Archive for category hate
One of the frustrating things about delving into the world of anti-racism is that you will inevitably run into someone who makes a completely unbalanced equivocation between the racism that people of colour (PoCs) encounter and the discomfort associated with race relations from the point of view of a white person. “I live in an all-black neighbourhood – I can’t even ride the bus without feeling people stare at me!” And while trying to be careful not to minimize their discomfort, some poor sap has to explain that when you get off that bus outside your neighbourhood, it is in every conceivable way better for you to be white person than the black people who make you feel like the ‘victim of reverse racism’.
Within the construct of North American racial relations, there are really very few examples of legitimate anti-white racism. If one comes from the perspective that racism is the product of prejudice and power – that is, that racism must have some real force behind it to be meaningful – then there are essentially none. I don’t personally subscribe to that definition, but it does have a lot of merit in specific contexts (I won’t go further than that for now. Maybe another time). Critics of anti-racism, therefore, conflate the approach with simply being “anti-white”, which is about as accurate as saying that feminism is anti-male (but of course there are many who think that as well).
Therefore I am, in a weird way, happy to present you with the following:
South Africa’s high court has ruled that the anti-apartheid song Shoot the Boer is hate speech and banned the ruling ANC from singing it. Afrikaans interest group Afriforum had complained about ANC youth league leader Julius Malema singing the song, which refers to white farmers. Mr Malema and other ANC leaders had argued that the song was a celebration of the fight against minority rule. They said the words were not meant to be taken literally.
Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with my sometimes-fraught relationship with hate speech. While I am a proud progressive liberal, my stance on free speech is something of a digression from my fellows, who believe that speech inciting hatred can be and should be legally curtailed. My problem with hate speech controls comes from a variety of sources – first of all I am unconvinced that we can define and enforce a consistent standard of ‘hate’. Even if we could, there is incomplete evidence to suggest that hate speech restrictions reduce the amount of hatred in society, rather than simply shifting it underground (where it is arguably more dangerous).
That being said, I don’t think we should simply call all speech good simply because it exists. There is absolutely hate speech, and it is always deplorable. We should criticize ideas vigorously and unashamedly. We should treat the people who hold those ideas as our fellow human beings, with all the fundamental rights we would like for ourselves and those we love. As much as I am happy to criticize religious zealots, or racists, or climate change denialists, or any group that holds positions that I think are destructive, the moment that someone attempts to treat those people as anything other than humans deserving of respect I will take up a placard and demonstrate for their rights.
Not so for Mr. Malema. My attempts at prognostication are usually simple idle speculation, but having read a bit of his background, I think that when a man like Julius Malema gains real political power, it will be the dawn of a dangerous era for South Africa. While he may not harbour legitimate hatred of white people, he is not above fanning the flames of hatred in those that do, and who see their violent hatred reflected in his speech. While his calls to “shoot the Boer” are, to hear him say it, simply a nod toward the history of the ANC, they are also a very specific call for violence. At that point we have left the realm of political speech and entered into criminal territory.
The song can be heard here (although it won’t mean much to you if you don’t speak Afrikaans):
Whatever you think about the content, you’ve got to admit: it’s catchy.
Like any demagogue worth her/his salt, Malema has managed to frame this censure as an illegitimate organization trying to silence the voice of truth coming from the common man:
Mr Malema said he would push for reform to the court system, which he said had not changed since the apartheid era. “If not being transformed means it’s racist, then so be it,” said Mr Malema, youth leader of the African National Congress (ANC). “Once again we find ourselves subjected to white minority approval. Apartheid is being brought through the back door.” He said he wanted liberation songs to be protected by law. “These were the songs of resistance and they will never die,” he said.
I have no problem with preserving historical artifacts, even if they’re racist. I might go so far as to say we should be more protective of the distasteful parts of our history, since they are the ones we need to learn the most from. If the question was whether or not the song can be discussed and the court ruled that the song must be banned altogether, then Mr. Malema would have a valid point. However, what he is doing instead is using deep-seated racial tension to bolster support for his ridiculous and disastrous social and economic policies – a Southern Strategy for South Africa.
