July 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm EDT | by Mark Lee
Yes, the ‘queer revolution’ lost, and we’re the reason
United States Supreme Court, gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, gay news, Washington Blade, queer revolution

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

It was huge.

Big enough that awareness of the affirmation of LGBT lives still comes in waves, in moments of random reflection or simple quietude. Eyes well up with tears from time to time. Thoughts of friends no longer with us to witness this moment in U.S. history offer a bittersweet tribute to their memory, their lives and longings, and those they loved.

The Supreme Court ruling announced last Friday morning that established a national right to marriage for all Americans was almost universally expected and surprised few. Significant majorities of all but only a handful of demographic groups – notably white evangelical Christians, black Protestants, and Republicans over 60 – supported marriage equality in advance of the decision. Fully three-fourths of the country considered legalization inevitable.

Absent a few anxious heartbeats that there would be an unexpected decision, unacceptable limitation or unanticipated development, the court order unfurled as predictably as the rainbow flags held aloft outside the high court building and the U.S. Capitol. The solitary disappointment was it didn’t come with the concurrence of six, instead of five, justices. Chief Justice John Roberts apparently needs to get out more, given his assertion the country isn’t yet ready to accept what an overwhelming majority have embraced.

A collective awareness within and beyond those directly and dramatically affected that suddenly everything has changed, and will continue to change based on this single critical victory, continues to grow with the passage of each day. A decision that many didn’t dare to dream a mere decade ago, and which occurred more expeditiously than most expected, will produce a plethora of pathways to comprehensive equality in all aspects of our lives. Those with so-called “religious objections” are right to be worried, as fundamental human equality is not, and never should be, limited by the prejudices of any church or sanctimonious belief.

The primary obstacle to the pace of continued progress will prove to be the glacial gears of government. If we could have been spared anything in the run-up to the decision, and after-glow of its announcement, it would have best been the self-congratulation of politicians who until only recently managed the temerity to “evolve” to supporting marriage equality. That and the shocking unpreparedness of other politicians to react in appropriate fashion – yes, Republican presidential candidates, we’re looking at you.

We won because the nation got to know us and came to realize we’re no different than they. The nation’s nonchalant reaction was less disinterest than dismay it had taken so long or that such a fuss was being made.

Yet, no matter how predictable, the complainers immediately began raising their voices. And they were some of us.

Leftist LGBT laments quickly began popping up, criticizing the community for its acceptance of assimilation, perceived pandering to “privilege” and outright rejection of cultural “rebellion.” According to liberal extremists disappointed in developments that will prove in hindsight to be a historical legacy of the magnitude that Brown v. Board of Education is to racial equality, the victory was shameful.

Yes, the “queer revolution” lost, and we’re the reason.

Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s written opinion for the majority was more prosaic than poetry, more marriage manifesto than clarion call for equality, it accurately reflected an aspiration and concern common to the vast majority of LGBT Americans. For all those who grew up not knowing another gay person, feeling alone and worried about being lonely, Kennedy captured the desire for a life that allows the large comfort of legal companionship.

What the radical lesbian and gay left fails to comprehend is, despite the fact that fewer than anticipated desire to marry based on statistics in states where the right has been relatively long established, we seek the mundaneness of living our lives in a manner those not gay take for granted. We don’t seek something special, but extraordinarily ordinary.

As it turns out, that’s what we wanted to win.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

41 Comments
  • Great message! I’d add that the gay rights movement in general, not just radicals, insisted gay marriage was “bourgeoisie” and unacceptable to the “cause” until conservative groups wanted to impose their wills with a constitutional amendment making marriage between a man and a woman. Only then did the gay establishment make it their main platform. Prior to that, you can uncover essays by gay activists and writers denouncing gay marriage. I’m sure even the Washington Blade’s archives is loaded with them. Nonetheless, gays won the marriage equality battle (for better or for worse–no pun), but the ongoing battle over assimilation v. self-segregation continues.

