The in-your-face gay rights march

Mona Charen

April 28, 1993|By Mona Charen

THE gay rights demonstration in Washington, D.C., was very in-your-face affair. Though the intent of the organizers was to prove that "we [gays] are everyone" -- members of the PTA, doctors, lawyers, military officers -- the march and rally conveyed quite a different impression.

While there were some marchers who would have fit right in at a board meeting of IBM, there were plenty of others with rings through their noses and through their nipples (men), women with bare breasts kissing, men in skirts and high heels, "Dykes on Bikes," leather fetishists and assorted other fringe characters.

I know all of this because I watched some of the coverage on C-SPAN, heard eyewitness reports from friends and read the Washington Times the morning after the march. As far as I could tell, the major newspapers and television networks presented a somewhat sanitized version of events.

Indeed, while some reporters expressed concern about whether it would be appropriate to broadcast and print the more extravagant displays at the march and rally -- gay marches in New York and San Francisco typically feature grotesque and vulgar images -- the great journalistic debate revolved around another issue. According to Tim Russert of NBC News, most reporters were buzzing with the question of whether it was journalistically acceptable for reporters to march in the parade.

Homosexual humor can be great fun -- but is it consistent with the theme of the march? I tuned in to C-SPAN to catch two gay singers crooning a campy take-off of the army recruiting song "Be All You Can Be." One of the them was wearing a red skirt. "Learn discipline!" sang the other, pausing over the double entendre.

That skit, like so much of the rally, seemed to be sending confused and conflicting messages. On the one hand was insistence upon the "right" to serve in the military, the right to be treated exactly as heterosexuals are. Yet on the other hand, contempt for the straight world and all its works was evident throughout. Epatez les bourgeois! (Stick it to the middle class.) Why else use the kind of gutter language so many of the speakers indulged in? One lesbian singer got large applause for mentioning her dental dam. Another group, called (excuse me) "Pussy Tourette" featured obscene lyrics sung by a mixed group of transvestite and women singers. Spanking figured prominently in the entertainment.

Patricia Ireland, of the National Organization for Women, among others, said the march was about respecting privacy. Yet the city was full of same-sex couples publicly kissing and groping at one another. It seemed rather that the gay march was about respecting exhibitionism.

The march organizers attempted throughout the day to draw parallels between this march and the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s. Claiming victimhood is the fastest way to political power in America today. But victimhood is not at issue here. Unlike race, homosexuality is a matter of behavior. Further, homosexuals have incomes above the national average. The disease that ravages principally their community receives far more federal research and treatment funding than diseases that kill greater numbers of Americans.

What the march makes clear, though, is that homosexuals are not demanding that their private lives remain private. On the contrary, they want to drag their sexual behavior into the streets and get all of us to applaud. They want the larger society to acknowledge that drag queens and transvestites are just as eligible to be parents (adoption is one of their demands), military officers and husbands as heterosexuals.

I suppose, based on the same principle, we could easily have a march on Washington for adulterers' rights. They could rightly claim that they are stigmatized for expressing their sexuality. They could justifiably assert that they are "everyone." They could perhaps even claim that adultery tends to run in families -- so why should it be judged morally?

This rally made clear that the gay agenda goes far beyond a plea for tolerance -- which most Americans are more than happy to extend. The gay movement wants simultaneously to be accepted and to offend -- mutually exclusive goals.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

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