Melissa Williams

NARTH quote continued...

Filed By Melissa Williams | September 05, 2006 8:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex

I am in a Theoretical Foundations class and the NARTH quote discussion reminds me of a lecture we had on Friday. There are a lot of factors playing into this situation. First, people's ideas of homosexuality are shaped by moral systems, and the dominant moral system in the country has condemned homosexuality (in the current translation of the Bible as we interpret it) for hundreds if not thousands of years. At the same time, we are gaining scientific knowledge that is changing our ideas about homosexuality. But scientific knowledge is specialized knowledge, it is not accessible to all people to the same degree.

A lot of people don't even have the knowledge framework to be able to think about what it means that there are a wide array of chromosomal genders. Also, scientific knowledge is changing over time, and many believe that the moral/spiritual knowledge espoused in the Bible and other spiritual books (in their current, and some very educated people would argue, flawed, translations) is absolute/unchanging. Scientific authority changes over time as we get new knowledge. The DSM justed changed the classification of homosexuality in the latest revision. Can you understand that some people may have a hard time trusting the authority of a book whose knowledge and classifications are changing, when they have the option to believe in one of the various religious books whose knowledge they are told is absolute/unchanging?

We in the GLBT community also need to come to grips with the fact that we make assumptions about what is means to be human that other groups/people do not make. Because we are a part of a marginalized group, it is easy for us to say that all people deserve a meaningful existence, to be safe, supported and loved, and to reach his or her potential in a supportive environment. It is obvious, based on the Federal Marriage Amendment and other denials of civil rights to GLBT people, that these assumptions about GLBT humanity are not made by many many people in our country.

My overarching point is, as we strive to be understood and to gain self-actualization and meaning within our culture, let us also try to understand from where the people who deny our humanity are coming. How many days do you struggle and wish there were easy answers to all of life's questions? Most humans do. For most, they answer life's questions with moral/religious/spiritual texts that tell them that there are knowable, easy answers to complex questions. Let us not deny that easy answers bring comfort to many people, and it makes this crazy life easier for them. Many people in the GLBT community, because we were born in the "gray" area, recognize that there is a lot of moral ambiguity in most situations. At the same time, we need to recognize the humanity even of the people who deny ours. If not, we are practicing the same behavior that we experience and abhor as GLBT people.

So as not to plagarize, many of these ideas were ignited by the class discussion on Sept 1, 2006, of Dr. Jeffrey Crabtree, Indiana University Department of Occupational Therapy.

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Nick Clarkson | September 5, 2006 10:11 AM

I'm starting to wonder what's going on here.

Bil posted this transphobic quote of the day. It was an interesting choice. Not a big deal, I figured, since transphobic/homophobic attacks from people in positions of power are part of our lives. Brylo responded well.

Now here's another response, which I'm reading primarily as a response interested in an intellectual, emotionally-distanced look at the situation. An occasional reminder for us all to step back and look at where all of us are coming from is a worthwhile point.

I wouldn't argue with anyone who wants to call me hypersensitive. But I'm also reading here an implicit undercurrent of advice along the lines of "you're too emotionally invested." This point is just something I wanted to mention because guarding against paternalism is always worth keeping in mind.

More importantly, though. I looked back through Quotes of the Day. I only got as far as March 16, 2006 (you all are quite prolific with the quotes and I'm too caffeinated to sit still for too long), but how many quotes of the day have been homophobic? Or racist? Or misogynist? As I said, it could be justifiable to post these comments and respond to them. But I'm kind of curious about what's going on around this one transphobic quote.

I don't need disavowals of transphobia or proofs of good-ally-ness. :D Just something to keep in mind.

Melissa Williams | September 5, 2006 10:43 AM

Nick, we need to meet. Let's have coffee sometime. I would like to know what exactly you meant by the need to guard against paternalism.
I wasn't implying that you or anyone was "too emotionally invested," I was arguing that we are ALL "emotionally invested" in our worldview/biology/gender identification. That this situation is so difficult because there is a disconnect between moral and scientific thinking.
When GLBT people are fighting for their full inclusion /acceptance, sometimes we use (did you notice I said "We," as in I am queer, as in these are my issues too) use moral reasoning and sometimes we use scientific reasoning. I don't think we should have to make a case for ourselves AT ALL, but neither should have the slaves or the native Americans or the Palestinians or any other marginalized peoples. If this is true, why do we attempt to make a case for ourselves at all? We buy into the same system that we question.

Bruce Parker | September 6, 2006 6:51 PM


I wonder if Nicks frustration could be the result of all comments on Brylo's post that initially responded to the quote of the day and then later your post focused on "gayness" or "homosexuality" when the original quote dealt specifically with gender identity and transgenderism. Although, gender identity is central to struggles for women and lgb equality the issues are not necessarily interchangeable. One frustrating aspect of this work for the transgender community is often individuals are forced to allow their independent understandings of the issues dissolve in the larger conversations of lgbt equality. This is a point that you understanding yourself as bisexual will probably really agree with.

I am left wondering how we begin having the conversations that we need to have across our differences while still accentuating our similarities?


Melissa Williams | September 6, 2006 9:52 PM

Good point Bruce, but I did mention "wide array of chromosomal genders". I do want to be sensative to/knowledgable about trans issues, but sometimes I feel like I am "outgrouped" during trans discussions. I also resent comments such as "no need to make disavowels of transphobia or good ally-ness." Sometimes I feels like allies can't win for losing, if you know what I mean. At least they are at the table trying to do the work.

Thanks for saying that Melissa. I feel the same way. I've rather ignored the comments on this thread just because it made me rather angry to read "Bil posted this transphobic quote of the day. It was an interesting choice. Not a big deal, I figured, since transphobic/homophobic attacks from people in positions of power are part of our lives." and to see insinuations that I'd posted this quote because I'm transphobic. I also resent the same comment you do. When the commenter is saying you're transphobic and then says "Don't just say you're not!" what are you left with? "I am?" What a great set-up.

I'll say it again - and I think this is mountain out of molehill time here, people - I posted the damn quote because it was transphobic and hateful and disturbing. I don't know what every other Quote of the Day was about - I don't post all of them. But I know several others (that I've posted) have been outrageous statements as well. And if I remember correctly, instead of just supplying the quote and author (as I do with positive, uplifting quotes) I even took the time to condemn the quote with an explanation...

I think it's time to settle down. The quote wasn't meant as a slam towards the transgender. I don't think Melissa was trying to demean anyone either. I think Brylo wrote a great response - especially about NARTH - and I think it's also wonderful that it stirred the "other half" of BRYlo to post. Because that's what bilerico should be about - talking about the issues, not insinuating other contributors are phobic to your issues.

I have more to say on this subject later, but I cannot let the conflation of religion and morality slide. Nor is there any barrier between scientific reasoning and moral reasoning. They are not the same thing, but they are compatible. To some degree, religious reasoning (not to say Bible study) is not incompatible with moral reasoning, but organized religions, churches e.g., have a very bad record of moral leadership despite what most people thoughtlessly choose to believe.