    • Why do we need to assimilate? We have a gay cultural identity just like African Americans have one and Jews have one. It’s not self-segregation, it’s preserving a sense of community and connection to others like yourself.

      We live in a heterosexual world. We don’t need to be absorbed by it like an Amoeba. Sometimes you need to step back and be with your own to keep your sanity. You can always find the heterosexual world wherever you go. Finding your gay community is becoming harder.

      Let’s not give homophobia what it wants by becoming invisible simply because we feel at some point we’ve achieved all our legal rights and being gay is irrelevant. Being gay becomes no more irrelevant than keeping your ethnicity or culture.

      • The problem I have with your argument is your assumption that “we” all think and act and want the same things because we are gay. Your concept of “community” seems to be something that exists mostly in your head. I can be openly gay and live pretty much anywhere in the U.S. (save for a few spots) without concern for my safety. Being gay isn’t a dance move or a fashion statement–at least not to me.

        • I never said that being gay was a fashion statement or dance move. I never said it was a cookie-cutter formula. I don’t identify with cliques that require you to wear leather, or drag to fit into them either. That’s not my concept of what being gay is. Yet for others it is.

          My concept of community hardly exists in my head. I’ve known it well for many years. You can live openly as yourself anywhere but still feel quite alone if you can’t find others like yourself. I’m not talking about hookups either. I came out and experienced a very strong gay community over the decades and enjoyed the energy and sense of belonging I got from it, Seeing and being among so many others like myself within it was uplifting.

          I also never made the assumption that we all want the same things or think the same way because we are gay. But your initial statement to me seemed to make the assumption we all want exactly what you want which also doesn’t represent what all gays want either.

          We all individuals who need different things. I for one don’t want to lose my accessibility to a gay community despite how accepting America or the world may become. I think there is room for a balance which allows for living within each world as you need it.

          People like you strike me as the type that think that once you come to America, you should lose all your ancestral cultural ties like a foreign language such as Spanish to fit into the mainstream of America. I feel there is room to do both.

          • The last of my ancestors who arrived in what is now the US arrived with her siblings and parents from Switzerland in about 1800.

            And yet, my cousins, siblings and I feel more German than Swiss (German ancestry arriving in what is now the US in our family goes back to the late 1600s).

            One of my roommates was of Italian heritage – all of his grandparents were born in Italy, then emigrated to the US. His parents, his aunts and uncles, his cousins, his siblings were all born in the US. and he was as American as the next person. Yet he, his siblings and his cousins all were (and are) proud of, and celebrated, their Italian heritage. Later he moved to Hawai’i and married his soulmate in Vancouver when ME became legal in British Columbia.

            So, Mr. Somerset, please do not ascribe YOUR lack of knowledge of ancestry to anyone else, only yourself. And do not ascribe to others what your opinions are. Your opinions are yours, but not necessarily mine.

        • Oh, and as for your concept of you can be openly gay and live pretty much anywhere does that include the 29 states where it’s still legal to fire you, deny you housing, public accommodations or services simply because you are gay? Do you think being gay doesn’t impose a glass ceiling on your ability to rise to any position in any job within any organization where so many still don’t have women or racial minorities in high level positions?
          All our legal victories and perceived acceptance still do not eradicate homophobia or intolerance in the hearts of our fellow Americans anymore than it has for racism to this day.
          Just because you haven’t experienced hostile attitudes or discrimination directly…YET…doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t.
          All our legal victories and perceived acceptance still do not eradicate homophobia or intolerance in the hearts of our fellow Americans anymore than it has for racism to this day.

          • Perhaps in those 29 states no gay protection laws are needed people no one is firing people because they’re gay?

          • Yes, in all those 29 states not one single gay person has ever experienced anti-gay discrimination or hostility precious and never will. They are perfectly accepted and welcomed everywhere they go. The religious conservatives have given up fighting us in those states. I supposed the marriage bans in most of those states were just a fluke. All our battles for gay rights are over. I bet there are unicorns in your world, too.

