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Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University
March 14, 2014 7:29 AM   Subscribe

"Yes?" she asked me, and the tone of her voice calmed me down. It was as if she was saying, Brandon, I already know what you want to tell me. Please, just say it. Brandon Ambrosino writes about coming out as a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Recently Ambrosino was hired for Ezra Klein's new journalism venture, Vox, a decision that has bred controversy. Andrew Sullivan explains, and defends him.
posted by shivohum (182 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sullivan being Sullivan, he'll support Brandon Ambrosino's ignorance blindly for a few years until he realizes he's wrong and then act like that was his position all along.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:37 AM on March 14 [44 favorites]


Could it be because they don’t actually want to continue the dialogue with people of faith, but rather seek to leverage the growing majority in favor of gay equality to rhetorically bludgeon the “bigots” into submission, to create a world in which they call the shots the way homophobes used to?

Andrew Sullivan - still stupid after all these years.
posted by winna at 7:41 AM on March 14 [18 favorites]


Could it be because they don’t actually want to continue the dialogue with people of faith, but rather seek to leverage the growing majority in favor of gay equality to rhetorically bludgeon the “bigots” into submission, to create a world in which they call the shots the way homophobes used to?

I suppose it's good to know that Betteridge's Law can apply in the body of an article too.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:45 AM on March 14 [21 favorites]


My snark about Andrew Sullivan (which comes from a bottomless source which is, I'll admit, rather unsightly), I can't get too het up about Brandon Ambrosino's hiring for some reason. I think it's because it's 2014 and there will be enough gay voices to drown out his sometimes dangerous seeming views.

This, of course, separates him from having a legacy of, well, young Andrew Sullivan.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:48 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan is such a dumbass he figured out how to make journalism work as a business in the Internet era.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:50 AM on March 14 [10 favorites]


I suppose it's good to know that Betteridge's Law can apply in the body of an article too.

Set against that, I'd love to live in a world where religious homophobia is as acceptable as using the mark of Cain to justify racism.
posted by jaduncan at 7:50 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


I had to follow the links in Sullivan's piece to really understand why the guy's hiring was controversial. In case anyone else isn't familiar with the situation and is wondering why Ambrosino is causing such an uproar, it's because he's parroting some truly nasty anti-gay, anti-trans right wing bullshit, including that being gay or trans is a sexual choice and that being against gay marriage isn't a form of bigotry.

Oh, and he's a shitty writer.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on March 14 [31 favorites]


> Andrew Sullivan is such a dumbass he figured out how to make journalism work as a business in the Internet era.

If business success was the primary metric by which journalistic ethics and accuracy could be measured, there is a hell of a lot of history we'll have to be revising, starting with the Soviet state newspapers during the Cold War.
posted by ardgedee at 7:55 AM on March 14 [20 favorites]


This piece at The American Prospect is much better than anything Andrew Sullivan would have to say about queers whoring themselves out to mainstream conservatism, and the idiocy of Klein's management decision to hire a shallow, stupidly obnoxious gay writer (a type we've seen for decades in the straight press):

Ezra Klein's Queer New Hire: Vox Media's decision to bring Brandon Ambrosino on board is click-bait contrarianism at its worst.

It's a must-read long before you bother with Sullivan:

Klein, though, seems mystified by the blowback. He acknowledges that he is new to the process of staffing an enterprise like Vox. “I gotta be honest,” he said. “With a lot of this stuff, I’m trying to figure out what success means.”

...Klein has come under fire for the lack of racial and gender diversity among Vox's announced hires, and his decision to hire Ambrosino shows how much he has to learn about genuine diversity. Klein told me he found Ambrosino's background as a gay Christian compelling and is trying to cultivate "ideological diversity” as well as gender and racial diversity at Vox. While he has a number of female hires in the pipeline, Klein said he is struggling to find racial minorities for the venture, adding: “I also want to say, other kinds of diversity are important—ideological diversity." I asked Klein what he meant by ideological diversity. “It’s not that I have a quota that I need Republicans,” he said; he just doesn't want a staff where “everybody thinks the same way.” This is a noble impulse, and varying viewpoints certainly do enliven intellectual debate. But Ambrosino’s views aren’t merely different; they’re ill-informed and dishonest. The grand irony here is that Klein himself has made a career out of being a centrist wonk who’s careful with facts.

posted by mediareport at 7:56 AM on March 14 [14 favorites]


because having both sides of a story is always a good thing .. wait ..
posted by k5.user at 7:57 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Both sides of what now?
posted by rtha at 8:01 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


i decided that for the betterment of my mental health i'm just going to assume that anyone who seems to really, really believe that being gay is a choice is someone who is actually bisexual. i don't think it's entirely off the mark, either. i know that personally i had a similar journey away from extremely conservative mormonism - i thought my liking other girls was a choice because i clearly remember when i decided i was going to start finding boys attractive. it was sort of surprising to me when i later found out not all people have that ability.
posted by nadawi at 8:01 AM on March 14 [25 favorites]


He's intellectually dishonest, k5.user. That's the bottom line. It doesn't fit Klein's mission at all, and just shows how out of touch he is on equality issues. We're really fucking tired of having our civil rights trampled by nakedly ambitious and dishonest folks like Ambrosino, and of straight folks like Klein who seem to think it's just fine to give garden-variety queer asses like him a platform over any number of other more thoughtful and interesting writers.

Fuck Ezra Klein and his ignorance.
posted by mediareport at 8:02 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


sorry, I'll try to explain more.

It sounded like Klein's justification is to have a different voice that could give the other side of the story (for whatever definition "the other side" is .. eg opinion shows that try to find someone of the opposite political bent as the totem/token/strawman for the "other side")

That journo mindset has been (in my mind) really discredited -- the idea of giving equal time to all views has led to worse reporting and fringe/bull-shit/con/corporate FUD/political shills to put their views into print, when otherwise they'd be rightly ignored and shunned.

Thus, I'm surprised Ezra would even go there, centrist as he may want to seem or be.
posted by k5.user at 8:05 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Ezra Klein Hired Contrarian Gay Without Having Read His Work
posted by mediareport at 8:05 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Ed Kilgore: Falwell’s Gay Admirer
It kind of makes me crazy when someone appears to assume that only Christian conservatives are authentic religious voices, and that finding a gay conservative evangelical Christian strikes some sort of “balance.” It’s the same mindset that seems to have led the President of the United States to conduct his “religious outreach” mostly among conservative evangelicals who are minority folk or who have some other reasons for playing nice with Democrats. Obama really ought to know better, and so should Ezra: there are these people called mainline or liberal Christians around, too, and if you are trying to give Christians a voice in progressive venues, you might want to start with them instead of always looking for an unconventional conservative.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:07 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


"Ideological diversity" doesn't mean "hire contrarian [member of group] who cozies up to the right". That's either extreme privilege, cluelessness or tokenism going on - Klein probably hasn't bothered to familiarize himself with a reasonable number of moderately influential gay writers so that he has an actual sense of who is out there, he's just decided to grab one he's heard of who is controversial.

"Think carefully before you invite people to engage in a project when issues of representation are on the table" is one of the most valuable lessons I've learned as an activist - which isn't to say I always make the right choice, but at least I no longer totally flail and make [various past stupid mistakes].
posted by Frowner at 8:10 AM on March 14 [10 favorites]


idiocy of Klein's management decision to hire a shallow, stupidly obnoxious gay writer (a type we've seen for decades in the straight press):

Can you name names? I just don't know who you mean.
posted by josher71 at 8:13 AM on March 14


k5.user: " That journo mindset has been (in my mind) really discredited -- the idea of giving equal time to all views has led to worse reporting and fringe/bull-shit/con/corporate FUD/political shills to put their views into print, when otherwise they'd be rightly ignored and shunned."

Ignoring them isn't a positive. Because they'll still have a devoted, echo-chamber audience. Shunning them is a positive, but only if you're simultaneously discrediting them. The point shouldn't be to indiscriminately give them "equal time." It's to give them enough rope to hang themselves and then rip their arguments apart.

Allowing bigots to air their views isn't the poisonous part. It's allowing them to go unchallenged.
posted by zarq at 8:14 AM on March 14 [11 favorites]


So I know nothing about this Brandon Ambrosino besides what I read in that piece about coming out at Liberty, but I went to UVA in the early 2000s, about an hour north of Liberty. I was active in the LGBTU/QSU at the time and saw a decent number of kids who'd sneak away from Liberty to come to our meetings some Thursday nights. They painted a drastically different picture of gay life at Liberty than Mr Ambrosino. I'm not sure if was a difference in time period or just a difference in personality that made people react differently to him. Most of the ones I knew were terrified of the consequences of ANYBODY finding out they were gay, much less telling them or letting them blithely assume it. I wish they'd felt the love and acceptance Brandon did while they were in school. They would have been much happier as people and had a lot less psychological damage. My best analogy would be a gazelle surrounded by lions, waiting for them to realize that he's there.

Kudos to Ambrosino for making that place work for him but I wish he could see the damage done to kids less fortunate and accepted than himself. He could be an excellent advocate for them, but alas, I don't see that happening.
posted by This Guy at 8:16 AM on March 14 [29 favorites]


josher71, Tammy Bruce is just one classic example. She got huge attention (well, huge attention for a queer, anyway) in the early 2000s.
posted by mediareport at 8:17 AM on March 14


(Not to say that UVA was a bastion of acceptance at the time, but it was MILES better than Liberty. I never felt unwelcome there and loved my time in school.)
posted by This Guy at 8:19 AM on March 14


Allowing bigots to air their views isn't the poisonous part. It's allowing them to go unchallenged
Thanks - that's the part I missed. The key part of why the "show all sides" is discredited: the sides are presented as equally true and it's left up to the reader figure it out/decide on their own, rather than having any critical analysis of what either side is saying. A very "truth is all relative" presentation with no analysis leaves us all dumber.
posted by k5.user at 8:20 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


As someone I read pointed out, Ezra Klein, when he started this venture, said that he was hiring people for his project who knew what they were writing about. Coming from Klein based on his past wonky work, this meant something.

But hiring a gay writer who, no matter what his opinions are, does not have the historical knowledge of gay rights or life experience beyond his own to back them up, directly contradicts Klein's vision as he laid it out. It reeks of selling out for clickbait in a very disappointing way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:21 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


(Note that Tammy Bruce is still providing "diversity" for Breitbart's site, too.)
posted by mediareport at 8:23 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


That said, I almost feel bad for Ambrosino. No offense to my intelligent youthful fellow contributors here, but he's 23 and writes with the passionate immaturity of somebody even younger, which, to me, makes sense given his background and (lack of) life experience. People grow out of their Ayn Rand phases and other opinions they used to hold strongly for a reason, and it's usually called living a life. I wonder if he's going to get the chance or if he's just going to keep doubling down on the positions he's holding.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:25 AM on March 14 [14 favorites]


As a side note, I love when conservative-minded types make a fuss about being on the brink of gender/race/sexuality-equivalent oppression as soon as they realise their opinions aren't quite as popular as they used to be, and that sometimes airing those opinions has unpleasant consequences. I can only assume it's what they think the rest of us have always been dealing with, that this is what oppression's like, and that's hilarious.
posted by emmtee at 8:25 AM on March 14 [13 favorites]


One "bad" hire doesn't break an enterprise, but I know I'll be a lot more curious/skeptical of the rest of the hire list at Vox after this. I'm interested in the new media journalism thing, the folks using the web to do independent magazines that they'd have a hard time distributing in print, but there are a lot of them and I'm not willing to lend a lot of reading time to a new site that's going to regurgitate pointless contrarianism for clickbait's sake. We already have Slate and the Gawker empire for that.
posted by immlass at 8:30 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


OK, after reading through some of what zarq linked above I'm coming firmly down on the "WTF this guy gets paid to troll" side of this argument. He sounds like he's basically bisexual but on the prefers guys side and knows lots of other bisexual guys who were willing to sleep with him but not admit that they're attracted to guys. Then he generalizes his own experiences out to a world view that he projects back out onto everybody else and then writes about. So frustrating to read.
posted by This Guy at 8:34 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


I'd say a lot of the posters in this thread are effectively making Sullivan's point about rhetorical bludgeoning and stifling dissent. Anyone who has lived a little knows that human sexuality -- gay, straight, or bi -- is a hell of a lot more complicated than 'born that way' vs. 'I'll be attracted to whoever I feel like today!'. There's a lot of space in there where environment, background, and life choices play a role. It's 2014, if a writer explores or discusses that space then it doesn't mean that Christian ex-gay brainwashers are going to come and kidnap you and lock you up somewhere. And honestly, the idea that people actually do make choices in their sexuality *and they deserve respect and freedom in those choices* is in many ways a more genuinely left position than the claim that people are born into a particular box and should be left in peace because they really can't help their strange behavior.
posted by zipadee at 8:35 AM on March 14 [19 favorites]


Ambrosino's iconoclasm amounts to heedless self-promotion. Lets go back to an earlier time:Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America
posted by robbyrobs at 8:36 AM on March 14


Anyone who has lived a little knows that human sexuality -- gay, straight, or bi -- is a hell of a lot more complicated than 'born that way' vs. 'I'll be attracted to whoever I feel like today!'.

That's pretty obvious, yes. But that's not what Ambrosino writes. Have you read his stuff, zipadee? It doesn't seem like it.
posted by mediareport at 8:38 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


Mediareport, I read this New Republic piece, and see it as a reasonable and useful corrective to the simplifications of 'born that way' thinking, although obviously one could also raise issues that he does not address in it. I was surprised by the intense negative reaction to it. I have not read his other publications.
posted by zipadee at 8:42 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


...pointless contrarianism for clickbait's sake. We already have Slate and the Gawker empire for that.

