My Pride Column:What Stonewall Means to Me

Originally appeared June 2, 1994, in the Windy City Times.

There was a note in my office mailbox from The Editor saying he wanted to see me. I walked down the long corridor past the offices of all the Assistant Editors until I got to The Editor's door. I knocked with what I hoped was the right mixture of assertiveness and respect.

"Enter," came the familiar stern voice. I entered.

The Editor was seated at his desk behind a tall stack of half-edited manuscripts, wearing a "Just Be You" T-shirt with a little yellow button that said, "Have a Nice Whenever." Pushed up on his forehead was his ever-present green eyeshade. Vivaldi was playing on the portable CD player.

"Good morning, Sir. You wanted to see me?"

"Where is your Pride Issue column, Varnell?

"Pride column?" I asked, all innocence and wonderment.

"Pride column," he repeated. "The Pride Issue is at hand. I sent a memo to all staff about this more than a month ago. We need an appropriate column."

I smiled a thin, cool smile, reached into my back pocket, and. ...

"Ta-dah!" I said as I handed him my column with a flourish.

He stared at it as if I were offering him a live snake.

"What does it say?" he asked suspiciously.

"It's about how proud we should all be to be gay," I replied. "How it makes us the truly wonderful, self-actualizing people we are. How it sensitizes us to the joy and beauty in the universe, gives meaning to our lives, and elevates our existence far beyond that of ordinary mortals."

"Oh, cut it out, Varnell," he said with a grimace. "You don't believe any of that. You've always made fun of gay pride. You always said being gay was a neutral quality, like having blue eyes and that it was only how people handled it, what they did with it, how they lived their lives, that could be a source of pride. Do I not recall correctly?"

"Well, I'm selling out," I said grandly. "I've decided to tell people what they want to hear. They want to hear that life can be simple and uncomplicated; that life presents few demand and that it is enough just to 'be.' They want to hear that the universe is benevolent, that they can be wonderful without effort, and that living involves no pains, no trade-offs, no compromises, no agonizing dilemmas.

"I am telling people it is enough to be proud and everything else will just fall into place. I reassure them that being gay involves no moral or intellectual obligations, that they can keep on being however they are, that wherever they are is the final stage of personal development."

"Oh, for pity's sake, Varnell," he burst out. "Can't you do anything right? When you sell out you're supposed to do it for money or for power or something. But here you are selling out - as you call it - but you aren't getting anything for it at all."

"Oh, I am, I am," I insisted. "I'm gaining popularity, regard, affection. People want to read things they already agree with, that reassure them about themselves, however they are. People love this sort of thing and they love the people who tell it to them - ministers, politicians, therapists, even writers.

"And people will love me. They will write me fan letters, speak of me in reverential tones, buy me drinks at bars. I will be famous and esteemed."

"No doubt!" he said. "But this is all irrelevant. This year's Pride topic has nothing to do with Pride."

"It doesn't?" I gasped, taken aback. "How is that possible?"

"If you'd paid attention to my memo" - he pulled a piece of paper out from the middle of a pile and waved it at me - you'd have known that this year's theme is 'Stonewall 25.' I don't know why I even bother to write these things if no one reads them. ..."

His voice trailed off. Then he looked at me sternly.

"Your deadline is 4 o'clock. Dismissed!"

I made an "about-face" I learned in Boy Scouts and marched out, wondering what I could say about diversity that was not already cliche'd, hackneyed, tired.

On the way out, I stopped by the office of Aspasia, one of our young Assistant Editors.

"You'll never guess...," I began glumly.

"I know!" she said. "You need a new column." She grinned guiltily. "The intercom was on - just a teensy bit."

"Well, what are you writing about?" I asked.

"I'm writing about the most important events since Stonewall," she said. "You know, Bowers v Hardwick, Anita Bryant, the psychiatrists voting that we're mentally healthy - that kind of stuff. I'm learning a lot," she added.

"What do you think was the most important event of all? I asked.

