Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 02 February 1998


Interview by Jack Nichols


Scott Tucker is the author of The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy, South End Press, 1997, 258 pages, $18, softcover. (Available through South End Press, 7 Brookline St., Cambridge, MA 02139; —or through )

Jack Nichols: You've enjoyed a 20-year plus relationship, a life of love and trust with another-while simultaneously being part of the sexual community. In the boonies, folks still call this "having your cake and eating it too!" What would you say in reply? What's your philosophy, in other words, of relationship?

Scott Tucker: "I will love for as long or as short a period as I can; I will change this love when the conditions indicate that it ought to be changed; and neither you nor any law you can make shall deter me." So said the American feminist, Victoria Woodhull, in 1873, and scandalized some of her own colleagues in the women's movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to her defense: "We have already women enough sacrificed to this sentimental, hypocritical prating about purity, without going out of our way to increase the number... If this present woman must be crucified, let men drive the stakes."

Now we have gay men crucifying gay men, all in the name of fidelity or even "sexual ecology." This is only the most recent ripple of a tidal wave of chickenshit moralism. Larry Kramer's association with ACT UP prevented some folks from realizing just how much he had in common with Jerry Falwell. In many ways, Michelangelo Signorile and Gabriel Rotello are Kramer's belated disciples, and have received the papal blessing. Of course, moral crusades are like the weather: the storms blow over, but can leave a lot of damage behind.

Current debates would be illuminated by taking the long view of social change. Thanks to many spirited women and queers, I don't have be as lonely in my own position as Woodhull was in the 19th century.

Hedonism with a conscience-- that is, in brief, my philosophy of short-term relationships. That means we should do our best to live by the first rule of the Hippocratic oath: Do no harm. Be kind, be loving even if you date someone once and never again. In long-term relationships most people end up hurting each other in some way-- but as Blake said, the real gospel truth is mutual forgiveness, which "opens the gates of paradise." If we become so greedy for immediate pleasure that we lack love and loyalty, then the real problem is greed-- not pleasure.

Like many gay men-- like many young folks, period-- I was once fairly greedy for sex. But let's not forget the other story here: namely, the sexual generosity of gay culture. Twenty-two years of love and loyalty have created a real marriage between myself and my lover-- the Defense of Marriage Act be damned.

Many queers have created a kind of Buddhist ethic of "non-attachment" in our relationships: you can collect objects but not persons. This was one of the original lessons of feminism: women are not collectibles in a museum, even if that museum is "marriage."

Nichols: Is monogamy necessary for either love or for marriage?

Tucker: No. Is it necessary for child-raising? No (and Mormon polygamy is only one proof.) Over the last two centuries, monogamy has been explicitly defended as the greatest source of social security for women and children, but the most daring women (including Victoria Woodhull, and later Emma Goldman) were deeply suspicious of the bargain. Conservatives are fond of saying that "marriage is the foundation of society," but have done much to destroy actual social security for women, children, workers, the ill, and the poor.

Marriage (monogamous or otherwise) is no substitute for a democratic economy. I do support equality of kinship, including an equal right to legal marriage for all who choose it, and I am disgusted (but not surprised) by Clinton's defense of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

Nichols: Any comments on the current White House sex "scandal."?

Tucker: When President Mitterand of France died, both his wife and mistress attended the state funeral: discretion in life, diplomacy in death, all very French. Of course, Mitterand was not quite in Clinton's league as a party animal.

Nichols: So we ought to treat the private lives of our politicians similarly?

Tucker: I don't give a damn where the president puts it. We don't know yet what he was or wasn't doing with Monica Lewinski. If she is a slut and a social-climber, she deserves no special blame in this affair-- we might say Bill Clinton found a soul-mate. The double standard still operates here.

Nichols: In the future, do you think, could a woman or a gay person in the Oval Office expect the same leniency which the General Public now grants to Clinton?

Tucker: The public opinion polls are the real scandal: they are fine examples of "the manufacture of consent," something Noam Chomsky and others have documented. But they are also evidence that many white folks are willing to let Clinton "dialogue" about race as long as institutional racism remains unchallenged-- in the economy, in health care, in education, in housing.