Well, we had Slate. Now that they've lost Matt Yglesias to Vox and Farhad Manjoo to the WSJ NYT, they're about 66% less pointlessly contrarian.
posted by Iridic at 8:43 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


It would be so great if this idea that contrarianism is a brave intellectual stance that should be admired would just die already. It isn't brave, or intellectual - it's just lazy and adolescent, and I would call it masturbatory but masturbation is really pretty awesome and I wouldn't want to insult that practice by comparing it to contrarianism.
posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on March 14 [45 favorites]


ardgedee: If business success was the primary metric by which journalistic ethics and accuracy could be measured, there is a hell of a lot of history we'll have to be revising

BuzzFeed: best source for online journalism, as told by number of pagehits and ad revenue! (Though to be fair, BuzzFeed's Politics sub-site isn't quite the same level of linkbait as the main BF site.)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:46 AM on March 14


Andrew Sullivan (which comes from a bottomless source which is, I'll admit, rather unsightly), I can't get too het up about

You're just trolling my inner 12 year old with this word choice, right?
posted by phearlez at 8:47 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


So. Grew up outside Lynchburg. Found out pretty quickly that if you wanted to have any friends at all, you had to be able to get along with the right-wing Christian kids.

What I discovered was that a lot of them were just swimming in the water they were born in. I came to know a handful of Liberty students back in the day. I played Dungeons and Dragons with a couple of them for years and, while it was kind of weird, we made it work.

There are some students at Liberty who totally drink the Kool-Aid, the kind who used to patrol local movie theater parking lots looking for Liberty parking stickers because you weren't supposed to go to decadent liberal Hollywood movies. But there were also a lot of kids who were there basically because that was where their parents were willing to let them go, and who were, sure, coming from a starting point of Biblical Republicanism (my term, though Biblical Womanhood is a real term they use) but were looking around for other perspectives to explore before deciding who they really were. That's what college is basically for, for the kids of right-wing bigots as much as anybody else's kids.

So yeah, I can believe this guy's story, though I'm also sure there are people whose experience would have been quite different depending on the people they ended up surrounded by.

Also, I met Falwell a couple times in various situations. My main memory of him is watching him try to cadge free prescriptions at the drug store my mother ran. As if he was just shocked by the very idea that in Lynchburg, Va., Jerry Falwell himself would be expected to pay for stuff.

A lot of what Falwell was about was money and power. He was a very canny man - nobody's fool - and I don't think anybody ever really knew where the line was between what he really believed and what he said to build his position and firm up his base. But wherever that line was doesn't really matter. I don't know what he would have done if presented with Brandon, the gay Liberty student. But he wasn't a man to be admired regardless. Because of what Falwell did to create his place of influence, any actual rocks he may or may not have thrown were easily outweighed by the atmosphere of intolerance and disgust he created.
posted by Naberius at 8:52 AM on March 14 [20 favorites]


Klein has posted a response about Ambrosino. Here are the key grafs:

Brandon isn't our LGBT correspondent. He’s not even the only LGBT employee of Vox.com. He is a young writer who we think has talent who’s going to receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance.

Brandon applied for the news-writing fellowship, a one-year position focused on helping inexperienced writers develop aggregation and reportorial skills. Contrary to some garbled reports, before hiring Brandon I read a lot of his previous work. Brandon's past writing was often quite pointed and personal, and not a fit for Vox — and I told him so. The writing fellowship requires a very different approach.


So a little perspective is in order. Ambrosino is going to be pretty low on the totem pole at Vox, and his past writing is certainly not going to be representative of what Vox will be, thankfully.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:02 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Diversity from minority writers is very important. But only if first approved by the board of Certified Minority Writers, which must all agree on principal components, or the gay-pope will excommunicate them.

This new 23 year old writer is EXTREMELY dangerous. Quick, everyone completely blast him and try to completely annihilate his credibility before his illegitimate minority voice is heard!!!!

Frankly, I don't even agree with the kid. But he's a KID, and he got an ENTRY LEVEL WRITING JOB. Yeah sure it's a great job, true. But for fucks sake, it's saddening to see how much vitriol and hate is spewed out at him; and it's scary to see people think he needs to be silenced for not saying the right things.
posted by jjmoney at 9:05 AM on March 14 [13 favorites]


I guess we'll see what other lgtb writers Vox features (note Klein's statement about "employees" rather than "writers we'll be posting at our site." I'd say I'll be staying tuned but so far there's not much I'm seeing about Klein's new venture that's appealing to my already oversaturated senses.
posted by mediareport at 9:06 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Nope. What's being attacked are his views which are naive at best and dangerous to his fellow human beings at worst. If you can't stand the heat...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:06 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them a contrarian. Disagreeing with the majority does not make one a contrarian. I believe Ambrosino is speaking honestly when he questions the Gay Orthodoxy, and I'm glad to read it.

I believe that the prevailing Metafilter reaction--seen here in this thread--is a prime example of the stoning that one can expect if you do not toe the line.

Disagreement is not intolerance. Demanding that someone loose their job because they do not share your opinion is.
posted by General Tonic at 9:07 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


General Tonic: "...the stoning that one can expect if you do not toe the line"

For those following along at home, you may recognise it as criticism, which is what we call it when it comes from anyone but social minorities and the left.
posted by emmtee at 9:09 AM on March 14 [29 favorites]


I have to say--sometimes the ideological rigidity, lack of humility, absence of a modicum of forgiveness, and righteousness of the (far)left is almost, not quite, as as mind numbing as the far right. Also, I happen to enjoy Sullivan and Metafilter.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:09 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


General Tonic: "
Disagreement is not intolerance.
"

I agree.
posted by chavenet at 9:10 AM on March 14


It would be so great if this idea that contrarianism is a brave intellectual stance that should be admired would just die already.

Especially when you consider that "contraians" almost always end up supporting the status quo (possibly with more freedom to smoke pot). It's like the "I offend everyone" comics who never seem to offend the wealthy, white people, or heterosexual men.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:22 AM on March 14 [15 favorites]


Gay-Bashers Shouldn’t Be Covering LBGT Issues For Your Publication.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:23 AM on March 14


you may recognise it as criticism, which is what we call it when it comes from anyone but social minorities and the left.

And by "criticism," we mean "demanding that he not be given writing jobs and muttering that maybe we shouldn't read a publication with the temerity to hire a writer with views we don't like." Epistemic closure: It's the new hotness!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:30 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I believe that the prevailing Metafilter reaction--seen here in this thread--is a prime example of the stoning that one can expect if you do not toe the line.

Stoned? Really? Are criticizing excessively hyperbolic prose or indulging in it?

(Ah, sorry, man. I didn't mean to crucify you over a comment.)

It would be so great if this idea that contrarianism is a brave intellectual stance that should be admired would just die already.

And how. It was a sad day for journalism when someone realized just how much was money there was in writing like argumentative freshmen in a dorm debate.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:30 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


"As a gay man, I found myself disappointed with this definition—that anyone with any sort of moral reservations about gay marriage is by definition anti-gay."

Let's hear it for this brave, young journalist who has the guts to stand up to the Gay Orthodoxy no matter what the consequence to his personal marketability and defend all those people who find gay marriage an affront to their morals and values, but don't want to be branded anti-gay just because they'd rather some people not have a basic social right.

After all, aren't those shining beacons of compassion the real heroes?
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on March 14 [14 favorites]


Epistemic closure: It's the new hotness!

Believable, if only because I can always predict what you're going to say.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:32 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


Mediareport, I read this New Republic piece, and see it as a reasonable and useful corrective to the simplifications of 'born that way' thinking

Yeah, the flagrant mischaracterization of that piece as simplistically saying "being gay is a choice" is pretty bizarre. The irony of the response to the piece is that the whole argument that sexual preferences are strictly biologically determined has always been a very deeply fraught and contested one in LGBT circles. I can remember a few decades back, indeed, when no self-respecting leftie would dare breathe a hint of a suggestion of the idea: if you thought that people were "born gay" you obviously believed that there was a "gay gene" that would one day be amenable to some kind of "cure" (or to selective abortion). Much of the impact of queer theory in the academy has been aimed at any notion of fixed sexual identities and has strongly discouraged any hint of biological determinism.

Ambrosino, in that piece, doesn't dispute that many, perhaps even most, gay people are "born that way"--he just wants to argue that our acceptance of people's sexual identities shouldn't depend upon a belief that they're biologically determined ("the poor dears can't help it, you know--of course, no one would do that icky gay stuff if they could help it"). He's saying that we ought to accept people's sexual identities as part of their freedom of self-expression and self-creation. I find it really hard to see what's meant to be objectionable about that.
posted by yoink at 9:34 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


But he's a KID, and he got an ENTRY LEVEL WRITING JOB.

If YOU write in CAPITAL LETTERS your ARGUMENT is immediately VALID. UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS.

But nope, nope, nope. This is a career "contrarian" who gives cover to homophobes by spouting the same bullshit as they do but putting "as a gay man" in front of it. There's always a market for this sort of thing, if you're a minority writer with the right amount of self loathing and venality.

For any publication that wants to be seen as even vaguely liberal, or hell, even borderline decent, this is not the sort of writer they should hire. It's telling that Klein didn't even know who this guy was, other than that he had a bit of buzz going on in Beltway circles.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:34 AM on March 14 [11 favorites]


One of the reasons I think our activism is so insistent on sexual rigidity is because, in our push to make gay rights the new black rights, we’ve conflated the two issues. The result is that we’ve decided that skin color is the same thing as sexual behavior. I don’t think this is true. When we conflate race and sexuality, we overlook how fluid we are learning our sexualities truly are. To say it rather crassly: I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality, but I’ve never managed to get them to try on my skin color. In other words, one’s sexuality isn’t as biologically determined as race. Many people do feel as if their sexuality is something they were born with, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. But as I and other queer persons will readily confirm, there are other factors informing our sexualities than simply our genetic codes.*

I won't judge him, because I understand how hard it is to grow up gay when you're surrounded by Christians or other religious folks who consider piety their profession. Plus, I don't think he's mature enough or far enough removed from his formative years and places to be fully past his own anti-gay self-loathing. So, I won't judge him.

I tell you what, though, I also don't want him speaking for me in the media, mainstream or otherwise. Things are changing, for the better, but there are still plenty of people out there who think of people who fall on the LGBT(plus all the other new letters that I'm forgetting) spectrum as some homogenous Other. And if they read the opinion of one LGBT* person, they assume it's the opinion of all LGBT* people. And though his arguments are facile and aren't life-changing stuff, the fact that readers will do a transference and assume his opinion is how we feel or how we are is dangerous. Like, dangerous to me, on a personal level.

So I kind of wish he didn't have this platform, but I also hope that in some way it will help him grow the fuck up.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:37 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


Here's a longer quote for those interested in what this mean ol' homophobe is saying in his attempt to make Jerry Falwell a model for the nation:

"One of the reasons I think our activism is so insistent on sexual rigidity is because, in our push to make gay rights the new black rights, we’ve conflated the two issues. The result is that we’ve decided that skin color is the same thing as sexual behavior. I don’t think this is true. When we conflate race and sexuality, we overlook how fluid we are learning our sexualities truly are. To say it rather crassly: I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality, but I’ve never managed to get them to try on my skin color. In other words, one’s sexuality isn’t as biologically determined as race. Many people do feel as if their sexuality is something they were born with, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. But as I and other queer persons will readily confirm, there are other factors informing our sexualities than simply our genetic codes.

Part of what it means to be human is to be adaptable and elastic, to try on new identities, to try new experiences, to play with the paradigm, to bend the norm to its snapping point and see if it cracks under the pressure of its own linguistic limitations. The re-inventiveness of our human condition is one of our greatest traits, and it’s worth protecting both legally and philosophically. I wonder how our LGBT discourses would be enhanced were we to fully embrace the dynamism of our sexuality."


Truly a self-loathing bigot.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:38 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


It's worth noting that Vox was founded by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas of MyDD and Daily Kos fame so it's doubly weird/annoying that their first political news site is going the Slatey contrarian route.
posted by octothorpe at 9:43 AM on March 14


What's most dangerous about people like Ambrosino is that, like Sullivan before him, he often takes the kernel of a good idea (i.e. we SHOULD accept people who choose to be gay, sexuality IS more fluid than most people think) and sloppily extrapolates it into something more in ways that is used to justify bigotry.

The use of words and the of an audience are powerful, and using them in ways that hurt other people, deliberate or not, is something that should be pointed out.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:44 AM on March 14 [12 favorites]


Here's a longer quote for those interested in what this mean ol' homophobe is saying in his attempt to make Jerry Falwell a model for the nation

As Aravosis points out in zarq's link above, there actually is a whole bunch wrong with that article, including equating being gay with sexual behavior (which he contradicts in another article), positing that trans* activism is all about sexual choice, quoting Colin Powell's excuse for discriminating against GBLT people in the armed forces.

If it's not self-hating, it's certainly parroting bigoted language and dismissing the mounds of evidence of Falwell and others actively using that language.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:48 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


i guess i would be more bothered by it if i didn't see more and more queer outlets embracing outrage porn/click-bait; apparently it's the big thing now, but i don't think it does us any favors to embrace essentially the gay version of foxnews (with the same willful misinterpretations, factual omissions, and overstated headlines), and the level of discourse has been dropping dramatically as a result.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:49 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


What is our obligation to read people like Sullivan and publications like Vox? They've outed themselves as entities that teach the controversy, thereby destroying real and useful journalism. Just don't consume their garbage.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:50 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Ezra Klein's Facebook status: Over the past 48 hours I’ve spoken to a lot folks in the LGBT community to better understand the strong, negative reaction to my hiring of Brandon Ambrosino. People felt Brandon had made his name writing sloppy pieces that were empathetic towards homophobes but relentlessly critical of the gay community. They believe we were sending a signal about Vox’s approach to LGBT issues: Contrarian clickbait at the expense of the struggle and discrimination that LGBT men and women face every day.

That was never our intention. Our approach to LGBT stories will be the same as our approach to all other issues: We want people to read us because we do the best job tracking and explaining the news, not because we do the best job shocking people. We want to inform our readers — not annoy them. Our kind of clickbait tends towards beautiful data visualizations, not frontal assaults on causes we believe in and people we admire.

Brandon isn’t our LGBT correspondent. He’s not even the only LGBT employee of Vox.com. He is a young writer who we think has talent who’s going to receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance.

Brandon applied for the news-writing fellowship, a one-year position focused on helping inexperienced writers develop aggregation and reportorial skills. Contrary to some garbled reports, before hiring Brandon I read a lot of his previous work. Brandon’s past writing was often quite pointed and personal, and not a fit for Vox — and I told him so. The writing fellowship requires a very different approach.

