Tag Archive | bigotry

Statistics are seldom simple — or, a queer survivor unpacks survival, visibility, and feeling safe to be out

America's self-identification as LGBTQ+ by genereation. Source: Gallup 2020.

America’s self-identification as LGBTQ+ by genereation. Source: Gallup 2020. (click to embiggen)

Last week I posted this story in the Friday Five: 5.6% of American adults say they are LGBTQ. Over half identify as bisexual – The number of LGBTQ Americans coming out and claiming their identity just keeps growing. Digging beyond the headline, a lot of people focused on the generational chart (pictured above): Millennials (folks born between 1981 and 1996) are about four-and-a-half times more likely to identify as queer than Boomers (folks born between 1946-1964), while Gen-Z (folks born after 1996) are nearly eight times more likely than Boomers to identify as something other than heterosexual.

The story was published early in the week and I kept seeing various hot takes on the results. I was a little surprised at just how many people were willing to leap to the conclusion that younger people are only saying that they are queer to be cool.

“The lack of boomer LGBTQ+ people isn't because it's 'more popular now.' Many were murdered by they peers, died from government inaction during the AIDS crisis, committed suicide due to lack of social supports, or have had to live in the closet due to their peers' cruelty.”

(click to embiggen)

This ignores several facts that would disproportionately reduce the number of queer people in those less-young generations responding to this survey. Not the least of which is that many of them are literally not alive to respond. Twitter user @mike_i_guess sums up much of what I’d like to say on the matter, though I would use the term “contemporaries” rather than peers:

“The lack of boomer LGBTQ+ people isn’t because it’s ‘more popular now.’ Many were murdered by they peers, died from government inaction during the AIDS crisis, committed suicide due to lack of social supports, or have had to live in the closet due to their peers’ cruelty.”
—@mike_i_guess

I want to unpack that a bit. We don’t really have statistics on hate crimes before the passage of the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, and even then crimes against trans people (or those perceived to be trans) weren’t counted until the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2010 was signed into law. But queer people have been subject to bashings and murder for decades. The longer one lives, the more opportunities there are to fall victim to such crime.

It’s been known for a long time that queer people, particularly queer children and teens, are far more likely to attempt suicide than their straight contemporaries, and the statistical analysis is that the disparity is entirely due to the stress of homophobic abuse and related issues. Preliminary studies show a slight decrease in those numbers for teens and children since about 2012, as growing acceptance of queer adults in society has given more of them hope of a happy future.

Then there are health care issues. Numerous studies show that queer people are more likely to experience interruptions in health care coverage, are less likely to be forthcoming with their health care providers, and less likely to receive the same quality of health care as their straight contemporaries. It’s a complicated result of both systemic and direct homophobia. Lots of people operate under the mistaken notions that bigotry only exists in a small number of people who actively hate others because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera, but it’s a lot more subtle than that.

For instance, let’s talk about the bit about interruptions in health care coverage. For years in the U.S. one’s health insurance (if you have it) is provided by your employer. Most people don’t get to choose their coverage, they have to take what’s offered by their employer. Which means if you get laid off or otherwise lose your job, your health coverage goes away. Queer people are disproportionately likely to be let go when a Reduction In Force hits a workplace. They are also less likely to get promotions and more likely to earn less than their straight co-workers who received similar job performance reviews and have similar experience. This is not because most managers are actively homophobic. It is a combination of a lot of unconscious processes.

For example, if a queer person doesn’t feel safe being out in the workplace, they will police themselves constantly to make sure they don’t let telling details of their personal life slip. While straight co-workers will be sharing stories about things they did with the children over the weekend, or a project they worked on with their spouse, or even issues with an ex-spouse or in-laws they don’t get along with, the closeted co-worker remains mum. The closeted working can’t talk about their partner freely or in detail. So they limit themselves to very vague generalities are just politely comment on the other person’s remarks. This is perceived as being unfriendly. Not sharing personal details after another person shares some of theirs is considered anti-social. So the closeted queer employee is perceived as being less of a team player, aloof, and so forth. This has a deleterious effect on every aspect of employment, including as mentioned above an increased likelihood of being one of the people let go if there are lay-offs.

Even more dangerous is the tendency of some health care professionals not to take as seriously symptoms reported by a queer person. I have a very personal example of this. In the very early 1990s I had a series of weird health events. It took over a year for my doctor and two specialists to figure out what the underlying problem was. Before that diagnosis, I had a number of incidents that required me going to an emergency room.

One time, I had been unable to keep any food down. Soon I was running a fever and it reach the point that even trying to sip plain wanter sent me running to the bathroom and left me curled up with horrible pain in my stomach after I threw up the water. Eventually, Ray (my now late-husband) convinced me to let him take me to the hospital.

We had one bit of good luck. As we were checking in, a nurse who just happened to be coming to the front to give the admin person some information related to another patient, noticed how bad I looked. She asked a couple of questions, then pinched my forearm, before telling the admin person, “He’s extremely dehydrated and need to be put on an IV right away.”

I was whisked off, put on an IV, had my vitals taken. Not long after another nurse came in and drew a bunch of blood, asked questions, and finished filling out the admission form. Some time later the initial nurse dropped by to say her shift was ending, but before she left she wanted to see for herself if the fluids they were pumping into me were helping. My fever was down, I felt a lot better, and apparently I looked a lot better.

Then we just waited. I don’t know how long I laid there. Ray got very impatient and went to ask when someone was going to check on us. I think I was on my third unit of fluid at that point. A doctor showed up, asked a bunch of questions, checked a few things, and told us they were still waiting for a couple of the blood tests to come in. Some time after that the doctor reappeared, alone with a nurse who changed out the fluid bag again. The doctor explained that the blood tests were inconclusive, but he suspected I had a rare form of ulcer that his caused by a particular kind of infection of the stomach lining, so he was prescribing some pills that would help with that. He said that as soon as I was rehydrated enough that I had to go to the bathroom, I’d been discharged. I should keep taking the pills for the rest of the weekend (it was a Saturday night), and see my regular doctor on Monday.

I fell asleep on the drive home. And pretty much slept through all of Sunday. I was able to keep broth, plain water, and tea down, so I thought the pills were helping.

The next morning, I left a message with my boss saying I was sick and hoping to see my doctor that day. I had just hung up and was going to look up my doctor’s phone number when the doctor’s office called us. They’d gotten the information from the hospital and my regular doctor was not happy. They wanted me to come right away, bring all of the paperwork the hospital had given me, “And if you haven’t taken any of those pills today, don’t take any more!”

My doctor wasn’t just unhappy, he was royally pissed. The pills I had been given had nothing to do with ulcers or infections of any kind. They were tranquilizers. Among the notes from the ER doctor was the phrase, “Gay male patient claims he doesn’t have AIDS.” His diagnosis was that I was probably just overreacting to “unremarkable symptoms.”

