Because of Gay Activists, “I’m pretty much a stateless pariah”: Part II of Our Interview with Robert Oscar Lopez
Robert Oscar Lopez is an associate professor of English and Classics at Cal State-Northridge. He specializes in American literature and loves Michel Foucault. He identifies as bisexual and is married with two children. And in August 2012, he published “Growing Up with Two Moms” in Public Discourse, which described his life growing up with a lesbian mother and her partner. Because he shared his story, he was labeled a homophobe and became the target of a silencing campaign that worked to keep him off the air and off college campuses.
Professor Lopez talked to The Stream about his new book, co-edited with Rivka Edelman, Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family “Equality.” The first part of our interview can be read here.
The Stream: Jephthah’s Daughters includes personal histories from children of gay parents. Your personal story is controversial because you came forward as someone within the LGBT community who gave mixed reviews of gay marriage — not scathing attacks or angry bashing, but thoughtful on-the-ground criticism. What has the response of the LGBT community been to your story, and to the stories of other children of gays?
Well, we always have to distinguish between the LGBT community and gay people. Gays as individuals are not politically defined by any cause. LGBT activists are not really in tune with gay individuals but rather work with the assumption that some larger gay “zeitgeist” compels them to do what they do. Many individual gays who aren’t part of the movement, especially gay men, contact me privately to encourage me and support me. (For some reason, lesbians are almost entirely unsupportive, even if they were personal friends.)
Gay men and lesbians who consider themselves LGBT activists are a different case entirely — these activists, especially gay men, think that they are on a crusade and proceed with a skewed vision of me in particular, as if I am a towering oppressor rather than a beleaguered bystander to events. So I would say that the “gay reaction” has been complicated. I’ve learned to emphasize the gap between the movement’s leaders and the gay grassroots. I’m able to have deep, multidimensional conversations with gays in the grassroots who live ordinary lives, and I’ve enjoyed many of the exchanges I have had with them. More than you might expect agree with me about children. Gays in the political leadership are without exception unreachable. They have built a business and fundraising model that requires a mill of human targets to demonize and smear; I was one of their targets, but by no means the only one.
The Stream: I’m glad you brought this up, because the story of what’s happened to you is so crazy since you came out in favor of children’s rights and got labeled as “an exporter of hate.”
Because of this, your academic life and your livelihood have been targeted. Why are you such a threat to the LGBT lobby?
I think there are a couple reasons. It’s the combination of the fact that I came out when I was already established as a scholar and I was just about to get tenure. And the fact that I had a life history that had been kept secret for so long, but during which I had all of these observations. So I’m an inside informant, and they really can’t get me the way they can get some of these other people. They can’t fire me.
Unfortunately, it became a game of chicken. They just thought that I was going to back down at some point and I didn’t. And I think that’s why they just went all the way to the brink, because they viewed me as someone who had to be destroyed. I don’t know what their motives are, but I can tell you it’s very strange.
For instance, the “exporter of hate” list. The people that I’m on there with — I mean, they paired me up with Scott Lively, who I don’t view as a hate-monger anyway, I think he’s just a Christian who goes and does missions in other countries. He went to Russia and Uganda and was friendly with the governments that passed anti-gay laws there.
They’re pairing him up with me, though I’ve always supported civil unions, which is something that’s cost me a huge amount of support among conservatives. The disconnect is so huge, and the question mark is that obviously someone in a boardroom made this decision as to who they were going to put on that list, and it’s very strange that they put me on that list. I had no history of appearing on mainstream media. I had never been on any mainstream television channels. GLAAD had basically kicked me out of the public square a year earlier. They put me on their “commentator accountability project,” so the idea that I was a threat at all is very, very strange.
I think part of it was they were worried about my knowledge of foreign languages and the fact that I had been able to connect with people in other countries. That is threatening to them. They like to come to the United States and say, “this is the consensus among all liberal democracies,” when the truth is that in Europe, there’s this massive resistance on the street, all over the place. I think that also threatens them.
The Stream: Wait, are you blacklisted by GLAAD and not allowed on TV anymore?
Yeah, they have a “commentator accountability project” list, and each person on the list has a page of quotes, and they’re all snippets — in my case, they’re all egregiously taken out of context — they’re all within a story where I’m reacting to some other article, and they just take all the context out, and they have something like, “Lopez compares gay parents to slave owners.” I had a very complicated argument about the history of parental rights in slavery.
And GLAAD is very good about getting this list to Fox News, to CNN — if any of them want to bring a commentator on their show, they typically consult GLAAD’s commentator accountability project list, and the only thing that they’re going to see are these crazy photos.
For instance, I went to speak at Catholic University and was mobbed by people and all they had in their hand was the profile from GLAAD. They had not read a single thing that I had written. I actually wrote to the president of Catholic University to express concern that this had happened, that students at the campus had slandered me based on GLAAD’s “commentator accountability project.” I don’t know what happened with the investigation, but these agitators became very, very aggressive. I had to leave the room before it escalated. They said things like, “Oh, you said the HRC [Human Rights Campaign] is worse than the Khmer Rouge,” which isn’t true. The article that they took that from, I mentioned the Khmer Rouge but I say specifically in the article, “Well, thank God the HRC is nowhere near as bad as the Khmer Rouge.” So they twist everything around with the ellipses and the brackets and the scare quotes.
Because of that, I am pretty much a stateless pariah.
There are other people on the list, like Ryan Anderson, who are able to go on these different shows because he has the support of the Heritage Foundation. I don’t have that. I don’t have that support because I’m still openly bisexual — and for a lot of other reasons, I don’t have all that backing.
So in a weird way, in my case GLAAD exploits homophobia to silence me. The people who are not gay who are on that list — I don’t know if anyone else is gay on that list, I think I’m the only one — or queer, however you want to refer to me — I’m much more severely blacklisted than the others.
Ryan had gone to Stanford several times. But the one time that he was speaking at a conference and I was speaking at the conference, that’s when all hell broke loose, in 2014. And most of the complaints were about me, but then the conservative press focused on the fact that they were reacting to Ryan. It’s a complicated situation.
Stayed tuned for Part III of our interview with Lopez.