Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bigots Don't Get to Claim the Moral High Ground

Uganda plans to introduce the death penalty for gays, but the government there says it's more likely that the bill will only pass with life imprisonment:

I'm not sure why, but in the last week, I've been presented with several issues that all involve gay hate and persecution in the Christian community. I've wanted to post about it, but wasn't sure how to put it into a concise and linear statement. So, I've given up trying; and instead I am including below some abbreviated recent thoughts I've sent privately to a few correspondents:

Correspondence 1:
...I'm getting near to a boiling point with the whole anti-gay thing and religion. It may be difficult to believe, but I actually am more angry at the religious persecution of gays than of women. With women, the idea is a submissive existence, where women are acceptable—but only if they know their place. But gays have no "place" in Abrahamic religion, generally. Even some of the most educated Christians I know seem to have difficulty admitting there's nothing wrong with it. The stupidity they spout, such as "Well, that's up to god, I don't judge." As though they think there is some sort of dilemma. Judge what?!

I met a gay guy this week who was raised by fundamentalist parents. They believe in faith healing, and all manner of garbage. They taught him that gays were vile, evil, crimes against nature, abominations to god, the whole nine yards. He said he didn't really think about it until he hit 13-14 and began to have sexual thoughts about the other boys in his school. Then he started worrying and wondering why god made him with these feelings, but was going to send him to hell. He told me he would engage in regular teen-boy activities in his room, and then feel so bad about it he'd go and shower and scrub himself until he bled. Finally, around 17, he took a bunch of pills. He said the attempt was half-hearted. And I'm happy for that—because today he's a talented musician with a lot to offer. About his parents, he said he knows they only did what they were taught, and they didn't know any better. He loves them and says they took care of him and tried to keep him from harm. But I can't help thinking of all the trouble they caused, and how easy it would have been to keep him from that harm, if only they'd just asked: "Why are we saying this is so bad?"

His father told him eventually that he'd always known/suspected his son was gay. He explained he couldn't understand how a loving parent could suspect their child is gay, and still proceed to tell them all the horrible hateful things his parents told him about homosexuality.

I have brown eyes. Most people on the planet have brown eyes. That doesn't mean people without brown eyes are unnatural. And it's certainly no license to persecute or hate them. "Uncommon" should never be equated with "evil." "Evil" needs far more justification than that.

I have trouble grasping how people who exhibit hatred and bigotry and persecution—even violence in some cases—against gays can be considered to be on the "right" side of anything, while a gay man who forgives all the pain that has been inflicted on him, and just wants to live and be happy and not hurt anyone, is the vile abomination?

I seem to be getting a lot of prods on this issue recently. And until social equality is reached in this arena, I suppose everyone on the side of reason should be weighing in on this. ACA always supports the Gay Pride Festival locally. And I think this is an issue that is ripe for constant hammering. Hateful bigots who comfort themselves that they're on the side of right really need to be told as loudly and often as possible they're on the side of pure, unadulterated evil.

I just need to find the right words. But maybe those are the right words? Maybe that's all that needs to be said?

Thanks for your letter. Sorry that gay people everywhere have been somehow singled out to put up with the worst of this bullshit, honestly.

Correspondence 2:
Maltreatment of women gets a lot of media attention. And well it should. But to me, the crimes against the gay community are so much worse—not by magnitude of numbers, but by sheer irrationality and vilification. Even the most misogynistic religions will allow a place, however disdainful, to women. But with gays—I mean, I can’t imagine being stoned to death because of how I was born. I loathe to see a woman persecuted for refusing to wear a veil. But I know that horrible as it is, she can hide behind that veil and live in hopes the oppression will end. With “gay”—there is no “king’s X”—no compromise you can strike. What you are is wrong.

To try and make it more clear, I host a party every year in November at a local Lake lodge. I invite friends, and we hang out for a weekend. One year, a gay friend told me that the location I use is notorious in the gay community for a gay hate murder that happened there years ago.

Here’s the point that bothers me: There are men who will rape and murder women. But I am aware society condemns those men as monsters and criminals. We haven’t quite reached that level of understanding with “gay.” Today, if someone kills a “fag,” I'm disturbed to know there are still a number of people in our culture who think the “queer” got what was coming to him. Literally, he shouldn’t have been gay.

And there is no rational basis for this hatred and vilification. These are good people who happen to be a minority percentage who are attracted to same sex mates for whatever reason. They’re not hurting anyone. They’re not converting anyone. They just want to do what any of us do, and be open about who they are and live their lives. And for that, they are vilified and persecuted.

I recall when I was in church, “gay” didn’t even require an explanation for why it was a sin. It just was. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” right? Phenotypic attributes occur in populations on a bell curve—nearly across the board. You have the most dominant traits, and then you have less dominant extremes on either end, and a lot of diversity in between. I have gay friends who say they could have sex with opposite sex partners if push came to shove (some have even been married before), and others who say it wouldn’t be possible for them. I have straight friends who can’t fathom gay behavior, and others who say it’s six of one, half dozen of the other. In anthropology, you study different cultures around the globe, and by no means is homosexuality vilified in all areas like it is in our culture. And historically, it’s the same. Depending on where/when you happened to be born—you may be accepted, considered to be special to the gods, or executed.

