The struggle for equality never “ends”, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

I have a love/hate relationship with The Atlantic. They get good writers and print some excellent long-form essays…and then they publish Jesse Singal and long-from neo-liberal bullshit. For example, they just published The Struggle for Gay Rights is Over. Seriously, dude. It’s just a switch, gay rights are either on or off? Nuts to that. I guess everyone has equal civil rights now, women have nothing left to complain about, black people can quit being uppity, the American Indian reservations have transformed into paradises, the poor are no longer slaves to capitalism? Some guy once said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” The premature declaration of victory is a tool of the status quo, designed to calm the struggle.

Fortunately, we have Tris Mamone to rebut that nonsense. Go read that.


  1. microraptor says

    Singal throws transgender people completely under the bus in his piece, despite transgender people having been a part of the gay rights movement since before Stonewall. He also does the same for minorities, who face much worse discrimination issues than white people who are openly gay. In the end, it’s pretty blatantly “I’ve got mine, fuck the rest of you.”

  2. says

    Yesterday I had an odd conversation with a homophobe and a general bigot. I went to a beach, where I was relaxing, reading a book. A middle aged man approached and offered company. I agreed—I occasionally enjoy having conversations with strangers. The conversation went fine at first, we talked about poetry and similar stuff. Then shit started happening:

    “You shouldn’t get yourself surgically sterilized or live as a guy. Nature has created men and women differently, and everybody should just accept their natural role.”

    “Surgically altering one’s body is wrong. My wife got her eyelids modified despite my complaints, and it took me months to get used to her new appearance. It was wrong for her to have this surgery despite my wishes.”

    “I despise gays for having appropriated the rainbow as their symbol. A rainbow used to be the first thing I was taught to draw as a child, but now all those perverts have sullied the rainbow.”

    “Gay prides are abominable. They shouldn’t happen. If gays must have sex with each other, they should do it in secret at their homes. Bringing all this perversion to a public place is unsightly. Letting children see those public events is a form of child abuse. Only a tiny percentage of gays are born this way. Most homosexuals become such after getting exposed to gay-friendly propaganda as children.”

    “Homosexuality is perverse, unnatural, and immoral. Gay men are just pedophiles.”

    “Imagine what would happen if all the people became homosexual. The humanity would just die out in a single generation.”

    “I can understand the existence of bisexual women. Women are naturally loving and soft and tender, it makes sense for two women to love each other and be tender to one another. But gay men, that’s not even possible, that’s a disgusting illness.”

    “Jews are greedy and evil, they have gotten themselves in change of printing American money, and they use this influence to cause worldwide financial disasters.”

    “It’s wrong for a Jew to be a director of a theater in Latvia, it’s wrong for them to hold any important jobs. They shouldn’t even try to have ambitious careers.”

    And so on.

    It’s incredible how bigots cannot even spot their own double standards and hypocrisy. During the conversation, the guy admitted to doing various things that aren’t widely accepted by the rest of the society (the two of us were in a nudist beach, and majority of humans in this country dislike the practice; he was also into ice fishing, something that’s actually illegal, because fishermen routinely drown in the warm winters when the ice is too thin). When he wants to relax in a nudist beach or do some ice fishing, that’s fine, because he likes both practices. When another person wants to get a plastic surgery or have some gay sex, then that’s wrong, because he dislikes those practices.

    Anyway, after a while the conversation got too ridiculous for me to have any interest in continuing it. I said: “You just called me sick and evil. That’s offensive. I came to the beach in order to relax, I don’t need to listen to your insults. This conversation is over.”

    Do you think a bigot would be polite enough to just leave? No, of course not. He left once I raised my voice and repeated that this conversation is over. Half an hour later he came back, suggesting that I should move to another place behind some bushes where there is less wind. I raised my voice once again, telling him to leave. He left, but came back yet again after some minutes. He claimed that I have goosebumps and I must go to a less windy place. The level of patronizing was incredible. Apparently, I cannot even decide where to relax, and I need a man to tell me where to go. (The wind from the sea really was a bit cold, but I enjoyed the sensation, it felt nice.) I repeatedly told the bigoted asshole to leave me. At this point I started feeling uncomfortable. The guy was obviously observing me from behind some bushes, he approached me whenever I removed my headphones and did something. Still, I decided against leaving this part of the beach and going somewhere else. So the asshole approached me for the third time, he just walked past me, murmuring: “Who convinced you that women aren’t humans or that you must insist upon not being a woman?” A while later, as I was already getting dressed and packing my stuff, he walked past me again, this time murmuring: “You must learn to have discussions and not get offended.” After I had already ended the conversation, the bigoted asshole repeatedly approached me 4 times in total.

