Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bundles of sticks, and stones

I have a good straight friend who used to call me a faggot. He just thought it was a funny kind of put-down. I knew he meant no harm (he's a great guy and very gay friendly), but I just never could get comfortable with him doing that. Eventually, I figured out why. Then, I sent him this e-mail.

Dear ___,

Just FYI, and I don't mean to bust your butt here, but as a word "faggot" is equivalent in violence and malice with nigger, kike and cunt. Imagine you were chatting with a black friend and said "you're great, even if you are just a fucking nigger halfbreed." Or to a trusted female colleague you say "I think you do a great job; too bad you're a fucking bitch cunt and not a guy." You can say these things, and it's possible that they would be perceived as funny, but more likely they'd fall flat at best. They are violent words.

In the case of "faggot," you should be aware that this is the word you hear right before you're beaten by drunk homophobic thugs. Like virtually every gay person I know, I've had epithets hurled at me on more than one occasion. In virtually every case "faggot" was among them. I don't think you know this, but I was once assaulted on the street when I lived in Salt Lake City. The cops showed up before I got hurt, but I'll never forget the reptilian look of hatred in those men's eyes, and I've never forgotten the words they used. My assailants called me a faggot. I don't take offense at what you say to me because I know your intent, but I do want to do a tiny amount of consciousness raising here. When you use words in a joking way that are expressions of violent hatred you may evoke associations and memories in your listener that you do not intend. This happens even if the person knows you're joking.

Again, please don't take this in the spirit of reproach. I really just mean to clue you in to the way I and, I expect, others who have been on the receiving end of this kind of stuff react. We don't do this because we are thin skinned or politically minded or out to prove a point; we do it because of the context in which those particular words have been used with us in the past. It's an involuntary response, like shielding yourself from a blow. Anyway, I hope you can understand where I'm coming from on this.

He quit using those words.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How change happens

The law firm of King and Spalding has withdrawn from defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. The elite firm had been hired by the U.S. House of Representatives after the Obama administration announced that it considers DOMA to be unconstitutional and will no longer defend it. Shortly after taking the case, King and Spalding had a change of heart and claimed that its engagement had been improperly vetted by internal review.

The Economist has an interesting spin on the significance of King and Spalding's rejection of the case. I think they put it nicely:
This is the way social justice happens. Not with a bang, but with white-shoe law firms becoming uncomfortable taking certain kinds of cases.

I've noticed a change recently on the large LDS blogs I read. Virtually no one defends the LDS Church's position against civil recognition for gay families anymore. Virtually no one tries to justify the Church's blanket condemnation of committed same-sex relationships anymore. There's been a huge change since Prop. 8 several years ago, when you would find bloggers on the large LDS blogs standing up for the Church on this issue. That's all gone now.

To paraphrase The Economist: This is how social justice happens. Not with a bang, but with well-educated Mormon bloggers becoming uncomfortable taking certain stands on social issues.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Things that shouldn't be celebrated

N.B.: This post has nothing to do with the usual subject of this blog.

Three thousand people were killed on 9/11.

The wars that resulted from 9/11 have caused the deaths of 1,000,000 people, about half of them civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's payback of 300 to 1, if anyone's keeping score or if your morality requires an eye for an eye, which I hope we can all agree is a kind of thinking that really has no legitimate role of any kind in public policy decisions.

To dispatch these 1,000,000 people, we've spent 3 trillion dollars on two wars that have lasted ten years and show no signs of stopping. To put that in perspective, consider that 3 trillion dollars is 3,000 billion dollars. This means we have spent a billion dollars, or 1,000 million dollars to avenge the death of each and every person killed in 9/11. A billion dollars. Per person. So far.

My heart is sick over the public reaction to today's news about the death of Bin Laden. I have no idea if extra-judicial killing (by order of a U.S. president) in the case at hand is legal or advisable. Perhaps it is both; perhaps neither. I'm not going to weigh in on that question as tempting as it is. But I do know that dancing in the streets over the violent death of another human being is not something I will ever do. Ever. I don't care who the person was. Whether the killing had to be done or not, it's not something that requires a party.

Sometimes I feel very, very out of touch with the spirit of the times.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gay history 101

Here is a recent documentary from PBS. Worth watching.

Running time 1':20".

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

There's a blog post about this film on one of the big Mormon blogs. The comments on that post are almost all pro-gay. (LDS Newsroom, if you're reading this, go read those comments on fMH.)