An Evans-Manning Award for Great Combox Commentary goes to Andrew BH for this one:
And if self-actualization is God, then whatever constrains or hinders self actualization is the Devil.
When I first came out of the closet twenty years ago, I was afraid I would lose friends. Instead, I instantly gained friends—certain straight colleagues for whom I was a Tolerance Merit Badge. Some of these champions identified themselves as Libertarians, others left-Liberal, but all were self-styled warriors against the forces of backwardness and oppression. They were quicker to detect offenses against me than I was myself, and took pride in defending me to others. Whereas I viewed my sexual orientation as a neutral attribute of my character, they made it out to be a positive virtue. This embarrassed and puzzled me at the time. Today I think I understand it better.
To a 21st century progressive, the oppressed gay is a more potent icon than the inner-city black, the undocumented alien or the single mother. I believe this is partly because of the role that alienation plays in the formation of gay identity. Everyone’s upbringing is different, of course; we come from rich families and poor, religious and non-religious, functional and dis-. But each of us experienced intense alienation in our childhood, the profound sense that the role we were being shaped for was a bad fit. At some point, in order to survive and struggle through to a stable sense of self, we had to throw off the straightjacket…or rather, we had to seize it, cut it up and refashion it into a costume that better fit who we felt ourselves to be. This universal gay “origin story” is really what’s being communicated in the “It Gets Better” campaign.
To the Facebook generation of Progressives, it’s a given that the social forms and conventions of the past are oppressive and that the world ought to be reshaped according to our desires. Because gays encapsulate this struggle and this desire in a particularly vivid way, we make for great standard-bearers.
That’s really insightful, re: how people project their hopes (and, it should be noted, their hatreds) onto the Other. No matter which side of the SSM issue you fall onto, as a straight, it’s hard to see gays as people, as opposed to an Embodied Argument. Similarly, if you aren’t, say, black, black people become less flesh-and-blood human beings than semi-icons of Vice or Virtue, depending on your point of view. The savvier, and more cynical, activists among minority groups understand this point about majority psychology in our time, and work it to their advantage.
Besides, from a conservative point of view, Charles Peguy got it right when he said, “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.” You substitute the word “conservative” and still make a true statement, but it wouldn’t be nearly as true, or as meaningful, for our own time and culture.