TIME Culture

This is What Intersex Means

A brief introduction to the word

A longer version of LGBT is LGBTQQIA, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allies. The last few letters tend to get far less attention than the first, but a woman who claimed she was dating the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps at the time of his DUI recently has raised interest in the “I.”

“The truth is I have been living with secrets my whole life,” Taylor Lianne Chandler wrote on Facebook on Nov. 13. “I was born intersex and named David Roy Fitch at birth.”

Intersex is a term that refers to someone whose anatomy or genetics at birth—the X and Y chromosomes that are usually XX for women and XY for men—do not correspond to the typical expectations for either sex. The “I” is distinct from the “T” for transgender people, who are typically born with a biological sex that fits the norm for male or female and then grow up to identify with the opposite gender. Intersex babies are not obviously male or female to begin with, according to society’s general rules about what one’s physical characteristics and chromosomal makeup are supposed to signify.

As University of Oregon professor and intersex expert Elizabeth Reis writes in her book Bodies in Doubt, “In the United States and most other places, humans are men or they are women; they may not be neither or both. Yet not all bodies are clearly male or female.” That may mean a child has typical female chromosomes and ovaries but external bodies parts of a male. Or it could mean the body parts that a doctor typically looks to when declaring a baby to be a girl or boy are incompletely formed, or ambiguous. Sometimes it’s clear in the delivery room, sometimes intersex people don’t become aware of their status until they are teenagers and puberty doesn’t happen as expected.

Performing surgery on an intersex baby is controversial. In South Carolina, the parents of an adopted intersex child are suing a hospital and its employees for surgically assigning “M.C.’s” sex as female at 16-months-old. Now around 10 years old, the child identifies as a boy. “Genital ‘normalizing’ surgery does not create or cement a gender identity; it just takes tissue away that the patient may want later,” writes the Intersex Society of North America in their position statement. Some in the intersex community choose not to have any medically unnecessary surgeries to change how they were born, even after they are old enough to identify their own gender and sexual orientation.

Though it’s hard to say exactly how common being intersex is (since it’s debatable which people belong under that umbrella term), medical experts say that genital anomalies occur in about 1 in 2,000 babies.

It’s worth noting that the word hermaphrodite is considered insensitive and stigmatizing by many who see it as “vague, demeaning, and sensationalistic, conjuring mythic images of monsters and freaks,” as Reis writes. Some parents have also balked at the word intersex, pushed by activists in the 1990s, feeling it suggests their child has a third gender and can not be a girl or a boy. In the medical establishment, the wide variety of conditions that might be referred to as intersex are typically referred to as disorders of sex development. Reis has advocated shifting that to divergence of sex development, to avoid the connotations of disorder, much as gender identity disorder was rebranded gender dysphoria by medical professionals addressing transgender people.

TIME Media

Thank You, Duggars, Your Homophobia Is Really a Public Service

Duggar family - Woodbridge, VA
Reality telvision celebrities, Jim Bob Duggar, center, and his wife, Michelle Duggar make a stop on their "Values Bus Tour" outside Heritage Baptist Church on Wednesday October 16, 2013 in Woodbridge, VA. The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

When gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon

You would think that, decades after Anita Bryant went on a crusade to rid gay people from public life, we’d be sick of hearing D-listers call us names and voice their hatred against us in public. The latest to really take a stand against gays is Michelle Duggar, the human baby factory who is the matriarch on the reality show “19 Kids and Counting.” This may sound strange, but I would actually like to thank her for her recent behavior.

The Duggars stirred up controversy when they recently asked for people to post pictures of married couples kissing on their Facebook page and then deleted a picture of a gay married couple kissing. (Hello? Who do you think is keeping TLC in business?) When the news of this leaked, activists directed people to sign a Change.org petition to “end LGBTQ fear mongering by the Duggars” and calls for the show to be canceled because of their behavior. It now has well over 120,000 signatures.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t Michelle’s only recent offense. She also recorded a robocall asking that the people of Fayetteville, Arkansas, vote to repeal a law that stops discrimination based on gender identity. Basically she wants people to be able to discriminate against transgender men and women.