Removing for a moment the discussion of who can claim responsibility for the simmering racial resentment that seems to define the political reality for South Africa, it is trivially easy to highlight this as an example of legitimate anti-white racism. A political case is being built around the exclusion and, apparently, violent suppression of the white minority in South Africa. While there are a million issues to tease out from this story – how much of a minority white South Africans really are, for example – even an anti-racist like myself can point to this as a clear case of racist hate speech.
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Those of you who are regular readers may have noticed that my use of language fluctuates from post to post. Sometimes I am crude and direct, other times I am flowery and expressive. Some of this is organic – I am actively trying to improve my writing and I think that repeated daily practice is accomplishing that. Other times it is intentional – trying to match the tone of my words to the topic at hand to elicit emotional impact. Sometimes, I will confess, it is simple laziness on my part.
I love words. I can’t really draw or paint, and while I am a musician my creativity in that department is not exactly exceptional. Where I think my real strength lies in in my use of language. Words on a page, properly arranged, can change the world. While my own personal aspirations are somewhat more modest than global metamorphosis, I do put more than a little bit of conscious effort into these sentences you read here.
Sometimes I run into someone who can knock me on my ass with their use of language. Jamie Kilstein is one such person:
Audio is definitely NSFW, but you shouldn’t watch Youtube videos at work anyway.
Yes, I recognize it’s crude, but I challenge you to find fault in the phrase “fist you into a meth coma”.
I’ve run into these kinds of arguments against gay marriage and gay parenting before. They are, quite frankly, ridiculous. There are heterosexual parents who do a far worse job of raising kids than a gay couple could ever hope to. There are single parents who do do an outstanding job without another person around (I’d offer my own upbringing as evidence of that possibility). Suggesting that a mix-gendered environment is a necessary component of a healthy childhood is easily put to the lie by even the most casual of scrutiny. Suggesting further that every gay couple will do a worse job than every straight couple is an even greater height of absurdity.
Jamie Kilstein does a great job of skewering these arguments with a fast-paced, profanity-strewn and impeccably-delivered 3 minute monologue. Of course, being in front of a sympathetic audience certainly helps the delivery, but even without the accompanying laughter it’s quite something to see.
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One of the more odious lies we tell ourselves when discussing race happens when we ascribe ourselves the label of “post-racial”. While we don’t tend to use it as part of our collective lexicon here in Canada, it gets a lot more traction in “Obama era” America. The general thrust of the phrase is that people these days don’t really ‘see’ race, and that the labels are thereby not useful. We can stop talking about race (or, more accurately, we don’t have to start) because it has no power as a sociological phenomenon anymore. Of course, the evidence is stacked miles high to suggest otherwise, but it is a comforting lie.
My contention has always been, and continues to be, that we have learned how to talk about race in code, and to obscure our own racist tendencies from nearly everyone – particularly ourselves. I occasionally speak of small groups of people who are not interested in even pretending to hide their racism, rather reveling in it. Another example has crossed my desk:
A new flag with an old message is flying in Montana. Montana Creativity Movement members bear as their standard a banner marked with a W for the white race. The W is topped by a crown symbolizing elite status and with a halo representing the sacredness of the race they worship. They count chapters in Billings, Laurel, Lockwood, Miles City, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Missoula, Park City and Shepherd. ”We are your neighbors, your best friend, your co-workers, etc.,” organizer Westin Adams said. “The only difference is we are loyal to our racial family.”
There is a canard that comes from the more intellectual wing of the white supremacist movement (the phrase “world’s tallest midget” comes to mind…) is that if self-identification along racial lines is valid for people of colour (PoCs), then so too should it be for white people. There is nothing inherently wrong, they say, with celebrating ‘white pride’ or ‘white power’ – it is merely a celebration of the achievements of ones ethnic forbears. In a facile and pedantic sense, this argument does have some merit. There is nothing wrong with being proud of being white; conversely, there is no virtue in being ashamed of being white. Any statement of ‘white pride’ that is a reaction to being made to feel ashamed of one’s white ethnicity is entirely reasonable and defensible.
