Now Conservatives Are Mad That There Aren’t More Gay People

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Aug. 4 2014 5:04 PM

Now Conservatives Are Mad That There Aren’t More Gay People

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These are not the only LGBTQ couples in California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As a general rule, conservatives don’t really like gay people, especially not the annoying ones who clamor for stuff like equal rights. So it’s somewhat surprising to see the right throw a slow-burning tantrum about the fact that there aren’t more gay and bi people living in the United States.

Mark Joseph Stern Mark Joseph Stern

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

This criticism of gay people—there should be more of you, dammit!—probably sounds too weird to be real. But I assure you, conservatives are trying it on for size at this very moment. The impetus here is a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that puts the population of openly gay and bi Americans under 3 percent. This figure is on the low side, and a few gay rights groups have noted that it’s probably an underestimate.

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Or, as a Breitbart headline put it: “GAY LEADERS UPSET BY LOW CDC POPULATION NUMBERS; ‘POLITICAL INFLUENCE MATTERS.’ ” The accompanying article, penned by the hysterically anti-gay Austin Ruse, explains that “gay leaders are expressing alarm” at the CDC’s numbers. Ruse then scoffs that “most Americans believe the population of gays is exponentially larger,” the subtext being that if Americans knew how rare gay people are, the gay community would be much less powerful.

That subtext takes center stage in the Christian Post, in a profoundly paranoid rant by Michael Brown (who, incidentally, is a leading Jew for Jesus). “People of America,” Brown writes, “you have been duped.” According to Brown, “America has been lied to” about the size of the gay population, “and gay activists have been complicit in the deception, if not actively leading the way in the ruse.” Brown gives us this wonderful bit of logic:

If Americans realized that less than 2 percent of the population was gay rather 10 percent (let alone 25 percent), they would have a very different view of “gay rights.” … You don't overhaul the legal system to the point of attacking freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion based on the sexual and romantic desires of a tiny percentage of the population, nor do you engage in a massive social experiment, like redefining marriage, because of a statistically tiny group of people.

I assume Brown is carving out some kind of threshold rule here: A minority doesn’t deserve rights until it’s big enough to … deserve rights. From Brown’s piece, it’s not clear at what point a group becomes sizable enough to merit equal protection under the law. What’s clear, and not exactly shocking, is that gays don’t make the cut.

Brown’s screed doesn’t really make sense. But at least we know where it’s coming from: a devout belief that homosexuality is sinful. Robert Tracinski’s likeminded article in the Federalist lacks any such belief-based motive, rendering it even more incomprehensible. Tracinski, a self-proclaimed atheist, is also irked that we talk about gay rights so frequently, and he wishes we would just stop it. He insists that homosexuality doesn’t have “any great cultural significance”—except when it’s “recruited as a stalking horse for some larger social force.” That larger social force, by the way, isn’t equality or anything like that; it’s “the far left’s desire to smash all institutions that might compete with the state.”

I will give Tracinski credit for splitting the blame equally: He divides his ire between gays, for over-representing themselves, and Democrats, who seized on gay rights as a “manufactured moral high ground.” But I will not give him credit for making sense, because he doesn’t. Is Tracinski suggesting that the real intent of gay marriage advocates was, all along, to “smash all institutions that might compete with the state”—namely, the church? If so, wouldn’t gay marriage be an unlikely and unwieldy vehicle through which to achieve such a goal? Most important, how, exactly, does extending marital rights to gay couples actually “smash” anything?

Ultimately, Tracinski’s piece relies on the same conspiratorial implications of Ruse’s and Brown’s. To these men, the all-powerful gay rights movement has “duped” us all, tricking us into supporting equality while craftily scheming toward some vague leftist takeover. It’s a highly contradictory form of the persecution complex, wherein gay people’s scarcity somehow becomes an indicator of their strength. I doubt this kind of soft-core vilification will catch on in the mainstream right-wing community, where most people just want to be done with the gay marriage business. But it’s interesting to watch the anti-gay holdouts rage against the dying of the light. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

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