    The fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is definitely far from over.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    “The Struggle For Gay Rights Is Over”

    Dude, are you paying attention to current events??? Do you know who’s in the White House and what that corpulent mound of sewer offal has done so far??? All it would take is one SCOTUS ruling to blow LGBTQ civil rights back to the 1950s!

  4. microraptor says

    Andreas Avester @2:

    It’s incredible how bigots cannot even spot their own double standards and hypocrisy.

    It’s also incredible how regularly they default to assuming everyone they meet shares their opinions and wants to hear them talk.

  5. Sili says

    I despise Singal as much as the next even remotely human being, but this piece is by another ignoramus entirely.

  6. Allison says

    Why am I not surprised that the author of that Atlantic article is a gay man? A privileged white (well, Jewish) gay man, at that. I think he represents the thinking of a lot of people in his social class — hey, I’ve got mine, who cares about the rest of you queers? Or perhaps the other parts of the LGBT spectrum simply don’t exist for them. That was the case with the HRC, anyway.

    Here in New York, the “LGBT” advocacy organization “Empire Pride” simply closed its doors once marriage equality appeared to be the law of the land (but for how long, I ask?) It was no thanks to any of the established “LGBT” organizations that we finally got GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) passed; it was because the rank-and-file Democrats in NYC finally booted out the Republicans-in-Democrats’-clothing in the State Senate so the law could finally get through.

    It’s the American Way: once a disparaged group makes it into the mainstream, they adopt the bigotries of their new class.

  7. says

    When I first saw the Atlantic article, I was like, “what is this garbage?” and didn’t read more. He thought it was just so puzzling that the National LGBTQ Task Force conference would have things about fat acceptance, or Puerto Rico, or asexuality. If he thinks things were different before Obergefell v Hodges, then I bet he’s never been to a queer conference in his life.

    Now that I’m skimming it again and wow this is even more garbage than I expected. He’s complaining about “safe spaces” and long acronyms, and repeating TERF stuff about trans athletes. Tris is too kind.

  8. =8)-DX says

    That article is … well I’d only seen the headline previously, but even the first paragraph shows someone completely baffled by the existence of intersectionality (and how it impacts LGBTQIA+ people) as well as being ignorant of the very existence of asexuals. Do they have no editors at the Atlantic? Geeze I can feel the morbid curiosity coming on agean making me read this nonsense..

  9. =8)-DX says

    From the Atlantic article (emphasis mine):

    But it is the conflation of transgender issues with the gay-rights movement, a recent development and not one undertaken without some controversy among gays and lesbians themselves, which accounts for much if not most of the evidence cited as representing regression on gay rights.


    the Equality Act would rectify state-level disparities in antidiscrimination statutes. [..], such a measure is long overdue.
    But is it even necessary?


    AIDS enforced a maturation on the gay community, and a tempering of the previous decade’s sexual excesses. [Then he quotes Andrew Sullivan]


    The leading gay writers and intellectuals at this time of unprecedented political progress and social advancement [were] conservatives and classical liberals like Bawer, Sullivan, David Brudnoy, Jonathan Rauch, Norah Vincent, Camille Paglia


    Just what are we trying to accomplish anymore, and on behalf of whom? The ever-proliferating set of sexual and gender identities one encounters is a direct result of the radicals’ hold over the movement.


    the most recent Pride edition of the pioneering gay magazine Out is devoted largely to transgender issues and doesn’t featuring a single living lesbian within its pages.

    Yikes. (Guess transgender people can’t be lesbians.)

    For many of those whose political identities have been shaped by crusades against government discrimination and pervasive societal ignorance, victimhood is too essential an identity to be so easily discarded.[].. alarmist rhetoric, fanning the flames of hysteria

    Fuck you.