My doctor wanted to know why I had gone to that hospital instead of one that was much closer to my home (where he happened to be a resident, and would have been called as soon as I was admitted, instead of him finding it out when they pulled faxes off the machine Monday morning). I explained that my employer had recently changed our insurance plan and there was exactly one ER in the city that was considered in network. He explained that the particular hospital I had gone to had a number of doctors like this one guy who 1) assumed every gay male patient was infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and 2) there isn’t anything you can do for AIDS patients, anyway, so don’t waste a lot of time on them.

The blood tests that came back before they admitted me clearly indicated that in addition to the fever and other symptoms I did have some kind of serious infection. But the medicine prescribed wouldn’t treat any infections. Tests results that had come back after they let me go gave my doctor a good guess as to what kind of infection I did have, and he prescribed something that actually would work against. Then my doctor walked me through the process of filing a formal complaint. Which he was also doing.

The upshot was that I received a partial refund from the hospital of my out-of-pocket for the ER visit. My doctor pried a letter out of my insurance company saying that the hospital close to my house would be covered as in-network. But just to be sure, my doctor also got a letter from that hospital saying that if my insurance billed me as out-of-network they would cover the cost of the difference in out-of-pocket.

The initial incident happened in the city of Seattle, which most people think of as an extremely liberal city where virtually no one is homophobic. I was lucky that I had as my primary physician a guy who was ready to fight for his patients. Who know what would have happened if I hadn’t had him in my corner? And the doctor who sent me home with tranquilizers was simply appalled that anyone would think that he had allowed any sort of prejudice guide his decision to lie to me about his diagnosis and send me home with medicine that would just make sure I was too sleepy to do anything for a few days.

I bet to this day he would swear that he doesn’t have a homophobic bone in his body. Homophobia isn’t limited to people scream slurs while they beat you.

“...Though the AIDS epidemic began around 1979, data on deaths were unreliable until 1987.”

“…Though the AIDS epidemic began around 1979, data on deaths were unreliable until 1987.” (click to embiggen)

The takeaway: for many reasons queers are less likely to get consistent, quality health care. They are disproportionately less likely to experience good health care outcomes. Therefore, more likely to die younger than their straight contemporaries. And that doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of queer men in the U.S. who died starting in 1979 due to the AIDS epidemic (which is still ongoing, but the availability of multi-drug anti-viral cocktails beginning in the mid-1990s have met it is no long a death sentence, even though there is still no cure).

Then there is the phenomenon of people so deeply afraid of being outed that even on an anonymous survey they will not identify as anything other than straight. Any reasonably friendly out gay man who has ever logged into a hookup app, a gay chat site, or similar forum will have many stories of getting hit up on by men who are married to women (usually with kids), and desperately want to have sex with other men, but only if you can be discreet and guarantee that no one will ever know. If you can get them to talk about it, they will admit that they have wanted to have sex with other men since they were teens (or even earlier), but have always been afraid to be out, and they are convinced that their lives will end if their wife and family ever found out they were anything but 100 percent straight.

I remember one particularly heart-wrenching conversation with a guy who felt he was super lucky precisely because his first (and only) child was a son, so that his super conservative and religious parents and in-laws were all happy, and he was able to just stop having sex with his wife at all after the arrival of the first baby. And significantly, his wife was perfectly happy that he supposedly hadn’t been interested in sex at all for the next about 30 years (at the time I talked to him). He had been having lots and lots and lots of sex for all those years—it was just furtive, downlow sex with other men. And I have little doubt that if he happened to be surveyed by Gallup, that without hesitation he would describe himself as straight

Now while I have met a few younger men like him, the vast majority of these downlow closet cases I run into online now are middle aged or older.

It’s more accurate to conclude from Gallup’s generational information that younger people currently feel less fear to admit their orientation. We hope that, going forward, they will also experience fewer of the issues that have caused earlier generations of queers to die before their time.

Speech without consequences isn’t free…

“Speech without consequence is't free, it's privilege...” © Tauriq Moosa

“Speech without consequence is’t free, it’s privilege…” © Tauriq Moosa (Click to embiggen)

A few years ago a lot of people were sharing a link to a video along with shocked comments. The video was a black and white clip from an old PBS show in which I think it was four various serious white guys in suits were discussing politics. The specific topic I think was the Voting Rights Act. Anyway, the show was originally broadcast in the sixties. What was so shocking to many of the people sharing the link was first that one of the experts said a lot of blatantly racist stuff as his argument (“it’s a well known fact that negroes are less intelligent, on average than white people” was only one of the things he said). But even more shocking to the people sharing it, but the supposed liberal on the show not only didn’t dispute any of the racist things, he actually agreed with at least some of them. The liberal argument wasn’t that any Black people are just as intelligent and moral and civilized as white people, the argument seemed to be that even inferior people deserved civil rights.

The clip wasn’t a parody, let’s make that clear.

Most of the people who were shocked were either too young to have been alive in the 1960s, or too young to remember that time. At the time blatantly racist beliefs were considered not just a legitimate opinion to hold, but was largely accepted as reasonable interpretation of reality. Now, there were always people who thought those beliefs were wrong, but they were still very much in the minority when this particular show was recorded.

That minority was growing. Over the next many years more and more people came to the conclusion that not only were those racist beliefs factually incorrect, but that adhering to them was seen as immoral. A tipping point was reached, and there was a wave in which a number of conservative pundits and opinion columnists and such found themselves being dropped by mainstream news organizations.

And they freaked out a bit.

The freak out is understandable. For example, a particular columnist got fired by the New York Times, I think it was, after writing a column criticizing busing (where students were bused to schools further from their neighborhood in order to try to achieve racial balance in public schools). And it wasn’t the criticism of bussing itself that got him fired, it was the fact that one of the reasons he said desegregation of schools was bad was because the white students would be held back by the Black and Latino students because the latter were obviously less intelligent. It was an assertion the columnist had made many times in editorials before this one, so you can understand why he thought it was still a legitimate argument.

The expectations of polite society had shifted around him, and he had failed to keep up. A year earlier, it was still socially acceptable to believe white people were inherently mentally superior to people of other ethnicities. You could express that belief in print and in person and still be welcome at people’s parties and so forth. Many might disagree with him a year or more earlier, but they still viewed it as a topic upon which reasonable people could disagree. And then, you couldn’t any longer.

Racism didn’t end. What changes was how blatantly racist someone could be and still get accepted in polite society.

Plenty of conservatives adapted. They figured out ways to continue making arguments for their positions using euphemisms and dog whistles. Maybe even a small number saw the light, somewhat, and recognized that systemic social and economic biases were what caused the disparities they saw between the races. But it was almost certainly an extremely small number.

I bring this long anecdote up to set some context to a much more recent hot topic. Changing social norms of what expressions of bigotry are considered acceptable isn’t something new. It is an ongoing thing. And while it is a gradual thing, these tipping point moments can catch some privileged people by surprise. It seems sudden and even disconcerting to them, in part because they usually go through much of live in a bubble of privilege.

