TIME frets that gay activists aren’t as nice as MLK

Professional dancer Brandon Ambrosino is at it again with another therapy session labeled as journalism. This time Ambrosino frets in TIME that modern gay activists aren’t as nice as Martin Luther King.

Ambrosino is known for his “gay rights make me squeamish” style of writing. For example, his recent piece in the Atlantic informed us that it’s not anti-gay to be against gay marriage.  (It is, however, anti-gay to be constantly writing articles defending homophobia and homophobes, but that’s for another day.)

Martin Luther King (Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Photo by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer.)

Martin Luther King (Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Photo by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer.)

Ambrosino thinks it’s not anti-gay to be against marriage equality

What Ambrosino isn’t known for is complicated thought.  Take this paragraph in his “it’s okay to be against gay marriage” oeuvre:

If it’s “anti-gay” to question the arguments of marriage-equality advocates, and if the word “homophobic” is exhausted on me or on polite dissenters, then what should we call someone who beats up gay people, or prefers not to hire them? Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination. Our language ought to reflect that distinction.

Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe it works the same way that it’s “racist” to tell n-word jokes, but it’s also racist to burn down black churches.  Same word, varying severity.  Yet, the African-American civil rights movement survives the quasi-homonym and fights on.

Ambrosino thinks we’re being mean to Aaron Schock

Ambrosino was also quite disturbed that I, and others, were taking anti-gay GOP Congressman Aaron Schock on for the fact that he comes across as awfully gay.  Here’s another rather uncomplicated, and poorly written, paragraph from that Ambrosino piece:

aaron-schock-barrel-featured-2

Aaron Schock.

Some might argue that because Schock “lied” and flatly denied gay rumors, he deserves to be outed. But this line of reasoning turns on a very limited, outdated understanding of sexuality. Sexuality is fluid, and many of our sexual experiences confirm this. Even if Schock and a buddy were caught in the shower together doing something more than conserving water, does that necessarily mean both men are gay? Maybe they’re bisexual. Maybe they’re hypersexual. Maybe they’re experimental. Maybe they’re straight MSM (men who have sex with men).

I say “poorly written” not to make this personal. But if Ambrosino is going to write about the poor quality of our modern gay activism, and activists, and name me by name (well, by mis-spelled name), then it’s fair game to discuss the quality of our critics. The man is simply not a writer, nor much of a thinker. So why do TIME and the Atlantic keep giving him column-space to write what most would consider a rather-rushed post on a b-list blog?

I just have to share one more bit of Ambrosino analysis from the TIME Schock piece:

I can certainly understand why some LGBTs would want to out celebrities and politicians in the attempt at gaining increased visibility. But I wonder if limited visibility is really the problem. I don’t think even the staunchest anti-gay voter is unaware of our numbers, although he might be confused by our conflicted message: don’t shame us – we’ll do the shaming! Perhaps we should worry less about being seen, and more about how we’re being seen.

I smell a closet.

Gay activists are mean

So with that background, I’m not terribly surprised that Ambrosino’s latest rhetorical carnage laments the fact that gay activists aren’t as nice as MLK:

I do, however, worry that many of our loudest gay activists agree with him. That is, even as they position themselves within the tradition that produced Dr. King, they seem to have lost sight of King’s true legacy of love.

The current landscape of queer politics is growing increasingly hostile. We no longer prize intellectual conversation, preferring instead to dismiss our opponents in 140-character feats of rhetoric. We routinely scour the private lives and social media accounts of our political opponents in the hopes of demonizing them as archaic, unthinking, and bigoted. Whenever we find an example of queer hatred, we are quick to convince the public that the only proper way to deal with these haters is to hate them.

In contrast to contemporary gay activists, King found a way to condemn evil without condemning the evildoer. [emphasis added]

Yeah, not so much:

MARTIN LUTHER KING: “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she unwillingly began. National Archives record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93). Source: Ebony Magazine

Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she unwillingly began. National Archives record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93). Source: Ebony Magazine

The bad people?  He’s mean.

You know who else wasn’t nice?  Rosa Parks (ask the white people sitting alongside her at the front of the bus how “nice” they found her actions).  And the African-American college kids who sat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter.  And the organizers behind the Montgomery bus boycott (oh that’s right, MLK actually led the boycott).  And the Suffragettes.  And Nelson Mandela (he even used bombs).  And the Founding Fathers and their muskets.

I’m not even convinced that Ambrosino’s thesis is even accurate.  White racists didn’t find Martin Luther King just as angry, hostile, and hateful as Ambrosino finds gay rights advocates today? Really?  And, as noted in the MLK quote above, Martin Luther King did not condemn evil but fail to mention the evildoer.

But there’s a more fundamental problem underlying Ambrosino’s article: Why write it at all?  What’s the problem that needs fixing?  Ambrosino never tells us.

It’s not enough to simply claim that “activists are mean,” and that per se that is a problem.  You have to explain why being mean doesn’t work generally, and isn’t working on the gay rights front in particular. And Ambrosino never does that.  He never explains what isn’t working, and why it needs fixing. You get the disctinct impression that the real problem for Ambrosino isn’t that we’re ineffective, it’s that strong gay rights advocacy simply makes him feel icky.

In the case of modern gay activists, I challenge you to find any progressive (or conservative, for that matter) movement that’s been more effective than us in the past few years.  And our successes did not stem from being nice.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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