Growing up in Southern Baptist churches in mostly redneck communities, I knew from a very early age that I didn’t belong. I was constantly breaking unspoken rules I didn’t understand. Nearly everyone–not just my physically abusive father, but other relatives, church leaders, many of my teachers, and a lot of the kids at school–made it abundantly clear that I didn’t act like a normal boy, and that if I didn’t figure out how to man up, there would be even more severe consequences than the beatings, teasing, and humiliations I was already enduring. I was taught–not just at church, but also at public school in health and science classes–that homosexuality was a severe mental disease that turned the people who had it into pedophiles, rapists, and worse. Homosexuals, they said, were evil creatures who deserved to die gruesomely.
When puberty hit, I finally realized that those two messages were one and the same. Puberty hit like a Tomahawk missle, blasting away my hopes of growing up to have what I had been taught was a normal, successful life. Because suddenly I realized that those odd fascinations I had had with certain men and boys wasn’t just friendship, they had been crushes. And now my hormones and body were reacting to the guys my emotions had been before. All of that added up to the horrifying conclusion that I could never man up enough not to deserve the scorn, ridicule, physical assaults, and even worse. It was no longer a matter of trying to figure out what I was doing wrong–it became a matter of life and death that I hide the truth about what I was from everyone I knew.
After fighting my feelings and having a couple of furtive relationships with other guys my age who were just as scared, I came to know with all my being that three things were absolutely true: If the wrong people found proof about what I was, I would be rejected and certainly come to an untimely and probably gruesome death alone and unloved. If I couldn’t stop having these feelings and acting on any of those urges, I would spend eternity in hell. And absolutely nothing I did–no amount of tearfully pleading with god, reading the Bible cover to cover three times, stealing my dad’s porn magazines and trying to make myself feel attraction to the women in them, et cetera–would make those feelings go away.
I was doomed. It wasn’t a matter of if, merely when.
Despite knowing I was doomed, my basic temperament just doesn’t accept no-win situations. So part of me kept trying to convince the rest of me that we could fake it as long as it took. I also had certain glimmers of encouragement I’ve written about before in science fiction. One thing I didn’t have was any role model or even a hint that there might be another kind of life possible.
There were no gay people in any of the communities we’d lived in until I was in my 20s. There were no openly gay characters in TV or movies or the like until at least my mid-teens. Oh, there were characters that seemed to be gay, but they were always either the comic relief or someone you were supposed to despise. When a few openly gay characters started showing up, they were never regular characters or even heroic. They were still either comedic characters, or victims. Very occasionally one would appear on a single episode to make a message about tolerance. But they were alway alone and there was no sense they had a life or friends, let alone a love life!
And then I saw a news story about a gay pride event that changed my life. I had seen some news stories before about the gay protest marches, but they had been brief, and were always accompanied by images of either very angry people with protest signs, or outrageous images selected to portray all the queers as freaks. This story did include some of those images, but there was more of an attempt to give the queer people a chance to speak. They showed brief clips from interviews with several people, but the moment that stuck in my head was when a pair of middle-aged men who were interviewed mentioned that they had been together for nearly 20 years. They were boyfriends, and they had been together for years.
That single bit of data changed everything. I was 19 or 20 years old. I had had a few secret relationships and flings with guys. They had all been steeped in anxiety and fear of what would happen if we were caught. These other closeted gay guys were the only queer people I had met, and they were all, so far as I knew, just as certain that we were going to burn in hell for eternity because of what we were. Though some of the fiction I’d read by then mentioned gay or bisexual people in relationships, it had all be in various sci fi settings where things were very different than the real world.
But there. on the TV in a news program two men who weren’t sci fi characters were comfortable saying on camera that they were boyfriends and had been for years.
It was several more years before I would even utter aloud to anyone the words, “I think I might be gay,” but knowing that there were actual, flesh and blood queer people out there who were in love and having relationships is what let me hold on to hope for a few more years and gave me the strength to finally come out.And that is another reason I support Pride Parades and all sorts of other out gay events. Because there are tens of thousands of frightened queer children out there scared to death to be who they are. Worried that their own parents will reject them or worse. And because we know that every years hundreds of those kids commit suicide because they have no hope. As long as we have our crazy, flashy, glittery, contentious but fabulous pride parades and festivals and so on, then news sites will run stories about them. It doesn’t matter that the coverage may be slanted. Some of those frightened kids will see those stories. Some of them will click on those images. They will know that they aren’t alone. If we can give some of them hope, then our mission has been a success.
All of us who are living our lives out and proud got here because of the hard, brave work of the drag queens, trans activists, marching gays and lesbians and so forth who came before us. We owe them a debt we can’t repay directly. So we have a duty to not just pay it forward, but gay it forward.
Edited to Add:
If you can, give a donation to help queer kids who have been rejected by their families and kicked out on the street : True Colors Fund or The Ali Forney Center are good places to start. Many communities have local programs focusing on teen homelessness and particularly queer teen homelessness; a quick Google search with the name of your city or town, and the words “queer teen homeless” should point you in the right way. And if you want to hlp support transgender kids, please donate to: National Center for Transgender Equality.
Keep that in mind as you read these news stories:
Gee, what has all of these men so angry at gay men, lesbians, and women?
