28 May 2008

Is Uncle Tom A Gay Man? (Part Two)

David Benkof
A fool to himself and his kind . . .

My analysis of David Benkof's mean-spirited op-ed "Why Gays Shouldn't Celebrate State Court Ruling" continues:

Now, nobody Gay in history has lost his assets, his job or his freedom for writing, teaching and running a business guided by his belief that marriage is a union of any two individuals who love each other.

Fourth point of clarification: So there are journalists, teachers and business owners who chose their respective career paths because of opposition to same-gender marriage??? That’s news to me! Seriously, no Straight bigot will ever be bankrupted or jailed for holding bigoted beliefs! What may subject such people to penalties is violating anti-discrimination laws, but those penalties won't be catastrophic like those historically visited upon Lesbians and Gay men who agitated for basic human rights. Benkof only mentioned adverse consequences for marriage equality advocates who are homosexual, so I won’t talk about the Rev. Jimmy Creech and other heterosexual clergy who’ve been defrocked for performing Holy Unions; but if he’s looking for an example of a Gay man who lost assets, employment and freedom as a result of defending Gay love, I've got a name for him: Magnus Hirschfeld!

The German sexologist was not only fined but beaten for his work on behalf on those he called "The Third Sex". Hitler's Brown Shirts fractured his skull and left him bleeding in the street; later, during a lecture, he barely escaped being shot to death! In 1933, the Nazis destroyed his Institute for Sexual Science, cutting off his main livelihood and driving him into exile.

Even earlier, in 1924, a group called the Society for Human Rights, the first documented American Gay Rights organization, was forced out of existence after all of its members were jailed. We can safely presume that some, if not all of them, lost their jobs as a result, and maybe their homes and families, too; that’s what happened during most of the 20th century when Gay identity was exposed!

Homophile activists suffered this kind of persecution as late as 1959; that year, the Denver chapter of the Mattachine Society expired after police targeted its members for public exposure and arrest. My source for these incidents is Neil Miller's excellent book Out Of The Past (Alyson Books, 2006). What do you bet that some of these pioneering activists supported marriage equality? Don't believe for one second that the desire of Lesbians and Gay men to marry their life partners is a recent development! What you can believe is this: David Benkof doesn't know sh*t about Gay history, and his bug-eyed speculations are absurd!

So why do Gay activists support limitations on the Freedom of Speech, the media and religious expression for anyone who disagrees with them?

Fifth point of clarification: The three Gay activists Benkof has quoted, and whose statements he has taken out of context, cannot and do not speak for Gay activists in general. There is a great deal of disagreement, not only about the ramifications of legal marriage, but also about whether it should even be pursued (check out the website www.beyondmarriage.org the next time you surf the Web . . . not that I'm recommending it)! More important, none of the quotes he used call for limitations on religious expression. What Benkof defends in his alarmist op-ed isn't religious expression! It's religious fascism, the "right" to impose Fundamentalist Scriptural interpretation not only on believers, but on non-believers, too! He either doesn't know the difference, or he's pretending not to know.

There are real and injurious issues the Gay community could be focusing on, such as the distressing rates of HIV/AIDS among African-American men who have sex with men, the FDA's unnecessary ban on Gay blood, and Florida's heartless prohibition of Gay and Lesbian adoptive parents.

Sixth point of clarification: I would use the word "heartless" to describe someone who campaigns against Gay people legitimizing their love as hard as David Benkof does, wouldn't you? And if you're foolish enough to believe that so ardent a foe of same-gender marriage could really support Gay parenting and adoption, then you'll believe anything! But I digress.

I've said this before: There is no hierarchy of issues that Gay activists should address in a predetermined sequence! We have a number of pressing issues facing us, all of which warrant immediate attention. Individual activists can and do determine which issues are most urgent in their own lives and communities. For some, the primary issue is HIV/AIDS education; for others, open military service; for others, safety in school; for others, marriage equality and/or adoption rights; for yet others, something else entirely.

We are far too scattered, diverse and opinionated a people to ever agree on priorities! A top-down, my-agenda-is-more-important-than-your-agenda strategy is a surefire way of getting absolutely nothing done! That may be exactly what Benkof has in mind, too. At least it wouldn't threaten his "traditional" marriage-minded friends on the Religious Right!

No Lesbian ever died a painful death because the government called her relationship a domestic partnership instead of a marriage.

