Thursday, January 22, 2009


I've got "Bittersweet Symphony" from the Verve on my mind.

I still need to finish my reflections from the inauguration (was that really only two days ago?), partially as a commitment to consistent blogging, partially as a reminder of a celebratory day.

Today was not that day. Well, in some ways yes. But I still feel busted up.

Right before I walked into my excellent class on race and ethnicity, I received a text message from one of my friends that contained some disjointing news. Someone who had written last year an editorial intimating that LGBT people are mentally ill was nominated to the chair of the diversity committee of our student senate. My stomach flipped, and then tightened grimly. I would have go and speak out, even if he was in the room, even if he and I have a tenuous friendship. The decision was instant, and later, at 4:30, with supporters rallied and statements written some friends from Pride Alliance and I were ready to rock and roll social justice style. And we did. I'm very proud of the insights we gave to the senate, and I'm thankful that some of them possibly took to heart our comments. The student was not elected chair, and the day continued.

So why do I feel beat up? Perhaps part of it is the draining aspect of jumping to action within a few hours; my friend texted me at 1:30 and I was out of the senate meeting by 5:30. All of the planning during class, furious scribbling of notes, purposeful strides and purposeful words buzzed with a sort of electric adrenaline coursing through my veins. Feeling a crash after a rush of adrenaline is natural, my body's way of recuperating after fight or flight. I chose to fight, and now I'm understandably tired.

But that's what's sitting with me, taking a baseball bat to my heart: I had to fight. And anyone reading this who has ever resisted oppression is nodding their heads and saying, "Yeah, duh." Or maybe people are nicer than that, because maybe they remember what I learned today was as hard for me as it was for them: that the systems I trust don't necessarily have my best interests in mind, and that if I want something I have to assert some adrenaline and get angry. Or forcefully eloquent. Whatever works.

It' s odd how social justice has up until this point been so passive for me. Send pre-written letters. Lead a safe zone training. Call people to vote against amendment #1. None of these things are bad-- I'm immensely proud of and energized by number two and relatively OK with number three (and number one, I'm sure, isn't as ineffective as it seems). But none of these is a fight, or at least none of these registered any urgency with me. Which is a shame. I am ashamed. Taking action in flesh-and-blood, incarnate ways matters, because it breaks my hardened heart. The truth is going to town with the baseball bat, and all there is for comfort right now is prayer and the Verve.


  1. Just to play devil's advocate.....why shouldn't this person be on a diversity committee? He probably represents a cross section of people which are in fact diverse from other groups of people. Maybe this is a really dumb question but are there people on this committee that are really straight and really white that aren't accepting of everything? Straight white conservatism has a place within the world of diversity, too. This is obviously the sort of person that needs to keep working with groups of diverse people.....but I don't know him or the entire situation. Just some thoughts.

    But I am proud of you for taking action so quickly. I know you have a tendency to stand up for what you believe in; that's a given. It's the getting it done quickly and efficiently that you (and your Pride friends) get a pat on the back for.

  2. Your devil's advocacy is well-deviled... I mean, advocated. During the debate, several members of the senate commented that he had done a lot of excellent work in the committee, which was the reason that they thought he was the best candidate. I'm sure he has done great work, and I hope he continues to do it. But he has yet to acknowledge that his writing, voiced in the public sphere, has been hurtful to the LGBT community. For me, this and other examples of his lack of accountability to other groups, makes him an inappropriate person to chair the committee. I don't think he's a fair representative.

    Not all straight, white, conservative men bug me-- only the ones who won't be accountable to a community. The only reason I can think of why they would not be is that they see the people in that community as "less than."

  3. Dear Ben-


    I can only imagine how hard today was for you. I'm so proud of you for standing up for your beliefs and I'm glad that you did it not just for you, but for everyone else that would have been affected by this decision.


  4. Ben-

    I'm so proud of you! I can be really hard, and scary to take the active route for social justice. Not everyone would have done what you did under so much time constraint and pressure. Feeling drained and heart-broken is understandable. This is how we grow, and you are amazing.


  5. Rachael, Kate, thanks for the words of love. I'll keep them close.

    And thanks for not making fun of how emo that last sentence is. :)

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  8. For a short note about commenting on my blog, please read this post:

    Thank you!

