What Do I Do At an Anti-Gay Workshop? March 3, 2009

What Do I Do At an Anti-Gay Workshop?

There’s a workshop taking place tomorrow night not far from where I live. The subject: How to respond to “Homosexual Activism” in our public schools.

That is tempting. It’s free and walk-ins are welcome, so I have an urge to drop by. I’ve never been to one of those kinds of meetings, so I’m curious what’s said and what the people there actually think. I’ve heard soundbytes in the media and I’ve read secondhand about what conservative Christians have to say on the subject, but I’ll admit I don’t know very many people who are this rabidly anti-gay-rights.

So this sounds like something I want to check out.

The bigger question is how I should act when I’m there.

Should I:

  • stay silent and just be observant? (This would allow me to assess the situation and take in everything that’s going on.)
  • be somewhat vocal and try to politely rebut things that are said?
  • befriend everybody, win their trust, and slowly work my magic in an attempt to eventually take over the group. (Hilarity will ensue.)
  • pretend like I don’t know anything about the subject, ask people what this “homosexual activism” is all about, and record their responses?
  • start debates with people over the absurdities of their arguments?

The last option doesn’t appeal to me very much. The second option is more enticing, though not nearly as interesting. Maybe I left out a good option.

What would you do?

Is there anything you’re really curious to find out about that I might be able to help with when I go there?

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  • Kate

    I don’t know if I could attend and not throw up at some point. Soooooooooo…if you can manage to do THAT, more power to ya.

    I kinda like option 3.

  • Ohhhhh, you should totally do the “act like you don’t know anything” one; just to get the candid responces. That would be hilarious.

  • Andrew

    Frankly, going to any such meeting and not laughing until I get kicked out would be too much for me, but option 3 strikes me as the best approach.

  • Jay

    I like #4. Hoist them with their own petard.
    Also, maybe push a little bit with references to Ted Haggard or such.

    Try to pin them down on details, like should lesbians be stoned to death, or only sodomites.

    Also, bring shrimp cocktail, mini cheeseburgers or anything else that would violate Leviticus and be grounds for stoning, along with the mis-translated nonsense about “teh gayz”

    But recording would be the best. Then publicize it.

  • Sam

    Option 4 sounds like the most profitable choice…it has the best chances of being funny and educational for us. Their responses could be comic gold, and/or they could provide us an insight to why they say the hateful and ignorant things they say. It also has a low chance of the bigots singling you out as one who doesn’t share their opinions (unless they’re racist white people too :-/…but if they are, none of these options would particularly be fruitful anyway).

  • I vote for Option 4 – pretending like you don’t know anything. You’re more likely to get honest answers to what they believe and you can throw them off their guard more easily with your “innocent questions” to their responses. As with the previous option, hilarity should ensue.

  • Ian

    Definitely go for option 4: I’d love to hear what they have to say to say about this ‘homosexual activism’ in their own words.

  • Josh

    I don’t think I would be able to stand going to something like that either . It’s more than a bit repulsive.

    I personally like number 4 (without recording due to questionable legality). People can say the oddest, vilest, and sometimes most honest things when they think they can mold your opinion to conform to theirs.

  • yossarian

    I say combine the don’t know anything to taking over the group. Start really slow, win their confidence and then BAM!

  • Option 4 – at worst, you’ll get it clear from them what, exactly, they think is going on – as crazy as it is likely to be. at best, asking “innocent” questions may make someone think (unlikely, but possible).

    Option 3 would make for the best sitcome pilot, though.

  • You could always go underground (called: “going poe”) and make the most ridiculous arguments and see if they go along?

    Actually, that is sort of a mean tack (though I do this on the internet from time to time); probably playing innocent might work.

  • nick aweasomeson

    Become their friend, then slowly turn them all gay.

  • Ender

    I, like you, would like to know what goes on and what is said at one of these things. So I’d vote for option one with a decent write up 🙂

    Also option one allows you to go back and do any of the options at a later date.

  • Can’t speak on the details (too many to go into, really, and too many possible approaches), but definitely take notes. This is the kind of get-together where they cook up these subtle religious/political memes, which they then slowly and carefully set into motion; kinda like planting seeds and waiting for them to grow.

    I mean, don’t you wonder how these stupid stereotypes regarding particular non-Christian groups got started? Christians have been spreading bullshit propaganda since the beginning of the religion; from naming other deities after Christian demons, to spreading lies about specific individuals or groups.

