from Books & Reviews
The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists, by Jack Nichols (1996, New York: Prometheus Books)
Reviewed by Linda Ames Nicolosi
In recent years, gay activism has accomplished much of its purpose by gaining increased visibility and tolerance for gays. As the movement rapidly gains social acceptance, however, we are beginning to see a bolder type of activism which is slowly replacing the activists' stated goal of tolerance and respect for all.
One sign of this approach is the increasing production of new book titles -- many published by Haworth Press and Prometheus Books -- which give positive treatment to previously taboo subjects such as man-boy love, sado-masochism and and occasionally, the even yet-more-risque topic of public sex. Now, another approach gaining favor in the gay activist arsenal is to be found in The Gay Agenda, a book which also tackles a topic that was once off-limits: the open denigration of a religious creed.
Written by a co-founder of the foundational gay-activist group, The Mattachine Society, The Gay Agenda not only mocks people of biblical faith, also boldly describes (at least from its author's point of view) the longterm goals of the gay movement in its effort to transform society.
Certainly there is room in publishing for principled disagreement of many sorts, but The Gay Agenda takes on a scornful tone which moves well beyond the realm of respectful discussion.
While Prometheus Books is gathering an entire collection of books of this sort, it is indeed paradoxical that sexual-reorientation therapists are virtually unable to find a mainstream, secular publisher who will print a book which offers principled dissent to gay activism.
Author Nichols laments the fact that so few people allow themselves to try gay sex. For this, he blames "heterosexual supremacists" and "fundamentalist terrorists and meddlers."
Like most gay writers, he is drawn to the concept of gender blending, and so he vigorously denies the idea that anatomy is destiny.
And like many other gay writers, he begins with an appeal to tolerance, but soon moves on to assert his contempt for traditional cultural and religious standards, with much of his scorn reserved for biblical religion.
Some sample quotes from Nichols' attack on biblical faith:
"Today's homophobia is not only being deliberately fueled by fundamentalist dogmatism, but there are certain orthodox Christian beliefs, especially the doctrine of Original Sin, that subverty social harmony and self-esteem among homosexuals and heterosexuals alike...
"...the corruption, evil and depravity brought about by disobedience in the Garden of Evil did not stop the Judeo-Christian god from allowing a proliferation of Adamic descendents. After approximately 1500 years, however, this god became so incensed over the behavior of his self-imaged creatures that, with the exception of eight persons, he drowned them all.
"The Hebrew god should have known, certainly, that his drownings were a useless endeavor. The remaining eight had been, like Adam and Eve, cursed with Original Sin. Once Noah's descendants reproduced, it became apparent that they were no better than those his god had drowned and so another scheme, it seemed, was needed."
Author Nichols is contemptuous of the age-old belief in atoning sacrifice:
"That a god would accept being tortured to wipe clean the records of various and sundry criminals destroys the central moral foundation on which any meaningful system of justice rests. This is most heinously accomplished by giving individuals a 'quick fix' escape hatch from their sin, allowing them to consider sin gone...
"Those who dump their sins on an invisible external power fail to self-examine and have become, in fact, the prime subverters of a morally upright world [and]...propagate erroneous and savage doctrines."
"Jesus himself never said one word about homosexuality, and...the Old Testament celebrates same-sex loves, including between David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi..."
Nichols then moves on to the theme which has been expounded, to varying degrees, by gay advocates ranging from liberal to conservative. We should simply not expect faithfulness in relationships:
"None but the narrowest approach to love would insist, as fundamentalists and their ilk do, that monogamy is [a relationship's] only virtuous, fulfilling, and loving expression...[they] form thereby a primary obstacle to the maximization of affection. The fundamentalist code, as long as it deprives mature adults of their full consensual freedom to touch others, whether in erotic or platonic affection, robs its converts of their full humanity."
He then moves on to express cynicism about family life -- a cynicism rather common in gay literature -- while reserving special contempt for the idea that a father is an essential part of a family:
"Not surprisingly, statistics about the state of the nuclear family show that children fare better in day-care centers than at home...When Dan Quayle trumpeted the need for fathers in each home, he ignored the findings of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, according to which most sexual assaults in the home are the work of fathers or stepfathers...
"The time has come to reject nostalgia for traditional family groupings and to seek new ways to realize the satisfaction they once brought. More encompassing definitions that bypass blood-line requirements must be instituted...[we must create] fresh new kinds of relationships, bearing no resemblance to past rituals, but opening doors to greater measures of individual happiness."
He sounds other themes familiar in gay literature; for example, that "macho males" are bad for society, because they restrain themselves from freely touching other males; and that straight men typically dominate and oppress women.
Nichols looks forward to the day when society will break the traditional bonds of family, "maximizing affection and consensual physical contact," finding joy outside of the "reproduction of one's gene pool," and giving up the idea of sexual exclusivity.
Nichols is particularly strident in adding his voice to the call for "an end to all distinctions made by gender." Indeed, there is now a large body of scientific literature being produced by gay-affirming researchers (often supported by gay backers) which purport to show that two gay parents are as good as -- or better than -- opposite-sexed, heterosexual parents. And there is also a growing shift away from terms like "mother" and "father" to the gender-neutral term "caregiver."
And there is also an escalating call -- not unknown to heterosexual society, but led by gay activism -- to extinguish the ideal of relational monogamy.
Nichols closes his book by saying that erotic love should be freely shared by all, without restriction -- with the explanation that Jesus agrees. "Love one another," he quotes Jesus from the Bible, "as I have loved you."