Also, remember that it isn’t just one study from this year. Here are a few more: Homophobic Men Most Aroused by Gay Male Porn for 2011, and Study Reveals Homophobic Men Are, In Fact, More Likely To Be Gay from 2014, and Scientific American: Scientific American: Homophobes Might Be Hidden Homosexuals – A new analysis of implicit bias and explicit sexual orientation statements may help to explain the underpinnings of anti-gay bullying and hate crimes from 2012, and Homophobia correlated with Homosexual Arousal from 2010, and let’s not forget from 1996 Is Homophobia Associated with Sexual Arousal? (spoiler: yes), and… and…
Draw your own conclusions.
One last thing, the new study that I cited at the beginning? It also showed that test subjects who showed, on a pre-study survey, a higher degree of Precarious Manhood Beliefs, and then were exposed to information that affirmed that a man being able to see things from a women’s perspective and a woman being able to see things from a man’s perspective were both good things? They were less likely to verbally bash women or queers. Which seems to back up the notion that all this misogyny and homophobia within the culture is causing harm. Gee, who’d a thunk?
Fischer is described over on Rational Wiki as someone who “makes even the most cuckoo-bananas conservative talk radio pundits seem sane and reasonable in comparison.” He’s always going on about gay people (and how gays and nazis are the same thing) and gay sex (and how hyper masculine aggressive gay sex is destroying everything). Besides making him sound like a kook, it also proves that he thinks about gay sex a whole lot more than most gay people do. Hmmmm, where have we seen that phenomenon before?There are so many things wrong with this assertion that it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, he quotes from the end of the story of Noah in the old testament to justify his claim that queers have stolen god’s invention. I’m going to quote a bit of that: “13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” That’s god talking to Noah, and please note what god himself says: the rainbow is a sign of a covenant between god and the entire planet. A moment later he emphasizes that it is a sign of a covenant between him and all living creatures of every kind. Gay people are part of the planet. Gay people are a kind of living creature.
So, if you believe (as Fischer frequently claims to) that the bible is the inerrant word of god and literally true in every word, well, that means that queers have just as much a claim on the rainbow as any inhabitant of the earth or god himself. I’m just quoting god from Fischer’s holy book, here!
Lots of people had fun with Fischer’s tweet. Part of what cracked me up about it is that this is one of the sections of the Bible that got me in trouble when I was a kid, because I kept having questions that my Sunday School teachers and other church leaders couldn’t answer. Such as, how did all of the land species that live only in Australia get to Noah’s boat? Seriously, did a bunch of kangaroos and koalas and so forth build a mini ark and cross the ocean to get to the Arabian Pennisula? And if they did have a way to survive crosses the Pacific and Indian Oceans, why did they need to get on Noah’s ark to begin with? How did they get to Noah’s ark? And how big was this ark, really, because just assembling every species of, say, feline is going to require a very big boat. And then how are you going to keep all those big cats away from the pairs of the 20+ species of deer?
But let’s get back to the rainbow. The sorts of Christians who insist that every word in the Bible is literally true absolutely despise the notion of evolution. And one of their favorite arguments against evolution back when I was a kid, was to look at the complexity of the eyeball: you have the lens and receptors and tiny muscles to adjust the lens in order to change focus and so on and so on, and just a beautiful perfect organ for focusing and interpreting light could not possible have evolved by chance! Seriously, they think that’s an argument the undoes all of science. Anyway, when making this argument they get very insistent that god design the eyeballs of humans (and every other species on the planet that sees the way we do) and they have all had them since god created the world in a famous six-day run, right? Here’s the problem: the very same laws of physics that allow that lens in the front of those perfectly designed eyeballs to focus images on the retina? They are also what make rainbows appear when there is sunlight shining through an atmosphere littered with tiny water droplets. If god didn’t tweak the laws of physics to allow rainbows to appear in the clouds until after Noah’s flood, then none of the characters in the Bible who lived before Noah could have had the power of sight. They would have all had these perfect organs for seeing in their heads that didn’t work at all.
And they had to be able to see because sight is mentioned in several of the Bible stories before Noah. Also, god is supposed to have created humans in his image and we still are supposed to be in his image (Jesus affirmed that in the same story in which he endorsed paying your taxes), so that means we’ve always had these eyeballs, which were apparently useless appendages until after Noah’s flood.
And I’ve completely skipped over the parts of this story in which god admits he’s very forgetful and prone to rash, unwise decisions. He says he put the rainbow in the sky to remind him from time to time that he’s promised never again to destroy the world with a flood. So god needs to leave himself post-its, “Don’t commit mass genocide.” And the whole flood story begins with god realizing that he should have never created humans to begin with, because all of them are dirty rotten scoundrels. Then god reconsiders and decides that maybe Noah, his sons, and his daughters-in-law might be worth keeping around. But only them! Everyone else has got to go! And how does this supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, wise and loving god decides to get rid of the scoundrels? Does he unleash a plague that would only infect humans, so that all of them die off and leave the planet to the birds and animals and plants? No, he takes out the dirty rotten people by wiping out every living thing on the surface of the earth. Wipe out billions of innocent mice and puppies and so forth to get rid of a few thousand or maybe millions of humans. That sounds like a plan that a smart omnipotent being would cook up, right?