    Just seems like the kind of thing you’d want to collect information on, I guess 0_0

  • Bart the Pirate

    What to do?

    1. Attend
    2. Listen
    3. Learn

  • I just finished reading the chapter in American Fascists (The Christian Right and the War on America) by Chris Hedges where the author attended one of these. He simply observed and took notes.

    If this meeting is anything like the one that Hedges describes in the book, then go and be afraid. Be very afraid.

    The above book is a fabulous read, BTW. Highly recommended.

  • JG

    What you really need to do is be Steven Colbert ironic. Example: “How dare people fight for equal rights, next thing you know they’re going to want to give women the vote”.

  • Tom

    Ok. I’m gay, I deal with this kind of stuff all the time, and I have a LOT of experience arguing with right wingers about gay rights.

    1) DO NOT go in thinking you’re going to argue with them unless you’re really prepared in advance, are familiar with the arguments you’re going to hear, are familiar with all their expected rebuttals, etc. They are just as batshit crazy about homosexuality as they are about the existance of Jaayeeeeeeezus, if not moreso, and there is just as much nonsense built up around it. If you try to argue with them without knowing the lore of nonsense they have built up to justify their bigotry, they’ll just react to your argument with another bit of their insanity, their brain will turn off, and you’ll have gotten nowhere.

    2) You can not simply argue with their central tenet, that homosexuality is EEEEEEVILLLLLE and so are all HOMOS. If you want to make them see the error of their ways, you have to instead pick apart their arguments piece by piece, detail by detail, and most of all, you have to play with their heads. Direct argument doesn’t work, they have too many defenses against outright rationality, so you have to use arguments designed to screw up their expected thought patterns to force them to think about it. For example: right wingers argue that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because then they might adopt children. So, I point out that gay people can already legally adopt in 48 of the 50 states and like it or not there are plenty of gay people with kids, and that preventing gay people from marrying only forces their children to live with the economic disadvantage of having unmarried parents, and then I ask them why they hate children so much that they would do this to the poor kids. They don’t know how to react at all; it bypasses all of their arguments and forces them to defend themselves for violating their own morals (or, more importantly, what they believe to be their own morals), in this case, for harming children. That brings me to…

    3) If you’re going to argue with them, you have to force them to see how their bigotry against gay people violates their other principles, such as in the example above. (Or as I said, violates the principles they believe they believe in.) Basically, this means you have to show them how they’re violating the rules of the bible, not of the secular society we believe in. This may not come naturally to a devoted atheist, but if you know the bible, you can do it. Strategies that can help include forcing them to see that they are judging their neighbor, that they are being cafeteria christians by demanding that people obey only one law from Leviticus while ignoring the rest, that they are bearing false witness with some of the outright lies told about gay people, and that they are casting the first stone by seeking to punish others when they are sinners themselves. And if it’s a woman, you can point out to her that the bible says that she may not presume to teach anything to a man, so she’s clearly not a believer in the bible since she presumes to tell gay men how to live their lives. Oh, and if they call gay people “homos” or “faggots” or other names, you can shame them by pointing out that they are clearly not “loving their neighbor”, that the names they use make it clear that they are hateful and judgmental and “unchristian”. Force them to see that they are being hypocritical, and you will have found the gap in their armor.

    4) Do not expect any visible wins on your part if you argue with them. These things take time. Much like the process of a theist slowly beginning to have doubts and eventually realizing their religion is a sham, they will have to slowly develop doubts about what their religion tells them about gay people, let light dawn slowly over marble head, and eventually come to realize that they’ve been a bigot and have to change. You can help set them on that road. You won’t get them to the destination in one sitting.

    5) If you decide to go with the “record their responses” route, make sure to ask them about things like how many gay people they know, how many gay friends they have, and what their beliefs about gay people are. You’re sure to get some, uh, interesting results.

    6) There is one other reason for arguing with them, which is to put on an exhibition for undecided people. By putting on a rational argument and getting the bigots to show that they have nothing to stand on but bigotry, you can essentially railroad the bigots into making themselves look so bad that it will turn people away from their side. But, this strategy will not convince the bigots of anything because they won’t respond to rationality, and it’s pointless if you don’t have an audience of undecided observers.

