Who Is Declaring This “War On Gender?”

What’s with this trend on the right of fighting against the wars we’re supposedly waging on the left? Every year, the viewers of Fox News are treated to Bill O’Reilly’s insane antics over his made up “war on Christmas.” Those of us who want equal protection under the law are constantly accused of waging a “war on religious freedom.” Now, in the midst of the raging debate over Trans people using the washroom, a bunch of very vocal people are fear-mongering over a supposed “war on gender.” A war on gender? What?

It’s pretty easy to tell who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t when it comes to gender issues. For example, if you think we are all born as one gender or another, you are confused about the difference and relationship between gender and sex. If you think that all Trans people identify as the gender opposite their assigned sex and seek physical transition, you have obviously never bothered to learn anything about Trans identity; and if you think there is a war on gender, you have failed to listen to those of us who have been trying to explain this to you ad nauseum.

I’m going to take a different approach to this today, by saying that the acceptance of Trans identities, and the openness with which we listen and understand, reveals a beautiful truth about humanity. What the right has failed to realize, perhaps what many of us on the left don’t even realize, is that our movement is changing conventional wisdom on the human condition. What we have always thought, or known, about ourselves is not diminished by this, rather it is enhanced by the realization that we are much more complex than we ever imagined. As LGBTQ+ people become more emboldened, more confident in coming out and living their authentic selves, we learn more about our species. The movement sweeping our world is not a war on gender, it’s a revolution of discovery!

The bible, used by the right to justify opposition to progress, is not a textbook. It does not speak truth to the human condition, and the view(s) of humanity contained within its pages is simple and rudimentary, with little nuance. We are more complicated than that, and to embrace humanity is to try to understand that complexity. Passing judgment is something we do naturally, but when we depend on an ancient text to pass judgment in the ‘now,’ we do ourselves, and those we are judging, a terrible disservice. To insist upon this method, and to ‘double down’ on what we know, or even suspect, to be insufficient, is the very embodiment of willful ignorance. This is the problem in the church today. Too many people just don’t care enough. Too many people prefer to cast aspersions instead of seeking truth, because seeking truth, and attempting to understand it, is hard. It’s much easier to take what they have believed for so long and cling to that as infallible. What a horrible injustice it is to reject the fulfillment of discovering more about the world around us.

So I ask those who say we have declared war on gender: who is declaring this war on gender? I am what many of you would mistakenly call a “gay activist,” am I declaring war on gender? The only war on gender is the one you have made up. Just like Bill O’Reilly and his war on Christmas, you are fighting a figment of your imagination. There is no war on gender, we are merely learning. We are embracing new knowledge, preferring not to sit stagnant with ancient beliefs. Refusing to accept the ever-expanding library of knowledge about who and what we are, in favour of a belief that diminishes our complexity is, quite frankly, insulting. Why are you so threatened by the rejection of gender roles? Why are you so threatened by the notion that a person can be born in the wrong body? Why are you so threatened by a person who is biologically one sex, but whose brain is organized as both male and female? Why do you refuse to even try to learn about the reality of a gender identity that doesn’t fit the male-female binary at all?

Do you know how much we suffer? We live on edge, constantly having to check our words for fear of what we might let slip, and to whom. At 34 years old, nobody should be afraid to come out to their parents … but I was. Do you know how demeaning it is, how utterly dehumanizing, to be afraid to show your true colours, to be afraid of physical attack that too often ends in the deaths of our peers, and do you know that the suffering we endure is entirely your fault? Ideas based on religious beliefs and convictions, picked like low-hanging fruit from the pages of scripture, have been applied to social conventions with devastating effects. Those who hold these are to blame for the pain we endure. If those ideas were not pushed and insisted upon, if everybody embraced the beautiful diversity of the human condition, we wouldn’t have these problems. The issues we face are not internal, they are brought about by the exclusionary and restrictive norms and practices of tradition. My struggle, for example, is not with myself; it’s with the consequences of living openly as myself.

Think about that last statement for a minute. If you still can’t imagine any reality other than the make-believe one where me and my cohorts have declared war on gender, you’re not worth wasting any more time on.