And to clarify, I don’t mean that only rich people live in these bubbles. Privilege takes many forms. One of those forms is that people who disagree often don’t feel safe (physically, socially, financially) to express their disagreement. People who stand up for themselves or challenge certain kinds of comments in various social or work situations are perceived as “making waves” or “creating unnecessary conflict” and “not being a team player.” So, speaking up when a co-worker makes a misogynist or homophobic or transphobic joke carries a risk of everything from not being considered for promotion to being let go.

So people who are offended, feel attacked, or otherwise disagree with the sentiments—whether expressed explicitly or implied—learn to laugh nervously and change the topic, or otherwise not rock the boat. This perpetuates the mistaken belief of the bigot that what they said is perfectly reasonable. Some people laughed, right?

And it isn’t just the workplace where these bubbles happen.

The bubbles can insulate people holding those bigoted views right up until that tipping point is reached.

The recent flurries of pushback from the bigots has been to try to appeal to free speech and to bemoan so-called cancel culture. There are two problems here: you can’t make a free speech argument when you are specifically trying to silence your critics. And marginalized people have been “canceled”—losing jobs, entire careers—for years. When I mentioned above about losing one’s job for speaking up? That’s something that happens to women, people of color, queer people, trans people, and so forth all the time.

The reason these guys are upset is because it’s happening to them instead of to us. More of us feel we can speak up about other people’s bigotry, and we are. They were perfectly happy to live in the bubble and watch others miss out on promotions, lose their jobs, sometimes get driven out of neighborhoods, et cetera. But suddenly some people are actually subjecting them to (in most cases) mild consequences, and suddenly they think they are the victims.

No. They have been the privileged aggressors acting like jerks to other people. It’s not that suddenly people are offended by things that used to be just fine. Those those were always offensive. All that’s happened is that far fewer people are willing to give these jerks a free pass.

‟Speech without consequence isn’t free, it’s privilege. And more and more, we are using free expression and digital tools to fight back against harassment that has always been there—but for which it’s never been the harassers’ problem to deal with.
And if these hypersensitive men can’t deal with responses to their abusive behavior online, maybe the Internet isn’t for them.”
—Tauriq Moosa

Weekend Update 6/13/2020: Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, Immigrant Lives Matter, and Dang it Wear a Mask!

Time once again for a post in which I link to stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or broke after I composed the Friday Five, or are an update to a story I’ve linked to and ranted commented upon in a previous post. There was a whole lot of news that broke yesterday (in addition to the stuff I wrote about in the evening) so it’s taken me longer than I liked to figure out which ones to talk about.

First, some very sad news: Two Black Transgender Women Murdered Amid Nationwide Racial Justice Protests. In case you forgot what the protests are about: society far too often treat black lives as disposal. And here we are again.

Speaking of: Police body camera footage shows black man pleading ‘I can’t breathe’ during 2019 Oklahoma arrest. As the headline says, this is a case from over a year ago. A case the the officers have largely thus far escaped any consequences. The body cam footage is pretty damning. Will there actually be consequences now? I guess we can hope.

Immigrants stage a hunger strike for Black lives inside ICE detention facility. Remember that almost all of the immigrants are being illegally detained by the U.S. And all of them are being held in conditions that violate not just our laws, but also internal law. And the reason this is happening is because our current federal administration values people of color even less than the existing systemic racism of our society as a whole. These immigrants understand that their plight is intimately tied to all the forces that make the Black Lives Matter movement necessary.

Meanwhile, there is still a pandemic going on: Eastern Washington COVID-19 case counts continue to climb, especially in young people. And of course the communities that have been most resistant to any measures to limit transmission of the disease are where cases are spiking, now.

I’m only including this next article because it is an excellent example of writing a news story with absolutely no useful information: Why are Washington state’s coronavirus cases on the rise again?

On the other hand, apparently sometimes the Times remembers it’s a newspaper… Fox News runs digitally altered images in coverage of Seattle’s protests, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. It’s not just Fox News that is doing this. Local station, KOMO, has run fake pictures and false stories. It seems local stations in other markets that all happen to be owned by Sinclair (which in many ways is worse than Fox) are running this fake stories about what’s happened in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood once the state police, national guard, and riot cops were pulled out. The police have not abandoned the neighborhood. They’ve reduced their presence to the number necessary to respond to 911 calls, that’s it. And people in the neighborhood are not locking people out or extorting people or even walking around armed.

What is happening? People have planted community vegetable gardens. They have set up a food coop. They are (at save social distances) singing, and playing music and just chilling. You know, being a neighborhood rather than a war zone. One former co-worker of mine who happens to live up there posted elsewhere, “It’s basically a street festival.”

There was one other topic I was going to include, but my rant on the single link got long enough that I think it needs a separate post. So I’m going to close this here.

It’s not the truth that confuses kids, or, reflections from a closeted queer childhood

“My hot take on LGGT 'education' (aka legally being allowed to mention that not everyone is cishet in a school without losing your job) is that if your kid is old enough to make fun of other kids by calling them gay, they're old enough to be told that they're being a bigoted little shit.” —@Neeerts

(Click to embiggen)

I get extremely tired of hearing the lament, “But children will be confused!” thrown out any time anyone suggests that maybe it might be all right for movies or TV shows or books or just adults who happen to be near children to admit that queer people exist. It is not the existence of same sex married couples that confuses children. It is not the existence of transgender people that confuses children. It is not the existence of nonbinary people that confuses children. It is not the existence of asexual people that confuses children. What confuses children is when adults lie to them and then try to obfuscate it. And that includes lying by omission by trying to keep children from knowing that any of those things exist.

And the thing is, the people who most adhere to this idea of protecting children from even knowing that non-cisgender or non-heterosexual people exist all do a really poor job of that. Because I guarantee you that the children of those parents are the ones at school bullying any classmate who seems gender-nonconforming by calling them homo or sissies or some other slur. Kids may or may not understand the intricacies of adult relationships, but they glean and infer a whole lot about same aspects of sex and romance and related topics from the adults around them.

Some adults seem to completely forget what it was like when they were children. And that manifests in a couple of different ways. To illustrate, I’ll tell the story of two playdates.

Now, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “playdate” meaning “a play session for small children arranged in advance by their parents” didn’t come into the language until 1975, and these two stories from my childhood predate that (one happened in 1969, and other in 1971). And I’m not sure that 9-year-olds or 10-year-olds fall into the definition of small children, but the idea was mostly the same.

The first one happened early in the third grade. It was the first time I recall that my Mom took me to the home of one of my friends from school or church for the explicit purpose of letting us kids hang out. Mom also visited with my friend’s mother for a bit before taking my little sister to some other event, but I and my friend hanging out was the purpose of the trip. It was a fun evening, we spent most of the time in his room talking about comic books, as I recall. No big deal. Eventually Mom came back to pick me up. We went home. We had a few more similar get-togethers like that, usually with me being dropped off at his place, but it least one time his parents dropped him off at ours.

