06/23/2005: A modest proposal....
Over on the SKEPTIC mail list, a discussion of "Gay Pride" celebrations has (as usual) been subject to a bit of thread drift. However, that thread drift resulted in what looks to me like an excellent suggestion by listmember Dave Palmer (sterling skeptic, über-rationalist, and magician extraordinaire) as to how the fight for gay marriage rights should be conducted:
FWIW, here is my advice to the gay community: put the gay pride stuff on hiatus.
No, wait, put down the torches and pitchforks, let me explain.
For the last few decades, societal acceptance of homosexuality has kinda been slouching towards given. Sure, there are exceptions, but generally, society was becoming less hung-up about it.
Then the neocons seized power...and I don't have to tell anyone what THAT means for equal rights. Forget about going back in the closet, there are people in power trying to figure out how to get you back into JAIL. And in the Muslim world? Fuhgettaboutit....
There are now two major obstacles in the path of equality for homosexuals:
1) They are up against an enemy that has an intrinsic, engraved-in-stone moral view that dictates that homosexuality is actually EVIL, or at least wrong. These people never give up, they never back down a single inch, they don't play fair, and they have absolutely no compunctions against lying or taking stands that have zero basis in reality or logic. Further, now that they are in power, they are doing everything they can (which is quite a bit) to have their moral views codified into law. We should not expect to see that trend evaporate any time soon.
2) The general public are sheep. All it takes is a good rousing speech about god and the flag and patriotism and the evil, evil people who are out to destroy all that, and the sheeple will willingly march right off a cliff. This isn't new, it's pretty much the story of all human history. One important property of sheeple is that their heads have a 1-bit colorspace: every issue is either black or it's white. You're with us or against us.
Thus, what I propose is that the entire gay community and everyone who supports equality should lay aside EVERY other activity for awhile, and instead concentrate on flipping ONE SINGLE BIT in the heads of the general public. We'll get to that one bit in a moment.
Look: the gay pride parades and such AREN'T HELPING. When people see a lineup of guys in purple sequined jockstraps marching down the street, all it does is reinforce stereotypes. After the gay pride parade passes by, the neocons slink up behind and start whispering in people's ears, "now do you want THAT taught in schools? Do you want YOUR son to think that's cool?" Imagine how far the civil rights movement would have gotten in the 60s if black people demonstrated by sitting around en masse on the stoop with fried chicken and malt liquor.
Now, SHOULD gay people be able to parade any way they want in public, even stereotypically? Damn straight (er, you should pardon the expression...). But they need to wake up and realize there's an emergency situation here, and they are not fighting a rational foe. The gay community faces an ugly but necessary choice, much like blacks did at the dawn of the civil rights days: just keep your head down and hope you personally don't get lynched, or stand up and put your ass on the line in the hopes that you can fix the system.
There is, however, one chink in the moralist armor: because of earlier civil rights action, the sheeple have more or less gotten it into their heads that it's wrong to discriminate against a type of people based on how they were born (or at least, that it's not right to make laws against people based on how they were born). And that's why the right wing continues to bolster the notion that homosexuality is a lifestyle As long as they can get the general public to believe that gays CHOOSE to be that way (or at least to not think about it too much), they can get them to go along with the conclusion that gays don't deserve to have equal rights. After all, people choose to rob banks or be liberals, and we don't give THEM equal rights, do we? A lot of people, if you REALLY pressed them, might profess to believe that gays are born and not made, but that vital connection is just not being made in their heads.
So THAT is the bit that must be flipped. The gay community and everyone who supports full equality should spend every waking minute, every dime, every watt of energy towards getting the message out that homosexuals are BORN and not MADE. Get people on TV relentlessly pounding out that message. Save up your pennies and fund real, honest-to-gosh scientific research, and then get the results in front of the public's eyes. Challenge EVERY SINGLE use of the word "lifestyle," don't let a single one past. Make it the one, central, unequivocal message of the entire gay community, and save everything else, EVERYTHING, for another day. The goal here is to make the notion that gays choose to be that way as ridiculed as something out of the Weekly World News.
And the program must be FOCUSED, to a fine, laser-like point. Don't go around saying, "gays are born not made, and thus gay marriage should be legal." You've got to remember that these are just simple folk. These are people of the land. The common clay of the world. You know... morons. If you make a statement that has the structure "fact, therefore opinion," and the people disagree with the opinion, then the fact generally gets tossed in the dumpster as well. You need to stay focused and on-message for as long as it takes.
And if such a program is executed with enough drive and intensity, then eventually thoughts will begin to bubble up in the heads of common folk: "let's see here...so gays are born that way. Hmmm, kinda like blacks or other ethnic groups. Isn't that interesting? And waitaminit, didn't I hear somewhere that it was wrong to discriminate against blacks and stuff? Hmmmm...that means something....ooo, American Idol is on!"
No, we're not gonna wake up one morning six months later and everyone will be in favor of gay marriage. But it WILL begin to change the fundamental way that the general public thinks, and THAT is what is necessary (one should note that is ALWAYS the most vital thing in any inequality struggle. Laws are nice, but they don't change what's in people's heads). The day you hear somebody say something like, "you're against gays? That's, like, racist, dude," you know the plan is working (we'll leave proper selection of pejoratives for another day....). And finally, some day when some holier-than-thou politician stands up and says he wants to make a law preventing gays from being schoolteachers, the connection will click.
Anyway, that's what I think.
Len on 06.23.05 @ 09:51 PM CST