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« The perfect activist | Main | Troll logic »

May 15, 2006

Comments

The Gay Species

Obviously the good bishop is not the only one consumed by the idea of gender. This reaction is no less hyperbolic than the comments that generated it.

Apparently "attacks" on gender goad you into hyper-reactionism. It's one thing to call attention to misogony, perhaps even "genderification," but just a tad bit over-reactionary to those who "play the card."

The pendulum swings both ways. It's fine to point out excesses, even when it occurs among one's own. Being a tad preocuppied with "other's" feelings is itself a defect. But you accept the "spiritual" default, and then complain bitterly that it is used against you and "your type."

Reaction-ary-ism seems to be another "default," a kind of "victimization" mentality that assumes "they" are the victimizers, and "we" are the victims. Have you thought you might be "playing" right into their melodrama, by exhibiting your own?

All this "spiritualism" has your head in the clouds, which, once it is granted, allows "them" to define you in their terms. Then, you respond to their attacks as if it wasn't subsumed by your own default position, which "they" defined in the first place.

Attacks on gays and lesbians is a serious problem, but my empathy stops where your willingness to play the victim begins. Maybe you can't "butch it up," but that's not the question. Maybe you shouldn't agree to play in "their" games, much less by their rules, to begin with?

Have you given any thought to: Maybe it's not just "their" default position that needs re-examination, but also yours? Obviously, you're in no position to "help" others, when you're dealing with you're own breakdowns daily. It's one thing to realize the difficulties we all face, it's playing "victim" to the victimizers that only complicates it.

Perhaps, before fighting "other's" homophobia, you might want to examine what makes you so sensitive to it? I know it's not fashionable to admit that "courage" is a "virtue," but it really is. Sometimes being "strong" for one's self is not contingent on what "others" think, but how you respond to yourself.

ck

Gay Species,
I'm not sure what got you so upset about my post.

I'm pointing out something structurally off about the bishop's viewpoint, even given his own theology. I am not bitter, nor do I try to "play by their rules."

My post was to point out that we need to look at the way that homophobia also often accompanies other narrow perspectives.

Nowhere in my (short) piece did I say I am a victim. which is in itself longer and more vitriolic than my original post. Nor did I whine about how I was faulted personally. x In fact, I say the opposite--that perhaps the female members of the congregation ought to recognize the elevation of (a stereotyped) masculinity to a status that their holy text doesn't give.

The fact that I'm spending more time and energy responding to your response (which is in itself longer and more vitriolic than my original post) than in writing my short observation is telling.

Sorry you're having a bad day!

The Gay Species

Start with:

"What is going unnoticed (and often does) is the mysogynism in his tirade. As I've argued here before, part of the problem with homophobia is how often it accompanies a fear of the feminine."

Confusion of this "kind" begets the rest.

ck

Gay Species, I'd like to hear more of your criticism about my premise. I was frustrated that your comment took me to task for a victim mentality that I don't believe I have, and of "breakdowns" which I know I don't have.

However, if you have qualms of substance, bring them on, I'd like to hear. A clarification, too--I'm not arguing that gay men are 'feminine', or that homosexuality itself is. You can read the piece I wrote entitled "Idolatry of the Masculine" which clarifies some.

Thanks!

Michael

Interesting post, thanks.

"What is going unnoticed (and often does) is the mysogynism in his tirade. As I've argued here before, part of the problem with homophobia is how often it accompanies a fear of the feminine. "

It's not fear of the feminine. Straight guys LOVE women - really they do. It's fear of the feminine WITHIN that gives them the shakes.

Most straight guys are totally OK with male homosexuality, except for that one little thing... their asses are sacred.

ck

Michael, that's what I mean. Thanks.

The Gay Species

"Fear of the feminine?" Michael's posts address that inanity.

"Homophobia." Fear of the same sex. More precisely, fear of same-sex relations. How does this fear morph into "fear of the feminine?" (Keep Michael's points in mind.)

I've lost count of the number of posts in which you conflate homophobia, misogyny, genderification, and sexism. But it's more than a few.

Setting wrongs right requires right thinking about the wrongs. Nothing about the issues in the preceding paragraph are entailed by any other. Conflating them is even worse, for then we can't have an intelligent discussion about any one of them, because they are all, in your claims, the same. Or, at the least, mutually entailed.