However, the terms ‘white power’ and more recently ‘white pride’ have connotative associations that are anything but reasonable and defensible. The ideals embraced by the Montana Creativity Movement (MCM, hereafter) are not a simple matter of being “loyal to (their) racial family”, as they would like to represent themselves. Their beliefs are inextricably wrapped up in doctrines of racial supremacy:
The group’s name stems from the idea that the white person is the “most creative, productive and intelligent creature Mother Nature has produced in … 2.3 billion years,” Klassen wrote in his autobiography. Creators shun marriage between those of different races, embrace anti-Semitism, reject Christianity and other religions (save worship of the race) and take as their motto “RaHoWa” (racial holy war).
At this point I have to walk back a bit from some of my more leading anti-theist statements and admit that people are capable of adopting monstrous beliefs that are entirely ancillary to theistic religion. Any idea that is inured from criticism and granted truth axiomatically can lead to this kind of abdication of humanistic principles. Faith – that willing suspension of rational thought – is not necessarily only centred on a deity. MCM’s belief system is clearly an exercise in a priori ”backfilling” to justify an already-held conviction that white people are somehow more creative, productive and intelligent than their dusky brethren. This belief is non-religious, despite their invocation of the idea of a holy war. They should and must be thought of as distinct from, for example, the KKK – an explicitly Christian organization (although one that operates well outside of what would be considered the mainstream of Christian thought, to be sure).
That digression aside, it is important to note that while many of us are busy patting ourselves on the back for how ‘post-racial’ we are, there is quite another segment of society that is deeply invested in the concept of race. There are those in my camp, who think that a productive and open discussion of race is essential to making any progress on tackling the glaring inequalities that fall along racial lines. There are also those who wish to bring race into focus in order to use it as a weapon against those who are different. To carve into society a new version of the Great Chain of Being, with their own group at the top.
While I am usually quick to dismiss this kind of overtly-racist self-aggrandizing as the juvenile chest thumping of a pitiful group of backward people, such dismissal is perhaps doing my own argument a disservice. These are not ‘bad people’ in the colloquial sense – I am sure they are kind, caring and generous people who are otherwise upstanding citizens. However, their adoption of this collection of noxious and bizarre beliefs has led them to compartmentalize their otherwise moral instincts when it comes to issues of race and adopt a Hitlerian view of human subspeciation:
Klassen in “The White Man’s Bible” spelled out a scale of whiteness, with black people at the bottom as “barely human, but more correctly subhuman or humanoid,” white people as the “very top pinnacle” and “mud races” categorized between the two. ”One of the beliefs Creators have is RaHoWa, racial holy war where creators believe there will be a worldwide ethnic cleansing that will leave only white people with everything on the planet,” McAdam said.
Add to that their agitation for political recognition and the fact that their expansion is speeding up and we are left to conclude that our conceit and posturing to this supposed ideal condition of “colour blindness” is anything but ‘post-racial’. The existence of these groups should be seen as a sign that we have not yet freed ourselves from our historical fascination with racial supremacy, and that more work, not less, is needed if we are to give ourselves a chance at a future that is more safe and more just.
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Regular readers will know that I am not above my practice of occasionally quoting Christian scripture in the service of a point. While I’m sure I’ve mentioned this here and there, I don’t have any problem with using the Bible as a literary resource. I view the Old and New testaments in the same way I view Chaucer or Nabokov or Neruda – as a work of fiction from which interesting points can be gleaned. The only difference is that, unlike Chaucer, Nabokov and Neruda, I’ve actually read the Bible.
