How to Avoid the Gay Mafia

Outward
Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
April 8 2014 10:45 AM

Beware the Gay Mafia

Madonna
This is the Madonna the gay mafia pledges allegiance to.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

One of the more curious memes to emerge (or, really, re-emerge) in the wake of Brendan Eich’s resignation from Mozilla last week is the notion of a “gay mafia,” a shadowy group of power-queers that will, I don’t know, sink you off the Christopher Street Pier in a bundle of costume jewelry if you run afoul of the movement. Conservatives like Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich have warned the faithful of the ruthlessness of LGBTQ activists, decrying “terrorist organizations” and a “new fascism,” respectively, and everyone on the panel of last week’s Real Time With Bill Maher chuckled nervously when Maher called out the gay mafia directly. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked,” he said, not entirely approvingly. 

I get the humorous appeal of the gay mafia. But joking aside, the Mozilla episode seems to have convinced a lot of people across the political spectrum that gay people (or at least LGBTQ activists) exercise an inordinate and perhaps frightening amount of power and that you’d better be careful around us lest you risk social or professional, if not physical, termination.

To that, I have to join with the New Republic’s Brian Beutler in calling on straight people to partake in a reality check. As he wrote yesterday, “[A]nyone who's white hot with rage over Eich's quasi-firing really needs to check their privilege.” This should be obvious, but anyone who thinks that gays have anything close to outsized influence in public life either lives in an urban liberal bubble or just doesn’t understand the meaning of the words structural inequality. Given the ongoing threat of emotional and physical violence that LGBTQ people live with every day, not to mention the extremely real risk of social or professional termination we face in many parts of the country, to take even half-seriously the idea that gays might be “running things” behind the scenes is not only pernicious—it’s downright offensive.

Advertisement

BuzzFeed’s Saeed Jones recalibrates the conversation well in his post on the “mafia” resurgence:       

However arresting and damning it feels to be called a bigot, I assure you, it is far more painful to endure bigotry itself.
In 2008, the same year that Eich donated money to support Prop 8, the same year Barack Obama continued to resist supporting marriage equality, a straight man tried to kill me. He held me down on the floor of his apartment and said, “You’re already dead” over and over again while beating me. This happened in Arizona, a state that just a few weeks ago almost made law a bill designed to protect the religious freedom of business owners who fear they’ll be sued by marriage-equality supporters. It is surreal to hear that anti-gay people feel they are being bullied for their beliefs.

“Surreal,” indeed. When you are forced to live in a world in which states pass segregation laws against you, in which statesmen accuse you of pedophilia and various other depravities on a regular basis, in which you move through your daily commute with a modicum of fear that someone might interpret an accidental glance the wrong way and attack, in which you are treated to discussions about which rights you “deserve” during that same commute and at work and on the news when you get home, you are not in a position to “bully” anyone. For gay people, the “gay mafia” is about laughing instead of crying. If you’re really scared of gay terrorism, it’s your understanding of historical and cultural context that’s laughable.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM What Happens When You Serve McDonald’s to Food Snobs and Tell Them It’s Organic
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 4:36 PM Vampire Porn Mindgeek is a cautionary tale of consolidating production and distribution in a single, monopolistic owner.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.