Coincidentally, they all speak to victimization. They all suggest that the hegemony of traditional paradigms has made victims of us all. On this point, you may not be far off. Certainly, the dominant paradigm's hegemony leaves little room for "difference" to wiggle out. On this we can agree.

But "wiggle out" we can and must. Rather than lament the poor, pitififul victims (whose only commonality is victimhood), why not address the strengths that each facet brings to their liberation? But whatever resources they are, they are endemic to that problem, not transversive to all the others.

Fighting injustice is one thing, fighting attitudes is another. While we can only remold the latter over time, we can demand an end to former now. But each on its own merits, not on some hyped congeneality between them.

A final observation: lamenting is not the same as advocating. Lamenting, while maybe a catalyst for change, is not enough to make a change. Only advocacy, properly directed, using specific examples and concrete realities, can make that change. You persist in lamenting, but offer no concrete means of changing (other than wishing it were so).

In previous responses, I've proffered two KNOWN reasons for homophobia, not conjectures, and certainly not part and parcel of other injustices. Knowing what we really are up against gives us ways to address those concerns. For example, the "disgust" quotient in homophobia. Rather than avert our attention from this very real problem, we must help others face their reasons for "disgust" (maybe even our own).

Martha Nussbaum has been a pioneer in this effort, along with others, in addressing why homosexual "disgust" is irrational, perhaps borrowing on the evolutionary and biological reasons, but entirely misplaced. Her advocacy of overcoming "objections" that are real, but still social constructs, has helped many homophobes confront their own anxiety. THAT is power and reform. Not merely lament. She produces results, not merely wallows.

I don't deny other factors for homophobia exist, but certainly the "disgust" factor has been empirically demonstrated. Its irrationality has now been countered by many with good results. Not total victory, but one less battle. But an important battle.

Getting at the "issue" made all the difference. Rather than conflate all injustices, Nussbaum and others identified one of the homophobic injustices, addressed it from a rational perspective, and released many from their fears. Is "disgust" the only factor? Obviously not, but it is a major one! Helping people to confront their anxiety also helped them to overcome it. Now, THAT is progress, and THAT makes a difference.

It's easy to "react." It's challenging to find solutions. The bishop that helped originate this reaction needs a little help from all of us, not more reaction. Haven't we learned that reaction will always cause us to be the losers, since the Majority can always trump us? We need to excise their fears, not wallow in their ignorance.

ck

If I understand right, the chief complaint of GS is that I conflate homophobia, genderification, misogyny and sexism. His second complaint is that my conflation leads to a culture of victimization. Thirdly—but not least, he complains that I lament rather than advocate.

First, on what GS calls the “hegemony of traditional paradigms.” I am not a social scientist or a feminist academic. I will admit that I am not an expert in the history of these social structures. My reading in Foucault is limited, and I spend most of my energy on analytic philosophy. What I’ve tried to write on this blog is a discussion out of my experience. Where I have overreached, and made less-than-cogent arguments (see my discussion of the SoulForce Equality Riders, for example), I have enjoyed corrective interaction with readers on this blog.

However, I do not believe that I conflate the four items in GS’ list. I believe that they often accompany one another, but that as entities, they are distinct. For example, the post I wrote about Penn State’s women’s basketball team discussed discrimination on the basis of perceived orientation. In this instance, homophobia mixed with a set of expectations about what women should be like. To Coach Portland, dress, mannerisms, etc. which do not fall within the “norm” of feminine or womanly are signals of lesbianism. However, her categorization was mistaken; the player in question is not a lesbian. Does this mean she was not homophobic? No—she was reacting to a someone she perceived as a lesbian. (If I think I see a spider and am afraid, but it turns out that there was no spider, but only a piece of lint, does that mean that I am not afraid of spiders? Obviously not.) However, what was also at play in this instance included a value judgment about someone whose behavior/dress was outside of the norm. Portland herself conflated the two—-homophobia and genderification. My post is to point out how that occurs.