The title of this post is a reference to a sermon by the Jesus character in the Bible, in which he decries hypocrisy in a variety of forms. I enjoy this particular passage a great deal because of how unremittingly hypocritical religious adherents are when it comes to issues regarding their own beliefs. I explored that topic a bit this morning, but I failed to make an important point. While I am disgusted with the actions and arrogance of the Roman Catholic Church, and while I find their particular brand of hypocrisy to be the most blatant and offensive, I do not ascribe to them exclusive ownership of religious hypocrisy:
Rights groups have expressed outrage after an Indonesian court jailed a Muslim sect member for defending himself from a brutal mob attack. The court jailed Ahmadiyah member Deden Sudjana for six months, a heavier term than many of the attackers received. Three Ahmadiyah members were bludgeoned to death in an attack by a 1,000-strong mob of hardliners in February. No-one was charged with murder.
Sudjana was hit with a machete and almost had his hand severed during the attack, which pitted about 20 Ahmadiyah followers against more than 1,000 fanatics in the village of Cikeusik, west Java. But the court ruled that he had disobeyed a police order to leave the scene, and had been filmed punching another man.
Video footage of the attack shows crowds of hardliners beating a small group of Ahmadis as police watch. So far 12 of the attackers have been found guilty of minor offences and sentenced to between three and six months.
I first talked about the Ahmadiyah back in March, using their situation to make a point about what actual religious persecution looks like. It’s something quite distinct from merely not having exceptions made for your bigotry because your religious beliefs make you an asshole. It is when the force of law is not only brought to bear to bar you from engaging in what would otherwise be legal activity, but also prevents you from realizing your legal rights. I also talked about this attack over at Canadian Atheist to illustrate why a secular state is to the benefit even of believers.
I honestly don’t know what makes the Venn diagram of ‘religion’ and ‘hypocrisy’ so tight, but it seems as though this tendency is not relegated to simply the Pope. The courts in Indonesia have given a big ol’ middle finger to the very concepts of fairness and equality under the law and have begun punishing people for being the victims of brutalization at the hands of a mob, simply because that mob believes in the ‘correct’ version of YahwAlladdha. The personal beliefs of the attackers, or how justified those who would assault non-combatant people may feel in perpetrating violence, is entirely immaterial when it comes to judging their actions. I would have the same contempt and outrage at a crowd of pro-science feminist atheists who physically attacked a white supremacist group as I would for the reverse. Violence is never an option in defense of ideology.
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I don’t really understand why it is that people can say the most evil things imaginable and have it excused as long as they claim divine warrant. You can call for genocide, rape, murder, mutilation, and condemn people as freely as you like, provided you are a man or woman “of God”.
The problem is that God is simply a reflection of what is inside us. When someone says “God hates fags”, they are saying “I hate fags”. When they say “the word of God says that a woman is the property of a man”, they mean “I don’t see women as human beings.” When they say “God wants us to have sex through a sheet with special underwear”, they’re saying… well actually I have no clue where that one comes from.
The remarkable thing isn’t that people will project their inner hatreds and mental problems onto a fictitious third party. That’s actually a fairly normal human quirk. The remarkable thing is that people actually listen to these clowns who claim to speak for the Almighty. If He really was almighty (assuming He even exists, which He doesn’t), he could speak unequivocally for himself; He wouldn’t need to go through puny, fallible, easily-duped humans.
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Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The pun was just too appropriate:
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) may soon try to pass amendments to its equity policy that allow religious doctrine to trump the Ontario Human Rights Code. Among the eight amendments, only two passed at the last board meeting, on May 16. The meeting came to an end before trustees had time to vote on six other proposed amendments that appear to directly target queer students.
One proposed amendment states that the Catholic board’s denominational rights “take precedence over human rights protections.” Another takes aim at gay-straight alliances (GSAs): “The board will approve only clubs which [sic] have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings. Equity and Inclusive Education policy amendments ”
We all have things in our lives that require careful balancing and triage. For example, I work a 9-5 job, and play in a band. I also try to have some kind of social life outside the band, and then of course there’s this blog. This is a lot of stuff to juggle, so I have to make sure I keep my priorities very clear. Everything else would fall apart if I lost my job, so that gets the majority of my attention and focus. Conversely while I would be personally disappointed if I had to stop blogging, it’s the easiest thing on that list to sacrifice if it came into conflict with something else.
