Book Review: A Queer Thing Happened To America

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Book Review

A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been by Michael L. Brown.

Let’s get straight to the point. Michael Brown has written a lengthy book on seamy practices in the “gay rights” movement. That means he must be (a) a raving homophobic fundamentalist, (b) an important contributor to a crucial debate, or (c) something else (take your pick). I’m sure you’re already forming your opinion, so we might as well get that on the table right from the start.

There’s one class of activists who will predictably pile all over option (a), for to them, any author who critically examines gay culture and politics must be a bigot. And because he is a bigot, therefore most of what he writes he must be wrong. The logic is, as they say, inescapable.

But I am going to call on those activists and their sympathizers—and also their political and cultural opponents—to ask a different question, the one I also kept asking all the way through the book. What does he have to say? Does he make his case? What is its significance? My vote on options (a), (b), or (c) begins by shucking the question aside and going somewhere else entirely: Who cares who wrote the book? The real question is, is it any good?

I owe you full disclosure: I shared a couple of very enjoyable meals with Mike Brown earlier this summer, and he gave me the book with the request that I read and review it. I like the guy. He doesn’t slobber, he doesn’t froth at the mouth, and he’s able to speak in complete English sentences. So I’m ruling out (a). Actually I’m doing him a huge disservice to speak that way, even facetiously. He’s thoughtful, intelligent, very well educated, articulate, and by all indications a truly compassionate man, with a heart of care extending openly to those with whom he disagrees.

Still, the question you should be asking is, “What about the book?”

I’m glad you finally asked. The picture painted in A Queer Thing is unfortunately not pretty—not even as pretty as the cover image, which, Mike tells me, the gay men and lesbians he checked with rather liked; they thought it was pretty funny. (Some Christians have found it a bit disturbing.) The book portrays an agenda being pursued by a movement that insists it has no agenda. No agenda—though it does have “revolutionary goals,” “imperatives for gay liberation,” thoroughgoing intentions for legislative change, “anti-discrimination demands,” calls for “surrender,” calls to “create a new reality in America,” national task forces in virtually every sphere of society, networks of activists, demonstrations, campaigns, strategy documents, and on and on.  No agenda, indeed.

And what is on this non-agenda? In short, it is the legitimizing of “queer” and the de-legitimizing of any opposition to it. Brown details the raucously politicized process by which the two APAs (the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations) normalized homosexuality in the early 1970s. Fast-forward to today, and anyone who disagrees with this non-agenda runs the risk of being met with hate, social ostracism, loss of employment, even imprisonment. The social environment for those who oppose homosexual activism is colder than frost. That didn’t happen just by the turning of the seasons, though. The homosexual insurgency has commandeered language, manipulated the media, and promulgated propaganda with masterful strategic effectiveness. Now we have grade schools urging children be sexualized in all directions. We have college campuses controlling speech. We have corporations sponsoring public perversity. All of this is propped up by transparently vacuous arguments fueled by spurious emotional associations and (in some cases) main force.

You have to understand that Mike Brown did not try to compress all that into one paragraph as I just did. He didn’t even use my loaded language of “insurgency.” I claim the credit (or blame) for that myself. He certainly didn’t say he hates gays. In fact, it’s clear he doesn’t—not unless, as many homosexual activists would say, disagreement is automatically equivalent with hate. On page 57 you’ll find him quoting a public statement he and his local Charlotte, NC organization issued to the community:

We recognize that we have sometimes failed to reach out to you with grace and compassion, that we have often been insensitive to your struggles, that we have driven some of you away rather than drawn you in, that we have added to your sense of rejection. For these failings of ours, we ask you to forgive us. By God’s grace, we intend to be models of His love.

He went on to say,

In February, 2007, when we held a five-night lecture series on “Homosexuality, the Church, and Society” at the Booth Playhouse … we went out of our way to air our differences with gay and lesbian activists respectfully. The Charlotte Observer even noted in a supportive editorial that I had stated clearly that the lectures would “not be ‘a forum for gay bashing'” and that I would do nothing that’s ‘bigoted or mean-spirited.'”

That is the spirit of the man I have gotten to know. The spirit of the book he wrote is one of making supportable claims in as clear and calm a voice as possible. Everything is footnoted; there are some 89 pages of small-print notes at the end of the book. I don’t claim to have made a case for anything I said in that one rather breathless summary paragraph above. But Mike Brown made a case for what he had to share.

In fact if there’s one flaw to the book, it’s that he kept making the case over and over again, adding example to example, documented reference to documented reference, until it seemed more than might have been necessary. He did it skillfully, though. Take, for example, his chapter on arguments in favor of pedophilia. He had little trouble finding and documenting a whole raft of such arguments, believe it or not, many of them from otherwise (ahem) respectable academic sources. Now, there are all kinds of ways a writer could go wrong, bringing up this topic in the course of discussing homosexuality, for pedophilia is distinct from homosexuality, and very few gays would offer any support for child sexual abuse. Mike got that right. He kept the two issues properly distinct.

What’s harder to distinguish, he pointed out, are the arguments advanced in favor of pedophilia and homosexuality. “I didn’t choose it. It’s inborn, it’s natural. You can find it throughout history. Claims of harm are greatly overstated; it really doesn’t cause distress. It’s about love and equality and civil liberties.” All these have been offered in support of adult-child sex. Most homosexuals would agree with you and me that those arguments don’t make the standard. You couldn’t use statements like that to convince very many people that pedophilia is just fine. But they same arguments, with virtually identical wording, are used for homosexuality. Face it: if these arguments are weak, then they are weak. If they’re no good in support of pedophilia, what makes them any good in support of homosexual practice?

I’ve hardly begun to mention the topics Brown addresses in A Queer Thing. There are “queer” theologies, gay identity politics, controversies over reparative therapy, and a dozen or more flavors of transgenderism, including the man who “came out as a lesbian.” The book serves throughout as a signal warning of a revolution well under way. There’s hardly any secret to the clamor it has raised for a change in marriage laws. What might be a revelation to some readers is the movement’s dank political underside. It claims to be about civil liberties, but its internal methods and its behavioral intentions belie something different altogether.

Let’s go back now to our options (a), (b), or (c). I’m sure you can guess what I would choose. Now let me turn this in a more personal direction. I am exquisitely aware that readers are asking the same questions about my bias. Nothing draws quite so much ire on this blog as this topic does. Now, I have no interest in being labeled a raving homophobic fundamentalist, and I have even less interest in actually being such a person. (The gay men with whom I have friendships would say you were wrong if you pinned such a label on me.) Still I know that by summarizing and reviewing a book like this, I may be asking for the (a) label to be applied upon my own head.

So be it. It is an important book, thoroughly documented, remarkably clear-headed considering its subject matter, and deserving a wide audience. I urge you actually to read and to judge the book—not the author or the reviewer, but the book. What does it have to say, does it make its case, and what is its significance? Agree or disagree, I am quite sure you’ll find it worth investigating.

A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been by Michael L. Brown. Concord, NC: EqualTime Books, 2011. 691 pages including extensive endnotes. Amazon price US$18.47.

Related: Interview, Michael Brown with Frank Turek, April 16, 2011.

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