“But we’re not all like that!”

Straight Ally Flag

Not gonna lie, I’m sure I’ve said those exact words.  Or, more specifically, I’ve muttered them at my computer screen, whispered them to God late at night in bed, and thought them angrily in my head while listening to people preach.  Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t dare speak them out loud, because to do so would mean to lose the people I hoped to help move toward change.

I admit, I’m not a huge fan of Dan Savage, but I credit him with saying something that made me take notice.  He said Christians should stop hiding behind “not all like that” (I’m paraphrasing here).  He specifically meant in regard to support of LGBTQI people, but I think it applies just about everywhere that -isms reside.  We can’t just sit silently or straddle fences; if we’re against oppression, then we need to do something about that.  (Honestly, I could just shorten that to “Fuck living in the tension.” If I never hear that phrase again, I will die happy.  It strikes me as a way of trying to have one’s cake and eat it, too.  Just be honest, dammit–if you’re truly anyone’s ally, spell it out; otherwise, keep your yap shut.)

Anyway, that’s not my point, really.  What I want to write about is the people who wear their “Not All Like That” gold star as a way of silencing people.  I’ve actually found, over the years I’ve been at this blogging thing, that Not All Like That is really code for, “I don’t approve, but I’m going to be nice anyway.”  These are not hidden allies who are scared to speak up; they’re people who still believe they have the right to treat people as issues to fight over.  More often than not, it’s people who are still stuck in an endless loop of “love the sinner, hate the sin” and “it’s the same as any other sin, like being a drunk” (heard that one more times than I can count at this point).  My personal favorite is, “Well, I’m wired to want to cheat on my wife; you’re wired to like people of the same sex–let’s both work on our issues.”  Yech.

An exchange between friends this morning prompted me to think about the ways in which some Christians continue to deny that there’s anything wrong because they aren’t participating in the worst of it.  There were some words traded back and forth about whether or not the Church has chosen to fixate on the wrong problems in the world.  I had a distinct impression of excusing religiously-based heterosexism because it’s not as bad as hate speech.

This is just an alternate form of “not all like that.”  I’m not sure where the idea comes from that the Church bears no responsibility for quite a lot of anti-gay obsession.  A number of prominent organizations and preachers have had pretty vile things to say about LGBTQI people, mostly in public.  There are still places one can go to be “cured” of the “homosexual lifestyle.”  Friends have expressed grief that they’ve been shamed–sometimes publicly–both for being LGBTQI and for being an ally.  It’s easy to see where the Church has gotten a reputation for spending more time and energy on fighting gay marriage than on resolving world hunger (or hell, even hunger in our own country).

At the same time, there’s this new wave of “moderate” Christians who want to distance themselves from what they perceive as the truly evil, while still maintaining a position in which they refuse to acknowledge people’s humanity.  A fellow blogger has pushed every. single. one of my buttons by continuing to act as some kind of spokesperson for the Church of Not All Like That.  She’s written on such cheery methods of “reconciliation” as hugging a gay person (at random? one we know personally? not sure here) and attending a gay pride parade for the purpose of observing the people there.  (Just a bit of advice: Please don’t do that.  Put that way, it dehumanizes people by making them sound like wild animals you’re visiting in their native habitat.)  I’ve seen similar sorts of things across my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and it drives me up the wall.

Listen.  I know you Not All Like That folks mean well; I really do.  But please trust me when I tell you that LGBTQI people and their allies do, in fact, know the difference between patronizing them and actually loving them.  Sometimes, when you have an established relationship, you can make this work.  God bless and more power to ya.  But when you are a random stranger on the Internet?  Don’t.  Just–don’t.  The words, “But I love you anyway” should not come out of your mouth or your keyboard.

It’s easy to say you’re going to love a LGBTQI person (or hug them or stare at them at Pride or write precious things about how you care for them even though you “disagree” with who they are).  I recommend against saying it, though.  It’s a lot more important that you do it.  Your LGBTQI friends and family don’t actually require your approval to be who they are, so telling them that you “love them anyway” is not likely to further that relationship.  That isn’t acknowledging anyone’s personhood, it’s making you feel better for trying hard not to be a jerk.

I’m kinda done with the whole fence-sitting thing; I have been for a long time.  I don’t bother trying to engage people in conversation so I can convince them to change their position.  I used to be willing to go there, but not anymore.  Honestly (and I apologize for this), I was making humans into issues.  There was a point at which I truly wanted everyone to stand on what I believed to be the “right” side.  What I want now is for people to just be honest.  I’m not interested in making space for anyone at my table–I want a whole new table where people don’t need to ask for space.  If don’t want to do that, then own it.  Don’t pretend you’re honoring the full humanity of others while still refusing them a seat.

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5 thoughts on ““But we’re not all like that!”

  1. You know what’s funny? I wrote about the same subject last month on my blog! I think “We’re not all like that” is kinda like “Stop calling me racist.” They’re both saying, “I don’t want to hear about how my privileged group has oppressed your group.”

    • I know, right?! On some level, it’s kinda true–not all privileged people ARE like that. But I honestly don’t feel the need to tell those without my privilege that I’m “not like that.” If I’m a decent friend, they already know that, and I’m not the person they’re talking to. If I’m being a crappy friend, then I *am* being “like that,” and I need to check my privilege and own up. Not that it’s easy, but “difficult” isn’t a good excuse.

    • Hahaha! I’ve been wanting to say it for *ages*. I know I risk offending people for whom it’s meaningful, but I know far more people who’ve been hurt by “living in the tension” than helped.

  2. Pingback: “But we’re not all like that!” Part 2 | unchained faith

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