We all do this on a day-to-day basis. If you’re married, you have to find a way to prioritize your needs and those of your spouse (which is to say nothing of being a parent). If you’re a student, you have to find a way to make money that enables you enough free time to complete your readings and assignments and so on. Accordingly, there are always times when our priorities conflict with each other and we have to make a decision we’re not happy with.
What we have to do when making those difficult decisions is think what is in our long-term best interest – which of these prioritization decisions will yield the greatest benefit? Well, unless you’re the TCSB – then you just stick your fingers in your ears and insist that your stubborn refusal to accept reality is more important than the well-being of your fellow creatures. It is a particular brand of conceit that tells the world “my personal beliefs are more important than your equality under the law.”
The bizarre thing to me is how anyone in the board could possibly think this is a good idea. We’re not talking about some podunk town where the only gay guy within a 50 km radius lives in denial and constant fear. This is Toronto
In a city with such a large, visible, and popular gay community, it is incomprehensible to me that an entire school board would fail to recognize what a PR disaster a movement to shame gay Catholic kids is. Ignoring for a moment the issue of human rights (since the board is happy to do so already), just on the simple basis of how this looks to the city at large, the board has stepped in it big time. Catholic organizations do not need to be caught showing their intolerance and bigotry out in the open, especially when it comes to matters of sex and morality. The entire church needs to rehabilitate its image, and pick its battles very carefully. Purely from a PR standpoint again – this was the wrong time and the wrong place to take a stand on making life harder for gay teens.
In general, however, the point needs to be made that human rights legislation was crafted for a reason – when left up to the mercy of society allowed to express all ideas in the open marketplace, we saw centuries of oppression of gay men and women from religious organizations. It’s only very recently, when public opinion underwent a sea change (due in no small part to the tireless efforts of gay rights activists), that churches began to revisit their stance on the issue. Human rights need protection, and while freedom of belief is indeed one of those rights, that does not license you to enact the consequences of those beliefs on others.
This decision was both philosophically and ethically wrong (nothing new for Catholic organizations, I’ll admit), but also extremely stupid from the perspective of rehabilitating the faith at a time when it needs all the allies it can get. Smart would have been to read the winds of public opinion and quietly shelve opposition to LGBT groups. Smarter still would have been to recognize that doctrine is not more important than human rights, and that students need the guidance and support of teachers – not condemnation affixed with an official seal.
Of course, smartest of all would be to simply recognize that the doctrine is stupid, and refuse to waste any time thinking about it, the way most Catholics do.
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Well clearly I spoke too soon:
A group that opposed a Burnaby school policy intended to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students is urging parents to pull their children from classroom lessons that offend their morals. The Parents’ Voice is distributing a form letter for members to complete and send to their schools requesting “alternative delivery” of lessons “that may in any way undermine our moral convictions with regards to non-heterosexual inclinations and/or behaviours.”
I was speaking with a friend recently about the idea of “death throes”. She asked me if I thought we were seeing a swing toward hyper-religiosity in light of developments in the United States and a mirror of that movement here in Canada. I posited that it seemed to me to be more of a desperation move (a “Hail Mary pass” if you’ll forgive the pun) of an ideology that has been left behind. Society has seen the flaws in religion, and is beginning to move past it. The religious establishment is getting busy trying to re-establish its relevance, but it’s too late for that. It’s a tantrum thrown by a child after she’s lost a game – all the tears and screams in the world can’t change the past.
This reaction from this parental group is just another such tantrum – ‘give my kid dissenting information, will you? Well I’ll show you!’ Pulling kids out of classes only hurts the kids – they’ll still learn about pro-gay attitudes from interactions with their peers. They will learn that there are other ways of looking at the world besides your stone-age mythology, and they’ll start to ask questions. Unless you’re going to erect a wall around your child and refuse to let any dissenting information in (a la Fox news), then you’re fighting a battle that isn’t just losing – it’s already lost.
