Gay Men: The Democrats' Reserve Army of Histrionics

In a Slate piece, June Thomas weighs in on the latest dirty politics, namely the rumor that Michele Bachmann's husband Marcus Bachmann is gay.  Thomas is dismayed that Dan Savage used his podcast to humiliate Marcus Bachmann for his lisp:

To Savage's ears, it was a gay accent.  Savage played the tape over and over, and reprised it several times throughout the podcast.  He even did his own Bachmann impression, exaggerating the lisp and camping it up.

Stop for a moment, and let's ask why anybody would respect Savage at all.  To be sure, Savage has editorialized in the New York Times and other respected papers on ex-gays, Mark Foley/Ted Haggard, Alan Keyes's daughter, and Larry Craig.  His usual invective is aimed at any powerful person not allied to him whom he suspects of being gay or having gay relatives.  Consider his classy missive to Cindy McCain: "It turns out my take on Cindy McCain's NOH8 video wasn't nearly cynical or bitchy enough."

He says extremely nasty things based on a chain of rationalizations.  First, he assumes that gay marriage is an unquestionable absolute -- if you do not support it, you hate gay people.  The notion that civil unions are a less emotionally exhausting route for progress, the concept that perhaps GLBTs can find other routes to happiness than a tradition that traditionally views them with distrust, or the simple belief that gender matters enough to make same-sex and heterosexual couplings different -- all these intellectual positions are shunted for bumper-sticker formulae.

Second, disagreement means a surrender of civility.  Fail his shibboleths and he will respond with barbarity.  If he finds out that there are same-sex tendencies in you or someone close to you, he will use the basest forms of anti-gay invective as a weapon against you, with help from Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, and Perez Hilton.

The two points above are open to revision if you are a Democrat who opposes gay marriage.  Gay polemicists stated respectful critiques of Barack Obama and Joe Biden during the 2008 election cycle, while West Hollywood gays were busy lynching effigies of Sarah Palin, the one candidate who had used an executive veto to stop a state legislature from stripping away GLBT partner benefits.  

Having done nothing to antagonize gays other than attend a Christian church and agree with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin was vilified as anti-gay.  As Dan Savage goes, so goes the coterie.  They make great scenes but very little sense, praising Barack Obama while damning Ken Mehlman once he came out of the closet, or, in the case of lesbian Jenny Stewart, celebrating the lesbian-dialing Howard Stern as "pro-gay" because he criticized right-wingers upon seeing Brokeback MountainDick Cheney, Cindy McCain, and Laura Bush voiced support for gay marriage, yet through a strange tautology, Savagites define all Republicans as anti-gay.

Some GLBT folks have taken Savage on. Jasbir Puar took Savage to task in The Guardian, calling his view of gay liberation "narrow."  Camille Paglia  refused to accept his justifications of "out-of-control" tactics by ACTUP.  Jesse Daniels had this to say:

What Dan Savage and other privileged white gay men fail to understand is the way one struggle is connected to another[.] [...] [S]uch an analysis makes visible the white privilege that still adheres to the lives of LGBT folks like Savage.

But I find June Thomas's attitude troubling.  Why did it take you this long to realize that he is unhealthily obsessed with attacking closeted gay conservatives?  Did it ever occur to you that someone who attacks gays -- even closeted ones -- year after year in the New York Times might be a tad bit homophobic himself?

Hypothesis 1: Self-Loathing

Dan Savage attacks people like Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, and Marcus Bachmann because he hates homosexuals.  Conservatives are a safe target.  Something inside Dan Savage wants to call people names.  He searches for a strategic way to vent his need for gay-bashing without undermining his own position.  That's why he repeats ad nauseam the notion that Republicans are fag-hating fags.  It is a form of catharsis for millions of gay men who still can't accept themselves.  Savage embodies the basic conundrum of the Democratic Party, fishing endlessly for signs that gays are attacked and humiliated and despised, while claiming ironically to be on their side.

In "It Gets Better" Dan Savage associates sexual awakening with his darkest and most tortured moments.  It is because of this life experience that millions of gay people love listening to him.  They find common ground in their tortured pain and unresolved resentment of the world.  They wallow in the past, focused especially on the teenage years, which is why they delight in finding gorgeous pubescent causes célèbres like Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi while wreaking havoc on gays who come out later in life, such as Ken Mehlman.  Savage returns to the primal scene of antigay torture with himself recast as the torturer and gay conservatives recast as the runts.

I'm a bit open to his story.  I was a sissy growing up, partly because I was raised by two women with no dad around.  I got called names and pressured by gay peers to "come out already," whether I liked men or not.  Girls didn't want to date me and I second-guessed myself a lot.  Later, serving in the US Army, I had to live with constant snickering and occasional sabotage because I was "gay" in other soldiers' eyes regardless of my true desires.  I know it can be hard.

But you get over it, Dan.  You learn to fight back in the moment then put your past cowardice behind you.  Rather than dramatic, you become practical.  Instead of reliving your painful tragedy all over the Internet under the false guise of prophesying what strangers' lives will be like, you build an identity for yourself based on something other than being called names.  Move on and give everyone else room to make their own decisions on their own terms.

But no.  He and a legion of neurotic, self-abusive personalities have allowed themselves to become the weapon of Democrats who need October surprises in midterm election years (Matthew Shepard in October 1998, Ted Haggard in October 2006, and Tyler Clementi in September-October 2010) or some other shortcut to a character assassination.  Get the gays out to vote on rainy Tuesdays in November with a splashy front-page tragedy.

