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Basically, it’s religious intolerance unless I remain completely polite in all instances, no matter what someone says? It’s religious intolerance if I emphatically distance myself from any single tenet of what someone believes?

Fuck that.

So leaving aside the hilarious irony that I seriously watched my Twitter feed fill up with Christians & Mormons eager to lecture on how horribly uncomfortable they are speaking about their religious views in mixed company to a bunch of Jews, atheists and pagans... Yeah, because we don’t fucking know what that’s like, I guess?

(Especially when previous comments by some made it rather clear that their objection was just that ohmygod we might end up being treated the way people of other faiths are?)

You think that you’re being perfectly fair, because you can’t tell what you’re asking of people. I wouldn't even be posting this except that my silence wasn't even enough, and you tracked me down twice to demand “dialogue” on the subject of whether or not it’s so fucking unfair that someone might call you homophobic if you say something homophobic. Well, and then wrote a public post because you hadn't had enough people actively and enthusiastically agreeing that you were being oppressed because someone might disagree with a view you actually hold. Previously, I had nothing to say. Now, I guess I do. Good job.

Do I sometimes feel uncomfortable when the conversation topic of "Richard Dawkins is fucking sexist, what’s wrong with the atheist community?" comes up? Yeah! But does that mean I should tell the people talking about it to STFU because they are ruining my ability to be an atheist and WAH WAH do they truly think that all people who are atheists hate women the same way he does? No. Because if you're going to point out that you aren't 100% defined by the group you belong to, then you should also be able to understand that a criticism of the group in general isn't necessarily a personal affront.

I don’t have to support or agree with everything your church says. It’s not my church. I don’t care what faith you have regarding it, or why you have that faith, or what the doctrines say. That isn’t my problem. My problem is that I cannot get away from your church. I can’t take for granted that it isn’t spending tax-free money to lobby against my rights as a human being. I can’t walk across a fucking public university campus without DAILY being harassed by your church’s missionaries who feel so entitled to my soul that they refuse to take, “No, I’m not interested.” Or “No, I’m gay,” or even “Please stop talking to me” as an answer. (One pair was so entitled that they stalked me, leaped out at me from behind public art, and yelled across large open spaces because for them it was some kind of game to make me feel unsafe. Yes. Unsafe. Because you know what feels unsafe? Two men considerably larger than I am cheerily laying physical ambushes for me. With Very Nice Smiles.) I can’t participate in a conversation about sexism in SF without getting derailed into you demanding that I console you because someone else dislikes that you TAKE ACTUAL HOMOPHOBIC ACTIONS.

If you want to start dialogue with, “I want to discuss this but refuse to change any aspect of my faith,” then why the fuck should I participate? What’s in it for me, except a gradual wearing down of my defenses until I smile pretty and agree that why yes anything you say is totally acceptable regardless of any potential harm it may do to others?

There is a tendency within the SFF community to demonize those who hold controversial opinions even when those opinions are expressed politely. This is divisive. Please stop.

Okay, two things:

1) Yeah, because the opinions themselves aren’t divisive? To point at another ongoing kerfluffle – Resnick and Malzberg worded their articles perfectly politely, and what they wrote was fucking awful. Here’s the thing. By the time I get to the point where I’m not polite anymore? THE DIVISION HAS ALREADY HAPPENED. Do you really think that if everyone smiles and swallows their harsh words that it means nothing hurtful has been said?

2) Wow, it must be really nice to be so privileged that as long as nobody raises their voice, you feel welcome and comfortable. That must be fucking amazing. You know what makes me feel unsafe in a space? When someone rolls out some bullshit about queers and then nobody SAYS ANYTHING BACK because we’re all just being nice here and arguing isn’t nice. Fuck nice.

That all said, if you want to talk about how there are a lot of people at SF conventions who say fucking awful things to one another without realizing that what they just said was awful, well, yeah. Someone could write a book.

Do I hate you? No. Do I hate your faith? No. Do I hate your church? No. But if you’re asking me to pretend that I have no problems with anything done in its name, then you are asking too much of me.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 7th, 2013 07:24 pm (UTC)
Jun. 7th, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
Jun. 7th, 2013 07:33 pm (UTC)
Jun. 7th, 2013 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this.
Jun. 7th, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this.

And I don't know if I added to your pain this week, but if so, I apologize.
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:03 pm (UTC)
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
Do I hate you? No. Do I hate your faith? No. Do I hate your church? No. But if you’re asking me to pretend that I have no problems with anything done in its name, then you are asking too much of me.