The Parents’ Voice insists schools have a legal obligation to accommodate cultural, religious or ethical differences, and says Burnaby acknowledged that obligation earlier this year when it approved a policy allowing students to opt out of animal dissections in science classes.
I remember when there was a flap about frog dissection in my biology class back in high school. Kids were indeed allowed to opt out and learn anatomy another way. You know what happened to those kids? They didn’t learn the stuff properly.
Besides, there is one very important issue that is being overlooked here. Nobody is saying to the parents “you’re not allowed to tell your son or daughter that gay people are abominations and should not be accepted.” You can teach your kids whatever hateful bullshit you want in the privacy of your home. However, you don’t have the right to demand that the rest of us play your insulation game. Just as parents will be wrong about math, language, history, and science, they will be wrong about ethics. The schools have an obligation to teach, to the best of their ability, the truth. If your world view is hostile to the truth that LGBT people are not disordered or sinful, then that’s your problem.
Funnily, it’s usually parents of this mindset that trumpet the idea of “teach both sides” when it comes to things like evolution and the origins of the universe (as though there were only two sides, and that those two sides have equal evidence supporting them). It’s funny to see how hostile they are to having “both sides” taught when it’s something they disagree with.
Enjoy your tantrum, Burnaby. It’ll be the last time anyone pays attention to you.
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Every now and then, a story comes along that restores some of my faith in humanity:
The Burnaby school board approved a controversial anti-homophobia policy on Tuesday evening. Trustee Ron Burton said it is comparable to an anti-racism policy implemented several years ago. “It was quite prevalent in the schools — racist slurs were everywhere,” Burton said. “[The anti-racism policy] gave teachers the ability to correct that behaviour, to say, ‘That’s inappropriate’ and make it a teaching moment when it happens. We’re hoping the same thing will happen with homophobic slurs — and educate kids in general.”
He pointed to the 2001 killing of Aaron Webster, a gay man who was beaten to death by a group of former Burnaby students because of his sexual orientation. “Perhaps if we had this policy in place [then], they wouldn’t be in jail now and that man would be alive,” Burton said.
Anti-gay bullying is a serious problem, particularly because it happens at an age where kids are particularly susceptible to the taunts and disapproval of their peers. I’ve spoken about this before, but the argument bears repeating. Gay kids get particularly singled out not just by individual bullies, but by society at large. “Gay” is a slang term that means blanket condemnation of LGBT people, and it gets tossed around with seeming unthinking ease. Add to that the fact that anti-gay attitudes are passed off as “traditional family values” – as though families with gay people don’t have values of their own. Kids are made to feel ashamed of themselves for no good reason, and then bullied on top of that.
There is a common objection that usually accompanies stories like this: all bullying is bad; why should we give gay kids special treatment when straight kids are being bullied too? I sometimes wonder when I hear these objections if the speaker has put any thought into that statement, or if it’s simply a knee-jerk reaction fueled by anti-gay sentiment. Nobody is saying “straight kids aren’t important” or “we are not interested in stopping bullying in general unless you’re gay”. It’s recognizing that there is a unique problem in a subset of a population that requires particular attention.
To draw an analogy, the objection is about as reasonable as saying “why should we raise money to feed starving people? Some people have heart disease – everyone’s got problems! We should just focus on solving all bad things, rather than giving starving people special attention!” It’s a ridiculous position that assumes a sort of zero-sum game, where targeting a solution to one community takes something away from another. Anti-gay bullying is a subset of bullying in general, and because the consequences are more dire and immediate, and because that particular subset has been ignored for so long, we can devote some extra attention to it, which ultimately reduces general bullying.
Of course, the part that I like the most about this story is the following:
A group called the Parents’ Voice had gathered thousands of signatures for a petition against the policy, saying it violates parental and religious rights. The group accused the district of trying to camouflage a discriminatory policy by calling it an anti-bullying measure.
