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Jan 15 2012

A Reader’s Guide to “On Homosexuality”

I have no idea what LOGBTQA means.  This was placed on my blog by an unhappy reader who didn’t like that I used the terms “homosexual” and “gay,” and suggested that LOGBTQ be used instead.   For the moment at least, I have decided to use the term (if a term it be) GLBT.   At least I think I know what it means.

Please do not confuse ignorance with bigotry.  One may seem bigoted because they are ignorant.  This does not mean they are bigoted, it just means that they are ignorant.  Of course they can also be both ignorant and bigoted.  “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

My blog post “On Homosexuality” has suddenly drawn more negative responses than has any other of my writings.  This should get my attention.  And it has.

The work is a reprinting of my essay “On Homosexuality,” written in 1995 or before, and published in my book, “Baubles of Blasphemy,” originally edited by Ed Buckner and published by the Atlanta Freethought Press, in 1995.  The work has gone into a second printing, edited by Frank Zindler and published by American Atheist Press, in 2009.  You can order a copy, if interested, at atheists.org or amazon.com.

There has been a pleasing amount of praise for this book by some and much criticism of its contents by others.  Indeed, there have been specific criticisms of the essay “On Homosexuality,” but the comments have most commonly expressed outrage that I was supporting “gay rights” in any way at all.  I was deemed to be a secret homosexual who was in the pockets, if not the pants, of those promoting the imaginary “Homosexual Agenda.”

Then, in 2012, seventeen years at least since the essay was written and published, in the idealized visionary hope that it might do some good to those of our fellow mortals who were GLBT, the work was republished in Freethought Blogs.

To my stunned amazement, there followed an avalanche of negative comments accusing me of being homophobic and insensitive to the feelings of those I was, in the greatest of good faith, trying to help in combating the same type bigotry that is still occurring against GLBT(s?) and atheists.

I still do not, after much thought, understand fully what is upsetting to those who wrote as they did.  Whether or not I understand the emotions of the writers on this, I do understand that a certain portion of my essay has hurt them deeply.

I have just researched LOGBTQA and learned that LGBTQA means “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, and Allied, but I have not been able to learn what LOGBTQA means.  Might be a typo.  It is easy to make such mistakes; mistakes which should be readily forgivable and fixable.

Being thus admonished and educated, I shall henceforth (at least in this writing) use the term (if term it be) LGBTQA.  Am I an Allied?  I would certainly hope so.

I will readily concede that it is indeed possible to be unconsciously bigoted toward a group such as  LGBTQA, even while writing in support of their rights.  I do not believe I fit in this category, but it is pretty hard to know just what one might be unconsciously thinking.  What are you unconsciously thinking right now?

The snake bite joke (for joke it was and is), that forms the frame for the essay was, consciously at least, nothing more than a mocking of people who actually felt that way.  I am an Eagle Scout.  Of course I know that snake bite kits and making X cuts and sucking and spiting poison from a snake bite wound are to be avoided because doing such will inevitably cause even graver injury.  Such a conversation never happened.  It was a made up story thought, at the time of writing, to be useful in making from humor a more serious point.  If a friend of mine was in a life threatening situation, I would do anything possible to save that friend, even if it meant risking my own death.  Embarrassment or sexual phobias would have no place in such a situation.  I would do what was needed, no matter how unpleasant such actions might seem to be to me or to anyone else.

Yes, my writings are intended to offend—but not to offend those they are trying to help.  If the use of the snake story offended you, I sincerely apologize.  Please know, and hopefully understand, that such was not intended.  What was intended was to offend those who might actually act in conformity with such “moral” principles.

The misunderstanding comes, in part I think, from generational differences.  Before many of you were born, I was active, and under fire, in a variety of activities that achieved greater civil rights and open housing for those then self-called “colored people.”  I was condemned as a “Communist” by my U.S. Representative, and I was called a “nigger lover” by my minister father. It was unthinkable that any decent person (meaning white person) would favor going to school with them, or, perish the thought, marrying one of them.  Both going to school with the “colored” and marrying a person of “the colored race” were crimes in most states.  Homosexuality was an unthinkable crime and was unlawful.  In some places, it could be punished by death.  I clearly remember such horrors as separate “white” and “colored” drinking fountains.  You could easily tell which was which.  The “white” one was a nice water cooler.  The “colored” one was a pipe with a faucet.  “Separate but equal” indeed.

