April 8, 2018

Gay men and the Alternative Right: an overview

By Clay Bodnar

The broad Alternative Right has a varied and complex relationship with homosexuality, ranging from the desire to expel/exterminate LGBT+ individuals to the caveated tolerance of some openly gay men.

The broad Alternative Right, a loose and often unstable collection of far-right doctrines, possesses a range of conflicting attitudes regarding homosexuality and gay rights. Far-right movements have never been renowned for their tolerance towards LGBT+ individuals, and lesbians and trans people are shunned by the Alternative Right. Unsurprisingly, some in the extreme alt-right call for the repression and the potential expulsion/extermination of LGBT+ individuals.

While there is near universal agreement on the opposition to conceptions of gender as non-binary and socially constructed. Largely a feature of the strong sexism, glorification of masculinity and belief in biological determinism. The acceptance for a specific subsection of the LGBT people, namely gay men, is however more complicated. Elements within the more moderate alt-light – which is more concerned with culture than race – have tolerated openly gay figures amongst its figureheads. However, even those willing to have discourse with the LGBT+ community often do so in an attempt to mobilise LGBT+ rights as a wedge between liberals and Islamic cultures.

A Danger to White Society

At its most extreme, alt-right discourse frames homosexuality and modern conceptions of gender as socially constructed as a symptom of societal decay, and LGBT+ rights as a tool of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine white society. This vein of thinking sometimes even results in open calls for the expulsion or violent eradication of LGBT+ people.

In a lengthy series of opinion pieces posted on AltRight.com and promoted on Twitter by Richard Spencer, far right commentator Andrew Joyce attempts to stake out an official alt-right position on the subject, claiming that increasing societal tolerance of homosexuality is the result of “Jewish psychological parlor tricks” and a Jewish plot for societal dominance.

Joyce spuriously connects homosexuality to a host of societal ills, including the claim that gay men were at least partially responsible for the collapse of the Roman Empire and that, if left unchecked, they could also destroy the United States. To Joyce homosexuality has been “cultivated” for “demographic assassination”, an existential threat to white society.

Such sentiments are echoed elsewhere; Matt Parrott, co-founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN), wrote on the group’s now-defunct website that “Homosexuality’s like shingles, always lingering in the background but only flaring up into a real problem when a civilization’s somehow weakened or decrepit.” For much of the hard alt-right, the presence of gay men are an abhorrent inconvenience at best and malignant parasites at worst.

Framing gay people as inherent threats towards white people opens the door to fantasies of purges and potentially murderous impulses. Joyce ominously states that “those [homosexuals] that are here, for the time being, would be no loss, numerically or otherwise, in the eventuality of their departure.” Meanwhile, an article on the neo-nazi site Daily Stormer has celebrated the internment of gay men in concentration camps in Chechnya.

The American alt-right and manosphere blogger Matt Forney takes it a step further. Writing of the Orlando massacre of June 2016, in which Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub, Forney states that:

No functioning, healthy society would allow Pulse—or the kinds of men who frequented it—to exist. No healthy society would mourn their passing. Indeed, depending on your perspective, Mateen was just taking out the trash, eliminating societal parasites via natural selection.

Forney claims that Muslims are justified in hating Western culture, stating “Why shouldn’t they want to destroy it?” even suggesting that the only way to save our society is to somehow remove the LGBT+ community, claiming that “homosexuality, transsexuality, and the 31 flavors of gender need to be done away with.” He concludes his article by attacking the more “tolerant” wings of the alt-right, arguing that for the movement to succeed “The traitors and infiltrators in the right-wing ranks must be outed and removed” including “open sodomites like [alt-right writer] Grindr Greg Johnson.” While “tolerant” alt-right figures are generally unwilling to censor their homophobic allies, extreme homophobes are more than willing to call for the expulsion of the more moderate elements.

Such extreme positions are not universal, even in the alt-right, with some individuals tempering these violent condemnations with slightly more nuanced approaches.

Contradictory Positions

While some alt-right figures espouse openly violent views towards gay people, other leading figures espouse a much more confused position, even bordering on seeming indifference.

Richard Spencer, perhaps the most visible alt-right figure, has formerly appeared to take a more tolerant attitude than some of his peers on the hard alt-right. In 2014, he tweeted that “Homosexuality has been a part of European societies and culture for millennia. It’s not going away, not something to get worked up about”. The SPLC reports that in a Reddit AMA he claimed that “The gays love me”, suggesting that he is comfortable with having a gay following. In 2015, Spencer also barred Matthew Heimbach, co-founder of TYN with Parrott, from his National Policy Institute’s (NPI) conference, allegedly due to his violently homophobic ideals.

