In the wake of the Jussie Smollett fraud, podcaster and culture critic Ira Madison III tweeted a challenge: “If white people wanna go tit-for-tat about false crimes on this here app we can open up a history book and look every lynching that occurred in America. But y’all don’t wanna talk about that.”
Madison has a point. It makes as much sense for the nightly news to cover racial violence that actually occurred in the past as it does for them to cover racial violence that hasn’t actually occurred in the present.
An editorial at Out.com already anticipated Madison’s challenge and took it one step further. Rather than having a national discussion about lynching, they made the issue international. Their headline is a simple one: “Trump’s Plan to Decriminalize Homosexuality Is an Old Racist Tactic.” The term “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is often used in an overly loose sense these days, to cover pretty much all opposition to the president. But while an attack on decriminalizing homosexuality on a gay website might not be deranged per se, it certainly bears further examination.
The author complains that Trump’s plan “centers homophobic violence in Iran” while pointing out that homosexuality “has been illegal in Iran since the theocratic 1979 Islamic Revolution.” What is left unmentioned is just how liberal the previous regime had been on the subject prior to the shah’s overthrow. No less a gay icon than Andy Warhol was a frequent guest and, in his published diaries, can be read complaining about the varying portions of caviar he was served as the shah’s fortunes waxed and waned.
However, the editorial continues, “By at least one Guardian account, since the exit of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013, enforcement of anti-gay laws has softened somewhat.” While “one Guardian account” might be all one needs to know to offer an opinion on a given topic, the conclusion reached is close to unconscionable.
Sure, the laws are on the books—but they’re not enforced as heavily as they used to be! And yes, the legal punishment for homosexuality still includes everything up to the death penalty, but things are kinda sorta getting better for gays in Iran, which means progress, which means progressive, which means Iran is pretty much Stonewall 2019, right?
Besides, “most queer people fear homophobic reaction from fellow citizens more than the authorities.” While I don’t know what it’s like to be gay in Iran, I am fairly confident that “private homophobic hostility is a more likely occurrence than state hostility” is hardly as reassuring as the author would like to think.
The article also fails to mention that Iran subsidizes and encourages transgenderism for gay men. In other words, the claim is that male homosexuals aren’t “really” men since they are attracted to men—they are actually psychologically female, and should have the hormone treatments and gender-reassignment surgery to match. As a result of this policy, Iran competes with Thailand as the sex-change capital of the world. Besides “one Guardian account” on this topic, it’s also been covered by the BBC and BuzzFeed, among others.
Of course, none of this context is relevant, because President Trump is involved. What was the president’s impetus here? As the author puts it: “The plan has reportedly been spearheaded by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who is also the administration’s top-ranked gay official, in response to news that a young gay man was hanged in Iran recently.”
Perhaps the author is being pedantic. Lynchings, after all, are technically the actions of the private mob and not the state. This was a hanging, and we can rest assured that “most queer people fear homophobic reaction from fellow citizens more than the authorities.” This hanging isn’t the norm, it’s a one-off thing. What business is it of ours anyway? Iran is so far away.
The President Is Racist for Preventing Lynchings?
Many people support gay rights who could still be considered homophobic. Take the dad who endorses such matters as a legal principle but wouldn’t want his daughter to be that way—or is fine with his gay son in theory but still doesn’t want to think about what that means in practice in the bedroom. If someone fought slavery despite being a racist, however, the fact remains that he fought slavery. If someone risked herself to prevent a lynching despite personally being a racist, the fact remains that she saved a human life.
As the author puts it, “Grennell’s attack might be a case of white men trying to save brown gay men from brown straight men.” We have now reached the point where the president and his openly gay ambassador are being explicitly called racist for acting to prevent lynchings.
Leaving aside the conflation of African-Americans and Persians under the fatuous umbrella of “brown,” the claim that white men should be exclusively or preferentially concerned with saving white gay men over brown gay men has a name: white supremacy. Yet if these same white men refrained from “trying to save brown gay men from brown straight men,” would that not be homophobic?
This is what contemporary discourse has become. If one starts with the axiom that “Trump = bad,” then one can blithely claim that fighting for gay rights—up to and including preventing legal murder overseas—is an act that requires not just skepticism but outright condemnation. This is something far worse than mere derangement. This is depravity, pure and simple.