There have been lots of posts on Mark Driscoll lately (and there are a few more to come, sigh), but I had to share this post by Rachel Held Evans calling on Christians to speak out against Driscoll’s bullying. Trigger warning for bullying and homophobic language.
Read the whole thing: Rachel Held Evans | Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him..
ETA: The Tyler Clark post RHE quotes is also excellent, particularly in how it pinpoints that isn’t about sexuality so much as it is about gender expression. An excerpt:
Your language is not only hurtful to gay men. It is hurtful to many straight men. As a [straight] man who has always been intimidated by more traditionally masculine men, your words tell me that I am not welcome in your church or among your friends.
Over the years, I have fallen away from the church. Recently, however, I have been longing to reengage. As a look for a new church, I need one that is welcome to all men—no matter how masculine.
When you put out a call on Facebook for people verbally attack “effeminate anatomically male” men, I find myself back in high school—shoved against a locker, with the bullies calling me a faggot.
Image: James Franco in drag, ht Sociological Images. Text:
girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short
wear shirts and boots
because it’s okay to be a boy
but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
because you think being a girl is degrading
Continued from here. Trigger warning for cissexism.
The claim that reparative therapy enables gender variant people to lead “normal” lives or form “normal” bonds of love and friendship with “normal” people shows a similar sort of confusion. Rekers alludes to this when he defends his motives in treating Kirk Murphy as “positive”: “I only meant to help…the rationale was positive, to help the child, to help the parents who come to us in their distress.”
Here’s the thing – any distress a child or parent experiences over the child’s gender variance has nothing to do with the actual propriety of the child’s behavior and everything to do with the reactions of people and society around them. Gender variance poses no inherent obstacle to friendship or romance, speak less of basic tolerance or acceptance. No, parents worry that gender variant children can’t have a normal lives because our society treats any departure from gender norms as dysfunctional. Children experience distress because they are taught to see their natural inclinations as somehow perverted, and legitimately upsetting or infuriating to others.
Teaching children to suppress gender variance so that they will be accepted by society holds them to an arbitrary and demonstrably harmful standard of behavior, and sends the message that its their fault that they are not accepted as they are. It places the responsibility for the isolation, humiliation, and physical and psychological violence that gender variant people often endure on GV people themselves, instead of where it belongs – on people who respond to gender variance in bigoted and oppressive ways, and on the society that tolerates such responses.
This is classic victim blaming and abuse apologism. It’s justified as concern, and the concern is often sincerely felt, but that doesn’t make it less victim-blaming. From the same NPR report quoted above:
As Bradley grew older, his discomfort with things male also grew. He would shun other boys — he played exclusively with girls. Again, this concerned Carol, but she wasn’t frantic about it.
It was a single event that transformed her vague sense of worry into something more serious. One day, Bradley came home from an outing at the local playground with his baby sitter. He was covered in blood. A gash on his forehead ran deep into his hairline.
“What had happened was that two 10-year-old boys had thrown him off some playground equipment across the pavement because he’d been playing with a Barbie doll — and they called him a girl,” Carol says. “So that sort of struck me, that, you know, if he doesn’t learn to socialize with both males and females … he was going to get hurt.” [ht Transadvocate]
By placing the responsibility to “learn to socialize” on her son, this mom tacitly accepted violence as a reasonable response to gender variance. It would have made far more sense for her to expect the other two boys to learn that throwing someone to the ground is not an appropriate response to seeing them play with an unexpected toy. It would have been more sensible to expect them to learn to socialize with all different kinds of people without violence, more reasonable to expect their families to attempt to modify their behavior and outlook accordingly. Instead, her response to this incident was to try to modify her son’s behavior – effectively blaming her son for being attacked.
The impulse to “fix” gender variant children instead of condemning violent responses to variant gender expression is another kind of gender confusion. It hurts kids, it poisons families, and it needs to end.
[Disclaimer: I’m aware that Dan Savage has written a lot of problematic stuff about trans people, and other groups – this isn’t an endorsement of any of that but rather a riff off this one column.] Dan Savage writes a fantastic, brutally honest reply to an anti-gay Christian who took offense at the idea that conservative Christian parents encourage anti-gay bullying and that the religious right uses gay suicides to perpetuate its agenda. He responds, in part:
The religious right points to the suicide rate among gay teenagers—which the religious right works so hard to drive up (see above)—as evidence that the gay lifestyle is destructive. It’s like intentionally running someone down with your car and then claiming that it isn’t safe to walk the streets.