On January 26, the New York Times reported "acute racial disparity in cases of asthma, cancer and infectious diseases," blacks trailing behind whites in several studies of health. The policy makers have known this for a long time, but they have sacrificed decency to careerism-- Donna Shalala is an outstanding example. They serve Clinton's "split the difference" agenda. Clinton raised the AIDS budget-- but there is still no national, targeted prevention program, which requires not only honesty about sex and drugs, but also about race and class. In the absence of comprehensive health care for all, the AIDS budget is perceived as another example of "special interest" politics. In this case, with some justice. The "pragmatism" of Clinton's New Democrats has done much to erode common decency in this country. We allow Democrats to behave this way because (so they assure us) at least they are not Republicans. I am not troubled by Clinton's promiscuity, but by his policies.

Nichols: What do you think of the now-largely neglected 60s view, namely that "the personal is political."

Tucker: A good slogan in its time, but there are limits to the ways in which we can personalize politics. For a while, I lived in a Quaker commune, and in our division of labor I made the bread, yogurt, and granola. By contrast, my present life is solidly middle-class. As long as people have time and space for solitude, I still think communal life is better than coupling off in strictly private households.

In a decent economy and society, no one would need to give up private bedrooms or bathrooms, but our kitchens, laundries, nurseries, and public places could all be a great deal more sociable. A decent private life requires a good deal of decency in public life, or else we use domesticity as a bunker in a war zone. In Scandinavia and in scattered places elsewhere, "cooperative living" has proven to be a good alternative to nuclear consumerism. Recycling is fine, but a simpler, decent life is the best ecological policy. Politics is now a swear-word to many youngsters, because they have been drilled to believe politics is simply the business of Democrats and Republicans.

Nichols: What kind of effects has this had?

Tucker: Naturally, many Americans (especially the young) have stopped voting. Refusing to vote for business as usual is one good way to exercise your veto power as a voter-- but only one way, because we also need to create a wider arena for public debate and electoral politics. I am a member of the New, Green, and Labor parties. There are real problems and promise in these emerging parties. Queers should participate, or we may have new versions of "populism" in which queers do not count as people among "the people."

Nichols: If you were to pinpoint and list what you consider counter-revolutionary trends in the gay and lesbian movement, what would these be? And why?

Tucker: The first essay in my book is called "The Counterrevolution," written back in 1981 shortly after Reagan first took the White House. Some readers have told me they found it "prophetic," given the actual course of the gay movement and bipartisan politics since then. Prophecy can be a democratic venture: it doesn't come out of the blue, or only to God's chosen ones. I like this story: someone once asked Ginsberg how to become a prophetic poet, and he answered, "Tell your secrets." Likewise, if you want to write prophetic political prose, pay attention to reality. It is just that simple and difficult.

Nichols: How so?

Tucker: Half the job is screening out the high volume of static in the mass media, which destroys silence and solitude and thought. And in any social movement, you have to be willing to disagree with some of the folks who are (generously speaking) on your own side. Authoritarian morality, bipartisan mindlessness, compulsive social climbing-- these are all elements of American culture, so it's no surprise to find them among gay folks as well. After all, we did not come from Mars.

Nichols: In what ways would you say some left-of-center politicos have "capitulated" to right-wing influences?

Tucker: Authoritarianism spans the whole political spectrum, which is why you find so many little Lenins on the left. Each one dreams, in his heart of hearts, of becoming Chief Executive Officer of a corporation. The questions of leadership, organization, and democracy deserve careful answers-- not the dictates and prescriptions coming from folks like Todd Gitlin.

Why be surprised if so many straight white guys on the left are cultural conservatives? A critique of the profit system does not prevent these guys from having much in common with the Promise Keepers-- except the left hardly has the numbers to fill sports stadiums across the country!

The longing to find heaven on earth can take forms that are both "populist" and anti-democratic. The left sometimes hopes to increase its own numbers by peddling its own gospel of "family values," and that means straight guys on the left often resent women and queers who stand up in the pews and talk back to the pulpit.

Nichols: You've written a pointed chapter, a critique of the Pentagon's policies. What are you now thinking as the Timothy R. McVeigh vs. the Pentagon case spirals in front of us?

Tucker: I refused to register for the draft near the end of the Vietnam war, and made my reasons known to my local draft board. Yet I do support efforts to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, another cowardly concession of the Clinton administration.