When I brought up these inconsistencies as a kid, the adults would usually try to handwave about god’s plan, and us poor mortals not understanding. As I entered my teens and got better about pointing out the problems with that, they would talk about symbolism and poetic language. Which of course completely contradicts the notion that ever word is literally true. Then I would usually be admonished for being obstinate and willfully difficult and wasting time on trivial technical questions.
But complaining about who gets to use the rainbow as a symbol of hope isn’t wasting time being obstinate over trivial things?
Queers aren’t the first people to latch onto the rainbow as a symbol of diversity, freedom, resistance to oppression, and so on. There are several reasons for this. Just because the International Cooperative Movement (since 1921), or the Peace Movement (since 1961), or the Rainbow Coalition (since the mid-sixties), or the LGBT community (since 1978) and so on use the rainbow as symbols doesn’t do anything to the rainbows that appear in the sky after a storm. Those rainbows that god talked about in the book of Genesis are still there. We haven’t taken them away. According to Fischer’s religion’s own holy book, the rainbow is given as a symbol to every living creature on the earth. It even literally says “every kind” of creature. If you think you have the right to tell any of us that the rainbow isn’t ours, well, then you just don’t understand the real meaning of rainbows or love or dreams…
Muppet Movie – The Rainbow Connection:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
It’s kind of pathetic.
I keep half expecting Schock to eventually come out and try to claim that the pressure of the closet unbalanced his mental health and all of his wrongdoing was the result. Or maybe just to claim that the FBI’s investigation into his financial wrongdoings was all some sort of homophobic plot. Which, given that Schock on at least one occasion gave a speech in the House of Representatives chambers in which he insisted that it should be legal for employers to fire people just because they think they might be gay, landlords to evict or refuse to rent to people they suspect are gay, and so on.
Once he’s convicted I hope he gets a long sentence.
He’s not the only homophobe formerly employed by the government in the news this week: Former Michigan Asst AG Andrew Shirvell Loses Law License for Anti-Gay Attack on UM Student Chris Armstrong. Shirvell’s story is weird. Back in 2010 Chris Armstrong, was elected student body president at the University of Michigan. Armstrong was the first openly-gay person elected to that office. Shirvell, meanwhile, worked as an assistant attorney general in Michigan. The minute Shirvell saw a news story about Armstrong’s election, he logged onto Facebook and created a page called Chris Armstrong Watch and posted a bunch of barely coherent anti-gay rants. Facebook suspended the page as a violation of community guidelines, so Shirvell created is one blog (which for a long time had as a banner a picture of Armstrong with an image of a gay pride flag with a swastika superimposed on it and the word RESIGN scrawled across Armstrong’s face).
But it wasn’t just hundred s of anti-gay blog posts. Shirvell spent nearly every night parked in his car across the street from a house where Armstrong and several other students lived, taking pictures of everyone who came in and out of the house. He posted the pictures (and when he could the names) of each one, writing about what sorts of lewd sexual depravities he assumed had to be going on inside the house. On one occasion when Armstrong and his housemates hat a party, Shirvell drove around the block for hours, taking pictures and trying to get proof that they were serving underaged people alcohol. We know he drove around the block for hours because a) he blogged about it extensively, b) he called the police at 1:30 and tried to get the partiers arrested for disturbing the peace and in his official statement to the police told them he had been driving around the block for hours, and c) several of the neighbors had called in the suspicious car circling the neighborhood. And just to be clear, Shirvell didn’t live nearby!When Armstrong attended various gay student alliance events and similar public activities, Shirvell was there with homophobic banners. When Armstrong got a summer intership with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Shirvell called Pelosi’s office and ranted at staffers about why Armstrong should be fired. Most of this during Armstrong’s senior year at college. Shirvell was eventually fired from his job as an assistant Attorney General not for the hate speech and protesting, but because he had done some of the harassment when he was supposed to be working, used his state-owned work computer for some of it, conducted some of the harassment in a way that implied he was acting as a state official, and then lied about it to internal investigators. He tried to sue the state because he claimed all of the activity was protected under the first amendment (the judge found that the reason for firing was for specific conduct and not for stating his anti-gay opinions).
Armstrong eventually sued Shirvell for harassment, stalking, and related things asking for legal fees and $25,000 in damages. The jury awarded $4.5million in damages. On Shirvell’s appeal, that judgement was reduced to $3.5million, but otherwise all findings of the jury were upheld by the appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Shirvell’s appeals. It’s unlikely that Armstrong will ever get the money, but the principle at least has been upheld that a government employee can’t harass a queer kid (Armstrong was 21 years old for most of this, but he was a college student, for goodness sake!).
No one has ever been able to get a reasonable explanation from Shirvell for why Armstrong of all people became the target of his fierce and vitriolic obsession. Even under oath on trial (where acting as his own lawyer, he questioned himself for two hours, and then under cross-examination was forced to admit everything he had just testified about Armstrong and the situation was a lie)! Sure, Shirvell was a University of Michigan alumnus (he graduated 8 years before Armstrong became student body president), so you can argue that his initial interest was simply because he followed news about his former school, but the obsessive behavior against someone he otherwise didn’t know was really over-the-top.
The reason he can’t explain himself is that that there isn’t a rational explanation. There is, sadly, a very understandable irrational one. Shirvell is a 36-year-old man who has never been married and never been known to date a woman. In video appearances he doesn’t merely ping a lot of people’s gaydar, it’s like a mega-super-gay four-alarm alert. Shirvell is a self-loathing closet case. And I’m hardly the first person to realize this.
