Surviving Whiteness: Fantasy, Faggotry, and the Androphile Politics of Jack Donovan

caught lacking

Paper presented at the National Communication Association 105th annual convention, “Communication for Survival,” in Baltimore, Maryland, where it was recognized as the Top Student Paper in the GLBTQ Communication Studies division, on November 16th, 2019.

A version of this paper was also recognized as the Best Honors Thesis in Communication at Wake Forest University in April 2019.

This essay contains references to ideologies of genocidal intent.

“The Gay Agenda:” a specter of flamboyant faggots, duplicitous drag queens, and gender outlaws coming to a white Christian cul-de-sac near you. This vision has haunted the American right since well before its religious shift in the late twentieth century, from the “lavender scare” of the ‘50s to the institutionalization of homosexuals under the umbrella of paraphilia. However, as the Overton Window continues to shift, conservatism has found new poster children within a batch of young, affluent, white millennials championing white nationalism, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, and myriad other far-right beliefs. Many corners of this “new” right have renounced many of their previous devotions in favor of intensifying their investments in white supremacy and misogyny: one of which being homophobia. To be clear, most of the far-right still believe that homosexuals are degenerates who deserve to die in the racial holy war. However, one need not look further than fallen star of the right Milo Yiannopoulos, the infamous writer and spokesman of The Dangerous Faggot fame, to show how much impact the embrace of gay men by the far-right can have: By highlighting his own homosexuality, Yiannopoulos gave the right a chip in the assumed game of neoliberal identity politics championed by their mainstream center-left opposition.

This phenomenon has grown to the extent that many white, cisgender gay men have negotiated the contours of a homosexual male identification outside of the LGBT context and the liberal-left connotations presumed by the acronym. This process of re-identification mandates a stark separation between the right-wing and mainstream homosexual subjects. As such, the threat of the gay agenda continues to loom, albeit translated for a very different context than its late-twentieth century conception. The queer subjects who find themselves accepted into the hallowed halls of white supremacy mobilize the same framework of the gay agenda to mark the differences between properly-redpilled queers and their liberal cuck counterparts. This process reeks of the same homophobia as that which was mobilized by the evangelical right against homosexuals in the past. Thus, I ask this central question: How do white gay men on the far-right negotiate their queerness in service of white supremacy?

In this paper, I examine the writings of Jack Donovan, one of the headlining personalities of the Wolves of Vinland, a network of Volkisch homosexual men in Virginia. However, his audience expands beyond the Wolves’ Lynchburg base camp; with several published books under his belt (including The Way of Men, a book that gets circulated particularly heavily among white nationalists, men’s rights activists, et cetera), countless well-circulated articles on far-right blogs, and an Instagram following of about 26,000, his politics of new homosexual masculinity reach a broad audience. He offers homosexual men a solution to cleanse them of the impurities of liberal LGBT culture, freeing them from the “sissified” gay agenda. He and his followers are “androphiles,” a replacement at all levels for “gay,” described in a titular manifesto. According to Donovan, androphilia is a positive identification with men who choose kinship with men; sexual attraction toward men is only a byproduct of the androphile’s devotion to men, masculinity, and manhood.[1] Donovan argues that the mainstream gay movement has become too imbricated in the LGBT coalition.[2] Instead, gay men should cultivate their natural alliance with other men instead of with lesbians and transgender people, with whom he sees hardly anything to be had in common.[3] The androphile identity is grounded in Donovan’s assertion of masculine purity and supremacy over the feminine, positing the ideal man to be a “barbarian” who defends his society from two gendered threats. He warns that men must defeat potential invaders invaders, who embody inferior masculinity because of their inability to successfully best the masculine subject. However, his primary fixation is upon controlling and containing a society’s feminine interior, lest it denigrate the masculine subject – the fate of gay men under liberalism.[4]