The second one happened in the middle of fourth grade. Because of my dad’s work in the petroleum industry, we had moved three times between these two playdates. Two of the moves involved crossing a state boundary. All three moves involved me being enrolled in a new school. At some of those intervening schools, we hadn’t remained in the area long enough for me to make much in the way for friends. At the third place, though, I quickly became very good friends with a classmate. Both of us were in orchestra (it was the first year I could join), and our mothers had met when they came to pick us up after practice.

So eventually, a plan was made when my classmate would be dropped off at our place for an evening. But the plan quickly became weird. Dad and a few other people made strange comments. I was getting teased about this friend.

Why? Because she wasn’t a boy.

When she was dropped off, her dad made some comments that made both Dad and Mom laugh, but just confused me. Most of the fathers of kids I’d known most of my life had owned guns. So why did her dad tell me about his gun and how handy it was to get to?

We spent most of the time sitting at the dining room table talking about our favorite books (she and I shared an adoration for The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew). At the end of the evening, Mom drove my friend home and I rode along so we could keep talking. When we pulled up in front of her house, Mom told me that I was supposed to walk my friend to the door. I said, “Sure.” We both got out of the car and walked up to the front door. I remember that her family’s dog was barking really loud in the house, and she made a comment about how we needed to make sure the gate was latched, in case the dog got out of the house.

We walked up to the porch. She said, “Good night.” I said, “See you at school!” She opened the door and went inside. I walked back to the car. I spent at least half a minute making certain I had latched the gate correctly, then I got into the car.

And Mom was very angry at me. “When you walk a girl to the door, you don’t just leave her there and walk away! You’re supposed to go inside and thank her parents for letting her go out with you!”

“I didn’t know that.” All of those times the year before when the other friend and I had gotten together, neither of us had been sent in to thank the others’ parents for letting us hang out. Why was this different?

There was some additional fallout, including a lot of teasing at school the following week. The upshot was that my friend didn’t want me to talk to her any more in class or at orchestra rehearsal. I was very confused about the whole thing. Not because I didn’t know why the other kids were teasing us. I knew what “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” meant. But I also knew that those words didn’t describe our relationship—we really were just two orchestra nerds who liked reading! Once that teasing started, I at least had a slightly better idea of what some of the weird comments from adults beforehand had been about.

Vintage photo of two men sitting in a forest and kissing. “Men May Kiss Men”

(Click to embiggen)

I have no idea if the boy I was friends with during the first part of third grade was also queer. At the time I didn’t know that I was, for goodness sake! It is true that one of the reasons we got along so well is because we both tended to be frequent victims of the same playground bullies, so maybe he was. Or maybe we were both just 9-year-old comics nerds who happened to hit it off. But none of the adults around us ever worried about us both being in either his or my bedroom with the door closed for several hours. No one’s dad made shotgun jokes when we got together. At the time, I had no interest in kissing other boys (that would come up a couple years later, when puberty hit like a freight train), and certainly had never thought of kissing him. We were just two guys who thought Spiderman was cool.

But everyone, including apparently our own parents, assumed I and the second friend were romantically interested. I can’t speak for her, of course, but since I’m not merely gay, I’m really most sincerely gay, that was the furthest thing from my mind. And 10-year-old me was just happy to have found someone who liked reading some of the same books as I did.

To circle back to the opening topic: People who assume that grade school children are too young to know about romance and such are the same people who call small boys “lady killers” and cute baby girls “future heartbreakers.” They are the same people who assume any time a young boy is friendly with a girl that it’s a crush. They are the same people who make those stupid shotgun jokes.

If the kids are old enough to hear bullies calling other children “fags” or “homos” or “sissies”, they are old enough to know that actual LGBTQ+ people exist, that they are members of their community, and that they are humans who deserve respect and love just as much as anyone else. If kids are old enough for adults to tease them about their supposed girlfriends/boyfriends, they’re old enough to know that sometimes a guy can have a boyfriend or even a husband, that sometimes a gal can have a girlfriend or even a wife.

Confessions of a former self-loathing closet case

“Homophobia Kills. Homophobia can lead to a slow and painful death. Homophobia seriously harms people around you. Homophobia in the familiy can lead to teen suicides.”

Quit being a homophobe (click to embiggen)

There are people who firmly believe that because of the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” that the only aspects of homophobia that cause harm are actual physical assaults, targeted arson, and the like—and that any of us who push back on anything less than a physical attack are overreacting. Not just overreacting, they say that us calling out the homophobes is worse than the original homophobia. And that’s just bull. Pointing out that a person is acting or saying bigoted things is not worse or somehow less civil than the original bigoted actions, comments, or policies. Facing blowback for things you do and say, especially in the public square, does not make you a victim. And while it is possible for a reaction to be disproportionate, there isn’t a simple, objective way to measure that disproportionality. But what I can say with certainty is, if you’re one of those people who have ever used that “sticks and stones” philosophy to excuse someone being a bigot, you have no right to criticize any words that are sent back to the bigot as being out of line.

All of this is true even if the bigot in question happens to also be a member of the community the bigot is expressing bigotry toward.

I’ve started a blog post with this title several times over the last two years, and then trashed most of it—usually extracting a small part out to use as the basis of a slightly less provocative blog post. A pair of news stories crossed my stream within the last week that got me thinking about this again, and once again I pulled this out of the drafts and tried to start writing it. I am not going to link to the news stories in question for reasons I hope become clear. The reason I have toned down previous blog posts on this topic can be summed up by something I saw this morning on twitter from Alexandra Erin, a writer and satirist I follow, in reference to a completely unrelated topic: “…when you put something out in the world, you are responsible for how it lands.”

Erin is talking about satire and how easily it can be misunderstood, but the principle applies to all writing. It doesn’t matter whether I intend something to hurt someone else, if it hurts them, it is still my fault. That doesn’t mean the intention doesn’t matter, it means that intentions don’t negate the fallout. Here’s a simple example (which I think I first read in a blog post on tumblr, but I don’t remember for certain): say you’re an adult tasked with watching some small children playing on a playground. One kid, in their excitement, inadvertently bumps into another kid, who falls off the jungle gym and skins their knee. Do you run up to the crying kid with the skinned knee and lecture them that they shouldn’t cry because the other kid didn’t mean it? No. You clean up and bandage the skinned knee, you comfort the hurt child, you caution the other kid to be more mindful of what they’re doing, and you have them apologize for their carelessness.