It is perhaps impossible for persons who did not live in a certain time to understand the emotions of that time.  Nor is it possible for one person to fully understand what may offend another person who holds a different view, be that on race, religion, atheism, or sexual orientation. Particularly if they are from different generations.   When I was in law school, everyone smoked.  Even in class.  It would have not been possible then to imagine a world where no one smoked.  People of the present generation might well find it impossible to imagine a society in which almost everybody smoked.

Similarly, it is probably impossible for some of those who have written accusations of homophobia to understand just how far things have come in the past generation.  Those who do recall, or understand those times, should try to appreciate just how daring it would be to advocate any rights whatsoever for persons thought to be deviate.  Persons the law had declared criminal.

I am honored indeed to be given a spot on FTB, and I do not wish to do or say anything that might seem retrograde to the entire spirit of the undertaking.

I have published all comments that I have seen.  It is within my power on the blog to delete any comment I wish.  In that I believe in free speech, I have deleted none of them.

Edwin Kagin, by dog.

 

49 comments

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  1. 1
    Braavos

    I’ve no idea what the “O” could be except “Other” but I’m not sure that’s a helpful category. I obviously can’t speak authoritatively, as a cis-straight (white) male, but I think the preferred acronym is LGBTQIA, where the “I” is for “Intersex”. Also, depending on who one asks, “Q” could stand for “Queer” and “A” for “Asexual”. Less often I’ve seen “P” added for “Pansexual”.

  2. 2
    peicurmudgeon

    As far as the On Homosexuality essay was concerned, other than the failed joke, I thought it was very well written.

  3. 3
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Huh, it seems my snarky remark about Rip van Winkle was truer than I thought. 17 years is a long time.

    Thanks for this update.

  4. 4
    rapiddominance

    It was fiction.

    You narrated as an ignorant, yet relatively kind conservative/christian who is trying to coach along the worser portion of his herd.

    The narrator isn’t the final product that we want Americans to turn out to be, BUT you can at least tolerate being around this guy (and its not hard to imagine him having a contagious smile). Still, lets be clear–he is funny in a not-cool sort of way.

    The effectiveness in this tactic is that 1)it paints the finest of the flock out as bumbling Andy Griffiths and assists in 2)demonstrating the vast character and intellectual ground the fundies need to travel (this is a bit more subliminal). 3)Relative to the topic, the reader sees clearly how the entire charade, from Andy right down to Jesse Helms, is at its best mildly insensitive and at its worse an attack on personal liberty.

    This wasn’t difficult. But its not an insult to your readers, either. I think some folks had a serious emotional reaction in the first paragraph and they simply couldn’t take in the rest of the story the way its intended. The necessary mental state was lost and recovering that mental state was simply not on top of the reader’s priority list. Not with the anger and apprehension.

    Now, at this point, we have had folks say all sorts of mean shit to you. They really thought you were a jerk; yet, these very intelligent readers should now be able to go back and see the literary device and its purpose (I forgot the name of the device–maybe I never knew it).

    This is the sort of circumstance when, properly addressed, is ALWAYS awkward. But the real danger is in trying to avoid the awkwardness.

    The good news is that you guys are still working together. DO NOT get too far from one another.

    1. 4.1
      Tony! The Queer Shoop

      rapiddominance:
      -I’m curious what the literary device is too. If you take the joke on its own, without any awareness of it being a joke, how can you determine that it *is* (speaking of which, a quick google search turns up the fact that this *is* a joke and there are slight variations, but the essence is the same) a joke? I wonder how many people know that “sucking the venom” doesn’t work. I also wonder how many people out there adamantly wouldn’t suck a dick to save a friends life (I’m sure there are some out there). Ultimately, I think the joke fails as a joke (though it works quite well in the post Edward wrote), as it works on the assumption that people *know* it’s a joke, that people *know* sucking out the venom doesn’t work, and that a guy *would* suck out the venom (were it possible). Too many assumptions that often aren’t true make this joke fail.

