and lesbians feel that it is not a choice, but I also know people who feel that the choice was theirs (and the either/or scenario tends to exclude bisexuals and transgendered people from the discussion altogether). The point is that is doesn’t matter either way, and we need to leave that language behind us.

Full acceptance of all members of the GLBT community, and unqualified respect for their rights and choices, renders any further discussion about sex acts simplistic, and thereby moot. If we can move beyond the automatic associations of homosexuality with sex, as opposed to sexuality (a characteristic inherent in each of us, regardless of preference), perhaps we can leave the giggles behind and engage this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

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