An Open Letter to Liberals
I still have a lot of reactions to the (mostly online) behavior I witnessed Tuesday night. Countless people created an utter deluge of social media-delivered vitriol, resentment, and vengeance in response to news that North Carolinians had voted, in majority, to pass a constitutional amendment effectively banning same-sex marriage. I was shocked and appalled by the self-righteous rage I saw pouring forth on my Facebook home page and Twitter feed. I decided to take a day to formulate my response and really think through the plethora of feelings I experienced as the night progressed into the following day.
First and foremost, I want to state unequivocally that I believe members of the LGBT community should be able to marry their partners. I hesitate to go so far as to say it’s a “right,” but that’s mostly irrelevant; in the society that we live in today, people in a loving and committed relationship should be privy to the legal benefits that are attached to civil marriage. End of story.
That said the fundamental issue at play here that is a non-starter for me and has not, in my social sphere of a combined eight hundred voices on Facebook and Twitter, been mentioned is the institutionalization of oppression in our country and abroad. The majority should never put the rights of the minority to a popular vote. Ever. To do so negates the fundamental concepts of liberty and the republic in which we live. I could go off on this point for quite some time, but suffice it to say that the entrenched and hierarchical capitalism of this country has created oppression that manifests itself through sexism, racism, and yes, homophobia. By living within this caste system instead of actively questioning it, we succumb to these morally atrocious situations like voting on civil rights as if it is an opportunity for growth. As I have said before, hatred is not a hierarchy, and no marginalized group should feel they have a lion’s share on pain and suffering. All too often, the LGBT rights movement has pushed forth white men (and sometimes women) to speak for their group at the expense of people of color, the impoverished, and the transgendered within their own community who know all too well the sting of feeling silenced.
I have also seen several people make some horrifically lazy conclusions regarding the history of North Carolina, even comparing an 1875 decision to ban interracial marriage to last night’s decision. Let this be clear: this comparison is at best poor critical thinking skills, and at worst malicious, ignorant speech. To compare an amendment voted upon by the population at large – men and women over the age of 18, of all races, classes, creeds, and backgrounds – to a revision enacted by a Constitutional Convention almost 150 years ago is unfathomable. Yes, this state constitution of thirty amendments was put to popular vote, as well, and a majority of around 230,000 men (most likely overwhelmingly white and landed) voted to ratify the document. If you want me to spend even more time expounding upon this point, I would be happy to do so. Unfortunately, there are so many other topics to discuss.
Countless people professing to be liberal have found it necessary to paint broad strokes about the “evil” they witnessed and the “hatred” in the hearts of North Carolinians. I have seen jokes about North Carolina being the “gay back bus of America” and several people calling citizens of the state “cousin fuckers.” Many threw out insults involving the unemployment rate of the state, or pointing out poor education systems in counties that voted for the amendment. Why are the (en masse) ad hominem attacks necessary? Are we not the same people who complain constantly about the polarization of this country? North Carolinians are not evil, they’re not malicious, and they’re not even necessarily that ignorant. Several also lumped “the South” together as a conglomerate of Bible thumping, Jesus loving rednecks of improbable witlessness. The truth of the matter here is that a majority of voters chose to pass an amendment banning gay marriage. The more important truth at hand here is that they are the thirtieth state to do so. What is it about the Tar Heel State that deserves this apoplexy? Why the bitter outrage directed so viciously at the most recent state to ban gay marriage – by far not the sole state to do so?
The nuance necessary to discuss these matters is strangely absent from this discourse, however. The intersectionality of oppression is diverse and multi-faceted; as a result, a white heterosexual man can never begin to understand the background or experiences of an African-American homosexual woman. Conversations about identity must be shaded; they must deal in matters of gradation and compartments in order to be successful. Unfortunately, our society has become increasingly simplified and polarized. I see absurd binaries like good versus evil, blue versus red, poor versus rich, woman versus man at work on a daily basis. Many of those ensconced in youthful liberalism and privilege feel entitled to think that progressive ideas are the correct ideas and that to disagree with them is outright diabolical. It depresses me to see some of our brightest minds jump to vicious insults and acrimony over reasoned thought and contemplation. This was absolutely at work Tuesday night and lamentably so.
