Content Notice for homophobia, violence against animals, and explicit sexual content
It happened after I debated two Christians on what I was told was going to be “homosexuality.” Less than 48 hours prior to the debate itself, I was told that the title was going to be “Homosexuality: Innate or Perversion?” (the video title is wrong).
I know, right?
The title ended up actually being the least worst thing about the setup, believe it or not. One of the debaters turned out to be an old-school anti-gay conspiracy theorist. While I don’t think I changed his mind about the gay issue, I did manage to remind him what is fashionable to forget and deny in the name of “civility” and “tolerance” and “acceptance”: That politics have an effect on people’s personal lives and aren’t just abstractions.
When I say traditional anti-gay conspiracy theorist, I mean it. He is a textbook example, down to the scare-quote about sons being “converted” into minions*. The beyond-dubious claims he made are too many to count, ranging from “91% of child molesters are gay” to “Denmark legalized bestiality and is home to animal brothels where animals are raped to death” (which is kind-of but not really true). Like the quote (which is real), any of his actually-legitimate stats were old and reflected a very different time and place for gay people. His rant consisted of scare quotes, ancient and/or false statistics, and graphic accounts of BDSM and kinky sex acts. For example (though I usually despise similar arguments), his descriptions of anilingus made me think that he’d thought a lot about it.
The other debater was interested in discussing the science of sexual attraction and orientation. He and I agreed on a great deal, amusingly enough; I am not a fan of the “born this way” argument. However, when we discussed how the debate had gone downhill during our intermission, he accused me of starting the “ranting and emotional diatribes.” This is despite the fact that any “ranting” I did was in response to the awfulness of his buddy. I guess that, of the two old white males and one female-perceived LGBT-affiliated people on that stage, the hysterical queer “woman” clearly was to blame, facts be damned.
Even though I don’t think it was my best performance, I can’t wait for the video to come out. I basically told the homophobe conspiracy theorist that I am glad he and his ilk are going to die soon. He believes that LGBT people don’t live to see old age in a time when caring for LGBT elders is a pressing problem in the community. Given the fact that he’s obsessed with data that was outdated by the time I was born, I will likely be able to cackle in triumph at his grave. Not that I will bother to literally do so, mind you.
What the video didn’t capture was my reminding him of his incongruity as well as, far more importantly, the personal harm he does to people. For the former, I referenced his Bible quotes about how bad “sodomites” (as he calls all LGBT people) are. In the list was the word “effeminate.” I asked him why the Bible thinks it’s bad that I am effeminate. He clarified that he meant he was only talking about “male sodomites.” I wryly pointed out that he could’ve fooled me, since his argument was not just that gay men are bad, but all non-straight people.
Christian inconsistency at such events is frankly a cheap and easy shot, and I was far more interested in reminding him of what was personally at stake. I have lost any interest I have ever had in treating people like they’re my friend when they hate people like me. I’ve attempted the reconciliation-by-kindness amany times in my life (once for a wasted half-decade) and have nothing but my own chagrin to show for it. Politics are not abstract and judgment is not always inappropriate. People cannot spew bile all over me and expect me not to clean it off me. And to that end, I had my moment.
At the end of debates, it is expected that the participants shake hands so as to show that they hold no personal vitriol or animosity. I gladly shook the hand of the David (they’re both old white men named David) who cited stats, but as for Other David, i.e. the bigot?
I sidled over and said, “Well, I’d offer to shake your hand, too, but I think you might be afraid of getting the AIDS. Or maybe you’re afraid I’ll molest your children?”
He smiled tersely and said that he wasn’t afraid of that. I egged him on. Was he sure? Positive? I made him as uncomfortable as I could before I shook his hand with a grin. Afterwards, I declined to go to the after-debate dinner because I was honestly angry and didn’t know if I’d be able to stay as “civil” as marginalized people are supposed to be even around people who dehumanize and demonize us to our faces.
* I purposely picked Walid Shoebat’s website for this favorite quote of the Christian Right in case you thought he was some ex-Muslim human rights activist. He isn’t. He converted from Christianity to Islam then back to Christianity and now is very much a right-wing Christian.