I’ve written more than once about self-hating closet cases who cause harm to our community and whether they deserve our sympathy. The whole reason they are self-hating is because of the homophobia they faced growing up. Our society is steeped in toxic notions about what is and isn’t acceptable for one to be interested in depending on one’s gender. And also steeped in just as toxic notions about mannerisms—including how one talks and walks—that are acceptable depending on your gender. Not all queer people are obviously gender non-conforming (and not all gender non-conforming people are gay), but gender non-conforming kids are bullied and harassed. Even the gender conforming queer kids are hurt by that, because they know that if anyone finds out about their same-sex crushes or whatever, that they will be subjected to the same kind of hatred from some classmates, some teachers, and some family members.

We are taught from a very early age to loath ourselves and to expect loathing from others. For many of us, the need to deflect at least some of that loathing causes us to denounce and participate in the shunning and bullying of others. Because if we denounce the faggots loudly, no one could possibly believe we’re queer ourselves, right?

Which means that I feel a lot of guilt for some of the things I said and positions I endorsed in my early teens.

So yes, I feel a lot of sympathy for kids who are living in terror inside those closets. The sympathy starts to go away when those kids grow up, are exposed to examples of how life can be better out of the closet, but they continue to attack other queer people even while cowering inside their own closet. There is a bit of pity, sometimes, but the longer they are exposed to better information (sexual orientation isn’t a choice, all those stories about health issues for queers are myths, queer people can live healthy and happy and long lives, et cetera), they less they deserve our consideration.

And that doesn’t change if they happen to come out of the closet but still insist on vilifying and otherwise attacking their fellow queers. A young man who comes out of the closet but lends his voice and face to campaigns to deny civil rights to his fellow queers—who goes on national news shows and records political ads saying, “I’m a gay man, and I agree with these people that think gay people don’t deserve equal rights” isn’t simply expressing an opinion. He is contributing to the hostile environment that sometimes literally kills other queer people.

Because we’ve long had proof—from medical studies first conducted by a Republican administration—that contrary to that sticks-and-stones saying, words do hurt. All that anti-gay rhetoric leads to the death of hundreds of queer and gender non-conforming kids every year, among other very real harms.

So-called homocons who assist anti-gay organizations in oppressing other queer people should not be surprised when they face blowback. Queers and allies standing up for themselves in the face of that oppression are not bullying. It isn’t a both sides thing, it’s self-defense. Particularly in a case where, say, the adult homocon who has already appeared on TV more than once to denounce gay rights campaigns, then leads a bunch of haters in a loud protest angrily chanting anti-gay slogans at a children’s event. That isn’t a “morally ambiguous transgression” it’s despicable—plain and simple. Especially when you go on TV again to defend your actions.

When other people call out the bigotry, that’s not mob violence, that’s consequences. Maybe you should have thought about that before agreeing to go on TV. Again.

Yes, when we say things we are responsible for how they land, regardless of our intentions. But that’s a two-way street. And when a self-loathing queer who assists bigots has been given a number of chances over a few years to reconsider his hateful words and deeds, there comes a point when there is no one to blame for any of the consequences except himself.

Monday Update 12/30/2019: Racist loudmouths, racist enablers, and acts of terror

“If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?” — @littledeekay

“If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?” — @littledeekay

I had a very busy but very productive Saturday and Sunday. Not all of the household chores I wanted to get to before the end of my vacation got done… but I have a couple more days left. Because I had errands to run in several parts of the region and was driving around a lot, I didn’t have time to do a Weekend Update. And there were a few stories that either broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five or were new developments in stories previously included in a Friday Five or Weekend Update. And I have more than a few words to say about them.

Let’s jump in: I have earlier linked to stories about how Christianity Today, a conservative evangelical publication originally founded by Billy Graham had called for removing Trump from office because of his immoral policies. This led to a lot of other evangelical leaders to chime in to defend Trump. But it has also led a few more to come out and agree with Christianity today: Ex-editor of Christian publication says he had ‘no other choice’ but to quit after pro-Trump editorial.

WATCH: Trump-evangelicals split discussed by Rev. Dr. William Barber. This is a short clip from MSNBC in which Reverend Barber makes that point that the evangelical support for Trump and his racist, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, and pro-wealth policies have never been universal. He focuses primarily on the moneyed interests vs. the poor and struggling, but that’s not the whole issue.

Christianity Today’s split with Trump highlights deeper issue in white evangelical America. This article hits at several of the disputes going on among people who identify as evangelical Christian or were raises in those communities have been engaged in. A lot of younger people raised in those churches are turned off by their elders’ involvement in rightwing politics. They see those politics as violations of Jesus’ teachings about taking care of the poor, loving your neighbors and enemies alike, welcoming strangers, and so forth. The increased focus on anti-gay policies and anti-gay activisim has accellerated that attrition. As the article points out, we have at least one generation who has grown up with queer classmates and friends, or children of queer parents who no longer see queer people as abominations.

People are leaving those churches. The percentage of the U.S. who identify as evangelical as gone down. In 2006, white evangelical Christians made up 23% of the U.S. population, now they make up only 15%. However, a weird thing has been going on electorally in that same period. The percentage of voters who identified as white and evangelical made up about 23% of the electorate in 2006. By 2018 that had grown to 26%. What’s happening is that they have become more energized and determined to show up and vote. Often more energized than other segments of the population.

Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not Trump’s. The headline is very true. But you know how else the headline could have been worded and it would be just as true for the last few decades? “Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not the Republican Party’s.” And do not try to make a both sides argument on this. One party wants to fight poverty, take care of the sick (make sure people don’t die of preventable diseases), welcome immigrants, and other things which the Bible literally commands Christians to do, and the other party wants to do the exact opposite.

Moving on: 5 people stabbed at Hanukkah party in Rabbi’s home and Cuomo calls machete attack during Hanukkah celebration an ‘act of terrorism’ as other politicians react. Hate crimes are inherently terror attacks. The point is never just to wound or kill the person attacked, or if it’s a property crime to destroy the church/flag/religious symbol/et cetera. The purpose is to remind all members of the targeting group that they are not safe, that they are vulnerable to this sort of attack at any time. In other words, the point is to inspire fear in the targeted group (and often other minorities who are perceived to be allied or otherwise related). And what is terror? Why, it’s the state of extremely frightened or terrified.

There have been a lot of anti-semetic attacks in New York recently, and hate crimes of nearly every type have been on the rise since Trump was elected. It’s not just Trump, of course, but racists and other bigots felt empowered when he was elected. And why shouldn’t they? He keeps referring to them as very fine people?

Finally: The following news absolutely does not belong in the In Memoriam section of the next Friday Five, because this guy should not be memorialized: Foul-Mouthed Radio Host Don Imus Dead at 79 and Don Imus, Racist Radio Show Host, Dead At 79 – Imus was fired from CBS in 2007 after he referred to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” (among other slurs).

It took me a while to find articles with headlines that didn’t refer to him as a “controversial radio personality.” A controversy is a dispute or debate about a matter of opinion. It’s when two or more rival claims exist about a subject, each of which have reasonably equal arguments in their favor.

Being a foul-mouthed racist isn’t controversial, it’s vulgar, ignorant, and deplorable.