Shirvell had been involved in a few public anti-gay activities before the Armstrong case (my favorite was the campaign to get a local pizza parlor to stop putting a rainbow flag in its window during Pride Month), and his rants then were a bit crazy. He appears to have been raised in a conservative Catholic family (he attended private Catholic schools for his primary grades and high school, and got his jurisdoctorate at a Catholic law school—in fact the University of Michigan is the only public school he ever attended). In interviews Shirvell comes across as not just mildly effeminate, but very prissy. I have no doubt that he was bullied throughout his childhood. So Shirvell’s spent his entire life desperately trying to prove to people that he’s straight. He hid himself and denied his feelings and subjected himself to the torture of the closet his entire life. He’s likely never had even a clandestine romantic relationship!
…And then he sees that news story about an openly gay student being elected student president at his alma mater. He sees the smiling pictures of a young man who isn’t hiding those feelings, isn’t suffering alone in the closet, isn’t loathing himself. Shirvell sees that this good-looking, happy-looking young queer man isn’t merely being tolerated by his family and fellow students, but he’s well-liked and even celebrated! No wonder Shirvell over-reacted. Shirvell has been a powder keg of self-hatred and insanity just waiting to explode. So far he’s destroyed his own reputation, gotten himself saddled with an impossible financial obligation, and now even lost his law license because his actions weren’t just creepy and crazy, they constituted legal misconduct.Some would argue we should feel sorry for Andrew Shirvell. But honestly, the number of times during the trial that Armstrong said if Shirvell would just apologize he would drop the case represent only a fraction of the opportunities that Shirvell had to get off this particular crazy train. At this point he has no one to blame but himself.
In other words, there are a lot of public figures and pseudo-celebrities and wannabe pundits out there who are advocating neo-Nazi opinions and neo-Nazi policies, but we aren’t allowed to call them Nazi. Because that’s rude. Or it’s hyperbole. Or something.
Never mind that these proponents of opinions and policies that exactly (sometimes word-for-word) repeat actual neo-Nazi publications and demands Have previously called any woman who objected to their sexist pronouncements “feminazis.” Or that any of us who called out their racist or misogynist or homophobic statements were called “PC-nazis.” And then if we objected to that, they would make arguments about why the word “nazi” isn’t actually an insult. When it’s used back at them, suddenly we’re the ones who have crossed a line.
Some of these guys have demanded apologies, and even gotten retractions from some publications, insisting that just because they have said things like “In response to concerns from white voters that they’re going to go extinct, the response of the Establishment—the conservative Establishment—has been to openly welcome that extinction” or “Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact” or “some degree of separation between races is necessary for a culture to be preserved” that it is ridiculous to think that means they’re white nationalists or neo-nazis. We’re the bad guys for even suggesting such a thing! They aren’t bad guys for advocating forced deportment or relocation or so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing3”
Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, has called for at least the separation of people by race, ethnicity, and religion. He has also spouted various racist, misogynist, and transphobic beliefs. He has sent hordes of his internet followers to harass women with rape threats and racist attacks. He has said all sorts of awful and false things about trans people and has encouraged his fans to attack and harass them. And not just in general, he has handed out private address and contact information of specific trans people and suggested that someone should teach them some manners.
Yiannopoulos then defends himself by insisting that he’s simply stating an opinion. And besides, he’s gay, so how could he possibly be a bigot? Not only is he gay, but he’s white gay man who only has sex with black men, so he can’t possibly be racist (never might that racial fetishization is deeply entwined with racial hatred). And by the way, he doesn’t endorse all the white nationalist policies of a bunch of his friends (even though he frequently makes some of the same arguments they do), he just thinks they’re interesting people. So it’s wrong to call him a white nationalist or a neo-nazi of a nazi sympathizer.
He’s an editor of a news site which describes itself as the platform of the alt-right. The alt-right is a term coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer in order to make white supremacy seem more like just another political option4. He argues racial opinions of white nationalist are reasonable–not just that they have the right to hold the racist opinions, but that those statements are fact rather than opinion. He attacks people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, or gender identity. He defends not just the right of the neo-Nazis and white nationalist to hold their opinions, but he actively campaigns to write those opinions into law. One day those same white nationalists who currently enjoy having his support may well turn on him, just as the historical Nazis eventually rounded up their own gay members and executed or imprisoned them. But right now he’s a white nationalist and a nazi-apologist. That’s a fact.
Then there are the people who angrily argue that they aren’t defending neo-nazis or white supremacists just because they are telling people like me to shut up about them. Seriously. “You must let them advocate genocide without calling them on it” isn’t defending them? Of course, the most recent person to send me that message personally also slipped in two bigoted dog whistles5 before I blocked him
Then, of course, there are the free speech arguments. Okay, I’m an advocate for free speech. You have the right to your opinion, and you have the right to express it. But I, as a private citizen, am under no obligation to give you a platform. I am under no obligation to sit quietly and listen. I am certainly under no obligation to sit quietly and listen while you advocate policies that will cost me my job, my home, and my health care. I’m allowed to argue. I’m allowed to boycott. I’m allowed to call you a neo-nazi. I’m allowed to shun and shame people who enable your advocacy of hate.Disagreement is not censorship. Boycotting is not censorship. Shunning is not censorship. Calling you a bigot or similar is not censorship. Calling you an idiot is not censorship. Staging a protest when you come to my community to preach your hate is not censorship. Boycotting businesses that give you a platform to preach your hate is not censorship. Repeating word-for-word things you say (particularly if you go on TV or stand up on a stage to address supporters) is not censorship nor misrepresenting you. Pointing out which of your statements are factually wrong is not censorship. Even going so far as to call you a liar (particularly when it has been documented numerous times that you repeat false information again and again) is not censorship.
