Once my little sister told me that I am not passive and shy. She said I stand up for myself, I speak my mind. I laughed in disbelief, because I feel that I am far too passive and retiring; that I don’t ever stand up for myself and that I let it slide all the time when I hear people say homophobic, racist, sexist, xenophobic shit.
There are so many moments in my life when I sat speechless, stunned into silence by ignorant hate and vitriol, that I cannot help but think back on them with a sort of helpless rage.
I have listened to people — in real life, in real conversations — insist that gay marriage will destroy real marriage; that it will lead to pedophilia and beastility and polygamy.
I have listened as people degenerated our President not on his policies or political stance, but on his race. I have listened as they mock his wife for promoting healthy eating.
I have sat in stunned silence as I’ve been informed that mental illness is just a figment of my imagination, a weakness of character people use to garner attention.
I have been told that the recession was caused by black people and Mexicans stealing our jobs.
I have been informed that I cannot ride a motorcycle because I am a female, that women can’t drive, that women are not as smart, that women are inherently bad at math. That a woman acquiring a college education is a waste, because she belongs in the home.
I have been told atheists do not experience any societal negativity, and that it is the Christian right who is being persecuted.
This is why I don’t think I speak enough. I do, somewhat. Sometimes.
But not enough.
Sometimes I don’t speak because I’m so damn shocked– utterly taken aback by the words, the moment, the thing being said and the person saying it and the unexpectedness of it and why are they saying this to me? and why do they think this is an acceptable thing to say? and oh my god how did I never know Jimberly was a bigot? I’ve known them for 4 years!
Sometimes it’s because I’m tired; because I feel like every conversation in certain settings turns into an argument and I just don’t want to argue.
Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid of coming off militant and shrill; that my message of tolerance will be lost in the perception of me as a far-left socialist radical atheist feminist.
Sometimes it’s because I don’t think it’s worth it, because the people in question have proven themselves time and again, through word and deed, to be absolutely wedded to their irrational xenophobias and ethnocentricities and petty bigotries, and I know from experience the only course of action is to wait out the interaction in dead-eyed, disapproving silence.
I do speak up sometimes, though. I cite research. I prefer to argue or debate in the written word, because I’m better at writing than speaking, but I’ve weighed in on verbal arguments when asked. I do not lie when directly questioned on my opinions. I am honest, I explain my point of view. In some situations though, when I know my views would not be welcomed, I don’t air them unless directly questioned or otherwise appealed to.
I wish I was stronger. I wish I was braver. I wish I was more eloquent, like Greta Christina with her moving post on why atheists are angry
. I wish I could unblock my throat more often and speak from my heart; I wish I could tell people what their harmful, cruel words mean.
I wish I could explain why even if you don’t think of yourself as a homophobe, and you don’t consider your homophobic jokes to be serious/ hurtful/ cruel– there is someone in your life who does. There is someone in your life who is homosexual or bisexual, and they hear your homophobic jokes and assume you are homophobic. They have no reason to believe otherwise.
It’s the same with any “othering” of a minority. Make racist ‘jokes’ or claims, people will assume you’re racist, even if you don’t think you are. Make sexist ‘jokes’ or statements against women, and people will assume you’re kind of a misogynist. Make sexist jokes against men, and people will assume you’re kind of a misandrist, or some Limbaugh-esque caricature of a feminist. Make a rape joke, expect that you’ll be lumped in as (at the very least) a rape sympathizer, someone your wife/ mother/ sister/ daughter would be afraid to confide in if she were raped. It doesn’t matter how many times you insist, “I’m not a racist/ homophobe/ sexist,” when you follow it up with, “But . . .” and some incredibly racist/ homophobic/ sexist comment– guess what? You may not be
a racist/ homophobic/ sexist douchewaddle, but you sure sound
like one. It doesn’t matter how nice of terms you couch it in, saying “I love the sinner but hate the sin,” is just semantics. Or, in poem form
god hates the sin
but loves the sinner
I find them hard to separate —
a common mortal
I am who I’ve become
because of my sins
choices that have strayed me
from the straight and narrow.
shaped by questions and actions
my sins have formed me —
am I sin?
— laura anneli
This all comes to mind because of this video I saw tonight. Apparently a few weeks ago, there was a trending hashtag on twitter — #tomyunbornchild. And apparently, whether seriously or as a joke, well over a 100 twits tweeted stuff like
, “If you are gay, I will kill you.”
So someone took those tweets, and used them as a script for a video. The juxtaposition of smiling, hopeful parents cooing over swollen, fertile bellies while spewing such filth and hatred is . . . mind boggling.
What’s even worse is knowing for certain fact that there are actually parents out there who have (and will), without remorse or shame, turn their backs on their LGBT children. There are parents out there who would gladly kill their child rather than suffer an LGBT “blot” on their name. Watching this video, there’s a sick sense of surrealism because it’s so completely morally wrong, yet it is an accurate portrayal of where close-minded bigotry takes us.