There are people who will jump on me and say we should not speak ill of the dead. They are incorrect. The original proverb people always misquote is Greek proverb is more correctly translated, “Of the dead, speak nothing but truth.” Don’t tell lies about the dead is what the admonishment means. And yeah, if you happen to be having a personal conversation with a grieving family member of a deplorable person who has recently died, it is rude to list off all of their relative’s flaws.

But public reporting about a public figure is a different matter. And Imus was racist, anti-semetic, and mispgynist. He used callous, mean, and intentionally offensive terminology to refer to many sorts of people. He sexually harassed many women employed in the stations where we worked. He pulled out his gun several times in the studio to threaten people who were on his show when they disagreed with him.

He wasn’t controversial, he was morally repugnant. And that’s more than enough time spent talking about him.

Weekend Update 8/31/2019: Dozens attend straight pride, and yet another ex-ex-gay

Mostly empty amphitheatre at today's Straight Pride in Boston.

Twitter user @SobaFett posted this picture of the crowd at today’s Straight Pride rally https://twitter.com/SobaFett/status/1167845221113180160

Was it really just this last Monday that I posted about the only one dozen people who turned out for the so-called Straight Pride parade in Modesto? That group (led by the guy who accidentally admitted that they were a racist group when arguing at a city council meeting) failed to get a permit, but the Patriot Front, American Guard, and Proud Boys (all neo-nazi groups) in Boston did get a permit… and boy, they had dozens show up!

The Boston police department contingent sent out to prevent violence outnumbers the straight pride idiots… and the cops are greatly outnumbered by the counter-protesters. You can find details here: Here’s what’s unfolding at Boston’s ‘Straight Pride’ event – Well, surprise surprise — it’s basically a pro-Trump rally featuring Milo Yiannopoulos. Also: Tens March In Straight Pride Parade.

Someone put up these fliers around the parade route in Boston.

Since I opined on this whole topic just a few days ago, I’m not sure if I want to say more. Other than to point out that the so-called Straight Pride Parade’s grand marshal, Milo Yiannopoulos, should only be remembered for when he cheerfully explained how beneficial it is to gay boys to be sexually molested by adults.

I realize the purpose of the event is to troll and get attention. But the old adage about not feeding the trolls is just like the useless advice that some adults give bullied kids: if you don’t react, they’ll stop bullying you. That advice is useless because the bully gets just as much enjoyment from the laughter of the bystanders as he does from any reaction of the target. So ignoring them completely isn’t what works. We have to counter lies with truth. But I don’t need to repeat myself, especially when this article explains why straight pride isn’t needed: On Eve of Straight Pride, Equal Rights Group Debunks ‘Heterophobia’.

In other news: Another Ex-Gay Torture Leader Denounces Movement. It’s a story some of us have heard a thousand times: bullied gay kid growing up in a religious family tries to pray his gay away, becomes involved in an ex-gay ministry, leads a double life pretending to be straight while secretly pursuing illicit relationships, and now he wants to apologize and admit he was gay all along.

Except McKrae Game didn’t just become involved in an ex-gay ministry: he helped found one, and did a lot of the (hypocritical) counseling himself.

Listen, I do feel sorry for Game’s younger self. I get it. I, too, was raised in Southern Baptist churches. I was teased and bullied at school and at church as a child because people thought I was gay. I prayed and cried and pleaded with god for years. And also, similarly to this guy, when I confessed to a good friend (who happened to be a young woman) that I thought I might be gay, I let myself be talked into giving a different orientation a try. Yes, I got married to a woman and then eventually divorced and came out.

So I certainly understand the sort of self-destructive toxic self-loathing that drives a queer person to try not to be queer.

But…

I never claimed to be straight. The lie I tried to live for a few years wasn’t much better, because I wasn’t bisexual any more than I was straight. But I didn’t try to tell other gay people that they could be cured. I didn’t found an organization that wouldn’t just spread that lie, but would sell the lie to other struggling queer people.

And maybe I just lucked out in that the first person I confessed my fear aloud to wasn’t anti-gay. Maybe I just lucked out that the attempts by family and church to intervene in my teen life weren’t as forceful and sustained as one of my cousins was subjected to.

But the thing that I keep coming back to with guys like McKrae Game is: it became his job to do this harmful and ineffective “treatment.” I said some pretty shitty things when I was a teen-ager and younger, trying to deflect people’s suspicions. I owe some people that I will likely never see again apologies for that.

But this guy charged the people he was lying to. Like other ex-gay leaders, he made people pay him for the lies he was telling. And some of those people killed themselves because praying didn’t make their feelings go away.

In the article he seems to understand that:

“Most people in the gay community have treated me ridiculously kind,” Game said, “liking me for me now and not who I was. And I hope they just give me the chance to talk to them so I can hear them out and apologize.”

Game said he realizes that for many an apology won’t be enough. And that he’ll likely be apologizing for the rest of his life.

Yes, yes he will.

Enough about that. Let’s close with this bit from June, when Stephen Colbert commented on the Straight Pride when the group first applied for their permit:

Stephen Colbert: What The ‘Straight Pride’ Parade Won’t Have:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Frogs and scorpions, or, he was never a journalist

He's been fired from Quillette because it was revealed that he participated in planning of an attack with Patriot Prayer.

All anyone had to do was fact check his October 2018 piece in the Wall Street Journal to see that he’s nothing more than a propagandist.

So, Andy Ngo is probably most famous for trying to claim that a milkshake someone threw at him while he was allegedly reporting on a Patriot Prayer rally actually contained quick-drying cement, and that led to him being hospitalized with (depending on which day he talked about it later while begging people to donate to his various crowdsource funds), a brain hemorrhage, a brain bleed, or traumatic brain injury. We’ll come back to the medical bit, but the quick-drying cement is not only a lie, but it is a lie that defies the laws of physics.

In the video, a person is clearly seen flicking a milkshake container and the liquid flies out of it behaving exactly like a milkshake. If it were quick drying cement that had been mixed to a consistency where a flick of a wrist could send it flying like that, then the density and mass of the liquid would cause absolutely no more damage than an ordinary milkshake. Even if it magically hardened midair somehow, physics tells us force is equal to mass times accelleration and it doesn’t matter whether the mass is liquid or solid. Besides, some of Ngo’s own footage from moments before showed the folks in the crowd who had the drink containers drinking from them. If they had been drinking quick drying cement, they were the ones who would have ended up in the hospital.

But let’s get back to the medical report. Despite a number of legitimate news organizations trying to confirm that Andy was hospitalized overnight, no one was able to confirm it. Also, while a layman might think that the three diagnostic terms (brain hemorrhage, brain bleed, or traumatic brain injury) are interchangeable, they are not. The term brain hemorrhage is usually used to describe a specific kind of stroke. Brain bleed would be the term usually used for intercranial bleeding caused by a blow to the head. Ngo was punched in the face on video before the milkshake was thrown at him, so he might well have had a brain bleed and/or a concussion. Traumatic brain injury is a much more complicated medical condition, and would require considerably more tests than those a typical ER would run for a head injury. And if they did diagnose it as a traumatic brain injury, they probably would have kept him for more than one night.

