tehgay

Stuff I don't want to say a second time about being a gay

People I’m tired of: Part 1

That white girl from ABC’s “What Would You Do?”

“What Would You Do” films a series of poorly-constructed social experiments in which actors pretend to be racist or sexist or homophobic, and other people react.

During the course of the experiment, there’s nearly always one white woman who starts crying while doing nothing to change the situation.

Seriously. I’m tired of her.

A black woman is being escorted out of the store just because she’s black? White girl does nothing. White girl cries. White girl hugs her boyfriend.

Two gay soldiers are told they are disrespecting their uniforms just because they’re gay? White girl sits. White girl sobs.

She’s always young. She’s always timid. And she’s always sad about the thing that happened because she just let it happen.

This happens to people with privilege a lot, I think. Why ABC really only shows this reaction coming from white women I don’t know. Perhaps they’re playing into the false narrative of women being emotionally unstable. Maybe I’m speaking from privilege and not acknowledging that society has built in significant stoppers to woman displaying agency in public. But I do know this type of person, in both male and female manifestations. They realize that the world out there is just mean, and that there are all sorts of people out there who are mean and bigoted and it just breaks their heart to know that such people exist. And so they stand around and feel horrible while the people who are actually experiencing the mean things have to deal.

So people who are discriminated against find a way to cope, to talk, to reason, or to “take a stand,” while, guilty, privileged people justify their inaction by exacerbating or pretending emotional turmoil.

“Gosh, I just feel so bad that homophobia is out there. I can’t believe people said those things to you.”

That’s cute. I can believe it, but then, it actually happened to me, you know. Why don’t you figure out how to do something by reading a book or using a Google search bar until you get ideas. Do that, and spare me the task of comforting you for something that happened to me. Do that and spare me the task of educating yet another person that I had hoped would have educated themselves because they, I don’t know, cared about me. Do that, and then do other things to make a difference. Do these things and motivate me to join with you, to invite you to my events and talks, so that ours is a reciprocal relationship in which we share a vested interest in dismantling institutionalized homophobia.

Because after a while, I stop caring about how tremendously sensitive you are, and I just really hope you start doing something about it.

Big Town America

Frozen yogurt places are trendy, now. They often sport sorbets that vegans can eat, and low-fat or no-fat dairy treats for the rest of us; we can eat and feel good about ourselves, because, hey – It’s not like we’re eating ice-cream or something. This stuff is low fat. There are several such yogurt places in town, but I have one in particular I like.

This place has a small eating area, but my friends and I will dutifully crowd in where we can if there’s a lot of us. Here, they have about sixteen different flavors of yogurt at any given time; some switch out for a needed variety, while some stay consistently. Thankfully, the “White Chocolate mousse” is one of these staples. It is my personal favorite. I often times get it and the “birthday cake” flavor, partitioned to two separate sides of the Styrofoam container because I like to enjoy different palettes of flavor without their intermingling. I usually then go to the toppings bar and put chocolate-covered peanuts on top. Not because I actually eat them with the yogurt, but because I like to eat them separately, as a separate treat. So, I go and pay about four bucks for my treat, and proceed to pick the peanuts out, one by one, with a spoon. Afterwards, I eat my yogurt. It’s a nice place. They sometimes have bands come out and play music in the summer . This means that I bring a lawn chair and eat yogurt in the parking lot, in front of where they’ve set up the band.

In some ways, this isn’t the best yogurt place. I mean, they use Styrofoam, and that’s bad for the environment. Other places in town use biodegradable cardboard. Further, I know another place in town that has more flavors to choose from. That place has better chocolate-covered peanuts and due to more affordable pricing, I’d save about fifty cents each trip. It has more spacing, so my friends and I could sit more comfortably.

But I don’t go there. As it so happens, I have more attachment to the first frozen yogurt place. All of my friends like it, so they prefer that we frequent there. Further, I know the people that run the place – They went to the same University I attended for undergrad. They have been nice enough to hire my band to play there on Friday nights, and they hire employees that are always friendly and fun to interact with. Lastly, I have memories at the place. So I am loyal, because my experience with the people is superior, if maybe not the price or the product.

What is this? It’s bigotry, and the end of Capitalism.

That escalated quickly.

***

Well, maybe not quite yet. See, I’m doing it in a small-ish town. There are a couple of yogurt places, and I’ve chosen my favorite based on who owns it, because I like them and they are nice to me. I don’t think anybody thinks this is bad on this small scale. Sure, they think. It makes perfect sense that I would consider the kindness of the employees and my relationship to the owner when I go there. In fact, some might say, this is a good thing.

I certainly think so. I have a friend who puts together gift baskets. He has to charge a little more than a more commercial place to make a profit, but I like to use his products when sending gift baskets to people – It’s like giving a gift to two of my friends. The person who gets the basket, and the friend of mine who gets to profit from such a gift. I’m supporting a small, local business. Yes, this meant that there was a business that had a “better” product, and they sold it “cheaper.” But I don’t care. My friend has a business, so I use his business. I don’t think this is bad. I actually think this is good. See, the woman who runs the business with the “better,” “cheaper” product presumably has friends that do the same for her. And so she and my friend are really only in competition for unaffiliated people – The people who are not yet friends with either of them. So they can gravitate wherever they wish.

So, let’s switch around this scenario a little bit. Let’s say I go to buy some wallpaper from a small shop where I live, and the owner was very rude to me. I mean, she insulted my ability to wallpaper things, told me I had horrible taste, made fun of my accent, and started yelling lines from the cartoon “He-man” whenever I asked a question. I did not like her, and certainly won’t be returning to her shop. Furthermore, I’m telling all of my friends in person and on social media how very rude she is, and they won’t go there. They don’t want to get yelled at.