It goes from one symbolic, totally overblown campaign issue to another.  The ban on homosexuals in the military was the issue in the early 1990s, so Bill Clinton drafted Don't Ask Don't Tell, a humane law that protected gay people's privacy and allowed them to leave the military voluntarily if they felt it was too hard to serve while gay.

Still disgruntled in 2010, gay activists talked about gay suicides in civilian life while fighting to close the escape hatch on gays in the service.  Army suicides hit a record high in June 2010, sexual assaults rose 6% in the Navy in 2010, and 85% of gays identified in the Pentagon survey released in December did not want to come out of the closet.  Young gay men are not likely to be safe where suicide, sexual assault, and self-denial are the norm.  Gay activists could have fought to change the internal structure of the Army, starting with the EO codes and the chaplaincy, but instead they went for the sexier tack of merely repealing a law they didn't understand.  While candlelight vigils drew attention to bullying, abuse, and suicide in gay teens in search of a "safe space," activists like Dan Savage were intent to ignore the abundant signs that the military was going to be an extremely unsafe space for gay teens.

Gay leaders don't care about people whose stories don't match their talking points.  If you're good-looking, registered to vote, and willing to campaign for Barack Obama, you matter!  But if you just got beat up down range and decide the Army isn't for you, don't ask gay liberals for help.  If you're thirty and coming to grips with your religion and decide you do not want to remain in the gay lifestyle, be damned.  If you got AIDS in a bathhouse in a moment of desperation, get lost -- your story makes for bad ratings.

If you're Reinaldo Arenas and Fidel Castro imprisoned you for being gay, kill yourself so they can make movies about you without dealing with your rejection of socialism.  If you are J. Edgar Hoover, Anthony Summers will spread rumors about you wearing a tutu and being a closet case, and gay liberals will laugh.  And if you are Marcus Bachmann and you are (let me hypothesize) attracted to men but have built a traditional marriage with a woman you love, and you want to share the Christian salvation by which you found happiness with others, don't expect Savage fans to be decent. They'll probably call you fat and make fun of your lisp on The Daily Show.

How, how, how did gay men allow themselves to become a fusion of rabid housecats, Ariel from The Tempest, and barracudas?

Hypothesis 2: Histrionic Personality Disorder

Consider the classic histrionic, who was diagnosed based on these bullets framed by the National Institute of Health:

  • Acting or looking overly seductive
  • Being overly concerned with their looks
  • Being overly dramatic and emotional
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval
  • Believing that relationships are more intimate than they actually are
  • Blaming failure or disappointment on others
  • Having a low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification
  • Needing to be the center of attention (self-centeredness)
  • Quickly changing emotions, which may seem shallow to others

The causes of this personality disorder are unknown, but interestingly enough, they fit Dan Savage and his gay male acolytes.  Obsessed with their physical attractiveness, they turn Gay Pride events into a shameless pornfest.  As blogger "Eric" laments:

What exactly are these guys proud of?  Are they proud of having great bodies?  Are they proud of their cute underwear?  Or are they perhaps proud of their sexuality?  The Stonewall riots didn't happen so that today's gay men could proudly run around in their underwear. 

There are many men who love other men in America.  Most of them also love women.  Some of them see their sexuality as a small part of their lives.  Most do not crave constant attention.  Most do not sexualize everything they do.  Most can react proportionately to other people disagreeing with them or not telling them what they want to hear.  But the gay movement spearheaded by Dan Savage, which has become a key arsenal for the Democratic Party, is not based on gayness, but rather on Histrionic Personality Disorder.

The histrionic craves attention, makes every activity lascivious, and fears the disapproval or disinterest of others.  Why do gay activists go undercover and fish for reasons to smear Marcus Bachmann?  Marcus Bachmann has nothing to do with gay issues.  But HPD gays cannot stand anything in the world getting attention, if they are not the central focus.

Histrionics blame others for their disappointments.  "No, it's not my fault for failing to stand up for myself when bullies called me a pansy -- it's Republicans!  It's the Bible!  It's the fact that I can only get civil unions!"  "I got HIV -- it's Reagan's fault for not talking about AIDs until Rock Hudson died!"

With histrionics, melodrama always escalates.  If gay marriage doesn't pass, more kids will jump off bridges, helpless blond youths will get murdered in Wyoming, and closeted men will give their witless wives AIDs.  Part of HPD is the inability to let other people's stories be independent.  If you are 100% gay and can't change, then everyone else must have been born into their identity and can't change; someone who wants to change or does subdue his sexual urges is a deluded victim of repression, a despicable ex-gay.  Other people's decision-making threatens you because it isn't what you want; you are easily frustrated; you feel slighted merely by not being adored and vindicated.

Histrionics believe relationships are more intimate than they really are.  They think Barack Obama is their friend.  They think the gays who rally for them on the Rachel Maddow Show really care about them.  They think sixteen-year-olds across the country need to hear their saccharine life stories, so they post thousands of videos online and call the campaign "It Gets Better."

Histrionics have shallow feelings which change quickly.  They can out closeted conservatives in 2006 then blame closeted conservatives for the death of Tyler Clementi, who was outed.  Histrionics don't have to be profound or thoughtful.  They just become theatrical, attract an audience, and entertain.

Histrionic Personality Disorder took over the gay movement and rendered homosexuality the perfect tool for the Democratic Party's playbook.  Jokes about Marcus Bachmann's lisp and exaggerated scandals about him "praying the gay away" are only the beginning.  Gird yourself against the drama, and get ready to call out drama queens for what they are.