With the recent blowback from Charlottesville, the churning wheel of fascist infighting has once again kicked off, exposing a number of fault lines within white nationalist groups in the US.
One major fault line has emerged over homosexuality: While fascist and white nationalist movements have historically condemned queerness, many in the self-described “alt-right” wanted to dash this image, acknowledging that the social mood had shifted on gay issues and that they had a number of homosexual members in their ranks.
Over the summer months, as white nationalists and fascists who rallied under the banner of the “alt-right” were repudiated by their more mainstream counterparts at places like Rebel Media, a final rupture began to take place between those who decided to include gay fascists in their ranks and leaders who determined this to be the hill they wanted to die on.
Disputes Over Gay Membership
Back before the “alt-right” was a household name, Richard Spencer had a sense that the 2015 National Policy Institute conference would be different from past iterations of the annual gathering. Then-candidate Donald Trump had given voice to reactionary beliefs, the #Cuckservative meme had taken off on social media and other “crossover” moments were increasing the appeal of the rebranded white nationalist movement that called itself the “alt-right.” Spencer was sure that attendance would be up and millennials would overwhelm the conventional aging white nationalists. In an effort to create a bridge between the younger members of the alt-right and larger existing movements, such as Southern Nationalism, Spencer brought on his friend Michael Hill, an aggressive racist and anti-Semite who runs the League of the South.
Hill has lived a life of contradictions, teaching at a historically Black college while romanticizing the Antebellum South, segregation and formalized white supremacy. It wasn’t until Hill saw the rest of the National Policy Institute conference lineup that his characteristic rage kicked in, incensed by the inclusion of another speaker: Jack Donovan, a “masculinist” and an open homosexual. In the end, Hill refused to share a stage with Donovan.
Movement infighting on both the right and left can result either from strong personalities clashing or from two contemporaneous ideologies reaching a point where they lose their ability to coexist. Both are true in the case of attitudes toward homosexuality within the coalition between the openly white nationalist “alt-right” and the “alt-lite,” which tends to publicly downplay its support for white supremacy per se while spreading anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-feminist sentiments.
An inability to be clear on issues like gay membership has created schisms and rock-throwing within this coalition. While self-described members of the “alt-right” have certainly never put same-sex relationships on the same ground as heterosexual ones — primarily because of their belief in the sanctity of the “traditional” family unit — they haven’t treated gay people entirely as outsiders either. Spencer has often argued for a place for homosexual men in their movement, presenting a radical version of the “born this way” thesis that follows antiquated Soviet research suggesting that homosexuality is the result of a deficient prenatal “testosterone bath.”
The two homosexually oriented “alt-right” figures that usually stand out are Jack Donovan and James O’Meara. Donovan was first known for writing the book Androphilia (under the name Jack Malebranche), where he argued that as a man attracted to other men, he was not actually “gay,” as that was a modern chosen identity that also aligned itself with “male effeminacy,” feminism and leftist politics. Instead, Donovan thought of himself as a “Mars/Mars” attracted person, a man who rejects the orthodox family life with women in favor of a warrior culture where strong men find partnership in each other. Donovan has argued publicly against gay institutions like same-sex marriage, instead suggesting that male-attracted men should “go their own way,” and families should be limited to the traditional heterosexual context.
Donovan’s writing shifted around 2013 to being almost exclusively about “male tribalism” in opposition to the liberal, multicultural state. In his book, The Way of Men, he prescribes what many would term “toxic masculinity” as natural for men, and writes that men should form tribalistic “gangs” with relativistic morality that is exclusive to group survival. He has since come to dominate this part of what is commonly known as the “Manosphere,” joining the neo-pagan group the Wolves of Vinland and closely associating with white nationalists.
O’Meara, a white supremacist who is out as a gay man, has taken a different approach, arguing that the gay male is an aristocrat of white society. His books have been published by the white nationalist house Counter-Currents. He equates Black identity with violence, hypersexuality and stupidity, and warns white men to eschew a forced culture of masculinity lest they take on these traits. Meanwhile he lifts up white homosexual masculinity — which he portrays as associated with theatre and high arts — as the idealized opposite of the anti-Black stereotypes that he presents.