  10. Allison says

    I didn’t read the article (I’m having enough trouble keeping my spirits up as it is), but this passage that =8(-DX quotes jumped out at me:

    “But it is the conflation of transgender issues with the gay-rights movement, a recent development …”

    Do the names Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson mean nothing to this James Kirchick? Is he that ignorant of the history of the gay rights movement? Does he know anything about the Stonewall riots and the aftermath? Does he even know what kind of people went to the Stonewall Inn, and who participated in the riots and the early protest marches?

    Gay, lesbian, transgender, and all manner of non-mainstream gender and sexuality issues were always conflated. As far as the rest of the world was — and is — concerned, we’re all “dirty queers,” and back in the day, it was mostly one community. Has he never wondered why Drag performance — i.e., gender-bending and gender-crossing — is so strongly associated with gay culture?

    Of course, there’s always been a cohort of “respectable” gays who did there best to disassociate themselves from the queer community and gayness in general, in the hopes that the cis-straight world would see them as not like the rest of the queer population and accept them into their country clubs and cocktail parties. Nowadays they run around saying, “remember Stonewall,” but back in the day, they wouldn’t have been caught dead anywhere near the Stonewall Inn, and for the most part, they condemned the rioters and protesters right along side the respectable straight folks they longed to be accepted by.

    Even if “respectable” gays like James Kirchick want to pretend that their rights are separate from rights for the rest of the LGBT spectrum, they aren’t to the rest of society, and especially not to the bigots. Does he not remember the debacle of the Houston anti-discrimination ordinance back in 2015? Does he not remember how the anti-trans bathroom libel was used as wedge issue (wedge libel?) to propagandize for the repeal of that ordinance, thus rolling back the rights of all LGBT people, including gay men like him?

    We “conflate” gay and trans issues because the people who hate us do. The hate that James Kirchick and his ilk face is the same hate that trans women like me face, and that gay, lesbian, and trans people of color face. As someone said several centuries ago, “we must all hang together, or we shall all hang separately.” I guess James Kirchick would rather hang from a noose of his own.

  11. anon1152 says

    ” For example, they just published The Struggle for Gay Rights is Over. Seriously, dude. It’s just a switch, gay rights are either on or off? ”

    The title suggests that. But it’s just a title. I think the article itself is more nuanced.
    There are lines like this, for example: “As long as gay kids commit suicide at rates higher than their straight peers, as long as even one gay person is denied a job because of his sexual orientation, there will be a need for activism, education, and other efforts toward positive social change.”

    So if it is “a switch” then it’s more of a “dimmer switch” which isn’t completely switched off (yet).


    Also… it might be wrong to separate the issue of gay rights and transgender rights. BUT just before he mentions the “conflation of transgender issues with the gay-rights movement” he says: “The picture is different for transgender Americans. They have seen some of their progress curtailed, in the form of the Trump administration’s ban on (most) transgender military service and some administrative rulings that remove gender identity from federal antidiscrimination regulations. ”

    To me that’s an aknowledgement that the struggle for trans rights is NOT over in the same way that “the struggle for gay rights is over”…

    I wonder how people here would summarize the article in… 50 words or less. I’m working on my own now but I need to look at the article more carefully…

  12. =8)-DX says

    @anon1152 #15

    Yes the article does all the Atlantic/longform/Singalish things of “saying the good thing”, but in general it’s overly dismissive of activism, of intersections and of people at the margins of society.

    Saying “The struggle for gay rights is over” and explicitly excluding all the intersecting oppressions is basically just saying “the struggle for the rights of well-off, educated, white cis gay men living in the cities is over.” and that point might have some validity but of course the author wont say that out loud since the selfishness of that claim would be more obvious.

    The achievements of the LGBTQ movement as a whole, or even the “gay” subset can’t be measured by only by the impact on the most privileged, but by looking at the significant problems still faced by, for instance white trans lesbians, black gay men, disabled gay nonbinary people.

    Civil rights movements must be intersectional or their achievements will only benefit a few while leaving those in the most vulnerable margins behind.