There used to be a commercial where they sold contacts to change your eye color. In every commercial they shot, the woman they were selling to had brown eyes. Well, blue and green eyes are beautiful, I agree. But the fact is, if you want to sell contacts to color eyes, your target market is brown because brown eyes are the dominant trait in humans: Africa, Asia, South America, India, Aboriginal Australians, Native Americans, the Mid East—you get the idea. What if it was determined that since most people have brown eyes, eyes that aren’t brown are a crime against nature? Unnatural and therefore a sin? Punishable by death, imprisonment, or being persecuted and vilified by your society? Can you imagine the label such an initiative would get in today’s society? Not one person would think you were sane to suggest such a thing. And yet that’s exactly what we do to gays. And nearly all the haters think you’re crazy to question “why?” To them, that question, by itself, is evidence of your own moral depravity. It’s "obvious" what’s wrong with these people—in the fundamentalist mind. They're not the standard, so they’re wicked. But loads of people have attributes that are nonstandard, and we don't think it’s fine to kill them. And the false facts cooked up to vilify it are just aggravating. I recall some years ago showing someone once that AIDS was most prominent in heterosexual, not homosexual populations. They refused to believe it until the statistics were staring them in their face. It’s frustrating to know good people who are subjected to this sort of prejudicial treatment, and then recognize a lot of people in our culture don’t understand what the motivation could possibly be to make it otherwise.

A Final Note
Just to add that the reason in the Christian Bible for condemning homosexuality is that it places a male in the position of a female. In other words, it's a misogynistic argument that it's wrong for a man to be used as a lowly woman. It's a disgrace to male superiority, and any man who humiliates himself (puts himself on the level of a rank female) needs to die.

In Leviticus 18:22, the Bible says, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." It's right between rules against burning children as human sacrifices and having sex with animals. That's where you rank if you're gay, according to the Christian god (to whom these statements are attributed in verses 1 and 2 of the same chapter).

Later in Leviticus 20, which also starts out attributing it's content directly to god, in verse 13 it says, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

I can hear it already, though: "That's the Old Testament."

Yes, it is. It's the Old Testament, the first part of your Christian Bible, and it says your Christian god instructed this harmful idiocy. You either believe these statements are correct and that god, in fact, did instruct His adherents to do these things—in which case you agree these statements, and any compliant actions resulting (such as murdering gay men) were actually justified by your Christian god (and therefore acceptable to you—if you are an adherent of this same god); or you think your Bible is incorrect when it comes to what it says god tells people to do, in which case, how is the book even helpful, as it's admittedly untrustworthy?

If you believe your Bible is correct, and you agree with this content and worship this personality you think ordered the murder of these people as moral "law," for the crime of not inheriting the most common phenotypic attributes of their overall populations, then as I said earlier, you are on the side of "pure, unadulterated evil." You and your god are no more "moral" than another historic figure who also once decided that people with the "wrong" phenotypes should be removed from the human population.


  1. Hear hear.

    One of my best friends from high school is gay. He and his partner went to England to get married as we're still behind the 8 ball on that one here in australia.

    They're one of the best couples I know. Certainly the happiest and most stable couple so far of anyone in my graduating year of 2002. I don't know how any resonable person could have a problem with their relationship.

    And to think this is all from the same arseholes that continually carry on about "how can you have love without god?"

  2. I have to break my silence on this one, since it's too good of a post and too important of an issue.

    My take on this, briefly: Homophobia is really no different than the hate and fear that have been leveled against other targets in our society in the past. In fact, it looks practically the same to me as what used to be directed (publicly) at women and racial minorities.

    However, the main thing that differentiates this more modern prejudice against homosexuality is that there hasn't yet been a large-scale civil rights movement for the gay community like there has been for other targets like women and racial minorities. So the socio-political "Zeitgeist" remains frozen in this backward, bronze-age attitude that's so amenable to Biblical interpretation.

    In fact, prior to the suffrage movement, women were approximately as faceless to fear and hate as homosexuals are right now - they were effectively the property of their husbands to do with as they wanted. Also, before the CRM of the 60s (culminated by the CRA of 1964), Americans of African descent were just as vulnerable. I remember my mother (who grew up in Mississippi) telling me that, when she was a young woman in the 50's and 60's, the typical Saturday night party for the local kids was to "go get us some n###ers".

    Biblical justifications for lynching and murdering can be, and were, reeled off at will for both of these groups. As we all know, because of it's bronze-age mentality, Biblical sanction of hatred of anyone can be concocted over one's morning coffee any day of the week. So this should come as no surprise.

    But because of the large-scale socio-political attention that was forced upon the situations of woman and racial minorities through our various CRM's, the "Zeitgeist" has begun to shift away from the really intense barbarism towards those groups. It still ain't great, but it's noticeably more civilized (and legally restrained) than before.

    As for homosexuality, a good way to gauge this community's condition would be to ask any one of your favorite bigots the following questions:

    - Why is discrimination and brutality against women and black Americans wrong?

    - Why is discrimination/brutality against homosexuals wrong?

    The chances are good that (s)he'll be able to at least recite some concrete answers to the first (notions of racial inferiority have been demonstrated to be wrong, it's against the law and I'll go to jail, etc), but (s)he'll probably be completely at sea in answering the second. You'll probably get some head-scratching and then something like "er... how is it wrong to go beat up gays? I don't understand, the Bible says...."

    So, basically, my take here is that fear and hate don't really have that much discriminatory capacity. They just latch onto whatever the target happens to be at the time. Then they invent whatever fearful/hateful things they need to to propagate themselves and apply those to the target. There's no reasoning going on here, just fear and hate.

    In my view, the process of overcoming this prejudice will probably not be that different than the prejudices of the past. That's unfortunate because the fights are so horrifying and bloody, at least if history is our guide. But in the end it has to be done.