      1. rapiddominance

        In the second paragraph he says, “Why, I wonder, would anyone choose to be left handed.” (I think that’s exact). People in this crowd don’t say shit like that seriously. I wasn’t rolling on the ground laughing at that point, but a smirk was rising.

        For me, the “funny” (delayed, but rewarding) was in imagining this goober with a shit-eating grin sitting in his porch swing selling a liberal message with ignorant, right-wing lingo.

        Its very Mark Twain.

        I hope that helps. Enjoying it was so much easier than explaining it.

  5. 5
    Midnight Rambler

    It seems like you’re already most of the way there, but this post may be relevant to understanding where people are coming from.

  6. 6
    Natalie

    My guess is LOGBTQA would be:

    Lesbian
    Omnisexual (aka pansexual)
    Gay
    Bisexual
    Transgender
    Queer / Questioning
    Allied / Asexual

    Other possible letters that get included are:

    I – Intersex
    2 / T / TS / 2S – Two-Spirit

    Edwin, I appreciate you making an effort to understand the negative response to your post, and particularly your defense of it (“thought police”, “it was just a joke”, “I didn’t mean it that way”, “But I’m an ally”, etc.), but it’s not really a good idea right now to be sort of…um… rolling your eyes at our efforts towards inclusive terminology. I hope that doesn’t come across as too hostile, but… while the “alphabet soup” can certainly get a bit ridiculous in some incarnations, I don’t think it’s your call to make, as a straight and cis man, to be telling us what terms are or are not worthwhile. That’s something we need to negotiate for ourselves, and for our allies to accommodate. The alphabet soup exists for lack of better terms. We’re getting there… “queer” has gradually begun to take on a very useful meaning as simply an umbrella term for any and all variation from assumed norms of gender and sexuality, and presents as an alternative to the acronyms, but the acronyms are there for a reason: they work. Please try not to dismiss their validity. Thank you.

    1. 6.1
      Natalie

      P.S. I really do appreciate the effort to be understanding and take the responses into consideration.

      P.P.S. Although certainly we’ve come a long way since Stonewall, we still have a long way to go. The fight still matters. People ARE still getting killed. I’m not even covered under the Canadian charter of human rights. It is perfectly legal for an employer to fire me or choose not to hire me simply on the basis of my gender. Just an example of the fact that things are still pretty fucked up for a lot of people.

    2. 6.2
      Natalie

      Oh, and this:

      occurring against GLBT(s?) and atheists.

      Usually it’s a bad idea to “noun-the-adjective”, and refer to “GLBTs”, “gays”, “transgenders”, etc. It places the category in place of the person. As in treating us a separate kind of person. It’s much better to say “LGBT community”, “gay men”, “transgender people”, etc. Lesbian is sort of an exception to that, though… it is conventionally okay to use it as either a noun or adjective.

      Also, I don’t think you meant to imply this, but just as a minor note: LGBT people and atheists aren’t really separate categories, of course. I happen to be both transgender and atheist, for instance.

  7. 7
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Thanks. It would be nice if that apology didn’t have an “if” (As in “IF I offended anyone…”), as you really, really did, but I accept what there is.

    You write about seeing how much progress there is in various forms of civil rights, which you are clearly supportive of. But the thing is, we DO know how much progress there’s been. We who are LGBTQI see evidence everywhere. FTB existing, and mostly respecting us, for one. Which is why seeing “jokes” like the snakebite thing, and some of your terminology hurt so much. There is a lot to keep up with, but if you want to be an ally, you learn. We all have had to learn this stuff ourselves. I may have been born queer and genderqueer, but I’ve had to learn how to talk about and navigate it the same way a straight cis person does.

