Really, the last? Really?

My jaw dropped open when I saw the image that Melissa just posted over at Shakesville.

This is one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen emerge from any movement for social justice in the last decade. Of course, another one was the editorial “Gays First, then Illegals” which was also put out by the Advocate. Apparently they’ve changed positions — they used to think gay rights should come ahead of other kinds of struggles. Now they’ve realized that really, there are no civil rights to worry about after their problems are taken care of. Well, no great struggles anyway. It’ll be like sweeping up after a big party.

Also, did you hear? Gays are like black people. I guess that makes gay black people old and new at the same time: you guys are such fierce paradoxes, really! It’s stuff like this that makes me want to avoid working for my OWN rights as a queer and just go do something else with my time and energy. A lot of the contemporary, mainstream gay rights movement is focused around the fact that their constituency are “second-class citizens.” Well, once they’ve finished the “last great civil rights struggle” I suppose that white, middle-class, cisgendered, able-bodied gay guys with full citizenship will be “first-class citizens” at last. That’s just what we need in this country: more first-class citizens to be productive members of society and act like all the third, fourth, and fifth class citizens don’t exist anymore.

I have no more time, money, or patience for any movement that’s solely focused on gaining first-class citizenship for one group of second-class citizens.

Update: Melissa found the actual cover story, which is printed with a question mark at the end: “Gay is the new black?” The essay, by Michael Joseph Gross, is nothing like the cover of the magazine makes it out to be — which basically means that the editorial board that put together and approved this cover are the ones who owe Gross and many other people an apology. No scratch that, let’s just tar and feather them and run them through the streets at the next pride parade.

Here’s a VERY relevant paragraph from Gross’s actual essay:

Our oppression, by and large, is nowhere near as extreme as blacks’, and we insult them when we make facile comparisons between our plights. Gay people have more resources than blacks had in the 1960s. We are embedded in the power structures of every institution of this society. While it is illegal in this country to fire an African-American without cause and in most places it’s still legal to fire a gay person for being gay, we are more likely to have informal means of recourse than black people have. Almost all gay people have the choice of passing. Very few black people have that option. Of course, we shouldn’t have to make that choice, and our civil rights struggle is about making sure that we don’t have to.

So yeah. The editors and publishers of the advocate printed a story that says “we insult black people when we make facile comparisons between our plights.” Then they make the most facile possible comparison on the cover of the magazine. I’d say that’s a deliberate insult.

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23 comments for “Really, the last? Really?

  1. December 5, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Wow. Is the mag TRYING to increase the post Prop 8 bitterness? Has there been too little counterproductive internecine snoping among progressive social movements? Or are they just mainlining liquid self-involvement?

  2. Aerik
    December 5, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    The bullshit goes both ways. I butted head with the Point of Inquiry podcast’s DJ Grothe when he accused “New Atheist Leaders” (whatever the fuck those are) of equating “new atheism” (which doesn’t exist) with the black civil rights movement. I had to explain that just because we compare the strategy of of one bigot to another does not mean we are equating the victims’ experiences. Nor is that the case when we compare how the victims of different bigotries achieve success with the same activist strategies. In both cases, what is revealed is the sickeningly parallel mindsets of the bigots.

    You can always people who make this accusation were more interested in propping themselves up by putting forth this argument against their fellow oppressed. Ethnic groups, gays, trans, women, atheists, even scientists. Grothe was knee deep in it when he made the argument, and I had to point out that atheist blogger icon PZ Myers aptly dismantled equivocations of modern atheist activists to the radical feminists of the 60’s in We Aim to Misbehave Grothe just wants to make himself feel better.

    Right on cue this atheist blogger (not a leader in any stretch of the imagination) puts up an image that just says “atheism is the new black.” With accompanying followup captioning “I’m sure there are other comparisons to make…” and nothing else. End of her post. So dumb.

