Monday, May 14, 2012

In SmartAss News: Homophobia Is Bigotry

So it is time to address some of the fallout and questions I have seen about the President's recent evolution. Let us start with a working definition of homophobia:

"In a 1998 address, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King stated that "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."

The President's announcement is pretty historic (although certainly not a complete pass to equality) because when a sitting President comes out for the civil rights of a group, the country always, always follows. This is what has a lot of bigots tied up in knots. The arc of the universe bends towards justice, not their own preference, and they know it.

The trouble with homophobia is that it is still so accepted and standard in many circles that it can get hard to pin down. I am very comfortable with the above definition. 


If someone is devaluing the citizenship or humanity of someone because of orientation, or race, or ethnicity - I have no trouble calling that bigotry. I refuse to succumb to the idea that it is worse to be called on bigotry than it is to be a bigot. Now, bigotry can be motivated by ignorance or intolerance, and people's willingness to deal with or help that person may change based on that source. 


I do not remember where I learned this, but I have found it to be of infinite value. If you wonder whether or not a statement is bigoted, replace the discriminated group with any other minority group. This only works for a semantic comparison, not an experiential one, mind you.

"Lesbians should not be allowed to marry."

"Black people should not be allowed to marry."

"Jews should not be allowed to marry."

"Mentally disabled people should not be allowed to marry."

Which one made you ask if it was really bigotry? None? Good, because they all are bigotry. Some are just still somewhat socially acceptable. Now, each group's historical experience with this struggle is different, and unique maybe even inside of that group, let alone in comparison to other groups.


Is it bigotry to say "Well, civilly I am for Marriage Equality, but on a personal/religious/cultural level I am against it?" Yes, yes, yes - that is a bigoted thing to say. Fortunately that statement at least acknowledges that their bigotry should not be law.


By avoiding those gut-reaction words like bigotry, we let people get away with things they should not. I would rather call a bigot a bigot then let one be legitimized by my lack of response or an inadequate response. (Not to offer a false choice there, but to state my perspective in total.) It should not be used lightly or in jest, and only when called for: gays should not be able to marry, women should be in the kitchen, disabled people should stay at home, affirmative action is reverse racism - that kind of stuff. You know: bigotry.

And seriously? If someone is a bigot, then my last worry is worry about offending them. My life has rough spots, but one of the benefits of being out of most loops is I rarely actually have to take crap from another human being. I can chose to do so, but rarely is it mandatory. So in most cases, I can flat out call bigotry, bigotry.

As a last note, let me say this: I am really tired of people acting like this struggle for civil rights should not be compared to their struggle for civil rights, as if one would sully the other. I have two words for you, but I am going to hold onto them. "Oh, but those people and what they want are different!" Some will not stand a comparison between suffrage/feminism and the Freedom Marches, Rides, and summers. Others will have no comparison between the black civil rights movement and marriage equality. No civil rights movement is the same as another in character, influences, changes made. No civil rights movement can stand isolated from what went before and what came after or what else was happening then. 


So why the protestation at all? I want you to think long and hard about why letting mine touch yours would be bad. Maybe you are not as enlightened or progressive as you think... But you could be.


Hey, if you are ready to really get down into it and work on it, I am right there with you. We should all be trying to be better every day. I know I am trying. Sometimes a bigoted thing with come to tongue, but I try to grab it and figure it out it's where and why before it hits someone else. If it does spill out, I own it and apologize for it (and be mortified by it) and make it a lesson to keep trying to do better. See how that works? I could never count, nor thank enough, the people that have helped me along the way. I will lend a hand when I can to attempt to meet that beautiful responsibility.

The lesson of the day: let us call a bigot a bigot, and have no shame in the naming of it.