But something that often happens to young freelance writers on the Internet is that they end up writing reams of their most controversial opinions before they ever get a chance to do basic reporting or benefit from a routine relationship with an editor. So as part of Brandon's writing test, I asked him to do eight news articles and two explainers -- more than 5,000 words of original content, in all. He needed more editing, training and direction. But he showed himself a strong, fast writer who really wanted to learn. And that training is what the fellowship is there for.

I could’ve, and should’ve, handled this hire a lot better. But I would ask people to give Brandon a chance. He’ll be held to the same high standards as all Vox.com employees, and I believe he’ll meet them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:52 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


I find people who refuse to accept that for some people sexuality is in fact a choice nearly as insufferable as those who refuse to accept that for most people it is not. Of course, I find people who try to use any of that as justification for their position on accepting equality or not accepting equality completely infuriating. Choice or no, it's none of your business!
posted by wierdo at 9:54 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


it's certainly parroting bigoted language

I'd like you to link to the anti-gay bigots out there who he's "parroting" when he writes:
Part of what it means to be human is to be adaptable and elastic, to try on new identities, to try new experiences, to play with the paradigm, to bend the norm to its snapping point and see if it cracks under the pressure of its own linguistic limitations. The re-inventiveness of our human condition is one of our greatest traits, and it’s worth protecting both legally and philosophically. I wonder how our LGBT discourses would be enhanced were we to fully embrace the dynamism of our sexuality."
I don't read much anti-gay propaganda, but if that's how it typically reads I've really gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick somewhere. Er...so to speak.

If that were a comment in a Metafilter thread about gay rights, it would collect a couple hundred favorites in no time at all. I really think anyone who sees it as some kind of coded anti-gay screed is going beyond a suspicious hermeneutics to a fully-blown paranoid delusional hermeneutics.
posted by yoink at 10:11 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan is such a dumbass he figured out how to make journalism work as a business in the Internet era.

I also hear Mussolini made the trains run on time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


He sounds like Judy Butler-lite.
posted by jpe at 10:18 AM on March 14


I find people who refuse to accept that for some people sexuality is in fact a choice nearly as insufferable as those who refuse to accept that for most people it is not.

To give credit where credit is due, I don't think people who refuse to accept that for some people sexuality is in fact a choice are trying to be bigoted or to shut down discussion. I think it's just part of breathing the new heady air of victory.

A lot of the recently LGBT successes have gotten where they are by this sort of weird, het-reassuring, "Hey, we just can't help it! We were born this way!" with a side implication of "Of course if we were able we would choose to be straight like you, but since we were born gay, can you give us the consolation prize of equal rights?" It's a success, because people think that if people can't help being gay, of course it can't be judged.

It is not just a step too brave to say, "Maybe people can choose to be gay, and you know what? Who cares! It is equally as valid a choice as the choice to be straight is!", but it also seems to run the risk of rolling back progress, of taking back those sympathetic voices who were only in it if gay was like the hand of God that could happen to anyone when they least expected it.
posted by corb at 10:21 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


I know this is a huge derail but that stupid Mussolini quote always drives me nuts because he DIDN'T and fascism is not inherently more efficient. Don't perpetuate a myth that undermines your own point!
posted by Wretch729 at 10:22 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]


yoink: "If that were a comment in a Metafilter thread about gay rights, it would collect a couple hundred favorites in no time at all."

A couple of people would link to the poster's history of Jerry Falwell apologism, but digging through comment histories tends to be frowned upon.
posted by emmtee at 10:24 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I don't read Brandon Ambrosino as being any kind of self-loathing bigot, which scares me seeing how many in the comments seem to read exactly that.

I read him as trying to remove the narrow issues that divide people on bigger issues. For example, I think what he's trying to say is whether you think it's a choice or you think it's not a choice, it doesn't matter. People are who they are, there's no changing that, so stop arguing about it and look at the greater picture: treat each other with love and respect.

I think he's right that there's a bit of vitriol being spewed from both sides and that such vitriol only further polarizes people on the issue. Remove the vitriol, don't make the arguments personal attacks on individuals, and people will be more comfortable to have an open discussion. If you tell someone their reservations on gay-marriage makes them anti-gay, you've just made it into a personal attack which will put them on the defense and severely hamper any chance at having any kind of open, rational conversation.

I also agree that the personalities we see in the media are mere caricatures of the real people underneath. And in a media environment that increasingly puts value on button-pushing, page-view inducing hyperbole, all we're ever presented with are those caricatures to the point that we believe the real people are the overly simplified caricatures presented in the media to fit whatever the agenda of the minute is. Which is why I liked his piece on Liberty University, which has always been presented in the past as a hive where crazy bigots are grown from the larvae of rich, white conservatives.

I think Ambrosino is trying to challenge that from a religious, gay, conservative perspective. Unfortunately he is falling victim to the very thing he's trying to work against, the presentation of an oversimplified caricature of who he is and the issues he is concerned about.
posted by ruthsarian at 10:24 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


From the same piece that TFP quoted: After all, isn’t trans activism fueled by the belief that the government has the responsibility to protect all of us regardless of our sexual choices?

Uh, no? Because being trans* is not a "sexual choice." As he argues elsewhere (and as I have done, over the years), it would be worthy of protection even if it were, though.

But this whole "it's not a choice!" didn't spring fully formed from the brains of devious gay activists as a way to co-opt "real" civil rights framing from black people. This is very much a place where his ignorance about some pretty basic gay history becomes obvious. Gayness was criminalized and denigrated for decades by framing it as a choice that us sick deviants make, and that one of the ways you know we're deviants is that we choose to be, so the rhetoric around gayness not being a choice is very much in reaction to that.

For some people, it's not a choice. For some people, it may very well be. Neither of those is a reason for criminalizing or stigmatizing the behavior.
posted by rtha at 10:26 AM on March 14 [20 favorites]


I think Ambrosino is trying to challenge that from a religious, gay, conservative perspective. Unfortunately he is falling victim to the very thing he's trying to work against, the presentation of an oversimplified caricature of who he is and the issues he is concerned about.


Here's the thing. I am sympathetic to this to Amrosino as a young person. But professionally, you don't get to have it both ways. You don't get to create a media persona based on a perspective saying challenging things and then get any sort of pass when people call you on what you said to create the challenging persona.

I don't care to judge Brandon Ambrosino personally as any sort of self-loathing bigot. But when he defends bigoted things in a professional setting, he should be held accountable for them.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:30 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


I read him as trying to remove the narrow issues that divide people on bigger issues. For example, I think what he's trying to say is whether you think it's a choice or you think it's not a choice, it doesn't matter. People are who they are, there's no changing that, so stop arguing about it and look at the greater picture: treat each other with love and respect.

Except for the part where in the next piece he seems to think that a guy who equates homosexuality with bestiality and terrorism is a pretty cool bro. In fact, Ambrosino's biggest problem may be that he can't stay consistent between stances, and that he just writes what he thinks will get eyeballs.

If that were a comment in a Metafilter thread about gay rights, it would collect a couple hundred favorites in no time at all. I really think anyone who sees it as some kind of coded anti-gay screed is going beyond a suspicious hermeneutics to a fully-blown paranoid delusional hermeneutics.

Maybe you missed the part where I was talking about the article as a whole, as well as how he contradicts himself in other pieces? There's been more criticism of his tendency to be all over the board than the choice/genes issue, but it's certainly telling that Sullivan and the people here getting all twisted up here are arguing that and only that particular issue. I'd love to hear how his positions on trans* people aren't problematic, or how just flat-out lying about what Falwell has said is totally cool, for starters, but for some reason no one's doing that while defending him. Weird, huh?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:34 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "What is our obligation to read people like Sullivan and publications like Vox? They've outed themselves as entities that teach the controversy, thereby destroying real and useful journalism. Just don't consume their garbage."

There is value in standing up and saying, "that person doesn't speak for me or for my group." That he is not representative of the whole. I said something about this upthread, but think it's worth repeating and expanding upon.

Ignoring them isn't just tacit acceptance. It leaves them preaching to their choirs unchallenged. And they do have a legion of choirs. They have built-in audiences who already believe the shit they're shoveling. Who believe that gay therapy works, or being gay is a lifestyle choice or other obnoxious, harmful anti-gay things.

So no, ignoring them and pretending they don't exist isn't enough. It's important that they be discredited. That their arguments and ability to portray themselves as representative of the mainstream is diminished. Because if not, the status quo is quietly maintained and it's harder to make progress.
posted by zarq at 10:43 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


I don't throw stones. I will, however, occasionally throw cabbage.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:43 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


If you tell someone their reservations on gay-marriage makes them anti-gay, you've just made it into a personal attack which will put them on the defense and severely hamper any chance at having any kind of open, rational conversation.

There's a fine line between fostering an environment in which you can have a rational conversation and telling people with bigoted views (e.g. a moral opposition to equal marriage rights) they're Christ-like, especially when the theology doesn't even back it up:

"If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay."

And, honestly, not being supportive of the right of secular same-sex marriage is as bigoted viewpoint as opposition to interracial marriage. The people holding such views aren't necessarily capital-b Bigots marching with signs in front of town hall, but they hold bigoted views nonetheless.

Claiming that people can consider gay marriage a morally reprehensible act while not necessarily being "anti-gay" is using semantics to excuse bigotry. Where does the open, rational conversation go when opponents of a civil right can point at a journalist on the world stage saying "don't worry, you're doing what Jesus would do."
posted by griphus at 10:44 AM on March 14 [17 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "I don't throw stones. I will, however, occasionally throw cabbage."

Won't someone think of the poor, defenseless vegetables?
posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Except for the part where in the next piece he seems to think that a guy who equates homosexuality with bestiality and terrorism is a pretty cool bro.

The problem is that these types of people /are/ often pretty cool bros in person. They save their hatred for generalities, not specifics. This is, in part, often because it's a lot easier to hate the faceless, nameless, "Gays" than that nice young theologian who's struggling with his faith and his attraction and is Just Like Us.

Just because this young - and to me, 23 is indeed very young - man thinks that Jerry Falwell is a righteous dude, doesn't mean that he's somehow approving of the stances Falwell takes. It means that he is having trouble with black and white characterizations in a grey world.

I think most people who have been fighting any kind of fights for a while know that, at heart, their opponents are usually fairly good people in person, who are horrifically wrong in their overall beliefs. They might help little old ladies across the street, even. But it doesn't make their views good - and admitting that they help little old ladies across the street doesn't equal endorsement for said views.
posted by corb at 10:48 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


But this whole "it's not a choice!" didn't spring fully formed from the brains of devious gay activists as a way to co-opt "real" civil rights framing from black people.

He doesn't say that it did.

For some people, it's not a choice. For some people, it may very well be. Neither of those is a reason for criminalizing or stigmatizing the behavior.


That's exactly his argument.

Gayness was criminalized and denigrated for decades by framing it as a choice that us sick deviants make, and that one of the ways you know we're deviants is that we choose to be, so the rhetoric around gayness not being a choice is very much in reaction to that.


Actually, the history is a lot more complicated than that. Gay activists were, by and large, fiercely opposed to early research that tried to suggest that being gay was in some way "innate." Back in the 70s and 80s the central thrust of gay theory was to emphasize the labile nature of human sexuality. Gay "liberation" was a liberation from what was seen as a purely cultural conditioning that trapped us within oppressively narrow sexual identities. I can remember protest marches at the university against scientists who were trying to prove that homosexuality was innate because that was seen as feeding into precisely the rhetoric of "disease" that surrounded scientific discourse around homosexuality at that time.

And, in fact, there never really had been a widespread discourse of "choice" around homosexuality; it was far more common to understand it as the result of some kind of "damage" that had been done to "normal" development (hence all the cultural panic surrounding the idea of gay men "recruiting" young boys through sexual molestation etc.). The question parents were supposed to ask when they discovered their children were gay was "where did I go wrong?" not "why did you make that weird and unmotivated choice?" The contemporary emphasis on gayness as a "choice" is actually more of a reaction against the political effectiveness of the gay-rights activism that eventually recognized the political power of that argument than it is a hangover from the past.

It remains the fact that socially-liberal discourse is fractured around the issue of "choice" and sexual orientation. Depending on the route the conversation takes to get to the subject it's still easy to end up in, in left-liberal communities like, for example, Metafilter, at either the general agreement that sexual identities are, of course, performative and self-expressive and that in a genuinely free and unprejudiced world no one would be in any simple sense "gay" and "straight" or the general agreement that sexual identities are hard-wired at birth and that it's profoundly wrong to question their innate and unalterable reality.
posted by yoink at 10:48 AM on March 14 [14 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan is such a dumbass he figured out how to make journalism work as a business in the Internet era.

Being wrong in a way that makes a lot of other people who are also wrong comfortable with themselves is not a new business model.
posted by srboisvert at 10:48 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


Jesus says zero things about being gay. So if he's supposed to be giving the "Christian" view, he's not using facts to back it up, and kinda, well, lying. Great hire!
posted by tavella at 10:50 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I wonder how our LGBT discourses would be enhanced were we to fully embrace the dynamism of our sexuality."
This has been quoted twice as evidence that Ambrosino is not so bad. It's a good point, but before we talk about it I think you have to deal with a preliminary question. Which of these is more damaging to our ability to explore the full range of our sexuality:

1 - People advocating that their sexual preference is innate, or
2 - States where you can be fired for having certain sexual preferences. There's 29 of 'em currently.

Does Ambrosino do anything, say anything about the second item? I don't know. But if he doesn't then he richly deserves all the criticism he's getting.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:52 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


The problem is that these types of people /are/ often pretty cool bros in person.

The kind of person who thinks that an entire class of people are the same as those guilty of crimes punishable by extended imprisonment and/or death kinda takes the bloom off the "pretty cool bro" rose. If Phil Robertson was doing something worthwhile with his spare time and money, maybe I'd consider that a somewhat mitigating circumstance, but we're talking about a guy who thinks that Jim Crow was pretty cool and advocates marrying underage girls.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:00 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


The problem is that these types of people /are/ often pretty cool bros in person.