            I can’t tell exactly from your grainy blurred picture how old you are, you look around 50 or so, but you sound like you might have just been born with naïve statements like that. Are you one of those gay Republicans by chance from an organization like “GOProud”? That would explain a lot.

            If your so accepted for being gay everywhere why is your picture so blurry? Is that even your real name? Doesn’t sound like a real name.

          • What you are saying is technically true. There are 29 states where you could conceivably be denied housing, services, or be fired from your job for being gay. The reality is much different than that, though. I will advocate for and support adding sexual orientation and gender identity to state non-discrimination statutes, because there are still cases of bigotry that reach the level of requiring these statutes. However, you are painting a picture of this big bad swath of the country who riles up lynch mobs to come and get the queer down the street. That just is not reality. I’ve lived as an openly gay man for my almost 40 years in the reddest of red parts of this country. I have never been denied housing, never have I been fired, and never has a business refused to serve me because of my sexual orientation. Never, not one single time. Let’s focus on closing the loophole in the law that *could* allow those things to happen and tone down the histrionic language. We lose public support when we cross the bridge into victimhood. The marriage equality battle was won because we showed straight America that we want to be treated like they treat everyone else. It worked. When we go too far in making ourselves the “other” or pin our hopes on arcane legal concepts that main street Americans can’t understand, that’s when we lose our arguments. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.

          • Wow. Just plain wrong. Let me guess, white guy much?

          • Wow, what assumptions you make. Actually no, I am not a white guy, but thanks for playing the stereotype game!

          • Uh huh. Sure you’re not. Well at the very least, you sure do want to be. I’m really offended by your assumption that gay folks live in a happy Disney where no one cares they’re gay and no Lynch mobs are chasing them down the street. Look at every Republican held state House in the south and you’ll see the Lynch mobs. Just open your eyes.

          • At no point did I say that my experience is the only experience. The South is filled with bigots. I grew up there, I know this better than anybody. The point I am trying to make is that while there are problems, it’s not doom and gloom everywhere and for everybody. Of course more needs to be done to change conditions for people who aren’t so fortunate to have lived my experience, but if you’re accusing me of looking at the world through rose colored glasses, then you’re doing exactly the same thing, just in the other direction. You can’t invalidate my experience as a brown person in America. I am trying very hard not to discount your experience that may have been very much different from mine. Now, to address your sarcastic responses about my ethnic background. Just so you know, I’m full-blooded Native American. Born and raised on my tribe’s reservation in Alabama. Think I’m lying? Look it up. Poarch Band of Creek Indians. We are the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama, and the only Creek tribe that managed to not be removed to Oklahoma in the 1820s. Being Native in Alabama is no picnic. Both of my parents attended segregated public schools until they were forcibly integrated in the 1970s. So please, don’t question my credentials to speak on the subject of the South and I won’t question yours.

          • I never said America was doom and gloom for GLBT either. I just get irritated when people say being GLBT doesn’t matter anymore in America and we have arrived.

            Case in point, today AOL ran the story about the AG saying gay couples are entitled to Federal benefits. The story ran a picture of two men kissing. Over a 100 people approved of a comment on how disgusting it was to see two men kissing. Many used the word Puke. Others said they expected gays couples to not be open about their relationships in public, showing affection, as heterosexual couples do. One even said that their insurance rates would go up due to gay marriage because of AIDS.

            There is a great deal of intolerance and hatred still out there for GLBT Americans and we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of nationwide acceptance or security.

          • I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. But I also think it’s important to recognize just how far we have come. Clearly there is much further to go, but there really has been a giant cultural shift in this country over the course of the past 30-40 years on this issue. Just as with race, though, there will always be those who hate us and seek to deny us our lives and liberty. It’s incumbent upon us to celebrate our wins and be vigilant against the bigots out there who won’t change their hearts no matter how much the culture around them changes.