And remember, no one has been able to verify the overnight stay.

I agree that it appears that the punch in the face was assault. If the punch in the face was unprovoked (and we can’t always tell from these videos), then yes, it was uncalled for. Technically the milkshake is assault, too, but I’m sorry: I remain firmly in the camp that whoever throws a milkshake on a Nazi apologist is a hero.

Because that’s what Andy Ngo is. He’s not a journalist. He’s a propagandist, a liar, and a shill for fascist white nationalist organizations. And, as we now know, he’s more than just a propagandist: Andy Ngo Captured On Video With Patriot Prayer As They Reportedly Plan Attack On Antifa.

That word “reportedly” is overly cautious. The video includes clear audio and they are discussing an attack they are about to make, Andy participates in the discussion, and laughs. A lot.

And there have been some consequences: Andy Ngo, Who Became a Right-Wing Star, Leaves Quillette After Incriminating Video Appears. Even the far-right so-called news site Quillette couldn’t justify keeping him on as an editor. Note, though, that they aren’t firing him because he’s an active participate in alt-right violence, they are firing him because they can no longer deny it.

The knowledge that he doesn’t just report from a particular bias but he actually lies in his reporting isn’t new. Last year at what was essentially a Black Lives Matter March in Portland, an older man in the car appeared to intentionally drive into the crowd, striking one protestor and send him rolling down the street. The crowd closed in on the car and yelled at the driver. Which was understandable. Video of the incident was edited to cut out the first part of the incident, to make it appear that an innocent man was being harassed by the crowd. And it was that lie which got Ngo a guest spot on Tucker Carson’s show (where for whatever reason he spoke with a fake British accent. Ngo (who is a Vietnamese-American) was born in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in Portland and attended a private evangelical high school in Portland. He’s not British.

You can read a lot more about his previous lies and grifting attempts here: Portland’s Andy Ngo Is the Most Dangerous Grifter in America: Though he poses as a journalist, the purpose of his platform is to sow harassment and violence against his targets on the Left — and the mainstream media have fallen for it.

The thing that really gets me about this series of event is why someone like Ngo — Vietnamese-American, out gay man, self-described as rejecting all religions — is defending, propagandizing for, and collaborating with white nationalist who subscribe to a radical form of christianist authoritarianism. I have the same question about the notorious Milo Yiannopoulos. Have neither of these guys heard of the Night of Long Knives in early Nazi Germany?

The Night of Long Knives was an operation ordered by Hitler in 1934 to murder members of his own government, certain military leaders, and political enemies. Some of the murders were to settle old scores, some were to eliminate possible rivals, but a whole lot of the killing was aimed at the all the openly and semi-openly gay members of the SA (“Storm Battalion”) including the openly homosexual leader of the SA, Ernst Röhm. Part of what convinced Hitler to go ahead with the operation was when, on a state visit to Italy, Mussolini told him that tolerating all those homosexuals was making his government look bad to their allies. After Röhm and many, many others were killed, Hitler appointed a new head to the SA and gave him a specific mission to root out “homosexuality, debauchery, drunkenness, and high living.”

Let’s not forget that in the first years of the Nazi concentration camps, most of the prisoners were originally arrested on charges of sodomy and the like (whether trumped up or true).

Folks like Ngo are allowed to hang out with white nationalist groups like Patriot Prayer because they are considered useful pets. It’s a variant of the tired old argument, “I can’t be a bigot! Some of my best friends are gay/asian/black/etc!”

If groups like Patriot Prayer get their way, eventually it’s not just going to be people who come to the border locked up in overcrowded camps with inadequate food and medical treatment. And people like Ngo and Milo and the like are going to find themselves rounded up with the rest of us. They think they are immune because they have been such loyal pets. But like the fable of the scorpion and the frog—which tells us it is in the nature of scorpions to sting anyone, even those who help them—it is in the nature of neo-nazis to attack queers, people of color, and so forth.

Oppressed oppressors: A Dozen Peaceful Racists Show Up for “Straight Pride”

“There's no 'straight pride' for the same reason we don't have soup kitchens for the rich, dumbass.”

(Click to embiggen)

Six years ago there was an ex-gay rally held in Washington, D.C. The organizers insisted that there would be thousands of participants. Several news blogs I followed at the time predicted that the rally would be attended by possibly tens of people. After the event, some of those sites issued a retraction—because the number of attendees was only nine people. And all nine of those attendees were employees of the ex-gay “ministry” that organized the event. When the various groups started applying for permits for straight pride events earlier this summer, I wasn’t quite so sure the crowds would be small—because the people organizing the events are groups associated with various violent white supremacist rallies over the last few years.

One such group failed to secure a permit in Modesto, California earlier this month. The video of their leader arguing at a city council meeting for why they should be allowed to have the event went viral because, after countless times earlier insisting that they weren’t white nationalist, nor white supremacists, nor otherwise racist, he angrily said, “we’re a totally peaceful racist group!”

The council didn’t grant the permit, though I should point out the reason why was not the slip of the tongue. The groups, because of the connection several of them have to those hate rallies I mentioned earlier, had been unable to obtain the necessary insurance coverage required for a parade or similar public event. The slip of the tongue was just icing on the cake.

Despite not getting a permit to shut down traffic, the group vowed to hold an event anyway. And this weekend they did: Modesto protesters outnumber straight pride supporters at tense but peaceful rally. Outnumbered is putting it mildly: California’s ‘Straight Pride’ aimed to celebrate straight, white Christians. Only 12 people attended — They faced 200 pro-LGBTQ counter-protesters “standing together to reject this group and what they represent”.

About a dozen proud bigots showed up for an event at a rented barn—which was cut short when the owners of the venue saw their hateful signs and other things. Then the 12 proud bigots walked to a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic (which was closed) and they chanted various slogans that, oddly enough, didn’t have anything to do with being straight. I mean, I suppose the anti-gay slogan kind of count. And the pro-Trump signs I suppose could be argued to be about the straightness of a philandering twice-divorced man who, by his own admission, loves to grab women by the pussy. But, um, I don’t quite get what the Build the Wall chants had to do with straight pride. Sounds like could old-fashioned racist xenophobia.

About 200 counter-protestors, on the other hand, showed up to express support for queer rights and to denounce hate. And while apparently some angry shouting happened at one point, no actual violence broke out.

We know that this is just a gimmick. The real straight pride happens 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. It has never been illegal to be straight anywhere. It has never been legal to fire people because they are straight anywhere. Straight children aren’t shamed and bullied in schools for being straight. It has never been illegal in any country in the world for opposite-sex couples to marry. No one calls for a boycott of a television network when a male character goes out on a date with a female character on any television show. No local television stations refuse to broadcast a specific episode of a show because of the inclusion of a marriage between a man and a woman.