The idea that you can judge a person independent of their politics- that one can be a hateful piece of human garbage yet be an okay person- is a noxious and pernicious one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]


Surely the idea that someone's politics are an inherent, fixed thing that requires unequivocal damnation is also something of a noxious and pernicious idea.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:17 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]


A lot of older and more religious people read the writing on the wall and honestly perceive this as an existential crisis. All of this bullshit legislation in the states, the mealy mouthed semi-defenses of discrimination out of panic and desperation are mostly impotent death noises.

Perception, however, matters—has always mattered—and a lot of minds have been changed not through rhetoric or argument, but based on personal contact and experience. Perhaps it's best to resist shaming and ridiculing. First, because it's fucking unseemly, but also because memories and resentments run long. I can't help but feel a little grace and humility in the home stretch will serve us all better.

The idea that you can judge a person independent of their politics- that one can be a hateful piece of human garbage yet be an okay person- is a noxious and pernicious one.

You roleplay a good paladin, but the other players think you're kind of insufferable.
posted by echocollate at 11:20 AM on March 14 [13 favorites]


While nobody should provide cover for the like of Liberty University to fund anti-gay genocide campaigns in Africa, and I have always hated Andrew Sullivan's pro-war garbage, there's one important truth the guy hits on here: We are all more the same as human beings than our politicians would like us to think. The ruling elite would love to keep both sides stereotyping each other, so we won't unite against their looting of the country, but will donate cash to outrage-bait electoral campaigns.
posted by steinsaltz at 11:20 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


[Folks, if you want to have a conversation about how stuff works on Metafilter that really needs to be done in Metatalk, not in the middle of a thread.]
posted by cortex at 11:31 AM on March 14


> A lot of the recently LGBT successes have gotten where they are by this sort of weird, het-reassuring, "Hey, we just can't help it! We were born this way!" with a side implication of "Of course if we were able we would choose to be straight like you, but since we were born gay, can you give us the consolation prize of equal rights?" It's a success, because people think that if people can't help being gay, of course it can't be judged.

I'm sorry, but I have to point out that I find this really dismissive and downright, jaw-droppingly offensive

I don't disagree with the point I think you're trying to make -- that sexuality is a choice, for some people (though certainly not anywhere near the majority of gay people, I'd posit), and it's okay to acknowledge that. Do you have to be so hand-wavingly dismissive of the long struggle for equal rights and equal protection, though? Not just in society at large, but often within our own families? Why not just say that the men pranced queenily when they asked for equal rights, or the dykes did it while committing sins against fashion and hairstyling? I mean, come on.

What you wrote there is just plain ugly and I hate it when I see that shit here.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:04 PM on March 14 [9 favorites]


[Seriously, take it down a notch.]
posted by cortex at 12:06 PM on March 14


It was certainly not my intent to do so - I'm confused on how it could be read that way, but I apologize if what I said was unintentionally hurtful.
posted by corb at 12:06 PM on March 14


Thank you, I appreciate that.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:09 PM on March 14


The born-this-way vs. choice debate is important from a scientific point-of-view (as it is with many other traits) but I don't reall think it should matter when it comes to legalities.
posted by jonmc at 12:16 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


PG: I'm saying you made a stupid, knee-jerk comment. I make them all the time, so trust me, I know one when I see it.

Come on, your statement means is that if someone holds idea X that you disagree with (and maybe a lot people disagree with it, maybe I disagree with it, that's not the point) then that is all that matters about that person. Nothing else about them compensates for that view, or moderates that view, or provides them any human worth. One drop of evil (as defined by the eyes of the beholder) negates everything else about them.

If nothing else about an anti-semite matters beyond their anti-semitism, then the only defining characteristic of them is their anti-semitism, which is pretty much the same as saying "all anti-semites are Y," and yeah, that's pretty much the same functional mechanism as racism.

And if anti-semites, people who aren't sufficiently onboard with gay marriage, whatever, are not allowed to participate in the public sphere, specifically aren't allowed to have some job writing for a web site like this Ambrosino guy, then what place is there for them?

Would it be okay for him to work at a dry cleaner's in Indiana? He'd still have exactly the same hateful views? Is that okay as long as he's kept in a box somewhere and you don't have to look at him?

Following your statement to the reductio ad absurdum I was going for, if the sum total of someone is an intolerable idea that they hold, then why do we tolerate them? If we've decided there's no place in society for someone because they are entirely summed up by some horrible idea X that must be purged, then what do we do with them? It's not that far from how we treat, say, registered sex offenders. They aren't acceptable anywhere and never can be because of what they've done. They just have to go to some undefined and unreachable "away" so we don't have to confront them anymore.

Again, I don't think you really think this way. I think you said something you hadn't really thought through and it was something that deserved to be called out. We all do stuff like that. It doesn't make you a horrible person. I expect we'd agree on a lot of things and disagree on others if we sat down to inventory our politics and morals over beer and nachos. That's what the world is like and we all have to get along in it. We can and should try to persuade people to hold better ideas, but absolutism doesn't help.
posted by Naberius at 12:21 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


The idea that you can judge a person independent of their politics- that one can be a hateful piece of human garbage yet be an okay person- is a noxious and pernicious one.

The idea that you can describe someone who disagrees with you as "human garbage" is far more noxious, pernicious, and genuinely dangerous.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:21 PM on March 14 [8 favorites]


jonmc: "The born-this-way vs. choice debate is important from a scientific point-of-view (as it is with many other traits) but I don't reall think it should matter when it comes to legalities."

I agree with you, but if being gay were a choice, then arguing that gay, lesbian and transgender folks deserve protected class status under the law becomes more difficult. Most (not all) of the classes protected by federal law, such as sex (gender), race, age, nationality, etc., are predicated on the idea that they are inherent to a person and relatively immutable.

The people who are say gay people have a choice in the matter are usually the same folks who are trying to chip away at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender men and women's protection as a minority.
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on March 14


Religion is a choice, but we still have laws protecting against religious discrimination.
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on March 14 [13 favorites]


I agree with you, but if being gay were a choice, then arguing that gay, lesbian and transgender folks deserve protected class status under the law becomes more difficult. Most (not all) of the classes protected by federal law, such as sex (gender), race, age, nationality, etc., are predicated on the idea that they are inherent to a person and relatively immutable.

This may be more of a flaw of the law, than a flaw of the theory.
posted by corb at 12:33 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that when I was in my early 20s, there was no internet like there's an internet now. This guy is going to have a long and public history.

Regarding the choice thing: yeah, many states protect religious belief and marital status, which are both things that one chooses. But in the arguments I had with people (when I was in college, and occasionally since then), there was still often an immovable insistence that teh gay is different (because icky, I guess) and so it didn't matter if it was a choice or not - it should still be okay for people to legally discriminate against gay people.
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


As i understand it, the fuss is about a young writer, who happens to be conservative, getting a fellowship at a new open-source journalism startup.

Seems to me the bigger problem is the unstated assumption that Vox had an obligation to be in some sense "liberal".
posted by lodurr at 12:52 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I'll repeat what I wrote on another blog: Ambrosino is one Madonna obsession away from being the male Camille Paglia.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:54 PM on March 14 [10 favorites]


Just because this young - and to me, 23 is indeed very young - man thinks that Jerry Falwell is a righteous dude, doesn't mean that he's somehow approving of the stances Falwell takes.

One of us doesn't know the meaning of "righteous" and it's either me, you, or Ambrosino. I don't even know what would it mean to believe that Falwell was a "righteous dude"—("Thanks, Grace.")—and yet not approve of his stances? Is liking Falwell ironically a new thing?
posted by octobersurprise at 12:56 PM on March 14


I haven't read much of what this guy has written (just glimpsing through the "Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University"...and I'm not reading closely, and I'm not finished, but I'm not seeing anything objectionable here), but from many of the snippets posted in this thread, it really does seem like he's just channeling basic queer theory points against biological essentialism.

The whole "born this way" argument happens to work for most folks, so I'm totally cool with that and cool with the way things are going (especially in the courts re: marriage equality), but the basic flaw in it is that for people who don't value LGBT issues, concerns, and relationships positively in the first place, it doesn't *have* to sway them. corb's earlier posted ""Hey, we just can't help it! We were born this way!" comment really is how many people take it...they only support LGBT rights to the extent that they *pity* LGBT persons for being "born that way."

But you know, for conservative religious types, they can easily change their argument from, "the orientation is a choice" to "actions you take are a choice." Which is basically what many groups have done. (That is, for example, the basic subtle shift the LDS church has made -- one may not choose the attractions, but one can certainly choose what to do with it.)

The real argument that people should be making is that pursuing LGBT identity, relationships, etc., should be accepted and welcome and protected because *there is nothing bad or wrong with these things, and n fact, pursuing these things is a healthy, happy option for those so inclined [however they got to be so inclined.].*

Seems like Ambrosino is in agreement with that.
posted by subversiveasset at 12:56 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


But for fucks sake, it's saddening to see how much vitriol and hate is spewed out at him; and it's scary to see people think he needs to be silenced for not saying the right things.

I know Brandon Ambrosino, or I used to. I haven't talked to him in years. I don't want to weigh in on the FPP, I don't feel like it is my place at all. But it has given me a bit of a jolt to read the sorts of things being written about him here, and to think that I'd be reading the criticism (or vitriol, what have you) with glee in my heart if it was written about a total stranger. That has given me a lot to think about.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:59 PM on March 14 [21 favorites]


Can you folk who believe in reaching out to bigots try to be a bit more sensitive in how you criticize those of us who despise bigots? Otherwise you're unlikely to change my mind.
posted by Wood at 1:00 PM on March 14 [9 favorites]


I've been a BIG Ezra Klein fan since somewhere in 2007. I'm prepared to trust his instincts and intentions with the hire and I can't imagine this guy will be allowed to pump out ignorant or hateful guff. EK is playing up the need for Ambrosino to have editorial oversight. Obviously, we shall see.
posted by peacay at 1:17 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


jonmc: "Religion is a choice, but we still have laws protecting against religious discrimination."

Yeah. but when the Constitution was drafted, it wasn't considered one. An argument could be made that it's not always a choice for all groups. Many theists would probably have at least some trouble separating their religious beliefs from their overall identity.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


including that being gay or trans is a sexual choice and that being against gay marriage isn't a form of bigotry.

If that's his position, maybe he can explain why he 'chose' to be gay, and why he hasn't 'chosen' to be straight.

Now, I don't mean hiding back in the closet and thinking of Henry Cavill so you can get it up for your wife. I mean actually getting a hardon from women instead of men.

When and if he does that, he might have a point. He can't do that, of course, so I see absolutely no reason to pay any attention to him at all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:38 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: " If that's his position, maybe he can explain why he 'chose' to be gay, and why he hasn't 'chosen' to be straight."

A gay religious Christian man I knew committed suicide a decade ago, because he quite literally hated himself for being gay. He was brought up in a religious family, and surrounded himself with friends who were similarly devout. They all said they loved him dearly, and I'm sure they thought they did. But in actuality they treated him abominably and never accepted him. Many made his life a living hell. He spent his entire life dealing with conflicting feelings about who he was.

I won't presume to think I know Mr. Ambrosino, or cast judgment on how he lives his personal life. But growing up in a religious environment which indoctrinates you from childhood with a specific party line about how your personal identity and sexual orientation are sinful is not easy. I don't envy him that struggle. Nor the path of discovery he's going to have to travel throughout his life. It's possible he's chosen a belief he can live with.
posted by zarq at 1:55 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


But growing up in a religious environment which indoctrinates you from childhood with a specific party line about how your personal identity and sexual orientation are sinful is not easy. I don't envy him that struggle.

I would've more sympathy for him if he didn't chose to make a living gaywashing homophobia.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:11 PM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Yeah, what MartinWisse said.

Here's the thing about being gay and claiming it's a choice: you know you're lying. Everyone else knows you're lying. Because there is not a single good reason to make that choice, particularly if you are of a certain religious bent.

If it were truly a choice he'd choose to be straight and that would be the end of it.

That he hasn't speaks volumes about his ability to be truthful with himself and his readers.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:15 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


MartinWisse: " I would've more sympathy for him if he didn't chose to make a living gaywashing homophobia."

Oh, I agree. And I certainly won't defend him for it.

I just... I "get" the mental conflict that he could conceivably be dealing with.
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on March 14


Come on, your statement means is that if someone holds idea X that you disagree with (and maybe a lot people disagree with it, maybe I disagree with it, that's not the point) then that is all that matters about that person. Nothing else about them compensates for that view, or moderates that view, or provides them any human worth. One drop of evil (as defined by the eyes of the beholder) negates everything else about them.

For some reason many people are just not willing to not give somebody who wants LGBT people to be second class citizens -- at best -- the benefit of the doubt, even if they're kind to their mother. We're not just talking about simple political disagreements, we're talking about fundamental ideas of equality and justice. It's not about "holding idea X"; it's about homophobia.

In this sort of discussion you can't just retreat into generalities, you have to deal with what people like Falwell actually believed and how they acted. It doesn't matter how pleasant they are one to one, or in daily life, when their actions still means bringing hardship and death to thousands of people.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:33 PM on March 14 [11 favorites]


Except that the article about Falwell University is about how every time people with power over him had a chance to humiliate and destroy him, they instead showed love and kindness. More than you would have shown to his opposite number, I suspect. Some might say that the goal is to get them to expand the kindness they show to an person they know to all the others they don't. Your line is more kill or be killed. I find the former a lot more humane, and more human. You keep grumbling that he's "gaywashing homophobia", when the whole point of the article is how people who were professional homophobes weren't homophobic one on one; on the contrary, they were kinder and more humane than many people who are professionally tolerant.

Lying about what people wrote was a good tactic back when you could just run an editorial in a local alt-weekly about how "X said Y", and everyone would cluck about how terrible X must be. But nowadays, it's rather easy to follow the link and see exactly what X said. And when it becomes clear that they didn't say anything approaching Y, it's going to rebound on your credibility, not theirs.

So. If you're going to keep insisting that Ambrosino is a self-hating homophobe, quote something self-hating. Quote something homophobic. Stop trying to Two Minutes Hate him in the vaguest possible terms.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:48 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


Here's the thing about being gay and claiming it's a choice: you know you're lying. Everyone else knows you're lying. Because there is not a single good reason to make that choice, particularly if you are of a certain religious bent.

