VIRTUALLY NEW SCHOOL: I had

VIRTUALLY NEW SCHOOL: I had the privilege tonight of meeting Andrew Sullivan, my favorite pundit and the man who both revolutionized blogging and is the most prominent figure in the insurgent conservative faction of the gay community. I admire Sullivan for several reasons: he writes eloquently on numerous subjects, from the War on Terror to the Middle East to domestic politics to sexual issues to pop culture, and given his unique background (gay, HIV-positive, Catholic, British, and moderately conservative), he’s certainly not beholden to any orthodoxies. And as a straight, HIV-negative, Jewish, American who’s moderately liberal, I agree with almost everything he says.
Tonight I attended a panel at the New School called “The Great Gay Political Debate,” which featured Sullivan, Richard Goldstein (the Village Voice writer, Javert to Sullivan’s Valjean), conservative lesbian Norah Vincent and leftist political activist Carmen Vazquez. The panel was ostensibly about the clash between traditionally leftist gay people (like Goldstein and Vazquez) and their more conservative counterparts (Sullivan and Vincent), who represent the rising amount of right-leaners in the community (indeed, 25% of gays voted for Bush in 2000). But as several attendees pointed out, it was more a battle between leftist radicals and more traditional liberals- indeed, Sullivan and Vincent take all sorts of positions (anti-discrimination, pro-sexual freedom, abolition of sodomy laws, support for gay marriage, opposition to the Christian Right) that used to be considered liberal when discussing the question of gay rights. Sullivan is not a gay conservative in the way that, say, Clarence Thomas is a black conservative: he’s merely a liberal on gay issues and a conservative on most other things- at one point he said that the goal of the gay rights movement should be to make itself irrelevent- something Thurgood Marshall once said about the civil rights movement. And as he articulated in his supurb book “Virtually Normal,” Sullivan believes all of the traditional approaches to homosexuality in public life (the liberal, conservative, liberationist, and abolitionist) are wrong in their own ways, and that a new consensus must now be etched out from all four.
The highlights of the evening were several contentious exchanges between arch-enemies Sullivan and Goldstein, who appeared at many points like they were about to come to blows Bonds-Kent style. Goldstein has been on a seemingly obsessive quest to undermine Sullivan for years (especially since Sullivan became a prominent figure through his blog), writing about him constantly in the Voice and The Nation, and now Goldstein has written an anti-“gayocon” book called “The Attack Queers.” Goldstein was also instrumental in the effort last year to smear Sullivan by making public personal ads he had placed on sex sites. Sullivan rightly used much of the time on the panel to refute Goldstein’s numerous accusations, most of which included significant distortions of Sullivan’s quotes and viewpoints. Goldstein, an incredibly dishonest and shoddy journalist, even stooped to comparing his disclosure of Sullivan’s private sex life to “outing Roy Cohn,” to which Andrew replied “I’m not Roy Cohn,” in the evening’s most passionate exchange.
I give the audience credit- they seemed fairly pro-Goldstein/Vazquez to start off, but once they realized that Sullivan wasn’t the devil he was made out to be but rather shared most of their views, a substantial amount of them took his side. The event will be airing on C-SPAN at some point in the near future; look for the back of my head in the third row.

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