Friends Without Benefits: Gorsuch And The Gays

I hate to burst your ego, Mr. Berg, but you are not the sum of all LGBTQ people.

I almost spit up my oatmeal reading The New York Times yesterday morning. The Sunday edition delivered straights and queers a shocking revelation: Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, made gay friends over the course of his Ivy-League education.

When Phil Berg, ever-grateful Homosexual, came out to Gorsuch, the conservative “didn’t skip a beat.” That coming out confession, Berg tells the Times, led to a “special bond” between the two men. “It was a huge deal for me,” Berg says, “and it made a lasting impression.” The treacly NYT article clumsily speculates whether the men’s friendship points to Gorsuch’s potential openness on LGBTQ rights.

Come, again?

I hate to burst your ego, Mr. Berg, but you are not the sum of all LGBTQ people – immigrant, poor, people of color, working-class, nor youth. Your interpersonal relationship to Gorsuch tells us exactly nothing about the nominee’s political outlook or his jurisprudence.

There is a stark difference between interpersonal feelings and professional actions. And there’s an even bigger difference between interpersonal relations and structural discrimination. Interpersonal relations reveal how individuals treat each other as human beings. Structural discrimination involves the courts, institutions, policies and practices that erect barriers to opportunities and equality for ALL LGBTQ people.

The article reminds me of that devastating scene in “Angels in America,” when Roy Cohn boasts about taking a lover to Reagan’s White House: “President Reagan smiles at us and shakes his hand!” Exploiting his closeness to Reagan, Cohn gets federally banned AZT pills, while thousands of his dying brethren get the shaft.

Up rises the Cohn-Clarence Thomas mentality: “Powerful people like me, so their beliefs are OK.” Just because a conservative politician might befriend a social outsider does not mean that that politician will have a reasonable or fair jurisprudence towards the disenfranchised. I’m so sick of connected minorities selling their brethren down the river on the assumption that their “friendship” is an indication of a conservative’s political intentions.

“Since Ronald and I married,” Berg crowed on Facebook, referring to his husband, “we have had a standing invitation to stay with Neil and Louise in Denver. And just last week, Neil told me that if they should move to D.C., ‘Our guest room will be waiting.’”

The rapid-fire gains of gay male liberation are in jeopardy because of the current regime. Gorsuch and his rightwing patrons lie at the heart of that jeopardy—for gay liberation, gender equality, and all our wellbeing. What would Berg say to gay men’s most steadfast allies—straight women and lesbians? His reported warm personality aside, what impact will Gorsuch’s rulings have on reproductive/sexual health, on ending anti-women violence, or on mitigating the sexual rape culture that is being minimized ever since Trump entered politics?

I nearly wretched my breakfast, because I couldn’t believe Berg and the Times recycled such an absurd canard: Positing the white, Ivy-league-educated Manhattan corporate lawyer as a personification or trial balloon for a conservative’s sympathy towards anything—especially we queers. This is exactly why Berg needs to be called out.