          • I do acknowledge our wins. While 29 states still allow discrimination I’ve seen the number that do decrease. When I came out only 1 state, Wisconsin, had such laws. Even my liberal home state had no protections for gays at all. You couldn’t be out for fear of being shunned by friends and family or being denied things like services or a job. Being out either inspired violence or fear.

            I’ve seen us survive the AIDS crisis when the backlash threatened to destroy us and reverse our gains and so many of us were lost. I’ve seen AIDS go from an automatic death sentence to a manageable disease.

            I’ve enjoyed seeing the striking down of sodomy laws when the first time they were reaffirmed. I’m happy for the SCOTUS decisions like Romer V. Evans, the end of DADT and especially the passage of hate crimes protections including us!

            Marriage equality was a pipe dream when I came out and seemed impossible even though I wanted it back then. It’s nice to be here to see it happen when so many others are not.

            I see all our achievements but to me sometimes they are bitter sweet. I missed out on serving the military because of the homophobia and having to hide to serve. I missed out on getting married early in life. It seems so unfair how long we’ve been cheated and some of us have lost a good chunk of our lives waiting for it. It’s even worse having to wait for the other gains to finally happen. I wonder if I will long be retired before employment discrimination is banned for example.

          • Nice to see a gay native American out. Have you met many in your experience? I wonder how most Native American tribes look upon it?

            I met a native American guy from Canada many years ago. Very handsome guy. He said there were no gays among his tribe. That that wasn’t something you’d find among his people. I challenged that, but he said he’d no if someone was gay.

            I told him that given that native Americans face racism and gain a great deal of support from their tribe, anyone coming out among his people would like be ostracized given his homophobic attitudes so why would they be out. He looked stunned after that.

          • I haven’t met many gay Natives, but I believe that’s a function of there being so few true Natives in the first place (I don’t count the folks, both white and black, who claim their grandmother was a Cherokee princess or some other similar nonsense.) There most certainly are other gay members of my tribe, but the influence of radical Christianity (Baptists and Evangelicals) is strong in southern Alabama. There are certainly those in my tribe who wish I would sit down and shut up. But I have also been welcomed by most of the other tribal members I interact with.

          • The marriage equality battle was won by a narrow margin favoring it on the SCOTUS, not because of legislative action or popular vote like in Ireland with very vociferous decent. It had nothing to do with what we showed America. If the SCOTUS had ruled the other way, all those anti-gay marriage bans would have been reinstated in many states.

            We can’t even get a fair up and down vote on ENDA in the House due to House speaker Boehner claiming there is no need for the legislation. Tell that to the store owner in Tennessee that put up a sign that no gays are allowed!

            What we have achieved is due to challenging the status quo and refusing to settle for less. But despite those achievements, we still have a long way to go.
            The next battle is over whether people can use the religion card to trump GLBT rights!

            Lucky for you that in 40 years you’ve experienced no discrimination. I grew up in a liberal state. But when it came to gay issues they were just as homophobic and violent as anyone else. I’ve seen people go out of their way to bash gays in known cruise spots before my eyes and yell anti-gay slurs at people as they left gay bars. I’ve been threatened myself on several occasions. I’ve been ostracized by people once I came out to them or they found out about me. I’ve been insulted to my face over it. I’ve seen others harassed at college for being openly gay, too.

            A guy told me once that he deliberately helped his land lady screen out gay people from renting in her building. So how you managed to escape all that is pretty amazing.

            I still frequently see a lot of homophobic comments on internets sights whenever an article on gay issues comes up. They want us invisible and silent.

        • Your response says more about you than the person you responded to. You obviously don’t live in most of the USA if you think we’re safe. Or do you identify as straight acting and appearing and therefore you don’t worry about safety? Or do you live in a gay ghetto where you never experience straight people?