Did I call for a boycott? Nope. See, I just said that she was really mean, and people didn’t want to go shop at the mean person’s shop. This had nothing to do with taking a stand. This had everything to do with evaluating a product and the experience and thinking “Nope.”

I can see how the lines blur a little. Take the following example:

Several friends of mine have exotic pets. They went to a pet store called “Animal House” to buy supplies. While looking around the store, they noticed that the animals were not properly cared for, and that the conditions were cruel. Further, the owners of the store started yelling at them to leave, because they said they had been “Looking” too long. My friends literally fled the store, pursued by the owners. If you know the place, you know that it has horrible reviews. My friends’ experience is certainly typical.

This is an example that’s three-pronged. First, there was a legal reaction: My friends notified organizations that this place was committed acts of animal cruelty, and pending an investigation they may face criminal charges. Secondly, there was social sanction: My friends wrote newspapers and sought public forum to denounce the business and call for a boycott. Thirdly, there was the type of action I was describing earlier, wherein people warn their friends “Don’t go there, it’s horrible. They’re rude, and the animals will die.” I’ll call this “Package devaluation.” The “package” being the product and the experience of purchasing that product.

All three are, I think, completely appropriate reactions. As it is, though, people get really angry when you start messing around with these ideas on a larger scale. On a large scale, people accuse you of corrupting capitalism and being bigoted. Imagine if Animal house was a chain, and my friends heard about how horrible it was from a Facebook Group. In that case, the actions my friends took constituted “bigotry” against animal abusers everywhere. Further, because my friends wouldn’t buy the cheapest pets on the market, they were undermining the US economy, where we are supposed to buy the best product at the lowest price! Gosh, America would be a horrible place if we start letting our beliefs influence our buying!

It seems that if we look in our own parts of the world, our own communities, our own towns and cities, we have every right to choose businesses to patronize for the experience, the package. It’s actually encouraged. Yes, absolutely support your friend’s business. Absolutely volunteer at the organization that your church mentioned in the Sunday bulletin. Sure, warn your friends about that rude wallpaper lady and her store. That’s the great part of small town America – We all know each other, and support each other. Business, economics, money — They are all bound, somewhat, by who we are and how we engage with others in our community. When our experience of buying wallpaper is good, even if the wallpaper is a little bit more expensive, we may still patronize the store because the woman was wonderful. If she sells great wallpaper cheaply, but is really rude, we’ll avoid that store. When a bookshop owner tells me that I’d *love* a certain book based off of what he knew I had purchased before, I’ll probably try it out. If I like it, I’ll definitely use that shop more, because they know me there. It’s sentimental attachment, but also something more. I judge an experience by more criteria than just the price of the product and its worth.

This is weird in larger contexts, though. People are discouraged from choosing places based on anything except for the price and the relative value of a product when this happens on a large scale. What is the difference?

The reasons I’m making this distinction are because of, as you may have guessed, Chicken.

***

Counting back the calendar of controversial events (Sequester, Fiscal Cliff, Gun Control, 2012 Election…) we arrive at the CFA (Chic Fil A) scandal. This scandal has actually been around for quite a while and sports a very complicated timeline. However, things came to a head last August, with the CFA boycott and subsequent appreciation day. Everybody had to take a stand, it seemed. And poor indecisive people got confused about what the “Middle” is, and didn’t know what to do. Even now, after it’s happened, saying “Chic Fil A” is enough to elicit sighs from people tired of talking about it. (And not just those annoying Generation Y-ers who are convinced nothing they ever do will ever result in anything, thus ensuring they never have to take any responsibility for their own actions. I mean, even perennial optimists are tired of it.)

I sighed when, post controversy, CFA said they would back off of this issue, again. And I sighed when that one guy who’s purportedly important wrote an article saying that Dan Cathy was his new best friend and Dan promised not to spend CFA money on hate groups any more. And I sighed when it turned out CFA actually increased anti-gay spending.

So, I realize I’m probably getting a very loud, very pronounced sigh from all two people who read this that I’m bringing this up again. But it’s in a much bigger context, and really only meant as an example, I promise.

See, there was a three pronged reaction against CFA.

Legally, some cities threatened to do… something if CFA were to open a restaurant in their city. I’m not entirely sure what, though I am pretty sure it’d be unconstitutional and all kinds of not okay.  In any case, people on many sides of the issue saw this as problematic, and I think certain mayors backed off. So that made the first prong, legal action, pretty unimportant.

Everybody and their grandmother has written about the second prong: Social Sanction. The boycotts, the reverse-boycotts, appreciation day, and “kiss-outside-of-Chic-Ail-A” day. This was important and meant something. And many people wrote many important things about it. However, I’d like to bypass this part of the argument altogether. (Though I remember finding and loving this article, which is tangentially related though not completely so. I’ll link it anyway, because it’s wonderful.)

What I want to talk about is the third prong, that thing nobody really talked about that was objective in its subjectivity: Package devaluation. See, when I walk into a Chic Fil A, my first thought is “They hate gay people.” Whether or not it’s fair, that’s what I think. So I’m not eating there anymore. And, in fact, I may tell all of my friends the same thing. I’d tell them that I didn’t feel welcome in there because the CEO was rude to another gay person and donated to hate groups, so his product is less enticing to me now. I feel really uncomfortable whenever I go inside one, so I don’t want to eat there. I go somewhere else instead. I have positive experiences at other restaurants, so I patronize them. This isn’t necessarily boycotting CFA, anymore than I’m boycotting the frozen yogurt place I don’t go to. I’m just choosing what I think is a superior product – Or rather, a superior package deal which includes a product but also a lot of other things as well. It makes sense that my other friends would also want to eat at places that didn’t remind them at every turn that they or their friends less deserving of civil rights.

Some friends may not feel the same way I do, and we’ll get there in a second.

