Am I alone in being uncomfortable when people like Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Alan Ginsberg, Harvey Milk, and Liberace are seen as heroes and pioneers in the gay community? I'm not calling them pedophiles like some erroneously do, but every one of them saw nothing wrong with pursuing relationships with boys in their mid-teens or younger. I understand we have a different culture than we had even 30 years ago, but surely there comes a point where the LGBT community can afford to cast off "heroes" who were not interested in egalitarian relationships but rather ones in which a pretty extreme power differential was existing.
I know the counter-argument is that until very recently heterosexual men also tended to marry woman who were quite a bit younger and so the same age differential existed. And I think that is equally as disgusting. I don't think those people should really be lauded as heroes either. But today while watching the coverage of the supreme court cases (which I am very happy about), all of the above names came up at one point or another as pioneers. And to me, it put a taint on the day. Aren't there enough LGBT pioneers throughout history that we don't need to include ephebophiles just to fluff up the ranks? The adult-teen relationship that these men promoted is not at all equatable to the loving same-sex marriages that today celebrates. Whitman encouraged his younger lovers to move on into heterosexuality after a certain age. Wilde saw nothing wrong with teenage prostitutes. Ginsberg famously argued that police intervention was worse than "consensual intergenerational affections" (if you believe Dworkin, Ginsberg's interest in prepubescent sex went far beyond academic inquiry into "personal rights", though Ginsberg denied that). Milk serially dated people decades younger than him. Liberace never showed much interest in being monogamous or committed to young Scott Thorson.
What I'm getting at is that among these specific men, their attraction seems to have been much more about a power dynamic than about lifelong love. This is exactly the kind of underworld exploitation that bringing homosexual relationships into the protection of law hopes to work against. Homosexual marriage is about two people who are welcomed into the fabric of society with equal rights and equal protections. While I'm not making a legal argument here, I don't think that people who spent their lives seducing young underprivileged boys should any way be called forerunners to the victories won today. If anything, they are the kind of people that we hope young men will now have the societal acceptance and legal rights to be able to avoid.
"As long as the child within is not allowed to become aware of what happened to him or her, a part of his or her emotional life will remain frozen . . . all appeals to love, solidarity, and compassion will be useless."
-- Alice Miller