Monday, September 29, 2008

The Mysterious Case of the Invisible Homo-Bigotry

Back in July, Jennifer Roback Morse wrote a column about the gay rights advocates who dared to boycott companies who support Proposition 8. While I take issue with much of her letter, which includes calling people seeking equality "gay rights radicals" and sarcastically calling a pro-Proposition 8 company a "big meanie," I especially take issue with this statement:

"For many of us, gay marriage isn't a referendum on gay people. It is about the meaning of marriage. Advocates of marriage as a union of a man and a woman do not hate gay people." (emphasis added)

See that last bit there, the highlighted sentence? It says that advocates of "man-woman marriage" do not hate gay people. Some such advocates may not. But some clearly do. That's why such a statement is audacious to those of us on the receiving side of homo-hatred.

I don't know whether Morse has intentionally blinded herself, whether she's just plain ignorant, or if she's just trying to whitewash a movement she's a part of, but it is clear that many marriage defenders do hate gay people and do use the movement as a blatant referendum on us. Morse herself may not hate gay people and may see the movement as something that transcends hate. And, kudos to her if she wants the movement to be comprised of mostly moral people operating within the normal bounds of love, honesty, and truth-telling. But the fact is, whether Morse knows it or not, the movement remains steeped in homo-bigotry, misinformation, lies, and vilification of gay people.

For instance, perhaps Morse is unaware that the Family Research Council's (FRC) various "fact" sheets about marriage and gay people are littered with falsehoods and mis-used research studies about gay people (mostly gay men). As but one example, the FRC cited the often mis-used "Dutch study" in order to claim that gay people [sic] are way more promiscuous than heterosexuals. In reality, the "Dutch Study" was conducted only among non-monogamous gay men, most of whom had HIV, in order to study the spread of HIV infection! Anyone who knows anything about research studies wouldn't be shocked to find out that a study which examines the sexual behavior of non-monogamous men would reveal that non-monogamous men have multiple sex partners. Yet, that little detail never stops marriage defenders from, in bad faith or ignorance, pretending that it applies to the general population of gay men (and those invisibly benign creatures known as lesbians.) Anyone acting in good faith, without a hateful agenda to demonize gay men and lesbians, would not mis-use the study in such a way.

This example is not just an isolated event, either. Many of the major supporters of California's Proposition 8 similarly mis-use the "Dutch Study" on their various fact sheets, websites, and articles. And not only do they mis-use this study, these groups mis-use multiple studies. Recently, for instance, marriage defense machines LifeSite news and OneNewsNow posted an article written by Kathleen Gilbert that was actually denounced by the researcher Gilbert cited in her article. The researcher took issue with the politically-motivated distortions and misrepresentations that Gilbert made from his research. Mis-using research to defame gay people? That's not very loving.

But not so fast! Maybe Morse and the other marriage defense whitewashers believe all this mis-use of research is accidental. Alright. I can grant that "advocacy" groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, and the Traditional Values Coalition might not know how to read research studies. Fine. Then maybe these groups should think long and hard before presenting research it knows little about. It is just plain irresponsible to ignorantly spread mis-information about entire groups of people. But, when it comes to so-called "research" organizations, one would think that organizations like the Family Research Institute, Family Research Council, National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuals would know how to accurately interpret and use research studies. But nope. Am I the only one reading this who cannot possibly believe that legitimate research institutes act in good faith when they mis-use research studies?

In fact, such mis-use of research for political purposes does feel sort of like a "referendum on gay people." In fact, it makes me a feel little bit hated. I suppose if my feelings mattered, that would be a problem.