Like it or not, the military is one way poor and working people get adequate food, health care, housing, education, and social advancement-- keep this in mind when you hear about "the all-volunteer army." If a war is worth fighting, class should not determine who fights and dies. In that sense, I favor a democratic draft, as well as a strong right to conscientious objection. The McVeigh case proves that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy preserves no one's privacy-- "Confess and Convict" would be a better name. I'm glad a judge just ruled in favor of McVeigh and against the Navy. It's not enough for America On Line to apologize to its many gay clients-- AOL should also make amends, by giving active support to efforts for equal rights, both within and beyond the military.


Nichols: One writer you and I both find objectionable is the anti-porn crusader, John Stoltenberg, a Dworkinite (after his companion, Andrea Dworkin). Would you tell us your main reasons?

Tucker: Last year, John Stoltenberg wrote a letter to The New York Times defending the Promise Keepers against a number of gay and feminist critics. He seems to think pornography is a greater threat to women than fundamentalism. Since the Promise Keepers are explicitly anti-gay and male supremacist, we can see how a sectarian version of "radical feminism" has also become a Full Gospel Church. This kind of convergence is predictable.

Stoltenberg is a luminary in some circles of the men's movement, a movement in which male bonding sometimes proves as problematic as it is among the Promise Keepers. Male bonding among straight men is strongest in the "Iron John" camp, all very wild and woodsy.

Unlike Robert Bly, Michael Kimmel instead stresses the domestication of men. Notice that the most prominent spokesmen for the men's movement are straight, with the exception of Stoltenberg-- whom I would call Presbyterian before I'd call him gay. For some gay men, the men's movement has the solace of a locker room without terrorism, of high-school without bullies. Good luck and best wishes to pro-feminist, anti-censorship queers in the men's movement. I choose to work elsewhere.

Nichols: Which authors now charged as neo-puritans or neo-conservatives (neo-cons) would you identify as such? And why?

Tucker: I would reserve the term neo-conservative for two groups. Narrowly defined, neo-conservatism meant the fairly small (but influential) group of former leftists and liberals who began their turn to the right over twenty years ago-- folks like Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol (and now their creepy offspring.)

Today there's nothing "neo" about them: they are establishment conservatives, period. Broadly speaking, neo-conservatism means the much larger camp of folks who identify freedom with "the free market," and who may even regard issues such as abortion, drug use, and homosexuality as consumer choices-- moral or not as the case may be, but beyond the proper reach of the state so long as others are not injured. In many ways, neo-conservatism is thus the real orthodoxy among many "moderate Republicans" and New Democrats. Neo-conservatism, translated into global corporate terms, becomes "neo-liberalism." The convergence makes sense. In strong and explicit form, this becomes the gospel of the Libertarian Party, which appeals to some gays.

I have moral and political objections to any political philosophy which reduces citizens to consumers. For example, I favor the right to abortion-- but few abortions are perfectly "free" consumer choices for women. In a decent economy and culture, I believe there would also be fewer (and earlier) abortions-- in the context of continuous health care for all.

Likewise, some neo-conservatives would be content to let the poor use drugs-- and die. Others, like the multi-millionaire George Soros, are free market "pragmatists": he favors needle exchanges because (among other reasons) the state will be less burdened by the costs in health care of sharing used syringes.

Nichols: Where do some prominent gay male pundits stand along that spectrum?

Tucker: Andrew Sullivan is a guilty Catholic working out some complexes in public. He has my sympathy but not my solidarity. Catholic culture is beautiful in many ways-- truly communal, rich in ritual-- but papal infallibility is a blueprint for totalitarianism.

Simone Weil once said that the medieval crusade against the Albigensians remained a fine model for centralized criminal regimes in the twentieth century. If we must choose between a "communion of saints" and citizens with minds of our own, my own choice is clear. Sullivan commonly identifies the left in toto with Marxism, and Marxism in toto with the strong-arm state. He does not know what to make of the non-Marxist left, especially those of us who are also sexual civil libertarians. He is trying to arrange a marriage between St. Thomas Aquinas and Adam Smith, so he has not done much homework about the late twentieth century.

Nichols: Anybody else?

