gay liberation

James Miller jamiller at
Tue Apr 30 21:15:49 MDT 1996


   In response to Gary MacLennan's post on "Queer Theory," I had
argued that the analysis put forward there seemed to me to have the
character of indulging in self pity. Now Gary responds:

>Now because I as a gay person describe the position of gays as the "despised
>Other" does not mean I am indulging in self pity.  Or does James think so?
>Mind you on practically any day of the year to accuse me of self-pity runs a
>very big chance of being accurate but not  in this case. Surely he would
>admit  that gays are despised and treated as outcasts?

   It is not simply a question of whether or not the term "despised other"
is used. Nor would I ever say anything to deny the horror of the oppression
that gays and lesbians experience. Instead,  I was referring to the whole
philosophical outlook of the material, which seemed to me to be inward
-oriented, pessimistic, and academically abstruse.
   I doubt whether I am accusing Gary of self-pity. And perhaps I should
not have use the term at all. But look at it this way: if we are confident
that gains can be won for oppressed people in the future (as they have
in the past) by appealing to the sense of justice of the masses of people,
then not only will we be optimistic, but also, we will be inclined to use
language that can be understood by ordinary people.

   Gary says:

>Not all problems can be solved by rallying calls to the workers.

   True. And I'm not arguing that calls have to be specifically
directed to workers. It's more a question of the degree to which
the spokespersons of the gay liberation movement are grounded
in the ongoing process of social change, the source of which can
be found ultimately in the strength of the laboring classes. And
you certainly don't have to be a Marxist or socialist to be a part
of this process.
   The alternative is to turn inward and focus on the questions
of identity and self-definition. And I'm not saying that this
"queer theory" alternative is necessarily pessimistic, self-pitying,
escapist, etc. But it tends to be in the present circumstances.
And I'm not blaming the victim, either. I only point to the
means by which actual democratic struggles can be successfully
waged, as they have in the past and will continue to be in the
   As far as "queer theory" is concerned, I look forward to
hearing more about it. I'm still open.
   In terms of the debate on the "gay gene," or on the supposed
genetic predisposition to heterosexuality or homosexuality, my
view is that nothing has been proved yet on this score. The only
point I would make here is that, whether homosexuality is
completely voluntary, completely involuntary, or anywhere
in between, it makes no difference as far as the politics of
gay liberation is concerned.
   What you do in private is your own business, and the state
has no right to regulate the private behavior of individuals.
The anti-gay bigotry which permeates capitalist and patriarchal
society has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality
is freely chosen or genetically determined. Anti-gay bigotry
is part of the ideology of sexism and the nuclear family.
   Gay activists who seek "sympathy" from bourgeois
public opinion by declaring their condition "involuntary,"
only pander to the idea that there is something wrong with
them, something they have no control over. This is self-
defeating. As I said before, gay liberation is best when it
is proud, militant and massive. Emphasis on "proud."

Finally, Gary says:

>James says that "Gay Liberation is best when it is defiant, proud and
>massive."  Well trust me I have never said that size does not matter.  But
>sometimes we have to feel the quality as well as the width.

   Re: "the quality as well as the width." I hope Gary won't be offended
if I say this is a truism. But we all tend to repeat the obvious from time
to time. I look forward to Gary's future posts on this topic, and will
comment if I have time.

Jim Miller

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