"Most important event?" She looked off into space for a moment. "You know. I really think the most important event was when I came out."

I must have looked startled.

"Oh, I don't mean that my coming out was the most important event for everyone else, just for me. What I mean is that for each of us the most important event since Stonewall is that we ourselves came out.

"Think about it," she went on. "That means that each of us at some point summoned up the courage to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. And we managed to do that even knowing there would be some risks and losses if we did it. But we valued truth and integrity enough to face those risks. It's kind of an achievement."

She smiled brightly.

"I don't mean it's a stopping point," she added. "And that doesn't mean it's easy from then on. But it does mean that each of us was willing to throw ourselves into that existential void and take on the burden of beginning to work out life's same old problems from a new and uncertain starting point. It's an achievement that gets us up to square one, but somehow it gives us some momentum as we pass through that point on into the rest of our lives. And I suppose it gives us the experience of knowing that honesty and courage and self-knowledge have some cash value in our mental economy."

"But that's just my opinion. I suppose other people would think differently."

A glimmer of an idea stole into my mind.

"Are you writing about this?" I asked as casually as I could.

"Oh, no," she said. "It's not my topic. Besides, people would just laugh at me if I tried to explain it."

"Well, it's been good talking with you," I said. "But I've gotta go work."

And I rushed off to my word processor.

What We Wanted: Then and Now

Related:

“Stonewall,” below, refers to Britain’s best-known LGBTQ+ activist organization. Kathleen Stock writes:

Academics also need to fight for robust biological-sex-based data, alongside data about gender identity, in order to properly track and analyse the multiple differences—physically, psychologically, socially, politically—currently statistically correlated with each sex. No doubt some of these differences are culturally and historically contingent, but something can be contingent, yet as obdurate as biological reality and so still be in need of study.

And she reports:

In my own case, I’ve experienced student complaints, FOI requests, campus protests, threats to milkshake me, the defacement of my office door, open letters to no-platform me, articles in the local press and student newspapers claiming I make the campus at my university “unsafe”, defamation by the Student Union Executive, an attempted smear campaign by academics at another institution, and various forms of student and public harassment. Occasionally, critics point to the fact that despite this I still manage to write and publish, suggesting that this gives the lie to any claim that I don’t have the freedom to do so. But I wonder how many gender-critical academics have been deterred from expressing their views by these tactics?

Support Drops as Gay Movement Becomes Trans Movement

Andrew Sullivan on “The Gender-Theory Backlash” (second item in column):

For the first time, we’re seeing a sharp drop in tolerance of “LGBTQ” people among the younger generation. …

Or check this out: 62 percent of young men regarded themselves as “allies” of LGBTQ people in 2016; only 35 percent now say the same — a near-halving of support. Women “allies” have dropped from 65 to 52 percent. The turn began in the year that the Obama administration — with no public discussion or congressional support — imposed critical gender theory on America’s high schools, determining sex to be whatever a student says it is. The imposition of trans ideology by fiat on the entire country’s young — along with severe public stigma for those with even the slightest questions — was almost textbook left authoritarianism. Well meant, perhaps. But dictatorial.

Even GLAAD, the culture police for the gay left, concedes that the transformation of the gay-rights movement into a trans movement steeped in critical gender theory in the past few years is likely the reason: “The younger generation was coming in contact with more LBGTQ people, particularly individuals who are non-binary and don’t identify simply as lesbian or gay.” GLAAD of course blames Trump, and social media, and vows to crack down ever more firmly on those who aren’t fully onboard with its agenda. The last thing GLAAD would do is ask itself if it is actually exacerbating the problem, and that the redefinition of almost everyone’s sex and gender to accommodate less than 1 percent of the population is why this resistance is happening.


Here’s another reason for the drop in support in the U.K.:

Fully 52% of UK Muslims thought there should be a punishment for homosexuality. Compared with only 5% of the wider population. If one community is growing in size, and that community has 10 times the negative attitudes of the wider community, then it would ordinarily be thought inevitable that there will be some impact on the wider society’s attitudes towards the matter. Either because they influence the views of wider society or because as their proportion among the population increases so the representation of their views increases.

