This morning our local paper published an opinion column by a local writer named Johnathan Buck. In this piece titled “Evolution and Same-Sex Marriage Don’t Mix” Buck postulates a theoretical eight-year old boy, whose friend is the child of a same-sex couple, contemplating the “puzzle” of same-sex interactions in light of the fact that evolution requires all species to reproduce. His theoretical eight-year old doesn’t understand, his “socially progressive” teacher can’t explain, and he concludes that evolution is “trying to weed out humans as a species.”
“What could happen to humanity” he asks, “if homosexuality really catches on? It’s like a death wish, and people are actually choosing it.”
Wow. Even for a back-asswards, hyper-reactionary conservative bastion like Peterborough, that’s offensive.
Hidden behind an the awkwardly-contrived narrative conceit of the “puzzled child” the author demonstrates a homophobic stance, an anti-sex-ed sentiment, and an appalling (possibly deliberate) misunderstanding of the processes of evolution, the question of whether sexual orientation is a “choice” (spoiler alert, it isn’t), the roles of marriage and sexuality in human culture, and the structure of Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum.
Bluntly, this article is a smarmy, ugly, and deeply offensive piece of gaslighting*, and I’m appalled the Peterborough Examiner published it.
I’m not going to address the numerous and serious logical fallacies in the article (nor the narrative failures of the author, however grating they might be,) I’m going to address the bigotry. Because make no mistake, it doesn’t matter how erudite or scholarly the author thinks they’re being, it’s still bigotry.
And yes, I know I’m going to be triggering an absolute shit-storm by using that word, bigotry, because every time I call homophobic bullshit and hypocrisy what it is, I get complaints and gaslighting and sometimes even death threats. Conservatives, in particular, seem to have a hair-trigger reaction to being called bigots, even though most bigots seem to be conservative. They aren’t like that. How dare you call them that. It’s not bigotry because they don’t actually hate anybody, they just have a different opinion than you, so you’re the bigot, really.
Yes, yes, yes everyone has a right to their opinion; it’s just that sometimes those opinions reveal the fact that someone is a bigot.
Doug Muder, who writes the excellent blog The Weekly Sift, recently published a post titled You Don’t Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot which included a phrase which elegantly sums up the hard-to-express difference between bigotry and hate:
“Bigotry is not the same as hate. Bigotry just means believing that certain groups of people do not deserve the same kind of consideration you want for yourself.”
Johnathan Buck’s piece reveals the deep-seated anti-gay bigotry that we in the LGBT community face every single day. Sometimes it’s blatant and overt, like the ongoing fallout from the recent SCOTUS ruling in the United States, or the BC politician’s assistant who was the victim of a homophobic attack last year, or the recent incident in Calgary discriminated against and verbally abused a gay couple, but more often it’s far more subtle, like the persistently homophobic culture in Canadian sports, which serves as a deterrent to LGBT youth from getting involved in athletics, or the fact that many Conservative politicians in this country receive support from openly anti-gay churches, or the ongoing prejudice against gay and bisexual men institutionalized within Canadian Blood Services.
Frankly, as a queer person, I prefer the overt homophobia. It’s easy to condemn someone refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-gender couple or verbally abusing a gay couple (and I’m pleased to note that Calgary cabby was immediately suspended by his company because overt homophobia is increasingly becoming bad for business) but it’s a lot more difficult to call out people on the subtle shit. I have no doubt that Mr. Johnathan Buck of Peterborough, should he read this post, will be deeply and vocally offended by my characterization of him as a homophobic bigot, and that he’ll find defenders because he was polite about it.
Well, fuck that: Bigotry is bigotry, homophobia is homophobia, and I really don’t care if you think you’re being polite when you do it. You want to gaslight us with a pseudo-scientific fiction about a confused eight-year old who can’t understand same-sex marriage? Allow me to retort with some sadly non-fictional stories about suicide rates among LGBT youth, or the rates of LGBT youth homelessness and the risks LGBT youth face in shelters, or the fact that hate crimes against LGBT youth represent 18% of all hate crimes in Canada… and that homophobic hate crimes against LGBT youth is the only growing demographic of hate crimes in this country.
A hypothetical eight-year-old might be confused about equal marriage? Cry me a river. I’m more worried about all the real-life twelve-year-olds worrying that they might be weird or sick because they’ve started noticing their peers of the same gender, or the sixteen year-olds who skip school because they’re afraid of being bullied for their sexual orientation… or the twenty-year-olds being disowned by their families for coming out of the closet.
The “evolutionary” argument against equal marriage is complete bullshit. LGBT people have been with us throughout human history and presumably before that, and it certainly hasn’t prevented us from becoming the dominant species on this planet. Invoking that argument is either a sign of blatant ignorance or (more likely) a smug disingenuousness on the part of the author. The implication that LGBT people are somehow less fit to survive, that they’re letting down our species because all we are is reproducing machines is not only incorrect, but profoundly insulting.
Such arguments aren’t promoting a dialogue, they’re not raising the level of discourse, and they sure as hell aren’t helping to resolve the very serious problems facing LGBT people in our society. All they’re doing is providing yet another self-righteous justification for the prejudice of asshole bigots who are trying to put the brakes on social progress.
*I’ve had a couple of people ask me on Facebook what “gaslighting” is, and reading back over this post I see I’ve used it a lot. The term comes from the 1944 film Gaslights, in which Charles Boyer’s character, as part of a campaign to make the female lead (played by a young Ingrid Bergman) think she’s going mad, constantly changes the settings of the apartment’s gaslights and then denies doing it.
Gaslighting someone, in the modern usage, means to retroactively change the parameters of a debate in order to shift the blame onto the actual victim. By accusing LGBT people of making humanity less evolutionarily competitive through same-sex marriage, Johnathan Buck is implying historical and present-day discrimination against LGBT people is therefore justified.
The Peterborough Examiner appears to have taken Johnathan Buck’s “Evolution and Same-Sex Marriage Don’t Mix” off of their website. It now returns a 404 message.
I find myself wishing I knew whether the Examiner’s editors decided to take it down because they realized it was offensive, or whether Mr. Buck realized he’d gone too far and asked them to. I suspect I’ll never know.
Thanks to a reader, I have screenshots of the original article I was commenting on. In the interests of being able to showing both sides of the story, here they are. Nothing has been omitted or edited from Mr. Buck’s original opinion column.