Tolerating Intolerance – When is enough too much?

Recently, Newt Gingrich commented on his show, Crossfire, that gay people should essentially, be tolerant and accepting of the intolerance of others, specifically those who vocalize their anti-gay opinions.Derrick Ward

This is all in regards to the now famous (or should it be infamous?) Michael Sams kiss after he got the call telling him he was drafted into the NFL, and the repercussions of two NFL players who voiced their opinions on the matter. Dolphins safety Don Jones was fined and suspended by his team for his anti-gay tweets and former NFL player Derrick Ward claims to have received death threats for his ‘no bueno’ tweet.

Gingrich said “You guys talk about how you want to be inclusive, except of course, if somebody tweets this, then having a death threat or ‘let’s send them off to sensitivity training,'” and that “that’s repression, that’s not inclusive.”

He goes on: “Shouldn’t we also be teaching people who are gay to be open and understanding of people who — ?” and at this point is cut off by the panelists responding to his statements.

People who what, Newt? People who spew hatred and intolerance beyond that of “I don’t like gays”? People who refuse to recognize the LGBTQIA+ community as more than second class citizens? People who refuse to recognize the LGBTQIA+ community as human beings?

Well, I’ve got news for you, friend, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tolerating intolerance for ages. You had just turned 27 years old when Stonewall occurred. I’m sure you’re aware of the Stonewall riots – when the LGBT community had finally had enough of tolerating intolerance and rioted back against the police? Remember? That was 45 years ago. Then there was the time when homosexuality was persecuted through public executions by the Spanish against the Aztecs in the 1500’s. Before that, there was the persecution and intolerance of homosexuality in China in 600 BCE, the time when homosexuality was listed as a mental illness with the American Psychological Association – which, by the way, didn’t end until the 1970’s and has still been coded under the 302.0 set of codes in the DSM despite the fact it’s no longer considered a mental illness.

So you see, Newt? We’ve been tolerating intolerance since the beginning of time, truthfully. When is enough too much? When does tolerance stop being tolerance and become oppression? We’ve been told we’re going to burn in Hell, we’ve been beaten, killed, sexually assaulted, denied basic rights, and imprisoned because of who we are. How much of that should we be subject to tolerate?

As far as the death threats go – no, I don’t agree with that. Just like I don’t agree with ‘Slushie Woman’ here in my hometown.Violence begets violence and rarely solves anything. And if two people are shouting at each other, there’s no one left to listen. But more importantly, these people – the ones that send out death threats or resort to acts of intimidation or violence – they’re the extremes, but they also represent the growing unrest of tolerating intolerance.

I remember being told that if I didn’t have anything nice to say about someone, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. These NFL players are celebrities. They’re in the spotlight. So they need to be conscious of what they say, because what they say will receive publicity and if it’s homophobic or racist or otherwise inflammatory, what they say WILL receive a probably less than cordial response.

Newt, what is it you expect the LGBTQIA+ community to do? Sit idly by with our mouths shut while others continue to preach hatred and intolerance? Again, there’s a vast difference between someone saying “I hate gay people” and “I think all gays should be put to death”.

It’s important to pick our battles, but it’s also important to make our voices heard in the ugly face of intolerance.

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

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Casual Homophobia

While the LGBT community has made leaps and bounds increasing tolerance and acceptance, homophobia is still clearly evident in our society. We are used to seeing the hate-laced diatribes of members of the Religious Right hell-bent on putting all homosexuals on an island, and then blowing that island up. We hear the ignorant remarks from politicians, celebrities, corporate officers, and citizens as they try to condemn us to eternal damnation or convince us that we’re second class citizens.

But what we’re missing (or at least I missed it) is another, quieter form of homophobia – Casual Homophobia. It’s a term I hadn’t heard of until today. And it’s running rampant through social media, especially among the younger generation.

Initially, I was going to just discuss the origins of some of the pejorative language, like faggot and dyke. I still plan on doing that, because it’s important to know how these terms came about, and when they became derogatory. However, in doing research for the post, I ran across a website with some incredibly sad statistics. It’s run by The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies And Services, within the University of Alberta.

No Homophobes

The site looks for the use of faggot, dyke, ‘no homo’, and ‘so gay’ in Tweets posted on Twitter. That was the current count just for today, at about 5:27 pm. Over twenty five thousand tweets contained the word faggot or fag. You can see for yourself how quickly the numbers climb by clicking on the picture. From there, you can also see the use of the tweets as they roll in.

thats-so-gay-sound-machine-2So what is casual homophobia? It’s using phrases like ‘That’s so gay!’ in an incredibly passive manner, not paying attention to what that phrase actually implies. It’s the act of complacency we partake in when we don’t call people out for saying ‘that’s so gay!’ regardless of how innocuous the statement may seem. The website defines casual homophobia as language we use that may not be intended to be hurtful to any one particular person or group of people, but is ultimately rooted in a derogatory nature.

As the site says, we’ve addressed racist language. Terms like nigger are considered highly volatile language and are classified under hate speech. We’ve worked at addressing sexist language as well. Rather than say ‘mankind’ we’re far more likely to use the all-inclusive ‘humanity’.

But little to nothing has been done to address homophobic and transphobic language. As members and supports of morgan-freeman-on-homophobiathe LGBT community, that falls upon us. We need to make a big stink about this. Because this is a situation where sticks, stones, and words can hurt. The impact of the term dyke may face no real consequence with me personally, but it could seriously affect someone struggling with their sexual identity. It could keep them from being who they really are, and in extreme cases, push them over the edge to suicide.

Embracing these terms is not enough. Sure, it might be fine if a gay man and his group of friends call each other faggot or fairy in a playful manner. Yeah, it may make the impact of the word sting a bit less. But it doesn’t lessen the impact of the word faggot when someone else uses it to try and demean someone else.

Dykes_on_Bikes_logoI’m not saying that groups like Dykes on Bikes are in the wrong. They’re proud of who they are, and make a show of it by taking the word and flinging it back at protesters. But for that teenage boy who feels completely alone in this world because the other teenagers around him call each other fags, embracing the term isn’t going to help him feel accepted.

Letting people know it’s not okay to equate gay with stupid or wrong – that’s what needs to 4436265052_Homophobia_xlargebe done. Telling your friends that the word fag is not acceptable – put a stop to it. Of course we have freedom of speech, but that only falls to the constraints that government cannot restrict or restrain speech (certain exceptions apply, even then). We also have the right to live our lives without fear that death could be a justifiable reaction for who we are.

I ask you to visit this website. Take a look at the tweets. Think about what casual homophobia means. Then do something about it.

I’ll be writing an origin of homophobic language in the next post.