When I was a young man attending Gay Pride Marches in New York City in the 1980s, there were two groups of marchers that stood out. One was the gay police officers, who always got the most applause – partly because everyone realized how much guts it took in those days to present oneself publicly as a gay cop (especially given that other members of New York’s Finest were there on duty, memorizing your face) and partly because their presence was living proof that being gay was not inconsistent with being an upstanding, respected, and useful member of society.
The other group that stood out was the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). NAMBLA got the least applause. In fact it got none. Silence. None of the ordinary gay men and lesbians who lined Fifth Avenue wanted to be associated with pedophiles. They’d spent their lives fighting that stereotype. Why, then, were the pedophiles there? Because the Gay Pride March, like all gay organizations of the day, was run by left-wing radicals who viewed the gay cause primarily as a vanguard for other “progressive” movements. They spoke of “gay liberation,” not of gay equal rights. And they appropriated the formerly derogatory term “queer,” using it as a broader term than “gay,” to describe not a sexual orientation but a posture of rebellious outsidership in relation to capitalist, Christian, family-oriented American society.
Most gay Americans, then as now, weren’t looking for “liberation.” We loved America. We loved our families. We didn’t want revolution. We just wanted, as the title of my 1993 book put it, a place at the table. Part of the reason why we ended up winning that place at the table – which meant, among other things, the decriminalization of gay sex, the right to serve openly in the military and in sensitive government jobs, and, ultimately, the right to marry – was that those of us who just wanted equality (and who were derided by the liberation crowd as “assimilationists”) wrested the microphone, as it were, away from the revolutionaries. My book was a part of that process. Another part was the eventual banishment of NAMBLA from Gay Pride Marches.
Those days seem long ago. But the last few weeks have seen two eye-popping articles, one published in Britain and the other in Norway, that have caused the memories to come flooding back. Each of the two articles is about the longtime #1 gay-rights icon of the country in question. In Britain, that figure is Peter Tatchell. Born in Australia in 1952, Tatchell started his activist career in the UK as a leader of the Gay Liberation Front, a far-left organization that – what else do you need to know about it? – idolized Che Guevara. Imagine thinking of Che Guevara, who lined up gays against walls and shot them, as a hero for a movement to “liberate” gay people! Such was the gay movement, in the UK as in the US, before the 1990s. It was run by fatuous radicals who, unwilling to settle for gay rights within a Western capitalist framework, wanted a new heaven and a new earth. They saw themselves as Robespierres. It was as if they’d devoured books about the French Revolution but never made it to the part when the Reign of Terror begins.
As Tatchell would later recall in the Guardian: “We were sexual liberationists and social revolutionaries, out to turn the world upside down. …GLF’s main aim was never equality within the status quo.”
Tatchell hasn’t smartened up since. The only real difference is that as Britain’s political center moved to the left, he was transformed from a rebel outsider to an establishment darling. Most recently, as James Essen noted in his revelatory July 21 article, Tatchell was “the poster boy for the new Metropolitan Police initiative of ‘LGBT+ Community Liaison Officers,’” the purpose of which is to protect “LGBT+” individuals from abuse. Which raises the question: how much actual abuse of “LGBT+” Brits occurs every year? I suspect that the figure is dwarfed by the number of ethnic English girls who are serially raped by Muslim “grooming gangs.” Alas, the British police have been too busy waving pride flags and hunting down people who’ve desecrated rainbow-painted crosswalks to address the “grooming gangs” issue with even the remotest degree of seriousness.
But that’s not the only irony here. “To choose Tatchell as the face of a campaign seeking to encourage reporting of sexual abuse,” observes Essen, “is a strange choice…given that Tatchell himself has faced numerous accusations of excessive sympathy with adults who wish to have sex with children.” Although, as Essen is quick to add, Tatchell has repeatedly insisted that the accusations are baseless, the public record is certainly curious, to say the least. Essen cites a 1997 letter to the Guardian in which Tatchell defended as “courageous” a book entitled Dare to Speak that “challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive.” Tatchell professed that in the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea, “all young boys have sex with older warriors as part of their initiation into manhood.” And who doesn’t want to pick up a few tips about social organization and moral values from the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea?
