Monday, April 30, 2012

The costs and causes of denial

There's a new commenter over at Episcopal Cafe from the conservative side of the aisle who Doesn't Approve of gay people, gay priests, or gay bishops. In a discussion with our own JCF, she writes,
JC, do you realize that I will NEVER consider slavery, interracial, and gender matters to be in the same category as the LGBT issue?
Why? Well, the writer is unwilling to provide explanation or evidence for her views. However, I don't want to focus on this individual, but rather, on the frequent opinion she represents and where it comes from (so please don't charge over to the Lead to engage her….there's no point). And what she represents is the intransigent opposition to facts, lives, and humanity of LGBT people.

Of course, many conservatives feel free to ignore the science they don't like , whether it's gays, evolution, or global warming (see for example here and here). "LA LA LA I can't hear you" becomes "I don't care what you say or what your evidence is, because I don't believe it."

One possibility is that this writer doesn't believe that gay people exist. She may believe that for some reason, people choose to be gay, consciously stepping away from heterosexuality. Or, she may believe that gay people are created by bad parenting, or child abuse. Of course, these explanations have been shown to be invalid for the majority of LGBT people, not only by the testimony of gay people themselves, but by science. (See here and here.)

A second possibility is that this writer considers being gay a pathology. That is, we exist, but we're abnormal, or sick, like alcoholics, or epileptics. I discussed this with you some time ago: the idea that we are a variant that needs to be "cured". In vain do we point out that science agrees that being gay is like being left-handed, a normal variant in the human spectrum. In vain, do we cite evidence that shows "curing" doesn't work (indeed, even those who try to "cure" gays admit that they really can't do it.) Instead, they compare us to pedophiles and kleptomaniacs.

Using the comparison I used before, we would all agree that a child with cleft palate has a condition that can and should be "cured".  As a hearing person, I would consider being deaf a "pathology" but to members of the Deaf community, it's not a defect.  Our views of "defects" are not always fixed: they are opinions, but they also must be susceptible to medicine and science. Eventually, the culture moves-- for example, my parents' generation considered that left-handed people should be "fixed" but we now know that was not only unnecessary, but actively harmful. Lefties are just normal variants. And science and medicine now tell us overwhelmingly that being gay is a normal human variant that harms neither us, nor anyone else.

But using the language of pathology and defect against gay people  leads to extreme reactions, like this story from The Advocate
….a Cleveland morning DJ made a horrifying comment that suggested a man allow his gay daughter to be raped. … "You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight," Dieter said, according to viewers.
Sure, because nothing will "straighten me out" like being raped by a man? One doesn't know where to begin.

Of course, most people who dislike homosexuality don't advocate rape.  I do believe most of them are decent, if misguided.  But how many of them repudiate the demonizing hate from the most fervent opponents that provides fertile ground for such thoughts?

And where does that kind of hate come from?
"If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us." - Hermann Hesse
In the NY Times two writers highlight further evidence from recent meta-analysis that some of the most vehemently anti-gay people have homosexual tendencies themselves. We've discussed evidence of this before (the finding dates back to the late 90s), but here there's a particularly interesting correlation (my emphases):
Using this methodology we identified a subgroup of participants who, despite self-identifying as highly straight, indicated some level of same-sex attraction ...

Notably, these “discrepant” individuals were also significantly more likely than other participants to favor anti-gay policies...Thus our research suggests that some who oppose homosexuality do tacitly harbor same-sex attraction.

What leads to this repression? We found that participants who reported having supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation and less susceptible to homophobia. Individuals whose sexual identity was at odds with their implicit sexual attraction were much more frequently raised by parents perceived to be controlling, less accepting and more prejudiced against homosexuals.
You see, what we say as adults and parents matters to the kids.  Bullying isn't just driving gay kids to suicide.  It's also creating the gay bashers.  The writers conclude with a very important thought:
It’s important to stress the obvious: Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions. But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance. The costs are great, not only for the targets of anti-gay efforts but also often for the perpetrators. We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.
So, perhaps the best Christian response to someone expressing anti-gay sentiment is "I'm sorry you feel that way. I'll pray for you!"


