Book Reviews: Homocons: The Rise of the Gay Right by Richard Goldstein

14 Jul

In Homocons: The Rise of the Gay Right, Richard Goldstein presents a unique an in depth examination of the rise and impact of the gay right (conservatives) on the gay rights movement and gay identity both as individuals and a community. What Goldstein has effectively done that so many others have failed to do is provide and accurate portrayal of this period of history from not just his own perspective, but those of the very people that lived through the era viewing it from both the inside and outside. Along the way historical figures like the great author James Baldwin are regularly cited with interviews and writings long forgotten brought back to life to show both the origin and current reality of the issue.

While the book itself is fairly short at only 109 pages meaning it can easily be digested in one sitting for many people, this offering is a perfect example of quality over quantity. The book opens by exploring the dynamics of both the Republican and Democratic party and their words and actions carried out towards the gay community. It seamlessly transitions into the tools each use to confront the LGBT community. A homocon is slang within the LGBT community for a “Homosexual conservative.” What Goldstein details is an examination of who the vocal homocons are like Camille Paglia and Andrew Sullivan, and the manner in which each party used them and similar authors to push their own agenda regarding homosexuality while retaining a safe distance to watch from and the ability to deny involvement.

Where Goldstein shines in this portion of the book is his investigative work. He did a wonderful job not only presenting accurate information, but digging into the past of the most visible homocons and what they did while in the spotlight to uncover the hypocrisy of those whom truly did exhibit it. A refreshing angle was that when someone did something correctly, whether he personally liked or agreed with them, he gave them due credit and forces the reader to face up to the facts that ultimately we must all conclude we were a part of the problems of the era if we fed the flames by devouring what they offered.

Goldstein then moves into an examination of how the early stages of the homocon movement went on to impact all LGBT persons in some way due the success they realized with their notoriety. Primarily this deals with the call for the homogenization of LGBT persons to acting one specific way in order to appease the heterosexual community at the cost of individuality.

His dissecting of the somewhat short lived call for assimilation which can be best compared to a return to the closet except for leaving a persons toe against the door jamb was both insightful and balanced. This is an area which is greatly enriched by the observations of James Baldwin provided prior to his death of the movement that was just beginning which he didn’t completely understand, but had great reservations about.

Without missing a beat he moves into an exploration concerning how several influential and high profile homocons at least temporarily nearly splintered the LGBT by pitting not just each portion of the LGBT against one another by pointing out how one group holds public favor over another, but also how even within each faction there were favorite sons or daughters as the case may be which were in fact superior. Superiority in this case was completely arbitrary, and changed with the whims of the influential homocons like Paglia depending on who they wanted to tick off on any particular day.

Finally Goldstein presents some clearly defined ideas on how to combat the homocons and their agenda for assimilation as individuals and a community. While some proved to be less than effective, others worked quite well then and continue to work as the homocon movement is seemingly readying themselves for a second volley with some fresh new faces to fire the rounds. Some of his speculation as to the future in this area quickly proved true, while other areas remain to be seen.

Overall this is a relatively fast and easy read, but don’t let that fool you. The information provided within this book is top notch and received glowing reviews from major newspapers like the L.A. Times and Martin Duberman himself. For any LGBT person unfamiliar with the history of the modern gay rights movement this is essential reading, and even for non LGBT persons whom want to learn a little bit about the history not being taught in school, this is a perfect look into a significant portion of American history and the ramifications of it seen today.

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