More recently, however, Spencer has backtracked on the issue. In September 2016 he insisted on the Rebel Yell Southern Nationalist podcast that his actions towards Heimbach were “not because I was trying to suppress anti-homosexual views” but rather because “he literally laced up jackboots on camera.” Spencer produced a video condemning key alt-light figure Milo Yiannopoulos (who is openly gay) in which he asserts that elements within the alt-right supportive of Yiannopoulos are “themselves homosexual.”

During his 2017 conflict with key alt-right figure Greg Johnson, Spencer described an article in which Johnson defends homosexuality as “very creepy stuff” and using it as proof of Johnson’s alleged untrustworthiness (one cannot study at the alt-right for long before encountering conflicts over sexuality.) Spencer has even referred to Joyce’s aforementioned homophobic screed as “a powerful, definitive commentary”.

It seems that Spencer is either buckling to pressure within the movement (which has included persistent questioning of Spencer’s own sexuality – a common attack in a generally homophobic atmosphere), or just feels emboldened to air his own vile bigotry on the issue.

Less Important than Race

While some in the alt-right obsess over the “homosexual question”, there are those who find this an unnecessary distraction from what they view as the real issue, namely race.

Perhaps most notable is Greg Johnson, editor-in-chief of the important alt-right website and publishing house Counter Currents Publishing, which has published openly gay white supremacists such as James O’Meara. To Johnson “White Nationalism should be a one-issue political outlook. White Nationalism is for the interests of whites and against the interest of our racial enemies. Period. Anything else is beside the point.”

Johnson then stresses his belief that even a gay white person has more intrinsic value than a member of another race, as whites have “common racial interests”. Taking an opposite view to Joyce, Johnson points to the Old Testament and states that modern homophobia is the result of the “legacy of Jewish hatred and intolerance” and that “Queer-bashers are in the grip of Jewry without even knowing it.”

Furthermore, Johnson uses his platform to extol the virtues of “homosexual men [who] do not fit the effeminate stereotype. They are masculine, and appreciate masculine things like facts, logic, and forthright action.”

Gay Men in the Alt-Right

By fitting with the “masculine” ideal described by Johnson, a few gay men have gained a degree of prominence in the alt-right despite their sexuality, albeit with severe reservations.

In 2015, Richard Spencer invited Jack Donovan – who has a long-term male partner – to speak at the same NPI conference he banned Heimbach from attending. Donovan, who also spoke at the 2013 NPI conference, has been embraced by sections of the movement for his radical conception of masculinity.

Donovan defines himself as an “androphile”, decrying “the highly vocal and visible queer fringe publicly [that] celebrates extreme promiscuity, sadomasochism, transvestitism, transsexuality and flamboyant effeminacy” and instead advocating for a conception of homosexuality that supposedly brings out the best qualities of masculinity.

Jack Donovan

Like many right-wing writers before him, Donovan obsesses over the ideal of the closely-associated “brotherhood” of physically fit men that excludes women. For Donovan, whilst “masculine” homosexuality is tolerable, those perceived as “weak” or “effeminate” are viewed with revulsion.

This attitude is bolstered by gay white supremacist James O’Meara, who seeks to raise the status of the “white homosexual” at the expense of other traditionally marginalized groups. While he does not fully embrace Donovan’s obsession with physical strength and tribalism, his ridicule of gay culture and his conception of masculinity mostly align with Donovan’s ideals. For example, in an interview with the blog Alternative Right, O’Meara attacks “the plight of the homosexual”, declaring it a “Leftist myth” and despises any weak gay man who he describes as “some sniveling queen in the closet demanding ‘my rights!’”

While there are openly gay men in the alt-right that do have a level of acceptance, it is important to remember that this remains a very narrow acceptance that generally requires the negation of all difference and a conformity to ostensibly masculine and ‘straight’ norms. Furthermore, it is important to note that this limited acceptance rarely extends to lesbian women, who are largely invisible in this debate.

Donovan has also written that “Same-sex marriage… spells death for civilizations, and that society has a rational interest in promoting big, patriarchal families above all other arrangements.”

The far-right’s preoccupation with the traditional family and birth rates permeates even into the commentary of a man who cannot meet this ideal. Being a gay man who associates with the alt-right requires accepting that you will never be the equal in the eyes of those heterosexual individuals.

