There were people who said Margarat Thatcher was culturally male. Biologically female, but in terms of outlook, aspirations and behavior, male.

Looking back it was a silly thing to say. Most men didn't act or think like her - and the ones who did were her peers. Her unpleasant personality and preposterous delusions came from her position in society, not from having a ghostly set of testicles surgically attached.

But as with a lot of silly political analyses, there's a perverse grain of truth to it. If someone told you Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell were 'white on the inside', you may or may not agree with them, but you'd know what they meant.

If you hear it asserted that Barack Obama got to be a black president by ditching everything about him that was black except for the skin, you'll understand what's being said, whether or not you think it's true.

If all there is to being black is having dark skin, then what is meant by 'black culture', 'black literature' or 'black music'? Obviously nothing, if 'black music' means nothing more than 'any music of any kind made by people with dark skin'. You may as well talk about 'bald music'.

It's a game you can play with any group. Is Benjamin Netenyahu jewish in anything but name? Is there anything authentically Indian about Deepak Chopra? If NWA were a hiphop group, what exactly are the Black Eyes Peas?

And yes it is a game, because it obscures the point of the insight.

Some right wingers are now telling us that gay marriage is a conservative value. After decades of rabid hate, they're now saying it's always been a conserative goal to have gay men and women living unharassed in monogamous families.

And the thing is, they're right - monogamous lifelong marriage for all is a conservative value.

The notion of civil partnerships was always on the right wing of the gay rights movement, because the idea behind it is not that 'gay culture(s)' have their own validity and mainstream culture should learn to accept diversity - rather that the way to gain acceptance into the straight world is to adopt it's values.

Gay people haven't gained acceptance by broadening mainstream notions of acceptability. They've bought acceptance by becoming acceptable to the mainstream - which in fact has got narrower.

To buy in by selling out, to win by losing, to give up the fight and tell yourself you've won. It's the definition of a pyrric victory and we've all seen individuals do it, in professional and personal lives, and whole social movements collapse by doing it.

The aim of gay liberation was not to replicate the inanities and hypocrisies of the world which hated gay people.

It wasn't to exchange a life of hidden sexual freedom for the hidden adultery of the straight world. It wasn't to exchange sympathy with the oppressed for joining the oppressors. And it wasn't to have gay characters in soap operas who may as well not be.

Being gay used to be important to me because of all that went with it. Now it doesn't mean much, because now it's just a matter of which gender I occasionally have sex with - together with a certain disapproval that I haven't 'yet' married a man.

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