LGBT activists should not cast aside ideals in favor of left’s agenda
Monday’s column by Jeremy LaMaster, “US-Russia debate on Syria attracts risky homonationalism,” tries to force an awkward point about the perils of “homonationalism” into an entirely unrelated debate about U.S. military intervention into Syria. But this tut-tutting of uppity American homosexuals is not only irrelevant — it is also dangerous. For many of us who remember when the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were absent from the national conversation, LaMaster’s column represents an unwelcome regression to “the closet,” when basic guarantees of safety and dignity were subsumed under greater, “more important” concerns like international peace.
The “homonationalist” idea to which LaMaster refers comes from an extreme strain of thinking which implicates U.S. foreign policy as an absolute evil and misidentifies gay Americans as the primary conspirators to this country’s late Middle Eastern adventures. The Rutgers professor who coined this term also refers to “Christian fundamentalism as a state practice in the United States,” makes connections between the state of women’s rights in Bush’s America and in the Taliban’s Afghanistan and otherwise shows a lack of proportional thinking. In this Rutgers bubble, it can be hard to forget that LGBT Americans are not the puppet masters behind the curtain, scheming and orchestrating war with Syria, but rather a small, despised and politically powerless minority.
When solidarity is necessary for survival, political campaigns are necessarily very inclusive. This tired allegation, which LaMaster repeats — that same-sex marriage helps only rich, gay white men — is not borne out by the facts. The 2010 U.S. census demonstrates that same-sex couples of color are more likely to be raising children than white same-sex couples, and are doing so in mostly southern states, where the legal protections of marriage are most absent and sorely needed. Furthermore, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy disproportionately targeted servicemen and servicewomen of color, because they are more likely to enlist in the military than whites. Again, this idea that marriage rights and equal employment opportunity in the military “hurt[s] marginalized communities” is puzzling, to say the least.
The hysterical, Vietnam-era view that a war overseas will hurt marginalized communities at home is seriously due for revision. For most of American history, war had the long-ranging effect of increasing national unity and acceptance of minorities, who proved their loyalty and civic character through “baptism by fire”. After World War I, “off-white” Americans such as Italians, Greeks, and Jews found more acceptances in the American mainstream. Following World War II, Asian American veterans played a huge role in convincing Congress to repeal anti-Asian exclusion laws. I need only mention the name “Rosie the Riveter” to recall the profound effect that wartime service had on the increased autonomy of American women.
LGBT people should be suspicious of an “intersectional” approach that treats our unique concerns as secondary to a broader agenda of anti-militarism, wealth redistribution or any other leftist soup-of-the-day. Advocates of this viewpoint are fair-weather friends, who do not even deserve to be called human rights activists, if they are willing to retreat from their principles at the slightest hint of war.
James Carroll is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in computer science.