Contrary to many of his peers, Donovan ostensibly claims that androphiles should take an ambivalent approach to the racial politics of the far-right.[5] Unlike Milo, who does not bother to veil his bias against black people, immigrants, Muslims, and numerous other racialized populations, Donovan suggests that the androphile’s politics are race-neutral. Unfortunately, scholars of the far right have taken Donovan’s racial politics at face-value. In an anthology of the alt-right, Matthew Lyons writes, “…in contrast to most Alt Righists, race is not Donovan’s main focus or concern.[6] I fear Lyons has taken Donovan’s words at face-value. While he concedes that Donovan’s ideology shares much in common with the explicit white supremacy of related fascist movements, he does not flesh out the connection between androphilia and its natural allies: the neo-Nazis, white nationalists, the alt-right, and MRA’s who cite his books. In order to enrich the study of how homosexuality is negotiated as an identity within and as an antagonism against the far-right, I argue that, as a proposed replacement of the gay identity, androphilia is seductive because it binds together the Symbolic contradiction, yet Imaginary cohesion, of white supremacy and queer kinship. First, I’ll briefly discuss the theoretical scope of this paper before charting how androphilia tacitly reveals that its own project of reframing masculinity only reveals the constitutive Lack within white masculinity that Donovan recuperates using assumptions of white supremacy.

I use a close rhetorical analysis of Donovan’s writing in conversation with psychoanalytic queer theory. In particular, Lee Edelman isolated the sinthome, a bind through which subjects codify their identity within the relationships of the different registers.[7] I contrast androphilia as a sinthome to Lee Edelman’s sinthomosexual, which he describes as “…fantasy turned inside out, the seams of its costume exposing reality’s seamlessness as mere seeming, the fraying knots that hold each sequin in place now usurping that place.[8] Edelman’s sinthomosexual negates the presupposed coherence of gender at every juncture. As such, the original conception flies in the face of the androphile, a champion of naturalized masculine virility. However, the sinthomosexual and the androphile both begin with an escape from a presumed-natural function of the male body: reproduction. On the one hand, Edelman’s sinthomosexual embraces a loss in gendered meaning, theorized as part of a decline in symbolic efficiency inherent within homosexuality, as that which binds the tripartite orders into a radically-negative identity that cannot (re)produce the Symbols of heterosexuality.[9] On the other hand, the androphile re-introduces fantastical meaning into gender by refusing the inscription of femininity onto homosexuality.[10] Through this process, the androphile attempts to swim against the current of the decline in symbolic efficiency, fabulating gendered meaning when homophobia no longer grants masculinity its coherence.

One of the ways in which androphilia conceals its weddedness to white supremacy is through Donovan’s depoliticization of desire. Androphilia: A Manifesto begins by firmly rejecting the notion that homosexual men should form their politics from the standpoint of their sexual orientation, a clear point of contention between both the liberal LGBT community and Edelman’s radical paradigm. As Donovan writes, “The manifesto… is a rejection of the idea that the experience of homosexual desire should determine a man’s taste, his behavior, his friends or his politics. It’s a rejection of the idea that sexuality creates a complete identity or defines a man.[11] This opens up room for the androphile to begin from his natural manhood rather than his attraction to the manhood of another man. However, this exchange does not succeed in alienating desire from identity formation, as Donovan claims. Rather, it replaces one form of desire for another: desire for inclusion, the cornerstone of the homonormative subject.

I won’t go too far into how homonormativity functions here, but I will outline how the study of far-right homosexual men forces us to reconsider the homonormative subject in this new political sphere, where Lisa Duggan’s “third way” has dropped any pretense of race-neutrality. In 2002, when a religious, conservative power base still held the reins on the expansion of liberal gay rights in the United States, a core tenant of homonormativity was the rejection of conservative moral purity politics, an outright dismissal of the “gay agenda” as a form of fear-mongering.[12] On the other hand, nowadays, many core elements of the far right have thrown themselves behind homosexual spokesmen, and numerous far-right movements have foregone Christian fundamentalism (or, at the very least, those parts of Christian fundamentalism that prevented homonormative inclusion into right-wing movements). As such, the homonormative subject no longer adheres to a third way politic that Duggan initially described, one that takes the social liberalism of the American left along more traditionally-conservative economic, political, and racial politics. Now, a homonormative subject may throw themselves fully in the lot with the new right, as their inclusion is not only permitted, but encouraged, by some circles – as long as they’re a white man.