Milo Yiannopoulos and Gays for Trump added another dimension to this, seeking to justify anti-Muslim immigration restriction by pointing to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub and arguing that Muslim groups persecute gay people. However, Milo’s appearances in drag and comments about child sexual assault have both caused trouble for him, leading the “alt-right” to largely abandon him and now point to him as an example of “queer degeneracy.”
Richard Spencer’s Defense of Gay White Nationalists
Spencer has gone to notable lengths to stand up for gay white nationalists. In 2014, he banned Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party and Traditionalist Youth Network, from attending that year’s National Policy Institute conference after alleged comments that Heimbach and Scott Terry made about the “biblical” responsibility of executing homosexuals for their sins. Heimbach had been known to be friendly with Donovan, including asking him a question at Donovan’s 2014 speech at American Renaissance, but Spencer was not going to allow for this kind of violent homophobia or the negative media spectacle Heimbach has made for himself.
“It’s not because I was trying to suppress anti-homosexual views,” said Spencer on the Rebel Yell Southern Nationalist podcast, defending himself about the banning of Heimbach. “He literally laced up jackboots on camera.”
Identity Evropa, which is quickly becoming the largest youth-centered white nationalist organization in the country, has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay members. As Nathan Damigo, the founder of Identity Evropa, told me last year while planning a series of campus actions, gay men would be allowed if they kept their sexual orientation off the radar, but transgender people would be turned away and directed toward mental health services. The Proud Boys, another white nationalist group that has branded itself as a slightly more moderate “Western chauvinist” group, has been more open in allowing gay and transgender members, as long as they believe in Western superiority.
Spencer isn’t the only defender of gay white nationalists. Greg Johnson, editor at the white nationalist Counter-Currents, which publishes O’Meara’s books, writes about the need to deemphasize homophobia as “besides the point.”
For both Spencer and Johnson this halfway support has come at a cost, with many in the more orthodox sectors of the white nationalist right accusing them of being homosexual themselves. Some detractors have also alleged that Spencer coerced young men for sex.
Fractures Within the Coalition
After the accusations were made against both Spencer and Johnson, Spencer tried to put the spotlight more exclusively on Johnson by posting the same article and speech that had been available for years in which Johnson argues that homophobia was a social oppression created by Jews. Matt Forney — a Manosphere blogger associated with the Manosphere website Return of Kings who had moved on to white nationalist media outlets like American Renaissance and Red Ice Creations, which focus on race rather than gender — then put out a large list of accusations about white nationalist figures who had allegedly engaged in homosexual behaviors. This included going after The Right Stuff, one of the most popular white nationalist blogs known for its podcast, “The Daily Shoah,” accusing them of having a “side group” called “Fashy Faggots,” identifying Greg Johnson as a collaborator, and the alleged homosexuality of other commentators.
At the same time, “alt-right” figures began accusing “alt-lite” leaders of acting on queer desires. Occidental Dissent, a white nationalist blog run by Hunter Wallace that has its content republished at altright.com, published an article on March 16 discussing Mike Cernovich’s alleged sexual relationship with a transgender woman. In addition, Occidental Dissent dug up a 2012 blog on Cernovich’s dating website, Danger & Play, about an alleged relationship with a transgender sex worker. Citing that blog, Occidental Dissent accused Cernovich of paying for sex with “lady boys” in other countries and then suggested that this is related to the fact that Cernovich has made tepid defenses for some gay white nationalists over the years.
As white nationalists within the self-described “alt-right” continue to use homophobia to gain clout during their movement’s internal power struggles, it becomes clear that the majority of people in the movement believe both homosexual attraction and gender nonconformity to be social diseases corroding the proper “Western” order of society. Even if they have back-seated these views out of an opportunistic and pragmatic desire to attract younger, more gay-friendly members, the current line of fracturing shows the instability of this coalition and further illustrates the cruel and multidirectional bigotry that defines the movement’s identity.