Last year, we had many people who were deeply concerned about an anti-gay Chick-fil-A “backlash.”
The actual result? The LGBT community won groundbreaking marriage victories in Washington, Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota. Since then, we have more than doubled the number of states supporting marriage equality and polls in support of LGBT rights are only moving in our direction.
The kerfuffle over Duck Dynasty is no different. There is no backlash and there will be no backlash. To quote Martin Luther King Jr:
“The white backlash is nothing new. White America has been backlashing on the fundamental God-given human rights of Negro Americans for more than 300 years.”
Yep, and the homophobic “backlash” is nothing new. It’s just the same old bigoted trash repackaged and given a new spin. It is homophobes once again closing ranks in a desperate attempt to overturn the status quo — which is defined by celebrities or politicians getting in trouble when they make insensitive remarks about minority groups. Our foes don’t like the new social rules in America.
The America they want to return to is the ugly one I grew up in as a kid. Many people reading this can also can remember this not so great time that occurred not too long ago.
My first fistfight was in kindergarten (in 1975) defending a black kid on the playground who the white kids in class wouldn’t let play kickball. I didn’t know anything about race at the time, but I knew what was happening was wrong.
In Middle School in Texas we had kids yell derogatory ethnic names at the Hispanic custodians. No one cared — it’s just the way it was. I had a sixth grade teacher promote his fundie church, and made awful jokes about how gross “queers” were. He would imitate gays by showing how they fondle each other’s asses while lisping. He wasn’t fired. He was promoted. No one complained, including the closeted gay English teacher who was one classroom over and could surely hear and see the humiliating homophobic display made by his colleague as the students laughed.
Coaches were the worst — and I played football and basketball. When teammates messed up, they either played like faggots or girls. Speaking of girls, they were often considered either “frigid” or “loose” and frequently judged solely on the size of their breasts, not their intelligence. They were strongly encouraged to go to cooking class and dissuaded from shop class.
At the time, “intellectual debate” consisted of whether black people were smart enough to play quarterback in the NFL. Sometimes, people would throw a dime on the ground and expect me to dive for it because I’m Jewish. Asians were looked at as oddities who were mocked openly with fake accents and a lot of bowing.
To those people upset about “political correctness” have you not lost sight of how it used to be in the “good old days”? You know, back when minorities were the punchline in jokes — and were expected to know their place and not be too “sensitive” and ruin the good time had by the majority. Not too long ago, the only gays in the media were sex freaks, unhappy misfits, or pathetic clowns who were destined for the insane asylum or an early grave.
There are those who are now saying the LGBT community should change tactics while we are winning (for fear of an imaginary backlash) and not fight back vigorously against bigotry and punish bigots. Is this really a wise strategy? How well did we do when people felt free to be openly homophobic in polite company?
The LGBT community should be excessively careful before we give the green light to celebrities or politicians to call us faggots or cherry pick Bible verses to essentially say the same thing. (And, really, it is the same thing, conferring second-class status. Even heaven and hell are clear social distinctions, where one defined group gets though the velvet rope and the other doesn’t and has to go to the inferior club without air conditioning)
I don’t fear a backlash. What I do fear is LGBT advocates who are exhausted with fighting getting bullied into quitting a winning and astonishingly successful strategy of marginalizing homophobes (and racists and misogynists etc.) before we have achieved our rights and changed our culture. Personally, I find living in today’s social environment a superior way of life. While things are not perfect, at least minorities have a fighting chance of living with dignity and getting ahead.
Bigotry actually does belong in the closet or the sewer. Let’s fight to keep it there — and not be so quick to let it return into the center of the public square where such noxious views can be practiced and celebrated free of consequence.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”