Chavisa Woods

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Rants: Gay Liberation , Glenn Beck and the 'Righting' of the Left

Here you are out in the middle of the ocean, can’t swim, worried about someone in a bathtub, can’t swim.” –Malcolm X

“This progress, at the very least, calms my Agitation. You told me you had to cross the ocean to escape the rising waters. You told me I had to be open, to understand, to give you the freedom to move was the only way to survive, you said. You were the one who convinced me to believe. Every night we fell ecstatically into each other’s arms. But then…you started to slip away. ‘This is not action,’ you said, ‘I don’t believe in you’.”   -Sharon Hayes

“And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee” - Nietzsche 

“That which you gaze upon, you shall become.”- Glenn Beck



Since the election of Barak Obama, the leftist and liberal anti-war, anti-oppression movements and the massive demonstrations that snowballed after the invasion of Iraq have all but disappeared. What has emerged is a mindboggling assemblage of right wing fundamentalists basking under the façade of a grassroots activism, even though the awning bears a neon bright corporate label visible to anyone who cares to look. This movement has usurped the language, tactics and esthetics of liberation movements of the past, as almost a stroke-by-stroke re-creation, with only one glaring difference. These people are not the victimized minority. They do not claim to be the oppressed, the subaltern, the subjugated, the browbeaten, the exploited. They are the browbeaters, vehemently lamenting the loss of their sticks.

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech, Glenn Beck stood at the Lincoln memorial directing us to the Washington Monument, which he described as, “Alone, tall, straight,” most likely consciously omitting white. He continued. “If you were in Bondage in ancient Egypt and you were crying out to the almighty to free us and a man shows up with a stick, don’t you think they said,you’ve got to be kidding us.  But look what that man and that stick did. Mosses and George Washington were just like you, they were men and they picked up their sticks.”

Over the last year, hate crimes in New York City alone have risen by fifty percent, and that’s according the so often fallaciously reductive reports released by the NYPD. We have seen a rise in terrorism against Muslims almost unparalleled in our recent history, even immediately post 911. The vocabulary of racism has been liberated from the shackles of unacceptable taboo, elevated to the level of conscientious societal critique. In the last two weeks, five American teenagers have taken their lives because of homophobic bullying, and multiple hate crimes and gay beatings have unfolded on the nation’s stage. Also last week, Don’t ask Don’t Tell was repealed, a result of nearly two decades of unflinching, ongoing advocacy by gay rights groups.

 Here, if this were a video, I would insert, as soundtrack, the obligatory record scratch, then  the screen would blur, perhaps go black, inciting reflection. Let’s stop for a moment. Let’s look back.

Early gay liberation movements were not afraid to be radical, setting up a foundation of Liberation not just for homosexuals, but for all oppressed people. The early liberation movement acknowledged a systemic structural order (disorder) which constructs itself against “the other.”  IE: We are not part of patriotic, nationalistic, capitalist, heterosexual, racist, sexist classist society and do not want to take part in its institutions, but rather wish to re-order those institutions, acknowledging that our problemazation stems not from our exclusion from these institutions, but from the very nature of these institutions themselves.

 The ideas found in the excerpt I have include below, excerpts from ”the Gay Manifesto” by Carl Whitman, 1970, are indicative of the ideology and theories found in the majority of gay liberation manifestos and texts from the late sixties and early seventies. Some key ideas from this text include:

  1. Owning and acknowledging victimization. Owning and acknowledging the reality of oppression.
  2. Rejecting the notion that the homosexual can find self respect by mimicking straight relationships.
  3. Defining marriage as an oppressive intuition, gay or straight.
  4. The text states, “Sexuality is not genetic. Homosexuality is not genetic.”
  5. This text and most others from that time insist that gay rights movements, while including gay people of color, must also extend to address issues which effect people of color, gay or straight. If we stand against homophobia, we must also stand against racism.
  6. This text and most others from that time insist that gay rights movements, while including women-lesbians, must also support the efforts of feminist and women’s liberation movements.
  7. This particular text does not even acknowledge the existence of gay police or gay armed service members, except when speaking of the draft, and it was the general assumption the majority of those involved in gay liberation movements stood in opposition to the war; in support of liberation, against oppression and institutions of oppression; any armed forces.

As I lay out these ideas, one by one, it becomes evident that the contemporary Gay Rights movement has not only diverged from the original ideas of gay liberation, but has actually moved in the exact opposite direction on each and every one of the fundamental understandings that originally propelled the movement. As we look forward, I must ask, has the mainstream gay rights movement stared so long into the abyss that they became what they were gazing upon? This is not a reference t the Nietchze  quote, but rather to Glenn Beck’s screwedup at attempt at a quote of Nietchze, wherein he coined an entirely new phrase outlining an altogether different idea. “That which you gaze upon, you shall become,” has more practical applications to the analysis of the evolution of contemporary political movements than Nietche’s metaphysical formulation. 



To be continued.......


-Chavisa Woods
















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