I will add to this that I cannot pretend I have no problems with things you do or say that actively hurt me. If I call those out, it is not a personal attack. It is me saying, "When you do this, it hurts me." It does not mean I hate you. It does not mean I demonize you. It does mean something you did hurt me, and I do not agree with it.

Edited at 2013-06-07 08:07 pm (UTC)
Jun. 8th, 2013 04:45 am (UTC)
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
I seriously considered writing a post similar to this myself, but decided to hold my tongue. (Eh, no one would read it anyway.)

I mean, I quite literally understand where she's coming from. I was raised Mormon, and I graduated from BYU (and in the process became an atheist, go figure). Mormons have a long history of being shit on by all comers, and there's a lot of disinformation about them out there. Even now I frequently find myself playing Mormon apologist for people talking crap about Mormons when they clearly have no idea what they're talking about. So they can be a little sensitive because of that.

There are in fact liberal Mormons, Mormons who dislike how the church treats women and gays (though a majority of that type in my social circles have left, or at least lost faith, lately). Getting lumped in the majority is annoying to these people. My best friend from college was shut out from consideration for a counseling job at my current university. The person in charge of hiring said it was because "we have too many LGBT students here for me to be comfortable hiring a Mormon." Which sucks, because he's had a lot of experiences that would have made him great at counseling people whose sexual orientation or gender identity is in conflict with the culture they live in, which I'm sure a lot of people here in Texas have to deal with. He was basically passed over for the job because of prejudice based on his religion.

THAT SAID, her post did rather irk me. She is basically asking, albeit politely, for anyone who disagrees with her to shut up. That's where the privilege comes through, in that she seems to feel entitled to be exempted from having people openly disagree with her.

Yeah, maybe the people disagreeing with you don't entirely understand what your position really is or where you're coming from. Yeah, maybe they tend to judge you by the labels that are applied to you, even if those labels are misleading. Yeah, maybe they make strawmen out of your position. But that's what happens when you participate in a diverse community. We all deal with it. I don't think demanding silence is the right response. Maybe we should be talking more to each other, not less.

(And can I just say, I HAVE spent a great deal of time interacting with organized religions, both Christian and Buddhist, and I don't think faith is all that complicated, nor do I think it requires a great deal of experience to recognize the dangers inherent in faith-based thinking. As if most atheists haven't spent a lot of time interacting with organized religions, anyway... It's impossible to escape if you live in the US.)
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this comment. Many of the things here are also things I would have put in the post, but it was long and I was angry. (IE, do people say awful shit about Mormons generally... uh... yeah, and I do my fair share of correcting with "no, because X, Y, and Z", or "Not necessarily, because W." Most recently I didn't have to do the "Disparaging Utah just because there's a large Mormon population there is over the line" because someone else caught that one for me.)

I think it's awful to assume that because someone is Mormon (or whatever) they are anti-queer. Because a) that's not true and b) there's also a huge problem in assuming that any given faith is necessarily incompatible with queerness. But I don't have to remain silent about actual issues that come up, when they come up.
Jun. 7th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
This. Faiths are not monolithic either, e.g. within Judaism some branches are very accepting of queerness...
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
By the time I get to the point where I’m not polite anymore? THE DIVISION HAS ALREADY HAPPENED

Excellent point.

Slacktivist (an actual Christian, in fact) points out this sort of thing as privileged distress


He's big into calling his fellow evangelicals on their BS. He's a perfect example of how you can be a Christian and not be an asshole.

Anti-gay Christians seem to be stuck in this really weird place where they are unable to see the taboos and obligations of their particular sect as applying only to the members of that sect. I mean, look at the Mormons -- they're not out there trying to insist that EVERYBODY has to wear the special underwear, regardless of belief, but they ARE out there trying to insist that everybody has to adhere to their teachings about sexual behavior.
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:45 pm (UTC)
Well, some of them. And some not. But yeah.
Jun. 7th, 2013 08:56 pm (UTC)
Right -- more precisely -- there are Mormons who are trying to get everyone to adhere to their sexual taboos, who are not also trying to get everyone to wear the underwear.