Alt-Light

However, the alt-light, the less overtly fascist but still extraordinarily intolerant counterpart to the alt-right, is notable for featuring a number of gay men as prominent figures (who are routinely attacked by the alt-right). Some have held the freedom to be gay as a core Western value that can be used in opposition to Islamic and “Third world” cultures. The alt-light is, however, generally scornful of modern LGBT+ rights movements, broadly associated with societal decline.

The highest profile openly gay figure is Milo Yiannopoulos, who is known for his wild sexism and Islamophobia, and also for making comments that would otherwise be decried as homophobic were it not for his sexuality. Yiannopoulos frequently uses his sexual orientation to attack Islam, reiterating oft-used claims that Muslim immigration represents a threat to gay rights and is incompatible with Western values of tolerance.

Lucian Wintrich

Lucian Wintrich

Openly gay alt-light “journalist” and White House correspondent Lucien Wintrich is known for founding the “Twinks4Trump” movement (Twinke is slang for young, boyish looking gay man). Wintrich has perceived himself to be part of a marginalized group of right-wing artists and intellectuals and has, apparently unironically, referred to Donald Trump as “Daddy, the preeminent gay icon” who will save society from what he views as the excesses of liberalism.

The alt-light generally draws a crucial distinction between gay individuals and “gay culture” or the “gay rights movement”, which is regarded with tremendous disdain. Caolan Robertson, in his coverage of London’s gay pride parade for alt-light outlet Rebel Media, criticises the event for not focusing on homophobia in Muslim communities, but also describes the event as a place where “A million people came together to just be degenerates. To completely destroy the city… to protest nothing.”

Alt-light vlogger Laruen Southern, alongside Robertson, carried out a “social experiment” in Luton by distributing fliers with the words “Allah is gay.” She claims the fact she was asked to desist by police as proof of a dangerous double standard in Western society, wherein Western governments are allegedly giving in to “archaic blasphemy laws enforced by Islam and Sharia.” This is just one of many examples of an individual on the right attempting to frame their Islamophobic actions as a defense of the LGBT+ community.

LGBT+ and Islam

The SPLC notes that following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, a campaign began which preyed on anxieties in the LGBT+ community regarding Islamic extremism, including putting up a number of posters that combined the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag and the Rainbow Flag with #shootback written on them. This campaign was carried out by the right-wing street art collective unsavoryagents who have created a variety of racist, Islamophobic, and sexist images and posted them in public.

An article in The Slate features a quote by white nationalist Butch Leghorn, written on the racist alt-right blog The Right Stuff, which states, “This shooting [is] a very valuable wedge issue. … Drive this wedge. Smash their coalition. Make it cool to be anti-Muslim because Liberalism.” The same article also points out that a number of far right movements around the world prominently feature gay or minority figures in an effort to create a more tolerant image. The reasoning, as the article puts it is, “How could LePen, or Wilders, or other open racists be so bad when they like queer people?” Right wing extremists understand that young people are increasingly accepting of homosexuality and that outright homophobia can be detrimental to recruitment.

Indeed, blatant attempts by the right to utilize Islamophobia to court the LGBT+ community seeped into Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric when he promised at the Republican National Convention to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” This statement is unsurprising given the massive number of articles written on Breitbart during Steve Bannon’s tenure as editor (before his appointment as Trump’s chief strategist) which utilized the massacre to decry liberal immigration policies and gun reform efforts. This included a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, standing in front of the modified Gadsden flag, and declaring that the gay community will “shoot back” if provoked by Muslims.

Of course, many figures on the far right have little sympathy towards LGBT+ individuals than they do for the Muslims who they so frequently attack, but that does not stop them from exploiting what they see as a potential rift in progressive/liberal circles in order to gain support.

Conclusion

If societal acceptance of LGBT+ individuals continues to increase, one wonders what the response of the largely homophobic far right will be. So far, many have remained entrenched in a the traditionalist conception of the relationship between their beliefs and the rights of gay people.

Worrying as this is, what is even more troubling is the fact that some alt-right and alt-light figures are actively appealing to, and sometimes recruiting, members of the gay community. These groups twist their messages to appear as stalwart defenders of the LBGT community and exploit heightened anxieties about terrorism to gain support. It should go without saying that vigilance and education are needed to remind gay men that, at the end of the day, the Alternative Right will never be friends or allies.