Yet, not only do many marriage defense groups mis-understand and/or mis-use science, they create caricatures out of gay people. As one example, marriage defense groups particularly like to scare people into thinking that all gay people want to "re-define" marriage into a promiscuous sex-fueled free-for-all, as opposed to an institution of relative monogamy. The Family Research Council, for instance, cites Michelangelo Signorile saying that he wants "a relationship in which the partners have sex on the outside often ... and discuss their outside sex with each other, or share sex partners." Gosh, it sure is scary what those radical homosexualists want to do to marriage! But seriously, I'm sure reasonable people like Morse know that the gay rights movement is not a monolithic one in which all gay people think exactly the same thing and seek the same goals. I wish I could say that most marriage defenders get this concept. Unfortunately, whether due to ignorance or blatant mis-representation, they do not.

Then, of course, we have the "youth-friendly" iProtectMarriage website which includes "facts" (and I do use the word loosely here) like how our very "way of life" hinges on keeping gay people from marrying even though, at this juncture, no one could possibly know any such thing! That's okay, though, it's best to rile everyone up with ginormous predictions of future harm. Homosexuals are dangerous! Or, maybe she sees no problem with the iProtect site's recitation of HIV/AIDS statistics, and the clear implication that gay men (oh yeah and women) do not deserve marriage because gay men have higher rates of the disease than any other group. Wait, I know. When the iProtect website goes on to cite all of the wonderful positive benefits of marriage, she also fails to see the glaring question that is begged: If marriage is so good for people then why aren't gay men and lesbians entitled to these wonderful benefits as well?

And do the asinine comments from Prop 8 supporters like the ones advocating for the gassing of all "sub-human perverts" count as hatred? Maybe when they say we should die, they mean it in a nice way.

But sure, Morse, let's just keep on telling people that marriage defenders don't hate gay people. Let's pretend at least some members of the "man-woman marriage" movement do not hate gay people. Maybe then no one will notice that former Proposition 8 advocate David Benkof quit the movement after being disgusted by the offensive words and actions of some of its leaders. Writing in the Black Hills-Pioneer, Benkof wrote that marriage defenders tend to use arguments that are offensive to the human dignity of gay men and lesbians. Specifically, they have a tendency to refer to families headed by same-sex partners as homosexual "families." Note the quotes. Those indicate that gay and lesbian families aren't real families.

Many of us consider such public and frequent ridicule of our families to be hateful and mean-spirited. If Morse is incapable of understanding why, then I would urge her to put herself in our shoes. How would she feel if so-called loving, righteous religious organizations said that her "family" is not legitimate? Would she feel "loved"? Would she feel as though this movement that de-legitimizes herself and her family is a referendum on her? Or am I just being silly? Maybe this is some sick, warped version of Christian "tough love" that is really just an excuse to hate people and not feel guilty about it.

See, I've listed but a few examples of marriage defender "love." I could go on. You all, dear readers, know I could. But those of us who are gay, allied, or in the least bit familiar with this movement, already know that the marriage-defense and anti-gay movements often use immoral, hateful, and dishonest tactics to promote their political agenda. What is amazing to me is that one who is as intimately familiar with this movement as Jennifer Roback Morse is actually said with a straight face that the marriage defense movement is not a referendum on gay people and that advocates of man-woman marriage do not hate gay people.

Hatred, as an emotion, is difficult to prove. Yet the marriage defender who is able to make arguments against same-sex marriage without simultaneously being dishonest and/or mean-spirited is rare. As I said before, Morse herself may not hate gay people. For a marriage defender, she is actually one of the classier ones. But why else do so many in the movement that she is a part of lie and spread propaganda about gay people if they do not hate us? Under what set of moral standards is such vilification acceptable?

Homobigotry is not some figment of our overly-delicate gay sensibilities, Dr. Morse. Some of the people you are in cahoots with really are "big meanies." So just keep on mocking all you want. But part of respecting people includes taking their claims of being vilified by a movement you are a part of seriously. Legitimate reasons exist for why so many of us feel hated by marriage defenders and a lot of those reasons are not too difficult to find.

I can see how some marriage defenders might not hate gay people, rather they just genuinely believe that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will harm marriage. But if you can't see how hate-fueled lies and misinformation are are a major part of the marriage defense movement, you are simply blind.

Seek out this "invisible" hatred, and you will find it.

No comments: