My colleague Nate Gunderson caught me as I was nearly out the door. I was walking back from the bloggers’ lounge with a friend in the Virginia newspaper business, and Nate tapped my shoulder to tell me that Ryan Sorba, the kid who embarrassed himself in front of the world by denouncing GOProud to a round of boos, was standing twenty feet away from me. He had a few people near him, probably curious about who he was and what he stood for.
After deliberating for a few seconds, I decided to let Adam Brickley and a couple of guys from The Lobbyist walk to Murphy’s, where the FrumForum party was being held, by themselves. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet this guy.
My recollections are not perfect, of course, but Nate should be able to help me fill in the details. The exchange is roughly as follows.
“So, you’re the infamous Ryan Sorba,” I said.
“You’ve made quite a name for yourself.”
“Haha, yeah. Where are you from?”
“I go to college around here, American University.”
“What are you studying?”
“I was double-majoring in Political Science with a political theory focus and International Relations with an Islamic Studies focus, but I think I’m going to drop the latter. I can’t take the relativistic preaching, the whitewashing of the burqa, Sayyid Qutb, the entire religion.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. So what did you think of my little tirade, then?”
“Oh, I thought it was quite evil, actually. I’m gay.”
“You mean you think you’re gay.”
“No, I’m gay. Do you think it’s a choice?”
“I think it’s the result of a complex process of social and environmental factors, but that it’s reversible.”
“So, like, why is it that over one hundred animals have been observed engaging in homosexual sex in nature?”
“Well, only 0.2% of animals are known to do that — ”
” — I mean, mammals, obviously, not ants, birds — ”
” — you know, animals masturbate, your dog humps your leg. Does your dog talk with a lisp?”
“Do I talk with a lisp?!” I yelled.
“A little bit.” (I later asked a couple of gay friends if I have a small lisp; both of them said I have no lisp whatsoever. Aron, who is straight, has said my voice is sometimes theatrical, but that I don’t have a lisp.)
“Rudy Giuliani has a lisp — is he gay?”
And then he went off on what he affectionately called “his tirade” — giving the same mangled pseudo-Aristotelian spiel about how natural rights have to be grounded in natural law, meaning substance, and the final result of the reproductive organ must be a reproductive act, and all of that.
“Yeah, yeah, I get your argument, I understand it, ” I tried to interrupt, But he said that I didn’t, and he finished.
“But the vast majority of married couples partake in sodomy — oral sex, anal sex, fetishes. Hasn’t your girlfriend ever given you a blowjob? I think the government should just get out of the whole marriage business!”
Everyone around us agreed with that statement. Sensing some momentum, I went on: “I’m the one who says that my values shouldn’t have anything to do with government. It’s you who wants to impose his own biases upon the rest of the world!”
Nate Gunderson pondered why it was such a burning issue for Ryan.
“Because conservatives should not be upholding groups who support homosexual marriage and sodomy.”
I said something I don’t quite recall, and he mentioned something about how he could “take me on” physically if he needed to, to which I mentioned that his quick resort to force and threats said a lot about his political philosophy.
He said at around this point that he needed to go, and put out his hand to say goodbye. I stared at him, refusing to shake his hand, and he said “Well, I don’t really want to shake your hand, you’re intrinsically evil.”
We all started walking away, with him talking to his girlfriend, and me talking to Nate, blasting Sorba more.
Someone who was with him asked Sorba: “Really, though, he had a point: why do you care about this so much when the economy is in shambles and the debt is growing and spending is out of control?”
“Because it corrupts the youth and the culture,” he replied.
When we reached the area near the escalator downstairs, he turned on his camera. I put out my arms, striking a mocking pose, but realized he kept holding the camera at me.
“Wait, are you recording or taking a picture?” He was recording.
“Ah! OK…Well, I’d like to say, then, that the person behind the camera is a Hitler Youth waiting for a fuhrer to sweep him off his feet into a grand national project so he can sacrifice individuals like stock-fodder to his own biases.”
He turned off the camera and approached me. I told him he should get his girlfriend to give him a blowjob so that he could experience the joys of sodomy. He put two of his fingers an inch from my face and said that he’d want to fight me if a girl wasn’t around. “Ah, the use of force!” I said again.
It essentially ended, there. May this story make the rounds to further expose Sorba’s blithering idiocy!
John Guardiano at FrumForum:
Ryan Sorba’s brief remarks before CPAC inadvertently depicted social conservatives as an angry, snarling bunch. For starters, of course, he “condemned” CPAC for accepting co-sponsorship from GOProud, a group that represents gay Republicans. When the CPAC audience booed him, Sorba retorted:
“Bring it! The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do!” And to someone in the audience named Jeff, I think, Mr. Sorba said: “You just made an enemy out of me; thanks a lot.”