Free speech means you can express your opinions if you like. Free speech does not mean that those opinions have to be taken seriously, or treated reverently, or accepted without argument.
To circle back to the original point, if you:
- repeat neo-nazi and white supremacist slogans,
- advocate the same programs of racial, ethnic, religious, misogynist, and/or homophobic discrimination and oppression as neo-nazis and white supremacists,
- attack anyone who disagrees with neo-nazi and white supremacist proposals or hate speech,
- thank the avowed neo-nazis and white surpremacists when they repeat your words and deeds and hold you up as an example on their white supremacist video blogs, news sites, and/or conferences,
- are publicly and unapologetically friends with neo-nazis and white supremacists after they have repeatedly (often in your presence) called for the extermination of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity,
then you are a neo-nazi. And no one should apologize for calling you a bigot, a nazi, a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or a nazi sympathizer. Because you are all of those things. And that is a fact.
1. Godwin’s Law was first articulated by author and attorney Mike Godwin: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, if an argument goes on long enough, someone will eventually evoke the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, et cetera. While it is phrased as if it were a law of mathematics, it’s really just an adage based on observation2. As Godwin himself has stated, it was intended as a tool to remind people not to resort to unnecessary hyperbole. He also wanted people to not trivialize the Holocaust. He has pointed out on several occassion that sometimes such comparisons are quite apt.
2. Godwin’s Law gets abused a lot. People have interpreted it to mean that if someone ever makes a comparison to Hitler, naziism, et cetera, that this immediately invalidates all of their arguments. Part of this comes from rules that were established on some Usenet groups in the 1990s by which if a thread reached the Hitler comparison, the thread would be ended. Note that this was a convention that some people chose to adopt. Godwin’s Law is not an actual law nor does it articulate anything that even approaches a logical fallacy.
3. This oxymoronic term is deployed frequently and unironically by actual neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, the president of a literal white supremacist “think tank” among other things. He has also called for non-peaceful ethnic cleansing, for example: “humanity doesn’t need the Black man, and having concluded that, we must decide how efficiently to dispose of them.”
4. There some subjects upon which people can legitimately disagree. Details of tax policy, for instance. But when one side is literally calling for the mass murder of the other side (or mass incarceration, or denial of fundamental human rights), then we are no longer talking about a disagreement.
5. Dog-whistle: coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. For instance, in American politics the phrase “states’ rights” seems to be a mere reference to the Constitutions delineation of some powers and rights belonging the states (and other to the people or to the federal government), but signaled the politician’s commitment to segregation and institutionalized racism. “Real Americans” is frequently used to refer to conservative white Christians. Similarly, calls to “cut entitlements” are understood by the target audience to mean that “undeserving minorities” will be kicked off public assistance (when it fact it means that everyone will lose their benefits in order to funnel more tax money to the uber-rich and corporations).6
6. The dog-whistles in question in this particular exchange made it clear the guy arguing with me was both anti-semitic and homophobic. I thanked him for identifying himself just before blocking him.
Three months ago, an angry homophobe walked into an Orlando, Florida gay night club and murdered 49 people, wounding 53 more. It was a Saturday night during Queer Pride month, and it was specifically Latinx Night at that club. The homophobe had spent time in the days before the massacre staking out the location. He had created a fake profile on a gay hook up app before that for the express purpose (based on the recovered chats) of finding out what the busiest gay nightclubs were in his community1. It was a planned hate crime.
The homophobe decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. The shooter’s own father was shocked at how angry his son had become when he saw that.
Three months later, reading about this still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m an out queer man who grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. I have always had the moment of fear any time I am out in public with my husband any time we show any affection. I have a specific incident where I know my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop years ago. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out with friends: is it all right if I call him “honey,” or will we get harassed? Can I safely say, “I love you,” or will we get threatened?
Thanks to this shooting, there’s now a new layer of fear and anxiety on that. Not just that I and my husband might be in danger, but that our actions might set off another bigot who will go murder a bunch of queer people.
Some people will ask, “It’s been three months; are you still upset about this?” And yes, people will actually ask. I know this because the day after the massacre happened people who I used to think were my friends were angry at me for being upset about the shooting.
Other people have much more immediate reasons not to forget: Last hospitalized survivor of Pulse nightclub shooting discharged. And now that he’s finally able to leave the hospital, Pulse nightclub shooting survivor plans return to New Orleans for recovery. Even though he’s out of the hospital, he’s got more recovery to do. As many of the other survivors are still going through physical therapy and otherwise trying to recover health and mobility that was taken from them.