Mission Creep

The Human Rights Campaign is promoting legislation requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. HRC, in doing so, takes note that some employees without paid sick leave are LGBTQ.

The issue with HRC pursing a broadly progressive agenda is that when it fundraises among Republicans, it presents itself as a group focused on LGBTQ-rights advocacy. Yes, the Log Cabin Republicans support a broadly conservative GOP-driven agenda. They’ve got the name “Republican” upfront, and their mission is as much about lobbying support for Republicans as it is about lobbying Republican support for LGBTQ legal equality. The same was true, in reverse, with the now-defunct Stonewall Democrats.

But HRC was founded with a nonpartisan mission and for many years held to that in its congressional endorsements and fundraising (before it started supporting presidential candidates). If that had remained true, the Stonewall Democrats wouldn’t have been rendered redundant, and HRC would not have turned into an adjunct of the Democratic party.

More. From Equality California:

“Enacting gun safety reforms [sic] at the federal level is a top priority for Equality California. LGBTQ people and our allies are often the targets of bias-motivated gun violence.”

And since no LGBTQ people or allies use guns to defend themselves from hate crimes, no problem there.

Gay Youth at Risk

Quillette is one of the few outlets willing to address the issue of how radical transgender activism endangers gay and lesbian youth, in no small measure by promoting the idea that gender nonstereotypical behavior (“effeminate” boys/”masculine” girls) indicates not homosexual orientation but transgender identity, and that these kids should be placed on puberty blockers as the first step to transitioning into the other gender (after which, presumably, they can live heterosexual lives). That sounds a lot like conversion therapy except with surgical finality. And yet LGBTQ movement groups have made transgender theory and activism their new central mission, and woe to anyone who questions the new transgender orthodoxy.

Helen Joyce delves into these risks in great depth in her article “The New Patriarchy: How Trans Radicalism Hurts Women, Children—and Trans People Themselves.”


Here’s another excerpt from Helen Joyce’s article:

Some gay people think that organizations set up to fight for gay rights made a mistake in throwing their weight behind trans activism. In an open letter in the Times in October, some prominent gays and lesbians accuse Stonewall, Britain’s biggest LGBT charity, of “uncritically adopting a form of transgender politics which undermines…the concept of homosexuality itself.” (It added “T” for transgender to its “LGB” (lesbian, gay and bisexual) mission in 2015.) More than 7,000 people have now signed a petition in support of the letter. Yet Stonewall’s CEO, Ruth Hunt, has denied any need for a rethink, saying that “trans equality is at the heart of our mission for acceptance without exception.”

Luxuriating in Victimhood

A lesbian college professor writes about today’s LGBT-PC student culture:

A non-binary student critiques a faculty colleague of mine in class for using the term “drag queens” to describe the self-identified drag queens who resisted at Stonewall. My colleague, who is 35, queer, and teaching Sociology of Sexuality, is informed that this is an incorrect and insulting term.

Equality March: Separate Realities


CNN reports:

Conservative gay Americans, for their part, view the march as a partisan event emphasizing “division far more than equality,” said Gregory T. Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBT group.

“For months now we’ve heard that Trump is going to ‘roll back’ advances made by the LGBT community, and time and again those rumors were proven to be unfounded,” he told CNN. “All of this chicken-littling has turned the self-styled ‘Resistance’ into little more than a hollow cliche.”

Gay rights activists, however, say Trump’s refusal to issue an official White House statement commemorating LGBT Pride Month — chosen by advocates to commemorate New York’s Stonewall uprising in 1969 — is symptomatic of the White House’s agenda for LGBT Americans. The march on Sunday will be an attempt to the let the Trump administration know that America’s LGBT community will not be ignored, they say.

