Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Classification within gay culture.

There is a sort of caste system within gay culture.  GLBTQ culture is obviously very diverse and complex, and these folks don't always get along.  For example, the upper class professional/academic class usually looks way down on the under-educated, under-employed bar-types - unless these happen to be amazingly talented and useful, or if they demonstrate some potential which could be cultivated in some manner.  I'm generalizing here again, but suffice it to say gay culture pretty much mirrors normal social structure in that way - with a few quirks and exceptions thrown in of course.
That said, a friend sent me an interesting Harvard Law paper touching upon similar political divisions within GLBTQ culture.  I've always been fascinated with that aspect of cultural anthropology which includes the study of class and social division within contemporary society.  Social division and class has fascinated me throughout life.  Thus, as a young student, I frequently worked well into the night - in the field, observing behavior from the darkened corners of bars, absorbed in my studies for long hours, gathering important data:
Subject A is obviously from an upper class family and well educated.
Subject B is definitely working class. 
Subject C is just a loser, and so on.
I know!  The Harvard paper is more thorough and academic of course, and much more reliable than my research.  I may be referring to the study from time to time in future posts as the gay marriage debate heats up in Minnesota.  Seriously, I think it is important to keep in mind, as cultural changes rapidly take place and gay issues become law, the diversity that exists within GLBTQ culture and the variety of means taken by groups and organizations not always working together under that umbrella, to achieve their ends.   The Harvard paper:

Marriage, Cruising, and Life in Between: Clarifying Organizational Positionalities in Pursuit of Polyvocal Gay-Based Advocacy 
Douglas NeJaime
Varying political affiliations and theoretical leanings exist in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community, hardly surprisingin a population that encompasses middle-class white gay men and butch leather dykes alike. Yet many GLBT organizations purport to speak on
behalf of all of their very different constituents. How successfully gay based organizations reconcile these competing interests has become a concern for academics and activists, many of whom fear the increasing homogenization of the gay movement and the resulting marginalization of dissenting viewpoints. The growing clamor over same-sex marriage provides an illustration of this trend. While major GLBT organizations litigate for the “right to marry,” apparently at the behest of those they seek to represent, scholars like Michael Warner worry that marriage rights for same-sex couples would only serve to strengthen the normalizing power of marriage and, while bringing the Good (married) Gay into the heteronormative fold, to consolidate the Bad (unmarried) Queer’s position in themargins.
1 Under Warner’s conception of the current gay rights movement,
the pursuit of marriage necessarily comes at the expense of articulating alternative, queer goals.

Although some scholars frame the debate in such absolute terms, an exploration of the actual work being done on the ground shows that samesex marriage occupies a more complex and tenuous position in gay-based advocacy. For the most part, gay rights projects do not, at any one moment,
express a single normative vision for the GLBT community.

At one end of the spectrum is the conservative gay position, illustrated by groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR). Guided by the mottothat “inclusion wins,”
LCR espouses integration and rejects liberal and
queer arguments regarding that it means to be “gay.”
Such political conservatives
promote formal equality and individual rights, and eschew claims that rely on the distinctiveness of the group. In this respect, the rightwing position endorses equal rights and incremental progress at the cost of recognizing the uniqueness of queer culture.
5 Marriage, while desirable,
can wait; non-discrimination and the repeal of anti-sodomy laws are more realistic and more worthwhile objectives. Furthermore, a behavioristic, moralistic call for monogamous commitment and a thorough rejection of promiscuity and multiple intimacies, often accompanied by connecting promiscuity to AIDS, maps onto a conservative gay orientation; this argument has also been used by gay-centrist thinkers.
6 Insofar as the conservative
line accepts the status quo and eschews aggressive activism, it is, by definition, not generally supported within public interest organizations litigating on behalf of gays. While the rhetoric of individual rights, integration, and equality surfaces in many gay rights campaigns, even the
least progressive of gay-based legal organizations recognizes the distinctiveness
of GLBT groups, evidenced by their push for hate crimes legislation and litigation. [...]

