Gay conservative writer, David Benkof, in a Daily Caller post, reviews a couple sociological studies and comes to this seemingly absurd conclusion. How can being gay be an exclusively Western phenomenon only 150 years old? There is evidence of even mainstream homosexual activity dating back to the ancient Greeks. Benkof’s point is that while sexual activity has always run the gamut since probably the beginning of the human species, the existence of a concrete minority community composed of individuals who identify as homosexual (or otherwise) is relatively new. It’s an interesting point, but it is also fraught with peril in both its motives and consequences.
It is no accident that equal rights for LGBT persons have been restored at an accelerated pace as more and more individuals come out and openly identify as something other than heterosexual. A plurality of poll respondents who come to support same-sex marriage say they changed their mind based on an LGBT acquaintance. It can be implied then that if Benkof’s argument were taken to its logical conclusion and people stopped identifying as LGBT, progress toward those rights would probably slow at best and possibly even reverse in some places, at least on issues that haven’t yet reached the federal court level.
Indeed there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Benkof himself wouldn’t be opposed to this erosion. In January 2013, Benkof joined two other gay conservatives to file a brief with the Supreme Court supporting California’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage, just the latest of many past equal rights transgressions. When you hold anti-gay positions and purport to write scholarly about what could on its surface be called “gay denial”, you shouldn’t get upset if your motives are questioned.
And gay denial is just what may come of this. As we know, people tend to skim and just read the headlines. And what would a nation of skimmers digest from a headline saying “Nobody is ‘born that way,’ gay historians say“? Well, if gay historians say it, it must be true! And if it’s true, then I can stop feeling sorry for teh gheys! A generalization to be sure, and hopefully not enough people will read it to matter.
Back to the piece itself, there is an argument to be made that if non-heterosexual activity were completely disconnected from minority identity, it could become more normalized and less stigmatized. And if it were just an activity and not an identity marker, equal rights wouldn’t be an issue. In a nation birthed with the DNA of puritanism and local theocracy, I won’t hold my breath. But it can be argued. And if that were Benkof’s argument, he would have a much more receptive audience among the LGBT community. But given his other beliefs and recent actions, this piece should be treated as the latent bigotry Trojan horse that it surely is.