  • jmdoran

    I think you’re missing the obvious option:
    flirt with the men.

  • If you’re going to go, you should have a good disguise…go to the drama dept. at school and see if they have a big fuzzy mustache you can borrow. It might cover your mouth when you can’t keep yourself from cracking up at the absurdity of their arguments.

  • andrew

    i would go and record the proceedings with a pocket mic.

    also ask some innocent sounding questions

    report your findings. maybe even post the audio

  • I’d say none of the above. Rather, eat lots of beans during the day and fart away throughout the meeting. After all, what difference would it make distinguishing your fart from their blather?

  • PrimeNumbers

    Go with #4. Publishing their nonsense afterwards would be great to read. If you want to say something, say it at the end, and make it a simple statement that they’re wrong. Then leave, unless they invite debate or discussion.

  • Eddie

    I would combine #4 and #2. Pretend to know nothing of the issue and let them explain the problem. You, the curious new guy, just poke holes in their explanations with the pretense that “i still don’t see the problem” They will continue to explain, and you can continue to point out why that doesn’t make sense to you.

    This is my general method of reconstructing peoples points of view. It has a way of frustrating the hell out of people who have no real reason to think the things they do.

    Inevitably religion will come up. Someone will say “The bible says…”. To these people you can either simply point out your not Christian, and respond “whats that got to do with gay activists?” when they ask your religion (this could change the subject); or you can simply (to not lose them) say thats not the what you believe god wants, or something like that just to avoid pointing out your not Christian(since that might change the subject) while expressing a different Christian outlook,.. avoid details as irrelevant to keep on topic.

    I also like the idea above..
    “flirt with the men”

  • Lynne

    Record it and post in on youtube.

  • stephanie

    Hey, sounds like fun! Afterward we can go for ice cream and then hit a Clan meeting!

    If you go, I recommend either option 1 or 4. You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind at the meeting and the very fact of your disagreement will be seen as trying to be disruptive instead of objective.

  • TC

    It sounds like your goal here is satisfying your curiosity.

    I’d say go and listen. Don’t take notes, as that would be entirely too obvious. Seriously. That’ll probably just make you stick out and could lead to an uncomfortable confrontation.

    Write down your recollection of the event after it’s over. You won’t get a transcript this way, but you’ll still be able to give an accurate recounting of what happened.

  • I would start by lurking (being silent and observant). I think I would leave if I heard anything resembling hate speech or open bigotry.

    It sounds fascinating, but also depressing. I would be curious to know if it is hate or ignorance that drives an individual to oppose gay rights – civil rights.

    If it be ignorance, education is possible; if it be hate, they are lost.

  • Tometheus

    Since this is your first time, I’d say go with #1 at least at first, then you can do the others later.

  • Jen

    Make out with a dude.

  • Jesse

    I honestly think that your first option is the best for a good amount of time… see what they are really about before you make the next step of meeting others and speaking out to its absurdity. After a few meetings then you shall decide whether or not to speak out… Maybe bring a few eggs with you. 😉

  • Be careful about surreptitious recording. In some states (like California), that sort of thing is potentially illegal and use of the recording would be admission that you have committed a crime, or could subject you to civil liability.

    Now, the defense argument is that it is a meeting to which the public was invited, and remarks made at the meeting were not intended by anyone to be private. And that defense would win in a lot of courts and in a lot of states. But the availability of a good defense is not the same thing as not being sued in the first place.

  • llewelly

    Whatever you do, please, please, please record it and make the recording available online.

  • Tom N

    I really like option 4. you need to ask questions like, “well if god created everything, why would he allow homosexuals to create him, afterall after each day of creation he finished and saw that it was good, genesis says so. How could there be homosexuals if they weren’t part of creation and god’s handiwork?”

    Kill them with bible references. That’s always good.

  • Catherine

    I’d go with the ‘play ignorant and ask lots of questions’ option, assuming you can do so while resisting the urge to laugh or start an argument.

    I’m gay, and could never sit quietly through that sort of thing.

  • #4! Asking questions is good. The more you can make them stop and think, the greater chance that one of these times they’ll actually think themselves outside of the little compartmentalized box in their minds.

  • Mike

    I say go for the honest approach. Tell people you blog about religious issues, then proceed to ask uncomfortable quaetions. If they start to get too defensive placate them with words to the effect that you need answers to these difficult questions to have ready answers for all those dammed athiests that keep coming to your site… then continue with the uncomfortable questions.