There’s other kinds of fall-out still happening: State slaps $150,000 fine on security firm that employed Orlando Pulse shooter. The company isn’t being fined for anything directly related to the massacre. No, while authorities (and journalists) were investigating, the psychological evaluation he had undergone to get his security job was publicized. And people tried to contact the doctor whose name was on the evaluation. The problem was, she had stopped practicing more than a decade ago, had moved out of state, and hadn’t performed any evaluations for the employer since. At least 1500 employees were incorrectly listed has having been examined by the retired doctor during those ten years.
The state agency that investigated believes that all of those people were evaluated and passed, just that the wrong doctor was listed on their records. Over a thousand times. Over the course of ten years. Isn’t that reassuring?
I mean, a single psych eval doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly one done years before. And if I’m going to be disturbed about problems in the case, it would be the shooter’s history of domestic violence. One might ask how people get jobs where they are given badges and weapons and put in charge of security at places like courthouses when they have a history of domestic violence. I’m reminded of a chilling op-ed piece I read years ago that pointed out if having been arrested for domestic violence (or admitting in divorce proceedings to abuse) disqualified people from being cops, prison guards, and the like, we’d have a very hard time staffing departments, prisons, and so forth3.
“A FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CONVICTION IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE VIOLENT CRIME AMONG MEN.”
—according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s analysis of The Offender Accountability Act
Let’s not forget that all the societal forces and institutions that encouraged the shooter to hate queer people, and that afterward blames the victims for bring this thing on themselves just by being who they are, are still active in this country. Some of them are even running for high political office. Others are merely preaching in churches around the country. Though some are finding themselves less welcome with their co-religionists: Baptist Union distances itself from anti-gay pastor.
The pastor in question, Steven Anderson, is one of many who said (from his pulpit) the Pulse massacre victims deserved to be murdered. He’s not the pastor who said that who has since been arrested for molesting a young boy. But since this guy also often goes off on homophobic rants, it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets caught doing something similar. But right now he’s just trying to go to South Africa and preach. He might not get to spread his hate there, however: SOUTH AFRICA CONSIDERS BANNING U.S. ANTI-GAY PREACHER.
Not that banning one pastor from one country is going to make much of a dent in the hate: Fox News Commentator Tells Conservative Christians They Must Support Anti-Gay Hate Groups.
But enough about the hateful people. What can we do to help love to win? Well, the first thing is not to forget the previous victims of hate:
1. The political cartoon I link to above refers to the Orlando shooter as a “gay homophobe” which was widely reported, but later debunked by the FBI2. The shooter installed a gay hookup app on his phone and set up his account around the same time that he bought the weapon that he later used in the massacre. And as I mentioned, his conversations never turned into meetings. He would ask gays what the busiest club was, and if they didn’t know, stop talking to him. If they mentioned any clubs, he would ask questions about the nightclubs, and then deflect any attempts by the person he was talking to to actually meet. A few people who spoke to the press in the aftermath of the shootings, claiming to have been flirted with by him or have even had sex with the shooter. But the FBI determined that none of them had actually met the shooter.
2. I still run into people who believe that the shooter was a self-loathing gay man, and that this fact means it wasn’t actually a hate crime. First, he wasn’t gay. Second, lots of hate crimes against queer people have been committed by self-loathing or in-denial queer people. Doesn’t make it any less of a hate crime.
3. I wish I could find that specific article, but I haven’t been able to track it down. There are numerous other sources of that data, however: Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population. So where’s the public outrage? for instance. Or: 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.
Having been raised by a physically and verbally abusive man, myself—and having been victimized by other abusers throughout my childhood and teens—I have a little bit of insight. Among the common tactics of abusers—particularly narcissistic abusers—are scapegoating and gaslighting.
When scapegoating, they blame other people for their own failures, no matter how improbable it is for the named person to have done that thing:
- Donald Trump blames the media for his own failure to run a general election campaign
- Did Trump blame his casino failures on dead employees? One executive thinks so
- Trump Blames Fellow Republicans for RNC’s Low TV Ratings
When gaslighting, they try to convince everyone that their victim is crazy, or the actual abuser, or is otherwise mentally or morally deficient. This is often combined with projection—accusing their victim of having motives that are actually the abuser’s:
- Trump on Clinton: ‘She took a short-circuit in the brain’
- Donald Trump Calls ABC Reporter “A Sleaze” During News Conference About Veterans Fundraiser
As Amadi Lovelace sums it up in the screenshot: “Trump uses abusive tactics and reinforces marginalization of women with children by yelling at mother with baby.”
At this point you might be saying, “Fine, Gene, you’ve made a good case that Trump is not just a narcissist and a liar, but that he is specifically an abusive narcissist. But how does that explain the people who support him?” That’s simple: abusers are extremely good at manipulation and are especially good at finding people who are ripe for manipulation. The reason an abuser can get away with outrageous blame shifting in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is because there are always people looking to hurl some blame around, themselves.
It’s like all those messages of condolence that I received from certain relatives a few months back when my abusive father died. One person said, “I remember when your parents found out they were going to have a baby, how excited he was and how much he was looking forward to being a father. He loved your mother so much. He was so happy the day you were born! I hope that you can focus on memories of those good times, before the troubles began. Don’t dwell on the bad times.” It’s subtle, but the clear implication is that it’s my fault that I don’t feel love and admiration for my father, because I focus on the good times. But look at the most ridiculous part of that argument: it’s wrong of me to even think about his bad behavior which was going on for as long as I can remember instead of remembering his alleged good and loving actions which occurred before I was born.