Tucker: Bruce Bawer is a Boy Scout without the charm of innocence and circle-jerks. He is so pious and so predictable that he has earned op-ed columns in The New York Times. He is High Church and High Modernist.

I share a liking for the Book of Common Prayer and for Bartok, but otherwise every third word from Bawer makes me break out in hives. He complains about drag queens, leatherfolk, and unwashed radicals. He is anxious to assure straight folks, "I'm not one of them." (I say, believe him.)

Nichols: How would you identify him?

Tucker: He's both high-minded and thoughtless. Yes, in the broad sense, I would identify both Sullivan and Bawer as neo-conservatives.

Nichols: And some of the others?

Tucker: Michelangelo Signorile's book, Life Outside, is on the side of the angels. Who could argue with a Hallmark greeting card? Life in the gay ghetto can be limiting, just as he argues-- but it barely occurs to him that all human life is lived within limits, including the limits of suburbia and American mass-market culture.

A better written book by Gabriel Rotello, Sexual Ecology, builds its argument fairly systematically-- but the premises are flatly false. Epidemiology can be conflated with ecology, but why? In this case, because Rotello wishes to bully readers into believing that his own moral and social agenda is "dictated by biology," in his own words.

He argues that monogamous marriage is safer in this epidemic than "the condom code." But if he worries that condoms (and people) sometimes fail, what makes him think marriage will succeed? Rotello and Signorile encouraged cops and politicians to crack down on sex clubs, which means they practice what they preach. But surely this does not go far enough? Surely the state ought to monitor marriage at least as carefully as sex clubs, if marriage is to serve as a state sponsored safer sex program? Rotello states "that marriage would provide status to those who married and thus implicitly penalize those who did not." Why not penalize adulterers as well with Scarlet Letters?

The notion that stricter sexual repression is the answer to sexual diseases (and other social ills) is not new. If the full force of the state is used upon citizens, there is no doubt that crime can be reduced with cops on every corner, and that sexually transmitted diseases can be reduced through Committees for the Defense of Marriage on every block. But we would soon be living in a society remote from democracy.

When Rotello and Signorile were called neo-conservatives by some sex radicals-- not by me-- they answered that they are veterans of ACT UP and support national health care. Indeed, but at the end of the twentieth century all kinds of political mutations are possible. After all, eugenic sterilizations were performed upon thousands of Swedish citizens under Social Democratic auspices as late as the mid-1970s.

Nichols: How about Larry Kramer?

Tucker: Authoritarianism crosses political camps, so let's also be honest about the real history of ACT UP. One of the founders of ACT UP, Larry Kramer, always weighed in like a Commander in Chief, and expected others to follow his orders (including his repeated public calls for the assassination of certain public officials).

ACT UP was anarchic enough to find a path beyond its own Founding Fathers, and (on its best behavior) even found a path toward radical democracy. Now that ACT UP has waned, Rotello and Signorile have taken up Kramer's torch, and have earned his praise.

At this late date in history, even many "left of center" folks are indeed neo-conservatives. Think of Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain's Labor Party, the trans-Atlantic clones of Clinton and the New Democrats. This is a global process, and solidarity must likewise be international.

Nichols: So what do you mean by democratic socialism?

Tucker: I mean the advancement of class struggle and of civil liberties-- not the one or the other, but both together. Sexual civil liberties are not a luxury, and that's a lesson much of the left has not yet learned. Neither have some gay men. In Kramer's play, The Normal Heart, there's a scene where Dr. Emma Brookner asks Kramer's alter ego, Ned Weeks, this question: "Mr. Weeks, if having sex can kill you, doesn't anybody with half a brain stop fucking?"

In the play, Weeks tries to get the good doctor's prescription written into the guidelines of a newly formed AIDS organization (which we just might recognize as GMHC). In real life, half-brained policies do not stop people from fucking; they just make people feel guilty for being human. And more specifically, for being gay, since straight folks-- whether scientists or fundamentalists-- have rarely valued queer sex.

Nichols: You're both a former Mr. International Leather and a democratic socialist. The Leather crowd, it always seemed to me, were tagged as somewhat conservative politically. The S&M faction, particularly, were once characterized not only as jock-types and macho-prone, but as high achievers in big-monied, hard-nosed capitalist ventures. Type A personalities? I'm sure there are many exceptions to these stereotypes, but what have been your observations?

