John M. Becker

Your Cynicism Is Not Helpful

Filed By John M. Becker | August 24, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: cynicism, homophobia, jaded, response to ignorance, silence = death, unhelpful

facepalm.jpgI'd like you, dear reader, to picture a series of hypothetical events. Imagine that something gallingly anti-gay happens -- for example, voters in Chattanooga repealing a non-discrimination ordinance, or a lesbian Catholic schoolteacher getting fired after coming out of the closet, or a Florida pastor canceling a man's funeral after finding out he was gay and married to another man. Disgusted, people take to blogs and social media to vent their frustration and (rightfully) and condemn the perpetrators for harassing, abusing, or discriminating against LGBT people. Before long, though, some contrarian invariably chimes in with "what did you expect?" or "is anyone really surprised this happened?"

If you're like most people, you've probably watched similar conversations play out dozens of times or even participated in them yourself. Now if you're one of those people who publicly shames the bigots in situations like these, I say to you, carry on. But if you find yourself playing the role of the unimpressed know-it-all, my message to you is this: knock it the hell off -- your cynicism is not helpful.

Why? First of all, it's a matter of principle: it doesn't matter whether it happens just once or it happens every single day -- bigotry is wrong and worthy of condemnation. Period.

"Okay, it's wrong," the cynic will sometimes admit, "but with all the evil our community has experienced, should we really be shocked by this?" My answer to this question is always an unequivocal yes. I hope I never become so jaded and beaten down by life that I am no longer shocked by bigotry, regardless of whether or not it comes from an expected source.

Sometimes the cynic's argument is a personal one: "I'm so sick of hearing about these people" or "I'm so tired of dealing with haters." That's a fair point -- calling out bigotry is tiring -- but frankly, that doesn't matter. This is about far more than just us. It's about building a better world for the gay teen whose parents kicked him to the curb when he came out, the trans woman of color who walks home at night with her keys between her fingers because she's afraid of being assaulted again, the elderly lesbian who goes back into the closet when she enters a nursing home.

silence_equals_death01.jpgThat's why we call out the haters -- for them. With so many LGBT people suffering and dying every day, tiredness is not a luxury any of us can afford to have in the battle against homophobia.

"Why bother calling this person out at all?" cynics will sometimes ask. "You're not going to change their mind, and you'll only be giving them unnecessary attention. Their inhumanity is self-evident." This is perhaps the most dangerous response of all, because it lets our oppressors off easy. Here's the cold, hard truth: right now, in many parts of this country and in many segments of society, treating LGBT people hatefully is not self-evidently inhumane -- in fact, many times it's perfectly acceptable.

In places and social situations where the inhumanity of homophobic bigotry is self-evident, that's only because LGBT advocates have continually called out and condemned acts of prejudice, hatred, and violence against our community -- for decades. And we haven't just insisted on the inhumanity of these acts, we've established it: never forget that less than a generation ago, a pastor shutting down a gay man's funeral wouldn't have been self-evidently inhumane, it would have been routine.

Lastly, in calling out bigotry we're not just defending ourselves and our loved ones, we're also training the culture that homophobia must always be met with disgust, shame, and condemnation. If we respond instead with a resigned shrug ("is anyone surprised?"), we're teaching the rest of the world to expect this kind of hatred rather than to resist it.

So the next time you find yourself confronted by anti-LGBT bigotry, drop the cynicism and choose a more productive response instead. Be a part of the solution!

Originally published by the South Florida Gay News.

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