    You say you didn’t want to offend and that you want to support GLTBQI people, and I actually do believe it. But I also accept that you, like the rest of us, live in a culture that really doesn’t support our rights. So it’s normal to sometimes misstep, mis-speak, and to have internalized a lot of really not-so-great stuff. What’s not a good idea is to dig in and double down on it. If you stepped on someone’s foot, would you be enraged that they would accuse you of being a wanton foot-stomper? Or would you say “Oops, sorry there” and watch your step? It’s not what you are that hurt, it’s the thing you did/said. If that makes sense.

    Lastly, you’re talking about criminalized identities for LGBTQI people being a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it’s not. Trans people everywhere face astonishing rates of violence, including murder. Queer folks still get bashed in “tolerant” countries, and executed in others. Which is kind of why those of us who still have to look over our shoulders might not find jokes like the one you made very funny.

    That said, I’ve seen a lot of rainbow alphabet soups, but I’ve yet to see an O in there.

    Anyway. You were ahead of your time when it came to supporting GLBTQI people at one point, but there’s still change, *ahem* evolution, and work to be done. I appreciate the apology.

  8. 8
    articulett

    Is the “I” for intersex?

  9. 9
    Goblinman

    Thank you, Kagin. Your willingness to apologize is commendable.

    Placing the piece in a historical context does clarify things, too. I’ve followed the LGBT movement for nearly a decade now, and the change of public opinion even in those few years has been tremendous. I can well believe that when this was first published in 1995 you would have been accused of being gay yourself.

    If I can attempt to explain what about the piece was upsetting to people, I’d like to point out that one of the things we gay people (and gay men in particular) have to deal with is an entrenched social stigma that says being gay is about the worst thing a man could be. It’s a sexist stigma, too–by being gay, or doing anything that appears gay, a man is deemed womanly, and therefore weak, and therefore less of a man, and therefore a failure. That’s why the whole “bullying” thing has been in the news lately–when kids are calling other kids “gay”, they’re not accusing them of merely having an aesthetic appreciation of the same gender. They’re calling them failures. And, keep in mind, many of us had to go through that phase of our lives well before the whole anti-bullying thing was even being considered. We’ve had to deal with that bullshit for a long time. We’re sick of it.

    1. 9.1
      Tony! The Queer Shoop

      Edward:

      I have no idea what LOGBTQA means.

      -Nor did I until just now. Personally, I wish there were a better all in one term to use. Listening to Hillary Clinton’s speech gave me goosebumps, and made me proud, but every time she said “LGBT” it just didn’t sound right. Perhaps this is why some people use “gay” as the all purpose term.

      1. Tony! The Queer Shoop

        sorry about that. I replied incorrectly.

      2. Natalie

        As a trans person, I am personally VERY much not okay with “gay” being used as an all-inclusive term. In fact, I find the way that gay men are treated as a sort of catch-all, “archetypal” queer individual to be highly problematic in a great many ways.

        Remember that queerness pertains to far, far more than homosexuality.

        1. ischemgeek

          @Natalie As a bi woman, I agree entirely. There’s nothing wrong with gay men, but as a person who is neither gay nor male, it’s irritating that people want to use gay men as the standard (just as I find it irritating that the safety equipment in my line of work comes in male sizes only). By using gay as the archetype, you’re sticking those of us that are not gay men in a “doesn’t belong” box, and since we get that quite enough from society as a whole, it rankles. Queer is a better catch-all, I think, because (to my knowledge) it’s neither gendered nor orientation-specific, whereas gay is both.

  10. 10
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Edward:

    The snake bite joke (for joke it was and is), that forms the frame for the essay was, consciously at least, nothing more than a mocking of people who actually felt that way. I am an Eagle Scout. Of course I know that snake bite kits and making X cuts and sucking and spiting poison from a snake bite wound are to be avoided because doing such will inevitably cause even graver injury. Such a conversation never happened. It was a made up story thought, at the time of writing, to be useful in making from humor a more serious point. If a friend of mine was in a life threatening situation, I would do anything possible to save that friend, even if it meant risking my own death. Embarrassment or sexual phobias would have no place in such a situation. I would do what was needed, no matter how unpleasant such actions might seem to be to me or to anyone else.