A gay-centrist position is closely associated with liberal calls for samesex marriage, but it is more widely characterized by an appeal to equality and liberty as bases for the inclusion of gays and lesbians in rights and protections afforded to heterosexuals. In this respect, a centrist orientation (like a conservative one) is invested in the liberal tradition of individual rights. At the same time, the centrist position recognizes the distinctiveness of the group to the extent that the GLBT community experiences specific vulnerabilities and suffers specific injuries. For example, centrists acknowledge
the unique injury and stigma that anti-sodomy laws inflict on gays. Similarly, a centrist orientation endorses frank sex education in the
name of GLBT youth whose experiences are particularly at risk of being
written out of existence by abstinence-only programs. In this sense, a centrist stance resonates within left multiculturalism and identity politics.

But while gay-centrist objectives are defensible as logical extensions of equality jurisprudence and as  means of representation responsive to constituents,  the centrist focus on the normative
nature of marriage arguably renders queer ideals undesirable.

In articulating the queer critique of same-sex marriage, Warner observes that even if gays seek to marry to revolutionize the institution from  within, “marrying [nevertheless] consolidates and sustains the normativity of marriage.”
9 He goes on to argue that the marriage debate has likewise
normalized the gay movement.
10 This queer orientation represents
the left position and is most closely associated with an embrace of sexual
shame and a celebration of marginalized sexual orientations and practices.

Queer thought is characterized by anti-identitarian, antinomian, and sexpositive
impulses. While I understand that many people oppose the imposition
of queer thought onto gay rights organizations, I ªnd the application
of queer theory in this vein useful on both an analytical and representational
level. By resisting the stability (if not the very existence) of
identity, queer thought provides a useful tool for interrogating the concept
of representation that is key to cause lawyering.
12 Furthermore, by reconceptualizing the position of gays as one of vibrant insubordination, the
queer critique facilitates a thoughtful questioning of the terms on which
gay rights are often pursued and the claims that gay advocates choose to
make. Finally, by celebrating the “sex” in homosexuality (and in everyone
else), queer theory adheres to the ethos of sexual liberation that sparked
the gay movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In so doing, it seeks to represent
GLBT individuals who celebrate deviance and resist normative sexual
practices. When a queer position articulates itself within the legal
regime, it attempts to defend distinctive sexual practices such as cruising.

Similarly, instead of focusing on the institution of marriage, queer thought
locates dependency relationships and finds ways to attach benefits and protections
to those relationships.
- Source

Now class, wasn't that educational?  So far we have learned more than we knew about gay politics and we have been able to at least locate Michael Bayly and other religious gay advocates within the gay-centrist classification/position. 
My apologies that the text jumped all over the post and I wasn't able to format it better.
H/T to my friend Paula for the Harvard paper - I hope I didn't mutilate the point too much with my commentary.


  1. I like how "queer theory" boils down to nothing more than an intellectual (really pseudo-intellectual) justification for "screw what/who you want, when you want, how you want", just an attempt to remove any and all vestiges of sexual morality whatsoever. Because it's not limited to gay - it's about pronography, pedophilia, adultery, etc. All of this must be "normalized".

    I remember thinking in college how this was nonsense when we learned about this crap (in a language and gender class I think). It's just a justification for total sexual depravity - that's it and that's all.

    I'd love to know how it's"progressive" in Christian terms. Maybe Michael Bayly can explain how this is good and progressive for the world.

    He still hasn't answered my question about whether he thinks gay fornication is okay, or if they should "save themselves for marriage". The marriage bed is undefiled, after all ...

  2. Good points mercury - I'm sure he has a cover for those questions too.

  3. Fellas, argue not with a fool lest no one tell you apart. Besides I can introduce you to people who think there nothing wrong with married couples fornicating with other people: male, female or both at once. Sheesh.

  4. Inside baseball, huh? I haven't a clue as to what this person is talking about, lol.

  5. VSO - excellent advice! Thanks.

  6. VSO-Your profile is despicable.

  7. Anonymous9:56 PM


    All the other Catholic bloggers are ignoring this. It's major. But they're to caught up in Corapi & Voris I guess.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.