Now, if androphilic desire is allegedly depoliticized, Donovan’s identity still needs something upon which to attach, a grammar that renders androphilia legible. Try as it might, the androphile does not divorce his nascent political identity from his desire for intimacy with men, or rather, manhood. The subject to which the androphiles strive is a hyper-masculine homosexual whose relationship to his manhood keeps its foot in the door of whiteness. For example, in the face of the feminization of homosexual men, Donovan alludes to masculinity as “universally understood,” suggesting that anyone, no matter their social, cultural, or political positioning, can “differentiate between men who are masculine and those who are less so.[13] He explicitly chooses not to pin down the precise differences between masculine and feminine men, arguing that language is insufficient to truly describe the rush of testosterone that delineates “natural” man’s business from femininity.[14] The slippage in Donovan’s masculine ideal is a demonstration of the fantastic nature of masculinity as an identification and gender as a language. The androphile’s masculinity cannot be pinned down because the traits associated with masculinity – Euro-centric standards of male physicality, courage defined by an us-versus-them dichotomy, et cetera – are only masculine insofar as they are defined by what they are not: feminine, blackened, and Other. As such, Donovan’s masculine subject is not inherently masculine outside of its Lack of femininity, which is always relegated to a non-white body.

Donovan’s only attempt to produce a culturally-comparative analysis of masculinity, his only attempt to signify the masculine outside of a negative dialectic with femininity, only further demonstrates how white supremacy is woven into the sinthome of androphilia, giving its excessive desire something to which it can endlessly strive. He suggests that one thing that men have in common is, paradoxically, that they cherish being a man, and would “rather be dead than physically emasculated.”[15] He continues:

In particularly macho cultures from ancient Rome to the modern Middle East, men would often prefer death even to psychological emasculation – as evidenced by Muslim outrage over the sexual humiliations perpetrated on men in Abu Ghraib. Being a man and being thought of as a man by one’s male peers is deeply important to the vast majority of men; it is absolutely fundamental to their identities.[16]

In this passage, he demonstrates the racialized and imperial impact of this practice of gender: To be thought of as a man in a race-neutral (and therefore white, Christian, and Western) context is to validate the sexualized torture of Others under the pretense of emasculating them, an act of bodily and gendered, imperial warfare. The war crimes at Abu Ghraib were part and parcel of a united America utilizing its apparent sexual freedom to terrorize and feminize those who had supposedly terrorized and feminized America on 9/11. Recall that the tortures at Abu Ghraib were not authorized through some rationale of political calculus. Instead, the logic by which the American military and Donovan both justify the torture is reproduced through individuated desire for masculinity at the expense of others.[17] For Donovan, there is no man without conquest in an effort to fill masculinity’s Lack, and the androphile’s conquest occurs along the lines of American imperialism abroad and anti-blackness and settler colonialism at home.

Additionally, this negative definition of masculinity demonstrates the nature of his masculinity as an empty appeal to a Symbolic law of gender. In the above passage, he takes pride in the fact that the only thing that men have in common is that they are not women. This formation mirrors a psychoanalytic theory of masculine identification. The assumption that a man “has” the phallus, or that he has supposedly mastered their conception of (gendered) identity, forces the terror of loss onto men.[18] When men perceive that they are sufficiently masculine, they obsess to maintain that against all potential threats.[19] This leaves the androphile to endlessly grasp for a sense of identity through his fruitlessly attempts to avoid the feminine, to protect against blackness, both as attempts to “keep” what he never had in the first place: a stable identity.