Along similar lines:


Scott Shackford offers a reasoned assessment:

But Trump has notably not espoused antigay policy stances and has, in fact, resisted efforts to do so within his administration. So far, Trump is probably the most LGBT-friendly Republican president we’ve had.

That doesn’t mean that Trump supports the same policies that progressive LGBT leaders would like. That’s really the crux of the problem: Trump’s administration doesn’t want to use the federal government to advance anti-discrimination policies that cover LGBT people. His Department of Justice has withdrawn federal guidance ordering public schools to accommodate transgender students’ gender choices for bathrooms and other facilities.

Put in historical context, that’s a relatively mild decision, though it must feel awful for transgender students who are affected (and ultimately it may be decided by the courts, not Trump’s administration, anyway). Despite LGBT activists’ fears, the administration is not scaling back executive orders forbidding government contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination. Life is still improving for LGBT people.

More.


Given the proximity of “Remember Pulse” and “F*ck Trump” signs at the Equality March, it’s as if Donald Trump, rather than homophobic jihadi Isalmism, was behind the Pulse nightclub massacre whose anniversary the March was helping to mark.

Added. The world as the LGBT left sees it: Via a commentary in The Advocate:

Trump quickly seized on the Pulse shooting in an attempt to further isolate Muslims and LGBTQ people from one another. … But the LGBTQ community never took the bait. Instead of broadbrush blaming of an entire religion for the act of one crazed individual, it locked arms with American Muslims in an incredible sign of unity.”

One crazed individual!

James Kirchick addresses this sort of response (in discussing Linda Sarsour’s Politics of Hate and the Pathos of Her Jewish Enablers) when he writes:

One sees this mentality at play in the ADL’s skirting the question of Islam entirely in its poll on European anti-Semitism, in the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that the people murdered at a Paris kosher supermarket by an avowed Islamist in 2015 were victims of a “random” assault on “a bunch of folks in a deli….”

More. Social conservatives are none too pleased.

Pride Month Approaches

June is Pride Month, and various cities and locales are facing a new wave of politically correct deplatforming and exclusion protests.

In Washington, D.C., organizers of D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade and Festival were pressed by a group called No Justice No Pride to ban police officers and corporate sponsors from the annual pride parade and events. The organizers stood their ground.


In Toronto, organizers went the other way and banned LGBT police from participating in their pride events, capitulating to Black Lives Matter activists.


D.C.’s Capital Pride did remove a volunteer event producer for expressing views they deemed offensive. Bryan Pruitt had posted an article last year at the conservative blog RedState that said government decrees and legislation regarding transgender bathroom use sought “to implement a solution in search of a problem. The City of Charlotte passes an unnecessary law and the State Legislature provides an equally overreaching response.”

On that point, if not on others, I would agree, so I guess my volunteer services would also be unwelcome.


And the demands keep coming….

One-Party State Supporters

Some on the LGBT progressive left are condemning the Human Rights Campaign for endorsing incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Kirk is one of an admittedly too-small number of GOP congressmembers working to make their party more LGBT supportive.

HRC’s policy is to endorse incumbents who are mostly if not 100% onboard with its scorecard priorities—even if an opponent dots more “i’s” and crosses more “t’s.” Otherwise, elected officials would have less reason to be responsive when lobbied—and in the Democratic party, there’s often a primary challenger claiming to be even more progressive across the spectrum than a sitting congressmember.

But as I never tire of pointing out (as it makes progressives stomp their feet so), the worst nightmare of the LGBT left is a Republican party that ceases to be predominantly anti-gay, pulling gay voters away from the party. So when HRC occasionally does the right thing and endorses a pro-gay-equality Republican incumbent, it’s seen as a betrayal. Left foot first; always, left foot first.

I don’t think these progressives actually believe the GOP can be permanently prevented from keeping or taking legislative power so why bother working to reform them. It’s more like if the GOP is allowed to have power in Washington, then worse is better as regards mobilizing LGBT votes and dollars to put the one-true-party back in office.