What Gay Men Should Do Next

Close-up Of A Man And Woman Shaking Hand, Outdoors
Close-up Of A Man And Woman Shaking Hand, Outdoors

At least in the United States, the battle for marriage equality has been won. Yes, pockets of stubborn resistance remain, and are likely to for some time. But for the most part we are now permitted to tie the knot with whomever we please from Maine to California, Washington State to Puerto Rico -- with a few retrograde counties here and there in between continuing to make life tough for us. But surely not for long.

So now a debate rages among gay men over just where our gay time and money should flow next. Back to AIDS services and research? Yes, certainly. The next frontier of transgender rights? It's already happening, from the posh offices of Gay Inc. down to militant action in the streets. How about the crisis of gay youth, many of whom are homeless? Let's not wait a day to do more for them. Freedom from fear of reprisals in the workplace for being queer? Obama and Congress are being prodded to do more. This is all good.

But I have another proposal.

For some time now, the nation has been witnessing what is quite accurately called "the war on women." Even as gay and lesbian rights have advanced on so many fronts, women's rights -- specifically but not only in the arena of reproductive choice and health -- are under assault by the courts and especially the Republican party and its aspirants for the highest elective office in the land.

Catch the debate last week on Fox TV? Then you heard a chorus of rightwing voices support the repeal of liberties that women have fought for for generations. Imagine, please, if any of those Republicans wins the presidency and is able to make an appointment or two to the Supreme Court. The "war on women" has now become, at only minimal risk of exaggeration, a holy jihad.

I am old enough to remember when, at the worst of the HIV/AIDS crisis, women both gay and straight came to the aid of gay men. They tended our sick, comforted grieving survivors and even headed our organizations because male leadership was dying off so regularly. It is not enough for us to simply remember and honor what women did for us in those days. It is time to repay the debt. Now.

Gay men should heed the call at once and come to the defense of women, all women, and their liberty. I not saying we need to take charge or "mansplain" anything to anyone. Women will lead the fight to preserve and advance their rights, health and dignity. Of course, they already are. But where are we gay men in their struggle? We should lend our considerable resources to their battle, and that means both our talents as organizers and the bucks in our deep pockets.

I therefore call for community meetings of gay, bisexual and queer men across the country to gather, sit down, keep our mouths shut for a change, and let leaders of the women's movement tell us how we can best help at this critical moment in their time. Just what might that be? Fund-raisers for Planned Parenthood as it fights to survive possible de-funding? Yes. Lobbying our politicians? Get on the phones now, guys! But those are my ideas, and our sisters might have other, better ones. For a change we might think of ourselves as "men's brigades," serving as ready auxiliaries in a struggle that is putting women's lives at potentially just as much risk as HIV/AIDS did and does ours.

Gay men are not used to taking a back seat. Thinking about ourselves to the exclusion of anyone else is one of our favorite activities. But can we be moral enough, altruistic enough, to park our narcissism and go to the aid of others? Just remember this: the day may -- no, will - come when we will ask women to help us again.

History does, sadly, repeat itself. And so it is entirely in our own self-interest to fight for women today, when they are the ones whose health and dignity are under siege. As the debate on what to do "next" goes on in our boardrooms and dinner parties, let's not forget just who it is we owe the most. Get busy, guys. Women's lives may depend upon it.