Book Review: A Queer Thing Happened To America
by Tom Gilson
A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been by Michael L. Brown.
Let’s get straight to the point. Michael Brown has written a lengthy book on seamy practices in the “gay rights” movement. That means he must be (a) a raving homophobic fundamentalist, (b) an important contributor to a crucial debate, or (c) something else (take your pick). I’m sure you’re already forming your opinion, so we might as well get that on the table right from the start.
There’s one class of activists who will predictably pile all over option (a), for to them, any author who critically examines gay culture and politics must be a bigot. Of course because he is a bigot, therefore most of what he wrote he must be wrong. The logic is, as they say, inescapable.
But I am going to call on those activists and their sympathizers—and also their political and cultural opponents—to ask a different question, the one I also kept asking all the way through the book. What does he have to say? Does he make his case? What is its significance? My vote on options (a), (b), or (c) begins by shucking the whole question aside and going somewhere else entirely: Who cares who wrote the book? The real question is, is it any good?
I owe you full disclosure: I shared a couple of very enjoyable meals with Mike Brown earlier this summer, and he gave me the book with the request that I read and review it. I like the guy. He doesn’t slobber, he doesn’t froth at the mouth, and he’s able to speak in complete English sentences. So I’m ruling out (a). Actually I’m doing him a huge disservice to speak that way, even facetiously. He’s thoughtful, intelligent, very well educated, articulate, and by all indications a truly compassionate man, with a heart of care extending openly to those with whom he disagrees.
Still, the question you should be asking is, “What about the book?”
I’m glad you finally asked. The picture painted in A Queer Thing is unfortunately not pretty—not even as pretty as the cover image, which, Mike tells me, the gay men and lesbians he checked with rather liked; they thought it was pretty funny. (Some Christians have found it a bit disturbing.) The book portrays an agenda being pursued by a movement that insists it has no agenda. No agenda—thouhg it does have “revolutionary goals,” “imperatives for gay liberation,” thoroughgoing intentions for legislative change, anti-discrimination “demands,” calls for “surrender,” calls to “create a new reality in America,” national task forces in virtually every sphere of society, networks of activists, demonstrations, campaigns, strategy documents, and on and on. No agenda, indeed…
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