To be clear, most of the relatives who made comments like this, are the same ones who during previous discussions of my dad’s issues, always pointed to an incident that happened to him about three months before I was born as the beginning of “the troubles.” It’s hard to get more ridiculous than blaming a person for not remembering things that happened before they were born. They don’t see that contradiction because reality doesn’t match their narrative that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes. Admitting that he was a bad father especially during the years I and my siblings were young and most vulnerable would mean admitting that they didn’t do anything to protect us.
People aren’t rational. They will ignore facts that contradict their chosen narrative. Trump’s appeals repel a lot of people who recognize the falsehoods and inconsistencies of his statements. But the exact some statements appeal to people who want to buy into parts of his narrative. Whether that narrative is that immigrants from south of the border are the cause of the stagnation of middle class earnings, or that muslims are the cause of every mass shooting, or that thug culture is to blame for the perceived (but fictional) increase in violent crimes, and so on. People who are afraid for their future and are angry at their perceived loss of privilege are looking for someone to blame. Even more, they are looking for someone who will assure them that there is someone else to blame. They are looking for someone to tell them that they aren’t wrong to hate people who have different skin colors, or different religions, et cetera.
Trump gives them that. He gives them targets for the anxieties and fear. He fans the flames of that fear into outrage and tells them that it is all right to blame other people. He tells them it is all right to resort to violence (“I’ll pay your legal fees” or “the second amendment people could stop her”). He tells them that anyone who disagrees is crazy, sleazy, immoral, and the enemy.
Abusers are good at finding victims. But they’re also good at finding others willing to hate those victims. And that’s what is “going on” with support of Trump.
Thursday’s email from Brown began with calling his donors pathetic: “We’re only 17% toward our goal of receiving 1,500 membership contributions of at least $35. That is pathetic.” And when that tactic failed to get the desired response, he followed up by called his donors quitters: “I really don’t believe — I just can’t imagine the thought — that NOM’s members have quit fighting for God’s institution of marriage. And yet, only 256 of you have responded with an urgently needed membership contribution during this critical period.”
Three years ago I wrote about how the organization was going in the red and only surviving by taking “loans” of several millions of dollars from a related religious education non-profit: In the hole, still digging. The money from the religious non-profit was raised under rules that forbid it being used for political advocacy purposes, which means that an outright transfer is illegal. However, as long as they call them loans they can. I wish that the IRS would investigate them over this, but we all know they won’t.
Not only are donations drying up, but they’ve been getting ever more pathetic turn-out for their March for Marriage events in Washington, DC, in 2014, then 2015, and earlier this year. I agree with Joe Jervis, who predicts that NOM will merge with the equally anti-gay World Congress Of Families, which just so happens to have hired Brian Brown as their new president. He’ll continue peddling hate, just mostly in countries where the message finds more sympathy.
Not that there aren’t still haters right here in America: Trump and Rubio Attend Florida Rally That Mocks LGBT Pain. Not only did they attend this anti-gay hatefest, but they did it two months to the day after the Orlanda gay nightclub massacre. Classy. Trump comes under fire for anti-lgbt conference Trump, of course, keeps claiming that he’s going to be great for gay rights. He also keeps promising evangelicals that he’ll appoint supreme court judges that will overturn marriage equality. Trump also wants the repeal the law that forbids religious non-profits from endorsing candidate: ORLANDO: Trump Tells Hate Group Meeting That Winning Presidency Will Get Him Into Heaven [VIDEO].
Of course, not all homophobia is as obvious and frothing as the people at NOM or the Liberty Council or similar organizations: Daily Beast’s Olympic Grindr Story Slammed as ‘Dangerous,’ ‘Homophobic’. I realize NBC is trying to appear unbiased, but they should have revised that headline to “Daily Beast’s Homophobic Olympic Grindr Story Slammed as ‘Dangerous’.” If you don’t understand why the Daily Beast’s story in which a straight editor created a fake profile on a gay hook-up app and tricked a bunch of Olympic athletes (many of them from countries where they can be put to death just for being accused of being gay) into meeting is inherently homophobic, read this: Grindr is not a gay sex peep show for straight people: If our dating rituals are weird to you it’s because you denied us the luxury of normality in public for so long. I could go on about it, but over at Slate openly gay Olympic athlete Amini Fonua said it best: Do you realize how many people’s lives you just ruined without any good reason but clickbait journalism?
And let’s not forget the self-loathing gay people who enable their own (and our) oppression: LGBT Rights Opponent Newt Gingrich To Address Log Cabin Republicans.
Fortunately, hate is a losing strategy. Love trumps hate. Let’s end this on a happy note and remember that love wins: These beautiful portraits of LGBT couples embracing will melt your heart.
People insist that there is nothing they else they can do, but frequently they’re wrong. There are things which can be done. Things within the power of the people making that statement. Congress critters of the conservative sort are especially liable, here (but not the only ones). And I don’t just mean in passing laws, though that could often help.