Why Two?

The question has been asked, and it’s time it was answered. A select few mainstream evangelicals are posing this question, and although responses have been attempted, none have yet proved sufficient. “Why Two? Why not three, or four, or ten?” This question, of course, is about marriage. Having won the battle for the rights of two people of the same sex to marry, we now face a question designed by evangelicals to trap us into a moral corner. The assumption is that we are insistent upon marriage being confined to only two partners, and because they see our victory as a redefinition, they want to hear our explanation as to why we insist upon two. “If you are redefining marriage anyway, why stop now? Why two? Why not more?”

Now, if you are in the pro marriage equality camp, and you do feel that marriage must be confined to two partners, I would love to hear it. But our movement was never about just two. It’s about equality, and the historic fight won in the U.S. Supreme Court was about people of the same sex being able to enter into a marriage contract with one another – two because that’s the marriage convention we have. If a group of polygamists/polygynists began demanding the right to marry tomorrow, I for one would not have a problem with it; and here’s why:

Relationships that have a sexual component, in this case marriage, hinge on consent. The reason we do not allow children to marry children, or adults to marry children or animals, is because children and animals do not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand the meaning of such relationships; and cannot appropriately give consent. In the case of adults, be it two or more than two, consent can freely be given. Polygamy may not be right for you, it certainly wouldn’t work for me, but where consent is present, I see no reason to impose restrictions on it based on my own distaste. I can’t answer the question “why two,” because I am not of the mindset that it must be only two.

I must admit, I find this question a bit curious, considering where it comes from. Those posing it are firmly in the “only two” camp, and every time a progressive says what I just said, they feel a small sense of victory. “Ha! See? They have no morals! They say they are good people, but they just contradicted themselves!” The problem is that nobody contradicted themselves at all. I am a good person, and believing that marriage between consenting adults is okay, be it between two or more people, doesn’t make me a bad person. Among the many assumptions these opponents make is the belief that we agree with their morality, at least to a certain point. “We believe marriage is between two people, they agree with us on that, so if they say polygamy is okay, they have made a moral contradiction.” The reasoning behind this question is ludicrous, and based on an unfounded premise. Many of us do not agree.

The first five books of the Bible talk positively about polygamy frequently, and it’s used in all sorts of contexts – economic necessity, social organization, even by divine command. Two-person marriage is not the only God-ordained form outlined in the scriptures, yet it is seen as a fundamental issue of morality today that only two people, one man and one woman, be granted the right to it. The question “why two” is a good one, but it is being asked of the wrong people. Those asking “why two” need to have the question turned back on them. To the evangelicals asking us “why two,” I ask the same of you. I never said “two,” and the funny thing is your Bible doesn’t insist upon it either. So why two? Why is it that you are so adamant that marriage be between two people? Let’s be honest, you have more scriptural support for your arguments against same-sex marriage than you do against polygamy; and that’s not much. So why two?

As a final thought, consider this. We on the progressive left are being challenged on moral grounds by people who believe a book that says a woman, subject to the will of her father, can be forced to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Exodus 22:16-17). We are being asked “why two” by followers of a God, eternally unchanging, who allows polygamy under certain circumstances (Genesis 16:1-11), and is arguably generally accepting of it when you take all of scripture into account. We are being asked “why two” by people who assume we think “just two.” They don’t know if we feel this way, they just assume we do, and cry moral foul when it turns out we don’t. To our evangelical opponents, perhaps you would care to answer the question: Why two?

 

Are We Too Judgmental?

In May of this year, Dr. Michael Brown brought up the issue of judgment on his radio show, “Line Of Fire.” I listened to that segment recently when I downloaded the episode as a podcast, and I heard him make an argument that I was already familiar with but hadn’t given much thought. For some reason, it struck a chord this time. The argument is that when we call people like him bigots, liars, nazi’s, etc, we are guilty of the same negative judgment. I’ve heard this from others in the religious right, and it’s worth addressing. LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms is one of those things that spurs passionate controversy. Arguments can get very heated, and because I fancy myself an advocate who can maintain a modicum of cool in those situations, I’m working through the question – as a movement, as a group, are we too judgmental?