But before we get there I have to address a caveat. Some of you clever ones are asking yourselves “What if Christians started going to restaurants owned by Christians for no other reason than they’re Christian? Would you think that was okay?” Or, maybe “What if white people just felt more comfortable going to white-owned businesses? What if they just felt more comfortable and thought that package deal was better.”

I’ll have to make a small caveat for this, before getting back to the main point.

***

Sure. Go for it. Last I checked, the secular music industry is still going strong, even with all of those Christians listening to Christian music. Christians saw Passion of the Christ in droves, and dozens of secular movies still get made. I really think we’re all fine here. After all, I usually patronize businesses that my friends from church started. However, I think we’re starting a false equivalence that I’m going to address in greater depth later. Here’s the cliff notes version.

I’m white. I’m male. I have white privilege and male privilege. This means that I can go to almost any restaurant or business and feel comfortable. So, um, package devaluation due to rudeness doesn’t happen very often along lines of race or gender for me. Further, I’m Christian (vaguely, barely, maybe). So, package devaluation doesn’t really happen to me much because I’m Christian. I mean, if I knew that a friend of mine who was a person of color went into a business, and that business treated her poorly, I would take severe issue with that place. I would certainly not want to go there. But, this would only be known to me because of my friend. I wouldn’t know it for myself from just walking in there, because I’m white. It would be package devaluation that I experienced second-hand.

Now, where this gets interesting is that this hypothetical friend of color, she faces the threat of being discriminated against because of her being black anywhere where white people own the place. Also, she’s going to have to assume that most places she goes, white people will own the place. So, for her, it makes sense to be more comfortable in stores owned and run by people of color. The package she experiences at a place owned by people of color does not have this risk of discrimination; that makes it a better one. And, in order to have such packages, she may have to seek them out rather more consciously than I seek out positive experiences. I don’t have this risk as a white person. In fact, I don’t even experience that when I go somewhere where people of color are the owners. In this sense, I’m unassailable. Any package devaluation I experience with regards to race, gender, or faith will happen second-hand.

This is all to say that white people don’t really have to shop at only white places to feel comfortable. Privilege exists almost everywhere for white people  in the US. So if somebody only shopped at white places, consciously, and thought the package was devalued by going to a restaurant or business that was run by people of color, I would have to conclude that this was coming from a place rather different than that of mine when I don’t eat at Chic-Fil-A. Namely – That person was being racist and discriminating based on race, not because of package devaluation, but for other purposes. Because people with a disproportionate amount of power – White people, men, straight people, cis people, Christians, etc. – can already go anywhere without fear of first-hand package devaluation. To seek out that kind of thing in the US can, in my mind, only be bigoted. This hypothetical is silly.

Back to the point, shall we?

***

Hokay. I don’t go to CFA or homophobic places because the experience isn’t great for me. So, what if you just don’t feel the same way? You think Chic-Fil-A is delicious, and you don’t care about their politics.

Well, this is where things are weird. See, when I get touchy about something, I like my friends to get touchy about it too. This is not just about causes, but just my personal taste. If I like a musician a lot, and think he’s great, and my friends all say “Oh, him? He sucks. I think he’s the worst musician ever,” I don’t respond well. It actually hurts my feelings. Similarly, if I have friends who think Lady Gaga is amazing, I’m really going to be at a loss. I’ll feel like I am not as close to them, just because they like something I don’t like. This happens all the time with businesses and restaurants and maybe a little bit with causes too.

If I see a random stranger with a CFA product, I literally think “Oh, wow. A bigot.” And when I see a friend with one, I wonder if they’re trying to take some sort of stand and put me in my place. I stand still and process whether or not somebody just got chicken at a place where the owner is rude to me because they don’t care, or if they did so because they’re trying to call me out for being gay. Not fun. It hurts my feelings.

Cut it out, will ya?

Eat there all you want, but must you take pictures of it and put it on Facebook?

Of course this kind of consideration, if taken too far, would be ridiculous. But I don’t think it unreasonable to expect my friends to avoid the wallpaper place after its owner was super rude to me. Or, at least, not tell me about their shopping experience. Further, I’d consider myself a less-than-great friend if I went to animal house knowing that my friends were literally chased from the store.

And I think most people would agree with those assertions on that small scale. So why not on a big scale? Why not with Chic-Fil-A? Because like it or not, that controversy is the future.

We’re fast moving to a bigger scale. CEO’s are our next-door-neighbors and our spheres of influence are electronic as well as physical. What happens at an Applebees in Missouri comes to my friend who shares the news with me, and that affects where I eat. That choice, if made by many people, affects a corporation. When I have a bad experience at a restaurant, my friend in Alaska knows. If she visits a restaurant from that chain later, and I know about it, I may have my feelings hurt. I have to wrestle with what chains to support because so many support things antithetical to things I believe in. Package Devaluation and amelioration happen with frightening speed as business people make statements and retract them. What a person says in Georgia (and where he spends his money) can hurt me in Kentucky. Patriotism is global citizenship, chains are our ma-and-pa stores, and Facebook is a water-cooler we share with hundreds of our friends.

Welcome to Big Town America.

***

I don’t know if this is bad. I know that it is.

I can’t think of all the myriad implications to ethics, but I know that many exist.

However, one thing I’m fairly certain about is that the morals we use to guide our “Big Town America” interactions should not differ greatly, if at all, from the ones we use to guide our way through “Small Town America.” The difference in scale is not sufficient grounds to compromise beliefs we would otherwise practice small.

During the CFA controversy, so many people said that refusing to eat at Chic-fil-a was inherently wrong – that it would hurt people that weren’t responsible for their chain’s actions, that our world’s would be less bright if we only shopped at places where people agreed with us about basic human rights, and, most infuriatingly, that the economy was divorced from morality. Somehow, it was immoral to use a moral dimension to guide purchases and buying power. It was as though Chains lived in a world free of accountability.

