I decided to take a break from writing up my thoughts on “Out of a Far Country” by Angela and Christopher and Yuan. While I find elements of the book problematic, especially in light of the culture in which the book was written and that it is presumably supporting, I feel much more strongly compelled to offer my comments on the arguments Janet Mefferd offered against homosexuality in general.
Mefferd attempts to draw parallels between the quest for LGBT rights and the quest to uphold women’s reproductive rights, obviously intending to show how horrible both positions are. However, in order to do so, she engages in some extreme rhetoric — making her accusations that those who support LGBT rights and a woman’s right to choose of engaging in rhetoric ironic at best and hypocritical at worst.
As such, I would like to explore some of the arguments she uses to demean those of us who support LGBT rights. (While I fully support a woman’s right to choose, I would rather leave debunking Mefferd’s caricatures of that issue to someone far more capable of doing so.) Mefford’s statements will appear in bold, while my responses and thoughts will appear in normal text.
1. Both agendas operate as anti-child cultures of death. Abortion kills children. Homosexual behavior can’t create them.
In three sentences, Mefferd has managed to conflate not wanting to have biological children (or not wanting to do so) with being anti-child and conflates being anti-child with operating as “a culture of death,” a term that I find practically meaningless beyond being used as a tool to instill fear and hatred of others.
This argument immediately ignores the fact that one does not need to biologically conceive or give birth to children in order to have children in one’s life. One can adopt. One can become a teacher. One can become a mentor, a big brother/big sister, a scout leader, a den mother, a Sunday school teacher, a youth center volunteer, or many other things. Mefferd is once again engaging in the fetishization of biological parenthood and the invisibilization of every other form of adult-child relationship in order to denigrate LGBT people.
Furthermore, by claiming that not wanting or not being able to have children (and there are those adults who are not interested in having children as a significant part of their life in any form) is to be part of “a culture of death,” Mefferd is arguing that the sole purpose of life is to reproduce. Personally, I find this an unthinkably depressing and pointless understanding of life and culture. If the only purpose in living is to produce children, who will in turn only exist in order to produce more children, who will in turn only exist in order to produce more children, who will….well, seriously, what’s the point. This turns life into nothing more than the biological equivalent of a pyramid scheme or other marketing structure.
Mefferd’s failure to appreciate that people — LGBT and others — can remain childless and yet make great contributions to society in the form of art, science, philosophy, entrepreneurship, and hundreds of other worthy and beneficial pursuits shows how little she values these things.
2. Both agendas falsely play on people’s unnecessary fear and guilt by focusing on the micro personal story, rather than the macro moral issue.
Mefford and many like her seem to think that morality can be divorced from the personal. I disagree, and would argue that it’s the interaction with other individuals that not only defines morality, but makes it necessary. A person living on a mountaintop alone need not worry about morality. Moral concerns are for those of us attempting to live with others.
The phrase “macro moral issue” draws to mind an attempt to reduce morality to nothing more than a checklist of behaviors that are either right or wrong, but without the context of personal interaction, such a checklist is meaningless.
Truth be told, pro-choice people and LGBT rights advocates make it personal because these issues are personal. These things are not abstract concepts, but very powerful and influential realities in flesh and blood humans. I suspect that Mefferd simply wishes to ignore that reality in order to face those tough moral questions about why she should get to dictate how others should live their lives in ways that affect them greatly and herself not at all.
And to be honest, Mefferd and company aren’t nearly as opposed to making the issue personal. After all, they like bringing up Carrie Preejan, Marjorie Chrisoffersen, David Parker, and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and paint them as martyrs. They like to talk (dishonestly, no less) about how individuals’ “religous conscience” could be at stake.
And, of course, if your answer focuses on deeper questions about the effect on society of embracing abortion on demand or so-called homosexual marriage, rather than personal love for your own flesh and blood, then you look like a jerk.