    While there are no leaders whatsoever in the atheist community doing that racist crap, you can depend on an occasional asshole getting a flash in the pan of social bookmarking sites by engaging in it. More and more I find myself confronting atheists who say “Atheists are the last acceptable group to perecute in the country.” This is based on a solid survey that clearly showed that atheists were the most disrespected group when it comes to potential presidential candidates. And yes, there are a fair number of cases where atheists are murdered simply for it.

    But the last? Really? Bullshit. I battle with Skeptics all the time for transphobia and misogyny, white privilege and even outright racism.

    It’s all, once again, the delusion of the hierarchy of oppressions. The worst part: we can’t cut ourselves off even from the bullshitters because the last thing we should do is to act as if we can’t eventually come to understand each other.

  3. December 5, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Thomas — as rrp said at Shakesville,

    “There is also the possibility that they’re just being open about who they consider their audience.”

  4. December 5, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Wow. If I were the author of that piece, I would be livid.

  5. CBrachyrhynchos
    December 5, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Aerik: Not meaning the derail, but “New Atheism” appears to have been applied to a number of authors who advocate antitheism in the last few years: Dawkins, Hitchins and Harris, as opposed to us more complacent atheists who are willing to live and let live as long as our civil rights are respected. So it’s not a term that comes out of the blue, although I personally dislike that method of splitting our community.

  6. December 5, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    To that point, the actual essay by Gross also included this paragraph:

    To blame this loss on black people would be a terrible mistake, and it would only increase enmity between gays and blacks. African-American leaders in the Congressional Black Caucus — particularly Barbara Lee — and state leaders such as former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown worked hard on our behalf; many of them were quicker to come to our defense than their white peers. And they did this even though white gay people have never, en masse and in force, showed up to support them and their issues. The work of our black allies created an immense reservoir of opportunity and possibility for the movement going forward. It should not be squandered for the cheap satisfaction of finding a scapegoat.

    I don’t know if any torts involving false light, misrepresentation, or defamation apply here, but if I were Gross I’d consider suing the bastards at the Advocate.

  7. December 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Well said Holly, I couldn’t agree more. The Advocate is so dated in so many ways — not the least of which is indicated here — they just don’t get that’s it isn’t all about them. As a gay man the ways in which some narrow minded people within the movement continue to make adversaries instead of allies never ceases to amaze. When gay people do achieve equality, it will be in spite of, not as a result of, so many historically stupid and offensive things like this that the Advocate and others in the “leadership” have done. If there weren’t so damn many of us, the entire civil rights movement might just pass us by left to the “visionaries” at the Advocate.

  8. December 5, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Here is what get me about all of this. POC have talking about the racism in the gay community for some time now and we have been labeled homophobes. Any taunt was/is used to support what is clearly racist and cultural appropriation. The usual code words are tossed around and we are routinely told that the struggle is the same even though it’s not. Whiteness has the right to our narrative because right now it is useful. Of course this is horrific we all know that good decent white folk shouldn’t be treated like blacks. As a person of color there is nothing shocking about the cover. The white male representatives of the GLBTQI community have been playing the “its’ just like Rosa Parks card” for a very long time. It is seriously my opinion that the bluntness of this statement is what is shocking people, not that the card is routinely played.

  9. December 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Honestly, what made my jaw drop wasn’t the “Gay is the New Black” crap, that’s been going around for a while and you’re right, it’s no huge surprise.

    It was tagging on “The LAST Great Civil Rights Struggle” that floored me.

    The conservative wing of the gay rights movement has been harping on “c’mon, help us out right now and we’ll come back and work on behalf of trans folks / immigrants / poor people / whoever else later” for years now. (They never want to listen to anyone else say “maybe we should wait to push gay marriage,” of course.) And now the Advocate is trying to push “the LAST struggle?” Wow. I mean, I knew they were lying, but it really is blatant.

  10. NancyP
    December 5, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I daresay that some clueless marketing type is behind this cover. The Advocate cover more often than not features some eye candy or an entertainer. Covers that feature issues by showing average-looking activists or people doing interesting things probably don’t sell the magazine as effectively. I wouldn’t be surprised if the graphic designer or marketer took one look at the article and said to himself , “boooooring”, and decided to be a shit-stirrer, without thinking about the harm this causes to the LGBTQIASGL community as a whole and the black SGL/LGBT community.

