On (LGBT) Rights and Wrongs


Does same-sex marriage represent the final frontier in the movement for LGBT rights? Should it?


Remember when the powers that be got together and banned some forms of public nudity in the Castro district of San Francisco? I was in the Castro once, about a half-decade ago, and the nudity I witnessed didn’t strike me as overwhelming or unbearable.  My drive through that area certainly wasn’t as memorable as my visits to the half-dozen places that claim to have invented the mission burrito.1 The issue in this case, as far as I can tell, concerned full frontal male nudity; the very sight of male genitalia remains abhorrent to all save the most flamboyant male homosexuals, it seems. This conforms with the curious double standard that persists in popular cinema: a glimpse of M. Fassbender’s penis can send shockwaves through the industry, but bare breasts2 and gratuitous violence don’t warrant anything beyond a hard-R rating and a knowing wink from the horndog teens in attendance.

Slowly but surely, the LGBT movement went “mainstream.” The Castro nudity ban was modest—there are numerous exceptions built into it—but it did raise the question of whether the movement’s very success has marginalized those individuals who aspired to reconsider the very nature of sexuality itself.This “look we’re represented on Modern Family so we’ve made” stuff is utter nonsense, and I doubt seriously whether any same-sex couples buy into that sort of mawkish pandering. Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet’s characters are no different than any other set of stereotypical and insipid sitcom characters, except they don’t kiss on camera as much because “enlightened” fortysomething heterosexuals still think that’s icky.4

If this is as far as things will go–if even the most allegedly progressive city in America can draw some kind of arbitrary line in the sand, a line that has bare breasts on the “okay” side and cock rings on the “not okay” side—well, that’s extremely problematic. Issues of gender and sexuality and marriage &c. are already complicated beyond belief5, a fact which the nine old people on the Supreme Court of United States should take note of but probably won’t. Thus the question:  should people of the same sex have the right to marry one another? But here is a better question:  Should no one? Furthermore, should we drive intimate activity out of the public square? Or would keeping it there actually have the effect, for “gays” and “str8s” alike6, of releasing human sexual yearnings from the Internet ghetto where most people have cordoned them off? Who the hell knows, but no one should be satisfied with half-measures and moral victories.

  1. Foodie opinion on the Mission burrito, which has been popularized in recent years by fast casual chains like Qdoba and Chipote, is mixed. Many deride it as a “culinary monstrosity,” a “diaper filled with bean paste,” etc. But for those of us looking for 16-18 oz. of belly filler/stomach liner at a modest cost, the central CA farmworkers who allegedly created this foil-wrapped foodstuff are to be commended. And the version that’s sold at El Faro is pretty good, even if eating there is “touristy.” What does that mean, by the way? Are all “touristy” things not good, owing to the very fact that tourists partake of them? Or are some of them actually good? e.g., I’ve eaten several times at Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery; the tortillas are made in-house and the pastries are pretty good. When I mentioned this to a Fort Worth native, he described it as a “tourist place” and said that he never goes there. Do you think it’s good, though? I asked him. He responded by saying that he didn’t know, since he’s only ever purchased pastries from the bakery. “That’s all you’d go there for, if you’re not a tourist.” Sure, whatever.
  2. Although vajayjays are usually absent from even hard-R movies, too. Only “Barbie-doll crotches,” to use J. C. Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s lovely turn of phrase, are permissible in such productions. This, then, would seem to make Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill dance in The Silence of the Lambs the quintessential non-display of genitalia.
  3. I write this as a partnered-off, monogamous person—a “square,” if you will—but wouldn’t a better goal have been to strike down that archaic religio-contractual institution and to replace it with something more in accord with our current understanding of human impulses and desires? Instead, the center-left of this particular movement has stopped short: they only want “tolerance” and “fairness.” Is that enough? The Black Panthers, the Weathermen…such wildcat groups have all fallen by the wayside. Only the great compromisers survive to be absorbed into the great, slow-moving “str8″ world; never mind, of course, that tolerance and fairness are completely vacuous concepts (the former is necessary only if one actually despises something but wishes to seem enlightened by countenancing its continuation, and the latter, if taken seriously, would prevent one from fully vindicating his or her understanding of “the right” or “the good”). In other words, is the gay rights movement—regardless of whether one agrees with its earlier and more radical objectives—in a less intellectually defensible position because it is compromising? I would say so—and I’d say the same about Christian evangelicals or any others who seek to moderate some message that they’ve decided is “right” and thus worthy of success. The people must choose, but they should be given the opportunity to choose among real alternatives, and make their choice based on the best reasons.
  4. Also, remember when everybody in the blogosphere was bitching about how racist Girls was because it didn’t have black characters, even though there was no way, given its wretched subject matter, that it really could? Modern Family, as my friend Nathan Zimmerman has repeatedly pointed out, is 500x worse on this account: it’s got a cast of identity tokens and gets away with innumerable inoffensive-yet-actually-very-offensive jokes at their expense.
  5. And, as Richard Rorty has argued, it’s altogether too likely to distract us from concentrating on more serious issues related to the redistribution of the vast amounts of wealth currently held by a handful of secretive and extremely powerful individuals—something that one assumes a “democracy,” by virtue of having more poor voters than rich ones, would’ve resolved a long time ago.
  6. Plus everyone in-between, although this is particularly important for those “str8s” who want to be publicly titillated and teased yet can’t actually bear close contact with the human body.



Read more about same-sex marriage from The Moustache Club of America:  North Carolina Voters Are Decadent & Depraved

An earlier version of this post appeared at Penny & Farthing.

About Oliver Lee Bateman

Good Men Project contributing editor Oliver Lee Bateman is a columnist for Al-Jazeera America and Made Man Magazine. His writing has been featured in Salon, The Atlantic, Johnny America, Stymie: A Journal of Sport and Literature, the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, STIR Journal, Mic.com, and NAP Magazine. He is also one of the founders of the Moustache Club of America and Penny & Farthing, two blogzines specializing in flash fiction and creative nonfiction that he co-curates with web developer Erik Hinton, medical consultant Nathan Zimmerman, and freelance writers Christie Chapman and J. R. Powell. Oliver is a lawyer as well as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Follow him on Twitter @MoustacheClubUS or on Google+.


  1. AnonymousDog says:

    You seem to think that not only does a person have a right ‘to be let alone’ (with which I would agree) but you also seem to think that a person has a right to social acceptance as well. Once you’ve gotten there, you’d better start considering how such a ‘right’ would be enforced, and whether a state which is in the business of enforcing social acceptance is one in which you’d want to live.

  2. Thank you for taking the brave position of asking a bunch of questions and closing with an undergrad-like “Who the hell knows.”


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