The other day Feministing had a post about a new anti-gay video produced by the American Family Association, titled “They’re Coming to Your Town.” As I imagine many of you will be, I was horrified when I watched it. Do people really think this way in the 21st century? It demonstrates an extreme level of paranoia about homosexuals:
It seems impossible to reason with the people espousing these views, and I think in fact it is. They will not listen to reason because for some reason they are very afraid. Fear drives all sorts of irrational and violent behavior, and we are not going to connect with people who are afraid by trying to reason with them.
I was struck by one other thing in this video, and that is the extreme us versus them mentality adopted by both sides of the issue. Most people who are sympathetic to the homosexual point of view will probably primarily notice the way in which the people in the video have turned gays into “the other,” apparently seeing gay people not as individual human beings but as an enemy to fight against. However, those of us on the opposite side are also guilty of “otherizing” and turning the people in the video into an enemy. One man in the video says “They branded us as fundamentalists, as Christian hate bigots” and has clearly taken offense at being so labeled. I actually felt a bit empathetic when he said this. No one likes to be labeled and judged, and most people are going to become defensive when they are told that they are a bigot. I think it is counter-productive for us to slap labels on the people who express anti-gay views.
Now, you may argue that they are judging gay people, so why shouldn’t we judge them in return? The answer is that it is not going to get us anywhere to judge in return. We will stay stuck in an us versus them fight as long as we engage in otherizing behavior. I have certainly been guilty of calling people fundamentalists and bigots (although perhaps not to their face) as well, but we all need to rise above the temptation to engage at the level of fear and hate.
What do we do instead? We need to instead engage at the level of shared humanity. We need to recognize that everyone, no matter how bigoted their acts may be, have valid feelings and fears and needs. Furthermore, we need to show the people who act in bigoted ways that gay people are just as human as they are, that gay people have feelings and fears and needs as well. We need to dream big and build bridges instead of walls. What about team-building workshops that bring together people on opposite sides of this issues, that require them to work together in cooperation to solve a problem? What about videos that show the human-ness of every individual, gay and straight, Christian and not? What about just sitting down and talking to each other, really listening to the other side, what they fear and what they need?
Living together in harmony is not going to happen when 51% of the population vote for or against something. It will only happen when we all connect as fellow human beings.