  • I think it’s important to remember that the notion that the GLBT community was once a primarily radical one is false nostalgia; people who claim to remember this are actually remembering a time when it was a mostly closeted one and young radicals made up most of the people who were out. I think that’s what caused what Shelter Somerset is describing; back in the 70s and early 80s, the concerns of the gay movement were dominated by issues of the sort that youth feeling false immortality found important. Now it’s mostly those who have grown up.

    • You might argue the “gay” movement isn’t even gay anymore; it seems to have been hijacked, for lack of a better word, by straight girls who clearly outnumber gay men at the pride parades (at least the ones I’ve been to in recent years) and local gay clubs. Similar to white women who “identify” with being black who now head local NAACP chapters!!

    • Gay people in the eighties became a lot more radical because of the AIDS crises. The government ignored the disease because it was considered a gay disease and we were forced to be in your face in order to survive when so many of our friends were dying around us and we feared the same fate. Christian conservatives used the AIDS crises against us and capitalized on hysteria. While Stonewall may have been the catalyst of the movement, the struggle with AIDS galvanized us into organizing and fighting back. That led to all the progress we’ve made since then. Otherwise, we may have remained complacent and in the shadows.

      We had no rights back then really. Being out meant being rejected and ostracized by most heterosexuals including our families. I think only Wisconsin had non-discrimination laws back then. We didn’t even feel like we could rely on the police to protect us fairly because of their homophobia. Getting gay bashed was common. You’d leave a gay bar and groups of homophobes would drive by yelling faggots to us!

      Still it was an exciting time to be gay. We had gay ghettos, many gay bars, bath houses (before they were closed due to fears of spreading AIDS), gay bookstores, and many gay organizations. We had a stronger community presence. You could cruise people on the streets.

      This brave new virtual world we have is isolating and this idea that assimilation into the heterosexual world and that being gay doesn’t matter anymore is actually making us more invisible and giving what homophobes always wanted, The NAACP still has a role today and gay culture and identity is just as important. A strong available community is always necessary because all the hate and discrimination is still there despite all our legal advances and perceived acceptance!

      • What’s with your fear of being invisible? I find being absorbed by a group more suffocating than living freely among all of society. How can two men or two women who live as a married couple be invisible anywhere? Aren’t we talking about gay marriage here?

        • What’s wrong with being invisible? That’s all our enemies have ever wanted. That’s what we were before Stonewall. It’s going backwards not forward.
          Are we just talking about marriage? It’s the gay movement and where it’s going isn’t it?

          How are you absorbed by a group? I retain my individuality within my own community. Being absorbed to me means feeling you have to identify as leather, a drag queen, a bear or some other group within the community to fit into it. That’s never been me. I’ve always shunned cliques.

          I live free within society but don’t feel I can be myself anywhere I please without scorn or judgment. That’s reality despite being able to legally marry.

          I’m talking about being able to find and connect with other gay people in a gay space when I want that not living in a gay ghetto. Just like you can go to China Town and find an Asian community or Little Havana in Miami and find a Cuban Community. If that’s not something you need then that’s you. Don’t assume all GLBT don’t need that. I came out to that and I’ve known that for decades.

  • Marriage equality was the radical left just a few years ago. Conservatives said it was cra cra to even ask for it.

    • Actually the far left within the gay community was against marriage equality initially, due to their faith in Marxist theories that the family and marriage are inherently oppressive. More conservative gay people were the ones who formulated gay marriage as a policy goal, and heterosexual Republican lawyers, albeit libertarian Republicans, like Ted Olson, are the ones who argued for it in the courts. One can google even just a few years ago articles by gay socialist on socialist websites arguing with their co-religionists that gay marriage is good and not just a reactionary project.

      • OTOH – the really far right is fine with slavery.

        You can pick any strawman you like and say it’s everyone.