Victimization is a loaded term. Certainly Jennifer Harris was a victim of discrimination. That is not in question. The question, as GS rightly points out, is what to do with it. He suggests that we “…address the strengths at each facet brings to their liberation? But whatever resources they are, they are endemic to that problem, not transversive [sic] to all the others.” I think he means that the resources we bring to bear on homophobia, misogyny, etc. are not transitive—they do not apply equally well to all scenarios. If we’re talking about personal resources, I would disagree—if we’re talking about academic study, I would still ask that this statement be demonstrated. Perhaps some of the mechanisms involved in homophobia and misogyny (such as disgust) are separate. But perhaps there are ways in which the two feed off of one another. I think it is unfortunate to make an a priori assumption that there must be no interrelation between them simply because they are “separate entities.” The objects of these entities often converge—lesbian women, for example, have a different kind of homophobia to face than gay men. Or do they? That is a question to explore, one which might involve both homophobic disgust and misogyny.

He cites Martha Nussbaum as someone who is overcoming homophobia. To her example, I will say, “amen” but also note that I am no Martha Nussbaum. That’s not my role. I am a blogger on a small piece of the Internet. Eventually, perhaps, when I get farther along in my education, I can make that kind of difference. I hope to. But why take me to task for not producing results that a Harvard Ph.D. has?

So what is my role? Unlike GS, I do not see laments as intrinsically helpless complaining. A lament is not the same thing as a whine. It is purposeful to observe injustices in society—wrapped up together as they often come—and reflect upon the fact that they should not be so. It is purposeful to speak out of my experience and have dialogue with others, like Gay Species, who disagree. I am an advocate in my home community, where I write for the local paper, am involved in the state LGBT advocacy group, and am part of my workplace’s diversity team. I see advocacy as part of what I do—and encouraging dialogue as another.

I view this blog as a source of news with commentary, a place for personal stories of learning, and a roundtable for discussion. This forum will not impact Bishop Owens—he doesn’t read what I write, nor does he probably care. Rather, the audience here is an educated group of people with an interest in LGBT issues. It is to them that I write, not to the world at large—although they’re welcome to listen in.

The Gay Species

Anne Proulx, in the final sentence of Brokeback Mountain, writes: "If you can't fix it you've got to stand it."

Well, I'm about "fixing" it, not "standing" it.

You are welcome to lament, confuse, compound, etc., the issues. I prefer the other course of action. On this, we are fundamentally different.

My only concern is that others don't impede those of us set about "fixing" it.

Trevor

"If you can't fix it you've got to stand it". I don't want to "stand it" any more then the next person but let's face it. In the GLBT community there are those of us who don't have a choice. We have to stand it.
I admit upfront that I'm only a 17-yr-old kid, and I may not know what the heck I'm talking about. But I'll say what I have to say anyway. We'd all like to be brave and stand up and confront homophobia ( and in my case transphobia as well). But sometimes to do so doesn't result in anything but you getting hurt. I identify as a gay FTM transsexual. I'm proud of who I am most of the time. I'd like to be brave, stand up, and combat homophobia and transphobia at my high school, but it just won't work. If I stand up I'll be standing alone. None of the other GLTB kids at my school would ever want to out themselves much less start a Gay Straight Alliance, or tell their friends not to scream "faggot".
Them, myself, and other silent members of the gay community are afraid. No one wants to get hurt. We all know that if we stand up that's exactly what's going to happen. So we all keep a low profile, keep our heads down, and hope no one outs us. I know by doing that no change will ever occur but it's hard to make yourself stand up when you know you'll just get beat down.

pennyjane

i'd like to thank the goofball who keeps posting all this nonsense in comments for bringing this discussion to my attention.

it's old and i hadn't seen it before, but...wow, this one calling himself gay species could really use some communication skills. having read all his posts a couple of times i have no idea what the heck he's trying to say...or how his premise is related to the original idea expressed by ck. it's not that i'm stupid or illiterate...certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed, but reasonably literate.

why is one necessarily a victim when she responds to something that seems over the top to her in it's bigotry? i guess if it were some obscure nonsense idea she were responding to you might equate it with "over the top", but the ideas she seems to be responding to, to me, aren't obscure at all...rather common i'd think. wrong ideas and thinking can take flight as well as good ideas...countering them seems a reasonable course of action to me...precisely in an attempt to avoid further victimization. stupid ideas, stood up to, lose some of their power.

ck, i think your original observations made a lot of sense and your post made pretty clear how you thought about it. i think gs might have some of that problem with "fear of the feminine" in himself, his reflections seemed a bit disturbed to me, over the top...actually...quite reactionary. well, at least the parts i could make any sense at all of.

much love and hope. pj

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