  13. anon1152 says

    Thanks for responding. I have divided this into two chunks and the last line of the second chunk is probably most important to me…

    This reminds me of David Brooks’s advice for academics who want to become public intellectuals. You need to publish a grand theory, and the theory needs to be wrong. The wrongness is the important part. That way, people will write lots of articles and books saying you’re wrong and you get publicity. His example was “The End of History” (which you know must be wrong just from the title). I read the book years ago and… the argument is fairly specific and not as obviously wrong as the title. But if the title was something like: “Representative liberal democracy in the various forms that have evolved over the last few hundred years in Europe and around the world is the best form of social organization we as humans will ever come up with and never again will we see an improvement like the improvement we saw when despotism gave way to feudalism or feudalism gave way to capitalism”.*

    The problem with the article’s arguments is in the title more than the substance. BUT the title gets people to click on it and talk about it. Arrrghhh.


    Articles like this say “XYZ has greatly improved”. My first and only real exposure to this was Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature”. I haven’t seen his new book. But I’m thinking about the general claim “Things have gotten better in this, that or the other area”.

    There’s a POTENTIAL problem with this because it can be used to say “shut up and stop complaining”. It can be and is used by some to try to stop or slow or even reverse progress. But I’m sure that’s not necessarily the case.

    Can we acknowledge that laws and public opinion re: same-sex couples has drastically changed in a very short time? The details in the article about how laws have changed and how public opinion has changed: are any of those details wrong? (The “takedown” PZ links to mentions a mistake in the exact number of states with protections… but the claims about homosexual acts being illegal in the past but now those laws were abolished and replaced with laws like same sex marriage being recognized by the state and oh look we can have openly gay leaders elected to high offices**). Are there any claims like that that are untrue?)

    I’m seeing a lot of people I would normally agree with who seem to be criticizing the argument (or people making the argument) that “XYZ is better” and… the claim itself is true. (Or is it?).

    To say things are better is not to say things are perfect or that there is any reason to stop complaining.

    I like to view the injustices in the world using the metaphor of metastatic cancer:

    You go to the doctor. There are tumours all over the place. Probably some you haven’t even found yet. The doctor analyses the situation and comes up with a treatment plan. (Chemo, radiation, surgery, whatever, or some combination thereof). You go back to the doctor. Good news. The tumours are shrinking. Some have all but disappeared. But there’s a few new ones. BUT overall there’s way less tumourage. Does the doctor say: “my work here is done”? No. They look at what treatments worked and what didn’t. They try a new treatment or a new form of chemo. They might decide to be even more aggressive in their treatments. They don’t give up when things get a little better. But when things do get a little better they want to acknowledge it and figure out why and using that knowledge to continue the fight.

    This is more or less the experience of someone I know who has had cancer for the last several years.

    Anyway. Here is my general position in two sentences. Do you agree/disagree/think I’m crazy or stupid or something else? I’m curious what people think.

    My position in two sentences: It’s important to acknowledge progress so that we can figure out why it happened and see if we can use that to make further progress. By the same token, one of the worst things you can do is point to progress and use it as an excuse to stop fighting.

    Footnotes. Sorry.

    *I’m working from my imperfect memory but my point is the most accurate title might not sell very well at all.

    **The previous premier of the province of Ontario was openly gay and openly married and elected first as leader of her party and then as leader of the province. She was unelected later but during that election critics often felt the need to declare “it’s not because she’s gay it’s because of this that or the other policy or government action. Even if these are people who traditionally were homophobic I think it helps in the long run for such people to say aloud: “I don’t have a problem with this person because they are gay… let me articulate another reason”.

  14. anon1152 says

    Since I said the last lines in my comment were the most important to me (except the footnotes… sorry about that) I’ll take another look at your last line:

    “Civil rights movements must be intersectional or their achievements will only benefit a few while leaving those in the most vulnerable margins behind”

    For the record: I agree with that completely. I think you’re absolutely right on that point.

  15. berenika says

    I am a student-master of journalism in Ukraine. I remember very well the day when a teacher, who was supposed to tell us how to be good specialists in media space, told us that gays need psychological help, because the lifestyle they lead is not right. In general, I no longer consider myself a journalist after what I had to listen to. In addition, a couple of people were sitting in the audience – and only a small part was of liberal views on this situation. These are the people who have nothing against the fact that a person loves the one whom he wishes and that he does not hide who he is. One of my classmates said that if a gay had some passion for him, he would beat him . In this world there is no place for acceptance and tolerance. There are only selfish animals that promote hate as the cult of the unity of all the scum of this life. If someone is different from the majority, the rest strive to destroy it. Communism in all its glory.