President Obama’s second inaugural was the first to cite the gay rights movement as an essential chapter of the American story. That “most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal,” he said, “is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”
The reference was to the Stonewall Inn riots, a multi-day spectacle of street violence that followed a 1969 police raid of a Manhattan gay bar. The conventional retelling describes police brutality so vile New York’s long-suffering gays could not help but respond in kind, and in doing so initiate a fresh era in the struggle for sexual equality. But as is often the case with sanctified anecdotes, reality was more ambiguous. Stonewall was certainly notorious, but as much for its mafia ties and role in the city’s sex trade as its homosexual clientele. Nuances like these provide consistent headaches to anyone attempting to retell Stonewall’s story — consider the contentious reception that greeted Roland Emmerich’s recent effort to commemorate it in film.
What happened in Orlando, in contrast, was entirely bereft of nuance. As the bloodiest instance of anti-gay violence in American history, Orlando does not simply overshadow Stonewall, it makes pathetic mockery of it and all previous conceptions of what homophobia is.
Like Stonewall, the history of American attitudes towards homosexuality form a complex tale that many are uninterested in acknowledging. Far from a consistent crusade, it’s been a fickle, performative concern, ebbing and flowing over time. Walt Whitman was the most celebrated poet of the 19th century and wrote openly about gay sex — which he claimed to enjoy. President Buchanan may have been gay, but it’s hard to know since his contemporaries didn’t care. Sterilizing “perverts” was proposed during the eugenics craze of the progressive era but vetoed by the courts. Anti-sodomy laws were mocked in their own time as an entrapment tool for lazy cops rather than a useful way to curb crime. Many American gays saw their families destroyed and careers ruined once their homosexuality became known, while others reached the pinnacle of success flaunting it openly.
What even a cursory glance of the nation’s LGBT history suggests, in short, is that the style of homophobic violence perpetuated in Orlando is something horrifyingly exotic to the American experience. It is not consistent with some preexisting tradition of “hate.” It does not remind us “how far we have yet to go,” the need for “solidarity,” or any other hoary cliche of the gay rights establishment. What it illustrates, in the blood of 100 victims, is the degree western gays have endangered themselves by supporting politicians and activists who welcome foreign proponents of the world’s most radically homicidal strain of gay-hate into our communities.
While American gays seek acknowledgment and approval, gays in the Muslim world fight a war for survival. In nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death — a duty executioners have been more than happy to perform before the cameras. In territory controlled by the Islamic State, which considers the regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia insufficiently dogmatic, gay men are thrown from the tops of buildings and have their skulls smashed with stones, as prescribed by the Hadith.
The life of killer Omar Saddiqui Mateen is a case study of radical Islam’s exploitation of American multiculturalism. His immigrant father, who supports the Taliban in his native Afghanistan, clearly felt little pressure to abandon his old world obsessions, constantly leaving America to remain politically engaged in the Middle East. He had his own chat show about Afghan politics and fantasized about becoming president. The kid furthered the faith of his father by soaking up hate at a Florida mosque frequented by at least one suicide bomber and taking online courses from a local imam who once served as bodyguard to the notorious “Blind Sheik.”
In the name of celebrating diversity, western liberals have outlawed the only tools we once used to get a handle on this sort of thing: immigration quotas, assimilation initiatives, and a shared understanding that the foreign should conform to the expectations of the host nation, not vice versa. They have exaggerated the benefits of Islam’s presence — Muslims have assisted in “building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy” in the words of the President — while inventing, then endlessly charging, a new crime of “Islamophobia” to silence anyone who speaks honestly of the challenges.
Today, progressives insist homophobia is a global sickness, not an Islamic one. Today we mourn the dangers of failing to acknowledge bigotry’s spectrum.