Saturday, May 12, 2012

It Gets Better With Both Time and Action

Dan Savage is fairly well known in the popular GLBT culture and community. He’s a very controversial figure to boot, going so far as to coin a term related to anal sex with the surname of former Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. He’s also put together more condonable advocacy for gay teens in the form of the “It Gets Better” project and writes a column syndicated in many newspapers for sex advice called “Savage Love”. His advocacy on gay rights stems in part from being raised traditional Catholic, which has an especially strong opposition to homosexuality in practice. Allegedly, Savage is a bit skeptical about monogamy, which has brought some issues from other gay rights activists, likely because it reinforces the stereotype of gay people being promiscuous. He’s also been noted for supporting the use of offensive words in a positive light through his column, such as faggot, in a similar way that queer and gay have been in the last 50 years or so. Nonetheless some activists find this objectionable, which seems a bit backwards to me in that he’s not taking it offensively if it’s already recognized that he’s gay and it’s used as an identifier.  Recently at a high school speech he made, many Christian students walked out as he called for people to ignore the “bullsh*t” in the bible regarding gay people. He also made a statement about those that left, calling them “pansy-assed” for not being able to take criticism when they could easily be called bullies themselves for calling homosexuality a sin and being insulting to their fellow classmates that might be gay. This isn’t the first time Savage has made verbal attacks at people, but this one cuts closer to home in that he’s directly involving himself with anti-gay proponents and engaging them on a level that many, myself included, might consider a bit immature. Fundamentally, the man seems fairly civil, but he does have a temper that flares up from time to time, which he has a problem with controlling. But his general intent is still reasonable in that it directly brings Christians, one of the main advocates of anti gay bigotry and discrimination, to the forefront, and makes them recognize that they are being hypocrites if they can’t take even a bit of abuse and direct criticism from the minority they persecute in one form or another. 

Not all Christians bully GLBT people, but when they stand by and do nothing about it, they are making themselves partly as guilty and responsible for not trying to change how GLBT individuals and groups are treated by believers in Jesus. Gay Straight Alliances in high schools are discriminated against and gay students are verbally and physically bullied and little seems to be done about it, to the point some of them commit suicide, which is what Dan Savage is trying to avoid with his project. Christians aren’t expected to necessarily agree with homosexual marriage or homosexual acts, but treating even homosexual attraction as a disease or dysfunction is not helping gay teens and young adults understand what love is. If you have a child or a family member who thinks they might be gay, listen to them. Don’t dismiss their confusion as a phase or rebellion, but take it seriously and try to figure out why they feel this way. Is it recent or has it been a pattern for a while? Perhaps the child isn’t gay, but bisexual, but perhaps they are gay. If this is the case, you have to be prepared to accept it in one way or another. But don’t ever push them away to try to save yourself the insecurity of coming to terms with someone you love happening to be attracted to people of the same sex. Raising a child is never easy and coping with your own problems is a good step to do before you start considering children. Otherwise, you risk putting more stress and problems upon your offspring as you raise them with your own warped sense of right and wrong. It’s far better to accept your child for what they are if there is no evidence they can change that quality. Behavior that can be molded and shaped in some form or fashion is different. Being male/female, gay/straight/bisexual, transgender, etc are not things you should fault your child for or make them feel distressed about. If it’s a problem to you, then it is not something to take out on your child, but work it out yourself.

While supporters of GLBT rights and equality shouldn’t insult people, beliefs and traditions are not subject to the same limitations. If people cannot take criticism of their belief systems for the heinous things they bring forth or try to do something about it, then they shouldn’t engage in debates with people about something that is still fairly polarizing politically and religiously. There is a fine line to walk between insulting individuals or groups in terms of their personal identity that are immutable qualities and insulting things that are quite mutable, such as political or religious beliefs, especially if those convictions defame a person based on immutable characteristics, such as sexual orientation, skin color, sex, etc. It’s one thing to insult beliefs and bigotry as horrible and reprehensible things, but to call those who hold them such a thing goes too far in not treating those whom you want to be equitable and compassionate to others with that same equity and compassion. If you’re insulted by such people that oppose gay marriage, kill them with kindness, I say. Even a bit of humor can make things less tense than they’d be if you try to talk reasonably with people that don’t think reasonably in a situation where their social norms are being threatened by an imagined enemy of progress. 

Dan Savage’s methods aren’t perfect, but they aren’t absolutely useless in being confrontational to people that think every supporter of gay rights is going to roll over and take abuse like a saint. Some people will get angry, some people will be emotional, but those feelings should be tempered with peace and self control. I can be incensed at the hatred and ignorance people spew towards those they either claim to love or don’t know from the person sitting next to them on the train, but I shouldn’t stoop to the level of those I oppose unless I can back it up with a sincere intent to help people. Sometimes people should be left to their own devices, but direct action can make change if the situation is ripe for it, if someone is willing to consider that they might be wrong or that their position can be softened a bit. Treat people with a mixture of yin and yang, mind and heart, deliberation and intuition. Gay people do not deserve to be treated like sub humans, but they don’t need attention brought to their differences all the time either. If they are regarded as equals, then people’s positions on them may change from what they perceive as those who feel entitled. It’s a give and take method, but you can’t keep taking without giving something back. Hatred should be returned with not only passive love, but active love, tough love. And that’s what Dan Savage does. Until next time, Namaste and aloha. 

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