  3. Awesome post, Tracie. You deconstruct the Leviticus passage perfectly. In addition, Paul's NT use of arsenokoitai and malakoi continue the misogyny. Paul's biggest beef with male homosexual acts doesn't seem to be due to any inherent moral issue, but due to the fact that the homosexuality of his day placed men in the roles of prostitutes and companions, which were of course traditional female roles!

    So it's not about right vs wrong, it's about men vs women, according to the Bible. After all, what might happen if women were allowed to be seen as equals to men? Perish the thought.

    Like you, I'm tired of the insipid Christian argument about "Old Testament rules". Apparently, they are unaware that Jesus upheld the Law to it's very letter (Matt. 5:17-18).

    Thanks for your passionate thoughts,
    Craig in NC

  4. I just want to say that this post has been brewing for a long time. But I was hesitant to weigh in for two reasons:

    1. I'm not gay and can't speak to this like a gay person can.

    2. I know the stupidity of the people who are anti-gay, and I have so little patience for that level of ignorance and hatefulness that I didn't wish to invite that dialog.

    But I'm shocked in a good way to see the positive response to this post both here at the Blog as well as at Facebook, where I also posted the link.

    I'm glad to see so many people in support of this coming out--esp in the hetero community.

    Gives me hope for humanity!

  5. Excellent post Tracie.
    You hit the target dead on with the connection between misogyny and hatred of Homosexuals.I certainly noticed the continual degradation of females by the ancient Hebrews when reading the Bible.I don't know how the dogma of the Hebrew priests writing the scriptures reflected the general attitude of the common people,but the priests were determined to insult the feminine.Unless of course the women were giving birth to little future warriors,and prophets.All good then.
    I think its clear there is a deep fear of gender nonconformity in the Bible.

    Having read a bit about the surrounding cultures of the period,I don't think the attitude of the Hebrews was by any means universal.
    I don't think you can blame the Sumerians,Egyptians,or the Greeks.

    Speaking of other cultures,I've studied Native Americans enough to know their traditional cultures were far more humane.
    I came across a fascinating book years ago about a Zuni named We'Wha.He was a biological male who wore women's clothes,and was called a Lhamana.He/She performed as the Kolhamana Kachina.So there you have a Two-Spirit god.
    We'Wha was not rejected.He/she was very much a part of tribe,and family.
    And having read the book,I can tell you quite a character.An accomplished,and confident individual.We'Wha even traveled to Washington,and met the President.
    And no,most of the whites did not know he was a biological male.
    Just thought he was a "Big Gal".
    What the anthropologist who brought him to Washington thought of it is another story.

    So really,all cultures are not the same.There is no excuse for the stupidity,and cruelty that is coming from followers of Yaweh/Allah/Jesus.

    God hates gays is festering horse manure.The believers are responsible for carrying this on in the face of all common sense,and compassion.
    Your fault folks.

    The title of the book I refered to is;The Zuni Man-Woman by Will Roscoe.
    I looked up Roscoe on Wikipedia.It seems he has been keeping up the work.I'm sure the one on Jesus and Same Sex shamanism will piss off the Xians.

    To the poster named "Is".
    There has been a civil rights movement for the Gay community.Maybe it's just a sad fact that there hasn't been enough straight support.But people are trying.

  6. >Maybe it's just a sad fact that there hasn't been enough straight support.But people are trying.

    I actually heard from the guy described in this post today. I expressed the same concern. I said that it's like the Civil Rights movement in America (and I suppose emancipation as well). At the time, blacks were such a huge minority that without sympathetic support from outside groups, they'd either not have met even the modest goals that have been made, or else it would have been much slower going.

    I sometimes feel that issues that don't impact me personally, I should step back and let those impacted do the talking for themselves. But I now have come to understand that this movement requires as many hands on deck as can be mustered. I figure if I make a misstep and say something wrong, there are gay people out there who can take me to task and correct me. I'd rather speak out and be corrected than keep silent and let this go on uncondemned. Gays aren't "detestable"--bigots are.

  7. "I sometimes feel that issues that don't impact me personally, I should step back and let those impacted do the talking for themselves."

    What would you do?,vclip,1,0

    Always speak out.

  8. >1. I'm not gay and can't speak to this like a gay person can.

    Actually it's good to show that you have the sort of empathy that Christians claim to own but show very little of. That's what it's all about, really: empathy. Whenever I try to discuss this issue, it makes me angry. Angry that it even needs discussing!

    Anyway, I don't know what it's like elsewhere, but here in Australia many heterosexuals tend to be dismissive of the whole fight. It's like they think the war has been won for the gays, they have equality, and now we need to stop making such a fuss. Many people are completely oblivious to the fact that equality hasn't been won yet.

    A couple of times at work I've had people (all ages, teenage, twenties, even one in her thirties) ask me if I plan to marry my partner or adopt children. It surprises me that it surprises them that both of those options are illegal where we live.

    It seems that only people (mostly, with a few exceptions) who care about the issue are us gays (and our immediate supporters), and the religious (Christians, mostly). No politician is every going to win an election on a platform of equality for gays because there's just not enough votes in it to win. They can lose elections because of it, though.

  9. Wow, Kevin.

    Thanks for the link. It's disgusting. I like to think I would absolutely speak up in this situation. When I noted I don't like to speak _for_ someone else, I only meant that I feel like the "right" person to discuss the experience of being gay is a gay person. I can sympathize or empathize, but I feel presumptuous in speaking for people that I can't honestly represent. There's always a risk involved in getting it wrong in that situation. But seeing someone abused in this fashion publicly, I'd probably have to say something. I think I'd be like the Ukraine lady--at least I hope I would.