Now some people think that we need to silence the Duggars and those like them. I think we should let them keep going. Nothing defeats complacency like knowing exactly where gay people stand with millions of Americans. Now, it’s not a shock that the overly religious Duggars don’t like gay people. That’s sort of like saying that Paula Deen likes butter. But, when gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon. There are still large groups of Americans out there who want to rob us of our rights, and if we don’t stay vigilant, we’ll never win the war.

Right now we’re having a bit of success in dealing with pop culture homophobes. In May, HGTV decided to cancel a show they were planning to air featuring David and Jason Benham when it was discovered that they had made some nasty comments about gay people very publicly.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty made some very homophobic comments to GQ this January, and was mouthing off once again this May about how gay sex is unnatural. He was suspended from A&E briefly for his behavior and the ratings for the show tanked after his disclosure.

That’s why we need these people to keep talking. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is hatred in the hearts of many people for LGBTQ men and women in this country, but if that hatred just stays in their hearts they’ll be working against us without our knowledge. The louder they become, the easier it is to target them. And when we can target them, well, we’ve seen that we can do things to shut them up. If only we could give them all a pie in the face like Anita Bryant got.

Having loudmouth opponents also serves as an effective recruiting tool for allies to gay civil rights causes. Like it or not, reality stars like the Duggars and especially the Robertsons–whose most recent season finale still clocked almost 4 million viewers–have a huge stage. When they make these sorts of remarks there is always a media firestorm and each time that happens, I would like to think that there is at least one fan out there who thinks, “God, what an idiot.” Hopefully that opens up some minds and shows those out there who may not be very hospitable to the “gay lifestyle” that bigotry is distasteful no matter how it manifests itself.

We don’t get to teach these lessons, show our strength or fight these battles if these people are silent. We need people like Michelle Duggar to be loud in order to get the hard work of activism done. So no matter how much it sucks, we have to just take it on the chin every time one of these yahoos has the bright idea to spout off. Trust me, it’s for the greater good. Every time a reality star says something ignorant about the LGBT community, a gay angel gets her wings.

Oscar Wilde, one of the world’s most public and tragic gay men, said “True friends stab you in the front.” There is no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of misinformed people in America carrying daggers against gay people, including those who have a public forum to discuss those views. Why would we want them hiding that hatred in the shadows when, out in the open, it can be diffused, acted on and used as a teaching tool to get more people on our side. We should all thank Michelle Duggar. She thinks that she’s stabbing gay Americans in the front, but what she’s really doing is bloodying herself.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Prop. 8 Plaintiffs: Charles Manson Can Get Married, But We Still Can’t

Charles Manson and friends
From Left: Afton Elaine Burton and Charles Manson, imprisoned for life for association with a series of murders in the 1960s in Corcoran, Calif. on Aug. 14, 2011. Manson Direct/Polaris

Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami were plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court decision in the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8 in California.

By not ruling on marriage equality, murderers are afforded more fairness and dignity than our LGBT brothers and sisters

When the news broke that Charles Manson had obtained a marriage license while serving out his life sentence in a California prison, we were mad. Really mad. This man was sentenced to death—a sentence later commuted to life in prison—after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit mass murder. The Supreme Court has told him that his right to marry is federally protected. That same court has yet to affirm that same right for the LGBT community. The only thing we are guilty of is falling in love with a member of the same sex.

So while Manson and his bride-to-be make their wedding plans, thousands upon thousands of LGBT couples in 15 states, which accounts for nearly 30% of the U.S. population, are left at the altar. Opponents of marriage equality surely can’t say that Manson is more worthy of the right to marry than the couples in these states, can they? Would Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins rather have a dinner in our loving home or in the jailhouse cafeteria with a man who has no regard for human life? Would Cardinal Timothy Dolan prefer Manson and his “Helter Skelter” cult to the God and churches that many good and decent LGBT couples pray at and want to be married in? Would National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown prefer the sanctity of this sham Manson marriage–to a woman he is not even permitted to have a child with–over the marriage of loving and committed gay couples who are already raising children?