    -My initial dislike of the “On Homosexuality” post stemmed entirely from the opening joke. I had never heard it before, and there didn’t appear to be any indication that you weren’t referring to yourself (quotation marks may have helped; or simply saying that it’s an old joke). There was an odd disconnect between the opening of the post and the rest of it. I think perhaps it was simply a matter of lack of clarity with regard to the opening statements.

    1. 10.1
      Aquaria

      I find it amazing that nobody’s ever heard this joke. It was probably created the first time a homophobic dolt realized snake bites killed humans.

  11. 11
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Edward:

    I have just researched LOGBTQA and learned that LGBTQA means “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, and Allied, but I have not been able to learn what LOGBTQA means.

    -Googling “LOGBTQA” turns up links to your posts. I’m guessing it was a typo. I’ve been somewhat reclusive in the gay world for a few years, but I never got a memo stating that we added the “O” (of course I didn’t know about the “Q” and “A” either).

  12. 12
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    “I” is indeed for intersex. :)

  13. 13
    Midnight Rambler

    I have published all comments that I have seen. It is within my power on the blog to delete any comment I wish. In that I believe in free speech, I have deleted none of them.

    Huh…when I made my post (which is now #5), there was already one up (by Josh OSG), but it’s now gone. It was a positive one though, which would seem to be unlikely to be deliberately deleted. Maybe there’s something screwy with the comment system that is unintentionally removing posts that are already up?

  14. 14
    James Croft

    I appreciate this close-to-a-full-apology, and take it in the spirit in which it seems to have been intended. I know we all struggle with prejudice sometimes, and I appreciate how difficult it can be to root it out of ourselves, especially when it’s unconscious. In all honestly, it was partly your association with American Atheists Inc. which made me react so strongly. After a series of clearly Islamophobic comments by other AA representatives I admit I did think, somewhat, “Here we go again! Another AA leader making bigoted remarks.”

    I sincerely appreciate your attempting to rectify the situation.

  15. 15
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    For some weird reason my comment, which was originally at first position, is gone. Must be a bug in the FtB software (there’s lots of ‘em’). It was simply “Thank you, Edwin, for listening to us.”

    1. 15.1
      Edwin Kagin

      Josh,

      My apologies for the disappearances. Please know that I had nothing to do with that happening.

      I just discovered, and checked, my “spam filter,” and, for some reason known only the the cyber-gods, your post and several other posts had been snarfed by the spam filter. Have no idea why. I have posted all legitimate emails that have been put before me. By “legitimate,” I mean something at least vaguely on point. Some things are obviously not and are obvious spam. Yours of course are not.

      I have restored as many as I have found. Please let me know if more are missing.

      Edwin.

  16. 16
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Edwin:

    This was placed on my blog by an unhappy reader who didn’t like that I used the terms “homosexual” and “gay,” and suggested that LOGBTQ be used instead.

    For what it’s worth, I and almost every gay man I know is not only totally cool with “gay” but vastly prefers it to “homosexual.” But I don’t get too critical about using homosexual as it accurately describes a sexual orientation of either sex if you don’t want to use longer formulations like “gay and lesbian.”

    I’d guess that the objection was probably to using “gay” as a catch-all term for all homosexuals—most women I know prefer “lesbian,” though that’s not universal. Additionally, bisexuals, asexuals, transgender folks, intersex people and assorted other gender-non-compliant queers have a legitimate complaint that the mainstream gay and lesbian community has shunned/denigrated/overlooked or sold them out. That’s where the “alphabet soup” comes from. While it can be difficult to navigate (and yes, sometimes frustrating) it comes from a good-faith effort of recognizing that we queers can be bigoted too, and we have an obligation to rise above it.

    You won’t always get it right—many of us don’t and the definitions are contested in some cases.

    Just a tip and explanation, not a lecture.

    1. 16.1
      Edwin Kagin

      Josh,

      If any of your posts have not yet appeared please let me know. I have rescued all that I could find in the mysterious “spam filter.”

      If any have not appeared, please re-post them. I have no idea why some of your emails, like this one, got through and others did not.

      Edwin.