The thing is, people like Mefferd have been pushing these “deeper questions about the effect on society” of various issues and making dire predictions for years. And yet, they can provide no evidence to support those predictions, nor can they offer a convincing argument as to why we should take their convictions seriously. At some point, someone needs to tell Chicken Little that the sky is still as high as it ever was and they need to quit fearmongering.
3. Both agendas rely heavily on Orwellian Newspeak. For the abortion activists, the terminology is “a woman’s right to choose,” “reproductive health decision” or “termination of pregnancy.” No mention of babies. For the LGBT activists, the terminology is “equality,” “civil rights” and “love.” No mention of sodomy.
While it’s certainly true that LGBT advocates (and pro-choice advocates) choose words carefully to frame the issue to focus on what they feel is most important to focus on, Mefferd is being disingenuous by implying that she and those like her don’t do likewise. Her use of the word “sodomy” is a prime example of this, in fact. Mefferd wants to talk about sodomy, but here’s the thing, LGBT rights are not about sodomy. LGBT rights are about people. Sexual acts cannot push for rights. They have no need for rights. People, on the other hand do. Whether I’m celibate, actively engaging in anal sex, or just prefer oral sex (okay, technically oral sex is sodomy too, but most people who use that term are talking about the buttsex), I am a human being deserving of the same respect, protection, and rights as everyone else. In fact, I’d argue that the whole reason Mefferd would rather talk about anal sex is that it allows her to avoid facing me as a human being.
I’m complete skipping her fourth point.
5. Both agendas have succeeded by obfuscating the physical death, pain or injury that comes from embracing their agenda….Similarly, why don’t we ever see a major news analysis on the health risks of homosexuality, as reported on the website of the Centers for Disease Control? http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/msm/index.htm
And just as Mefferd and others like her are obsessed with anal sex (but only if two men engage in it!), she and those like her are also obsessed with the “health risks of being gay.”
Except that she (and they) ignore the fact that the health risks she’s talking about have nothing to do with “being gay.” Truth be told, the health risks she mentions are also health risks for heterosexual people. The problem isn’t being gay, the problem is engaging in risky sexual practices. And while it’s true that HIV (the health risk most often cited) is of particular concern among gay men, Mefferd will not discuss the multiple reasons why that is. She certainly won’t quote this part of the CDC page she referenced:
Homophobia, stigma, and discrimination put MSM at risk for multiple physical and mental health problems and affect whether MSM seek and are able to obtain high-quality health services. Negative attitudes about homosexuality can lead to rejection by friends and family, discriminatory acts, and bullying and violence. These dynamics make it difficult for some MSM to be open about same-sex behaviors with others, which can increase stress, limit social support, and negatively affect health.
That reality makes her next statement particularly interesting.
I guess we are all to believe that the moment America’s First Gay President repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” all the health risks of homosexuality magically went away. Not relevant, homophobe. End of debate.
First, as I covered above, the health risks are not so much about homosexuality but risky behavior, some of which is encouraged by homophobia and other stigma. And no, no one seriously expected such health concerns to magically disappear. This is why HIV educators are still hard at work, why researchers are still working to develop an effective vaccine against HIV. And it’s why many of us are still combating homophobia in the hopes that one day it will cease to contribute to some LGBT people’s poor health. It’s why various organizations are pushing LGBT people to practice safe sex and to get tested — not only for HIV, but other STI’s as well — on a regular basis so that if the worst does happen, they can get the treatment they need to stay healthy and prevent further infections.
With the above statement Mefferd demonstrates that she doesn’t know the first thing about the health concerns of LGBT people. Her lack of understanding demonstrates that she doesn’t care about them either. Bringing them up is nothing more than an attempt to score rhetorical points on her part.
I’m going to pass on commenting on her final points. I think I have demonstrated that her arguments are nothing more than the kind of rhetoric she accuses her opponents of engaging in. Janet Mefferd would like to paint herself as the victim of the big mean gays and “abortionists.” Yet her clear dishonesty demonstrates that she is merely projecting her own behavior on those with whom she disagrees.