But all of those ideas inherent in that rose-tinted view of the small town – How we engage contributing to the worth of the “package,” how word-of-mouth can make a well-run business do well, how discrimination can be stymied when people with bad experiences can share them with friends – all of these ideas are good. I look at them and see great worth.

Why then, would we not apply them on a larger scale? Why would Big Town America resist such good?

Big Town America needs a makeover. We’re still learning how to operate as global citizens, how to respect our friends, and how far our influence can and should travel. But though it needs a makeover, Big Town America does not need a divorce from morality and accountability. Indeed, too much of the latter may be what has so contributed to need of the former.

False Equivilence 1: Inappropriateness = Offensiveness

Sometimes, when I smell the first hint of spring in the air, I get sad.

Cumulonimbus is a Latin word.

Reparative therapy can successfully change a person from being gay to being straight.

I have not had sex in at least a week.

Hard-boiled eggs are infinitely better tasting than soft-boiled eggs.

God hates fags.

Deficit hawks are inherently correct about everything, because we’re all going to die if we don’t shrink the deficit.

I have stubborn toenails that don’t like to be clipped.

I enjoy anthropomorphizing various parts of my body.

The holocaust didn’t happen.

***

Wow. What a group of sentences those were. Some of them were offensive. I might rail on and on about how offensive they are, but then, you might get the wrong idea. You might think I’m operating under emotions, and not thinking rationally. See, I’m all “upset” and “hurt” because somebody called me a fag. Clearly I’m not reasoning well. Further, because I’m a fickle fellow with a god-complex, I’m going to be mean to anybody who hurts my feelings by calling me a fag, or saying that I could be straight if I wanted to. This is because I’m heartless. I’m the one who’s really intolerant. People should pity me.

Though, of course, they shouldn’t. And, no, being offensive is not what makes certain sentences inappropriate for specific contexts. Few people, I think, would be offended by my anthropomorphizing my toenails. Nothing is offensive about saying that cumulonimbus comes from Latin. Why deny the experience that the smell of spring brings me? Certainly not because I’m afraid of offending somebody. These are not offensive sentiments.

What makes these things inappropriate is that they do not further a purpose in this specific context. They are inherently non-sequitur. They don’t follow anything or contribute anything meaningful to the discussion at hand. That is why they are inappropriate. In different contexts it may be completely appropriate to debate superior methods of egg preparation. But not here. Not now.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t say these things ever. I’m just wondering why anybody would try to say them here, or in similar contexts.

***

Every time I’ve had an argument or “engaged in dialogue with respect and civility,” there’s always at least one person who talks about going to the mat, or to war, or something vaguely martial, for my right to say what I just said. Invariably they go on to say that although I have the right to say it, they totally disagree. What’s odd is that they do this as though I have an obligation to do the same for them – To go to the mat, the market, the Carolinas for their right to say what they think right here, right now. It seem also that by not doing so, it implies that I wouldn’t try to give them their right to say what they want to say somewhere else at a more appropriate time. This is unreasonable. It conflates the appropriateness of my sentiments with the appropriateness of theirs, even though our ideas operate independently of each other. Indeed, since most of these conversations have been in the US by US citizens, many actually bring in the first amendment. Because we’re all invested in that amendment, right? They have freedom of speech.  Aha!

Of course you do, sweetums. But, why would you try to sing K$sha’s song “Like We’re Gonna Die Young” at a AIDS awareness fundraiser?

I’m not necessarily offended. I’m not saying that song is inherently bad. But, wow is that a horrible choice of song for this event. So I, as director of this hypothetical event, am going to deny your request to sing that song here and now. I will not go to the mat, or the bank, or the park, or anywhere else for your right to sing that song here. You’re choice is a fantastically bad idea. I’m left questioning your sanity, your intelligence, and your level of involvement in anything serious.

***

This example about the fundraiser to raise awareness about AIDS posits a very small context – A specific community of people. Further, this context was actively created for a specific time and place, and it is finite. It has an end. After the fundraiser is over, you may sing K$sha’s song again. Or you may sing it in a different place.

There exist many larger contexts, however. For instance, most people nominally claim that violence isn’t the best way to handle things. At board meetings, if there’s a problem with a member running late, people don’t suggest killing her. Parents don’t threaten their children by saying “If you don’t clean your room, I’m killing your brother.” This larger context – you know, with the goals of us not killing each other indiscriminately – it isn’t acknowledged out loud. It’s not like people think that killing is a viable option, but then go “Oh yeah, we don’t do that.” No. Everybody knows it to be true that we don’t just kill people. That’s a large context.

And the thing about that is, every small context that is created – Every AIDS awareness fundraiser, book discussion group, church fellowship meeting, neighborhood watch Christmas party – all of these things are created in the larger context. As it so happens, one context that matters a lot to people is that of free speech. We all want to avoid simply censoring things that we disagree with. People, at least nominally, seem to like the idea of discourse.

However, I would argue that such discourse is dependent upon a mutual understanding of the contexts in which people are operating. Otherwise, people may subvert the goals of a context. This has nothing to do with offense being taken or given. It has everything to do with what productivity necessitates for discourse.

***

Examine this following hypothetical discussion on antisemitism:

“I think it’s important that people acknowledge the other ways antisemitism manifests, in ways besides overt acts of violence. Even today, some people still deny the holocaust.”

“Right, but I can’t eat gluten.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“I mean, we’re all sharing our points of view. I’m allergic to gluten. I can’t eat bread.”

“I’m really not following you.”

“Are you discombobulated like a kitty cat in a wine barrel?”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to please start making sense again.”

“I like toast.”

“Security. Yes, I need security.”

Am I discriminating against people with celiac disease if I think poorly of the man with the gluten allergy? No. No I am not. I’m not hurt or offended by what he’s saying. I’m not reacting from anger (Although there may be a fair amount of irritation I experience by the end of his random statements). Actually, he just can’t stay in the group because what he is saying is inappropriate – It does not further the goals of the context, which is presumably to foster discussion about antisemitism (And, one would hope, how to go about eradicating it).