Tatchell mentioned a boy he knew who’d “been having sex with boys since the age of eight, and with men since he was 12 …He comes across as bright, articulate, sure of himself, and mature beyond his years. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting away with taking advantage of him.” Yeah, right. This is vintage Tatchell. Above all else, he’s a dimbulb who still thinks in puerile terms about “liberating” everybody from everything. If his type of gay activism had continued to prevail, most gays in the UK would still be in the closet, barred from open military service, and certainly unable to marry.
That Guardian letter was just the beginning. In 1998, Tatchell wrote what Essen calls “a glowing obituary” for a founder of something called the Paedophile Information Exchange. In 1986, he contributed to a book, Betrayal of Youth (BOY), promoting pedophilia and an end to age-of-consent laws. In 2010, he gave a speech calling for a lowering of the age of consent to fourteen. And in a 2015 article he spoke of “encouraging young people to have a more open, positive attitude towards sexual matters.” None of which should be terribly surprising. It was all there from the beginning, in the decision by these early gay liberationists that their goal wasn’t equality but the establishment of a utopian society, with gay people as the tip of the spear.
Much the same thing, of course, was going on at the same time elsewhere in the Western world. In Norway, the most prominent gay activist for decades was Kim Friele, who was reportedly the first gay person in Norway to come out publicly. Like Tatchell, she too ended up being celebrated by the establishment: in 2018, then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg praised her for having “made Norway a more decent society”; when she died at age 86 in 2021, the government paid for her funeral (which in Norway is essentially the equivalent of a state funeral) and the current Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, delivered a eulogy to a congregation that included Queen Sonja and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. A 2021 documentary was entitled Kim Friele: First Lady of the Gay Struggle.
All of which made it extremely fascinating to read an article by Pål Vegard Hagesæther that was published on August 22 in Norway’s newspaper of record, Aftenposten. In extensive detail, Hagesæther recounts the history of a group called the Norwegian Working Group for Pedophiles (NAFP), which held “its first large conference” in 1978. And among the speakers at that event, it turns out, was Kim Friele, who at the time was General Secretary of Norway’s leading gay organization, the Norwegian Association of 1948 (DNF).
At the time, NAFP’s member journal reported that Friele said as follows: “Pedophiles must show pride for their feelings! Don’t let yourselves be cowed!” According to Hagesæther, Friele also “compared pedophile liberation with gay [liberation] and said that the two [movements] had many similarities.” At the following year’s NAFP gathering, it was the turn of Friele’s partner, a member of the Norwegian Parliament named Wenche Lowzow, to give a flattering speech. Friele, for her part, participated that year in a formal discussion in which she suggested a gradual lowering of the age of consent – or, alternatively, a campaign to “liberate children’s oppressed sexuality” entirely. Some time later, she brought the NAFP in from the cold, making it a sort of sub-group of DNF.
Then it happened. In Norway, as elsewhere in the Western world, the marginal misfits who ran the gay movement were joined by more mainstream-oriented souls who shifted its focus from rebellion to reform, from liberation to equal rights. Compelled to share power with non-radicals, old firebrands like Friele felt obliged to moderate their rhetoric. Part of this sea change was an end to the eagerness to link gay rights to pedophilia – so like Tatchell, Friele, seeing which way the winds were blowing, began to insist vehemently that she’d never, ever supported pedophilia. Even her biographer claims to have been unaware of her activities on that front until Hagesæther provided him with the evidence.
Needless to say, nobody of note in the gay-rights movement ever speaks up for “pedophile rights” any more. But something else has happened. When same-sex marriage became the law of the land in one Western country after another, the responsible-minded people who’d campaigned for it got on with their lives; but the professional activists who were in it for all the wrong reasons – for money, for a sinecure, for notoriety, or because they couldn’t imagine a life that wasn’t centered on dissent – hung around.
And next thing you knew, all of the gay-rights groups were hardly talking about gays anymore. Homosexuality having virtually disappeared as an issue of contention – in the West, anyway – these groups now focused on pushing gender ideology. In other words, they were now out to sell mainstream Americans on the notion that a man can become a woman, or a woman a man, and that this change can take effect retroactively, all the way back to the moment of an individual’s birth – and that all that’s needed to accomplish this transformation is a mere declaration that one is now this rather than that. Yes, there exists an exceedingly rare clinical disorder known as gender dysphoria whereby people think they were born into the “wrong body”; but gender ideology recasts this delusion – which has run rampant among young people in recent years, obviously not because the incidence of genuine gender dysphoria has grown exponentially but simply because it’s become a trend – as an insight into a deeper personal reality. It’s all magical thinking, in any event, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the phenomenon of same-sex attraction.