Which is why I argued that every gay teen suicide is a victory for the religious right. Because, you see, your side does use those suicides to “perpetuate [your] agenda.” . . . [They] will point to this recent spate of gay teen suicides . . . they’ll gleefully use these tragedies to justify what they like to call the “Christian, pro-family agenda.” (ht Joe My God)
The whole response is very worth reading in full. And Savage is absolutely right. The religious right does exploit tragedies and difficult circumstances among LGBT people for its anti-gay agenda, and many on the religious right think that LGBT people deserve to suffer. This is probably most clear how the religious right has historically talked about HIV/AIDS. My partner and I were both explicitly taught growing up that AIDS was God’s punishment on homosexuals for their perverse and ungodly lifestyle. My partner was even told that the sudden emergence of AIDS and the fact that no one knew where it came from was a modern day miracle, and evidence that biblical accounts of God’s miracles were true. These days most conservative Christian leaders seem to have decided that unabashedly and publicly stating that AIDS is divine retribution for homosexuality is bad for PR. But they still believe it. After all, it’s right there in the Bible: “Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.“ (Romans 1:27).
There’s no compassion, love, or grace in this teaching – not for HIV+ people or those suffering from AIDS, not for LGBT people. People on the religious right don’t deny the horror of HIV and AIDS, but for most it’s no more than a tool to prove that God hates homosexuality, that God is on their side. It’s not a call to action or a call to care for people who are suffering (you know, kinda like Jesus taught?). It’s evidence that when LGBT people suffer, they brought it on themselves. They deserve it.
And that’s the same attitude that underlies the prevailing attitude on the religious right towards the issues of suicide, bullying and abuse, and other issues that disproportionately affect LGBT people. The religious right also exploits and crows over these problems as “evidence” that being openly gay or trans is a “destructive lifestyle.” As a kid and teenager, I also heard countless times that higher rates of suicide and mental illness were proof that homosexuality was a perversion (just homosexuality – the existence of trans people was never even mentioned). They were proof of the divine judgment that Romans 1 promised. There was, of course, no entertaining the shocking notion that institutional and societal homophobia and transphobia might have anything to do with the prevalence of these problems among LGBT people. No. They were just evidence that LGBT people should never be accepted for who they are, that they were justly punished by God and should also be punished by society for not conforming to heterosexist and cissexist norms.
And this is why there’s no number of suicides that will convince groups like Focus on the Family that programs specifically addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying are legitimate and necessary. They don’t want suicide, or drug use, or mental illness rates to decrease among LGBT people – not when they use these as anti-gay and anti-trans propaganda. They might mouth platitudes about tragedy and condolences when yet another life is lost because of homophobia or transphobia, but in reality, they don’t care that these bigotries kill people. They don’t care that these bigotries train their straight, cis children to believe that visceral hatred and verbal, emotional, physical, and even sexual violence are perfectly acceptable responses to gay and trans people. They don’t care that these bigotries, as Dan Savage puts it, drive real, living gay and trans children and adults to suicidal despair.
They think trans, gay, and bi people deserve to be alone, deserve to suffer, and deserve to die. That’s the truth.
If any one thinks I’m being unfair or hyperbolic about this, just google “homosexuality destructive lifestyle” and see what pops up. See if you can detect any genuine sadness, care, or concern in the lengthy descriptions of the issues that affect LGBT people. See if there’s any attempt at all to suggest concrete ways to prevent suicides or to address mental and physical health issues affecting LGBT people. You won’t find any, because there aren’t any. “Don’t be gay or trans” is neither helpful or realistic advice, and is precisely the attitude that creates and perpetuates the self-loathing and despair that fuel these problems. It’s hateful “advice” and not at all loving (as, incredibly, I was taught this attitude towards LGBT people was). It’s “advice” telling gay and trans people they should annihilate themselves. It’s no wonder that so many gay and trans people do.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about Focus on the Family’s launch of a new site called, hilariously and awfully, “True Tolerance.” See, the main message of, ahem, True Tolerance, is that homophobic parents’ rights are being violated when kids are taught they shouldn’t bully or beat up other kids for being perceived as gay or trans. And apparently, anti-bullying programs are just a way for gay activists to sneak in gay propaganda into schools.
Obviously this is total fail – and incredibly dangerous, misleading, and callous – on many counts. The blatant lying is pretty amazing. They act as though they don’t know perfectly well that gay children and children taunted for being gay or trans have died – have either been killed or have committed suicide – because of this kind of bullying. I’ve yet to hear a story of anything like that happening to a child because they were perceived to be straight or cisgendered. LGBT and gender non-conforming children aren’t more “worthy” of protection from bullying – they’re more in need of it because of their perceived gender or sexuality. Try to keep it straight, everyone: homophobic bullying is perfectly compatible with childlike “innocence and purity,” but teaching kids that homophobic bullying is wrong is gay propaganda. Someone has to think of the children . . . but only the children being taught at home that it’s ok to hate LGBT people. Not, you know, the children actually being bullied.
More evidence that Focus on the Family only cares about white, straight, narrow-minded Christian families. Leave it to Bryan Safi to find some humor in this nastiness.