Rarely is another accusation so pervasive in the lexicon of the pro-LGBT movement.
It’s an ally in the fight against the ignorant/scared/insecure/whatever to the point of cliche. Like a silver bullet in the argumentitive gun, it’s permanently cocked and loaded, ready to be fired between the eyes of anyone who isn’t wholly supportive of any and all gay-rights agendas.
Up until the (let’s be honest here – forced) resignation of Brendan Eich and several senior staff members at Mozilla in April 2014, I hadn’t given the use of the word much thought. Like many things that are screeched out by people with little to say and much time to say it, I tend to switch off pretty quickly and continue on with my day doing things more worth my time – like enjoying a cup of English Breakfast. But as the situation with Eich received more coverage I couldn’t help but investigate what all the fuss was about and the further I read the more I began to shake my head for several reasons, none of which were due to his views on gay marriage. Instead, it was due to the rabid and unthinking outpouring of fury that rapidly followed the exposition of Eich’s previous, personal activities. For those interested, throw Mr Eich into google and have a bit of a read to see what I mean.
Whilst I’m sure the situation with Eich is not an isolated one, it throws an outstanding spotlight onto the problem we’ve got with the word “bigot” in modern western parlance. Here was a professional person with personal views that were quite apart from his professional ones, yet was thrown under the bus almost immediately. Like the opening scene from The Scarlet Pimpernel, it’s off with their heads to throngs of cheers from the gathered public; so it is with anyone whose views bear any resemblance to Mr Eich.
It is not without a remarkable level of irony that those that fire the bigot bullet have themselves become just as intolerant in their attacks as those whom they claim are perpetrators of the very same intolerance. The growing anger toward anyone who doesn’t support LGBT rights has served to close the ears and minds of those who seek said rights. Such people ostensibly operate with the mantra: “I don’t care what the reasons are. Whatever they are, they can never be good enough because your views aren’t mine! They’re not love so they are simply hate, however you try to justify them.” So the person who isn’t pro-LGBT rights – for whatever reason – is shouted down by a bunch of screeching and chanting that would honour any student protester.
In that most sweeping of statements “Love is love”, the sum total of the pro-gay rights movement could arguably be summarised. If you’re not completely pro-gay rights then that means you’re not pro-love, which means you’re pro-hate, which means you’re a bigot. What more needs to be said?
Slight problem here. Whilst I deeply and personally feel the emotional pangs that drive such rhetoric, it is inescapable to me that in dragging out the b-word at the drop of a hat, far more helpful, intelligent and constructive discourse is the price that is being exacted.
If every time someone who is not pro-LGBT immediately shut someone of an opposing view down with: “I don’t care what your reasons are” before a complete sentence was even uttered, how would those on the rainbow side of the fence feel? Irrespective of one’s sexual orientation or views of it, we are all people who like to be heard, validated and (hopefully) educated. Some may argue that views of LGBT rights that aren’t 100% agreement are – inescapably – views of hatred and thus deserve no expression and ought to be shouted down. I’ll put it right out there and say that to use this paintbrush universally makes the pro-LGBT crowd just as bad as the ones they’re attacking.
Ultimately one of the primary goals of pro-LGBT rights is inclusion – harmonising relationships between people of all races, colours and orientations. Shutting down someone whose views differ from your own without even giving them the chance to elaborate? What exactly has been achieved in such a scenario? Perhaps some believe that crushing dissenting opinion is the only way forward. Setting aside much history that testifies to the outcome of such an approach, I would wager that crushing (hateful) speech is far more counter-productive than allowing others to express their views and the reasons why (loving). If you slam someone’s views into the ground by screaming “Bigot!” at them the moment the sentiment has left their mouths and denying them a chance to elaborate then you’re more likely to generate two angry people who’ve gained nothing and learnt nothing.
So if you are indeed the person who shouts this word with hair-trigger sensitivity, I would encourage you to stop, take a deep breath and think about what has been said and respond rather than react. Asking someone to justify their position on a given issue challenges them. To say you do or don’t support gay marriage (or any other LGBT issue) is really easy; to give reasons why, less so. The person against may trot out something as inane as “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” and in such instances I would probably reach for my English Breakfast. But someone else with the same view on the surface may have very good reasons for their perspective and giving them a chance to express their thoughts may open a constructive dialogue where two people don’t get angry and do walk away with having learnt something they didn’t know before. Granted, you both may still completely disagree, but at least you will both understand why.
Needless to say, those of my brothers and sisters that screech and shout at those supporting gay marriage are in no way afforded a licence to not give audience to pro-gay perspectives. If you want to love others you will almost certainly fail if you don’t listen and try to understand why someone may be pro gay marriage.
Drive a screeching wedge further by screaming “bigot!”, or, opening a dialogue that helps two people to understand? The choice is yours.