There is a principled conservative case to be made against conferring special legal privileges, and a consequent special legal status, on gay men and women. However, that’s not the case that Sorba made. Alex Knepper, then sought out Sorba and the two almost came to blows.
I hope, as they grow and mature, that Alex and Ryan will realize that good and decent people can harbor seriously mistaken but well intended views.
I know and like Alex. I especially liked this post by Alex, which prompted me to email editor David Frum with a note that said in effect: “Wow, who is this guy? He does great work!”
Unfortunately, Alex’s post about his CPAC altercation amounts to a tasteless and nasty ad hominem attack on Sorba, whom he calls a closet homosexual.
Here are two young men, understandably quick-tempered. But the conservative tradition which both young men inherit is not so young. I hope that Alex and Ryan will study and learn this tradition and benefit from it; for it has much to teach them. Among its myriad lessons: the importance of social and intellectual tolerance, good humor and good cheer, and personal grace and decorum.
Knepper responds at FrumForum:
FrumForum contributor John Guardiano and many others have criticized me for accusing Sorba of being a closet homosexual. Growing up gay, I know what it’s like to want to hide it — and I know every trick in the book that’s used to go about doing so. There are certain behaviors that only those of us who have been there can really pick up on — it’s a dog-whistle kind of thing. When I was closeted, I opposed same-sex marriage, figuring that it was the ultimate way to hide my sexuality. When I was 14 and 15, I would spout the typical anti-gay lines, albeit less eloquently than Sorba. All of the gay men I showed the transcript to were laughing their asses off, recognizing exactly what was going on.
But the greater, more important point is this: my insults and Ryan Sorba’s are not morally equivalent. He is wrong about what he is telling me: homosexuality is not a “lifestyle,” and it is not an ideology. This is not an opinion. And when he tells me that he wants to use the force of the state to ban sodomy — including oral sex, anal sex, and fetishistic sex among consenting married couples — he is advocating a regressive, authoritarian policy that has no place in conservatism, libertarianism, or any belief system that honors freedom.
As I told a radio host earlier: even assuming Sorba is right, he hasn’t a clue how to go about reversing homosexuality. In the meantime, he wants not for us to engage in loving, monogamous relationships, but to condemn us to loveless, sexless lives, devoid of passion, romance, and sexuality. I cannot fathom the warped sense of life that a person must possess to want to tell his fellow beings to deny such an essential part of what makes them human. So yes, I absolutely rained down ad hominem attacks on Ryan Sorba: for there can be no respect toward the disrespectful, no kindness to the cruel.
Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:
When a California conservative activist named Ryan Sorba denounced homosexuality from the lectern, he was roundly booed and forced to slink off the stage (muttering “bring it” and warning a heckler that he had “just made an enemy of me, buddy”). GOProud member Alex Knepper confronted Sorba after his speech and was told that his homosexuality was an immoral choice, not a genetic predisposition. When Knepper attempted to shake Sorba’s hand, the Golden State’s foremost amateur geneticist replied: “Well, I don’t really want to shake your hand, you’re intrinsically evil.” So wait, is he intrinsically evil or, with a bit of counseling, can Knepper be “fixed”?
Andrew Sullivan has been doing a lot of blogging about Ryan Sorba, the [expletive deleted] who got up on stage at CPAC to condemn them for inviting GOProud. Andrew’s mostly given a lot of space to illustrating what a [censored] [redacted] Ryan Sorba is, and I fully agree. One can only cherish the hope that thirty years from now he will writhe in shame at this performance, and given the vagaries of youth, there is a good chance that eventually, he will.
But [expletive deleted]s getting up at political conferences and saying asinine things are not exactly a surprising happening. To me, the news story was this: Sorba got booed off the stage. At CPAC. This seems like great news. So why focus on the sad truth that yes, there are still homophobes out there? Maybe this is just heterosexual privilege, but this seems like a genuinely great moment in gay rights–and the gay conservatives and libertarians who sent met that clip seemed to take it as such. The culture war may not be over, but the allied forces are advancing on Berlin at an astonishing pace. I feel like we should be kissing nurses in the street (male or female!)
That’s pretty astonishing if you ask me. While Andrew and others lament how awful conservatives have gotten lately, I see quite the opposite. Never before in the history of this country have gays and lesbians received such support from conservatives – and that support is growing at a pretty incredible pace.
John Aravosis at AMERICABlog:
We’re talking about our lives. And when the Republicans increasingly say the right things, like repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell now, and even supporting marriage, and all the Democrats show is political homophobia, gays get the message.
