Why I appreciate John Shore’s letter

[Content Note: Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Moral Judgement of Same-sex Relationships, Some mentions of racism.]

Angry LetterA couple days ago, a friend on Facebook shared a link to John Shore’s open letter to Alan Chambers regarding Alan’s apology.  I read it and winced.  It was full of John’s well-known snark and sarcasm and is, in my opinion1, way over the top.  Plus, I often disagree with John about some of his positions.  For example, I’m willing to give people a lot more leeway on their views of same-sex sexual relationships2.  And that whole KKK comparison?  Yikes3.  So like Wendy Gritter4, I found myself uncomfortable with John’s letter.

But as I thought about this letter more and more, I’ve also come to appreciate it.  Yes, there are things about it I’m uncomfortable with.  There are things that I would have said differently or possibly not said at all if I had been the one writing it.  But on the flip side:

  • It is nice to see someone who is all in for supporting my rights and protections and defend not only my humanity and my dignity, but even my (relative) moral rectitude.
  • I look at the number of people (including that friend from facebook) who not only found validation for their own feelings about Alan’s apology through John’s letter, but were better able to understand and clarify what their feelings were because of it.
  • As someone who has gotten a bit of the “why can’t we all just forgive Alan” pushback and even got accused of “yelling” at someone when I objected, I appreciate the fact that there’s a voice that’s full of even more fire that makes my already calm (in my opinion, at least) objections look downright gentle by comparison.

I consider all of those outcomes good things.  So yeah, maybe John’s comment is unhelpful in the sense that it does nothing to smooth things out between Exodus and those hurt by them.  But maybe smoothing things out between the two groups isn’t the only goal.  Who knows, maybe it’s not even one of the top five priorities right now.


1Several other people will disagree with my opinion, including many LGBT people.  That’s cool.

2Ultimately, I do think John is right.  To truly be 100% in the corner of LGBT people, I think someone has to give up their right to pass moral judgment on our relationships5.  However, I do agree with Warren Throckmorton when he says that we all have to live together, and I’m willing to have some degree of relationship with someone who thinks there’s something sinful about same sex sexual relationships.  However, that belief will create boundaries between that person and myself that don’t exist between myself and those who feel otherwise.  So my position may be close to John’s or miles away from it depending on your perception the nuances I’m hinting at here.

3Confession time.  My problem isn’t that I don’t think that there should never be comparisons between homophobia, transphobia, and racism, or the struggles of various marginalized groups.  What bothers me more with this analogy is that far too much of LGB6 activism is being spearheaded by white men who are notorious for only bringing up issues of race to make analogies like this.  We as a community have been rightfully called on this, and John’s analogy makes it clear that many of us and our allies have not internalized that challenge.

4I don’t know if Wendy did this intentionally, but I appreciated the way she phrased her statement regarding the letter.  “I’m uncomfortable with….”  Not “John shouldn’t have said that.”  Not “his tone wasn’t helpful.”

5But then, I think that when a person goes from a morality that focuses on “this is what I believe I am called to do” and instead starts to focus on “this is what you should do,” that person is in trouble territory.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking sexual choices or any other kind.

6I’m intentionally leaving off the T because the activists I’m thinking of also have a tendency to ignore or pay minimal attention to trans* needs as well.

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