Yesterday, we reported that Ezra Klein had hired writer Brandon Ambrosino, described by Americablog as a "Falwell-loving, gay-bashing gay" to write for his news and policy site Vox.com. You may recall that back in January we reported on Ambrosino's article, “I Wasn't Born This Way. I Choose to Be Gay”:
In the article, Ambrosino never actually says that he chose to be gay. Rather, he conflates sexual activity with sexual identity, saying that “ I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality." By this thinking, people “choose to be gay” only when they engage in gay sex. He later applies this thinking to transgender people too, suggesting that trans people exercise “sexual autonomy” when they follow their own modes of gender expression.
Previously Ambrosino has written articles about his experiences being gay at Liberty University (see photo with Jerry Falwell), an article on how opposing gay marriage doesn’t make you a bigot, a piece suggesting that we shouldn’t silence anti-equality celebrities and an MLK-Day column on how gay activists should try listening to and loving their enemies more.
Many LGBT bloggers have refuted Ambrosino’s piece, including a comprehensive take-down by Evan Hurst at Truth Wins Out comparing Ambrosino’s rhetoric to that of anti-gay advocates, a critique by John Aravosis suggesting that Ambrosino needs to get current with Martin Luther King’s legacy, and Noah Michelson's at Gay Voices which says electroconvulsive therapy, exorcisms and “corrective rape" all stem from the idea that people can un-choose their sexual and gender identities.
Klein commented on the hiring today in an interview with Gabriel Arana at The American Prospect, saying he hadn't even read his writing when he hired him:
So the big question: Why has a string of editors, culminating with Klein, given this guy a platform? In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn't read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. “I don’t want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate," Klein said. "But when I read his pieces, I didn’t come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.”
“Homophobia”—which activists too often use as shorthand to describe anti-gay views that don’t necessarily stem from fear—may be the wrong word for it. But even a cursory read through Ambrosino's writings should raise red flags. Klein, though, seems mystified by the blowback. He acknowledges that he is new to the process of staffing an enterprise like Vox. “I gotta be honest,” he said. “With a lot of this stuff, I’m trying to figure out what success means.”
Ambrosino's gay contrarianism has won him a loyal base of right-wing fans – including Glenn Beck, Breitbart News, and TownHall.com – all of whom have lauded Ambrosino's work. It's not difficult to discern why. In repeatedly depicting the LGBT community as the real problem, Ambrosino offers the anti-LGBT right the reassuring message that they aren't doing anything wrong. And when they want to defend comparisons of gay people with mass murderers and child molesters, anti-gay conservatives have a gay writer they can hide behind to shield themselves from accusations of bigotry.
Andrew Sullivan comes to Ambrosino's defense:
He’s just got a gig as a writing fellow at Vox, for Pete’s sake. Give him time and some mentoring and editing (which is presumably what such a fellowship is for), and his 23-year-old talent might indeed go on to become more thoughtful and nuanced. And why would these harrumphing lefties want to stop that?
Could it be because they don’t actually want to continue the dialogue with people of faith, but rather seek to leverage the growing majority in favor of gay equality to rhetorically bludgeon the “bigots” into submission, to create a world in which they call the shots the way homophobes used to? Could it be that they enjoy policing the discourse now that they seem in the majority? This latest surge of gay intolerance needs to be beaten back as forcefully as the anti-gay right’s cornered animus. It’s particularly brutal when that intolerance is directed at a young gay writer whose work and life are being trashed as somehow illegitimate. If anything is anti-gay in this kerfuffle, that is.
But Michelangelo Signorile pretty accurately summed up the predominant feeling:
— Mike Signorile (@MSignorile) March 13, 2014