Why did gay activists never embrace violence?

Ever since three masked men walked into the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and methodically murdered the magazine’s staff along with two French policeman (one of whom was injured and already on the ground when the terrorist walked up and put a bullet through his brain, point blank), there’s been a subtle stream of “yeah but” from some on the left.

I admit to being slightly guilty of the offense myself. I wrote a piece intended to start a discussion on whether Charlie Hebdo wasn’t poking a rather dangerous snake with its sometimes (often?) over-the-top (read: racist) cartoons (though some of the cartoon, like the gay one below, were rather brilliant). My intent wasn’t to even vaguely excuse these terrorists in particular, or Islamic extremism in general. I did, however, want to get people talking about how best to defend freedom of speech and respond to threats like those from Muslim extremists.

The gay one.

The gay one.

Since then, I’ve read a number of things on Twitter that, while claiming otherwise, seem to be making excuses for the violence. A discussion of the French treatment of Muslim immigrants comes to mind, while others have chastised “white people” generally, including “white liberals in America.”

And a top liberal voice, for example, yesterday retweeted a seven-year-old story from the Washington Post about how most of France’s prisons are filled with Muslims. It was difficult not to hear a bit of a “yeah but” when reading all of this.

And it got me thinking. Gays have been rather oppressed too. And we never killed anybody in return. Why is that?

Screen-Shot-2015-01-08-at-4.13.25-PMI’m hardly being facetious. At the burgeoning height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and early 90s, gay men were dropping like flies. Our government wasn’t terribly concerned about addressing the obvious plague that was decimating the gay community, in large part because our government didn’t terribly like gays. So they let us die. A lot of us.

Way back in the 1990s, I remember asking myself how it was that the most radical gay activists never chose violence. Not that I thought violence was a good idea — I didn’t. The last thing a community begging for acceptance as “normal” needed was a “gay terrorist.” But boy did we face a lot of hate (and still do). Back in the late 80s and early 90s, especially, that hate was literally killing us (though it’s still killing gay and trans youth today). And someone months away from death doesn’t have a lot to lose.

But those activists, who understandably hated the likes of Jesse Helms and Jerry Falwell, to name but a few, never lifted a finger to hurt either one of them, or anyone else for that matter. And I find that interesting.

And before anyone claims that gay activists in America were all privileged white guys — gays, and people with AIDS in particular, we’re hardly privileged in Ronald Reagan’s America. They were treated by many as diseased pariahs. Not to mention, gay activists aren’t all American, and they aren’t all white. And in no country in the world can you point me to gay activists who have embraced violence.

So I rightfully bristle when some of my liberal brethren make slimly-couched excuses for the serial execution of cops or cartoonists, be it in France or America. A lot of people have it bad. And not everyone commits mass murder in response.

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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