This is an example of something that rebels directly against a small context by subverting the small context’s goals. This is what I’ll define as directly inappropriate.

If you go to a book discussion group about “Twilight” and talk about how much you hate Stephanie Meyer, you’re being directly inappropriate.

If you go to the Creation Museum with signs that say “Evolution is totally correct and creationists are dead wrong” you’re being directly inappropriate.

Any time you directly challenge or subvert the goals of a context, or otherwise prevent them from being accomplished, you are being directly inappropriate.

***

So how can one be indirectly inappropriate?

One needn’t assail a small context’s goals directly. Remember, each small context is embedded within a larger one. It’s tricky, because such large contexts are rarely spoken out loud – Most of us take them for granted. However, if somebody does not take a larger context for granted, they could attempt to subvert its goals. And in doing so, they could subvert those of the smaller context.

Take this next example:

“Welcome to our Freshman Discussion Program at Delphos Community and Technical College. Now, we begin our discussion on the relationship between English dialects and socioeconomic status in the US.”

“Dieses Thema ist wichtig. Ich bin sehr aufgeregt. Lassen Sie uns beginnen!”

“I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that. Would you mind repeating?”

“Obwohl ich ein wenig Englisch verstehen, kann ich nicht sprechen. Allerdings werde ich die Gespräche fortzusetzen.”

“Is that German?”

“Ja!”

“Would you please speak English?”

“Nein.”

“Anybody else?”

“Warum müssen Sie ignorieren mich? Ich bin sehr wichtig.”

“Really.  Anybody else.”

This is a smaller context – A talk about English dialects – and it’s embedded within a larger context: One that presupposes that familiarity with the English language is a given for Delphos, OH. Whether or not it is warranted or moral, often times we do not question the prevalence of English. Least of all at a talk on English dialects. The smaller context here, which was to discuss dialects and their relationship with socioeconomic status, would be subverted quite thoroughly were they to continue letting one random person speak in German. This is not because the German speaker is not furthering the aims of the discussion; rather, it is because the German speaker will not do so while operating within the same larger context.

Earlier, as an example, I showed how going to the Creation Museum and talking about evolution is directly inappropriate; well, talking about Creationism in virtually any other context is being indirectly inappropriate. In a panel on science, people would expect others to argue using data well within a majority consensus. To do otherwise subverts the goal because it effectively sidelines the whole conversation. Whatever they were saying about global health is now sidetracked into debating very large contexts that needn’t have been brought up. In doing so, they lose valuable time to further the goals in their smaller context: The global health panel.

You can believe in Creationism. Sure. You can proselytize to your heart’s content. But not where people believe in science. You may think that science completely stupid. However, you must either play a uniquely adversarial role in any conversation involving the science you don’t like, or you must start your own context that runs specifically counter to the larger context of belief in science.

***

Obviously, deciding what is appropriate and what is not is a way of establishing in groups and out groups. Many Evangelical Christians may believe in Young Earth Creationism. Believing or not believing does more than establish a context – It decides who belongs where. When somebody goes to the Creation Museum, and they believe in Science, they will experience not only a sense of disagreement, but a sense that they do not belong. Now, that’s a really interesting phenomenon that will result in further blogposts. But, in the mean time, let’s stick to the basic sense of displacement, of not belonging. Now, this sense is an unintentional result of warring contexts. The person who believes in science lives in a context that is at war with the context she currently occupies. This makes her feel like she doesn’t belong.

I believe that offense is related to this phenomenon. This is extraordinarily complex and tough to deal with and I’m not beginning to do it justice. Therefore, that’s all I’m going to say about the matter.

Or almost all, rather. Because it’s important to note that while all offensive statements are inappropriate, not all inappropriate statements are offensive. So if we define what is suitable for a context by its offensiveness, we may still let through several things that are inappropriate. Further, many people who say offensive things will either not understand why they are offensive, or insist that they shouldn’t be considered so. This subjectivity can be removed from the situation by bypassing the issue of offensiveness altogether, and measuring the appropriateness of a sentiment. This is relatively objective. Does a statement help or hinder the goals in a context? Is it hindering these goals directly or indirectly? These are questions that are relatively easy to answer, at least when compared to questions of offense.

Sentiments may be offensive or inoffensive, but in these examples, the sentiments posited are definitely inappropriate. They do not follow, and they run exactly counter to the goals and purposes of the context. They’re, quite frankly, either hostile or plain stupid.

Sure there’s a time to be inappropriate. However, you do that in full acknowledgement that what you’re doing does not not merely obscure a context’s purpose, but, instead, furthers the goals of a separate context that you are promoting. Which is fine for protests. But not great for dialogue.

***

Organizations that try to create dialogue between gays and Evangelicals need to recognize what is appropriate, and steer clear of judging statements by “offensiveness.” I find that oftentimes Evangelicals have a hard time seeing anything as offensive to LGBTQ* people short of “God hates fags.” Given that arguing about what is offensive is wearying, I thought it would be helpful to define what is appropriate. If you want to create dialogue, you do have to acknowledge the larger contexts in which the dialogue will take place.

Here’s one: Straight Evangelicals have more rights than gay people. That’s a context you had best acknowledge. And, to my mind, you had best acknowledge that it’s completely wrong for this to be so.

Here’s another: You need to establish whether or not your organization believes in science and psychology. If you think that ex-gay therapy is an interesting perspective, you don’t believe  in either. Failure to acknowledge that is going subvert your goals for being an organization that’s about dialogue. It does not matter whether or not your organization supports such viewpoints – Merely treating them as valid viewpoints will warp the purposes of the organization. Imagine if an organization said that the idea that gravity does not exist is valid. No matter what the real purpose of the organization, it will be known as “The anti-gravity” organization. If you’re organization is about dialogue between people who don’t believe in science, that’s fine. However, there is no avoiding that your organization is warped to that group.