Our society is affording prison inmates more fairness and dignity than that of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Ted Olson and David Boies, who were our attorneys in the Prop 8 case, underscored this dichotomy to Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in court when fighting for our right to marry. Frankly, we don’t care if Manson gets married. It’s his right. Good for him. What we can’t stand by and tolerate is inaction by the Supreme Court on this issue. The piecemeal approach with which the Court has “ruled” in favor of marriage equality–by not ruling on the issue–is not nearly enough. Now that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the right for states within its jurisdiction to discriminate against its LGBT citizens by preventing them to marry the person they love, the Supreme Court must agree to hear one or all of the cases and do the right thing. You did it for Manson and now the prison has assigned him a wedding coordinator. We plan great weddings. What about us?

Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami were plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court decision in the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8 in California.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Music

Country Singers Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman Both Come Out

The stars took to media -- traditional and social -- to reveal their sexual orientation

Not one, but two country music singers publicly revealed they were gay on Thursday, marking a significant event in the country music world.

First Ty Herndon, the 52-year-old singer of hit singles in the ’90s such as “I Want My Goodbye Back” and “Loved Too Much”, told People, “I’m an out, proud and happy gay man.” Herndon also said that he’d been out to family and friends for some time and that his ex-wives — he’s been married twice before — knew of his sexuality.

Following Herndon’s announcement, 26-year-old Billy Gilman, whose song “One Voice” was released when he was only 11 years-old, felt emboldened to make his own announcement, this time on YouTube.

In the video, Gilman reveals that he’s in a relationship and that he wanted to come out on his own terms, after he and his partner were photographed by a reporter.

The news marks a momentous occasion for the country music industry, which both artists suggested had an intolerant outlook. In his video, Gilman reveals, “It’s difficult for me to make this video, not because I’m ashamed of being a gay male artist, or a gay artist or a gay person, but it’s pretty silly to know that I’m ashamed of doing this knowing that I’m in a genre and an industry that’s ashamed of me for being me.”

 

TIME faith

Pope Francis Says Children Have a Right to a Father and a Mother

VATICAN-POPE
Pope Francis kisses a baby during an audience with members of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors at Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican on Nov. 15, 2014. Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images

The statement seems at odds with the Vatican leader's push to make the church more accepting of nontraditional families

Pope Francis caused quite a stir on Monday with a statement that was criticized as a rolling back of his much lauded attempts to make the Catholic Church more inclusive of the LGBT community.

“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother,” said the Pope during a speech at the Complementarity of Man and Woman conference in Rome.

The statement, made to the attending conservative religious leaders around the world, was the only concrete reference the Pope made to heterosexuality, with the rest of the speech remaining largely ambiguous on the concept of complementarity between man and woman.

Many religious leaders present at the conference took this to mean an unequivocal support of traditional families. “Pope Francis made clear that male/female complementarity is essential to marriage and cannot be revised by contemporary ideologies,” Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention tweeted.

However, the Pontiff’s announcement at the conclusion of his speech that he will attend Philadelphia’s World Meeting of the Families in September was conversely deemed a nod toward more acceptance of nontraditional families.

Sister Simone Campbell, an advocate on various social-justice issues who has taken on the church in the past, predicted that there would be several nontraditional families present at the Philadelphia conference. “He’s bringing in the various realities and letting people speak for themselves, and that creates change,” Campbell told the Washington Post. “He’s opening hearts. He’s not changing definitions.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America needs a national service year: “Citizenship is like a muscle that can atrophy from too little use; if we want to strengthen it, we need to exercise it.”

By Stan McChrystal in the Washington Post

2. It’s time to pay college athletes.

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Jacobin

3. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ to change someone’s sexual orientation is discredited, dangerous and should be classified as torture.