Although, now, I think it would be amusing if there were a big Mormon lobby that was trying to get everybody to wear the underwear, but was pro-gay-rights.
Jun. 7th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
Nancy's plea for "politeness" ignores the fact that, while Mormons are a minority among the religious, they are part of the religious/heterosexual majority in this country. For her to protest that she feels uncomfortable discussing her faith, especially her particular brand of faith, in the SF community is like a straight man who enters a gay-friendly or women-centric space complaining that he can't talk about his guy stuff there the way he can at the bar with his buddies. The SF community is a safe space for atheists and queers (well, it's trying to be, most of the time, and I think it does a better job than the culture as a whole) and for her to feel a little uncomfortable about this aspect of herself in this community is, I'm afraid, just a taste of goose sauce.
Jun. 8th, 2013 04:56 am (UTC)
Look, I have no problems with people DISCUSSING their faith. It's when they try to convince me that they and only they and only their particular version of their faith is the only Right True Thing and I AM GOING TO HEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLL if I say otherwise that I start having a problem - and by that stage it is not I who has stopped being polite.

I am part of a particular culture that is kind of odd - for Serbs, the Orthodoxy is kind of part of the psyche just like Judaism is with Jews - it is something fundamental that defines who we are. But it is also not soemthing that we evangelise to other people. It's part of our culture and even if I don't go to church every sunday or have a personal secerdotal individual who caretakes my soul that doesn't mean I don't keep certain semi-secular semi-religious cultural traditions which matter to me personally and as far as I am concerned (and I think as far as anyone else should, too) defines my own particular relationship to something called God. I am not interested in being "saved", I am not interested in being "converted", and I am particularly not intereseted in hearing or accepting particularly noxious ideas rooted in the relationships that other people believe they have with their own Gods (in which, according to these followers' interpretations of their word, I am so not interested in believing). I have never scorned what I perceived to be a sincerely held faith. When people who hold such faith offer to pray for me in times of crisis, I accept that on the spirit in which it was offered, and that is fine so long as I am then not expected to accept their god as my own. Where other people's paths and mine diverge is the point where they demand respect or even adoration for their point of view while they remain perfectly oblivious or worse dismissive to mine. Respect cuts both ways. And GOd gave us BOTH brains so that we could think and articulate our thoughts. Free will, remember? If (rhetorical) you don't want anyone disagreeing with you about your faith, ever, or question it or its tenets in any way, perhaps (rhetorical) you might consider the possibility that your own apparently deeply held views are more tenuously held and vulnerable than you think. And anyone else's crisis of faith is absolutely not something I am qualified or equipped to deal with - in any way shape or form, but certainly not by "remaining polite" about it and simply cloaking everything in the silence that someone else requires in order to be able to somehow not hear the questions in their own soul.
Jun. 7th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
Right. You can't have a community where ALL feel welcome when some people who consider themselves part of the community take or support actions that harm other people who consider themselves part of the community. Many political stances involve such actions.

Only the privileged get to pretend that all opinions are harmless.
Jun. 8th, 2013 12:17 am (UTC)
Making anti-queer comments to queer people (thus attempting to dehumanise them), and then saying they're dehumanising you by complaining, is plain scary. As was seeing the link passed around in a positive way. I still hold out hope most thought she was talking about general anti-religion sentiment. Which I would agree is bad, as things like banning people from wearing religious symbols, or from stating they have a religion in public, aren't good things. But it's not really what was going down.
Jun. 8th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC)
Thank you for writing about this. I felt so uncomfortable about the dialogue going on and the way it seemed like no one was allowed to offer anything but complete support without being disappointing.

I can't offer complete support for homophobia. I can't offer ANY support.

Guess I'll have to settle for being disappointing. And I'm okay with that.

Jun. 8th, 2013 01:03 am (UTC)
I naively hoped that a gentle, compassionate conversation about the issue would help her grok why her position is problematic, but she doesn't seem to understand that there's a big difference between "X isn't right for me" and "X isn't right for anyone, ever". If we want to be a welcoming community, the one thing we can't tolerate is intolerance.
Jun. 8th, 2013 01:14 am (UTC)
It is, sadly, only in rare and amazing cases that gentle, compassionate conversation helps people of privilege recognize and check their privilege. People who are differently marginalized are usually more open to hear about the marginalizations of others.
Jun. 8th, 2013 01:25 am (UTC)
The irony here is that her experience of marginalization within the SFF community, as she describes it, sounds awfully similar to the experiences of lots of other marginalized people. Feelings of rejection, invalidation, and dehumanization? Feeling like you have to hide an important part of yourself? Gosh, that doesn't sound familiar at all. And yet, she still can't find the necessary sympathy to understand the situation from someone else's perspective.
Jun. 8th, 2013 01:27 am (UTC)
Yes, it is sadly a running joke between my neuroatypical friends that neurotypicals (especially privileged neurotypicals) often find theories of mind so difficult.

Her marginalizations are minor compared to what many of us are facing.
Jun. 10th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
I really hope this was as cathartic to write as it was to read -- because oh, it was.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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