Here’s another: You need to establish whether or not your organization believes the Bible is relevant and standard. How do you create a dialogue between people who believe in the Bible and people who don’t if you don’t acknowledge what context the conversation should take place in?

There are, of course, many more examples. However, the key thing in all of them is that an organization must define its context by how it aligns to larger contexts. And an organization needs to acknowledge that, should it not align with a larger context, the goals of its own smaller context will warp – A phenomenon that is neither good, nor bad; it just is.

***

This has been a very long set up for a number of blog posts about various false equivalences I’ve heard while engaging in dialogue with Evangelicals. However, it is important. Firstly, this is a lens through which other blog posts will be seen. Secondly, having recently come off of a group that exists purportedly to create dialogue, I find that there are a lot of sentiments expressed that run counter to the goals of “dialogue,” because they are so inappropriate; but they are often not seen as so because they are not “offensive” enough. Further, protests against the appropriateness of certain statements is often, ironically enough, cause for offense in other people. Lastly, this blog post in itself prompts several new blogs.

Because appropriateness is constituted by clearly defined goals, “bridge-building” organizations cannot refrain from taking a stance. They are already taking a stand by having the dialogue, and whether or not the say so expressly, they are operating within specific contexts and defining their own. (For instance: By allowing ex-gay therapy to be considered a viable view-point, the entire organization is taking a stand about ex-gay therapy. This is because believing in ex-gay therapy runs against the larger context, and as such, skews the entire conversation by its very admission.) There will be a blog post about this.

Perhaps some don’t create a context. They, instead, have bridges built to nowhere. There will be a blog post about this. In this case, there is no context. There are no goals. But there are also no in-groups or out-groups. Does this mean there’s no offense? We’ll figure it out another time, in another blog post.

Offense does not require intent, nor does impropriety. There will be a blog post about this.

These are all separate ideas, however related they are to this first installment of False Equivalence. What girds them all are the following notions:

* All organizations create contexts with goals

* All of these created contexts operate within larger contexts

* Creators of these contexts should evaluate their goals, thus establishing what is appropriate or inappropriate.

* Creators of these contexts must further recognize that inappropriateness is not directly related to offensiveness, but exists as its own criterion. To believe otherwise is to believe in a false equivalence.

*Therefore, the appropriateness of a comment cannot be judged solely by its offensiveness.

*Further, people who ban inappropriate comments should be recognized as articulating their organizations goals, their context. They should not be branded as hurt, offended, intolerant, or against the First Amendment.

I’ll leave you with this last example:

***

“Welcome to our discussion on antisemitism. What did everybody think about the reading?”

“Well, I was upset because it kept referring to the holocaust; that never happened, according to some scholars.”

“Well, the holocaust did happen. What did other people think?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but, no. The holocaust didn’t happen. It’s a vast conspiracy.”

“Well, sir. I’m going to ask you act as though the holocaust did happen, because we all believe that it did.”

“Oh, so I have to try not to offend all of you?”

“Well, though your statement was offensive and belittles the suffering of thousands and thousands of people and undermines their experiences, and I do wonder if such a belief can come from anywhere besides antisemitism, that’s actually not why I’m asking you to desist. See, your statement was inappropriate because it denied what we in this organization view as a point of history beyond debate. This denial of what we see as simple fact is distracting and keeps us from our true purpose, which was to discuss how we can eradicate antisemitism. So. You must either, for the time being, continue this discussion within the context of widely accepted history, or you must remain silent. Those are your choices. At another time, though, I would love to discuss the reasons why you disbelieve history – Just the two of us. We just cannot do that now.”

Why you’re not my friend:

You’re really not my friend if you’re against gay rights. And you’re really not sorry.

It seems like you really want to be. You’re reading a bunch of blog posts about how a lot of us gays are all suicidal, how the church kicks us out, how we are bashed and beaten, and you’re really sorry for all of that. And you’re sorry about that mean thing you thought that one time. You realize now that you should have welcomed us gays with merciful arms, teaching us abstinence or providing a therapist that uses Jesus magic to make the gay go away. Or something.

You’re so sorry about how you’ve spread your message, and how it’s resulted in a mass exodus of gays from your circle. The contents of your message, you now believe, ought to have been couched in love. So you lovingly invite me back, invite me to coffee, and ask me about my experiences as a gay person, hoping that you’re redeemed somehow by the mocha lattes we consume. How does it feel, being gay, you wonder. What’s the lifestyle like? Did I feel like Christ had rejected me? How hard had it been for me to find a church?

And I answer. Short things, perhaps slightly impatient from overuse. (I dunno, good? It’s kind of like your lifestyle? No? Not hard at all, lots of churches aren’t bigoted?) I raise the inflection of the sentence at the end, making it sound like a question, as if to anticipate the ones I know are coming from you. You’re very confused. Churches that accept gay people aren’t churches at all. Progressive congregations were supposed to have died off some time in the nineties because they had watered down the Word of God so much. How could I know Christ hadn’t rejected me? Clearly all the churches in the know had been outside of the know for a short time before coming back home to the know again, and if there’s anything they know they know, it’s that they had not known how Christ had loved me and they had only just now figured it out. So how did I, the gay person, know?

But, you set questions aside. Except for that one about the Bible, but you’ll save it for later. No, what’s important now is reaching out to “the other.” You’re going to reach out Evangelical arms to the gays – to me – letting them – me, again – know that they’re – I’m – loved by God and by you. You are going to be my bestest best friend.

Except you aren’t.

***

Friends don’t think I’m evil and don’t think that treating me like a human – You know, letting me legally marry, letting me be assured that I won’t be fired for being gay, ten billion other things – will result in the end of the world or horribly confusing conversations with their children.