    My favorite item is the Brooklyn guy who said "I don't like it"--but indicated he thought the discrimination was wrong. That's, to me, exactly as bad as the "I don't judge" crowd. There's this attitude people have about "gay" that it's something they have a duty or a right to judge; and it doesn't occur to them that perhaps there's nothing there to judge. If you ate oatmeal, would I have to make some sort of moral statement about whether or not I agree with it? Not _everything_ everyone else does needs to be evaluated by others. And I see gay as being in the "how does this matter to anyone else?" category. There are things about everyone else's lifestyle I'm sure I could identify that I would personally not wish to adopt or agree with, but I don't feel as though I need to make an assessment of _them_ doing it. So many people, when they say something sympathetic or kind about a gay person feel it's their right or obligation to preface that comment with "I don't like it" or "I don't personally agree with it, but..." But what was done to them in the restaurant was _wrong_ (in your link). Why can't he just say, "The waiter was rude and in the wrong--and he shouldn't have treated them that way"? Why does he have to say, 'I don't like it...but what was done to them was wrong"? Whence the need to condemn it _first_ before you then advocate? I don't get that. The only thing I can think of is that I know another atheist blogger who often posts on homosexuality. And he often receives comments that indicate the person replying believes _he_ must _be_ gay--since he's writing in support of gay issues.

    It may be as innocent as the reality that so few heterosexuals get involved or take a large, active position on these issues? But I wonder if the disclaimer "I don't agree with it, but..." is intended to be a message that "I'm not gay, but..."? Still, that leaves me with the thought, "So what if someone thinks your gay--is that bad?" As I said to the one correspondent, I don't know why gays are targeted, but I feel badly that they're on the receiving end of so much undeserved grief.

  10. Ben:

    I couldn't agree more. It's almost as if, at least in America, the sentiment for many (not all, thankfully) is, "Well, it's illegal to beat you up now--what else do you want?" Seriously, it's grotesque.

    I don't know why I always feel like I need to apologize when I talk to a gay person about this, but even now, I'm just thinking, "I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this..." It's so flagrantly _wrong_. And in a note with the guy I wrote about in this post last night, he wrote, regarding this blog:

    "...obviously, very honest and logical arguments and points for a deserved case of which i'm not only biased but obviously agree upon, because it's logical to do so, and idiotic to not. I can't understand how anyone of any slight level of intelligence can not agree upon it either."

    That sums up my sentiments exactly. If not for religion, I can't think of any reasonable basis for having a problem with a the gay population. And I know that just saying that makes some people freak out and think I'm just depraved. And they have no rational basis--only fallacious arguments that are promoted by the religious community (and that, sadly, many secular people seem to be also hoodwinked by--if you saw the show with me and Jen).

  11. My friend from Canada pointed out that it seems Americans are getting disturbingly more vocal in opposition/resentment to the Civil Rights movement. People like the TBoE and Rush are getting bolder in their thinly veiled dog whistles. I had to explain to my SO, how Rush had been using the term "Halfrician American" to deal with bi-racial Americans. With the connotations on disparaging one's citizenship and bringing up the specter of blood purity (hilarious to come form a part neanderthal like Rush). The question rose is how the hell is that different from the N word. And really it isn't. The N word never fell out of vogue, the phonic label of it just changed.

    It seems that Americans in broad strokes are getting resentful of that 'human rights' thing. The political spectrum has gone fuck insane. Hell, via the Teaparty the John Birchers are back in power. The gay issue is just the surface, if people let them ratchet that back they're not gonna just stop there.

    And the biggest problem is the GOD DAMN FUCKING liberals who apparently have decided to stop actually standing for any principle and keep giving and giving ground to them. Yeah, that's right, throw the woman's issues under the bus for the health care, don't question DOMA, Can't have a president SUPPORT gay people. Fuck you DNC!

  12. Oh and to go in on why we need gay marriage. I know people who CANNOT move out of their state to get a better job or leave their crappy apartment because DOMA would render them non-married in most other states. DOMA is a blatantly unconstitutional disgrace that has to be brought to the SC to overturn.

    You know fuck it, how is "Don't ask don't tell" even a DEBATE!? That really just shows how fucked up our politics are that it is. What the gay issue is the ONE element where you expect the troops to be more fragile than the citizenry, are you fucking kidding me? We will ship them out to risk having the flesh blown off their face but having them interact with a queer is too great a risk? The DNC needs to stop acting like they[re still the opposition and actually start throwing some goddamn principles around. They won the elections and STILL let the GOP frame the conversations and debate. Play to win damn it. I want to see commercials comparing anti-gay politicians to Strom Thurman.

  13. Wow, Ing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this riled. Good!

    >You know fuck it, how is "Don't ask don't tell" even a DEBATE!?

    I had a dialog about this with someone I care about. So, I tried to be gentle, but they kept saying DADT was supposed to be assisting gays, and now gays were against it, and what gives?

    I pointed out that much of civil rights legislation has to move in increments, and that a step here or there of forward progress—what _can be_ achieved in any given moment—isn’t necessarily the be-all-end-all of the movement.