My final point has to do with engagement and the trend that I like to call “Facebook activism.” I’m not pointing fingers only at Millennials either, because I think this is overwhelmingly a trend in our country at large, but there is an increasing amount of disengagement in civil rights and civic duties due, in large part, to social media. Some good friends of mine realized in our conversations last night and since that a lot of this ire is coming from entitled men and women who have never been told no, who are suddenly invested in social justice once they realize they are the group being marginalized. The same people who have never spoken out on the countless socialinjusticeswe face every day are furious because they understand now what it feels like to be a victim. To be fair, they have every right to be angry, and my point with this post is not to tell people how to react or how to process their own pain. That said, I do not have to sit blithely by while they spew forth their “self-satisfied moral high ground bullshit,” as my friend Eamonn so eloquently stated.
I am not here to police online expressions of thought, or to pass judgment on the reactions I have witnessed in the time that has passed since the Associated Press reported the amendment successful. I am here to plead for intelligent and respectful discourse on the extremely complex issues at hand in our country today. This is not a case of good versus evil or right versus wrong, this is an example of how desperately our country needs to have Difficult Conversations and learn from our neighbors. The sanctimonious fury that erupted in the past few days has forced many people to embrace their own views ever tighter, unwilling to even discuss compromise with the other side. Regrettably, this is an all-too-common occurrence in contemporary America; I can only hope next time something of this importance takes place, we seize the opportunity to discuss it rationally rather than retreat into our respective encampments, seething in haughty anger.
Anonymous asked: I think you're wrong about Tyler Oakley. His youtube channel and subsequent interactions with LGBT youth have had a really big impact. I feel like you're attacking the wrong "enemy" here. Everyone does their part to support LGBT kids. Are you saying that gay guys can't be flamboyant? Cos I know of plenty who are like that without realising it's a "stereotype." I think he's hardly the biggest threat out there.
I wish we could have this conversation in person, but with you being all anonymous, I guess this is our only chance.
I’m not sure how Tyler Oakley has had a positive impact on LGBT youth, other than existing. Many people out there think that visibility of LGBT people alone is a triumph toward “normalizing” our culture, but I argue that the depictions of LGBT persons in our culture have a very intentional effect - and Tyler Oakley’s video was damaging, to say the least.
Just because he seemingly supports the community, when really it seems like he only supports men (and mostly white men at that) doesn’t mean that I should blindly follow suit. HIs message and his vision were narrow and self-defeating.
Also, I have no idea where your criticism comes from regarding the flamboyance of gay men. I never said they can’t be flamboyant. I said that the straight man portraying a cartoonish stereotype of gay mannerisms is inappropriate. I would be just as offended if Tyler had claimed to be an African-American female; unfortunately, this happens all too often amongst white gay men.
I’m sorry you don’t agree with me, and I honestly couldn’t care less. However, if you’d like to discuss the deep-seated issues at play in that video, I would be happy to expound on the intersectionality of oppression in our culture, and the staggering amount of male privilege on display in Tyler’s argument.
classwarandpizza asked: That Tyler Oakley post...let me love you! I was loving it already, and then you had me at "intersectionality of oppression and the firmly entrenched institutionalization of these concepts." AND THEN you hit me with "palpable male white privilege" and just... I have a new tumblr crush and I've only seen three of your posts. You're awesome.
Thanks, dude. I’m glad someone out there gets it. I’m getting really fed up with all of this blind support for LGBT rights, regardless of the message and the verbiage used. I found that video to be outrageously offensive and mean-spirited, and it didn’t seem like many people were saying it. I appreciate the support.