(“Mommy? Why is that man with another man?”

“Because, darling, he loves him like I love your daddy.”

“Okay. Mommy? Can I have some ice-cream?”)

Your friendship with me is a pallid and meaningless thing if you are still afraid of gay marriage, don’t think gay people can raise children, and think that working at a place that discriminates against gays is a good thing.

But… But… You want to do well. Really! You’ve attended some seminars, you read a book by an Evangelical guy about it being hard to be gay, and you really want to help. You want to pray for my AIDS, or disciple me, or buy me some decent non-leather underwear. You want to be my friend.

Thing is, I have them. Friends, I mean. I actually have a lot. So I don’t really need your friendship. Especially as horrible of a friendship as it is.

Because in all your blustering, in all of your infuriatingly-well-meaning ignorance, you still won’t read a book that isn’t by a Christian author. You still reject the APA’s conclusion about gay people. You still think that I won’t be a fit parent, and that me and my husband will diminish your marriage.

You’re beating me with a tire iron for years, expressionless; now you smile as you do it and tell me you love me. I’m still being beaten. What kind of friendship is that? Oh, we all have our opinions, you think as your feet get sticky with blood. Just like the gays want to stop getting beat with tire irons, (You switch hands since your left arm is getting tired) You want to keep beating them with it. We can all be friends.

Well, my friends aren’t denying me civil rights. You are. I have a friends that think I’m human. You don’t, at least not in the same way you are. So there’s no reason for me to accept your friendship, having many better friendships with which to occupy my time.

Look, there’s no way to have a conversation unless we exchange ideas mutually in shared vulnerability. And we don’t have that. Firstly, I’m much more vulnerable in this situation because you have faith privilege and heterosexual privilege to gird yourself with (This won’t go away for a long time, though we can, to some extent, work around it.) Secondly, you aren’t really sharing any ideas I haven’t already had because, you know, I was Evangelical for about eight years or so. But most importantly, I don’t want to be vulnerable around you. Because I don’t like when I’m around you, who I become. Because I can never be anything but guarded around you. I cannot be myself. I feel stereotype threat and all of its ill effects. I don’t want to speak to you about anything faith related or anything that’s important to me, because I know the things that are important to me are things you hold as both scarily evil, and worthy of legislative action to discriminate against. I risk that after we go out to coffee, you’ll spew homophobic and bigoted views out into the world and think it’s okay because you talked to a gay person one time. I have to worry that maybe I’m the “gay” friend you can use to assure other gay people that you’re legit and for real, even as you remain horrible misinformed. I don’t like being your street cred. I don’t want to be used that way, as an interesting “perspective.” Because then I’m a part of the harm you do. By allowing you to believe that you are my friend, I’d be endorsing the pain you cause to me and my brothers and sisters.

Here’s what you do to really be a friend to the “other.” You pick up a phone and you call your local congresswomen and you tell them that it’s wrong to deny me the right to see my husband in the hospital. You tell local businesses that you expect them to hire gay people in the exact same way they would hire straight people, and you tell them that with dollars and the lack thereof if need be. You tell your familes at home that I’m human and that Obama’s repealling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a good thing. You use a google search bar and read from a variety of sources, not just the ones that reassure you that you have the correct viewpoint. That’s how to start being a friend.

So no, you will never be my friend as long as you persecute me. Your friendship is not only useless, it is dangerous, and my being around you serves only as a test to see how loving I can be to an enemy. Your friendship is not good enough.

But yes, I have to love you. Because I believe in love and decency and have been befriended by people when I didn’t deserve to be, and also because I also believe in reaching out to de-bigot people.

***

So, I love you. And I will be a friend to you. If you need to cry, I’ll be your shoulder. And if you need somebody to cheer you up, I can be that guy. I can help you move, bake you food, and generally help you out. I can, and must, be your friend, even as you fail so totally in your feeble attempts at being mine.

Which isn’t fun most of the time, though it can be. I do this because people were kind enough to do it to me when I was ignorant.

I also do this because I’ve also got this whole contingent of gay brothers and sisters in the closet, who kind of annoy me the way they wait for pats on the head from other evangelicals, but yet make me sad, too, because I feel like I’m leaving them by the wayside when I go to meet all the other, well-balanced gay people. They’re going to be waiting for you to be a friend to them, and they may accept your friendship. And they may actually like you a lot and you may be good for them.

So I’m at an impasse. I have to be your friend, and yet cannot accept your friendship because you think you know better than me about my own sexuality, so much so that you feel comfortable writing your ideas about it into law. You’re very well meaning as you beat LGBTQ* folk with tire-irons. It doesn’t make you evil; it just means that the evil you do you do without knowing.

But it is evil. It does hurt me and my gay brothers and sisters. It does send a societal condemnation that contributes to LGBTQ* youth killing themselves rather than dealing with life. It does put many gay people on the street. It makes gay people die alone, when they otherwise could have been with their lovers.

So you do great evil, and I love you despite that. And even if I didn’t, I love my possibly-closeted-really-conservative-and-evangelical gay friends enough to try to de-bigot you somewhat, if not all the way. And yet I know I cannot accept your friendship, for that makes me complicit in your evil, and makes me feel like less of a person.

So here’s what I’ve found. This is how we have a conversation.

***

We can have coffee. You can ask your annoying questions because you don’t feel like reading books or using a google search bar when I’m around because I’m so flippin’ awesome. You can say about a billion things that I find offensive, and I’ll be polite and correct you even as you dismiss my corrections as another interesting “perspective.” And I’ll listen to you talk about the Christianity I already knew and moved past, even as you try to bring me back to it thinking that it’s somehow new to me. But all this will start with the following disclaimer:

So long as you are against my civil rights, you will never be my friend. Being around you is not something I do for funsies. It is a burden from God and borne out in the hopes that this will somehow make a difference for my friends in the LGBTQ* community. I will attempt to be nice to you and polite, but that is not because you aren’t offensive or ignorant; rather, it is the grace of God, extended to you as it has been extended to me.

