Misleading definitions of middle-ground, or the return of the false equivalency
Let’s start with the first one: why should disagreements keep us from being friends? It depends entirely on the disagreement. My husband and I have been together for 18 years, and we love each other very much. We are also both very geeky nerds who are both fairly well informed on a variety of topics ranging from astrophysics to the old Donald Duck comic books. You can bet there are things we disagree about, and sometimes our discussions get very spirited. In 2008 you should have heard us debating whether to support Obama or Clinton in our upcoming caucus meeting, for instance.
If you think that I don’t deserve equal rights before the law, if you vote for measures to take my civil rights away, if you vote for candidates who have prayed openly that gays deserve death (almost the entire Republican Congressional Caucus just months ago), if you insist in the face of overwhelming medical evidence that being non-heterosexual is a matter of choice or mental illness, you aren’t my friend. And it isn’t even a matter of me not wanting to be your friend: you aren’t being a friend to any queer people by doing those things.
There are some medical studies that ultra-conservatives frequently misquote that draw a causal link between the discrimination and pervasive prejudice against queer people and negative health outcomes. We’ve known since George H.W. Bush’s surgeon general released the first of many other studies that there is a causal link between societal prejudice against queer people and teen suicide (about 1500 queer and non-gendering conforming children and teen-agers commit suicide every year because they are bullied, told that being queer is a sin, et cetera). Discrimination kills.
It’s not just the actual gay bashers who harm us, it’s the anti-gay attitudes and misinformation. Also, nice conservatives who claim that they don’t hate anyone, but also say that queer people don’t deserve legal rights, that our identities are sins, et cetera, create an atmosphere that encourages and excuses the violence.
So, no, when what we disagree about is our right to exist and live our lives as we wish, we can’t be friends. No one should feel obligated to cozy up to people who are actually hurting you. You can be civil to one another, but we’re not going to be friends.
I confess that I find it very hard to keep a straight face when religious conservatives claim that society is no longer a safe place merely because they’re no longer allowed to discriminate against other people, or to spout off their bigotry without someone disagreeing with them. For literally centuries society hasn’t been a safe place for queer people, or for people who don’t subscribe to the dominant religion, or for people who are the wrong ethnicity, et cetera. People were bashed, and lynched, and denied a place to live, denied health care, and so forth—often with the blessings of laws passed by conservative religious people. And you don’t feel safe because people disagree with you?
If people are actually threatening you, that’s bad. I am very sorry, and when I hear that kind of talk I do speak up. But the simple fact is that no one on my side is proposing laws to take away your rights. No one on my side is calling for laws to criminalize your sexuality. And some of the people who are currently asking for compromise and middle ground are the same people (literally in two very specific cases that I could name) who were actively trying to prevent hate crime laws being enacted, or trying to prevent civil union laws being enacting (a decade ago), or voting for candidates who literally were calling for gay men to be put into so-called quarantine camps (in the ’90s).
They are the same people who this year are trying to enact the anti-trans bathroom bills.
Me saying that you’re being a bigot when you call my sexual orientation a sin is not the equivalent of you supporting laws making it illegal for some people to go into public restrooms. Nor is it the equivalent of making it a crime for my husband and I to have sex even in the privacy of our own home. So the middle ground isn’t where you get to actually discriminate against me, and I have to listen respectfully when you express opinions that those laws and their rationales are right.
If you want to end the war between queer people and religious people, here’s what you do: stop attacking queer people, stop rationalizing discrimination, and stop defending the people who attack us. Because we aren’t actively attacking you. What you are perceiving as attack is a little thing called self-defense. We’re just trying to ward off the constant and pervasive and insidious grind of anti-gay rhetoric disguised as pro-family or traditional values.
If you don’t want to be called a bigot, stop being one. There are millions of religious people—people in your religion, whichever it is—who don’t believe that queers are evil demonic beings.
I am friends with religious people. I am friends with conservative people. We don’t agree on everything. We can get into very spirited debates about some of the things we disagree about. But they don’t tell me that I don’t have the right to live my life as an openly queer man. They don’t tell me that it should be illegal for me to live my life as an openly queer man. They don’t tell me that it should be legal for me to be fired, or denied housing, or denied services, or denied medical care, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. They aren’t sending queer children off to conversion therapy to be tortured. They aren’t demanding that books and movies should have warning labels merely for including any queer characters at all. They aren’t telling me that children should be protected from even knowing of the existence of queer people. They don’t tell me that “I don’t hate gay people—it isn’t your fault that you’re mentally diseased.”
To be friends, there has to be mutual respect. If you think that god is going to destroy this country for treating me equally under the law, you don’t respect me, and you’re not my friend. And yes, there is something wrong with that situation, but it isn’t me.
Re-posting this link from a recent Friday Links post, because it’s very relevant: On Peace Between Christians and GBLT People.