    DADT helped in that it allowed gays to be, as I noted in my article about women behind the veil, hidden—to escape persecution by hiding it. So, you couldn’t be “outed” and tossed out of the military. That’s certainly _better_ than what we had before; but by no means is it an ultimate solution. Equality is everyone’s right in the U.S. when it comes to fair treatment under the law and through the government. As you say—that’s not a debate, that’s our founding principle laid out in the Declaration, and then pragmatically executed under the Constitution—which is the foundational legal authority in this nation.

    It pained me to understand that someone I like was honestly asking me “what is wrong with DADT?” I simply explained that there isn’t a “don’t talk about your sexual orientation” policy in the military. There is no ban on heterosexuals discussing their orientation, exploits, relationships with wives, families, etc. They can discuss any/all of that without any fear of reprisal or punishment. But a gay person in the military cannot. How can anyone not grasp that clear discrepancy?

    But indoctrination throws up such opaque barriers to reason. In the military, if I’m straight and I admit it, I’m fine. If I’m gay and I admit it, I’m discharged. In whose rational mind does that represent legal/governmental equity, rather than disparity?

  14. I would like to add a more positive comment to this post. I went to a equality march this weekend in Austin, which is something I haven't been doing too often lately, and the best part of the march was to see the faces of the people in the cars passing us by. I would guess that less then 30% of the people passing us seemed were pissed off by us and many were actively cheering us on. Also the people who didn't support us seemed to be over the age of 50 so they will die soon. I think Tracie is right that in order for help not just from gay lesbian and bisexual individuals but also from straight allies, but from the looks of it, at least in Austin, I think we might be getting that support.

  15. I am sad to see oppression olympics played out on these pages. Do we really have to set up violence against women as the foil for gay hate?

  16. Ing,

    Look on the bright side...

    Permafrost should be along any minute now to tell us that none of this really matters, since it's all just politics anyway, which reduces to competing strategies for future resource utilization.

    So who cares what the Bible actually says or doesn't say?

    Cheer up.

  17. Tracie,

    The problem was, and remains, that multitudes of straight folks simply cannot think about gay folks without thinking about gay sex - and their own visceral reactions to it.

    So "Hi, I'm your neighbor Mike and this is my boyfriend Alan" becomes While you're at home watching Lost, cleaning the bathroom or telling the kids to get off the Xbox and do their homework, we're RIGHT NEXT DOOR having GAY SEX! Pass the lube!

    Silly? Yeah, but there we are. Fortunately this collective fixation is, slowly, beginning to abate.

  18. Great post Tracie, as usual and I know I am repeating myself. My only issue is that it is always a bit long, takes me ages to read it and then I missed all the fun when it is time for me to comment.

    As for how to respond to religious homophobes (are there any other kind?), I will plug again on this blog Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers: his main character, a gay writer who lives through the XXth century, says something about Nazi Germany (and I paraphrase here, and I hope nobody will invoke Godwin's Law): the language of the gutter is the only appropriate one. When someone wants to kill you, or lock you away for what you are, it is useless, even counter productive, to stay civil.

    And when can we expect a new Atheist Eve strip?

  19. George:

    Also, it's funny you note this. It's not unusual for people to discuss the disparity with how men view gay women vs. gay men, with the lesbian sex encounter ranking high in straight male porn. I personally don't cringe at the thought of gay sex, but understand that the emotional reaction is hard for anyone to overcome. The reality is that if our reason says "yes" but our emotions rail "no"--it's a conflict in us. So, I do respect the internal battle that is within some people on this issue. While I can't speak to what causes aversions to one thing or another one this or that person, when we encounter an aversion, it takes a big man/woman to say "despite how this rubs me, I know I need to be OK with it."

    In some regards, it's awfully close to the Brooklyn guy who said "I don't like it" but said he didn't agree with the discrimination (in the video link provided by another commenter above). However, he never notes that his not liking it is irrational or unfounded. It's, at least it seems, in the vein of someone saying "Well, what that radio announcer said was despicable, I agree, but I hold to his right to free speech."

    The response to that for someone criticizing my sexual orientation would be a confused, "Thaaaaannnksss...? I mean, well, glad you don't advocate someone abusing me publicly, but sorry you have to preface it with your irrational prejudicial judgments."


    What can I say? I try...and I fail. I need a really brutal editor, perhaps?

    Atheist Eve will resume next month as usual. I was out of town for a month on business, but all settled back in now.


  20. In some regards, it's awfully close to the Brooklyn guy who said "I don't like it" but said he didn't agree with the discrimination (in the video link provided by another commenter above). However, he never notes that his not liking it is irrational or unfounded. (Tracie)

    But is it?

    By that I mean: We don't always get to choose what we find attractive or off-putting.

    If he genuinely finds hot man-on-man action to be repulsive, then so be it. De gustibus non est disputandum; neither rational nor irrational.

    My problem with him (and the, alas, legions like him) is that he reduces gay people to their sex lives and his dislike for the specifics thereof.

    I would say to Brooklyn:

    Ok, you get creeped out by the idea of two guys in bed. Fine. But we're talking about social and legal equality here, not sex.

    If you were speaking out on behalf of some straight couple getting treated badly, I don't think you'd start off with "Well, they do things naked that I wouldn't do, but..."

    So why did you place that disclaimer before voicing support for gay folks?
    Are you afraid people might think YOU are gay?

    Which is exactly what worries him, whether he'll admit it or not. I don't think it's so much a case of people viewing homosexuality as something requiring judgment as a fear of being judged themselves.

    Brooklyn will voice support - no small achievement, methinks - but not without first shooting off a HeteroFlare(C) (Patent Pending) to forestall any questions about his own sexuality.

