The Hounding Of A Young Gay Writer

So I’m perusing the web on the airplane to Los Angeles and saw a blast of incandescent gay fury all over the place. It turns out that Ezra Klein had the gall to offer a writing fellowship at Vox to one Brandon Ambrosino, a 23 year-old professional dancer who is a graduate of Liberty College, Jerry Falwell’s joint. Judging from the reaction, you might have thought Ezra had hired Rick Santorum. Oh! the screeds and harrumphs, the sighs and the gasps! Here’s the gay politburo official at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern, in a dreary tract against what he calls Klein’s “unbelievably bad hire”:

Ambrosino’s ideas are not brash, unconventional, exciting, or avant-garde. They are reckless, retrograde, and vapid—and hiring Ambrosino reflects startlingly bad, potentially catastrophic judgment by Vox.

“Potentially catastrophic!” A 23-year old who doesn’t parrot what the left likes could bring the entire Ezra Klein venture down! Not to be outdone, we get this from my friend John Aravosis:

While I think Brandon Ambrosino is sloppy, unimaginative, a bad writer, and a not-very-complicated thinker, my biggest concern is that he comes across, to me, as having an agenda that borders on animus … Brandon Ambrosino is the Allen West of homosexuality. He’s your go-to guy, if your goal has nothing to do with finding a legitimate minority voice on the issues of the day.

Notice the disturbing notion of a “legitimate minority voice.” And who decides what’s legitimate? Why John of course! As for the imputation of anti-gay animus: it’s as lame as neocons calling critics of Israel anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. Equality Matters calls him baldly an anti-gay apologist and then proceeds to tell us solemnly that

The announcement was met with widespread condemnation from LGBT activists and writers who called his hiring an “embarrassment” and a “major mistake.”

So, as you would, I went and read some of Ambrosino’s work. We posted about one recently but I hadn’t read much else. The most impressive by far is a funny, sometimes moving, self-deprecating and brutally honest memoir of his time as a gay kid at Falwell’s school. Maybe The Atlantic‘s editors made it better (as they do) – but as a piece of writing, it’s livelier and funnier than anything I’ve read from, say, Mark Joseph Stern. As for his other pieces, they do suffer from some occasional cluelessness and attention-seeking pyrotechnics. But is a young writer not allowed some attention-seeking pieces any more? And his critique of gay-left intolerance gains a little poignancy as the rhetorical lynch mob now prowls the interwebs in order to get him fired.

Here’s what I also found: He wants the gay rights movement to adopt more of the forgiveness and compassion that marked the spirit (if not always the letter) of Martin Luther King Jr. He gets a little grossed out by hyper-sexual antics at gay rights parades – which is a bit of a bore, at this point, but within his rights (and certainly something some gay people say sotto voce). He conflates too many issues when discussing gay identity – but, in his emphasis on choosing sexual identity, he echoes the new left rather than the gay right. Sure he trades on being the gay writer willing to criticize the gay world, but he seems perfectly sincere to me, if a little jejune. And why is he not allowed to criticize what he sees? Is he supposed to take some gay test before he’s allowed a voice?

He is unusual, in as much as his journey into gay life from religious fundamentalism inevitably makes his take on being gay a very particular – and fascinating – one. But guess what? Millions of gay people are born and brought up in fundamentalist Christian environments and families. Understanding their lives and finding a place for them in the world is something we should be striving to achieve rather than attempting to snuff out. And gays from fundamentalist backgrounds can help us engage in dialogue with some of our most dedicated opponents. What I found truly disgusting about some of the commentary is that they tried to portray the man as somehow a Jerry Falwell clone. That’s a deliberate lie and a smear. And it springs from anti-Christian animus.

Gabriel Arana flatters me thus:

Sullivan’s and Rauch’s positions are thoughtfully staked out and stem from nuanced views about the role of government, Ambrosino’s iconoclasm amounts to heedless self-promotion.

Yes, but no one’s making him the editor of The New Republic, are they? He’s just got a gig as a writing fellow at Vox, for Pete’s sake. Give him time and some mentoring and editing (which is presumably what such a fellowship is for), and his 23-year-old talent might indeed go on to become more thoughtful and nuanced. And why would these harrumphing lefties want to stop that?

Could it be because they don’t actually want to continue the dialogue with people of faith, but rather seek to leverage the growing majority in favor of gay equality to rhetorically bludgeon the “bigots” into submission, to create a world in which they call the shots the way homophobes used to? Could it be that they enjoy policing the discourse now that they seem in the majority? This latest surge of gay intolerance needs to be beaten back as forcefully as the anti-gay right’s cornered animus. It’s particularly brutal when that intolerance is directed at a young gay writer whose work and life are being trashed as somehow illegitimate. If anything is anti-gay in this kerfuffle, that is.