Tucker: No doubt, one faction among leatherfolks consists of rock-ribbed Republicans, guys who take money and masculinity very, very seriously. The leather scene lets them go slumming for sex, even while they get to parade some pricey outfits.

Remember, leather used to be utilitarian, but it's always been more expensive than vegetarian jeans and T-shirts. Rich guys don't need to save to buy their chaps and jackets; they can cover the walls of their playrooms in cowhide. If you're looking for these guys, you'll find them.

Some leatherguys really are jock-types, because some of us really are gay athletes. That won't tell you much about our politics. There is a very strong libertarian spirit among sex radicals, so I never caused much trouble when I refused to sing the national anthem at certain leather events to which I'd been invited during my title year. I was always open about being a socialist, and almost always got a fair hearing.

I had a crush on Mr. Bare Chest (San Francisco), a Vietnam vet who was a left-wing guy, quite active in his chapter of CISPES. He died several years ago of AIDS. The founder of the International Mr. Leather contest is prominent in Chicago as a liberal Democrat.

For a certain kind of moralist, all fetishes are suspect-- except, of course, their own (which might include blond hair or high heels.) Then there are people with bright ideas, who place an equal sign between sadomasochism and fascism. Deep. The only moral critique of the leather scene I take at all seriously comes from the radical vegetarians. I am trying to reduce my own dependence on animal products, including meat and leather. Silk and rubber and our own birthright skins are very sexy.

Nichols: You say peoples lives shouldn't be rooted in unnecessary deprivations, whether they are medical ones or emotional ones. What are you really saying, combining these two matters?

Tucker: Actually, that formulation comes from Sarah Schulman's preface to my book. She's one of the best story-tellers and political essayists around. If this is the combination that crystallizes for Sarah and others when they read my work, then I'm pleased.

I do see the connection, which the AIDS epidemic has made unmistakably clear. For many families, it is a great convenience if the unmentionable son, brother, or uncle will hurry up and die. Multiply that aversion by the millions, and consider that cowardice is a professional requirement for politicians-- then it becomes plain that this epidemic was not simply an act of God.

Whitman said the real history of the Civil War would wait a long time to be written, because the truth was not welcome. The real history of this epidemic also dies with each and every diseased faggot, nigger, junkie, and whore. Meanwhile, Donna Shalala, Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, will still not come out fighting for clean needles. This epidemic (among other events) revealed how many liberals have become hollow shells of themselves, always blaming Republicans every time Democrats act like brutes.

Nichols: Which are your favorite political magazines and why?

Tucker: Among left magazines run by straight editors, Z Magazine is far in the lead for me, followed by The Progressive. Richard Goldstein is good in The Village Voice, and Katha Pollitt is good in The Nation-- otherwise I'm not enthusiastic about either publication.

Transition is an excellent journal, a good mix of culture and politics, with an anti-racist, international perspective. Gay Community News is friendly to radical writers.

I was a big fan of Pink Noise, a queer political zine once published by Scott McLarty, who is now busy campaigning as a Green city council candidate in Washington, DC. He has a solid anti-corporate and environmental platform, and he also has a fine historical and literary sensibility. In true McLarty fashion, he roused fighting spirit among supporters by quoting a bit of 19th century working-class verse by Alex McGilvray, a baker and a Chartist once on the town council of Paisley, Scotland:

We hope to gi'e posterity
The pleasant tale to tell,
We sent the Whigs to purgatr'y,
The Tories down to hell.

As McLarty noted, "Whigs: think Democrats. Tory: think Republican." Contributions should be made out to "Ward One Citizens for McLarty," and for further information call Debby Hanrahan at (202) 462-2054.

Nichols: How about listing your favorite authors and writers for us?

Tucker: To be brief, these are a few whom I take most to heart, the ones in my personal Pantheon. Among ancient poets, the Greek dramatists, Sappho, Ovid, Horace, Tu Fu, Li Po, certain Hebrew psalms. European and American poets before 1900: Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Herbert, San Juan de la Cruz, Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, Whitman.

