SL Letter of the Day: Anti-Gay Haters Are Doing Us a Favor
by Dan Savage
on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 5:52 PM
How do I deal with the boiling anger I feel after reading/hearing the anti-gay talking points that inevitably appear after stories like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's decision to support gay marriage after his son came out to him? I'm reading things like, "Choices that hurt himself and society," and, "He'll eventually die of AIDS or oral cancer." I read that and I just want to strangle the person who said it.
What are my options besides flipping the fuck out several times a day or not reading the news anymore? Neither one of those is acceptable to me. I don't know where to put the rage that I feel when I hear assholes call me less than human, and I don't have the money to donate to causes that fight that nearly as often as I'd like. What do you think I should be doing instead?
Always Angry About Anti-gay Assholes
My response after the jump...
Before I answer your question, AAAAA, I first want to thank Will Portman, Rob Portman's 21-year-old openly gay son. I've said for years—I've said decades now—that being out to your family is the single most important political action any LGBT person can take. LGBT kids who aren't in a position to come out to their parents shouldn't be made to feel guilty. (I think it's revealing that that Will didn't come out to his parents until he was in college.) But knowing that someone you love is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender really does change people. So if you're gay and you can be out, you should be out.
It's a great strength of the movement for gay political equality that lots of important and influential people happen to have gay children. That obviously does change people's thinking. And good for them. But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn't he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don't happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don't just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son's eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn't that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray?
Political virtue consists in standing for what’s right, even — or indeed especially — when it doesn’t redound to your own benefit. Someone should ask Portman why he didn’t take a stand for, you know, other people’s children.
It's a shame that it took his own son coming out to him to open Rob Portman's eyes—the suffering of other people's children didn't register—but his eyes are open now and we have Will to thank. It can't have been easy for Will to come out to his famously homophobic father. So thanks for doing the right thing, Will.
Okay! Let's talk about the crazies!
By far my favorite anti-gay talking point today came from the president of Traditional Values Coalition. Andrea Lafferty compared being gay to drunk driving and suggested that Rob Portman was a bad parent for supporting his son's "choice" to be gay. Would he support Will if he chose to drink and drive? Because being gay is exactly like being being behind the wheel drunk. ("Terry and I got so gay last night that we rear-ended three people. They didn't even see us coming.") If that wasn't ridiculous enough—go read the TVC's full press release to appreciate all the stupid—there was this:
"Senator Portman’s attempt to use his position in the Senate to affect the future path of our culture and the lives of other Americans compounds the wrong. Being a good parent is infinitely more difficult than being a Senator or President. And telling someone you love that he or she is wrong is the most difficult part of that difficult job."
The Traditional Values Coalition approves of elected officials using their positions to "affect the culture"—but only so long as our elected officials are pushing the culture to the right. This particular brand of hypocrisy isn't unique to the TVC. The National Organization for Marriage launches boycotts against corporations that back gay marriage, slamming them for "taking sides in a culture war." But NOM praises corporations that fund anti-gay hate groups and oppose gay marriage. It turns out that taking sides in the culture war is fine with NOM—so long as you take their side.
But here's the good news: TVC, NOM, AFA, FRC—all the acronymed assholes—are losing the debate over the humanity and equality of gay people. And the insanely bigoted rhetoric that bothers you so much is one of the reasons they're losing the debate.
When you see those comments, AAAAA, when you find yourself getting upset, just remember that TVC and NOM and FRC and AFA are all shooting themselves in the foot. So are all the freelance haters lurking in comments threads on blogs and on news websites spouting off about buttsecks and feces and pedophilia.
You see, today most people know someone who's LGBT. The homophobic nonsense that straight people used to find so persuasive—gay people are all icky perverts! they're coming for your children! they hate the family!—doesn't work on straight people who actually know someone who's LGBT. People like, oh, Sen. Rob Portman.
Hateful bullshit peddlers like Tony Perkins offend more people than they persuade. And they don't just offend LGBT people. Not anymore. When anti-gay bigots rant about dirty, dirty buttsecks or compare being gay to drunk driving, they offend straight people who know and love gay people. They offend our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and our families. And increasingly they're offending people who are on the fence about LGBT rights, people who may not know anyone who's LGBT—but, hey, they like Ellen Degeneres lady on the TV. She seems so nice, right? Nothing like a drunk driver.
We have to fight back, of course, we have to respond to their garbage arguments, we have to confront their bigotry, and refute their lies. But when it's all over—when LGBT people achieve our full civil equality—we should remember to send all the newly unemployed assholes at NOM and FRC and TVC and AFA a thank-you note. Because at this point in the struggle for LGBT civil rights, AAAAA, the assholes at NOM and FRC and TVC and AFA bring that day closer every time they open their hateful mouths.