  9. Alright then, no more anonymity, no more labels. I write this not as a personal attack but as a way to explain to you the situation. It was interesting to read your perspective; I think you felt remorse over what you did, even if you did not call it that. You knew you had to stand against a friend and a fellow brother in Christ. Having gone through similar in high school and college, I know how it can feel. Yet I do not believe that we stand as moral equals.
    I believe legitimate concerns can be raised about virtually every ideology, worldview, and political agenda. You may consider your views on this matter social justice, but in the end that just makes it right or wrong part of your worldview. As much as I hate to admit it, I know people can make reasonable, rational objections and arguments against my worldview. I will not always agree and I definitely believe I can effectively rebut them, but nevertheless I acknowledge that there are people opposed to my views who are not doing so out of bigotry. Can you claim the same?
    And this is where the accountability word becomes completely different for the two of us. When I hold someone accountable in my writing I do not do so exclusively on disagreement. I do so because I find problems with the merits of their reasoning, arguments, or behaviors. I do not hold what you call the Gay Rights Movement and what I call the Homosexual Advocacy Movement accountable because they disagree with me; I demand accountability for what they are doing.
    Is it wrong to point out factual errors like the 10% statistic, a claim on the percentage of the numbers of the homosexual population that has been refuted over and over again? Is it wrong to expose the Human Rights Campaign’s fabrication of membership numbers? Is it wrong to note the ACLU’s recent efforts to legalize polygamy and how they use the same arguments as they did to legalize gay marriage, effectively vindicating the conservative claim of slippery slope? Is it wrong to cite peer reviewed studies on homosexual life expectancies, showing them to be lower than heterosexual life expectancies even in pro-gay countries, thereby producing evidence against the claim that heteronormativity is to blame?
    These and other factual merit concerns can be backed up with non-bigoted research. I myself have been able to make arguments effective enough that even advocates like Ric Chollar and Jude Butch have complimented them. I read all the letters to the editor written in response to that one article of mine. It was hard to stomach from time to time, but I did it nonetheless. I did so because I wanted to hear out the other side. I detest these letters not because they are in disagreement with me but because they attack my moral character, they attack my literary career, and they attack me with virtually no evidence or merit whatsoever to their arguments.
    And then we come across your apparent definition for accountability, that being the fact that we disagree on this issue. Whereas I base my accountability demands on the merits of arguments and positions, you base it on mere disagreement. This is troubling to me, especially when you say it is because I hurt people. This is spoken under the assumption that the works of GMU Pride Alliance have not hurt me. Indeed, I can point to specific incidents in my campus life where Pride Alliance and their likeminded peers hurt me well before my views on homosexuality were put to print.
    I believe my definition for accountability is better because it leaves room for disagreement, whereas yours does not. What is interesting is how misinformed, or maybe quickly you have forgotten things. You say you cannot trust Student Government because they might elect me chair of diversity. Yet is it not this same organization, which is supposed to be neutral on hot button issues, that gave funding for Pride Alliance’s event “Twice Blessed”? Is it not the same institution that has year after year supported “National Coming Out Week”? The one time they do not support your views is apparently all the proof you need that they do not have your interests at heart.
    The Broadside is a similar case. Article after article on gay rights matters have been decidedly if not dogmatically in favor of your side. Every edition covering Pride Week events have been overwhelmingly pro-Pride Alliance. And yet the one time they run an article that disagrees with Pride Alliance’s worldview, that is sufficient to demand “accountability” for not representing both sides, as though the paper was representing both sides before my work was published!
    I am sorry you were brought up in an environment in which you did not have to defend your views against objective inquiry. I am sorry that group after group and person after person you have run into has said only hardcore bigots oppose you on these matters. (I do not consider this to be a problem for social liberalism only, it is a problem in any ideologically uniform society or culture.) This apology goes not just to you but to every member of Pride Alliance who thinks or acts like you or worse. It goes out to those who blocked me on Facebook over my positions and those who verbally assaulted me, both of which are thankfully small in number.
    The thing is this, being a victim of social justice is not going to stop me. I do not care how much I will lose in my life because of my positions on this issue and others. I am fortunate, given I live in a democracy because I need not fear physical abuse or state-sponsored persecution as our truth-telling brothers and sisters in Christ abroad oft endure. Until you can factually refute my work, my views, and my positions, I will continue to publicly express them.
    And yes, there will be people hurt by what I say, but how is that sufficient to demote the legitimacy of a viewpoint? Do you realize there were southern whites hurt by the Supreme Court decision to integrate public schools? Do you realize there were loyalist Americans hurt by the outcome of the American Revolution and polygamists hurt by the Supreme Court decision to ban polygamy on the basis that it was incompatible with Christian morality? Everyone feels pain, it alone cannot be sufficient to disqualify a viewpoint.
    This was a lot to say, but maybe I have a lot on my mind. As you call someone a “heterosexist”, think how that feels. And remember, given how subjective the term is, my calling you a “heterophobe” is just as illegitimate…although I happen to believe both terms are a bit in error. You’re not a “heterophobe” because you object to certain views; so it should follow that calling me a derogatory term like “heterosexist” is just as wrong for you are making me a “less than” on the basis of my publicly expressed convictions.
    This is all in an effort to hold you accountable for your actions. Take this not as hostility but as a friend telling another his concerns. God bless you and may He watch over you.