It pains me to admit that, as a group, we on the left do have a problem with the way we handle things. This is blatantly obvious when our opponents get death threats. I have spoken out against many opponents, including a man who I consider to be the absolute worst kind of human being (Scott Lively), and not once have I suggested he commit suicide, encouraged vigilante justice, the death penalty, castration, or anything of the sort. I never cuss anybody out, and I use adjectives with definitions that fit. I do it this way because I believe that the telling of the truth must be honest, but need not be brutal. After all, the term “brutally honest” is almost always used as a justification to be hurtful, and that is unacceptable. What I’m saying here is this: I’m about to argue that we are not too judgmental, but we do have to recognize our flaws. We’re good, but we should be better. Too many of us allow our emotions to get carried away, and we say things that give anti-equality activists more to demonize us with. We have to stop doing that.

In the interest of keeping a certain objection at bay, I did write an article using the word “terrorist” in regard to anti-equality campaigners and organizations. Some people took offence to that. I wrote a follow-up piece that I won’t re-hash here (it’s all on this site to be read at your leisure), but the gist of it is that I provided a logically sound argument that, I felt, justified my use of the word. This is what I’m talking about. When you throw words out there – potentially offensive words like “terrorist” – be prepared to explain yourself. If you present a sound argument, I support that. A sound argument will stand on its own, regardless of who disagrees or how much the right attacks it. It’s when we hurl death threats and use intimidation tactics that the line is crossed. That line must never be crossed.

So are we too judgmental? In a word, NO. What you fail to realize, Dr. Brown, is that the word “bigot” has a definition that fits, and nobody called you “nazi’s” until Bryan Fischer, Rush Limbaugh and company started levelling that disgusting word against us. Now, I know an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, but this is a culture war that was waged by Christians. We didn’t start this. All of it could have been avoided if LGBTQ+ people were just accepted from the beginning, but instead you had to take your 11th commandment and bash society over the head with it. “Thou shalt not be gay” is a gross misreading of the text, and it’s disheartening to see a respected theologian making such weak arguments, not to mention framing arguments for us that we don’t even make, and then tearing them down on his radio show. It’s not too judgmental to call a spade a spade. As long as there is a logical argument supporting our claims, your only objection could be that the truth hurts. I have followed you for a long time. I read your articles, I download podcasted episodes of your show, and I consider you to be an example of intolerance. The judgmental attitude, sir, rests on your shoulders; and it is certainly NOT the righteous judgment that Jesus calls on you to make.

When it comes to right vs left, religion vs the secular world, one can’t help but notice the ever-present noose being toted around. Our pro-equality activism is a reaction to negative judgment, it didn’t just start on its own. Our evangelical opponents spend a lot of time and energy looking for opportunities to throw that noose over our heads and squeeze. It’s pretty bad when a pastor talks about praying for God to “rip out Caitlyn Jenner’s heart,” but we’re the villains for using the word “bigot.” Bryan Fischer takes to the airwaves ranting about the “pink swastika,” that he made up, and although I choose not to use the term “nazi,” those who do respond with it spur reactions that completely miss the point. “Look at those hateful ‘gay activists’ using our own tactics against us!” Any and every opportunity is seized upon to tighten that noose, and when their plans are thwarted by laws or Supreme Court decisions, the anger grows. “Why won’t you let us oppress you?! Religious liberty!!” It must be tiring to go through life with such anger and paranoia.

At the end of the day, we on the progressive left have nothing to apologize for. Aside from some unfortunate missteps that must be corrected, we are not the ones responsible for negative judgment, nor are we to blame for the social ills that evangelicals created all by themselves. Our cause is reactionary. Without religious bigotry, there would be no fight to be had. Without religious bigotry, the Pride movement would not be necessary. Without religious bigotry, society would be further ahead. Are we too judgmental? No. We are responding out of hurt. The charge of being too judgmental finds its home with those who condemn us.