My husband Josh and I ran an organisation that fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. We always managed to work well together but our ideas were often very different. Over coffee at our house these things usually come up. The thing where we mostly differ is how we feel about bigots or people who are brainwashed and therefore behave in a prejudiced way.
“Evan, you can’t just go straight in on them with anger. I grew up in a conservative area where people have these feelings about things like this. They wouldn’t respond to that. You need to speak to them from your heart.”, he said, sipping his coffee.
“But Josh, I am.”
“Of course. I’m not a robot or a computer. If someone insults me I would have thought it would be natural to react with anger.”
“But aren’t you then just reacting to them in the same way as they are to you?”
“How would I be?”
“Well, with hostility.”
“Standing up for yourself or other people is suddenly hostility? No babe, the only time I’d say it was the same thing is if I said their sexuality was wrong.”
“You have said that.”
“In response to them, yeah of course.”
“Two wrongs don’t make a right …”
“In this case two wrongs make things equal. I can’t sit by smiling with false understanding when they have insulted me.”
Honestly, is that what he’d expect me to do?
“But you need to try to understand them. There’s reasons behind it. Maybe try to understand, try to see where they are coming from.”
“Baby them in other words?”
“No. No, that’s not what I mean. But there is reasons why someone thinks like that.”
“There’s two reasons why and I don’t even need to go all psychologist to know them. They are either prejudiced or brainwashed.”
“That’s too black and white Evan.”
Some things are Josh.
“And you’re perfect, are you Evan?”
“No but I’m not prejudiced. I have my brainwashed moments. I look at someone on the street and think I know their gender. Which is stupid and wrong because I know I can’t. I wish I could wash all that out of my head. But I’m an adult. I know I’m wrong. I know I have a problem in that way. I need to unbrainwash myself. I don’t look for excuses. When I’m wrong I admit I’m wrong and I apologise.”
“But it’s difficult for a lot of people Ev. You’ve got to keep the channels of communication open, see their perspective and where they are coming from. You know and be respectful of them.”
In other words treat them like children. They are adults with brains. I treat them as such. From very early on we all learn that with responsibility comes consequences. As an adult, if you do or say something wrong there is consequences. People won’t think it’s ok and they are perfectly right not to. If anything I have more respect for prejudiced people or people who are brainwashed to behave in a prejudice way because I treat them as adults with brains. Soft-soaping them and giving them passes is like giving a child a pass when they throw their toys out of the pram in the middle of a shopping centre. But the child wouldn’t know any better. The adult does and by not been soft with them I am treating them as an adult with an adult’s brain.
“My parents were very conservative Ev. But they came around to me being gay in the end.”
With family it’s messy to say too much. Really, I’d love to say “Josh, did you come around to your parents being straight in the end? Didn’t you always think it was ok that they were? With everyone of every sexuality being equal why are you making out it’s perfectly alright for them to have to come around to you being gay when you have always being alright with them being straight?”
“When you came out as pansexual to your father, you reacted all wrong.”
“I never had a problem with my Dad being straight.”
“Yeah but your Dad didn’t know any better.”
My Dad’s not 2 Josh.
“Look I love my Dad. We are very close. But I’m equal to him in every way. If I accepted him preferring me to be straight as a normal way of thinking about it I might as well be saying I don’t think I am equal. I had three choices. I could either be honest with him that I didn’t like his reaction, pretend that I was alright with his reaction or a bit of both. I went with the latter but the point was I still knew his reaction was wrong. I’ve never excused it because there is nothing wrong with me being pansexual in the same way there is nothing wrong with him being straight.”
“Maybe he’s worried about you though Ev …”
“In that case he should have been worried when he thought I was straight too.”
“But that doesn’t make sense.”
“Of course it makes sense. If you’re saying that he’d be worried about me not being straight because I would face prejudice then he’d be worried that being straight would mean there would be a bigger chance I would be prejudiced, be involved with prejudiced people or be thought to be prejudiced.”
“But it’s hard on your Dad. You should be gentler with him.”
Here we go with the soft-soaping again. It’s not a bed of roses for me either and I haven’t even done anything wrong bar be myself.
I adore Josh. At heart we have the same feelings about things. We value equality, love and kindness. But he’s like a friend to the prejudiced, I’m just polite to them. That’s where we differ. I get where he’s coming from. Building bridges with the brainwashed might yield results, with the actual prejudiced it never would. But pandering doesn’t bring equality. Pandering puts across a misleading message you are unequal. No one is less than me but no one is better than me. I don’t need anyone’s approval. If I have a problem with something someone says I am entitled to respond how I like.
“Look it’s great that you’re being the bigger person Josh …”
“It’s not about that. It’s the humane way to respond.”
Of course he’s being the bigger person. If you respect someone’s sexuality completely and they don’t respect your sexuality completely and you are ok with that then of course you are being the bigger person in the situation. But humane? I act humane but I have to stand up for myself. There’s being nice and there’s being too nice.
“They aren’t bad people Evan.”
The brainwashed aren’t. The prejudiced are.
“Josh, I’m not rude to people but I defend myself. Just like if I said them being straight was unnatural or wrong. I am pretty sure most of them wouldn’t sit back and try to understand where I was coming from and I wouldn’t expect them to. So why would I expect myself to?”
“If someone has a problem with these issues they are entitled to say it. It’s freedom of speech.”
“I never said they weren’t. I just don’t treat them like a 5-year-old who shouldn’t be said anything back to. Josh, you are forgetting one thing here.”
“Really? What’s that?”
“I have my freedom of speech too.”
“I never said you didn’t.”
“You kind of did. When you say they are entitled to their freedom of speech you are saying by me responding to them that I’m trying to take that away so you are saying that I shouldn’t respond.”
He takes a sip of his coffee.
“But you are verbally very aggressive.”
“In what way?”
“You say people who are like that are bigots …”
“Well they are Josh.”
“But people don’t like to hear that about themselves Evan.”
“Well I don’t particularly like hearing that I live ‘an unnatural life’ or there’s ‘something wrong’ with me either …”
“But people do think it and they are entitled to say it.”
“Of course. And I think they are bigots and I’m entitled to say it.”
“But you are name-calling. You say they are fuckers and everything. The tactics you employ are the same as theirs.”
“No they aren’t. I would much rather if someone called me a fucker than said I lived ‘an unnatural life’ provided they called everyone they didn’t like of any sexuality a fucker.”
“But this kind of attitude alienates people.”
“I don’t alienate people. I just don’t like them. I wouldn’t be pals with them. That would be a very unequal friendship for me. And in general I’m not that fond of negative people. They alienate themselves …”
“But Evan, that’s not a nice thing to say …”
“Well if I had a prejudice against straight people I’d be alienating myself. The thing is I would know that was my fault and not theirs.”
“But you think you’re right. There’s many ways of seeing things.”
“Oh on these things I know I’m right Josh. But you know what really gets to me about these things in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong: everyone goes on about there being different ways of looking at it when it’s non-heterosexual people. When do they ever say let’s look at whether it’s right or wrong to be heterosexual? When do we ever look at different perspectives on that?”
“We don’t. But that’s just how the world is.”
And much as I love you to bits Josh, if we went on your theory of pandering to build bridges it would always be what the world was like.
“It doesn’t have to be.”
He smiles and sips some coffee.
“What are you grinning to yourself about?”
“Jeez, you are passionate.”
“Of course. So are you. In your own way.”
“I like to think so.”
“Yeah, thanks. But during this coffee I think we should probably talk about Game of Thrones.”