    That's a real and enduring problem. That's what we need to tackle - not in a creepy brainwashing, wave-this-rainbow-flag-or-ELSE! way, but by getting Brooklyn to see that with gay people, gay is the adjective and people is the noun. They're people - just like him.

  21. I agree with George to a degree if i understand him correctly. People are free to not like gay acts, just like they're free to not like bondage, discipline, oral, anal, anal to mouth, toy play, pierce play, and multi-partner sex...they're just not allowed to think that their dislike of a kink or sex act is sufficient to drag other people's lives into the public domain. I have some suspicions that other non-orthodox sex practitioners are similarly viewed but able to avoid the scorn due to the veil.

  22. Part 1 of 2:

    >>However, he never notes that his not liking it is irrational or unfounded. (Tracie)

    >But is it?...By that I mean: We don't always get to choose what we find attractive or off-putting.

    I don’t disagree, but there is a difference between “not liking something” and thinking that not liking it is justified. For example, I was raised in a racially prejudiced environment, and even though I rejected it, it took me some time to weed out some things I’d absorbed that I didn’t even know were there until people pointed them out to me. Certainly I had prejudicial “feelings” about some of these things, but I was rational enough to say, when confronted, “these dislikes aren’t rational.” And I worked to revamp that “tape” in my head—to catch myself when I’d think “I don’t like this” and say, “Hey, Tracie, you’re not being rational, you have no reason to have an aversion to this.”

    Not liking it for irrational reasons is a reality sometimes. But to openly state “I don’t like X” is to, in my view, wear it proudly. If I know I have an unsupported disdain for group X, should I openly admit that—in an unapologetic way? I don’t think that’s socially beneficial, personally. It adds fuel to the irrational prejudice to give an additional voice to it. And doing that _knowing_ I’m wrong—irrational—in my assessment of it, is irresponsible. It would be like openly saying, “I don’t like Jews, but I wouldn’t want someone to kill one.” WHY would I open with such an ugly comment that is unnecessary and irrational? Unless I think the dislike is justified in some way? And so, I’m assuming the person who opens with their prejudice thinks it’s OK to hold that prejudice. And it’s not, because it’s a baseless prejudicial assessment—a flaw in the speaker, not the group he assesses.

    >If he genuinely finds hot man-on-man action to be repulsive, then so be it. De gustibus non est disputandum; neither rational nor irrational.

    What is his reason for assessing it as repugnant for _someone else_ to do it? How is that rational? He can say “I’m not into that…” But I still wonder _why_ include that before saying “They shouldn’t be treated that way”? Why would I say, “I don’t like blacks, personally, but I don’t want to see them abused…” That’s a statement I would be rightly criticized for. He’s not saying, “I wouldn’t like a dick up my ass.” He’s saying “I don’t think it’s right for these people to like it,” and that’s idiotic. What’s his basis? Absolutely it’s irrational—and stupid to boot.

    >My problem with him (and the, alas, legions like him) is that he reduces gay people to their sex lives and his dislike for the specifics thereof.

    I believe that’s partly my point. His statement isn’t a judgment on his own preferences. It’s a judgment on the preferences of others—and what’s his claim to a foundation for that—for passing judgment on what someone else does or likes—if there’s no harm no foul in what they’re doing toward society or him personally? He condemns it in others, based on _what_?

  23. Part 2 of (well, I guess it's going to actually be 3 parts):

    >Ok, you get creeped out by the idea of two guys in bed. Fine. But we're talking about social and legal equality here, not sex.

    OK, certainly I don’t have the guy here to ask “What did you mean when you said ‘I don’t like it.’” But my interpretation of his statement was that he didn’t like other people having gay sex. You seem to be interpreting him to be saying he wouldn’t personally enjoy it. However, in my discussion with people personally, the intent is nearly always that they think there is something _wrong_ with others doing it—not that they find it personally distasteful when considering “would I like this?” It’s a means of actually stating “I don’t condone what _they’re_ doing”—in my limited experience. And my point is there’s nothing—where others are concerned—to judge. Surely anything I _don’t_ do by choice is a personal statement that “I wouldn’t like to do that.” That’s normal. But I don’t go around saying, “I don’t like smoking, but my dad, who smokes is an honest man.” It seems to be VERY limited to gay behavior that we preface the comments with “I don’t agree with it” or “I don’t like it”—and then say we don’t think gays should be maltreated. My point is “Don’t do them any favors” if the best you can muster is to say they deserve equal treatment, but you assess them as “bad” in some way. I don’t agree it’s a personal assessment along the lines of “I don’t like vanilla ice cream.” I think it’s along the lines of “I don’t like abortion”—in the mode of “It bothers me that OTHERS do it,” not simply “I personally would not like to do it.”

    > Which is exactly what worries him, whether he'll admit it or not.

    But, could there also be a tinge of fear of being thought of along the lines of the racial label (and I apologize, because it makes me feel dirty to even reference it, but…) N-lover? Does he not want to be in any way aligned with supporting the idea “It’s OK for people to do this if that’s what they’re into”? He seems, to me, to be saying “What they do, I disagree with, but I defend their right to be free from harm”—in the same way I might say the KKK has a right to protest, even though I think they’re ideology is vile. I very much want to be clear when I say that, not only that I personally don’t adopt their message, but that THEY are vile for holding it, but still within their rights. That’s when those sorts of disclaimers are put forward, in my opinion.