When people say it's a choice, what they mean is that it's not innate. Freud discusses this in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality:
EXPLANATION OF INVERSION
The nature of inversion is explained neither by the hypothesis that it is innate nor by the alternative hypothesis that it is acquired. In the former case we must ask in what respect it is innate, unless we are to accept the crude explanation that everyone is born with his sexual instinct attached to a particular sexual object. In the latter case it may be questioned whether the various accidental influences would be sufficient to explain the acquisition of inversion without the co-operation of something in the subject himself. As we have already shown, the existence of this last factor is not to be denied.
It's worth reading the rest of that essay if you're interested in the subject.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:48 PM on March 14


Here's the thing about being gay and claiming it's a choice: you know you're lying. Everyone else knows you're lying. Because there is not a single good reason to make that choice, particularly if you are of a certain religious bent. If it were truly a choice he'd choose to be straight and that would be the end of it.

this is a very narrow, simplistic vision of choice -- like an on-off switch that is totally volitional. Very few human characteristics are really like this. Many things are preferences that you can override in some situations but choose not to. Those preferences are genetically influenced but not a hundred percent genetically determined.

Also, I've now read the Falwell piece in addition to the TNR piece and I think it's basically ridiculous to say Ambrosino is a homophobe. This is not writing by someone who hates gay people. Maybe he's not fire-breathing furious with the anti-gay Christian right the way you are, but that doesn't make him a homophobe.
posted by zipadee at 2:50 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


Except that the article about Falwell University is about how every time people with power over him had a chance to humiliate and destroy him, they instead showed love and kindness.

And then continued to participate in a system that had him curled in a ball, crying, and hating himself.

I prefer honest, brutal disdain to that sort of "love".
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:56 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Your line is more kill or be killed

You'd think that someone so affronted by "lying" wouldn't stoop to attributing to their interlocutor a view never stated.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:00 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


[Folks, let's not make it personal - read the note by the comment box. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:04 PM on March 14


It's worth reading the rest of that essay if you're interested in the subject.

Given how much of Freud's work is irrelevant to psychiatry today, I'm not particularly interested in his antiquated views on sexuality.

this is a very narrow, simplistic vision of choice -- like an on-off switch that is totally volitional.

I'm gay. It's not a choice. I see an attractive naked man and I become sexually aroused.

He maintains it's a choice. So, please, he needs to demonstrate that he isn't just talking out his ass.

Sexual orientation: not a choice

Sexual behaviour: a choice.

He is not making that distinction. People who say that sexuality is a choice are flat out 100% wrong and that's basically the end of it as far as I am concerned.

tldr put up or shut up if you believe it's a choice.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:24 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I'm gay. It's not a choice.

tldr put up or shut up if you believe it's a choice.

Do you seriously not see the irony of universalizing your own experiences and demanding evidence from anyone who does not fit into the mold of your experience, as a response to someone universalizing from his own experiences?

You're gay, but you don't speak for all sexual minorities.

I'm gay, and there's clear parts of my sexuality that I have had to consciously re-wire and unlearn because they were so entangled up in homophobia, transphobia, racism and ableism that they were actively damaging to my well-being. I have a few friends who identify as queer by choice, and I'm going to respect that as well by not accusing them of internalized homophobia or demanding that they put up hard proof.

And that's not even getting into further queer theory about how the sexual identities that we model around are based upon highly binary systems and antiquated models of human gender and sexuality. In other words, models of human experiences are just models - why do you think queer identifications are becoming increasingly popular these days?

tldr; it's not as simple as you think it is
posted by Conspire at 3:49 PM on March 14 [13 favorites]


this is a very narrow, simplistic vision of choice -- like an on-off switch that is totally volitional. Very few human characteristics are really like this. Many things are preferences that you can override in some situations but choose not to. Those preferences are genetically influenced but not a hundred percent genetically determined.

Yes, many things are preferences you can override in situations. But not forever.

Should I name for you all the men I've met in my life who married in their 20s, had a happy family life with children, and who were living with growing despair until they finally came out as gay in their 40s, because they were overriding a basic piece of themselves in order to fit into the dominant cultural narrative of what men should do/be?

Right here, without any effort, I can think of four who spring immediately to mind. Keith, who divorced, was denied any visitation rights, and last I heard lives happily with his male partner but misses his kids. John and Frank, two separate cases, both of whom divorced but maintain active friendships with their ex-wives and have remained involved in raising the children, who now have two families, only "Dad has a boyfriend/husband". And Mark, who had divorced and was trying to find a life with man, and who was on good terms with his ex-wife and kids, but for whom the societal pressure of living as an out gay man in the mid-to-late 1990s contained too much hate for him and he went into the woods in Eastern AZ and shot himself one afternoon and is no longer alive.

That's without me even having to dig deep into my memory banks. I've met legions of these men across the 20+ years I've been out. They are gay, they want to have sex with and pair-bond with another man. But the pressures and expectations of society lead them to squash that and find a woman they can marry and have children with. And then, about 10-15 years into the marriage, something in them snaps and they realize they cannot continue living that way. Some of them divorce, many of them lead secret second lives. Or they did, back 10-20 years ago, when I was encountering so many of them.

Perhaps society has changed enough that this isn't going on to the level it once was. Perhaps these men either aren't marrying women and starting families or the breakups of those families are more congenial than they once were. But there is a whole slew of gay men, my age and older, who were overriding those preferences, who started down a path they weren't really wanting to take, and who have had to make difficult choices once they reached the breaking point formed by the stress cracks of trying to override something basic about their own make-up and maintain that status of override for years.

Sexual expression may be a choice, and a rather fluid one, more for some people, less for others. But you can't pretend to want one flavor your entire life when you really want something else. I may have been required to eat lima beans when I was living in my parents' house, but as an adult I never buy them.
posted by hippybear at 3:59 PM on March 14 [11 favorites]


I just came to agree with nadawi from earlier, on this point:

i decided that for the betterment of my mental health i'm just going to assume that anyone who seems to really, really believe that being gay is a choice is someone who is actually bisexual. i don't think it's entirely off the mark, either. i know that personally i had a similar journey away from extremely conservative mormonism - i thought my liking other girls was a choice because i clearly remember when i decided i was going to start finding boys attractive. it was sort of surprising to me when i later found out not all people have that ability.

I'm straight, and I would describe my feelings on the subject in absolute terms - I am attracted to women, and at no point was I not. It predates me knowing anything about sex, and is as much a part of my biological makeup as my height or eye color.

However, I think the alternative is probably more common. If I had to guess, based purely on saucy anecdotes from my personal life, it's my feeling that more people are bi than anybody cares to admit. I think it's probably more common than being 100% straight or gay, and it really complicates these discussions on all sides for a variety of reasons.

As for Ambrosino, the Liberty piece made me want to shake... someone. Him, his professors, all of them. People don't get to have it both ways: either they care about non-het people the same as everybody else, or they're bigots, but they don't get to be, like, secret friends of the cause. The most charitable interpretation I have for that behavior is rank cowardice.

If he thinks that's a defensible position, I'm not interested in anything else he thinks.

Upon preview:
Don't mean to contribute to a dog pile, fffm. Like I said, my personal experience matches yours.
posted by mordax at 4:07 PM on March 14


I have a few friends who identify as queer by choice, and I'm going to respect that as well by not accusing them of internalized homophobia or demanding that they put up hard proof.

I would. Maybe I'm more of an asshole than you, but if you're going to say that your sexual orientation is a choice--not the expression of sexuality--then I'm afraid you're going to have to show actual proof of this if you don't want me laughing in your face.

Show me one person who consciously chose who they would and would not be attracted to. You can't, because there isn't one. The only choice is in how we express our sexuality.

Beyond that, hippybear has refuted your points rather more eloquently than I could.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:08 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I am attracted to women, and at no point was I not. It predates me knowing anything about sex, and is as much a part of my biological makeup as my height or eye color.

Me too! *high five*
posted by mudpuppie at 4:09 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


tldr put up or shut up if you believe it's a choice.

This is so incredibly obtuse. I did provide a reference from a renowned psychologist who did thousands of interviews before coming to his conclusions. You think that your introspection is "putting up"?

who consciously chose who they would and would not be attracted to…

No one suggested that. Of course desire is axiomatic. What is questionable is whether that desire is innate or whether that desire is affected by postnatal environmental influences.

I also humbly suggest that if you're taking this discussion personally, you pause a few extra minutes before replying because so far your responses are defensive and unconvincing.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:13 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


That's one heck of a difference, isn't it? Some of us can afford to not take this discussion personally, while others feel compelled to.

I'm not advocating that emotion should trump all rational discussion, but it's probably worth understanding where the difference comes from, and why each of us falls on the side we do.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:35 PM on March 14 [6 favorites]


This is so incredibly obtuse. I did provide a reference from a renowned psychologist who did thousands of interviews before coming to his conclusions.

You quoted Freud, of all people, who is widely discredited. And he was a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. If you're using material that's a century+ old to bolster your position about sexuality, you have a little learning to do.

You think that your introspection is "putting up"?

I'm not the one making claims that go contrary to everything we know. Consider the men hippybear was talking about. If they could choose to be gay, why didn't they choose to be straight and save themselves the heartbreak?

What is questionable is whether that desire is innate or whether that desire is affected by postnatal environmental influences.

Except that's not what's being discussed. What is being discussed is whether you choose to be gay or straight or anywhere in between. People believe that you choose. I wish to see proof of that choice before I stop laughing at them. This is not a difficult proposition: show me one person who has made the choice to be gay. Just one. NB: that doesn't mean having sex with men. That means being aroused by men and not by women. Just show me one.

I also humbly suggest that if you're taking this discussion personally, you pause a few extra minutes before replying because so far your responses are defensive and unconvincing.

Hi, I'm a fag. This is an incredibly personal issue to me and I would very much thank you not to tell me not to take it so personally. The personal and the political are largely impossible to separate, and it is grotesque in the extreme to tell someone who an issue personally affects not to take it personally. Seriously. It's about as offensive as you can get. SO in the future before saying that to someone, I humbly suggest that you pause a few extra minutes before telling people who have personally experienced something and who live with the ramifications of that something every single second of every single day for their entire lives not to take it so personally.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:49 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


Oh for pete's sake. I don't think anyone materially disagrees on the issue of choice of sexuality except maybe on how we're defining philosophical absolutes.

No matter how fluid sexuality is, I'm pretty sure everyone agrees it is fundamental enough that it's not the government's or anyone else's damn business to be telling people how they are and are not allowed to feel.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:53 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Also, to elaborate on what Conspire was saying...


I am bi. I have been attracted to women. I have been attracted to men. It wasn't a choice to be attracted to a particular individual, but it is very much a choice which attractions I follow up on and very much a choice which situations I put myself into that cause me to meet more available non-straight men.

It is important to me that non-standard sexualities be welcomed not because there are some people who do have no choice, but out of respect for each individual's right to decide how and who to love and live with.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:03 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


Because there is not a single good reason to make that choice

That seems an odd thing for a gay man to say. Are you saying that if someone did, say, discover a "gay gene" and could offer you therapy to turn you straight you'd take that chance without a second thought?

He maintains it's a choice.


No, he doesn't. Try actually reading him instead of reading the cardboard cut-out characterizations of his argument that are floating around. Your insistence that your own sexual orientation wasn't a choice? He buys that completely:
Many people do feel as if their sexuality is something they were born with, and I have no reason to disbelieve them.
He, personally, feels that his own sexual expression is more complex. He doesn't assert it's just something he "chose"--that he could just as easily have "chosen" to be straight if he wanted to; he simply says that he things the insistence upon biological determinism is unhelpful and politically dubious.
posted by yoink at 5:21 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


"Well, we had Slate. Now that they've lost Matt Yglesias to Vox and Farhad Manjoo to the WSJ NYT, they're about 66% less pointlessly contrarian."

Or are they? #slatepitch
posted by klangklangston at 5:22 PM on March 14 [8 favorites]


Speaking of what Conspire had said earlier:

I'm gay, and there's clear parts of my sexuality that I have had to consciously re-wire and unlearn because they were so entangled up in homophobia, transphobia, racism and ableism that they were actively damaging to my well-being.

Not saying these are the particular issues that Conspire was dealing with, but don't we see discussions where people are like, "I'm just not attracted to black dudes/girls"? Or, thinking about the hookup/grindr/whatever scene, people who are like, "no fats/femmes/asians"?

Is the consensus to just shrug and say, "Well, you can't help who you're attracted to"?

I can't speak for anyone else, but for myself, as a black dude, I often don't find "I'm just not attracted to black dudes" to be all that innocent of a statement. That "just" could be hiding a bunch of other stuff in there. And yet, at the same time, I have to look at myself and wonder how much of my tastes and inclinations have a bunch of other stuff hiding in there? And sure, I can totally buy that that "just" probably didn't come about consciously -- but to give in and say, "That's just the way I am" doesn't seem like the optimal solution.

I am not saying then that LGBT folks should look at themselves and then try to "figure out" why they are LGBT to figure out how they can overcome this. But that's because I believe in the value and worth of LGBT identity and relationships beyond the concept of these things being inborn.
posted by subversiveasset at 5:29 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan doesn't recognize his own entitlement and appointment as gay spokesperson by the media powers-that-be. How's he supposed to recognize someone else's?

The classic piece on Andrew Sullivan's sense of entitlement is the Sarah Schulman interview the Advocate published in 1999: Man in the Hot Seat.
posted by larrybob at 5:31 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


That seems an odd thing for a gay man to say.

Not in the slightest. Faced with a choice between living the way 90% of society lives, or living in a way that a disturbing number of those 90% find objectionable and attempt to relegate you to second-class citizen status, well, come the hell on, that's not even a choice. If sexuality were as simple as waking up one morning and deciding "I like boys/girls/both/sheep" we would have no gay men on the planet.

I wouldn't take such gene therapy, no. I don't hate myself. Had I had the choice when I was about 10 and slowly coming to terms with the fact that I didn't just like my best friend, I LIKED my best friend in the way he liked our other friend 'Sarah,' yeah I probably would have chosen not to live a life where people try to deny me basic legal rights.

Seriously. There is no rational reason whatsoever for any man to make a conscious choice to be gay. None. In a hundred years, maybe. But society as it's been since the year dot? Apart from occasional oases of calm, no, there is no good reason.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:37 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


There's a lot that I find wrong about this guy. He has embraced at a young age a fairly standard conservative position, which is the iconoclast minority who is willing to tell all the others how wrong they are about how bad the Republicans can be.

It's also not uncommon for someone who is newly out to see the more flamboyant aspects of gay culture, reject or even feel revulsion for it, and try and emphasise how much they're not like all those other fags, no. Masc only, straight-acting, sure I sleep with other men but I don't make a production out of it - it's a common gay stereotype, and he fits it to a T. When he wrote, "I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality", I knew exactly who he was.

He also makes an extremely disingenuous argument that I always hate, especially when I see it around here, which is the 'your intolerance of my bigotry is, itself, bigotry! If you were truly open-minded, you'd agree with me!'-argument. It's lazy, it's indicative of cargo cult analysis of an idea rather than actually thinking about the context, and it is universally the sign of someone who thinks the worst oppression is only the one they experience.

That it tells his audience 'anyone who calls you a bigot is bigoted themselves, so feel free to ignore them and keep thinking the way you do' is just the added bonus of being the pet minority conservative. Newsflash: telling the monied interests that they are, in fact, good people, is the least iconoclastic, speaking truth to power thing you can do.

I have sympathy for a young gay man brought up fundamentalist and trying to make his way. But I don't have any for someone who uses poor argumentation and the claim that he can tell you why all other gay people are wrong and are, in fact, the real bigots to get himself writing jobs he's not currently talented enough for.

tl;dr: Dude's clearly an arsehole. I specific type of common-or-garden arsehole. Disliking arseholes isn't bigotry, no matter how much you might claim so.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:01 PM on March 14 [18 favorites]


The classic piece on Andrew Sullivan's sense of entitlement is the Sarah Schulman interview the Advocate published in 1999: Man in the Hot Seat.

Whoa, the memories!
posted by rtha at 6:18 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Seriously. There is no rational reason whatsoever for any man to make a conscious choice to be gay.

FFFM, given what I've been through in my life, and with my family, and with what I know about being a gold medalist in the Pronoun Olympics (how long could any of you have a conversation with a mere acquaintance about your partner, or your home life, without ever using a pronoun? It's difficult, and awkward, and you have to be a verbal gymnast to accomplish it. Try it sometime.), I agree with you that it isn't "rational" to "choose" to be gay. It's never a box anyone would ever rationally check just because, hey, gay is great and it's great to be gay! (For what it's worth, I don't hate myself either. There were some years when I wondered where I'd rate on the bad person meter, just because I'm gay, but they are fortunately well in my past.)

All that said, I also think that you're maybe being a little too narrow, at least semantically, in how you're participating in this discussion. Someone made the point above about how your saying that your experience on the LGBT spectrum is the only true and right one and is the only acceptable one, is a little hypocritical. And there's some truth to that.

We have to allow for some gray areas. And the"choice" thing that people are batting around -- that's not meant to insult you personally, or to describe your experience, or to be a blanket statement about anything or anyone. And I don't think anyone here is stating that all gay people are people who have made the choice to be gay. (And yes, there are people OUT THERE who believe that. But I don't really feel like they're in this 'room.')

Your experience is yours, and no one can take that from you. I don't think anyone is trying to. I think it would be okay to stand down just a bit.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:19 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


i've talked to lesbians who came out in the 1970s who view their sexuality as a choice. i don't think it's a big deal; i think it's just that each one of us frames it and integrates it differently. in the 70s i imagine the concept of choice was really important in a feminist sense across many issues, so i can see why they might view their sexuality in those terms as well. i wish we could make more room for the idea rather than having to be defensive over it (and i see the reasons for that). not to cast a pall on legitimate scientific inquiry, but i've never been friendly to the idea that we have to find some biological justification for our existence. as quite a few state here, i would rather we fight for the legitimacy of personal choice, though i think the 'mind your own business' thing is a lost cause considering how deeply we are mired in a celebrity tabloid culture that is ever more seeping into non-celebrity private lives.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:22 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


We have to allow for some gray areas.

Until someone can show me a man who deliberately chose to be gay, or deliberately chose to be straight (hey how about all them ex-gay ministries, doing a bang-up job eh?) sorry, there are no grey areas.

I'm universalizing my experience because it is universal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:25 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Well, I am universalizing MY experience because IT is universal.

We are at an impasse. Now what? How do we prove who's right? How can you prove that? And why is it necessary to try??
posted by mudpuppie at 6:27 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Ambrosino is kind of a red herring. The real problem with Vox is that it's debut staff is overwhelmingly white and male.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:55 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Until someone can show me a man who deliberately chose to be gay, or deliberately chose to be straight (hey how about all them ex-gay ministries, doing a bang-up job eh?) sorry, there are no grey areas.

The real problem with the "is it a choice" narrative is that it doesn't matter if it's a choice or not. The implication made by many people who claim it is a choice is that it is an unacceptable choice.

It's perfectly valid to respond to them by saying "maybe I did choose to be gay, maybe I didn't, but if I did, it's still my decision and not yours, I'm still happy I made the decision, and if you're not comfortable with my decision or have moral judgements about it, you can go fuck yourself."
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:00 PM on March 14 [6 favorites]


[One comment deleted. At this point, let's leave the sidetrack of focusing specifically on fffm's views; it is kind of sucking the air out of the room. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:46 PM on March 14


It seems worth collecting a few more of Ambrosino's statements (many of which have been quoted above). It is not an accident that they fit neatly into current strategic right-wing narratives about gay rights, though who can say how much of that is intentional on his part. But intentional or not, 23 or not, the role these things play is quite harmful. (Many of the quotes come from here; sorry it's over-long, but the examples kept proliferating.)

One of the reasons I think our activism is so insistent on sexual rigidity is because, in our push to make gay rights the new black rights, we’ve conflated the two issues. The result is that we’ve decided that skin color is the same thing as sexual behavior. I don’t think this is true. When we conflate race and sexuality, we overlook how fluid we are learning our sexualities truly are. To say it rather crassly: I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality, but I’ve never managed to get them to try on my skin color. In other words, one’s sexuality isn’t as biologically determined as race.

- Larger right-wing strategy: break the analogy between racism and homophobia; ensure there is space for being anti-gay, unlike being anti-black. Make sure the former is portrayed as a thought-out choice rather than being a mean nasty person.
- Pernicious local error: claim that race is purely biological.

Bonus:
Whenever someone accepts me merely because she feels obligated to do so by my genetic code, I feel degraded rather than empowered. It’s like saying, “You can’t help it, sugar. You were born this way. Me? I was born with astigmatism and a wonky knee. We can’t change our limitations even if we wanted to.”

- Either conflates biological sexuality with physical ailments, or suggests that those who claim sexual attraction is innate are making that conflation. This is not a benign attempt to think through the issues.

In contrast to contemporary gay activists, King found a way to condemn evil without condemning the evildoer. From within the midst of a people grown weary with struggle, King stood up to remind the oppressed of the humanity of their oppressors; to remind them that if love were the goal, then the path of hatred would never lead them there.... Though we have come quite far in the past few years, we are still routinely discriminated against. But rather than follow King’s example, some of us have decided to meet ideological violence head on with our own. We demand to be taken seriously, even as we dismiss our opponents’ request that we listen to them.

- Larger right-wing strategy: Portray the anti-homophobia left as the true bigots, and contrary to their own liberal traditions of non-violence, via a conflation of anti-homophobia with "ideological violence".
- Pernicious local error: utterly gets wrong what King said and believed.

Raushenbush hauled out a familiar argument: “Let’s just be very clear here —if you are against marriage equality you are anti-gay. Done.” As a gay man, I found myself disappointed with this definition—that anyone with any sort of moral reservations about gay marriage is by definition anti-gay. If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay.

- Larger right-wing strategy: As above: break the flow from anti-gay-marriage -> anti-gay -> homophobic. "Are you calling my parents bigots?? And your beloved left-wing pope?"
- Pernicious local error: implies Jesus said anti-gay stuff.

We routinely scour the private lives and social media accounts of our political opponents in the hopes of demonizing them as archaic, unthinking, and bigoted. Whenever we find an example of queer hatred, we are quick to convince the public that the only proper way to deal with these haters is to hate them.

- Larger right-wing strategy: As above: conflate demonizing bigots with being bigoted. Suggest that in fact the anti-bigots are more bigoted than the bigots.
- Pernicious local error: suggest that activists care more about how people feel than what they do.

What exactly do we mean when we say “anti-gay,” or “homophobic”? Often when I try to understand where my conservative opponents are coming from, my gay friends accuse me of being homophobic. It isn’t homophobic of me to try to understand why someone might be opposed to marriage equality. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt takes courage; dismissing him before considering his argument—well, that seems a bit phobic. ... If it’s “anti-gay” to question the arguments of marriage-equality advocates, and if the word “homophobic” is exhausted on me or on polite dissenters, then what should we call someone who beats up gay people, or prefers not to hire them? ... I would argue that an essential feature of the term “homophobia” must include personal animus or malice toward the gay community. Simply having reservations about gay marriage might be anti-gay marriage, but if the reservations are articulated in a respectful way, I see no reason to dismiss the person holding those reservations as anti-gay people.

- Larger right-wing strategy: Redefine "homophobia" from an emotional, rather than behavioral, definition. Once again break the chain from anti-gay-marriage to anti-gay, as before by suggesting that the articulation, emotion, and sources of the beliefs (eg, religious faith) are what matters, not the actions. Imply that those who argue otherwise "dismiss" their opponents. Prevent "homophobia" from going down the path of "racism," something that applies equally to street beatings and calmly articulated religious beliefs on the immorality of mixed-race marriages.
- Pernicious local error: Suggesting that homophobia is something so new and mysterious that it still deserves the benefit of the doubt, and implying that no one on the left has ever even tried to understand their thinking. On the contrary, it is one of the many burdens of the oppressed to be continually forced to try to understand the thinking of their oppressors.

Bonus:
Though I’d like to see Rob change his mind, I don’t imagine he will. For him, the procreative potential of the male-female sexual union is what marriage was designed for. But even if Rob’s opinions don’t change, I still don’t believe he’s a bigot. Just as I distinguish between my sexual expression and the larger identity that contains it, I think it’s quite possible to distinguish between his political or theological expression (Conservative Rob) and his human identity (Rob).

- Redefine identity to separate belief from the person. What bigot would hate a bigot just because he's a bigot?

And finally, the dance mix version:
For the record, I’m undecided on whether or not I think Phil [of Duck Dynasty] actually is homophobic, although I certainly think his statement was offensive, and not only to the LGBT community. But I also think that if I were to spend a day calling ducks with Phil, I’d probably end up liking him — even in spite of his position on gay men. It’s quite possible to throw one’s political support behind traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted. ...Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them? One of the biggest pop-culture icons of today just took center stage to “educate” us about sexuality. I see this as an opportunity to further the discussion, to challenge his limited understanding of human desire, to engage with him and his rather sizable audience — most of whom, by the way, probably share his views — and to rise above the endless sea of tweet-hate to help move our LGBT conversations to where they need to go. G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” If he is right — and he usually is — then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.

So we've had anti-homophobia now conflated with "ideological violence," bigotry, racial essentialism, hatred, and censorship. These patterns are not accidents, and they are not without harm. The fact that he's young means that we shouldn't hate him, not that he should be hired or his writing spared harsh criticism.
posted by chortly at 7:46 PM on March 14 [26 favorites]


The real problem with the "is it a choice" narrative is that it doesn't matter if it's a choice or not. The implication made by many people who claim it is a choice is that it is an unacceptable choice.

It's perfectly valid to respond to them by saying "maybe I did choose to be gay, maybe I didn't, but if I did, it's still my decision and not yours, I'm still happy I made the decision, and if you're not comfortable with my decision or have moral judgements about it, you can go fuck yourself."

posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:00 PM on March 14


I completely agree with MBATR. But I will add this: I have never met, in all my long life, anyone who claimed that they "chose" their orientation. Instead, it's been like a shared secret: we LGBT folk nod at each other and say with our eyes, Yeah, this is who I've always been. Thank God I can relax at last!

I've been bi since the age of 13, but I was 16 before I realized that not everyone is like me. I didn't even have the concept of hetero-/homo-sexuality. When I understood that I was "different," it poisoned me for a decade. I celebrate today's young people, who at last have a chance to embrace their brothers and sisters without fear.
posted by SPrintF at 8:24 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


I'm gay. Not a choice. It's what I am. Always have been, always will be. Not a victim of oppression, because I ignore it. Not a victim of society, because I don't care what people think. About anything, really. I gave my victim card back to the issuing agency, long ago.

Special snowflake to some? Maybe. I don't care. I am who I am, I'm a great person regardless of whatever "axis of oppression" someone thinks I swing on.

I'm me. No categories, no classifications, I'm the only person I will ever be, and I love being in my own skin . I'm damn glad to be who I am, damn glad to be alive at a truly awesome place in the human trajectory, and I don't care what anything thinks of that.

Suck it, Freud.
posted by disclaimer at 4:17 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Ezra Klein, I'm Calling Bullsh*t on Your Defense of Hiring Brandon Ambrosino, and Here's Why

Useful for another perspective of someone who's seen this kind of growing-up-in-public confused queer many times before. gadge emeritus is so right above; Ambrosino is a classic stereotype who doesn't deserve the time of day, let alone a new platform. In five years - one year if he's as smart as he thinks he is - he'll be backpedaling from his current "I'm a gay but I'm so different from all those other gays who don't understand the wisdom my 23 years and Southern Baptist upbringing has brought me on issues of human sexuality" schtick.

Seriously. It's a type we see over and over and over again in young gay folks who grow up in very conservative environments. Ambrosino fits it perfectly: describing himself as a "the world's most hypersexual fag" in that creepy Atlantic piece about Liberty University, the boyfriend he fucked but who "wasn't gay, and he still isn't" without any exploration of bisexuality or *why* it might have been so important for Eddie to think of himself as straight, the deliberate provocation aimed only at the folks who are fighting for equality, etc.

