Sunday, February 23, 2014

Be Careful You Don't Turn Into Something You Hate

In the past few days, I have heard at least two openly gay men and several gay-rights supporters say something that would surprise a lot of people.
The first time was when I read this via Humans of New York, and since the interviewee's words were pretty impactful, I'm going to put it here as well {although, make sure to check out the rest of HONY's posts because Brandon Stanton's work is amazing}. The man put it like this:

"I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I’m gay, and I don’t think there’s nearly as much discrimination as people claim. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced discrimination. But it hasn’t been a huge factor in my life. I feel like a lot of people bring discrimination on themselves by getting in people’s faces too much. They like to say: ‘Accept me or else!’ They go around demanding respect as a member of a group, instead of earning respect as an individual. And that sort of behavior invites discrimination. I’ve never demanded respect because I was gay, and I haven’t experienced much discrimination when people find out that I am."
The second time was during my Graphic Arts class while talking with a friend. He said:
"I don't understand all this media hoopla about the sports athletes coming out as gay. I came out when I was a teenager and I'm almost sixty now. It was such a different story back then. Now, like, everyone's coming out, all the time, every day. That's not news. Sometimes I wonder if the backlash and "hate" isn't something they're bringing upon themselves because they're expecting it and projecting what they expect onto people who just want to be left alone. Like, even I'm getting tired of hearing about it-- AND I'M GAY. Love who you want to love, live how you want to live, but why are you forcing it into my life? Being gay nowadays isn't half as hard as it was in the past, so why are you making it such a thing? People support us now. People stand up for us now. Calm the eff down."
I may not be very PC to say this, but I understand where they're coming from with this. I'm not gay, but I just spent the last four years at college and live in an area that's veryveryvery supportive of the lifestyle {San Francisco much?}. I've seen the way pro-gay-rights supporters attack others who have a differing opinion on the subject and it's like, for people who say they're being discriminated against and that people are hating on you, you sure are doing a convincing job of looking like the attacker.
I don't get it. Especially in California which is so very liberal. I simply don't understand how being intolerant of differing viewpoints sets you apart from those you say are being "close-minded conservatives." People believe different things, fact of life. But if they're not getting in your face, why are you in theirs? How is yelling at them and calling them awful names and becoming physically violent or destructive helping your cause? Isn't that the exact type of behavior that was so horrifying back in the sixties, when it was the other way around and you would have been on the receiving end of all that? Why would you perpetuate that kind of behavior AT ALL, towards ANYONE?
Even now, as I type this, I'm dreading pushing that "Publish" button, because I know what kind of backlash and anger I'll get from people who perceive ANY differing viewpoint as an attack on them. And the thing is, I'm not even actually attacking anyone. All I'm asking is for people to consider the way they are acting towards others before flying off the handle. I should not have to be apprehensive about publishing this for fear that irrational, judgmental human beings will target me as a "threat" of some sort.
Getting vicious won't change people's minds about their views on gay-rights. If anything, they can now just add "schoolyard bully" to their stereotype of gay-rights activists. Wouldn't it be more constructive to try to change their minds by twarting their expectations? Wouldn't it be more useful to have them meet someone who is interested in a conversation and discussion about the topic instead of instantly losing it and cutting them off the moment they express their view?

I just don't understand why people feel that getting uber-defensive is the way to go. I know that there is discrimination out there. Just like I know that racism and classism and sexism still exist. I know that there are exceptions to every rule, because I've met gay-rights activists who are completely calm and willing to explain their view and listen to opposing views without getting angry or belligerent. But in my experience, they seem to be few and far between. Or at least, much less vocal than the other voices shouting down anyone who asks a question or states a differing opinion.
I'm not ignoring the other side of this. I'm not saying that there aren't people out there who do discriminate against gays and behave like this is the sixties. I'm not saying that there aren't intolerant individuals out there who are adamant that gays are an awful, terrible group of people and instantly check out the moment someone says they're gay. Those people aren't right either.
I simply want to remind people that getting in others' faces doesn't help the situation and activism doesn't equal discrimination of the opposing view. Just because others are behaving badly doesn't mean you need to behave just as badly in return. Everybody CALM DOWN and act like adults. Please.

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