Seventh point of clarification: I beg his friggin' pardon, but I would think that when a Lesbian dies in the hospital after her life partner has been denied visitation rights, the death is quite painful indeed! That’s what happened last year to Lisa Pond, whose mate Janice Langbehn was banned from Lisa's hospital room after she suffered an ultimately fatal brain aneurism. After a Catholic priest intervened on her behalf, Janice was granted just five minutes to administer final rites to her beloved spouse. Later, the grieving widow was denied access to Lisa’s death certificate. That’s not painful?

Benkof’s callous statement adds insult to injury! These injustices have happened and continue to happen in the absence of marriage equality, most notably in the case of terminally ill AIDS patients. They’ve been well-documented by the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, attorney Evan Wolfson’s Freedom To Marry organization, and other marriage equality crusaders.

Gays and Lesbians should put away the champagne, work to overturn this ruling, and start focusing on LGBT issues that actually matter.

Eighth point of clarification: This closing line reveals what David Benkof is really all about: He's about setting the LBGT agenda himself, and defining for all Gay people what issues should and should not matter to them. When an Uncle Tom exhibits dictatorial tendencies, it's just too pathetic, isn’t it? Marriage equality activists will abandon their crusade for justice in his dreams, and nowhere else! His syndicated op-ed ended with this blurb:

David Benkof is a columnist in several Gay newspapers around the country and blogs at GaysDefendMarriage.com.

This is how I learned that David Benkof was an LGBT person. All I could do was shake my head in disgust! Why would a Gay man want to take a positive development like the California marriage decision and portray it as a threat to the Bill of Rights? Is dude crazy, or what? Sure, he's crazy . . . crazy like an Ann Coulter clone!

His is the modus operandi of the Right Wing "stealth" journalist, the latest incarnation of Uncle Tom! He cherry-picks the most provocative statements he can get from little-known Gay activists, and presents them as representative of the entire Gay Rights movement. He slants interview questions, distorts the meaning of responses, exaggerates the impact of court decisions, ignores context and manipulates fact in order to paint Gay Rights advances as corrosive to the moral order. His goal is to fuel the fires of ultra-Conservative opposition by any means necessary! Yet, at the same time, he has the nerve to masquerade in print as someone concerned about the welfare of Lesbians and Gay men! Dude gives new meaning to the Yiddish word chutzpah! I daresay the Jewish community might have to invent a stronger word to describe the kind of chutzpah he practices!

Looking down his nose, David Benkof scolds us "uppity n*ggers", exhorting us to stay in our place and stop daring to believe ourselves equal to Straight folk. He shamelessly kisses the reactionary power structure's ass; panting like a lapdog underneath their table of political largesse, he's ever so eager to catch the crumbs as they fall!  Better life options for the Gay people he feigns concern for may have some small appeal for him, but it vanishes as soon as he starts contemplating the rewards he can derive from parroting Dominionist talking points!

He is a glaring example of what journalistic ethics not to aspire to. The man is an affront to personal integrity, a Judas bent on sabotaging the equality struggle, and just an all-around wretched specimen of humanity! Shame on him! And shame on his enablers, too! Why any self-respecting Gay periodical would publish the rantings of such a person is beyond my understanding. There are dozens of Right Wing publications which are more than willing to give him space. That's where his putrid brand of "advocacy journalism" belongs!

I’m told that at one time, David Benkof called himself a Gay man. In his current blog profile, he says he’s now Bisexual. Well, you can't prove he’s either one by me, sugar! From where I sit, being a same-gender-loving person means more than wanting to have sex with someone of the same gender.

It means you know that you're essentially neither male nor female, and therefore can't be judged by binary gender standards. It means that you know you're more than what heterosexual society, in its ignorance, says you are. It means that you want more than what heterosexual society, in its selfishness, says you deserve. It means that you understand that religious restrictions on male and female behavior don’t apply to you. It means that you don't allow imposed self-hatred and shame to control your behavior. It means that you won't settle for anything less than your basic rights as a human being! It means that you have integrity that can't be bought or sold. Most of all, it means you have enough pride in yourself not to become an errand boy for people who hate your kind!

The answer to the question posed by this post’s title is an emphatic no! Uncle Tom ain't Gay! Uncle Tom ain’t Bisexual, either. Nor is he Transsexual, Straight, Black, White, Asian, Latino, indigenous, multi-cultural, rich, poor, young, old or anything in-between. Uncle Tom ain’t nothin’ but a shame!

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