The very same congresspeople who sat in Republican caucus recently and prayed that gays are “worthy of death” made a big show of talking about thoughts and prayers while a lot of the public was up in arms about the Orlando shooting. It didn’t stop them from killing an amendment to extend job discrimination protections to queer people. It didn’t stop them from voting down an amendment to tighten (but hardly close) the so-called gun show loophole. It doesn’t stop them from attending rallies with pastors who call for the death of gays. It doesn’t stop them from telling their supporters that letting trans children use the bathroom that matches their gender identity is dangerous.
They’re not just withholding a water hose. They’re the people who have been splashing gasoline in the direction of every queer person they could for years. They’re the people who handed matches out to lots of people and said, “I don’t condone violence, but god says queers are monsters.”
Thoughts and prayers is more than just a means to look like you care when you don’t. It’s more than just a means to appear helpful while you do nothing. It’s more that just a means to make people focus on your piety rather than the problems of others.
It’s also an attempt to establish an alibi.
If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can claim they had no idea that all their anti-gay rhetorical was going to encourage another to attack queer people. If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can also claim that they had no idea that all the anti-trans hysteria they’ve whipped up over bathrooms would make gender nonconforming kids hate themselves to the point of considering suicide. If they offer thoughts and prayers, than clearly they can claim it’s not their fault that queer people grow up filled with fear and self-loathing, driving some to self destructive behavior, while driving some to turn that violence toward others. Clearly, they say, it isn’t their fault that anyone would listen to all the hate they have been spewing and act on it.
Why would anyone ever think they wanted that?
I’ve written a few times about the case of former Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who has pled guilty to charges of trying to illegally conceal large cash transfers he made to pay millions of dollars in hush money in order to prevent the public from learning that while he was a high school wrestling coach he molested at least four of the boys under his supervision. The sexual assaults occurred long enough ago that due to a statute of limitations on such crimes, Hastert can’t be charged with the molestation. (Which prompted the Daily Show to point out, “You’d think something as awful as molesting children would have no statute of limitations”, because things like parking tickets have no statute of limitations, for example.)
There was one interesting little twist this week as Hastert’s sentencing date approaches: The judge in Dennis Hastert’s hush-money case says that if the former House speaker wants letters of support considered during his sentencing, they must be made public. Hastert’s lawyers have drummed up 60 letters of support from various people asking the judge for leniency. However, those letters have been submitted under seal, keeping the identity of the letter writers and the contents of the letters private. Presumably because most of the people (if not all) who wrote the letters only agreed to do so on condition of anonymity. Because no one, particularly no elected official, wants to go on record supporting a child molester. The judge has rightfully pointed out that ordinarily such leniency pleas are part of the public record.
I’ve been harping on Hastert because he was an anti-gay politician when he was in Congress, going so far as to, after promising the parents of Matthew Shephard (who was murdered in a gruesome hate crime) to help pass a hate crime’s bill, actually did everything in his power to kill it (and succeeded). Some reporters have tried to claim that Hastert wasn’t that anti-gay, or at least not as anti-gay as some of his fellow Republicans. Michelangelo Signorile begs to differ: How Dennis Hastert Demonized Gays as Predators While He Was the True ‘Super-Predator’
Hastert, of course, isn’t the only Republican who demonized some people’s sexual lives while engaging is sexual misconduct himself: Cosponsor of Tenn. Transphobic Bill Accused of Sexual Harassment Not just accused—the accusations have been around for months—what has finally happened is the Attorney General’s office has found sufficient evidence against GOP Rep. Jeremy Durham that the rest of the legislature felt compelled to act, and has exiled him to an office in another building and essentially quarantined him from any contact with woman on any legislative staff position. I am very amused at Think Progress’s headline earlier this week about it: The Surprising Sexual Harassment Scandal Accompanying Tennessee’s Anti-Transgender Bill, because the only thing that any reasonable person should find surprising about this is that his fellow republicans have taken any action against their fellow family values champion at all.
The records show that Hastert’s office kept a legislative file titled “Homosexuals,” filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, “Pedophilia Chic” that warned that “revisionist suggestions about pedophilia” were being embraced by the left…
…What was curiously not in Hastert’s files, according to the Politico report, was anything about the scandal that enveloped former GOP congressman Mark Foley, who was exposed in 2007 for having sent sexually explicit messages to teenage boys in the House page program. Hastert in fact was accused of dragging his feet in dealing with Foley’s activities, his office having known about it for months but either covering it up or simply not acting with the speed expected from the office of a House member who was so concerned about child predators.
And remember those statute of limitations laws in various states that shield child molesters, while letting other, far less severe crimes be punished many many years later. You want to know how those laws came to exist? Disgraced Former NY Assembly Speaker had affairs with at least two women — one a lobbyist, the other a former assemblywoman, court papers show According to records unsealed this week, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had affairs with two women, one of whom is a former aide turned lobbyist who was hired by the Catholic Church to pressure legislators against a bill that would have extended the time period in which victims of molestation could sue their attackers. Sheldon dropped his support for the bill once his former aide/mistress began lobbying against it. So the sex criminals being shielded were pedophile priests whose victims didn’t speak up while they were still children. Again.
And I have to ask once again, why do any of us ever take any of these anti-sex, anti-gay politicians seriously? There is not one single case of someone using a trans rights law to try to sexually assault someone, but there are hundreds of cases of anti-gay, pro-family elected officials molesting children, sexually harassing or assaulting people, having extramarital affairs, taking their same sex “photographer” who also happens to live with them on taxpayer-funded junkets, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.