(Note: This was originally published at Kiri 4.0.)
So I’m really frustrated right now, and I need to let this out:
Like many queer folks, I’ve noticed a lot of evangelicals trying to rebrand their anti-queer programs as “attempts at respectful dialogue” (thus not-so-subtly implying, of course, that those of us who don’t see our lives and identities as up for debate must not want respectful dialogue). I confess that I am deeply mistrustful of these overtures. Admittedly, I am not exactly quick to assume good faith in situations like this; in fact, on my previous blog, I once wrote:
It doesn’t matter to them that we’ve heard it all before, or that we’ve debunked it all before; they simply have to have their ideas front and center at all times, and can’t stand when they aren’t. And so, they use the idea of “free and open discussion” — because who could possibly object to that, right? — as a way of continuing to spew their horseshit in spaces where it’s not welcome.
(Originally I wrote that about sexist men, but, well, there’s a lot of overlap there…)
And I absolutely do see this happening. I absolutely see that there are people who claim to want “dialogue” with us queer folks when what they really want is to shut us up and/or shut us down. Take, for example, the evangelical counter-protest against the Day of Silence, formerly called “Day of Truth” and now renamed “Day of Dialogue” even though both the message and the method of this protest have changed very little.
Still, I’m willing to believe that even the purveyors of that nonsense are acting in “good faith”, insofar as they are doing what they believe to be right. After all, what’s a little disingenuousness here and there if it leads people to The Truth, right? Heck, I can even believe that some of them aren’t being disingenuous at all, that they honestly think there’s somehow a parity of opinions that makes respectful dialogue possible, and/or that they’re just truly not aware of how they’re hurting folks with their words and actions.
So, evangelicals often argue, if they’re acting in good faith, shouldn’t we acknowledge that? Shouldn’t we avoid incendiary terms like “bigotry” and “hate”? Shouldn’t we just respect their opinions?
Well, when their opinions are that I’m not really a woman, I shouldn’t have the right to change my body, and I shouldn’t have a right to demand that I be addressed as Alyssa… then no. Hell no. I’m not going to respect opinions like that, “good faith” or not. Maybe they don’t feel any hatred, and maybe they don’t mean to be bigots, but the effects of their anti-trans* activism on my life are nevertheless the same.
A lot of us “social justice bloggers” will debate whether and to what degree intent matters in particular scenarios, but pretty much everyone can agree that, if you hurt someone, then you are responsible for having hurt them regardless of whether you meant to or not. Evangelicals, apparently, seem willing to suspend this when attacking us queer folks: to them, their intent is all that matters — the Lord looks at the heart, after all! – and so we should never be angry or unkind to them regardless of how they hurt us, because, well, they didn’t mean to.
My dad always used to tell me, “You may not have meant to, but you still did it!” That’s a thought that evangelicals (like… well, my dad) would do well to consider if they’re really serious about having respectful dialogue about queer issues any time soon.