By Samantha Ames in The Advocate

4. Wikipedia searches are the next frontier on monitoring and predicting disease outbreaks.

By Nicholas Generous, Geoffrey Fairchild, Alina Deshpande, Sara Y. Del Valle and Reid Priedhorsky at PLOS Computational Biology

5. Many kids lack an adult connection to spur success in school and life. A program linking them to retired adults with much to offer can solve that problem.

By Michael Eisner and Marc Freedman in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Pope Francis’ Modern Family Evolution

Extraordinary Consistory On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican
Pope Francis greets cardinals as he arrives at the Synod Hall for the morning session of Extraordinary Consistory on the themes of Family on February 21, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Thorny issues surrounding family life, the LGBT community and divorced and remarried couples will be at the fore of the Pope's 2015 visit stateside

After months of speculation, Pope Francis made it official Monday: he plans on visiting the United States in September 2015. For his first ever trip to the nation, Francis will go to Philadelphia for the 8th World Meeting of Families.

This much anticipated gathering will take place just weeks before the Vatican’s 2015 Synod of the Family. The meeting and the synod will serve as the conclusion of a year long discernment process by the Church on the best way forward in approaching thorny issues surrounding family life, particularly pastoral outreach to the LGBT community and communion for divorced and remarried couples.

Last month, the Church began this discernment process at an extraordinary synod called by Pope Francis. The meeting’s blockbuster midterm report affirmed the “gifts and qualities” of the LGBT community and courageously asked, are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” Though the attending bishops rejected this language in the final report, it’s clear that this conversation about family life has advanced forward and will dominate the Church in the next year.

On all these issues, Pope Francis has consistently been revealing his cards throughout the process. For one, Francis has asked the Church to be open to a new way forward. In a September homily, the pope debunked the worst myth in and about the Catholic Church: that it doesn’t change. In fact, the Church asks us, Pope Francis says “to leave aside the old structures: they are of no use! And to take up new wineskins, those of the Gospel.”

The Church that Pope Francis dreams of is a home for everyone: “the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” This Church is with people and engaged in their sufferings. Francis puts it this way: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” And finally, this is a Church that distributes its sacraments widely and doesn’t use them as a weapon to divide its flock. The Eucharist, Francis says, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

Pope Francis is hoping that the Church that gathers in Philadelphia will be open to what he calls the “newness” of God. But clearly not everyone is on board with the Francis agenda. American Cardinal Raymond Burke–who was recently demoted–has been Francis’s most vocal critic: “The pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries….The people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed….Faith cannot adapt to culture but must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.”

Cardinal Burke’s critique perhaps lays out the biggest question of the 2015 meeting in Philadelphia. Yes, the Church must go and encounter the world. But what must be the contours of this engagement look like? And how far is the Church willing to modify its practices in this effort? Even Francis doesn’t know the answer to these detailed questions, but less than a year away from this historic gathering in the City of Brotherly Love, he’s sure of his basic hope: “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Health Care

Why New FDA Recommendations Against a Gay Blood Ban Are Meaningless

The National Gay Blood Drive is happening in 63 cities nationwide
Courtesy of Alexandra Sifferlin

New steps to ease the ban on gay blood donations might not change much

Gay men are prohibited from donating blood and tissue, regardless of their HIV status, if they’ve had sex with a man since 1977. And though technology and society have radically changed since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented the ban in 1983, the measure—which still bans donation by gay men, bisexual men and men who have sex with men (MSM)—has not.

It began as a measure to prevent the spread of HIV through blood donations, back when there was no simple way to detect HIV in blood. Today, testing is simple, fast and effective.

Several prominent medical groups like the American Medical Association, America’s Blood Centers and the Red Cross have opposed the ban, calling it scientifically unsound and discriminatory. In 2013, 86 members of Congress wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admonishing their delay in addressing what they believed to be an unnecessary ban.

Since 2010, the FDA and HHS have considered revising the ban, and on Nov. 13, they finally moved forward with an advisory panel voting 16-2 to adopt a one year deferral which would allow men who have had sex with other men to give blood after remaining abstinent—not HIV negative—for one year.

