Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sullivan's dilemma

By Guest Columnist Genet

Andrew Sullivan is a brilliant gay male writer whom I've always loved. On a personal level, he writes about gay marriage and male friendship from a deeply passionate place.

As a political man, however, he falls short. I believe the key problem is that he still longs for white male privilege. You can tell this because he seems to have no connection to lesbian feminism or even Christian feminism. No lesbian texts are cited in his books, for example.

He'll now and then mention the oppression of Islamic women, but you can tell that he's just doing this to justify war in Iraq or the "war" on terrorism.

The day the Irag war began, I was at a gay and lesbian play rehearsal. Every one of us opposed the war. We even had Muslims from the Arab world in our group. Sullivan only now realizes he was wrong about Bush and the war but why was he so fooled by this?

Gay male conservatives are pretty strange. It must be hard for them because our movement is leftist by nature. There is often little point of intellectual contact between gay male and lesbian writers. One of my gay male friends had never seen a lesbian play or cultural event before last year.

I'm one of the few lesbians out there who reads hundreds of gay male books each year and who fully supports the generosity and kindness of gay men and their beautiful culture. They show no similar interest in lesbian culture and this saddens me.

Sullivan doesn't get a lot of things but then he's also a victim of homophobia too. I call him the Clarence Thomas of gay people. He is free today because of a leftist militant gay and lesbian movement that has now gone mainstream. But in many ways, he doesn't understand that conservative straight people hate him and only want to use him for their own ends.

He is a victim of male supremacy, and one Catholic priest once wrote that men will forever be a part of this system and they can't escape it. Since women were never Catholic priests in the first place, we have nothing to gain from that institution. As a lesbian, I would never attend a church that discriminated against African-American men, for example. But Sullivan has no conscience in attending churches that refuse to ordain women.

What would Nelson Mandela say? Apartheid is bad except when it comes to women? Racism is bad but why isn't sexism condemned with the same fervor? Sullivan is trapped. I would invite him to get to know the Lesbianati, but I suspect he lives in an all male world, and like a lot of gay men out there, he still misses straight male privilege.

I think he gets wounded by attacks and slights from the gay community. I want to honor him as a great writer, but I also want him to publically support women's freedom. I want him to tell the Catholic Church goodbye, until women are admitted to the club, just as any white person of conscience would never support racist institutions. Racism and sexism are exactly the same thing. Both need to be condemned. Just as gay conservative men need to get a clue and be honest about it.

Sullivan is a treasure because he writes so beautifully. He is a deeply caring and compassionate man who lost so many of his great loves to AIDS. We must always treat our own with tender kindness and try to gently ask them to be consistent in a desire for peace and freedom. I want my gay male writers to see the whole picture just as I wish they'd actually get to know lesbian thinkers and activists on a personal level.

I'd like them to see how war is a male concept and that patriarchy continually drives it. We should allow all our leaders to make mistakes, to backtrack, to get new insights. But we should demand honesty and integrity in our political ideas.

We can do this with complexity but it won't be easy. Solidarity with people unlike ourselves is often a challenge. I can support Sullivan the brother, and like a family member, I can both love and hate him at the same time, but he's still a brother!

NOTE: Originally, Genet's column was posted here. Some edits have been made. Andrew Sullivan's book, Virtually Normal, is available at Amazon.