On stereotyping and pushing back

It’s taken me three days to figure out why a series of tweets rubbed me the wrong way and what I wanted to say about that.  It’s a very dangerous thing to insert oneself into a conversation that is by, about, or for another audience.  In this case, though, I think that I can manage not to alienate the people who started the conversation.  If anyone else is bothered by what I say, then perhaps you are the person I’m talking to here.

I had to do some digging to figure out what started it.  I think it may have been a combination of this post by Rachel Held Evans and the two articles linked in this HuffPost piece (helpfully shared by a friend of mine).  Let me sum up the response (which I completely agree with, by the way): Straight allies are defending LGBT people by telling others that not everyone is a stereotype and by saying or implying that same-sex couples are pretty much exactly like opposite-sex couples only with 100% more gay; don’t do that, because it reinforces the idea that LGBT people must fit into heteronormative boxes.

As far as I’m aware, I have not used any argument that resembles “let gay people get married because then they can prove they are just as moral as straight people.”  You all can correct me if I’m wrong (though I will point out that I’ve been doing this for about 4 years and I’ve evolved, so if you find somewhere I’ve done that, I shall immediately apologize and do better in the future).  Anyway, since I agree with the sentiment–which means the exhortation wasn’t directed at me–then why did it bother me?

Here’s why: It wasn’t the response, particularly to Rachel Held Evans’ post, that bothered me.  It was the original post, but I couldn’t formulate why until I gave it a good deal of thought.  I realized that the stereotype most straight people (particularly those who are not allies, but even some allies do it) is based on what they know/think they know about gay men.

If what we straight people believe is based only on gay men, then of course the pushback is going to be centered on that.  In the process, guess who gets erased?  (In case you didn’t quite get it, that would be anyone under the LGBTQI umbrella who isn’t a gay man and even some who are.) I care very deeply that no one’s voice be lost, especially when those people have consistently been silenced in other ways as well.

Don’t misunderstand me–the pushback is necessary, and the consequences are absolutely not the fault of those who responded.  That’s not what’s flawed here.  The problem is in the fact that anyone still cares about someone else’s life so deeply that they have to find ways to craft their actions as moral in order to support them.

The answer is not really for allies to fight the stereotypes.  It is simply for us to stop caring whether anyone else’s life looks like ours.  So what if it doesn’t?  Why is it so important that everyone share the same belief about what is or is not acceptable for themselves?  And why are we so deeply invested in anyone else’s sex/relationship life, anyway?

If you want to be an ally–really be one, not just be one if you think that the person is morally deserving–then please use a different method.  If you (like me) support marriage equality, then do it because there are people who want it, not because you think the ability to get married will magically make people share your values.  If you (like me) are a Christian and believe that every believer is welcome to love, serve, and lead in the church, then stop wondering about the person taking communion next to you and whether or not they are “just like” you.

Oh, and while you’re at it?  Stop trying to figure out what other people do in the privacy of their lives.  Unless it directly involves you, it doesn’t concern you.  It would be great if we could all concentrate a little harder on what goes on behind our own closed doors.

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2 thoughts on “On stereotyping and pushing back

  1. I once had a conversation with a gay man who was mad that some straight couples (he determined they were straight – a very binary opinion) had polyamorous or open relationships, and they were “taking for granted” what he couldn’t have. I tried really hard to explain to him that love was different for everyone and that this was none of our business, just like it was none of our business who he married or what he did in that marriage. He didn’t see it as comparable. I guess what I’m saying is that this attitude is not only prevalent in allies. Unfortunately, we all seem to think that what we personally feel matters more than respect and legality. The GOP in particular pitch policies in accordance with scripture, making it seem like government and personal morals should be entwined (ex. abortion policies and rallies).

    • There’s a pretty big rift in some parts of the gay community regarding marriage. I’m not always sure how to handle that, because I don’t want to put my heterocentric norms on anyone else, but I also want people to have the legal rights they are entitled to and want to have.

      I’m also tired of joining personal morals and government. I’m not sure why it seems so almighty important to some people to legislate their own particular stand on things.

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