Advocates are calling the solution flimsy and unrealistic, telling TIME it’s one step forward and two steps back.

“It doesn’t matter whether we go from a lifetime ban or a one- or five-year deferral, because I’m in a same sex marriage and, happily, having sex more than just once a year. I am still banned from donating, so in effect, it really doesn’t change anything,” says Jason Cianciotto, Director of Public Policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). “I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 11 years, married for 7 years, and I am not eligible to donate blood, but a person who identifies as heterosexual and admits to having sex with someone who is HIV positive is only deferred for 12 months.”

Proponents for a more lenient ruling say that even despite the high number of sexually active gay men who will still be banned from donating, the current standards also provide a false sense of security. The ban places risk on individual identities and not on behavior, meaning a sexually active gay men who practices safe sex and is HIV negative is still deemed ineligible.

Other countries have had success in changing their policies to behavior-based deferral, prioritizing a person’s actual risky sexual practices above their sexual orientation. Italy, for example, bans donations from anyone who has recently had unsafe sex. They allow donations from gays and bisexuals who have had their blood tested and sexual activity deemed safe. The country has provided data showing MSM HIV-positive individuals do not outnumber HIV-positive individuals of other groups.

MORE: This National Blood Drive Is Fighting the FDA Ban on Gay Donors

A recent analysis from The Williams Institute estimates that if the ban were to be lifted, an additional 130,150 men would likely be able to donate 219,200 additional pints of blood each year. However, an August article published in the New York Times reports that the blood industry is shrinking due to the fact that blood transfusions are on the decline. Medical innovation has eased the need for transfusions, and therefore donations, the New York Times says.

“Changing the ban has never been a top priority for the FDA, and so I do not see this as an obstacle in allowing eligible gay/bisexual men to donate blood,” says Ryan James Yezak, founder of National Gay Blood Drive. “Part of our push for policy reform is to make the blood supply safer overall—regardless of the donor’s sexual orientation or the amount of blood that is needed at any given time.”

In July, the National Gay Blood Drive held its second annual drive in more than 60 U.S. cities to bring attention to the ban. The drive asks gay and bisexual men to show their willingness to donate blood by bringing eligible “allies”—friends or family members—to donate in their place. In the New York City drive, a total of 3,000 individuals participated in the event, saving up to 4,500 lives. The group also collected 44,326 signatures for a White House petition urging the FDA to change the ban.

Yezak calls the latest development a step in the right direction, though it doesn’t eliminate sexual orientation from the process. But to others like GMHC’s Jason Cianciotto, a one-year deferral ultimately doesn’t even budge the issue forward.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysian Court Legalizes Muslim Cross-Dressing

A judge called the law 'degrading, oppressive and inhumane'

An appeals court in Malaysia Friday struck down a law prohibiting Muslim men from wearing women’s clothing, calling the ban “degrading, oppressive and inhumane.”

“It has the effect of denying the appellants and other sufferers of GID [gender identify disorder] to move freely in public place,” Judge Hishamudin Yunus said of the ban, according to the BBC.

Though Malaysia technically allows for freedom of religion, many Malaysian states mandate Shari’a law for Muslims and maintains a separate court system to enforce it. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are not readily recognized in the country.

Aston Paiva, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the decision was a significant step forward.

“This will be a precedent. This court binds all other high courts,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

[BBC]

TIME women

Rose McGowan Was Right: Women Can’t Lean on the Gay Rights Movement Anymore

amfAR LA Inspiration Gala Honoring Tom Ford Hosted By Gwyneth Paltrow
Actress Rose McGowan attends amfAR LA Inspiration Gala honoring Tom Ford at Milk Studios on October 29, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Jeffrey Mayer—WireImage

Steve Friess is a freelance writer.