Yet just as their forebears in the gay-rights movement had once happily bound up “pedophile liberation” with “gay liberation,” now the officers of groups like Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, along with countless Queer Studies professors and other activists, tied “transgender rights” to gay rights. <Dropping the words gay and lesbian almost entirely, they instead used consistently the term “LGBT” (or LGBTQ, or LGBTQ+) and spoke retroactively of what had always been the gay rights movement as the “LGBT movement.” They even made this change retroactive, referring, for example, to the 1969 Stonewall riots as an act of “LGBT” resistance. And Friele and Tatchell, those old warhorses who’d stood up for pedophiles, now went along with this new brand of iniquity, cheerfully telling gay people that henceforward they were “LGBT” people.
Tatchell, in particular, learned quickly to parrot the trans party line. Earlier this year, when asked on the BBC “if men have wombs and get pregnant,” he quickly affirmed “that some men have wombs” but added “that such things should not be discussed because they are a ‘distraction.’” Yes, a distraction from reality. In an August panel discussion on Piers Morgan’s Talk TV program, after Douglas Murray condemned adherents of gender ideology for “lying to children” and “using children for medical experiments,” Tatchell shot back: “There is no such thing as gender ideology. We all have gender identity.” A couple of decades ago, of course, Tatchell had never heard of “gender identity”; if he speaks of it now, it’s precisely because he realized a few years back that if he wanted to retain his position as a leading gay activist he had to buy into – or pretend to buy into – gender ideology.
The bottom line here is that while transgenderism has no more connection to mature same-sex attraction than pedophilia does, both the trans movement and the long-ago campaign for pedophile liberation have a great deal in common. Indeed, both movements draw on the twisted teachings of postmodern heroes (and child molesters) like Michel Foucault, Alfred Kinsey, and John Money, who were preoccupied with the idea that even the youngest children are sexual creatures whose erotic desires should be honored and whose sense of their innate “gender identity” – a term invented by Money – should be taken seriously. Both movements speak of “liberating” children from their parents: the pedophiles wanted to “liberate” them in order to have sex with them; the transgender activists want to “liberate” them in order to have their bodies mutilated. (In more than a few cases, moreover, the parents of self-identified “trans” kids are eager to see them transformed by hormones and surgery so that they won’t have to grow up gay – for statistics show that a majority of the effeminate boys and butch girls who say they’re trans nowadays would, if left alone, end up recognizing, at puberty or soon afterwards, that they’re gay.)
There’s another likeness between the pedophile and transgender movements. Today’s gay leaders never asked the gay man or lesbian in the street whether they wanted to be known as “LGBTQ.” (Almost all would’ve replied with a hearty no.) In the same way, when people like Tatchell and Friele used their positions to try to give legitimacy to the “pedophile movement,” they didn’t ask rank-and-file gay men and lesbians for their opinions. This was unforgivable – for what they were doing, after all, was betraying the people they claimed to be representing by tainting them with a link to child molesters.
Somehow they got away with it. Until now. Now the stories about Tatchell and Friele are out, and it’s a good thing. For while the attempt to use gay rights to advance pedophilia failed, the effort to legitimize gender ideology by tethering it to gay rights has been frightfully successful. By piggybacking onto a cause that was debated for decades, the promoters of transgenderism have claimed a legitimacy that they’ve never earned, and thereby won an at least temporary triumph that they don’t deserve. In many countries around the world, more and more ordinary citizens are, at risk of serious punishment, being forced by their employers or governments to call a man “she” or a woman “he.” Parents are being denied their parental rights by state officials eager to place their children on the transgender assembly line. It’s a travesty and a calamity, every bit as much as yesteryear’s attempts to normalize pedophilia, and it needs to be quashed as fast as possible. The recognition that honored gay leaders like Peter Tatchell and Kim Friele supported the one travesty back in the day as much as they’ve supported the other in recent years – and the consequent discrediting of these leaders – is a major step toward a desperately needed return to sanity on this front.