Just Make It Go Away
[TW: Homophobia, transphobia, general religious right bullshit]
A couple of days ago, Sigfried Gold wrote a piece in the Washington Post’s On Faith blog asserting, among other things, that James Croft was insufficiently kind to conservative Christians. Croft, being the astoundingly kind and compassionate person that he is, responded with his characteristically intellectual and metered style. I mention this, because I suspect that if Gold were to read this, Croft would look even better by comparison.
It’s important to understand our enemies. I hate to have to characterize the primarily religious right organizations as such, but there comes a point when the lies, deceit, and veiled accusations become so much a part of the daily experience of queer people that sincerity is stretched by the very conception that they are anything but enemy. Eventually, pretense must be abandoned and nothing is served by attempting to pretend that we are having a civil disagreement, so we name our opponent “enemy” and hope that our honesty doesn’t hurt our cause.
Part of the reason why it is so important to be honest is that one trait of said enemies is their reliance on the illusion of civility to blunt our words. This is, however, more than just a way of trying to force us to abandon emotion when emotion is key to understanding our lives. It also stems from a common religious right tactic: make the things you don’t like disappear.
An October 3rd press release from Liberty Council head Mat Staver tells us that the famously anti-gay hate group is, unsurprisingly, opposed to LGBT History Month, calling it a “sexualized agenda,” and equating the teaching of students about LGBT people to sexual assault. This is in no way shocking, since LC’s Matt Barber has said that even acknowledging that LGBT people exist is a “repugnant message.”
Similarly, Brandon McGinley of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, recently speaking about attempts to repeal the California law that gave equal access to gender-appropriate facilities for trans* students, claimed that this was necessary because men and women can only be friends if there is no hint that either are sexual beings.
Personal facilities are sex-segregated in order to reduce their sexual nature. Healthy and professional non-sexual relationships between men and women depend on banishing the specter of sexuality from public facilities—even placing to one side the threat of harassment and general boorishness. [Emphasis mine]
You’ll notice that not only does McGinley not understand how gender works, but he also seems incapable of understanding that just seeing somebody naked isn’t always sexual. Suffice it to say, the bolded words are what really got me about his little statement. “Banishing the specter” not only makes sex seem like a frightful, gruesome thing that might at any point sneak up on us and drag us into the woods, but it again deals with something he doesn’t like by demanding that we pretend it doesn’t exist. Sex scares Brandon McGinley and he is not mature enough to handle the knowledge that people have sex characteristics, so we must eliminate all chance that somebody might remind him.
This is a repeated in abstinence-only sex education, which approaches healthy sexual relationships by pretending they can only exist in certain situations. It is repeated in the worst of Christian homeschooling, which cuts children off from the wider world to prevent them from hearing ideas that might conflict with their faith. It is repeated in the existence of the conservative media bubble and in science denialism and in claims that atheists know there is a god and in attempts to prevent data collection of gun violence statistics. Like an unwary traveler attempting to escape a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, they cover their eyes because if they can just deny the existence of queer people, climate change, evolution, mathematics, gun-related deaths, and naughty bits hard enough, then those things can’t hurt them.
I don’t know how I can otherwise categorize somebody who is opposed to my very existence as other than “enemy”. Gold said of Croft that “Martin Luther King showed more compassion for his racist jailers than Croft shows for conservative Christians.” Whether or not that is the case, it is unreasonable of Gold to expect that any of us, Croft or otherwise, would or should. I make no secret of the fact that in an ideal world, I would be able to convince everybody that mindless superstitions are likely false and should be ignored without data, especially ones that say that even this very website is some sort of appalling crime for acknowledging that queer feminist skeptics are real and out in the world. Gold may have been discussing atheism, but all of these prejudices, including and especially ones about queer people, stem from the institutions and ideas that atheist activists fight: the ones that claim to have a faith that can move mountains, but crumbles upon exposure to different thoughts.
You cannot compromise with people who will accept nothing less than your non-existence, so there is no choice but to fight for the middle, and if that means occasionally, to use Gold’s words, “[feeding] on disapproval of the moral, political or intellectual backwardness of evangelicals,” at least the ones who hold morally, politically, or intellectually backward beliefs, so be it. It’s a mild rebuke compared to the threat of being let go from your job, kicked out of your home, or set on fire, and Gold is being entirely unreasonable in asking that we must exhibit a King-like restraint in how we choose to fight back against people who would have us simply not be at all because it’s easier for them if we aren’t.