Dr. Marcus Bachmann, husband of ultra-conservative Republican presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann, and his "pray away the gay" conversion therapy clinic have been blowing up the Internet on blogs and Twitter. The issue has rightly made it on to mainstream media news shows, looking into the serious issue of how damaging "ex-gay" therapy can be and the harm that someone like Marcus Bachmann does to people when they practice it in their counseling centers. It's an important issue and I'm glad it's getting the attention it is, yet something else more insidious in creeping into the conversion and threatening to derail the important main story of conversion therapy: speculation on Marcus Bachmann's sexuality.
The discussion has been moving from conversion therapy to how "gay" Marcus Bachmann seems. Jokes have been coming fast and furious as video of Marcus dancing around with his wife and tape of him talking with a heavy lisp have made the rounds. Late nights comedians, pundits, and bloggers have all latched on to the "Marcus must be gay" meme. It culminated in a widely circulated bit on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld take turns trying to not "go for the easy gay joke," comparing Bachmann's behavior to Richard Simmons and going after his seemingly "gay" actions.
It was funny, but it also left me with a very uncomfortable feeling.
Making fun of Marcus Bachmann's "sissiness" or what some view as stereotypical gay behavior is the same thing that those that fight against our equality do. "Look- he dances really gay" or "that lisp makes him seem really gay" are both things that we would be outraged at as a community if it was used in a different context or directed at an ally or one of us in the media. Combatting the harassment over how someone acts is the main focus of many of our community's important campaigns and organizations. Fighting bullying, telling kids 'it gets better' and working for the right for people to be themselves free from oppression are main goals of the LGBT movement. Does that all go out the window because we find Bachmann and his work horrendous?
We're seeing that very real "he acted too gay" conversation going on in the Lawrence King trial, where they're using a "gay panic" defense in the murder of a young, gender-non conforming school kid in California. We see the real impact of the message that acting outside the expected norm or "seeming gay" is bad far too often, yet here many of us are playing right in to it.
Marcus Bachmann acts gay so let's tease and make fun of him. Insert any other name in that sentence and it would make you mad or at the very least uncomfortable. Shouldn't we be making room and fighting for people to act how they want and be their authentic selves- even odious people like Marcus Bachmann? Maybe if we did, he wouldn't have as many patients in his conversion "pray away the gay" therapy programs.
I'm all for poking fun of the ridiculousness and pointing out the hypocrisy of people who hurt our cause, like Larry "wide stance" Craig or George "carry my luggage rent boy" Rekers. But simply making fun of someone or attacking them because they "act gay" seems counter productive to our equality and our movement. There is the danger of the humor slipping from making fun of the hypocrisy and into just making fun of Bachmann's perceived "effeminate" actions. I've been called a sissy or faggot too many times to pile on someone who simply acts outside of what some people view as societal gender norms. Those who oppose us, like Marcus Bachmann, may think that certain rights are just for themselves, but I choose to think that we as a movement are better than that.
So let's shine a light on the horrible damage both Michelle and Marcus Bachmann want to do to the LGBT community through their political actions and ideas of ex-gay conversion. Let's fight them as hard as we can, pointing out their hypocrisy, small-mindedness, and bigoted views using our jokes, jibes, anger, and ire. But let's not let it slip into the making fun of stereotypes and behaviors instead of criticizing the important issues. Using "acting gay" as an insult and a way to tear someone down is what we are fighting and we should never lose sight of that.