LGBTers were once so desperate for allies that they supported any and every liberal cause

Seventeen years ago, in the dark ages of the gay-rights movement, I was a member of the board of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association when we voted to move our 1998 national convention from San Diego to Las Vegas in protest of California’s passage and subsequent legal defense of Proposition 187. Prop 187 had nothing to do with gay rights; it was a measure, later thrown out by the federal courts, that stopped undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education and other social services in the state.

I was new then to identity politics, so I naively wondered what this issue had to do with ours. It was explained to me that we “owed” our friends in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists because they moved their convention some years earlier from Colorado after that state passed a measure, also later invalidated in court, that barred cities or the state from enacting gay-rights measures.

The episode springs to mind this week because actress Rose McGowan endured a crushing backlash for her declaration that gay men owe it to women to support her definition of feminism. “Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so,” she told the American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis on his podcast. “I have an indictment of the gay community right now. I’m actually really upset with them.” After she was attacked for these statements, she backpedaled modestly and apologized for glibly suggesting the gay-rights movement was all about earning the ability to appear in Speedos in pride parades and take drugs. On Twitter, though, she suggested gay men owe women like her because, “I fought for your right to do that as well.”

To those who were offended and appalled by these remarks, I say, get used to it. But the Rose McGowans of the world also better get used to not being able to count on “gay people” as automatic supporters of every liberal or progressive cause. LGBTers were once so desperate for political allies that they had little choice but to show support for any and every other group that might return the favor, from racial minorities to women to the poor.

Now that gays have become stunningly successful at winning their key battles at a speed that is the envy of other minority movements, their political priorities are changing and their monolith is crumbling. There will always be a hearty component of the LGBT population who agree on principle with the goals of progressive groups, but going forward neither other oppressed groups nor the Democratic Party should assume gay support without earning it. We are morphing from an interest group to a constituency.

The fact is, the objectives of gay activists are decidedly different from that of advocates for abortion rights, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, universal health care, gun control, government assistance for the poor or legal protections for racial minorities. What these contingents and gays chiefly had in common – and still do, though perhaps not for long – were common enemies. It was the same gang — the religious right, straight white men and Republicans in general – who opposed all of us.

Yet as civil rights movements go, the gays have had a staunchly conservative and traditional agenda. Our chief aims over the past two decades were legal recognition of same-sex marriage, permission to serve openly in the armed services and freedom from legal interferences in private, consensual, adult sexual relationships or discrimination because of it. Translation: we’re pro-family, pro-military and anti-Big Government. Given that, is it really an obvious contradiction or hypocrisy to be both gay and a member of the National Rifle Association? Or to be gay and believe in lower taxes and less regulation? Or, heck, even to be gay and believe that abortion is murder – especially when science could very soon help parents screen for and then dispose of their gay fetuses?

For a long time – and still in certain quarters today – African-American and feminist leaders took great offense to the LGBT community’s insistence on equating the gay struggle with theirs. It has certainly been rhetorically useful for gays to do this, especially when we fought for an integrated military and marriage equality. But perhaps, after all, they were right. But now they resent not having knee-jerk support from gays and they wonder why that is.

Please note: I am not stating my own political beliefs here. I absolutely believe that gay people, having been oppressed and subject to vicious discrimination, would do well to hold on to their sense of social justice and have that empathy influence their views on many other matters.

But the cold reality is that progressive groups will someday soon be unable to presume the overwhelming support of gay people. The nation is rapidly approaching a point at which sexual orientation is seen as a distinction as insignificant and immutable as eye color. Once gays are comfortably mainstreamed, Republican presidential candidates will garner ever-larger chunks of votes from fiscally conservative and religious gays.

McGowan may not realize it, but this is what is bothering her. Gay men are, in fact, men first. We probably aren’t actually more misogynistic, as she contends, but there’s no obvious reason why we would necessarily be any less misogynistic than any other men.

There will be times in this gay new world when the interests of LGBTers will align in direct, obvious ways with that of other minorities, or in which alliances will be mutually beneficial to similar aims of both sides. And there will be times when they won’t. That’s going to be quite a shock to everyone who took us for granted for so long.

Steve Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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