  24. Part 3 (final):

    > I don't think it's so much a case of people viewing homosexuality as something requiring judgment as a fear of being judged themselves

    And I would say I think it’s both.

    > Brooklyn will voice support - no small achievement, methinks - but not without first shooting off a HeteroFlare(C) (Patent Pending) to forestall any questions about his own sexuality.

    And I think there is high likelihood that he also means to say “I don’t agree with gay behavior”—but it’s their right to be free from harm. Intended or not—that’s part of how his statement will be interpreted—condemning gays but also violence against them. What’s his basis for that condemnation? There is none.

    > That's a real and enduring problem. That's what we need to tackle - not in a creepy brainwashing, wave-this-rainbow-flag-or-ELSE! way, but by getting Brooklyn to see that with gay people, gay is the adjective and people is the noun. They're people - just like him.

    And I think it needs to be drilled into people’s heads that there is a difference between “me” and “you.” And not all differences require a judgment. We get that not all differences require a judgment. As I said, some people don’t like oatmeal, but they don’t condemn the eating of it by others. We get that. The question is: “How did GAY end up in the _I have an obligation to judge this_ category, rather than the benign ‘oatmeal’ category?” Brooklyn’s statement demonstrates he sees there is something there to judge BEYOND “I don’t like it.” It’s one thing to say “I don’t like oatmeal.” It’s entirely another to say “I don’t see how anyone can like it.” And it’s even worse to say “I disagree with people eating it, but I wouldn’t want them abused for it.” When Brooklyn says “I don’t like it”—I absolutely believe he’s saying “I don’t agree with gay activity” in the context of anyone doing it—not just himself. But again, he’s not here to ask.

    Sure, his right to say it; but it’s an idiotic and harmful statement, in my view.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. When I hear a Christian man say that "Being Gay is a choice" I have to question his sexuality. Especially if he is a Fundamentalist Christian. It seems to me that perhaps this person is speaking from personal experience? It seems as if they are saying " I am sexually attracted to men but I choose to ignore my feelings and date women because The Bible tells me to!". Sadly I find a lot of the fundamentalist Christian men are self hating repressed gay men. I also find homophobia within the gay community itself! Check the gay personal ads. So many gay men describe themselves as "Straight acting and appearing seeking same". Can you imagine an ad for "White acting Black guy seeking white acting black female"? In some circles of Gay life if you are not "Straight acting" you are looked down upon. Gay people were raised in Christian homes as well and the prejudices follow them even into gay society. I see lots of Gay men who are Christians who struggle with the Bible sciptures you talk about. I also see some gays who sort of fuse the alienation and persecution of being a gay man with the persecution of Christ. Finally I see many secular people who are very homophobic as well as Christians.It has a lot to do with the "ick" factor. The attitude is "I find the idea of sex with another man disgusting therefore people who like sex with other men are disgusting." Atheists are definitely more tolerant but the homphobia is there among them as well.

  27. Travis:

    Thank you so much for your input.

    >The attitude is "I find the idea of sex with another man disgusting therefore people who like sex with other men are disgusting."

    This was _exactly_ my point above. And I agree with you 150%. It's NOT just a statement of personal preference when people say "I don't like homosexuality." It's a judgment on others. And while we all have the capacity to judge--and in many cases an obligation to do so--"gay" just doesn't qualify in any reasonable way in that category.

    >Atheists are definitely more tolerant but the homphobia is there among them as well.

    Jen and I did a show together where we read mail from atheist homophobes. It disgusts me, but you're right. There are many in the atheist community that can't seem to see through the fallacious "arguments against" homosexuality. Sad, but true.

  28. Travis:

    One more thing. Regarding your comment on gay men in the Christian community, many people view this as mud-slinging, but I happen to agree with you. I think there are many more "Ted Haggard"s out there condemning gays.

    It's no secret that when we have a habit we want to break, it bothers us much more than someone who doesn't share the undesired compulsion. We see the "harm" we perceive it does in us, and we judge others by that standard in a prejudicial way based on our own perceived weaknesses.

    It's not unlike a person who uses bravado to act tough, because they are afraid of being abused by others. The people who act the toughest are often the most frightened. The hope is that the more aggressive and "bigger" I act, the less likely someone else will be to confront or threaten me. I think we've all seen this. People who aren't afraid or threatened by others don't see a need for a bravado facade.

    I recall specifically an instance where I met a woman like this through a mutual friend. At one point my friend saw what amounted to a breakdown and said she was surprised that the woman was such a train-wreck because she seemed so extremely tough. I pointed out that solid and tough are two different things. And someone who goes around telling everyone how tough they are--simply has something to prove.

    In the same way, the guy who's most aggressive in telling me how NOT gay he is, I have to wonder? And someone who gets enraged by gays or gay behavior, I REALLY wonder about. It does appear to be a fixation. Someone else suggested to me that those most violent against gays are repressed homosexuals, and he said several times while trying to relate this that "maybe you won't agree, but..." But I absolutely agree. WHY does what this person over here is doing threaten YOU? It doesn't even involve you...? Unless you someone think it _does_ involve you? Which I suspect may be the case...?

  29. About homosexuality being a choice-Even if it was the case (I am not convinced but I know of some gays, including some friends, who do defend this idea), that does not mean that it is wrong or unethical. And one can choose to take part in homosexual activities, because of circumstances, necessity or out of curiosity. What matter is that the sexual activity, heterosexual or homosexual is consensual and not destructive.

  30. Some actual data on the matter:

  31. "When I hear a Christian man say that "Being Gay is a choice" I have to question his sexuality."