And just for the record, I have no problem with the notion that sexuality for some folks may involve some types of choice (I've defended that notion here many times in the past). But Ambrosino has never told us how he himself made that choice. Instead, he tells us how everyone already knew or suspected he was gay long before he came out. Hmm. It's...almost....like....he didn't have a choice or something.

He's young, confused, deliberately provocative in only one direction - the direction fighting for equality - and intellectually dishonest. He's a terrible choice for any kind of public platform like Ezra Klein's new site, and Klein's various explanations are both tone-deaf and not very convincing.
posted by mediareport at 6:36 AM on March 15 [11 favorites]


"who doesn't deserve the time of day"

As a public intellectual, I mean. Not until he grows up.
posted by mediareport at 6:37 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch: Ambrosino is kind of a red herring. The real problem with Vox is that it's debut staff is overwhelmingly white and male.

Bingo. which brings me to this....

mediareport: As a public intellectual, I mean. Not until he grows up.

I'm still missing the part where Ezra Klein is turning Brandon Ambrosino into a 'public intellectual.'

Klein is basically giving the kid an internship with a nice name and a better paycheck. The people turning him into a 'public intellectual' are the people discussing him. You want him to stop being considered a 'public intellectual'? Stop talking about him.
posted by lodurr at 6:44 AM on March 15


I recognize a conservative darling on the upswing. He'll pull a David Brock someday - apologizing for his youthful idiocy and for being a useful gay tool for conservatives. I'm just hoping we can minimize the damage this one does before he wises up.
posted by mediareport at 6:47 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Klein is basically giving the kid an internship with a nice name

That's how Klein is describing the position now, after the blowback. I don't believe for a second that's how Klein himself thought about the position when he hired Ambrosino.
posted by mediareport at 6:54 AM on March 15


well how would you describe it? how did he describe it?

"Fellow" is usually a term-limited job, and in writing, unless it's reserved for established writers, it usually pays shit. It's intended for people who could use a steady gig so they don't have to work a grueling day job as, say, a dancer. Most people who get gigs as writing fellows fall into obscurity within a couple of years after.
posted by lodurr at 7:21 AM on March 15


You want him to grow up. Well, 'fellowships' are part of how writers grow up.
posted by lodurr at 7:24 AM on March 15


He needs to grow as a person more than as a writer.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:34 AM on March 15


and that's going to happen...how? by piling on and validating his fantasies about oppressive gay culture?

and in any case, shouldn't 'growing as a person' be roughly congruent with 'growing as a person'? (and if not, has he actually 'grown as a writer'?)
posted by lodurr at 7:48 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


You're right, he's not going to grow as a person as long as people hire him to stir up shit with his views.

His story was interesting, and worth telling. However, he still needs to learn that polite and friendly people may not always have your best interests in mind, and shed the macho posturing or lack of perspective that makes him think being so traumatized by self hatred that you cry yourself to sleep is fine all in all. Otherwise he has precious little to add to the discussion.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:59 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


he's not going to grow as a person as long as people hire him to stir up shit with his views.

How do you know that's what's happened?

I know you assume it -- but why?
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on March 15


he still needs to learn that polite and friendly people may not always have your best interests in mind,

He already knows that vicious and nasty people definitely don't have your best interests in mind. People who demand that you shut up about your personal experience because it doesn't fit into the proper frame are never, ever your (or anyone's) friends.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:29 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


the whole point of the article is how people who were professional homophobes weren't homophobic one on one

Which is absolutely no surprise to those of us who have spent any significant time in the South. (Also true for substituting "racist" for "homophobe"; see, for example, Strom Thurmond's biracial daughter.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:54 AM on March 15


Nonsense. Some of the people who've looked out for me in the past have been thoroughly nasty and disagreeable in person.

And when your position is "I went through this perilous situation and came out unscathed so it's not actually that bad," that is the voice of inexperience talking. That is the voice of that youthful feeling of invincibility. So when people more experienced and know better tell you otherwise in no uncertain terms, you sit down, shut up, and listen. Otherwise you will put people in danger, and you may get people hurt. No matter how bluntly they put it, they do have your best interest in mind.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:20 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


Could it be because they don’t actually want to continue the dialogue with people of faith, but rather seek to leverage the growing majority in favor of gay equality to rhetorically bludgeon the “bigots” into submission, to create a world in which they call the shots the way homophobes used to?
Perhaps it is small and petty of me, or says unpleasant things about my character, but I think Sullivan rather perfectly described my attitude there. While he means it in an insulting, dismissive, sort of way, I think he's pretty well got me.

No, I don't want to continue a dialog with people of faith on the issue of whether or not gay people are full human beings who deserve all civil rights. I'm sick of having that dialog. I am no more interested in having a thoughtful, dispassionate, academic, all sides considered, dialog with people of faith on the issue of gay rights than I am in having a thoughtful, in depth, dialog with the KKK on the issue of whether or not black people are fully human and deserving of all rights we accord humans. I'm also completely, 100%, not even slightly interested in having a thoughtful, dispassionate, and caring dialog with anyone on the issue of whether or not women are fully human and deserve to have bodily autonomy.

I would much rather rhetorically bludgeon such bigots into submission and create a world where we mandate equal treatment of all people regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexuality.

The mere fact that some people seem to insist that we must, or should, treat the question of whether or not gay people are really people or not as a legitimate question that deserves a thoughtful and caring response, rather than a suggestion that is deeply morally offensive and who's proponents deserve nothing but scorn and derision, annoys me.

There's been a dust up in the skeptic/atheist/etc community of late on the issue of women's rights, and Greta Christina put it very well:
I am enraged about this. And it is incredibly distressing to learn that some of my colleagues, my allies, even my friends, think that my rage is unreasonable. Yes, I understand that these people are themselves pro-choice. That’s not the point. The point is that they are treating women’s right to basic physical autonomy as just another interesting political topic for discussion and debate. The point is that they are showing little to no understanding about why people are so enraged about this, and little to no concern about that rage. The point is that they are showing a whole lot more concern about their hurt feelings over being the target of that rage, or about the hurt feelings of other targets, than they are about the hurt feelings of women getting our basic humanity called into question for the 874,905,836,513th time.
There she is discussing the willingness of the atheist community to treat the full humanity and bodily autonomy of women as an interesting philosophic point that can and should be discussed in a calm and dispassionate manner and how annoying it is. We can just as easily change that to the annoyance many people here are expressing with the demand that we treat the full humanity of gay people as just another interesting philosophic point to discuss in a dispassionate academic sort of way.

So yes, Mr. Sullivan, I don't want to continue a dialog with people of faith. I do want to force them to acquiesces, and I want the entire issue to be settled and ended and people who pretend that it's ok to view the full personhood of gay people as just another interesting academic issue to be ashamed of that viewpoint.

And, no, I have no interest in coddling a deliberately provocative, clickbait writing, professional contrarian, just because he's gay and thinks it's perfectly fine to treat his full personhood as an academic topic on which reasonable people can disagree.

Reasonable people cannot disagree on this issue.

This is not merely a political matter on which differing opinions are to be expected and encouraged even if you disagree with the viewpoint of your opponent, this is a matter where holding a certain point of view (the view that women/blacks/gays/Jews/etc aren't really people and don't deserve the same rights that straight, white, cis, Christian, men do) makes you a vile, evil, bigot. Yes, even if the vile, evil, bigots act polite and don't shout ugly slogans, and talk about how they love the sinner it doesn't make them less vile, evil, or bigoted.

I don't want to have constructive dialog with vile, evil, bigots. I just want to marginalize their views and end the evil, vile, bigoted laws they have enacted to enforce their bigotry.
posted by sotonohito at 10:35 AM on March 15 [14 favorites]


Seriously. It's a type we see over and over and over again in young gay folks who grow up in very conservative environments. Ambrosino fits it perfectly: describing himself as a "the world's most hypersexual fag" in that creepy Atlantic piece about Liberty University, the boyfriend he fucked but who "wasn't gay, and he still isn't" without any exploration of bisexuality or *why* it might have been so important for Eddie to think of himself as straight, the deliberate provocation aimed only at the folks who are fighting for equality, etc.

And just for the record, I have no problem with the notion that sexuality for some folks may involve some types of choice (I've defended that notion here many times in the past). But Ambrosino has never told us how he himself made that choice. Instead, he tells us how everyone already knew or suspected he was gay long before he came out. Hmm. It's...almost....like....he didn't have a choice or something.

He's young, confused, deliberately provocative in only one direction - the direction fighting for equality - and intellectually dishonest. He's a terrible choice for any kind of public platform like Ezra Klein's new site, and Klein's various explanations are both tone-deaf and not very convincing.


I can't favorite this hard enough.

btw, gotta love all of the straight people in this thread telling the gay people that they can't possibly understand how internalized homophobia can manifest, or that homophobia doesn't really exist anymore because it's 2014 and I don't live in Uganda. I'm not even 30 and I grew up with hard-left-voting parents in one of the most liberal states in the USA, and they were still deeply ashamed of my sexuality when they found out about it. More to the point, they insisted that sexuality was plastic, and that it wasn't too late to mold it into something that could eventually pass for "normal". And so throughout the rest of my adolescence they tried hard to reward any glimmer of heterosexuality I displayed while making sure I never discussed or expressed my more "deviant" side. Of course I was angry with them, but that didn't stop me from wanting to believe them, too.

Cloaking my sexuality in label-free ambiguity played well in college, too, for different but ultimately related reasons: I got to seem avant-garde and enlightened to people on "the left," but also more virile, manly, and "normal" to everyone else. And at this point I was also in a relationship with a young woman, whom I desperately wanted to make happy. So of course I wanted to believe that my orientation was flexible, that there was a degree of choice. Who wouldn't want to?

Homophobia isn't something that has been solved even in blue-state America, no matter how comforting it might be for liberal people to believe so. Just using myself as an example, it took a very long time for me to admit to myself that I didn't ever want to be in a romantic, sexual relationship with a woman, and I was by that time not religious and about as politically liberal as they come. And I knew plenty of other people who had similar experiences: the people hippybear describes above still exist in my generation. I even know at least one man who entered into a serious but ill-fated relationship with a woman after coming out.

Anyway, I don't think anybody is saying that there is really zero flexibility in sexuality and everything is written in stone tablets from birth. For one thing, the lies wouldn't be so compelling without a tiny grain of truth. Plus, you know, actual bisexuals! (The type of stuff I described above hurts them too, though that's a separate conversation.) But let's not pretend that there isn't enormous and inappropriate pressure for young gay men in particular to accept fluidity and dynamism in their sexuality, pressure that does not exist for, say, straight men. And let's not pretend that internalized homophobia couldn't possibly drive gay people to preferentially endorse such a view, just because a few states in the USA have now allowed gay people to marry.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:59 PM on March 15 [8 favorites]


People who demand that you shut up about your personal experience because it doesn't fit into the proper frame

I'm not demanding that Ambrosino shut up (although I freely admit to being bored with his dishonest style of arguing - again, he needs to tell us when he made the "choice" to be gay for his personal-experience-based argument to have any weight whatsoever). I am suggesting that Ezra Klein's hiring of an obvious clickbait provocateur like Ambrosino demonstrates ignorance of queer issues, is insulting to many of the gay readers Klein almost certainly hoped would be visitors to his site, contributes to the race to the clickbait bottom, is tone-deaf and just an overall huge disappointment for folks watching his new venture.

Another Breitbart we don't need. Let Ambrosino spend real time with the conservatives who love him so much because he's oh-so-contrarian. That the Atlantic and now Klein are saying "YES! This writer now! He's the one we should hire!" is pathetic, Andrew Sullivan's sympathy for another conflicted religious queer notwithstanding.

The mere fact that some people seem to insist that we must, or should, treat the question of whether or not gay people are really people or not as a legitimate question that deserves a thoughtful and caring response, rather than a suggestion that is deeply morally offensive and who's proponents deserve nothing but scorn and derision, annoys me.

Speaking of things that can't be favorited enough...Thanks, sotonohito, for putting into clear words what I felt about Sullivan's "but why oh why won't you reach out to the religious people who think you're all second class citizens" garbage. I reach out to plenty of religious people - there are so many denominations having thoughtful discussions about sexuality and God right now - which means I don't have time for the obvious bigot religious jerks with their heads up their asses. I'll leave those to folks like Sullivan and Ambrosino. I'm curious to see how far they get.

lodurr: well how would you describe [Ambrosino's new position]? how did [Klein] describe it?

Well, Klein's descriptions of what happened have varied depending on the source. I suppose you could argue that the word of the head of a new company in the middle of its first surprise social media storm should be completely trusted as gospel, but I don't share that opinion. Still, I'll retract the accusation, if not the suspicion that Klein's lying about what he was thinking in giving an ignorant, stupidly contrarian, dishonest click-bait columnist (who thinks people who believe certain citizens don't deserve equal rights shouldn't be called bigots, my heavens what a shocker) a regular forum on his new site.

I look forward to seeing what other promising young writers Ezra Klein plans on mentoring in this "fellows" program he speaks of. I also look forward to seeing the names of any other lgtb opinion writers Klein plans on giving a platform to. Surely the 23-year-old conservative won't be the only regularly employed queer columnist at Vox?
posted by mediareport at 4:03 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I sympathize with Ambrosino. I'm not gay but like him, I grew up in a conservative environment with good, loving parents that treated everyone with kindness and generosity regardless of background. Yet, they had some awful beliefs - like if we allow gay marriage, everyone will turn gay and nobody will have kids anymore (what will the world come to?!?!?!). Up until university, I would sprout the same nonsense because I wanted to believe my good, loving parents, which I belong to, were as right as they were kind.

When I went to university, I read a lot of books, met a lot of people and I began to realize that fundamentally, I did not agree with these opinions at all. I always firmly believed that people should do what makes them happy, provided they aren't hurting others, and it's not my place, or the government's, to dictate people's lives but in an attempt to be loyal to my parents and to gain their acceptance, I lost my way.