  17. 17
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Um, why are my posts disappearing? One I just left that very calmly explained terminology is suddenly gone.

  18. 18
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I still do not, after much thought, understand fully what is upsetting to those who wrote as they did.

    Well, you presented a homophobic stance, said your stepdaughter finds it to be a homophobic stance, and you disagree with her.

    Someone is wrong on the internet. So I want to point out how that is indeed a homophobic stance, and also how my day is more pleasant when I encounter fewer homophobic jokes regardless of who’s telling them. Generally, it is equivalently unpleasant but much easier to deal with a homophobic joke from a hater than one from someone who means well.

    As to whose voice you’re supposed to be speaking with in that first paragraph, I simply don’t care. If I took it to be not your own voice, I would still want to point out that the stepdaughter in this hypothetical was nevertheless correct. (Someone is hypothetically wrong on the internet and has not clearly been hypothetically corrected.) Moreover, my life is easier when people who want to be my allies don’t put me in a position of having to parse some ambiguous blather to determine whether or not they are indeed my allies. I can tell now from your Thought Police post that you are not at this time someone I can trust as an ally, so thanks for clearing that up.

    I am familiar with the joke. I did take it to be a joke and in your own voice — and so did at least one of your defenders. If it’s a joke and not in your own voice, then it’s not clear whether the following is in your voice either: “I am not afraid of homosexuality; I simply find the idea of people of the same sex having sex unaesthetic and curious and do not understand why up to ten percent of the world’s population wants to do that.”

  19. 19
    SallyStrange

    Yes, it’s not easy keeping up all the time, but the good news is: this is how you do it.

  20. 20
    SallyStrange

    Oh, and in case nobody’s said it before: Thanks for your work in the Civil Rights movement. You and your contemporaries have made it so that I (a white woman) could become lovers and best friends with a wonderful, intelligent, humane black man, for 5+ years, without ever fearing for my safety or his. The worst we have had to endure is sidelong looks and snarky comments, and that only occasionally. I am tremendously grateful, even as I recognize that there is more work to be done to combat racism. Similarly, take the difference in responses to your essay from 1995 to the present as indicative of the progress we have made.

  21. 21
    ischemgeek

    I appreciate your work. Let me try to explain why your joke struck a nerve (with me, at least):

    I’m a young person. I graduated high school less than eight years ago, so my memories of high school are still fresh and my experiences of high school are recent enough that I’m fairly sure kids in the area still have similar experiences to mine. In my high school, it was common for LGBTQ stdents to be beaten up and harrassed. The year before I joined the school, a boy was put in a coma and had to take eight months off school because he made the mistake of coming out to the wrong kid.

    I stayed in the closet as a bi student because I was already facing a lot of harrassment for not having a Scottish last name, for being friends with an Acadian girl, for being friends with two LGBTQ students, for being more bookish than was considered acceptable, for aspiring to something other than nurse, teacher and/or baby-factory on welfare, and for being friends with most of the students who were not white (4 of the 7 of them – my high school wasn’t exactly high in ethnic diversity) in the school. Frankly, when having my head slammed in my locker and my lunch ruined and stabbed by pencils in the back and crap thrown at me in gym class were all daily occurances, it didn’t seem worth it to add to my issues. Maybe I’m a coward.

    On a daily basis, I was told that my friends and I were going to hell (in a religious conservative community where “go to hell” was literally the nastiest thing you could say to someone). On a daily basis, I was threatened with rape and murder. On a daily basis, my friends were told that they were evil, depraved, baby-rapists-in-the-making just because they were attracted to people of the same sex.

    You wanna know why your joke struck a nerve? Because a lot of us have heard that shit from people who were not joking at all. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it brings me back to being told, “The Nazis weren’t wrong about everything – they should have camps for the gays to keep kids safe. After all, if they’re already deviant in one way, it’s not a big step to go after kids from that.” with a straight face. From my own mother. It brings me back to listening to my father (who would say the snake bite joke as a serious comment, not a joke at all) brag about the gay trucker he pulled a knife on and threatened to kill for making a pass. It brings me right back to being held by the arms and punched in the gut as my friend has her skull ground in a door while people tear up her homework and kick her ribs and scream “Die, fucking dyke!”