This aspirational masculinity attempts to conceal its negative identity by associating itself with empty signifiers of possession – “being manly,” rather than “not being womanly.” This is exemplified in Donovan’s polemic against gay marriage in the epilogue of the manifesto. For Donovan, marriage is meant to exist between a man and a woman for the purpose of reproduction. Thus, homosexual men should instead celebrate their relationship through a fraternal union, symbolized through Neo-Pagan “coming of age” rituals, like sharing blood.[20] This suggestion demonstrates, quite literally, how masculinity reduces itself to symbolic acts to prove itself to be whole.  Because the androphile has failed on two accounts – first, to fulfill his racial-reproductive duties with a woman, and second, more fundamentally, to constitute his identity as a whole-something in its own right – he resorts to an anxious performance of hyper-masculine kinship at the expense of all feminized and blackened communities.

With the androphile’s identity found Lacking, how does Donovan’s theorization of androphilia fit into the grand scope of the new right? Donovan elucidates a masculine-supremacist interpretation of the Donald Trump presidency in “No One Will Ever Make America Great Again,” written a decade after the Manifesto. He argues that Trump cannot fulfill his motto’s promise because the days in which America were great, named by Donovan as the post-War era, was so great because “The American people were far less diverse in racial background and religious belief. The sexes were still largely segregated, and sex roles were clearly defined.[21] Despite his virulent anti-immigrant stances, Donovan argues that Trump cannot stem the tide of immigration and hyper-femininity that will make non-Hispanic whites “the minority” and properly-masculine men awash in philosophical and social heterogeneity.[22] Even the politics of mass deportation, expansion of carceralism in black communities, and the fierce rolling-back of rights for women and transgender people cannot stop the gay agenda. This begs the question: To what extent would Donovan see exercised in order to contain the feminine interior and defeat the failed invaders? How far beyond Trump is far enough? Clearly, the measures needed to produce Donovan’s preferred homogenous America cut into fascism that mirrors the demands of contemporary neo-Nazi movements. To “make America white again,” as Donovan describes and hopes, non-whites would have to be humiliated, deported, and exterminated en masse, and the forms of sociality afforded to the population could only be in the service of striving toward the unfillable Lack of masculinity.[23]

When brought to its completion, the true androphile pits himself into a conflict for the survival of America as a pure, white society against the encroachment of racialized men who embody failed masculinity. This conflict functions to defend and produce their own masculinity while simultaneously constructing non-white immigrants, Black people, and indigenous people as feminized, failed gender deviants to be corralled and exterminated. In their actions outside of the texts, Donovan and the androphiles mimic pastoral whiteness that mirrors the ongoing process of survival and settlement, as demonstrated by his extended tribal metaphor in The Way of Men. Through Donovan’s work, the androphiles find their best example of male kinship in action through the Wolves of Vinland, a neo-pagan “tribe” located outside of Lynchburg, Virginia. Holding rituals involving spreading blood and mud on the muscular, tattooed bodies of their Norse neo-pagan tribesmen, the Wolves demonstrated a return to the purity of nature, the purity of European spirituality, and as such, the purity of white male kinship. It should be no surprise that the Wolves of Vinland have accepted donations from alt-right publishing giant Counter Currents Publishing, and they have confirmed favor toward a deluge of white nationalist endorsements.[24]

The Wolves’ – and, by extension, the androphiles’ – tribalism provides another avenue through which they attempt to utilize investments in white supremacy in order to satisfy their drive toward masculinity. Because hegemonic Western manhood lacks formalized initiation rituals of manhood that were prevalent in the Norse pre-Christian cultures that the they desperately mimic, Donovan’s androphiles had to invent their own initiations, drawing upon their spiritual memory of heathenism. The tribesmen of the Wolves of Vinland emphasize their wilderness retreats and bloody rituals as rites of passage into their aesthetic movement. This harkening toward the natural, forested settings, untouched by corrupt, feminized modernity, eerily mirrors the mid-twentieth century rites of initiation utilized by male-centered, anti-woman collectives in the wake of the mainstreaming of women’s liberation. As Nicolas Fields accounts, “…the allure of a true and legitimate gender identity was hard to deny for a large group of men who were left with more questions than answers in the wake of feminism’s second wave.[25] The truth and legitimacy of this identity, questioned not on its own accord but in response to the demands of feminism, belies the fantastical nature of the male identity that androphilia upholds. With every mock Norse ritual performed in the Virginian woods and each double-tap gifted to one of Donovan’s Instagram posts, a knot is tied between homosexuality and whiteness in a futile attempt to achieve the perfect fantasy of masculinity, and another androphile is born.

