So my post the other day, about the need for Christians to speak up against homophobia in their communities seems to have struck a few sore points. I knew it would be controversial, so I’ve been extremely aggressive in moderating comments, especially comments which disagreed with my opinion or protested my conclusions, and especially if those comments opened with the phrase “I’m a Christian and…”
Why? Three reasons:
First, I pretty much covered my opinion of Christians who stay silent in the face of those coreligionists who use Christianity as a club to beat (metaphorically or literally) LGBT people with. I was not — repeat not — interested in listening to “yeah, but…” I’m sick to death of “yeah, buts” from people who haven’t had to deal with the consequences of their silence. I tried to make a point, and if that point made you uncomfortable, then perhaps you need to take a good hard look at why it made you uncomfortable… and if it’s because my point hit a little close to home, then that’s between you and your own conscience.
Second, I didn’t want to get sidetracked. One friend of mine tried to post an intelligent and cogent argument that I wasn’t addressing the whole of the issue in Uganda. I filtered out that comment, not because I didn’t agree with her or see her point, but because I felt branching into a discussion of colonialism and racism would distract from the intended focus of my post. I understand that complexity and context are sometimes important, but some things are also very simple. I didn’t want to lose sight of the forest for the trees. (She went on to post her comment as a stand-alone entry on her own WordPress blog and I immediately allowed the pingback to my blog, because I feel she made some reasonable points. I don’t agree with all of them, but I respect her for stepping forward and saying it.)
Third, this is my space. Mine. Nobody else’s. As I’ve stated in The Rules of My Blog and in the posts on this blog over and over again, this is my space, which means I get to say what I want and I have the right to curate what other people say. I had a friend call me out on Facebook yesterday for that curating, claiming that I was censoring comments that I disagreed with and that I was mocking commenters “with spite and vitriol.” (I disagree — I think “mild annoyance” is the strongest applicable descriptor for my tone.) When I called his attention to The Rules, he replied that he wasn’t going to read anything else I wrote because I had “destroyed my credibility” with him.
Well, I’m going to say that hurt a little, because I respect the guy and I value his good opinion, and frankly I think was being unfair by dismissing me out of hand. Also, as I mentioned above, I think “spite and vitriol” was a little uncalled-for, particularly considering that not an hour earlier I had filtered a badly-spelled comment threatening me with “a bullet” because as a “fag” I “reject the love of Christ Jesus.” (Yes, I reported it.) Admittedly, my friend didn’t have that context until I informed him, but when he came back and condemned me again for censoring people, all I could do is point him at the “About Me” section a second time and say “My space, my rules.”
“Have fun with your soap box,” was his reply, and I internet discussion or not, I could hear the door slam on his way out. And that hurt a lot, because I wasn’t looking for a fight with a friend — or, I’m now afraid, a former friend.
But he was right about one thing: This is my soap box. Sometimes I want an argument, and sometimes I enjoy a discussion, but if I decide it’s soap box time, then that’s what it is. This isn’t an encounter group. This isn’t a debate society. This is where I get to say what I want with a minimum of self-censorship and — guess what? — I don’t need to put up with criticism or contradiction; I get enough of that on Facebook. You don’t like it? Tough. Hell, I say it up front: This is my space, so I hardly think there’s grounds for complaint. You comment on my space by my sufferance, period, because this is the one and only place I have in public that is mine, and that does not oblige me to provide a discussion forum for anybody. If I want to use my blog to post about puppies and sunshine and the benefits of a really well-mixed rye Old Fashioned, I will. If I want to use it to pontificate about the extreme shittiness of some things in this world, I’ll do that too. My soap box, my rules.
This has gone way beyond my initial post about Christians, and anti-Christians, and homophobia or hypocrisy. This is about the fact that I’ve been made to feel like I have to justify myself or censor myself on this blog for no better reason than readers — some of whom I know, some of whom are strangers — say so. Do any of you people understand how much time I spend censoring myself every single day? I have to let casual homophobia slide all the time. I have to read a constant stream of bullshit on the internet. I have to edit what I say in a professional context. I have to control my temper and not rip the mortal shit out of every fifteen-year-old douchebag mouthing off in an MMO. I have to deal with people gaslighting me because I clearly don’t understand how it’s really been my fault all along. I live my life surrounded by constraints and demands and people who assume that just because I’m not obviously in-your-face LGBT that I must agree with them about the dykes and the queers and the perverts.
