Conservative Christians — namely, the Family Research Council — originated the term* “The Gay Agenda” to create fears that the gay community was scary and going to destroy society. Now that the so-called “agenda” is gaining some serious steam, those same equality opponents are trying to downplay the significance of the LGBT community, claiming the community is too small to warrant as much attention as it receives in the media. Matt Philbin of the conservative Media Research Center explains that the major cable news networks ran 213 “homosexual-related” stories during an eight-month period, vastly over-representing a small segment of the population:
PHILBIN: The stories that the networks ran about LGBT issues seem very exorbitant, especially when you compare it to say the Catholic population of the United States, which is about 25 percent. They only ran 131 stories dealing with the Catholic Church. Clearly, the gay issues, especially gay marriage, are one of their favorite topics.
Given the Catholic Church has made fighting marriage equality one of its top priorities, there may be significant overlap between the two topics, but Philbin does not elaborate on the point. He goes on to borrow some of the National Organization for Marriage’s race-wedging talking points to suggest that the media has fabricated the “growing number” of LGBT people to compensate for no longer having a heroic civil rights struggle to cover:
PHILBIN: They impart this sort of ’60s civil rights-type spin to issues of whether or not gays can get married, when, of course, that does nothing but cheapen the actual civil rights movement and the heroes that fought for change there. This is what they see as the issue of their day.
Nobody has claimed that the number of LGBT people has grown, but the number of out and visible LGBT people surely has and probably will continue to do so. There are many important reasons to distinguish between different civil rights efforts, and one important distinction in this case is how dispersed LGBT people are by the nature of their identities. Sexual orientations and gender identities are not directly inherited, which means that LGBT people are everywhere. As cultural portrayals have multiplied and public understanding has increased, more gay and trans people have felt safe enough to come out and live openly, allowing everybody in society realize that they know or have met somebody LGBT in their lives.
The “gay agenda” is prominent for two reasons, one that reflects the past and the other the future. Looking back, the “gay agenda” is huge because conservatives propped it up as a threat to society. But as awareness grows, the reason that the fight for equality will remain significant is because LGBT people are ubiquitous and are finally developing enough acceptance to be visible in all corners of society. Conservatives want either a big, scary gay community or no visible gay community at all, but both are tropes of the past.
*Editor’s Note: The Wikipedia page for the “Homosexual Agenda” linked here happens to feature an unidentified picture of me. I was not responsible for placing it there, but I do not object to its presence.