Intersectionality Killed Gay Rights

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  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Intersectionality Killed Gay Rights

    Perhaps. It seems to me, though, that marriage equality (and the attendant cultural acceptance that gays and lesbians achieved during the fight to marriage equality and in the years since then) is a more important factor that the rise of intersectionality theory.

    As James Kirkchik wrote recently (“The Struggle for Gay Rights Is Over: For those born into a form of adversity, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admitting that they’ve won.” James Kirchick, Visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, The Atlantic, June 28, 2019):

    As the topics of conversation at America’s largest assembly of gay activists suggests, America is rapidly becoming a post-gay country. Gay people were once policed as criminal subversives, depicted in the popular culture as deviants, and pathologized by the medical establishment as mentally ill. Now most of America views homosexuality as benign. Only 30 years ago, 57 percent of Americans believed consensual gay sex should be illegal. Today, same-sex marriage has been achieved nationally, gays can serve openly in the military, and most gay people live in states that protect them from discrimination. An openly gay man is running a serious campaign for president and his homosexuality is considered immaterial, if not an advantage that distinguishes him from a crowded field. According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans say homosexuality should be accepted, an all-time high.

    I recognize that it is hard for many of us, particularly those of us who are older and struggled with and fought against the legal/cultural discrimination we endured during the entirety of our adult life to fully absorb the shift and move forward in our struggle for legal equality from the starting point of where we are now. Again quoting Kirchck:

    As long as homosexuality remains a minority trait, gay people will probably always feel a sense of being outsiders. The coming-out process, with all the emotional exertions it can entail, is something straight people never have to contemplate, much less endure. In a society where heterosexuality is the norm, a feeling of alienation is inherent to being gay, but it is one gay people have the capacity to reconcile, if not overcome. For those born into a form of adversity, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admitting that they’ve won.

    I recognize, as well, that the benefits of our success are not evenly distributed. The struggle for legal equality and cultural acceptance are not over in more conservative areas of our society, primarily those dominated by conservative Christians, or in the red states, or rural areas, or in the Republican Party, which boasts not a single LGBT member of Congress (in contrast to two Democratic LGBT Senators and seven LGBT members of the House). To gays and lesbians living in those hostile environments, the struggle has barely begun.

    It seems to me, thinking about this, that the increasing trend toward thinking about gay rights in terms of intersectionality is not the cause of the lessened importance of a “pure” gay rights movement so much as it is an effect of our success during the last 10-15 years.

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