I can’t be the only straight person rapidly losing an already minimal interest in the LGBTQ issue, a process hurried along by the recent US Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, and by the inescapable media presence of Caitlyn Jenner. Liberated and enlightened we may be nowadays, but those of us on the AC side of the fence have limits to our patience. Herewith some reasons why.
One hundred years ago, there surely were frustrated and lonely people who could not express their desires (“The love that dare not speak its name,” and all that), but there were also many more people who weren’t certain what those desires were, exactly, and who in any event were too busy with the more pressing matters of daily life to give the question much thought. Such was personal morality in 1915. In the hyper-sexualized present, however, we are told that our erotic tastes are central to our identities, that they must be plainly acknowledged by our selves and uncritically accepted by others, and that they must be fully embraced and acted on by no later than early adulthood. If this is progress, it has certainly come with a lot of complications.
I don’t particularly worry about gay awareness “giving ideas” to people, and after all, women once got ideas about voting and African Americans once got ideas about segregation. Awareness, in itself, is not a bad thing. Yet human sexuality is a subtle and subjective impulse, which same-sex celebration has politicized into an out-and-proud, one-of-us commitment. It’s like, just because my personal impulse favors brunettes over blondes, I don’t organize pro-brunette rallies or complain that Marilyn Monroe posters demean my dignity. Earlier arguments simply held that gay sex, like recreational drug use, should be legal between consenting adults, but now the implication is that gay allegiance should be mandatory among hesitating teenagers. Again, it’s hard to see this as nothing more than a healthy, wholly beneficial step toward social justice that can’t possibly have any unanticipated downsides.
Indeed, those who frame gay causes as an extension of the civil rights movement miss the point that black people asked whites to look past a superficial difference (i.e. color) to see a common humanity, whereas LGBTQ advocates ask straights to look past a common humanity to see an inner difference. For blacks, discrimination was the problem, but to gays, it’s a solution. It’s worth remembering, too, that by the logic of then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau’s famous 1967 quip that “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation,” what happens in the bedrooms of the nation should not have to be addressed by the state. Yet that old ideal of “tolerance” seems to have been lately expanded into “approval,” insofar as straights are told to address homosexuality only in positive terms, no matter how alien it might be to their own preferences or values. Martin Luther King wanted his children to be judged by “the content of their character”; he didn’t say they shouldn’t be judged at all. We can dispute what the criteria for assessing character might be, but we ought to agree that not everyone’s assessment of everyone else will be favorable. Coexistence is not the same as conciliation.
The fact remains that, for a wide majority, same-sex attraction is kind of weird – harmless, basically, and no one else’s business, but still weird (I like Jerry Seinfeld’s disclaimer on the subject: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”). As a male, I find females sexy. Am I a bigot for thinking males who don’t are missing out? Can heterosexuals at least consider homosexuals the way the able-bodied consider the handicapped? I’m nearsighted and need to wear glasses most of the time. The standards that allow only the sharp-eyed to pilot jet fighters, or to not look nerdy, are my problem, not theirs. Yet the gay lobby contends that anything less than enthusiastic support of gay pride, of gay marriage, and of five percent of the population taking up seemingly fifty percent of our public discourse, is homophobia. It isn’t; we’re just not that interested anymore. To paraphrase a popular slogan: You’re here, you’re queer, we are by now very used to it, so can we please talk about something else?