    I agree. Basically they are saying that they are attracted to the same sex but choose to deny it. If they were straight like me they would understand that I cannot choose to be gay.

  32. A thought occurs to The Ing. Part of the problem with the "I'm MOST DEFINITLY NOT GAY" people may be related to the neglect we have for the phenomena of bisexuality. I think there could be a lot of people who wind up finding themselves aroused by homosexual imagery and get worried that they're becoming gay or whatever and get hyper defensive.

  33. I wanted to say a couple of things briefly about this.

    1) I think the "Ted Haggard"s of the world sometimes become so outspoken, paradoxically, because they have same-sex attractions. I can easily see how a cycle of temptation, guilt, and repentance would just drill into their heads over and over how horrible homosexuality is, and how badly they need religion to overcome it. And I think most of them probably do believe that gay people are all sex-obsessed, because that's what they see in themselves (that's all that their own guilt allows them to see).

    There is an infamous study regarding homophobic men being more aroused by gay porn. Furthermore, there are some studies showing that people become more hypocritical as they become more powerful. It seems that the natural thing for a gay fundamentalist to do would be to become a vocal and influential spokesperson for their crazy ideas. I wouldn't say all such evangelists are like that, but it does seem to be a common story.

    2) There's a whole slew of defenses people use to seem moderate, which I find completely annoying. Politically: "I think that people should be allowed to be gay, but marriage is between a man and a woman." Religiously: "Love the sinner, hate the sin." Socially: "Well, I have gay friends, but..." or "As long as they don't flaunt it..." or "As long as they keep it in the bedroom..."

    There's different attitudes behind these different phrases, but what I think they have in common is the implication: "I don't hate gay people. I'm OK with them! As long as I can pretend that they are straight." And people think that this is OK somehow, like it's not a flaw to be prejudiced as long as you aren't violent about it.

    What if people said "I think we have to tolerate Muslims, but marriage is a Christian institution."? What about "I love you, but I hate it that you're a Jew."? "I have Catholic friends, but I don't think they should act Catholic in public."?

    We afford all this respect and tolerance towards religious beliefs, which are chosen behaviors with tangible benefits. But towards gay people who ultimately need to be in certain relationships to be happy and fulfilled in life, it's considered socially acceptable to tell them that that is shameful or obscene and they need to either hide it or quit altogether.

    Relatedly, I'm really tired of the double standard I see regarding sex or romantic love, especially when comparing people's reactions to stories I tell or things I say. If I'm talking about a straight relationship, it's just a relationship. But if I'm talking about a gay relationship, I'm really talking about gayness and gay people in general. If I'm telling a story that's fine when it's about a straight couple, but you start feeling uncomfortable when I tell the same story about a gay couple, that's a problem that you need to deal with, not one that you should make me deal with.

  34. I think the "Ted Haggard"s of the world sometimes become so outspoken, paradoxically, because they have same-sex attractions. I can easily see how a cycle of temptation, guilt, and repentance would just drill into their heads over and over how horrible homosexuality is, and how badly they need religion to overcome it.

    I agree. This would be a classic example of homophobia.

    Not that you asked, but...

    Homophobes, as I see it, are people - overwhelmingly male - whose doubts about their own sexual and gender identities manifest as morbid, pervasive, irrational fears of being seen or thought of as gay.

    This often leads them towards violent expressions of disgust and intolerance towards those whom they themselves perceive as gay.

    Whether the targets of their rage are actual homosexuals or merely effeminate straight men, the homophobes are really attacking projected parts of themselves. They attack "gayness" to prove how not-gay they are.

    Anyway, that's my take on it.

    Unfortunately, the term is often employed to mean any disapproval or dislike of any aspect of homosexuality but I think this is nonsense and the proper understanding of "homophobia" is not political, but psycho-pathological.

    But precisely because of this we must be careful about throwing the word around.

    There's no shortage of actual homophobes, no doubt. But the far larger number of people opposing gay marriage, say, are NOT homophobes and we're not going to reach them by challenging them to confront a personal problem they don't actually have.

    If I'm telling a story that's fine when it's about a straight couple, but you start feeling uncomfortable when I tell the same story about a gay couple, that's a problem that you need to deal with, not one that you should make me deal with.

    Unless the story is about a man supporting his wife through her difficult pregnancy, which would make retelling it with two guys anatomically awkward. ;)

  35. @George I think you are right right, although it's not always immediately clear who has this pathological problem and who simply sees gays as this scary external threat (as with racism and xenophobia), or simply has some hostility not particularly based on fear. I do wish that the word "heterosexism" would catch on for discriminatory political behavior, so that the word "homophobia" was freed up to describe something more specific, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening.

    And regarding the pregnancy story: touché.

  36. I'm kinda pushing for the term Homomalice instead of homophobia

  37. I just got a chance to pop in and read the blog this week and found this gem from Tracie! As always, Tracie, excellent job.

    "Gays aren't "detestable"--bigots are."

    Well said. I feel like 234 members of Congress stood up for that principle last night when they voted for DADT repeal language in the Defense Authorization Bill.

    And that reminds me - I really have to get busy on that blog post on DADT.

    Thanks again Tracie, and all of you on this blog. You are welcome allies in a fight that's far from over.

  38. NPR had an interview with one of the big wigs on the Joint Chiefs and all who are addressing the issue. He was fairly convincing that DADT is more or less done. It's apparently an 'integrity issue'. They're giving 6 months for people to bitch about it and then apparently are most likely going to repeal it.


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