Friday, January 16, 2015

A Most Civil Response

An update to yesterday's post: The anti-gay Christian writer has responded to Ellen's clip in an "open letter." It's an extremely odd mix of complimentary and incredibly condescending, demeaning commentary.

In it, he acknowledges that Ellen is indeed a funny gal, and pleads, "hasn't the time arrived for everyone involved in this dialogue on gay-related issues to lower our voices and approach one another with respect and civility though we have our differences?" He then continues:
"Being 56 years old, childless and with your third 'partner,' you may not understand the awesome responsibility it is to shape impressionable and vulnerable children. I've done it with children and grandchildren plus helped parents for over 42 years with this most challenging task. 
....Ellen, a nation rises or falls on marriage. If we dismantle this pillar of society, as it has existed for over 5000 years of Western civilization and redefine it to accommodate other arrangements such as yours (or those advocating for polyamorous, polygamous or other configurations) what will be the consequences for this sacred institution and the future of our nation?"
Previous articles of his include, "Are You Aware of the Avalanche of Gay Programming Assaulting Your Home?" and "Archie Comics Now Includes Homosexuality, Witchcraft, Demons and Occult."

These anti-gay (and Christian supremacist) viewpoints are nothing new, of course, but it's worth pointing out the profound disconnect.  Many LGBT people view people like this guy as obvious raging bigots who lack all awareness of the harm their words cause. To many ant-LGBT Christians, though, accusations of bigotry feel incredibly unfair, and as though the label is used to intentionally "shut down conversation." As though, by virtue of these beliefs being religious, the beliefs cannot by definition be problematic, uncivil, or immoral.

I encountered this attitude a lot when I was a guest blogger at Family Scholars Blog when we discussed civility. To me, and many LGBT people, statements like this guy's about same-sex marriage and homosexuality having the power to destroy civilization are demeaning to our human dignity. In this case, to make it super personal, referencing Ellen's past relationships and using scare quotes in reference to her legal wife, which suggests that Portia is not actually her wife, in order to make a point suggesting that she can't possibly therefore understand the implications of same-sex marriage is, simply put, an asshole move.

Over the years, it has been a learning experience to me that these kinds of statements can be so obviously demeaning to me, while many anti-LGBT Christians think they are being perfectly civil and respectful. Many anti-LGBT Christians and LGBT people/allies are operating from different definitions of civility. Working from the simplistic notion, for instance, that both swearing and slurs are "uncivil" and that basically everything else is fair game, many Christians believe that if they state their anti-LGBT opinions politely enough, without saying "fuck" or "fag," then they can cause no harm and as though there's nothing offensive or wrong about what they say.  They think there's a stark difference between the message, "all fags are going to hell" and "you're going to hell because of your homosexuality." (Erm, to me, there's not a meaningful difference between the two).

When such Christians state their anti-LGBT views while simultaneously believing they're replicating the "word of god," well, there's really no telling them that they're actually being quite awful.

I suspect that's what's going on here, as well.  Mr Christian Guy suggested that he and Ellen get coffee and talk about things in a civil manner, and he deigns to elevate the discourse to a higher, nicer level. What offers like that tangibly mean for LGBT people, however, is subjecting ourselves to verbal assaults from people who inflict them with the approval of their own consciences.

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