Call him G. I've known him for about eight years now, and he's a dear friend. Thoughtful and smart, he quite consciously embraces his better impulses. He's a progressive rock songwriter--a true talent. Despite an almost disabling congenital and often painful bone condition in his feet and back, he holds down a job with sometimes punishing hours. And oh, he also happens to be gay. And he has a boyfriend, himself a solid mensch.
However, according to religious conservative activist Matt Barber, their relationship is invalid by definition. "...one man violently cramming his penis into another man's lower intestine and calling it 'love.'"
Bigoted, obnoxious and deflating of one's estimation of the species, yes, but run-of-the-mill homophobia, really, the kind that runs like an open drainage pipe among skinheads, right-wing politicians and innumerable bitterly Bible-slapped pastors. It's probably going to get worse before it gets better, and the problem, of course, won't be confined to words. It may not even be limited to yet more needlessly discriminatory laws, which now seem to be emerging with a vengeance. I hope I'm wrong.
"He asked me: 'Are you gay?' And I said, 'Yes. Is that OK?'" Then they beat him." You've probably heard of this assault by now, but reading the exchange again gives one a sinking feeling, doesn't it? If we step back a moment and reflect, this incident invites a question, one that won't stop knocking on our door. To what extent is biased and hateful speech fueling anti-gay violence? Clearly it's a fallacy to say that speech is directly causative of behavior in the same way in physical systems--say, a cue ball hitting another ball on a pool table. It's a parallel mistake though to think that speech has no relationship to behavior, or doesn't create the conditions in which behavior is all but certain to occur. Herein we're in the complex territory of multiple lines of causation over time, of influence, of belief and attitude formation, the origination and perpetuation of bias and Otherness, and the underlying forces behind the expansion of empathy or its opposite in our society, and more.
While we may not be able to directly trace the connection between a speech act here and a behavior over there, this much seems reasonable to me. Were it not for the climate of dehumanization, bias and bigotry created largely by social and religious conservatives, violent assaults as well as many other insults to the dignity and well-being of LGBTQ individuals, would happen about as often as attacks directed against Quakers or Saturday night bowling league members.
So, you'll graciously pardon me while a finger is pointed.
You, conservative Illinois legislators who defeated an anti-bullying measure for fear of your fictitious "gay agenda";
You, Jeff Kuhner, President of the Edmund Burke Institute, in your fatuously apocalyptic piece about the effects of Obama's support for same sex marriage;
You, conservative pastors calling for gay concentration camps, or government mass murder of gays, or indoctrinating children into anti-gay bigotry, or advocating violence against children perceived to be gay, or normalizing talk of murdering gays, or advocating an amendment to the constition of Minnesota that would enshrine bigotry into our founding legal document--your actions and speech are fueling a dangerous climate for our fellow LGBTQ citizens. That's the technically correct way to put it. The more accurate way to put it is that you are generating motivations for violence--you are encouraging it.
The quickest way to press the human fight-or-flight button is to claim that a threat is imminent and jeopardizes everything in sight. Do this and you begin to relax internal moral restraints against violence. If Saddam Hussein is about to use nuclear weapons on the US (which he wasn't), then why shouldn't we protect ourselves through a preemptive attack? If gays are about to destroy marriage, the family, children, and society itself, then why shouldn't good patriots protect themselves? Why not set up a system of sexual orientation apartheid? Why not criminalize a group of people we don't like?
Before mass criminalization can be carried out, or worse, you first have to whip your supporters into a froth.
"Oh, how the pigs will squeal," writes Peter LaBarbera, head of AFTAH - Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality, about the hoped-for reaction among gays to a reactionary duo touring the state of Maine trying to whip up bigotry by publicly showing pictures of gay men kissing.
LaBarbera doesn't want you to volunteer or donate to Minnesotans United for All Families in order to defeat the marriage amendment this fall.
You may want to disappoint him.
© Humanists of Minnesota P.O. Box 582997 Minneapolis, MN 55458-2997