In closing, the work of tracing the birth of the androphilic identity at the psychic level reveals that scholars following the rise of the new right must take a closer look at the diverse identities and political traditions of its members, especially as transgender, gender non-conforming, and similar-gender attracted people find themselves selectively incorporated into its ranks.[26] After all, the Wolves of Vinland would likely frown on the flamboyance of Milo Yiannopoulos due to his flamboyant performativity, a symptom of his feminization. As such, it is evident that there is no singular rubric for how and why the right seeks out these homonormative subjects, and vice versa. What attracts some men to androphilia is different than what draws others to neoreaction, neo-Nazism, the alt-right, et cetera. Critically examining the factors that attract homosexual men to the new right, and the new right to homosexual men, arms scholars with new tools to counteract those psychosocial factors. With this research, queer and trans communities might better recognize the dangers of this new, homonormative fascism, opening the door for new modes of resistance against the siren song of fantastic masculinity.

[1] Jack Malebranche, Androphilia, A Manifesto: Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity (Baltimore, MD: Scapegoat Publishing, 2006), 113.

[2] In this essay, the term “men” refers to cisgender men, as Donovan’s ideology does not support the existence of transgender men in the first place. To demarcate “cisgender” versus “transgender” in Donovan’s description of male brotherhood would be to give him far too much credit in his ability to articulate gender difference.

[3] Malebranche, Androphilia, 18.

[4] Jack Donovan, The Way of Men (Milwaukie, OR: Dissonant Hum, 2012), chap. The Perimeter.

[5] Jack Donovan, “No One Will Ever Make America Great Again,” Jack Donovan (blog), July 8, 2016,

[6] Lyons, “Ctrl-Alt-Delete.”

[7] Osserman, “Is the Phallus Uncut?,” 505.

[8] Edelman, No Future, 35.

[9] Edelman, 149.

[10] Malebranche, Androphilia, 112.

[11] Ibid., ix.

[12] Duggan, “The New Homonormativity,” 176.

[13] Malebranche, Androphilia, 65.

[14] Ibid., 66.

[15] Malebranche, Androphilia, 45.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Agathangelou, Bassichis, and Spira, “Intimate Investments,” 124.

[18] It is important to remember that, in Lacanian terms, the phallus does not refer to the sexual organ itself, but rather to the phallus as representation of Lack and sexual difference.

[19] Stephen Frosh, Sexual Difference: Masculinity and Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1994), 77.

[20] Malebranche, Androphilia, 65.

[21] Donovan, “No One Will Ever Make America Great Again.”

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Betsy Woodruff, “Inside Virginia’s Creepy White-Power Wolf Cult,” The Daily Beast, November 12, 2015, sec. us-news,

[25] Nicolas Field, “Farewell Manly Strength: Masculinity and the Politics of Emotion” (University of Toronto, 2017), 35.

[26] I choose not to describe the potential non-cisgender, non-heterosexual members of the new right as “LGBT.” While some might choose to use those labels, some, like the androphiles, begin by rejecting the acronym and even the identity of “gay” due to its feminization, liberalization, or association with racial minorities. Scholars of men who have sex with men, especially those who identify as heterosexual, demonstrates that to identify within the LGBT community is a political choice. More comparative research might elucidate why some in the new right, like Blaire White, do not shirk from these mainstream phrases, while others write multiple manifestos on why they do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: