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A Thing for Men in Uniforms

It was just over a week after a coalition of populist and right-wing parties won a majority of votes in Italy’s parliamentary election, and the former senior adviser to President Donald Trump sounded positively besotted as he gushed about the manliness and brio of Benito Mussolini. “He has all that virility,” Steve Bannon told TheSpectator of London. “He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms.”

Given his own sartorial and hygienic proclivities—layering collared shirts and looking as though he hasn’t showered for days—it was strange to behold Bannon extolling interwar Italian couture. Social media feeds lit up with quips about the homoerotic subtext of Bannon’s Mussolini crush. This may have been an unexpected instance of a connection made between fascism and gay masculinism, but it is hardly without precedent. Gay men, closeted or otherwise, have featured prominently in fascist movements—despite the seemingly obvious contradiction between their sexual orientation and a political program that has usually been explicitly hostile to it. Ernst Röhm, for a time arguably the second most powerful Nazi leader, was gay—as were several senior figures in his paramilitary organization, the Sturmabteilung (SA).

In the postwar period, Michael Kühnen, a prominent German neo-Nazi who died of AIDS, noted that homosexuals were “especially well-suited for our task, because they do not want ties to wife, children and family.” Nicky Crane, a street-fighting activist in the British National Front, performed in gay pornography. The Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider, a married family man, died in a drunk-driving accident on his way home from a gay bar, while the most famous book by the French National Front supporter Renaud Camus is Tricks, a chronicle of his one-night stands with men.

A contemporary American figure who has married a macho gay male identity with ultra-reactionary politics is Jack Donovan, a neo-pagan advocate of “anarcho-fascism” and a leader of the Wolves of Vinland, a Norse revivalist “tribe” whose members gatherin forests to smear mud on themselves and sacrifice animals. Donovan is a self-described “barbarian” who despises femininity; in a 2006 book, he disavowed the term“gay” in favor of “androphile” (he now says he self-identifies as bisexual). Donovan has recently distanced himself from his former associations with white nationalism and alt-right leaders like Richard Spencer—though he still describes Spencer as a friend, someone “witty and stylish” with “balls.” Donovan’s disdain for effeminacy did not, however, prevent him from joining the self-described “faggot” Milo Yiannopoulos in a 2016 edition of the right-wing gadfly’s Breitbart-hosted podcast to discuss “their roles as gay provocateurs.”

Another prominent gay man on the far-right scene is James J. O’Meara, author of The Homo & the Negro, which, according to its publisher, “argues that the Far Right cannot effectively defend Western civilization unless it checks its premises about homosexuality and non-sexual forms of male bonding, which are undermined not just by liberals and feminists, but also by Judeo-Christian ‘family values’ advocates.” O’Meara is a proponent of the belief that Jews are engaged in a centuries-old conspiracy against Western civilization, for which libidinous and demonic blacks provide the muscle. ...

Read entire article at NY Review of Books