If your religion requires you to bully gay kids, then your religion is fucked up and you need to change it. I’m not sure where parents got the idea that they have the right to teach their kids to hate other people, and the rest of the world has to respect that. If your beliefs are stupid, then you’re going to find that the rest of the world is going to be against you (with a few caveats if you live in Alberta). Just as it isn’t a violation of “parental and religious rights” to tell kids that black people aren’t the result of an ancient curse and deserve the same respect as white people, it’s not a violation of those same imagined rights to tell them “some people are gay, and that’s not an abomination or a sin – it’s just the way some people are.”
But despite the objections from the lunatic asylum, the board did the right thing and moved their policy into the later part of the 20th century. Those who are demanding the right to propagate their small-minded bigotry against gay people through their children are losing a battle against the tide of history. While it’s not happening fast enough for my tastes, soon all that will be left of these “traditional family values” will be an unpleasant memory of howling hordes of ignorant, backward people, and we will look back and say “how could anyone actually believe that?”
If you’re frightened by that last sentence, you should be.
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A commenter asked yesterday what was wrong with so-called “ex-gay ministries”. For those of you that don’t know, these are programs that are set up to ‘re-train’ homosexual men and women, to convince them that their sexual orientation is either a weakness of the mind, or the influence of Satan, or both. Words cannot express how contemptuous I am of the rank and foul arrogance required to tell someone that their sexual identity is evil. Then again, this kind of moralizing arrogance comes naturally when one considers oneself a direct emissary of the creator of the universe.
Ex-gay ministries are founded on the lie that sexual orientation is a choice, and that accepting Jesus will cleanse you of the sin of being “abnormal”. Of course, accepting Jesus is entirely orthogonal to being gay – there are many gay Christians (a fact that baffles me, but then again there are black Christians and female Christians too, so humanity clearly has a blind spot for its own hypocrisy). However, desperate people who have been convinced that they are disordered due to a lack of faith will grasp at all kinds of desperate straws to regain YahwAlladdha’s favour. They will completely abandon their rationality, frantic to prove their worth in their invisible tyrant’s eyes. And what does the religious establishment do with desperate people?
It fucks them:
Yep, it’s pretty much exactly as you’d expect. Jayden was molested by someone claiming to be able to ‘fix’ his homosexuality. The problem with this mindset is that it’s built on a series of falsehoods. First, it claims that homosexuality is evil or ‘unnatural’ – in that homosexuality in and of itself is no more harmful to people than heterosexuality, and we see examples of homosexuality often in the natural world, this first claim is a lie. Second, these ministries claim that one can simply ‘reprogram’ gay men by introducing them to ‘manly’ activities – I guess the number of gay men in the Marines and other Armed Forces just aren’t manly enough…
The third and final lie that makes up the foundation of “ex-gay” ministries is that accepting Jesus will cure you of your homosexuality. This is the cop-out lie that all religious faith enjoys – if it fails, you can blame the victim because their faith “wasn’t strong enough”. No matter what happens, their asses are covered – if they appear to succeed then it’s because of the program, and if they fail it’s because of the individual in the program. Imagine if we explained away government programs or modern medicine in this way.
Oh, and did I mention that when people are blamed for something they can’t control, and told that their feelings are evil, even though they’ve never hurt anybody… they sometimes hurt themselves?
Of course the commenter then asked me where I got the gall to force my morals on everyone, so maybe I should have just laughed it off. Some lies need to be confronted, exposed, and destroyed. Ex-gay ministries are among them.
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I have a difficult relationship with police officers. First of all, I recognize that they are tools of the state, which has its own plusses and minuses. When the goals of the state are bound to the benefit and protection of the people, then a strong police presence is a good thing. We saw this in last week’s riots in Vancouver – police were more interested in protecting people and minimizing harm and loss of life than they were concerned about protecting private property. However, when the will of the state is opposed to the welfare of the people, police have carte blanche to abuse civil rights and become an essentially-unchecked force of oppression. We saw this at the G8/G20 protests in Toronto – the legitimate right of people to voice opposition was met with boots and truncheons.