    Sir, I have no doubt that we’ve come a long way, and I have no doubt that you were involved in that. For that, I thank you. I also have no doubt that we still have a hell of a long way to go, and I hope you’re willing to be involved in it as we keep working for improvement. Thanks for the apology, and I hope my explanation helps you to understand (in part) why some of us got so pissed off.

    1. 21.1
      Edwin Kagin

      Thank you for this. The people who are doing this kind of thing are causing much mischief in the world. My enemy’s enemy is my friend.

      Edwin

      1. ischemgeek

        I had to go re-read my previous posts to be sure, but I’m very glad I didn’t let myself jump to conclusions too badly with my first comment (I made an effort to not shoot from the hip, but as I have ADHD, impulsivity and over-reaction are problems for me. I was worried my first comment would be all up in your face with verbal abuse). I apologize that I did so mentally.

        I get what you were going for with it, but I think it’s an issue of us not being the target demographic for the piece. A lot of us posting here having emotional baggage attatched to the snake bite joke, so even if we can recognize that you, yourself are not a homophobe, it still rings homophobic and is hurtful.

        I forgive you the unintentional hurt. After I got some mental distance, in context with the rest of the piece, I was pretty sure it was unintentional, and oddly both of your later posts reinforced that for me (because if it was intentional you wouldn’t have been so hurt by the accusation of homophobia).

        Anyway, water under the bridge: We know you didn’t mean it that way, you know why some of us took it that way at first. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again, but if it does, I’ll know to check my tendancy to over-react and instead post an explanation of why item X might be hurtful to the demographic of this site. If I do slip up and over-react to something (which given my brain chemistry is likely a matter of when, not if), I promise that when I realize I over-reacted, I’ll apologize. Sound good?

        1. Edwin Kagin

          Thank you.

          I also have adult ADHD. I was the kid in school who was counting the tiles on the ceiling while making “A”s and “F”s.

          It is both a blessing and a curse. Understanding something about it can explain much.

    2. 21.2
      HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

      I get the distinct impression that we come from the same place geographically as well as in opinions.

      Fistbump of sympathy?

      1. ischemgeek

        Heh, sure! *fistbump*

        I love my current community. It`s not without its faults, but it’s much much better than some of the other places I’ve lived.

  22. 22
    Carlie

    I’ve tried to stay out of this because I’m not a regular commenter here and didn’t want to look like piling on, but I’d like to take a stab at an answer to “I still do not, after much thought, understand fully what is upsetting to those who wrote as they did.”

    The non-nuanced, non-informational, simplest explanation is that the punchline of the joke was “Ew, I don’t want to be like those people”. That’s a punchline that is simply not funny if you are, in fact, one of “those people”, no mater what the joke is or what the group represented by “those people” is.

    To expand on that from a writing standpoint, later saying that it was satire doesn’t quite work in this instance for two reasons. First, the rest of the essay didn’t refute it as satire. You said your relative didn’t appreciate it but described her in somewhat derogatory terms, and then explained later in the essay that you don’t comprehend gayness or understand what anyone sees in it. That all goes along with the same viewpoint as the joke, rather than refuting it. It doesn’t come off as satire when it is conveying the same message that other sincere parts of your essay does.

    Second, satire is generally over-the-top to point out how absurd the idea is when it is taken to the limit. As you yourself said, this joke is older than dirt; it is exactly the kind of joke that people are wearily used to hearing from their well-meaning but insensitive friends as well as bullies. It’s not good satire if it’s what everyone else is already saying.

    Lastly, as to the comments – people commented because they care. They were outraged because they know you’re better than that. Know what people often do when someone who is a publicly known bigot says something like that? They shrug it off and try to ignore it, because it’s just the norm and expected. They only pounce on it and start really going after it when it’s someone who they assume wants to be an ally, wants not to hurt people, who they know is likely to listen to what they say and not do those things in the future.