  11. December 5, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    @NanctP I think it is a cop out to say that this was just a ploy to sell magazines. Let’s think about why they believed this tactic would work in the first place. They believed that this cover would be successful because this is exactly the attitude that has repeatedly been displayed by the white male leadership of the gay community. The magazine didn’t just pull this idea out of a hat.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have heard analogies to the black of the civil rights movement. So lets just not put this off on advertising as though it does not appeal to people.

  12. December 6, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Renee: I don’t know how to do this without falling on my sword, but I’m starting to think you’re right on this discussion far more so than I was. This is absurd, and it makes me question any comparison I have made in the past, even the most limited of them. The advocate seems out to alienate everyone with that smug self-centeredness I hate about the right wing.

  13. December 6, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Oh. My. Gosh.

    You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

    Nope, I take that back.

    I believe it.

  14. December 6, 2008 at 2:19 am


    You didn’t fall on your sword. Yes I agree the cover and the article are so completely offensive, yet there are some already defending it. What troubles me about this is, considering the fall out from Prop 8 this is the last thing that was needed. I have had quite a few POC contact me in a rage over it, asking me why they should continue to be an ally. I say what I always say, we don’t do it because it is always easy, or for the cookie, we do it because it is the right thing to do. I am going to continue to advocate for gay rights because I believe the cause is just, but my trust is something that has been severely damaged.

    When you are running a social justice movement you need the support of people of various races and classes. This is a lesson that the GLBTQI community did not take from out civil rights movement that was probably the most crucial message of all. Whites and blacks marched together. The Jewish community was beyond instrumental. By turning this anger towards POC what they are assuring is that there will be one less group of people that are willing to fight for the cause. When people feel that their human dignity is being denied they are less inclined to fight for the human dignity of another.

  15. December 6, 2008 at 2:21 am

    For those that have not seen it here is the position of the black caucus on gay rights. When you watch it remember that this is the community that is supposedly so completely homophobic that we don’t even discuss gays and lesbians.

  16. December 6, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Yes, the cover misrepresents the content of the article, or at least skews it considerably. If I were Michael Gross, I’d be furious.

  17. December 7, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    wow. That cover is pretty bad.

    Not only for obvious reasons, but also because of the assumption that there are only 2 civil rights struggles!

  18. Betsy
    December 7, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks for the update; I hadn’t realized that the cover so grossly (/rimshot) misrepresented the content of the article.

    When you are running a social justice movement you need the support of people of various races and classes. This is a lesson that the GLBTQI community did not take from out civil rights movement that was probably the most crucial message of all. Whites and blacks marched together. The Jewish community was beyond instrumental. By turning this anger towards POC what they are assuring is that there will be one less group of people that are willing to fight for the cause. When people feel that their human dignity is being denied they are less inclined to fight for the human dignity of another.

    This. I study and teach the history of the 50s-70s and I think that one reason this is the case is that many students and activists romanticize the more militant aspects of the movement, the pursuit of purity, and the rejection of incrementalism. While I understand that completely, I tend to think that both sorts of organizing are necessary – the fringe can help push the discussion in the right direction by making the moderates seem reasonable, but you absolutely need the moderates, the people willing to ally with those outside the group, even those with whom you might have some deep moral/philosophical differences. Otherwise not a damn thing gets done.

  19. Betsy
    December 7, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Also, is there any way to avoid my comments getting stuck in the mod queue? It seems like every time I try to comment here since I got my new computer a few months ago, my comment gets stuck in moderation for hours.

  20. Angela
    July 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Read the article. Gross never said “Gay is the New Black.” That was not and is not his position. The article is incredibly well written and thoughtful. Google “Michael Joseph Gross Gay is the New Black” and you’ll find the article.

    And writers have no control over what the magazine puts on their cover. None. No say. Not even in the discussion.

    Many of these comments are very supportive of Gross, but many people are still condemning him without doing their homework. You need to read the article.

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