Some gays and lesbians will vote for Democrats regardless of how blatantly the Obama administration and the Democratic party back away from their promises to repeal DADT, repeal DOMA, and pass ENDA. Regardless of how clear it is that the White House will appoint an openly gay cabinet member or an openly gay Supreme Court justice when hell freezes over. But I think, come November, and come many more Novembers in the future, a lot of gays and lesbians, are going to realize that we’re talking about our lives, rather than our right to attend a cocktail party. And when it comes to our lives, and voting for someone who treats us with the same kind of shame every single one of us grew up with, I think you’re going to see an increasing number of gay Americans distancing themselves from the Democratic party with their donations and their votes. They may not vote Republican, nor should they – they simply may not vote at all.
To the White House, the DNC, and our leadership in Congress: You are messing with people’s lives, and we know it. And the day that an anti-gay bigot gets booed at CPAC, you all better start being very afraid.
Bruce Carroll at Big Journalism:
This moment at CPAC is even more important for the conservative movement as it happened at an important time when there is already a generational change going on in America. Boomers are fading, Xer’s are ruling, and Millenials are finding their way. Forty-eight percent of those who participated in the CPAC straw poll last week identified themselves as students. They are the future of conservativism. And they shouted down an anti-gay bigot.
There will surely be other homocon-related clashes within the conservative movement, just as the Democrat Party has regularly used the gay community as pawns in their re-election schemes for decades. But as the late gay political icon Harvey Milk, who started out as a Republican, famously said:
Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying silently in our closets… We are coming out. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.
Last week at CPAC we saw the many years of work by dedicated conservative gays and lesbians standing up for their values and the principles of freedom and liberty finally pay off. There was a tipping point for gays in America last week at CPAC. It happened because they have been coming out to their parents, friends and relatives over time… as American conservatives who just happen to be gay.
Ashley Herzog at Townhall:
The lack of bigotry must be painfully puzzling to liberals. My fellow Ohio College Republican Jesse Hathaway, a white, Christian, “anti-choice” straight guy, sat on the panel with Sorba.
“Every single person on stage with him was fighting the urge to facepalm,” he told me. (Urban Dictionary’s definition of “facepalm”: A spontaneous reaction to an amazingly stupid statement, where the face of the listener meets with his palm in a smacking manner.”)
That sentiment isn’t just shared by college-aged conservatives. On HotAir, a site founded by Michelle Malkin, a blogger had this to say:
“We are all stronger together, and gay conservatives are as much an ally of the conservative movement as heterosexual conservatives are. We are stronger by emphasizing our important commonalities rather than our less important differences. Fortunately, it appears the attendees at CPAC ‘10 agree.”
Another video you won’t see on any liberal blog features Alexander McCobin, the founder of Students for Liberty and one of Sorba’s co-panelists.
“In the name of freedom, I’d like to thank the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud as a sponsor of this event,” McCobin said. “If what you truly care about is freedom, limited government and prosperity, then this symbol is a step in the right direction.” His remarks are met with applause. In fact, one of the only people booing is Ryan Sorba.
Ryan Sorba, author of The “Born Gay” Hoax, was recently booed at the CPAC convention. Since I recently read all of the main twin and adoption studies of sexual orientation, I wondered what he had to say. He focuses on Bailey and Pillard’s 1991 twin study, which he correctly reports, “found that 52% of the identical twin brothers of gay men were gay, as were 22% of fraternal twin brothers, and 11% of genetically unrelated brothers.” Sorba’s critique:
[I]n order to show that “homosexuality” is genetic using identical twins, one must demonstrate that when one twin is “gay” the other will also be “gay” 100% of the time. The results of this twins study however, fell a long way short of the mark.
If the claim is that 100% of the variance in orientation is genetic, then Sorba’s right. But by this standard, no complex human trait is genetic! Identical twins are not 100% identical in height, IQ, personality, or criminality, either. In each of these cases, however, identical twins are much more similar than fraternal twins, indicating that these traits have strong genetic components. We are not “born gay” any more than we are “born tall,” but our genes definitely push us in these directions. Sorba’s just attacking a straw man.
His other complaint is better: “[T]his study shows that unrelated step‐brothers are both ‘gay’ more often than genetically related brothers.” This is indeed a piece of evidence against the genetic hypothesis. If Sorba had merely observed that the results of this study were “inconsistent” and then turned to the broader literature (which confirms a strong genetic component, a mild family environment component, and a lot of randomness), I’d commend him. But instead, he bizarrely picks one hole in one study, then claims complete vindication for environmentalism.
Razib Khan at Science Blogs:
Until they find the “gay gene” Sorba & company will reject the behavior genetics findings. Unfortunately, if the “gay gene” hasn’t been found yet, we might have to a wait a while (i.e., probably not a common variant of large effect). It would be nice to do a survey of the rejection of specific behavior genetic results as a function of ideological differences. The is-ought problem doesn’t seem to be a problem for most people; it seems a background assumption, so that what is is actually back-derived from what ought to be.