      • Not all people whose political philosophy is to the left of the political center are ‘commies’ or even ‘socialist’. Those who think so probably do not have any understanding of what ‘Communism’ and ‘Socialism’ mean, they just throw out the words to scare people.

        And not all people are ‘religionists’. That includes those on the left and on the right side, of the political aisle. Granted, there are fewer on the right side of the political aisle who do not follow a religion, but there are many on the right side of the political aisle who are not ‘religionist’.

  • I tweeted some black humor today, which contains a grain of truth, and 12 people retweeted it and started searching for the story it was based on:

    “Breaking: Judge orders Tennessee clerk who quit job rather than issue same sex license back to work, issues gag order, imposes fine”

  • Extremists on every side are annoying. Screw them.

  • Point of information. The rise of alternates to conventional marriage came out of the sexual revolution of the 60s and was no way a LGBT invention. The pre AIDs gay life during the 70s was a male satyristic free for all that was part of the ten year global boomer party. The only rights anyone cared about were an end to police harassment.

    Moreover, the formation of community also had less to do with bigotry. It had more to do with cheap rent enclaves. Very few LGBT boomers had any real money and the ones who did, were quite closeted.

    It is really with the onset of HIV that LGBT “community” fully understood its third rate status on the planet. More and more survivors of all stripes were sharing theira WTF moment when the families of the deceased shoved the partners aside. Full equality in all of its definitions didn’t look so bad anymore and here we are.

    The point isn’t how any of you choose to live and which choices you make. I know some Lou Chibbaro “gay activists” who don’t believe in marriage. The point is that you have available all of the same choices that everyone else has.

  • All I can say is “you’re welcome.” This is the course that I and many other
    progressive lgbt activist have recommended.

    Radical Left groups like the Gay Liberation Front had their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, dominating our community and pushing cultural rebellion and revolution. Their downfall began with the formation of liberal democratic groups like GLAA and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club that believed not in cultural rebellion but in using the American democratic political process as earlier liberal movements had successfully done. (Conservative gays were of course AWOL from the movement, but did serve a mean Martini at their private parties should you get an invitation).
    Winning elections of progressive, pro-gay politicians delivered success, not radical rhetoric and calls for revolution and rebellion.
    Working with labor unions, civil rights groups, women’s organizations
    and the Democratic Party rather than a rejection of mainstream politics, brought us where we are today. Frank Kameny and the founders of the Stein Club should be happy of the eventual success of the turn they caused in the lgbt movement.

  • The eagerness with which the assimilationists seek to stab their queer brothers/sisters/others in the back should give us pause. But it won’t. Instead, they’ll throw the queers overboard, and the great white gay upper-class sailboat will sail on into the sees of “normalcy”. Buh-bye.

  • Oooooh so now you’re normal. How happy you must be. Just so you I’ll teach you what we Blacks tell someone who doesn’t want to be defined by color. Go marry a white girl. Go visit her family. You’ll find out you’re Black quick enough. Same thing here. You can scoff at left wing Activists all you want but you wouldn’t have your illusion of normalcy without them.

  • Why is HRC pictured here? Wasn’t the ACLU the group representing the plaintiffs? HRC – the lgbt Rosie Ruiz. Surprised that they didn’t have a collections barrel in front of them.

  • Yes, the Leftist extremists lost in the US, all of them, all 3 of them. Now we comfy centrists can gloat.

  • Some will find it difficult to accept that “we won” and go on with life. When you have decades of “queer revolution” behind you there is a certain amount of inertia that propels people to continue fighting a fight that has been (to a large extent) won. Organizations that have achieved their goals find new goals and causes and radicals can’t stop being radicals for a particular cause overnight.

  • Everyone hates the gays now, and you have the radical gays to “thank” for that. Bullying women ,religious,small family companies,cattiness,mean spiritedness towards non gays unless you want their asses…Welcome to Taking back America from the gay agenda movement. Thanks leftists and radical gays. You have made our lives a living hsitpile.

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