Ryan Lee: Let us learn from our internal debates over RuPaul and PrEP

A bittersweet result of the progress we’ve seen on LGBT rights is that our most passion- ate arguments may increasingly be amongst ourselves rather than against hostile outsiders.

There remain many debates to be had with those who oppose LGBT equality, but the wave of acceptance we’ve been riding is starting to drown out not only rabid anti-gay sentiment, but also the casual disapproval of homosexuality that many have felt comfortable expressing.

Focus on the Family, which for decades has been one of the most aggressive opponents of LGBT rights, is now led by a man who recently told ABC News, “I can be kind to you and dis- agree with you. That’s hard in this culture, but it’s something we have to re-learn.”

So whom will we argue with once our enemies are no longer worth arguing?

Fear not, for progressives have an enduring gift for discovering reasons to argue: new wrongs to correct, new structures to dismantle, new consciousness to evangelize. And arguments among comrades and allies can be just as fierce and sanctimonious as conflicts between staunch rivals, as a couple of recent calls for blood prove.

Whether he is considered a cross-dresser, drag queen or transgender, RuPaul has been the public face of gender non-conformity since the early ‘90s. Yet, as this population makes hard-earned gains in cultural visibility and political consideration, RuPaul has been identified by some as Public Enemy No. 1 to transgender progress.

The indefatigable “Drag Race” host has been maligned on social media for his cavalier use of terms like “She-Male” and “Tranny,” which an increasing number of transgender individuals find offensive. However, demands for RuPaul to be fired have been criticized by other transgender activists, notably Calpernia Addams, who blasted “the language cops” for “censoring” RuPaul and others who don’t ad- here to the list of certified non-offensive terms and phrases.

As a non-trans person (and leftist), I defer to those who are affected to determine what language makes them comfortable. The thought of any trans person feeling marginalized or disrespected by my word choice is enough to prompt tact, and I’ve been disappointed by how many gay men have insisted that transgender individuals need to develop thicker skin or a sense of humor.

Easy for those fudge-packers to say, even if it violates the sensitivity they have demanded of others for the last half century.

Fags are in a civil war of their own, divided by their position on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a safer sex strategy that involves HIV-negative gay men taking a daily dose of the drug Truvada to reduce the likelihood of infection. A growing chorus is calling for longtime activist Michael Weinstein to be terminated as president of the AIDS Health- care Foundation due to his opposition to PrEP, which included Weinstein telling USA Today that Truvada is nothing more than “a party drug.”

I’m among the many (and possibly majority) of gay men who are encouraged by PrEP’s early 90 percent success rate in preventing the transmission of HIV, and believe it is a vital alternative for gay men who, as a demographic, don’t use condoms as habitually as they once did. However, there is a freneticism to the PrEP rally—a desperate urging to celebrate PrEP as the literal and figurative magic pill—that makes me worry about reasoned dissent going unconsidered.

Skepticism has been a vital tool for gay men throughout the AIDS epidemic, and I am skeptical of any suggestion we are better off in the fight against HIV/AIDS without a warrior like Michael Weinstein.

It would have been nice to savor the game- changing times we live in before we turned our attitudes on each other; but there has always been dissension and division within the LGBT movement, and that’s gotten us to a pretty good place thus far.