You do great evil, and you hurt me and my brethren (Fancy word, no?), and though I, by an act of will, do forgive you, that does not negate the hurt you bring into the world through your political action, or lack thereof. It does not extend itself to cover those others like me that you affect with your bigotry. Those are apologies you’ll have to make another day. I will be your friend, because that’s how I do, but you will never be mine. I reject your friendship entirely.

Furthermore, everything we say at this table is private. I don’t want any of it to infiltrate any other area of your life. You may not speak of it at all. You have no gay endorsement from me. And until you stop your discrimination, we’ve not had any real conversation. Because conversation requires a mutuality we don’t have because I’ve shared more Evangelical experiences than you have gay ones. Because real conversation requires shared vulnerability, which we don’t have; shared vulnerability requires equality, which I don’t have; and equality, in my mind, requires your acknowledgement that I’m a human and deserve civil rights, which you haven’t given. Instead of a conversation, we’ve had a lesson, and you were on the receiving end of it.

Lastly, I will accept any apology that’s sincere. But until you realize the difference between smiling as you do harm, and stopping the harm you do, you’ve not really apologized for much at all.

Now, you had a question about the Bible?

Language:

Language is tough. I hate debating semantics, and yet it does seem important to define some terms. I may edit this in the future, because as of now I’m speaking off the cuff. Lots of words we use have baggage, and lots of people won’t like the way others use them. However, I’m going to say how I use them here, so at least we’re clear.

Evangelical: For the purpose of this blog, an Evangelical is somebody who does not believe that homosexuality (By which I mean having gay sex at some point, inside or outside of marriage) is okay before God.

Homophobe: A homophobe is somebody who does not believe that homosexuality is okay before God or before government. They do not support equality under the law.

Bigot: A bigot is somebody who does not believe that homosexuality is okay before God, before government, or before any people whatsoever. They actively discriminate not only in law, but in personal relationships and business.

Traditional/Orthodox: Traditional and Orthodox are terms that will not be used in this blog at all. The belief that being gay is a sin is just as new as the belief that it isn’t. There is nothing more traditional or orthodox about either.

LGBTQ*: The people who cause all sorts of cognitive dissonance for Evangelicals.

Allies: The people without cognitive dissonance who are awesome and helpful to people who are LGBTQ*.

Evangelical Ally: Somebody who loudly supports LGBTQ* people both personally and in law, but still holds religious beliefs that may question homosexuality’s position before God.

Ex-gay: A very confused bisexual person.

Complementarian: A special breed of Evangelical; a complementarian believes that men and women are innately different, not only biologically and psychologically, but spiritually. Such a view is absolutely dependent on the subservience of women to men. It also comes up a lot in LGBTQ* discussions because of the broken gender binaries and children-without-mommys we leave in our wake.

Marriage Equality: The idea that any two people may attain at least the same rights and privileges as a heterosexual married couple. Some people add caveats to account for incest, saying that it shouldn’t be allowed. The point is, anybody of any sex, gender, or orientation may marry anybody else of any sex, gender, or orientation. They may or may not be having sex. They may or may not be having children.

Lastly, regarding identity, gender, orientation, sex, performance, and the like, I give you this:

http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/03/the-genderbread-person-v2-0/

On Introductions:

I’m not fond of introductions. However, I’m going to write one. (Ta da!)

I’m going to try to express excitement and give you a hook to keep reading, even as I talk about why this is here, or why it’s around. (Ta da!)

I end up discussing my sexuality a lot. Which is fun for me, if with the right people. However, I end up discussing my sexuality (And, as well, my faith and political leanings) with people who are the wrong people. And I end up saying the same things to these kinds of people repeatedly. So, rather than use the same words and struggle to define the same concepts, time after time, I’m creating this blog. (Ta da!)

Here, I can write about a specific idea one time only, without having to expend valuable patience. If people ask me about something I think, and I’ve already written about it, BAM! I link them here. (Ta da!)

It occurs to me that other people, having similar conversations, may link here as well. In which case, this is helpful not only to myself. They might be able to speak much more eloquently than I can, but, hey. This blog is here, and it’s fast to link to, and they won’t have to talk overmuch to people who still wonder how homosexuality is different from pedophilia. Everybody wins. (Ta da!)

I’m writing these things that I generally have to tell people that think that being gay is wrong. They are, overwhelmingly, Evangelical Christians. They also get their feelings hurt easily, as those with privilege often do. Formerly, when expressing these ideas, I’ve been careful to spare their feelings, and express, only in a very politic manner, ideas that they may find troubling. However, I’m not sure I was doing them any favors. Such cushioning only accommodates privilege; and further, presupposes that they are intellectual invalids. Further, it slowed down the progress of expression so much that I couldn’t ever get to all of my points, however salient. Here I will have no such qualms. Though these are posts aimed at Evangelical Christians, they are written in a manner that will probably leave Evangelicals offended and angry if they read them here. (Ta da!)

Instead, these posts are mostly for my brothers and sisters – those who are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, asterisk, or already allied. Though I highly suspect I’ll be the only person reading this, perhaps some in that latter community might find their thoughts elucidated and validated and crystallized by reading my random rants. It’s my hope that if anybody reads this, they can (If necessary) water down the mean, militant extra-gay parts down so that their accidentally-bigoted, but-presumably-well-meaning friends can hear them. Or, perhaps, help me figure things out that I totally haven’t figured out. Or correct me. (Though if you’re an Evangelical Christian, that very probably won’t work very well.) In the mean time, though, I’m going to continue being mean and militant. (Ta da!)

Onwards.