the problem with conviction

The internet has been a tiring place to be this week.  All the Facebook profile pictures turned red in support of marriage equality, while you’d think would warm my heart (and sorta do), also make it so I need to spend an extra second reading the name of the person before I know who’s speaking.  I’ve mostly stayed away, but in the times that I’ve come on for other reasons I’ve gotten glimpses of the goings-on from both sides.  Here’s what’s coming up for me.

1.  I’ve said it before, and I don’t know if I can say it any better than this guy in his piece “Why I support Same Sex Marriage as a Civil Right But Not as a Strategy to Achieve Structural Change” so please go read that and then come back.

–when you do, Start here–Of course I think people should be able to marry each other if they have the same sets of genitals, and I’m convinced that will happen in the very near future. What concerns me is how much of our attention and effort goes to this issue when there are equally, if not more, damaging things happening to folks, and not just the queer ones, every day.  Can I get a promise that once marriage equality is universally adopted in this country that we’re going to give just as much attention to the homelessness and suicide rates of queer youth (and again, that’s just one thing)?  I worry that many (not all) of the folks who have donned red in support of marriage equality have been lulled into believing that when this fight is over that everything will be right with the world.  <–it won’t.  It’ll probably help, but it’s not all there is to do.

familyfamilyfamilybatman2. And for those who are expanding the conversation beyond the logistics of marriage and talking about the concept of family, where are all the other “families” represented in this dialogue?

This batman meme is hilarious, but is missing representations of polyamorous families, people who choose not to have children, folks who don’t identify as being on either of the two spectrums in the gender binary and are instead somewhere in between, and a whole host of options I’m sure I can’t even think up…

I’d like to challenge us all (me included) to apply the “equality” theme in our hearts to everyone… even the people and the issues they’ll bring up that we don’t even know about yet.

3. If someone else hasn’t brought it onto your radar yet, let me introduce you to the term “slacktavism.”  It’s fun.  It feels good (the activity, not the word per se).  It promotes a feeling of hrcredlogocommunity/belonging/unity.  It’s incredibly dangerous.  Pink ribbons don’t cure breast cancer (ps, prevention IS the cure.  stop looking for another one).  National _____ Days don’t either.  These are fundraising tools.  Which is great.  Fundraising is important.  But, to escape the slacktivist trap there are two requirements: one–give money/time/effort, and two–give it to someone who is using it for something purposeful and effective.  Don the red, or pink, or blue, or any other color in the spectrum… and then back it up with action.

4. Just one more thing.  In fairness to Rick Warren, this quote has been repurposed multiple times now.  He first said it in conversations about Christian/Muslim relations, then it was used to rationalize the whole Chick-Fil-A, and now it’s popping up again… and it rubs me the wrong way (not the quote itself, but the intent of the folks who are using it to defend their stance on marriage equality).


Just over a week ago my beloved (who is also a woman if you haven’t heard) and I were driving back to LA from the Bay Area when we got hungry at exactly the wrong time on I-5 (the time when there is NOTHING for miles).  We found a little Mexican place to stop at 20 miles down the highway and decided on it as our destination.  We got out of the car in the parking lot and exchanged a squeeze and a smooch (I didn’t even cop a feel like I usually do, read: every chance I get) before approaching the tiny restaurant.  As we crossed the parking lot we saw the woman inside turn the sign from OPEN to CLOSED and lock the door.  We were shocked and horrified…  we were starving, and it was only 8 o’clock, and we’re from Los Angeles… we are not used to this!  Thinking nothing more of it than that we got back in the car and whipped out our iPhones to start looking for other options.  After deciding on something else we hit the road again.  As we were leaving the parking lot two other cars pulled in and in my rearview mirror I saw the sign turn from CLOSED back to OPEN, the door unlock, and a the newly arriving heteronormative families entering and ordering from the counter.

Uh-what? And there it was…  gay-bash (I use the term very, very loosely) number two.  The second time that someone’s perceived awareness of my relationship (and they were right, I do have deliciously marvelous sex with a woman who I am deeply in love with) caused them to treat me differently (this was the first time).

And here’s where I see a problem with the “conviction” argument.  It is certainly the right of every being to have their own beliefs.  We are all going to, and it’s impossible to regulate that anyway so let’s not try…  but when those beliefs result in actions that are labeled “conviction” and those actions result in someone being denied access, rights, privilege, etc… that’s a problem.

Believe that my intimate relationship is wrong–fine.

Think I am an abomination–fine.

Be convinced I’m going to hell–fine.

Fear that my influence will harm your children–fine.

There are probably all sorts of judgmental things I can (and do) say or think about you and your life… but that wouldn’t help anything either.  I could post a negative Yelp review and try and drive business away from you because of my experience, but that won’t make you love and accept me any more than you do now.

Sticking by your convictions means that if you believe it’s wrong to be gay, you don’t have to identify as gay… if you believe that gay people shouldn’t get married, you don’t have to get gay-married, but you don’t get to stop me from being it or doing it.  AND, once you’re a public entity (as in, a business that serves the public) you don’t get to treat me any differently from anyone else.  If you must, you can tell your kids not to accept what they see in me as an acceptable truth.  You can put up a poster that advertises your beliefs up in your restaurant and I can choose whether or not that makes me too uncomfortable to eat there… BUT you don’t get to claim that your rights to your beliefs as a private person translate into your convictions as a business owner (politician, lawmaker, etc) making it okay to deny me anything.

Boiled down to the essence, the problem with the conviction argument is that it’s ineffective.  You denying me a burrito because I’m gay didn’t make me any less gay.

It just made me hungry.

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