Grandmère Mimi said...

So, perhaps the best Christian response to someone expressing anti-gay sentiment is "I'm sorry you feel that way. I'll pray for you!"

It, that's good. I will keep your response in mind.

Grandmère Mimi said...

'IT', not 'It'. Sorry.

Ann said...

I think in this case - she believes being gay is against the Bible and she takes the Bible over other evidence.

Paul (A.) said...

Could be, Ann, but she is also discounting "gender matters," yet the Bible is no paragon of gender equality. So methinks there is something more at issue here. Or maybe she just knows about a very few verses of the Bible.

Paul said...

We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.

I can speak only for myself, but I remember when I agreed with this speaker. Perhaps many of us do. For those of us who do, we would do well to consider the factors which changed our own minds.

Paul M

JCF said...

so please don't charge over to the Lead to engage her

Ironically, The Lead seems to be down you can't!

Yeah, I really should stop trying to engage her. She's a consummate "La-la-la-la, I can't hear you, la-la-la-la. I'm entitled to my own opinion! {victimized pout} (Repeat Ad Nauseum)" -type.

There was an interesting bit on NPR yesterday: "The Death of Facts" [Cong. Allen West declaring that there were "78-81 card-carrying Communists in Congress" being Facts' nail-in-the-coffin]

I think the internet DOES bear a share of the blame. When you want to see a peer-reviewed journal, you don't go to the library reference desk, you check the Google . . . the same as reports ANY bozo w/ an opinion and a internet connection. There's a flattening of "words in print" where ALL thoughts are mere "opinions" (like The Cafe's recent "La-la-la" arrival). Empirical evidence? Peer-review? Accreditation? Internet requires none-of-the-above. Don't confuse her w/ the Facts (they're dead now). Her mind's made up. And her mind's now CLOSED.

Counterlight said...

I think this woman represents a diminishing population that finds itself increasingly marginalized. I remember the same situation with race. Those who believed strongly (and religiously) in the separation of the races clung to that idea all the more fervently as that notion became more and more marginal and disreputable.

As for the internet, the followers of Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society didn't need any internet to create their own paranoid conspiracy theories and a bubble of denial. The only difference now is that the internet does everything newspapers and newsletters once did, only more and faster.

Counterlight said...

I should also say that I've quit arguing with these folks. If the world is round, then saying over and over again that it is flat will not make it so. Why should I waste my time with such? I know (and they know too) that the world is round, and no amount of denial will make it flat.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

So, perhaps the best Christian response to someone expressing anti-gay sentiment is "I'm sorry you feel that way. I'll pray for you!"

That, and "I'll be sure to bring extra people to the polls to counter your POV."

Brother David said...

Engaging her will only hurt yourself at the Lead. Since my first engagement with her (in which JCF had a small part) all of my comments at the Lead are now subject to moderation before they are posted. And some just never get posted, they just disappear into the nether, no matter how vanilla they are. It is funny how frightened the editors there are of a powerless little brown guy with strong opinions.

But it is obvious that she has chosen to comment just to stick it to folks. You can predict by subject matter that she will comment.

Brother David said...

I forgot to mention that I agree with Ann. I am pretty sure that if you ask her why she opposes homosexuality that her answer will be because the Bible opposes homosexuality.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

It is funny how frightened the editors there are of a powerless little brown guy with strong opinions.

I will venture to note that The Lead has had significant technical issues lately. And that you might write and ask them what's up about the comment moderation, rather than assuming bad faith....

Grandmère Mimi said...

Ann Fontaine announced on Facebook that in the two recent transitions to new servers, some of the comments submitted were lost, probably forever.

Brother David said...

Amigas, this isn't something recent, this has been going on for a year. I know that it is bad faith.

Originally an editor on the site created a post and then was making comments about the post. I pointed out that the comments the editor made were based on much more information than was available to the rest of us than was in the original post. I did not realize that pointing this out would cause the editor to feel threatened in the editor's regular job which makes the editor privy to a lot of information behind the scene. I have had comments moderated off and on ever since.