  23. 23
    Mattir

    I am a Boy Scout leader. A year ago, as I was taking a class in wilderness first aid, I actually heard an ADULT scout leader ask, in all seriousness, whether one one could check a female patient for broken ribs, since it meant that he might touch her breasts. Yes, this male human being was willing to let any female human being die in agonizing pain from perforated lungs rather than touch boobs. Boy Scouts and their jokes are amusing until you’re in the category of “people who will die because they think some particular body part make providing first aid ooky”, and from my experience, we are ALL in that category. I don’t find it particularly appealing to put my mouth on the mouth of someone who’s vomited recently. But I will, if they need cpr, and I have co-workers who did when a guest to our nature center had a heart attack. (I did go sort of ballistic on the other scout leader, pointing out loudly, in front of numerous teen boys, that I would rather have my boobs or crotch handled by any number of total strangers than die of broken ribs perforating my lungs or heart or bleed out from a miscarriage or whatever.)

    Thank you for clarifying your earlier post. The problem with repeating jokes like the snakebite one is that there are real people out there who take it seriously, and you have to whomp these people over the head with how completely stupid and harmful such attitudes are.

    To paraphrase my psychological testing professor in grad school, when I thought I’d mis-scored an intelligence test, since the guy appeared pretty impaired to me, but had an official IQ of 105 (average range): Ah, I remember when I discovered what average human intelligence is. Makes the whole political system a lot more understandable, doesn’t it?

  24. 24
    carlie

    You undercut the interpretation of the joke as something you were against with the last line of your essay. Saying that you bought a snakebite kit was a use of the technique of bookending, but did it in a way that reinforced the joke rather than contradicted it. Saying you bought a snakebite kit implies “…so if the situation ever did come up, I would have a kit ready and wouldn’t have to touch the icky penis ‘cuz that’s so gay”. Regardless of whatever was in the middle of the essay, the final thought the reader comes away with from your last sentence is still you wouldn’t touch a guy’s genitals even if it meant he died, and that has nothing to do with the joke itself.

  25. 25
    strange gods before me ॐ

    My comment #16 is still in moderation.

  26. 26
    strange gods before me ॐ

    My comment #16 is still in moderation

  27. 27
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Two of my comments (they were both constructive and friendly) have disappeared, as did my follow-up noting that. What’s going on?

  28. 28
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    Mr. Kagin, thank you. This post makes it possible to have a mutually respectful discussion. Which, as you have recently learned, is still greatly needed.

  29. 29
    Makoto

    I think framing the joke as a joke would’ve helped a lot. It was the opening to your post, though, with no indication of it being a joke beyond what I hoped was the absurdity of it – however, I’ve heard the same kind of tale told in all seriousness by homophobes.

    A slight change to “Have you heard this one?” at the start and a block quote around it would go a long way. That said, thank you for taking the time to explain things as you have here.

  30. 30
    Grimalkin

    Kagin, I must wonder- Why did this post only come about after two posts that called us “thought police” and humorless, and (in my opinion) mocked a comment made by someone opposed to you?

    Why do you treat being asked to use proper terminology as if you were being asked to speak in French? Using the most obfuscated term, treating all of them as hard to understand- it sounds almost like thinly veiled mockery. Bringing up that you’ve lived longer than us and seen the horrors of bigotry sounds condescending when you forget how much worse it is to be the direct target of such attacks. You may have faced hatred for allying with certain groups, but I doubt you ever faced it for being something you unavoidably were. It’s almost hurtful to be told that you understand the hatred we face more than us.

    I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble finding the sincerity. If this post had come out in place of the ones about thought police, if it lacked the tinge of “but really, I’m right about this,” then I would accept it.

    To me, it sounds like you’re more worried about hurting your chances of staying on FtB than you are about hurting us.

    Sorry.

  31. 31
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Thanks for finding my comments, Edwin. I regret jumping the gun about the cause of the disappearances.

  32. 32
    Lidia Metoyer

    Awesome post! I will keep an on eye on your blog.

    1. 32.1
      JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

      This appears to be comment spam, based on the link in the username; you probably want to delete it.

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