And if straight people think that they don’t have a holiday, go take a look at how many Hallmark Channel movie listings during Thanksgiving and Christmas time have a straight romance as the central plot. Heck, how many times does a kiss between an opposite-sex couple at the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve figure into romance movies?

And let’s not forget Heteroween — a holiday that once did belong to the queers, but y’all took it away with all those sexy mummy and sexy nurse and sexy fireman and sexy pirate costumes that are sold in pairs that result in a clothed-male/nearly-nude-female. Please note, the only problem I have with straight people co-opting our fabulous holiday this way is that they don’t do it equitably. It shouldn’t just be the ladies in those straight couples showing off some skin. I mean, c’mon, isn’t the point of being a straight studly man that woman want your sexy body?

If straight people don’t want to embrace the values of throwing off sexual repression and insist that they are all about family values, I have a quibble about that, too: Straight Pride organizer criticized by her gay son for planning ‘straight, white, Christian’ event .

Maybe instead of attacking the rights and freedoms of their neighbors, co-workers, and even their own children, they should put a little more time into asking themselves why queer people make them so uncomfortable. A little self-reflection would do far more good than staging these white supremacist events masquerading as straight pride.

Set our hearts at liberty — more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are being that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

Marriage, as we know, is a blessed arrangement. We also know that it’s an ancient tradition. Except, of course, exactly what that arrangement was and how it was arranged has been a constantly changing thing for all of human history. For instance, in some of the Ancient Greek city-states the tradition of male line inheritance required that if a man of property died without a son, a surviving daughter or granddaughter of child-bearing age would be forced to marry her closest male relative and that husband would then become the heir. Many societies didn’t merely allow a man to hve more than one wife—it was expected! There were fewer societies that allowed a woman to have more than one husband, but those existed, too. Even if we restrict ourselves to the Judeo-Christian traditions, remember that the Biblical King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Most European traditions didn’t assume monogamy was part of marriage until something between the 6th and 9th Centuries AD. Christian teachings didn’t start treating marriage as a sacrament until the 16th Century AD (despite that oft-quoted verse about “what god has joined together”). The same sort of people who quote that verse while demanding that secular law follow their tradition ignore the parts of the New Testament where the Apostle Paul condemned marriage as a waste of time, and only grudgingly said that if a man found himself so burning with lust it distracted from evangelizing should he marry.

The modern notion of marriage being about two people who fall in love and decided to pledge themselves to each other didn’t really become common until the 1700s. Now, it’s true that songs and poems and such from the 12th Century on waxed rhapsodic about courtly love, but it was considered the exception, rather than the rule.

All of these facts contradict what I was told about marriage growing up in Southern Baptist churches. Marriage, according to them, was a sacred institution that had existed unchanged since the beginning of time. And it had always been about a man and a woman who love each other and commit to a lifetime together. And once married, no matter what the circumstances, the two are bound together in love and divine grace, et cetera.

And they really did mean no matter the circumstance. I sat through more than one sermon where the pastor said that even if you make a mistake and marry the person god didn’t want you to, once you exchange your vows before god, that person is now the right person.

Despite the above, as far as I know, every single Baptist church we had ever been a member of had at least one married couple in which at least one member had been married to someone else before, been divorced, and had now re-married. And most people in the church treated the second marriage as just as sacred and eternal as the ideal they kept talking about. The usual hand-waving was the god forgives everyone who repents, and therefore if someone has committed the sin of divorce, but now has sincerely repented and pledged to make it work this time, well, god’s going to bless that.

Of course, before many members of a congregation were willing to go to that step, the divorced person would have to suffer for a while. They had to have a moving tale of the pain and heartache and regret they went through to show the sincerity, you see. Because someone had to be to blame, right? And if someone is to blame, then they must be punished. Like the women in this story: For Evangelical Women, Getting a Divorce Often Means Taking All the Blame.

That idea, that divorce is always wrong, doesn’t just hurt women who are in bad marriages. It also hurts children. I’ve written more than once about how my father was physically and emotionally abusive. When my mom shared her pain and fear with people at church, the answer was always the same: if she had enough faith, god would change dad.

No matter what evidence was presented.

When I was 10, my dad beat me on a Sunday afternoon with a broom handle while calling me the worst names imaginable. By the time he was done not only was I covered in bruises and contusions and worse, I had a broken collar bone. I had to be taken to the emergency room. Later that week—while my arm was still in a sling, I was bruised everywhere, and stitches visible on my face—our pastor looked me in the eyes and told me that if I would just be obedient and act the way my father wanted, Dad wouldn’t have to be so strict. Keep in mind, Dad had sworn off religion a few months before I was born. He refused to set foot in church and wasn’t the slightest bit friendly or welcoming when the pastor visited our home. Yet still, because of their theology about marriage and the husband’s role as master of the home, anything bad that happened to the rest of us was our fault.

I don’t know everything the pastor said to Mom, because I was taken away by one of the church ladies (who scolded me some more for upsetting my father so much he did this to me) while the pastor talked to Mom in private. But Mom came out of the meeting convinced that it was her fault. If she just had enough faith and loved Dad enough he wouldn’t be this way.

Somehow that doesn’t seem like the wise plan of a loving god, you know?

What brought all of this to mind today is this odd little bit of news I came across: Hate Group NOM Allows Web Domain To Expire. The National Organization for Marriage was at the forefront of the battle against gay civil unions, marriage equality, gay adoption rights, and several related fights for years. They poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns to defeat gay rights initiatives and so forth. They have insisted again and again that they don’t hate gay people—they are just defending traditional marriage.

The kind of traditional marriage that says a woman must stick to her husband even if he beats her and their children severely, for instance.

The organization still exists, and its president, Brian Brown, is still sending out fear-mongering email blasts to supporters begging for money. The last time the IRS got them to partially disclose their donors (they have been under investigate for many years because they never file complete paperwork or comply with court orders to disclose campaign spending) their donations (and the number of donors) had dropped off significantly. NOM used to be an umbrella organization for at least 8 different “education and advocacy” funds and a bunch of Political Action Committees, now all but two of those have been shut down. Apparently last year each of those two remaining entities reported income of less than $50,000.

I’m hoping that the website lapsing is a sign this hate group is gasping out its dying breaths. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God gay news blog, reports: “I’ve put in the required whopping $12 bid to snap up the domain, which will redirect to JMG if I’m successful.”

If you can’t muster the empathy to tell an abused child or an abused spouse that being a victim isn’t their fault, you don’t know what “love they neighbor” means. And you can’t claim to be following a loving god while doing and saying hateful things about whole categories of people.


The title comes from the hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. All of the Baptist Churches I was ever a member of used the 1956 edition of the Baptist Hymnal. The next major update didn’t happen until 1991, by which point I was out of the closet and officially declared myself a former Baptist.

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