Recently I did a blog post and YouTube video that was critical of an appraisal made by Joe Rogan and Kyle Kulinski (Secular Talk; a link to the video I was responding to can be found in the info section of my YouTube video) that Milo Yiannopoulos is a self-hating homosexual. Yiannopoulos, a well-known gay conservative commentator and writer on social issues, had said that he would have rather have been straight. I had glossed over something else he had said in my response, which was his saying that he would be better if he were straight. He went onto say that he is not self-loathing, that he loves everything about himself, but that if he could be better, he would be.
I agree with Milo. None of this implies self-hatred. A B-student doesn’t necessarily hate himself for not being an A-student. A man who is 5’8″ doesn’t necessarily hate short people or himself even though he may have preferred being 6’1″. Now, one can take exception with the assertion that being straight is better. One can be critical of it. But to say that that means he hates homosexuality or himself is a stretch. One could say that it is better to not have a physical or mental disability without hating the disabled (For those who are outraged and about to say “You’re saying being gay is a disability!?”, I’ll get back to you on this down below). And it is in keeping with what one sometimes sees in the progressive community: shaming, browbeating and ascribing of the worst motivations to people who say things out-of-keeping with various (often laudable) progressive causes (such as gay rights and gay acceptance).
However, what did Milo mean by better? In some of his other discussions and writings on the matter he has talked about the negative social and emotional consequences that come with being gay. He has given a number of easily imaginable pragmatic reasons for why one would be better off being straight. And I can think of a bunch off the top of my head – less ostracism and discrimination, less social discord with family and friends, you can have your own kids with your own partner, and less emotional turmoil as a result of these sorts of things. Milo has listed some or all of these considerations, himself. I don’t think anyone can argue with any of this. Surely not radical progressives who are the first to talk about things like cis-het privilege – a privilege which wouldn’t make sense to talk about if non-cis gendered and non-heterosexual people didn’t have struggles not endured by cis-hets.
But has Milo gone further than this? A commenter in my original post, Tom, shared a post written by Milo several years ago. In this post, Milo says that he will probably never be a parent because he does not want to risk increasing the likelihood of a child being born gay by virtue of being influenced by him. Milo advised that he is not self-hating, but that he would not have chosen to be gay. In fact, he said that it would be mad for any person to do so. He said that no one should wish to have a gay child, much like one should not wish for their child to be disabled. It would be mad or evil, he thinks, to want your child to end up being gay. Among his reasoning was the sorts of pragmatic factors I discussed above. He also said that “something, somewhere inside of him” thinks that homosexuality is wrong. Now self-hatred, I think, is still probably a bit over inflammatory. But at the very least, this is definitely well on the way to self-hatred. And I think we can easily see why an observer would interpret this sort of comment as implying something approaching self-hatred – or at least a lack of acceptance.
In his post, Milo is also critical of the public behavior of some particularly flamboyant homosexuals. This is something that I can definitely sympathize with and don’t think for a second that it implies hating himself, homosexuality or gay people in general. I’m fully accepting of homosexuality, but I too can find very flamboyant behavior to be off-putting. And this is NOT intolerance of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sexual preference. The sort of thing we are talking about here is how one conducts themselves in public. Sexuality is not a choice, but being highly flamboyant is. Likewise, being male is not a choice but being a brute is. Being female isn’t a choice, but being a damsel in distress or Barbie girl is. One can disprefer frat guys without hating men, disprefer Barbie girls without hating women, and disprefer flamboyant homosexuals while being fully comfortable with homosexuality and most homosexuals.
And just as some guys don’t like the way brutish guys act because they think it reflects poorly on men in general, and same with some women having reservations with respect to the behavior of some other women, Milo spoke with discontent about how overly flamboyant homosexuals reinforce stereotypes of gay guys that hurt “regular” gay guys.
While some may take exception to Milo lambasting “preening poofs” and referring to the behavior of some flamboyant gays as being “repugnant”, “degrading”, and “repulsive”, amid his inflammatory language a valid perspective can be found.
Tom, the commenter from my last post, however, pointed out an inconsistency. On the one hand Milo lambastes some types of gay extravagance. But in other settings he has spoken very favourably about the freedom within gay culture to step outside of the lines, to do more extreme and out there things, to engage in socio-cultural experimentation, etc. He flat out praised this aspect of gay culture. For an example of this, see his recent talk with Dave Rubin.
Now, it is possible that he really does love this freedom for experimentation and excess within gay culture, but does not necessarily like every single direction that all gay people have gone in. However, I think I’m reaching in speculating this. The sort of excess that he is criticizing is probably the most well-known type of excessive, extravagant and outside-the-lines that gay people are known to engage in. So it would be ridiculous to think that he would laud this culture of freedom but loath those engaged in the most well-known type of outside-the-norm behavior and not specify this as an exception or caveat.
Milo readily refers to himself as a provocateur. He is trying to get a rise out of people. I think that the term “self-hatred” is probably a stretch and overly inflammatory. And so I get why he rejects this appraisal. However, given what he has said and how he has said it, it is understandable why people would make this sort of inflammatory interpretation. I think that some people should re-consider their words. Maybe in some cases terms like “self-hatred” should be replaced with less inflationary terms. Milo could, perhaps, be said to be not fully accepting of homosexuality. One may go as far as saying he is a homosexual with significant anti-homosexual inclinations. I don’t know how much further I would want to go with this. Because while he has said several things to indicate that he thinks homosexuality is unhealthy and possibly even morally wrong, he still un-self-consciously identifies as a homosexual and plays that up. He’s a complicated man – surely by design.
Last things last: Is homosexuality akin to a disability?
In mental health and general health settings, disability tends to be defined in terms of dysfunction. Does a condition significantly impede a person from functioning in their day to day lives in ways that most people can? A person with paraplegia cannot get by without a wheelchair. They cannot use stairs, they need a variety of accommodations or they simply cannot get by. Clearly a disability.
What about homosexuality? Well, if a homosexual wants to have their own kids, being gay kind of gets in the way of that, doesn’t it? In a way, even a gay person who does not want to have kids with their partner could possibly be said to be disabled because they can’t. Similarly, even if a person in a wheelchair had no interest in walking or doing anything that they could not do in their current state, we could still say that they are disabled because they are not able the way that the grand majority of people are.
People with physical disabilities can be accommodated. Wheelchairs, walkers, braces, splints, eye glasses, hearing aides, long-handled reachers, power wheelchairs controlled by blowing and movements of the tongue, etc. etc. etc. Gay people, one could say, are being accommodated through adoption. This is a win-win situation. Some kids need to be adopted, some gay people want kids. Other gay couples are accommodated via artificial insemination or surrogate motherhood. Great.
Notice how nothing I am saying is normative or judgmental here. No one should interpret anything I’m saying as meaning that a gay or physically disabled person is of lower value or deserves less than anyone else.
Thanks to Tom for the good discussion and the information that he provided.