It Gets Better—But Not Through Politics
Andrew Sullivan is a conservative political writer and commentator and one of the pioneers of political blog journalism. He was born in England, where he attended Magdalen College, Oxford, but moved to the US in the 1980s to pursue a Masters in Public Administration and a PhD in Political Science at Harvard. He has remained in the US and has focused his writing on American political life.
In 1991 at the age of 27, Sullivan was appointed editor of The New Republic, over which he presided for 250 issues until he resigned in May 1996. Sullivan's tenure at TNR was often turbulent, controversial, and pioneering. The magazine expanded its remit beyond politics to cover such topics as the future of hip-hop, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action in the newsroom. TNR also published the first airing of 'The Bell Curve,' the explosive 1995 book on IQ, and 'No Exit,' an equally controversial essay that was widely credited with helping to torpedo the Clinton administration's plans for universal health coverage. In 1996, Sullivan was named Editor of the Year by Adweek magazine.
Sullivan is openly gay and has been a key figure in the public discourse on such issues as gays in the military and same-sex marriage. His 1993 TNR essay, 'The Politics of Homosexuality,' was credited by the Nation magazine as the most influential article of the decade in gay rights. His 1995 book, 'Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality,' was published to positive reviews, became one of the best-selling books on gay rights, and was translated into five languages. He followed it with a reader, 'Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con,' and testified before Congress on the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. His second book, 'Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival,' was published in 1998 in the United States and Britain. It was a synthesis of three essays on the plague of AIDS, homosexuality and psycho-therapy, and the virtue of friendship. Sullivan tested positive for HIV in 1993, and remains in good health.
In the summer of 2000, Sullivan became one of the first mainstream journalists to experiment with blogging and soon developed a large online readership for his blog The Daily Dish. He has blogged independently and for Time.com, but in February 2007 he moved his blog to The Atlantic Online where he now writes daily.
Question: Why is the “It Gets Better Project” such a success?
Andrew Sullivan: What’s great about it is that you see, the great struggle for gay people is that the politics is just not going to work for us. That the idea that these politicians will bring us equality has always been a complete delusion. That the only thing that brings us equality is our own testimony and our own lives. I’ve always believed this. Although I do think we have a politics and what I tried to do in the '90s was to redefine gay politics by focusing on what... by getting away from victimhood and the New Left's interpretation of homosexuality to what I think was the truth about it. And our emotional core as human beings. Not that there was anything wrong with sex. I love sex; I think sex is completely absurdly demonized in our culture. But in the end, however much sex you want to have, with however many people in how many ways, to be loved and to love is what human beings really want.
And when I first started talking about gay marriage, most people in the gay community looked at me as if I was insane or possibly a fascist reactionary. Whereas, the next generation of gay men and gay women just, I think have internalized and understood that of course it’s their right to do this. Why would they not?
And that’s happened in 20 years. That is a shift, a profound shift in self-consciousness. And that shift in self-consciousness has affected the consciousness of everybody else, especially our families. Would my father have ever moved from one position to another were it not for his son telling him the truth? No, I don’t think so. And that’s our strength, unlike other minorities; we are totally embedded in the majority. Every generation is born into, for the most part, a heterosexual family. And so therefore we have such cultural power. So the argument was always: "Yes, these are the politics. This is the need, but if we think we’re gong to get this through paying these Democratic Party muckers all this money—like the Human Rights Campaign and all the other groups do—we’re crazy." What we’re going to do is so shift public consciousness so that we now... you know, we’ve gone from like 15% support for marriage rights in 1989 to 52% today. We have 75% support for gays openly serving in the military. We have like 80% support for non-discrimination in employment. And yet we still have politicians that can’t do it. And I think our goal is simply to forget those politicians and that’s why this sort of just worshiping of Obama or of Clinton or of these Democratic figures to me is really just kind of a sad artifact of the gay need still to feel worthy.
In the end we will have so remade the society, it will have to adjust to us. Because it will seem absurd not to. And the only weapon they have against us is fundamentalist religion, in its crudest and rather brutal form. And of course, just the general constancy of the general panic and fear of anything different, which is a human constant.
But if you change the society and a culture, the politics will follow. And that’s why this kind of thing, "It Gets Better," is fantastic. That’s why all the social media has been fantastic. Because you know, it’s also one thing to see a celebrity or some kind of character on a TV show being gay. It’s a totally different thing when you know your husband... not your husband, but your brother or your friend or the dude you hung out in high school was gay. I mean, that is what changes people’s minds, what changes people’s minds.
So I’ve always believed in a way that if every gay person really did come out, it would be over.
Recorded on October 12, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
The idea that politicians will grant gay people equality has always been a complete delusion, says the blogger. "The only thing that brings us equality is our own testimony and our own lives"—like Dan Savage’s "It Gets Better Project."
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