Ultimately, I realized that my mom and dad may be good people that treat everyone nicely, but it's not the same as respect and understanding. They never empathized with anyone or attempted to respect other people's right to happiness. I still love them but I don't feel the need to make their opinions mine or to justify their stances anymore because I've reached a point in my personal development where I don't feel like the people that I belong to, whether it’s my country, family or friends, define me. I came from them and I will always love them but I don’t need to blindly rehash their opinions in order to gain a place as a rightful member of their group. Essentially, I have come to realize that identities are complex and I’m happy with who I am even if it is at odds with what people want me to be.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Ambrosino has reached this point in his life. He says a lot about how hard it is to be gay in an environment like that, yet he repeatedly points out people that continually love him regardless. Love doesn’t necessarily mean understanding or acceptance and I think that Ambrosino confuses that a lot. He probably still retains a lot of loyalty to his friends and professors at the university and it’s hard to say that the people you love are wrong in hurtful ways. I want to see him write more because I want to see if he ever gets to this point in his life. I think at the heart of it, he’s a very confused guy with a lot of complicated identities and backgrounds that he has to link together – so I sympathize and I hope that he’s happy.
posted by cyml at 7:32 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I have never met, in all my long life, anyone who claimed that they "chose" their orientation.

So, I largely, generally, identify as straight rather than bi. I do this because all of my relationships have been with men, and 95% of my experiences have been with men rather than women.

That doesn't mean I've never looked at women or had my eye held by women, sometimes for longer than I've had my eye held by attractive men. For some reason, perhaps because it's more taboo, naked women register in my mind as more sexual than naked men do. When I was a teenager, instead of the usual pinups, I had photos of couples all over my walls.

But the one thing I know as a constant is that my sexuality is and has always been about being pursued. And women have never pursued me. Men have, from the day I hit puberty. When women offered sexuality to me, it was always in this kind of friendly, "Would you like to try a piece of candy that I happen to have? No skin off my teeth if you do or don't! It's more fun than paint peeling!" sort of way. Which I've personally found not very attractive, from men or women.

So in a way, the way I think of my sexuality may in fact depend on a series of choices - just choices by other people. I have no idea if I'd be attracted to a lady who was really aggressive and pursued me. And I have no idea, if I was interested in pursuing people, if I would have gone after ladies as well as men, throughout my life.

I doubt I'm going to become one of those people mentioned above, who wake from a marriage thinking "My god, I really like ladies!" because I do, in fact, genuinely enjoy men. But at the same time, a sexuality based on who I happened to run into and who happened to pursue me seems like on that doesn't quite fit into the whole "you are born one way and that is how you die" way.
posted by corb at 9:15 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


This piece by J. Bryan Lowder captures one of the most important points very well:

It’s Brandon Ambrosino’s Editors Who Really Deserve Our Ire

Ambrosino is a budding young writer who, if he wishes to be a serious voice in LGBTQ discourse, needs to spend some time educating himself in the relevant history, theory, and long-running debates that his alma mater and training in dance likely didn’t cover. And to be clear, this is not so that he will come to the same ideological conclusions that I or any other “professional gay” may hold; it’s just that right now, his thinking very often comes off as warmed-over and juvenile. Additionally, it would probably be good for him to stop publically worrying so much about what his parents think of his “chosen lifestyle.” However, all of these are deficiencies that could be ameliorated with effort and time. The problem is, a conscientious editor would have suggested he pursue that growth off the page; instead, a handful at some of the most respected outlets on the Web hit publish.

In searching for words to describe this behavior, cruel and calculating are the ones that jump to mind.
If Ambrosino’s editors at the Atlantic, the New Republic, Time, or the Baltimore Sun really cared about grooming fresh talent, they *should have* recognized that he was not ready for prime time and treated him with the kindness of a rejection until he had further developed his chops. (More on that “should have” part in a bit.) Instead, it seems they saw an opportunity for a clicky headline—gay issues currently being the hottest battleground of the culture wars—and ran the piece with little consideration as to whether this untrained “accidental journalist” was prepared for the front lines. That may come off as paternalistic, but it’s the kind of judgment an editor should be exercising as a matter of course—I try to do it, and I’m grateful that others have done it for me in the past.

Now, perhaps these editors are so clueless about LGBTQ issues that they couldn’t recognize Ambrosino’s unpreparedness. In wondering over the Vox decision over at the American Prospect, Gabriel Arana articulates this disturbing likelihood perfectly: “Not having a gay person in Vox’s leadership—someone who is familiar with the fault lines and sensitivities of the debate—leaves editors vulnerable to making tone-deaf decisions.”


The rest of it's good, too.
posted by mediareport at 8:42 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Lowder's not requiring that Ambrosino arrive at the same conclusions he does -- but he is requiring that of the editors. (Otherwise, why should they 'suggest he pursue that growth off the page'?)

So again, the problem arises from a presumptive obligation for the editors to be in some sense liberal.
posted by lodurr at 9:36 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Not quite. Lowder says that Ambrosino's writing conveys that he doesn't understand the terms of the debate, and he thinks that Ambrosino's editors should have called him on that. It's fine if Ambrosino comes to a different conclusion from Lowder, but he should have demonstrated that he had the same background knowledge of the issues. It's a fair point; I'm curious what that expression of background should be - name-checking appropriate academics?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:11 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I read it as a request to be less trite, not liberal.
posted by phearlez at 10:12 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Going to Maine - well, in the case of the very first article Lowder links there's the fact that no mention is made that this isn't remotely the first time the question of the content of Pride Parades has come up in the community. And Ambrosino doesn't quote a single person with his same reservations, despite mentioning a former teacher who he says he'd march with if she asked him. Whom he says he was talking with about marching.

But the article doesn't say whether said teacher marches or has ever marched or if she and her partner have an issue with taking their kids to the parade. It doesn't mention one thing about Baltimore Pride itself, or report any conversations with officials. It calls it a parade march but it's actually several days worth of activities, including a festival. Which presumably is about community being with the community, not showing off to the community.

So okay, it's an op-ed and by modern standards you not only don't need to do reporting in an op-ed or be even-handed, you can just flat-out make incorrect statements. So make your decisions about content based on a chaps-only-wearing friend rather than the fairly pedestrian giant mass of pictures BP puts out themselves. Fine, that's your opinion and perspective.

So the Sun has just run the "negative thoughts on my fellow gays' events" from a 22 year old. I'm glad he has thoughts, but who gives a shit about them? We all had opinions at 22; often they were not as thought out as they could be. And everything in that piece communicates that, by not evidencing any critical thinking beyond "what would my parents think if they see me next to someone with their ass hanging out?"

Well, what if your preacher saw you buying condoms? Who cares? That's the point Lowder makes - there's nothing terribly new or interesting in those pieces except that they'll get attention for being contrary (feel free to take a moment on the irony of Lowder saying this on Slate). And along the way to being contrary they're at least a little hostile to the community and potentially harmful. They're the climate denier of gaydom. Fine, they're out there. But why is anyone running them?
posted by phearlez at 11:08 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Well this topic got derailed quickly into the "choice" issue, which is like catnip to a certain type of progressive who has taken a queer theory class at University, when it is only one of the problems with his right wing homocon views. It just amazes me how all of his left wing defenders completely miss the point of his use of the "choice rhetoric" - it wasn't some hippy new age celebration of fluidity or a rejection of essentialist labels but to delegitimize sexual orientation as an identity on par with race. He was simply parroting the standard right wing talking point that homosexuality doesn't deserve equal protection because it isn't "real" like race. They reduce sexuality to something you do - sexual acts - rather than something you are. They even feign outrage - how dare you compare sodomy to race!

Well, that is exactly what Brandon was arguing in that article, although he tried to disguise that point with his yammering about libertarian free will and theology.

That is only one example of his furthering right wing memes. Sorry that alot of people on Meta-filter took his bait.
posted by ugalaw97 at 11:19 PM on March 17


The thing is, sometimes the "choice" issue really is "about libertarian free will and theology" -- or at least, the people "parroting" it really think so, and what's the difference? I share my home with a queer trans-man who believes literally and fervently that there is no biological basis not just for gender bur for sexuality. I would not relish seeing any of you try to argue that point with him. It's a really profound part of his identity, even though I've never known of this person having sexual attraction or romantic relations with anyone not of their cis gender.

Y'all are making a lot of indicative statements about what Ambrosino's aim "is" or "was." You simply don't have the data to make those claims. As I've been reminded countless times in this forum, I don't know what your intent is -- I only know what you do or say, and how I read it.

So it's presumptuous and insulting for people to say "I know what Brandon Ambrosino is doing here" when he claims to be doing something different, and the only evidence you have is that what he's doing serves the ends of other people.

It may well be that this line of argument well-serves the self-perceived interests of the reactionary right -- FWIW, I agree that it does -- and if that's so, Ambrosino is a useful idiot, not a malicious troll.

The thing about fellow-travelers is that they really think they're going where they think they're going. Until you can show them otherwise, or until they learn it for themselves, they won't think otherwise.
posted by lodurr at 4:01 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Then we get to Ezra Klein. Again, a lot of assumptions and not a lot of data. How many of these fellowships are there? What's the stipend? How often will Ambrosino be expected to feature?

And probably most to the point of all: what precisely is the clickbait, here, and who's it baiting?

The discussion here seems to assume that we all know what the answers are to those questions, but I'm not seeing them spelled out. Is he trying to bait conservatives? Young liberals?

FWIW I think it's not "clickbait" at all, but rather what for lack of a better term I'd call 'prestige trolling' -- the PR equivalent of checking off boxes on your diversity checklist, except in this case the "diversity" also needs to be political. And to me that's the real tragedy, here: That Klein, for all his presented high-mindedness, is pandering to the fake balance ideal.

What I'm seeing as the root source of outrage here is not that Klein made a bad choice. It's not that Klein made a bad choice for LGBTQ people. It's that Klein has betrayed his stated conviction by pandering to faux-balance conservatives in his staffing decisions.
posted by lodurr at 4:11 AM on March 18


"I share my home with a queer trans-man who believes literally and fervently that there is no biological basis not just for gender bur for sexuality. I would not relish seeing any of you try to argue that point with him. It's a really profound part of his identity, even though I've never known of this person having sexual attraction or romantic relations with anyone not of their cis gender."

I'd argue that point all day long with him, even (especially?) without being a hard genetic determinist myself. (I'd also point out that it's a false dichotomy to position "choice" as the same as "mutable" and opposed to "genetic" and "immutable.") It sounds like he doesn't understand the terms of the debate, honestly.

Which is part of the problem with Ambrosino, where he argues entirely based on personal experience and conservative narratives to the point where he ends up making the case against the positions he ostensibly argues. It's like having him argue against global warming because it's been cold where he lives.
posted by klangklangston at 3:00 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


No, he understands the terms of the debate really well. He's an honors Women's Studies graduate with a very deep grounding in gender studies and queer theory.

The point I'm trying to make is that having a common understanding of the terms of the debate does not mean you will agree. Who has the more accurate understanding of the objective reality is rarely what's at issue in a conflict like this -- and that's certainly not less true when one of the correspondents believes there really isn't an objective reality.
posted by lodurr at 5:51 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Without even a mild grounding in biology, genetics or epigenetics, he'd have to make an argument against any biological behavioral influence at all on sexuality or gender, which would mean justifying why humans are unlike every other animal we've ever encountered. Women's studies is fine as it goes, but it's not science and arguing about biology is a scientific argument. A lot of anti-essentialists turn into sociological dualists, where they deny a biological basis for anything behavioral, and that's just not a serious position anymore.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on March 19


He was simply parroting the standard right wing talking point that homosexuality doesn't deserve equal protection because it isn't "real" like race.

Could you quote the part where he declares that homosexuality doesn't deserve equal protection because I can't find that in his argument.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


that strikes me as a bit goalpost-movey, klangklangston: first we're saying ambrosino has to grow up and understand the terms of the debate, now we're saying he has to understand these specific terms of this specific debate, and guess what, it's not "new left" queer theory it's SCIENCE. Try talking about objective science with someone who studies social constructivist theories -- I'm sure you probably have already, so just remembering the last time you did should suffice. Try to channel that sense of frustration I'm imagining you felt, and consider the possibility that that's what they feel in dealing with us. (Because, yes, I'd agree with you you're saying that there's a biological reality here that's being ignored in social constructivist views of gender and sexuality.)

If you spend time talking with people who do gender theory, you'll quickly encounter people who give every indication of actually understanding the science, and really not caring (or even being openly hostile to it). Yes, they can pass a biology test, they understand what vaginas are and that there are hormones secreted in men's/women's bodies that aren't secreted in women's/men's -- but they'll tell you that's not what they're talking about.

My point is that they believe this, and if you want to argue about science, you're arguing with a wall because they don't really care what you've got to say. Dismissing them as jejune, as seems to have been oft done in this thread, is simply inaccurate. They have a well-developed view. From my perspective, it's articulated really poorly, but it is articulated ad nauseum and a lot of folks really believe it and aren't likely to grow out of it.

If you want to say that Ambrosino has to adhere to a scientific understanding of sexuality, great, knock yourself out. I for one would love it if everyone did. But that's not the world we're living in. Shit, we can't even have that in this thread, where we get derailed on nature-vs-choice arguments and the practical political ramifications thereof for half its length.
posted by lodurr at 12:05 PM on March 19


Lodurr - whats your point? That people can be irrational or wrong for benign reasons? I doubt many people will disagree but so what? As far as arguing with social constructionists, you are correct that this presents a clash of worldviews but thats only a problem if you are an anti-foundationalist.

Yoink - How do I know Brandon's intent behind his choice rhetoric? Because he devoted an entire paragraph in his TNR article to contrasting sexuality to race and made the claim that because people choose who they have sex with, unlike skin color which cannot be changed (his words not mine), Christians can discriminate against gay people in public accommodations in ways that they cannot against racial minorities. It's the basis of his argument that being against gay marriage isn't homophobic where being against interracial marriage is racist.

As far as moving the goal posts, the only one I see doing that here is you. I have no idea why you are so keen on defending him or criticizing those of us who disagree strongly with him....
posted by ugalaw97 at 7:29 PM on March 30


It’s Brandon Ambrosino’s Editors Who Really Deserve Our Ire

Not really. It's not as if Ambrosino is some naif who wandered in all this blindly; he's somebody who has seen a career in being the contrarian gay one and has gone for it full throttle.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:08 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


whats your point? That people can be irrational or wrong for benign reasons?

No. It's that folks here seem to assume that people who know the same facts must necessarily agree.
posted by lodurr at 6:53 AM on March 31


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