Let me explain why I sometimes need a space to speak about LGBT issues: I’ve been in the closet. I was forcibly outed during my first year of college and became the “campus faggot.” I was queer-bashed my second year of college because of it, beaten by three strangers in a campus bathroom who laughed and urinated on me when they were done, and I was too afraid and ashamed to report it (and no offence to any police officers who read this blog, but I had pretty clear reasons to believe that it wouldn’t have done much good to go to the cops at that time and place anyway.) I’ve been taunted and abused and shunned for my sexuality, I’ve been told — with enormous, malicious satisfaction — that I’m going to hell. I was once kicked out of an apartment I was sharing for the simple — and politely phrased — request that my housemates not use the word “gay” as a pejorative term. I’ve had complete assholes in the LGBT community try and undercut and betray me and screw me over because as a bisexual man I wasn’t gay enough for them. I’ve had relationships end — or never get started — when I disclosed my sexuality to my prospective partner… and that goes for both male and female ones.
The point I’m getting at is that my sexual identity has often been a source of enormous turmoil, pain and rejection over the years. I’m not alone in that, of course: it’s a fairly common theme for LGBT people. But it’s not some theory or abstraction when you have to live through it, which is why homophobia is such a red-flag topic for me.
I’m a large, bearded man. I’m currently married to a member of the opposite sex. I could get rid of a lot of the turmoil associated with my sexual identity if I just… shut up. If I stopped making a fuss. If I denied a basic aspect of myself. If I walked away from years of pain and hurt and loneliness and pretended to be straight. If I went back into the closet. And believe me, it’s been a temptation. To lose that source of conflict? It would solve so many problems. It would be easy.
All it would cost me is my self-respect.
I spend a lot of time afraid because of my sexuality. You can laugh if you want, but every time I post something more controversial than the details of my latest fight practice or how much fun a home wet bar can be, I’m afraid when I hit “publish.” Not because of some anonymous stranger threatening me — frankly it happens — but because I worry that this time I’ll lose the friendship of someone I’d grown to like. This time I’ll lose the respect of my peers. This time I’ll poison my future in the Society. And I try to tell myself I’m being stupid because of those fears, that they won’t happen, that I’m surrounded by people who are better than that. And I’m still afraid when I press that button.
And I press it anyway.
Because for all my for all my confidence and forthrightness and kindly-go-fuck-yourself bravado, inside of me there is a bruised and beaten nineteen-year-old kid weeping in a puddle of strangers’ piss in a campus bathroom. He is always there. Always. And some days he’s not that far below the surface. And I will be god damned if I let those worthless gay-bashing motherfuckers win.
This, right here, is the space I’ve made for myself. You want to call it a soap box? Great, it’s a soap box… and how is that a bad thing? Sometimes people need soap boxes. This is the place where I get to speak, and sometimes I try and use it to speak Truth, and sometimes I really, really don’t want a discussion. And if what I said from my soap box makes you uncomfortable, well, there’s worse things in this world than discomfort: I know because I’ve lived through some of them. You want to tell me I’m not allowed to speak about homophobia (or any other controversial subject, for that matter) or that I’m only allowed to speak on your terms? When you tell me that, whether you mean to or not, you’re telling me to shut up, to be silent, to stop rocking the boat. To go back into the closet.
That is not going to cut any ice with me.
And before anybody calls me a hypocrite for setting these rules and these limits and yes, for being arbitrary and dictatorial about allowing commentary in this one singular public space that I have, let me say this: There are a hundred thousand places on this internet where you can say what you want and have the discussion that you want; feel free to have your discussions there. This blog is my space, and you are not obliged to read it. If you choose to read it, you have no obligation to like it. And if you want to say something in reply, go ahead and send a comment… but keep a copy because if I bounce it, it’s gone. If you want to post your comment on your own blog and pingback to mine, generally speaking I will green-light the pingback because I support and encourage people who want to speak up in their own spaces.
Going back to my original point, It’s entirely possible I flushed a friendship yesterday because I tried to call out Christians for not making enough effort against homophobia in their own communities, and then was aggressive in defending my space — my soap box — from the flood of “yeah, but” replies. It’s possible I offended decent people who genuinely thought they could change my mind on homophobia and hypocrisy if only I’d give them a chance to explain why I was wrong, or that they had a good reason, or that it isn’t such a big deal.
But homophobia is a big deal. And I’m not interested in anyone’s reasons or explanations or excuses, because believe me I’ve heard them all before. Homophobia is evil and people, especially the silent majority of right-minded Christians in whose name this evil is being done, need to stand up and speak.
And if my saying that makes you uncomfortable, I’m not sorry. If it offends you, so much so that you feel the need to argue with me, to make excuses for your silence, or to try and silence me, to gaslight or dismiss or even abuse me for my opinion, well… that’s on you, not me.