Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pulling Away the Mask: Is Extermination the End Goal of Anti-Gay Activism?

[Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Eliminationist rhetoric]

There's always that moment, when you're watching a show like Law and Order: SVU. The defendant, an accused rapist, is sitting on the stand in the courtroom looking like a choir boy wearing his clean suit and sheepish smile. As the viewer, you know he did it, but you don't think the jury's buying it because the guy "looks like a nice guy" all cleaned up.

As the prosecutor recounts a particularly gruesome detail of the attack, the camera cuts to a close-up of the rapist, who is subtly smirking as he re-imagines his handiwork. The jury, of course, doesn't notice this secret smirking.

But then, the atmosphere changes.

The prosecutor, Alexandra Cabot perhaps, isn't backing down. She, rather than he- the man- has authority in the courtroom, and she isn't backing down. She's pressing him and he can't stand it. Where was he? What was he doing? When was he? Where was he, again? And what did he do after he raped her? She's not letting up and that pisses him off and so, in a fit of rage, through spittle and red-faced tears he confesses.

On the stand. In front of the judge and jury. In the light of the day. He says he did it. He raped that bitch. And he'd do it again if he had the chance.

The courtroom collectively gasps. Alexandra walks away, no more questions your honor.

There's always something viscerally satisfying about that moment. That Nice Guy mask slips away, revealing civility to be nothing but a performance.

With respect to the anti-LGBT movement, there are those who demonstrate similar losses of control. Although they themselves might not label it as hatred, what they do demonstrate is repugnant, nonetheless, and identifiable as hatred.

Likewise, there are those who, although virulently opposed to LGBT rights, advance qualitatively different arguments than those whose opposition to Everything Gay seems to be grounded mostly in their opposition to "one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it ‘love.'" As it becomes less socially acceptable to show open hostility toward gay people, some peddle a softer bigotry of heterosexism, insisting that they don't hate gay people or anything, they just think every marriage should have one man and one woman in it and what's so bad about that?

But every now and then, that mask of civility slips a little, and you wonder if maybe they've revealed more than they have intended. You start to wonder, did they just accidentally show their true extreme, violent thoughts about gay people, or did they merely choose their words poorly and irresponsibly, without regard to the logical extension of their words? I ask that question out of sincerity, for we should be wary of attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

In making his case against same-sex marriage, our anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-equality friend Playful Walrus likes to use an argument that I've always found incredibly troubling. In a nutshell, he believes that two people of the same-sex should not be allowed to marry (among other things) because "...same-sex couplings have not produced anything for society, except for the spread of disease."

Perhaps recognizing the extremity of such a statement, in recent times he has tempered his statement to:

"...[A]s I've said before, no matter how angry it makes people, the demonstrable fact of the matter is that heterosexual coitus, and by extension marriage (in addition to other reasons), benefits society in ways that same-sex pairing can't. It naturally produces new citizens, and marriage gives those new citizens a legally and socially bound mother and father, role models, nurturers, and protectors from both of the two sexes who demonstrate beneficial interaction between the sexes. That two men commit sodomy with each other does not allow them to contribute to society in any positive way that they couldn't have without ever touching each other."

Here, it's important to note that these statements do not so much make me, a gay person, feel "angry" but rather they make me, a gay person, feel unsafe. I sit here and think about the implications that follow from Walrus' premises that (a) same-sex pairings contribute nothing positive to society and (b) that same-sex pairings only contribute disease. Essentially, all Walrus is explicitly noting here is that some heterosexual couples can reproduce together whereas same-sex couples cannot, yet the language he uses to convey this statement of the obvious is incredibly troubling.

It is a slip of facade that reveals an extreme christian-darwinist view that measures a couple's value to society solely in its members' capacity to reproduce with one another. He has chosen to wrap his observation about how "heterosexual coitus" can create babies in the language of extermination. As elle at shakesville writes of a fire ant extermination commercial that sounds quite similar to Walrus' speech, "it relies on language and imagery used throughout history to talk about the extermination of people, as well." As elle further notes, it doesn't take a huge leap of logic to go from:

"There’s nothing good about [ __________ ]. They don’t [engage in beneficial activities]. All they do is [cause a specific problem]. That’s their sole contribution to mankind."


"And that’s why, they have to die."

I don't know whether Walrus is in favor of literally exterminating gays or same-sex couples from society, but I would not be at all surprised if he at least believes the world would be a better place without LGBT people, same-sex couples, and/or homosex in it. After all, if a certain type of "coupling" contributes nothing positive to society and only spreads disease, it's not a huge stretch for a person to want to eliminate such couplings from society. That's certainly the sentiment behind Uganda's pending anti-homosexuality bill that mandates the imprisonment and execution of "convicted" homosexuals, which by the way, not a single person at the gay-obsessive group blog that Walrus contributes to has bothered to condemn, acknowledge, or oppose.

When some folks are so adamantly anti everything gay, refusing to acknowledge or condemn injustice against LGBT people, it's hard to know what, if anything, they are for when it comes to homosexuality. Just the other day, in a post complaining about California's Harvey Milk Day, Walrus noted that "one can be for 'gay rights' and against be [sic] neutering of marriage," suggesting that he's actually for gay rights and is not, actually, "anti-gay."

This claim is quite common, although when pressed on which "gay rights" such folks favor, their lists are rarely forthcoming. Their actual, tangible advocacy for the few, if any, "gay rights" they favor is almost always nil. Instead, they will tell you that they are "for" marriage and family and god and so forth. But these institutions, from their perspective, are ideally devoid of gay people, people who engage in homosex, and/or people who have same-sex partners.

So, naturally, the excluded non-heterosexual is led to wonder. Where, specifically, do the LGBT folks and the same-sex couples belong in the ideal world of those who oppose LGBT rights and same-sex marriage? In a heterosexual relationship? In "reparative therapy"? In a same-sex "civil union" that's Definitely Not Marriage? Where? Anywhere?

On the extreme end, I do believe that some anti-gays do want gay people, the gay identity, and/or same-sex behavior to be literally exterminated from the world. At a less extreme end, I believe that many anti-gays want this extermination to happen metaphorically, through the social expectation for gays to assimilate into heterosexuality. By conditioning the receipt of social goods, including the labels of "normal" and "marriage," on heterosexual behavior, they seek to coerce gay people into heterosexuality and then marginalize, stigmatize, and invisibilize those who do not comply.

It's a mask that doesn't slip too often, but it slips damn often enough. (See also, Conservapedia's article on the "homosexual agenda" that calls Iran's policy of executing gay people "exemplary.")

The general public laughs off the likes of Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps and is rightly horrified at Uganda's pending bill, but many people are more willing to listen to someone with a message that sounds sort of reasonable and civil. The connect-the-dots picture that is revealed by extending Walrus' statements to their logical conclusion is horrifying- whether taken literally or metaphorically- yet by not explicitly drawing these conclusions himself, he and like-minded cohorts can back up with their hands in the air and say they love gay people, they really really love us, they just don't want us to have homosex.

Or teach children.

Or have homo relationships.

Or have legal same-sex marriage.

Or raise children within a homo relationship.

(The restrictions on our lives tend to increase the more one presses the average anti-gay on which activities we should and should not be able to engage in.)

Perhaps it is presumptuous to assume that Walrus and like-minded "marriage defenders" would be in favor of eradicating homosexuality, same-sex pairings, and/or LGBT people from the planet. Yet, based on many of their own overstated beliefs that homosexuality is an inferior way of being that has only negative consequences for society, I believe it would be similarly presumptuous and, also quite dangerous, to assume that they would oppose such a drastic measure.

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