Poets after 1900 (or crossing over): Thomas Hardy (wonderful poet!), Yeats, Akhmatova, Tsvetayeva, Rilke, Lorca (half the beauty gone in translation), Ginsberg (at his best), Goodman, Williams, Rexroth, Duncan, Brecht, Czeslaw Milosz, Judy Grahn, Adrienne Rich, Becky Birtha. In prose, St. Augustine (really), Thomas Paine, John Woolman, Herzen, Dickens & Tolstoy (what little I know of them), Melville, Kropotkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Isak Dinesen, Wilhelm Reich, George Orwell, Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, and again Paul Goodman.

Recently, I've been reading Frederick Douglass and Newton's Optics-- beautiful stuff. So far, I've read more scientific and historical works than fiction, but Sarah Schulman is a fine novelist.

Nichols: You've got some harsh criticisms to make not only of "religious" loonies like Jerry Falwell, but of some "rationalistic" humanists too. You seem to be saying that we queers get it, so to speak, from both ends.

Tucker: Falwell recently hosted Netanyahu at a right-wing reception; they deserve a warm spot together for eternity. Though it's necessary to fight fundamentalists (both religious and political), we might watch out for more slippery critters-- our "friends" in the White House, for example, who shed skins every season and ply us with venom under the guise of kisses.

Liberalism in America is no longer a serious political force-- it is piety, nostalgia, and escapism. Liberals only remain liberals when radicals remain radicals.

There was a time when the organized humanist movement in the United States and Europe was fairly radical, but nowadays it has the cultural horizon of suburbia and hardly dissents from economic neo-liberalism. In the U.S., many humanists are able to take an anthropological interest in the Hinduism of Bali, or the animism of many African peoples, but have nothing but contempt for a Catholic parish three blocks away.

Something stinks there, I think-- a heap of class pride. I would lose my temper faster talking to some secular humanists than to some hellfire fundamentalists, and the reason is really class.

Also, I have deep disagreements with the sort of secularists who think science can do no wrong. If scientists nevertheless do wrong-- by which I mean real injury to others-- you will find humanists arguing that this cannot be "real" science. Well, that is theological reasoning. Any human activity-- art, science, politics-- is irreducibly risky.

The political record of scientists in relation to racial and sexual minorities has been very mixed. Even Swedish socialists abused the power of the state and of science. For two years I was a regular columnist for The Humanist, and could not raise such issues without rousing deep, dark suspicions that I was no kind of humanist at all.

I have no faith that science, democracy, and humanism are a kind of Holy Trinity, and therefore a mystic Unity. So that was my heresy, my queer position, among the humanist faithful. Too many American humanists are rebels against nothing except Sunday school. Politically, that won't get us far.

Nichols: What do you think, in our already overcrowded world, of the desire to reproduce oneself, whether through artificial insemination or human cloning?

Tucker: A lesbian acquaintance-- someone with whom I'd shared a podium once at a poetry reading-- wrote to me nearly three years later asking me to be the known sperm donor in her effort to conceive. Of course I wondered what a child might do with her genes and mine, but I told her I was HIV positive and she'd have to find another donor.

To make the story short, my lover and I became the godparents of two boys: Gregory, the son of Susan Windle, and Gabriel, the son of Wendy Galson, her lover. We count them among our circle of kinship. Social constructionists may fault me for saying so, but I do think we have "natural desires"-- not heterosexual nor homosexual as such, and much modified by human cultures. I do not think, however, we are "unnatural" if we have no strong desire to see some version of ourselves in the mirror of a child.

The official wisdom is all very tautological: heterosexuality means healthy narcissism, homosexuality means unhealthy narcissism. If queers do parent children, we are sometimes accused of special refinements of perversion. Acting against nature twice over, so to speak. If you insist on being queer, then for the sake of flag, faith, and family-- don't have kids!

Child-raising is often tough work, especially for women-- tougher than it really has to be, as long as we allow corporate values to rule our lives. Queer parents have every right to make a fair share of mistakes without bearing an unfair burden of judgement. I am dismayed when gay parents are used as props by the Public Relations Department of the gay movement. Proof positive that even low-life queers can be Productive Citizens, can raise children without raping them or reading them deSade at bedtime.

If it should happen that queer parents do raise a greater number of gender non-conformists than straight parents-- then vive la difference! And we should come out fighting for our children.

When people in the industrialized nations have smaller families, it does not follow that we also have a divine right to a higher standard of living than a large Mexican or Indian family. Economic justice must cross borders, and when women have the power and resources to limit their own fertility they tend to do so in great numbers. State imposed policies regarding women and families can be brutal, under both left and rightwing regimes. Sarah Schulman and I first met by working in the left wing of the reproductive rights movement-- which is to say, among activists willing to question "family values" not only under capitalist regimes, but in countries such as Cuba, Romania, and China. (Romania's policy was natalist for many years-- with the result that their orphanages were filled with unwanted infants, many of whom contracted AIDS through inoculation programs using scarce, unsterilized syringes.) It's no accident that queer men and women were connecting those dots and seeing the picture differently.

The Human Genome Project raises all kinds of questions about science and the state, indeed about specialized knowledge and democracy. Knowledge is Power-- that's a slogan carved in marble over some libraries, and we'd better believe it. As I said in my book, not every citizen can become a scientist, but every scientist must become a citizen-- which is to say, one among equals. The borderline between genetic discrimination and genetic enhancement (under conditions of class division) is likely to grow blurred.

Human variations which have low market value will certainly be pathologized if they can be selected against or "treated." The biology of temperament goes far beyond the issue of "the gay gene"-- which is itself a fiction, but a fiction with social force. We are sailing out over deep waters with barely a map or compass. Many of these issues remain completely beyond the horizon of "the mainstream gay movement"-- including, I'm sorry to say, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which prides itself on being "non-partisan" and "progressive."

In fact, some gay "progressives" eagerly argue that our biology at birth is a good claim for democratic rights. This is not just obtuse-- it is really dangerous, because democracy is always an unnatural act. Democracy always means human choices-- risky choices and unforeseen consequences.

Nichols: What few things would you like to see happening that would create the kind of political/social agenda you'd favor?

Tucker: You mean short of socialist revolution? Sarah says that the saner radicals know the revolution must wait-- just as well, I say, if the leaders will be a new crew of Lenins (whether Bob Avakian or Todd Gitlin, the whole ghastly bunch of vanguard He-Men and Enlightenment obscurantists who have no social movement of their own.) Sarah says we could go far if each one of us would commit just one act of resistance a day.

Taken together over time, the change would at least be an evolution. Right now, don't leave health care reform in the hands of Bill and Hillary. Remember that a Democratic president made straight supremacy the law of the land, for that is what DOMA really means. Homework and hell-raising is the best policy: you can apply this to the issues you find most urgent. The homework is very important, and those of us who use words for a living can't do it alone. No more Central Committees. If folks want a more detailed practical program, check Scott McLarty's Green campaign in DC-- and translate it in your own local language.

Nichols: How do you rate the health of the political left and what does this mean?

Tucker: "Left" and "right" are only general directions on the ideological map; and you find yourself in some very strange territory. There is no magic in the very words "democratic socialism." Nor in the words "liberal" or "progressive." Leftists, like many liberals, have put bullets through their own heads (which met no resistance between the ears.) Liberals no longer think at all; they merely emote. They bleat and they bleed, like sheep going to slaughter. If we survey the "left", the picture ain't pretty. Victor Navasky was so busy defending Julius and Ethel Rosenberg that he barely noticed the AIDS epidemic, except to publish attacks on ACT UP in The Nation. I've agreed to speak on a panel at the next Socialist Scholars conference, but only because I will be in good company: Scott McLarty and Sarah Schulman, among others. We expect the straight lefties to stay away from the queer panels in droves, and then to blame *us* for "separatism."

Michael Harrington once spoke of "the left wing of the possible"-- yes, that's the right idea, but it has flown right out of the heads of "leftwing" Democrats, who loyally vote by rote for the Clintonistas. Democratic socialism has a fighting chance, but we would get further if we abandoned the obligatory optimism, the cult of "progress," that has deformed the partisan left for generations. Simone Weil had many wise things to say on that subject.

Progress is no god of mine-- it can mean anything. It can even mean the Fortune 500 CEOs raising this hallelujah chorus: "There's no stopping Progress!" Should a handful of leftists try to out shout them, using the same slogan? Justice and resistance, a few steps at a time, makes a lot more sense.

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