The second part of my cop conundrum comes from the fact that police officers are still human beings, which also has its negative and positive aspects. Individual police officers are capable of great compassion, discretion and empathy. I remember during the Olympics seeing smiling police officers talking to enthusiastic tourists and locals, joking and posing for pictures. I’ve had several positive interactions with police officers where they have revealed themselves to be human behind the badge. Then again, being human means that they have all the failings of individuals (pettiness, panicked responses to threats, abuse of power), and demonstrate the mean stupidity of groups. A reader sent me a story that I think illustrates how fraught these conundrums are particularly well:
Chris Cochrane, an entertainer who goes by the name Elle Noir, is recovering from a gunshot wound to her right arm. She said her attackers yelled homophobic slurs as she was hit with gunfire at her Fairview apartment early Tuesday. She said she believes they intended to kill her.
“They were yelling, ‘Tranny faggot, open the door, let us in, let us in,’ which leads me to believe they knew who I was. I’m in a second-floor apartment. You know, you have to have a security key to get into the building. Obviously it was 100 per cent hatred.”
So we have the victim’s statement, that armed men shot through her front door with handguns and a shotgun(!) after accosting her verbally. There was no reason for the intruders to pick that apartment at random, since there was no drug activity. There is a long and sordid history of violent assault against transpeople (that is, people who identify as a sex other than the one they were born into – someone please let me know if I worded that incorrectly), and this has all the hallmarks of a hate crime.
The police reaction?
Halifax Regional Police interviewed Cochrane on Wednesday. After speaking with witnesses, investigators doubt her claim that the shooting was a hate crime, said a police spokesman. ”We believe this particular unit at least — while not saying this particular victim — was targeted specifically,” said Const. Brian Palmeter.
“Certainly we don’t believe this was a hate crime based on the information that we have so far… There may have been other reasons at play why this might have occurred.” Palmeter refused to elaborate on what those reasons might be.
And immediately the skepti-shields go up. Police would like us to believe that a group of armed men broke into a building, targeted the apartment of a publicly-transsexual person and shot their way in. They did this, according to police, for reasons that have nothing to do with the gender identity of the inhabitant. To persuade us of this highly dubious set of circumstances, police are offering us the iron-clad reassurance of “there may have been other reasons at play”.
It seems to me that there are two things that could potentially be happening here. The first comes from my cynical side: Halifax police aren’t interested in investigating a hate crime. Crimes against transpeople often go unreported and poorly-investigated (I offer no evidence for this assertion – it is based on the testimony of every transperson and gender equality speaker I have ever heard/read). It is trivially easy for the Halifax police to sweep the motivation for this crime under the rug, especially since it happened in an area known for drug involvement. The police force may be acting like a person – allowing their biases and transphobia to bubble to the surface in such a way as to preclude Ms. Cochrane from seeing justice.
The second possibility I can see is that Ms. Cochrane is mistaken about the nature of her assault. She lives with a roommate – perhaps the roommate was involved in the drug trade unbeknownst to Chris herself. Maybe she misheard what the attackers said at the door – hearing “tranny faggot” in her panic when something else entirely was said. The police are suggesting another option but are being intentionally vague (which is their usual way of doing things when evidence collection is ongoing) – maybe the neighbours are privy to some knowledge that Chris herself isn’t, something perhaps to do with her roommate.
Regardless of what the reason for the cagey response from police, this kind of reaction sends a chilling message to transsexual and transgender people living in Halifax and elsewhere: despite the fact that you are more victimized than cissexual people, police will absolutely refuse to take that fact into account. At the very least, Halifax police could have said “we are concerned about the hate component, and even though at this moment we don’t have evidence to suggest hate was a factor, we are cognizant of the fact that transpeople are singled out for special treatment by their assailants, and so we will give the matter our own form of special treatment.”
I am curious to see how this whole story shakes out.
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