  • laterose

    Anything that ends with the paranthetical phrase “(Hilarity will ensue)” gets my vote.

  • Well, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. You can always play it by ear.

    If you are just trying to satisfy your curiosity, maybe just watching and listening will suit your purposes. It would probably make you feel better to wear a T-shirt or some flash that indicates you support equal rights.

    If, as I expect, it’s a Konservative Kristian Koalition “circle jerk” just stand up and say with disgust, “This is not what Jesus would do” and walk out.

    If you do stay and end up striking up some conversations try this curve ball. As Tom says above, a direct rational approach won’t work…. so…

    Tell them that homosexuality is genetic, that the gene for homosexuality is passed on from the parents. By condemning homosexuality, they are forcing those with the homosexuality gene to hide in the closet, often marrying and having children because that is what is expected of them. The problem with this approach is that there is a good chance the homosexuality gene will be passed on to the children, meaning the problem is just being passed on to future generations. Instead, if they are supportive of homosexuality, that same person may live a happy life with a partner of their own sex, never passing on their genes to future generations. The best part is that in a few generations there will be no more people with the homosexuality gene! So by being supportive of homosexuality, not only will these people be liked by everyone, they’ll ultimately be destroying homosexuality FOREVER!

    The above may be complete rubbish, but it pretty much follows True Christian(tm) logic.

  • MathMike

    Just beware of option Zero, where you run into the parents of a student or two.

  • Ashlyn

    – Pretend to be a gay man protesting gay activism. Watch the hilarity happen!

    Otherwise, I like number three. I am all about the hilarity

  • My2Sense

    I think you should dress smartly, act over-the-top flaming, but loudly bring up every stereo typical amazingly bigoted queer bashing thing you can. Nothing says satire like a ferry prancing around screaming about the pillow biters ruining society through de-masculation.

  • Jared

    I like the taking over option.

  • Everyone there will be a closeted gay, so I would take note of all of their names and phone numbers and have continuous sex for the next two years.

  • Siamang

    No breaks for meals, Reed?

  • I favor (3), if it really will cause hilarity to ensue. Though I think (4) could do that too.

  • Go undercover. See what you can learn about them. Learn about the people and what motivates them. Then write a blog about your experience.

  • Don’t go in and attempt to debate them. There’s no getting through to people like them. Instead pretend to be a blank slate and take in everything they say, and ask for any literature they have to offer. I’m very interested in what propaganda they’re spreading. Then come back and fill us in – all the dirty details.

    The best defense we have against them is to know what they’re up to.

  • Ed

    Option 4 sounds like it would be the best approach, for now.

  • Forkboy

    I’m disappointed that you even have to ask.

    The only correct course is to go after them with the same sort of zeal they have when going after the so-called gay agenda.

  • Distract them from the whole gay thing by being an atheist activist.

  • Polly

    My2Sense nailed it.

  • Bruce

    Bring a recording device or take lots of notes. Play like your one of them. And then use their own words against them by writing a letter to your local newspaper exposing their hate and ignorance.

  • Emily

    option four. innocent and confused is always the way to go.

  • Tom

    I have to disagree with buffy – you CAN change their minds, it’s just time consuming and difficult. I have changed the minds of rabidly anti-gay bigots before. One was so upset by what I drummed into his head over time that he left his radical right wing church over it, and if I remember correctly, he intended to find a new, more liberal church but ultimately stopped going to church altogether. He gave me no clue that his opinion was changing, just one day he suddenly announced that I was entirely right all along, apologized, and switched sides.

    One down, one hundred million to go.

    To Bruce, I’d like to say, it’s a bad idea to record people without their permission. You can be arrested for that in some states, sued in many others. Best to walk in with video camera obviously in hand so nobody can claim not to have known what was going on, and if anyone says they don’t want to be recorded, just walk away.

  • SarahH

    A combination of #1 and #4, please.

  • grazatt

    option four. innocent and confused is always the way to go.

    I agree, best way to get honest answers

  • Dallas

    Tom: Thanks so much for your well-reasoned, articulate comments. I live in California, where Kenneth Starr is trying to invalidate the 18,000 gay marriages that took place last year. I appreciate your giving me some much-needed responses to use in discussions with my less-liberal acquaintances. If you have additional suggestions, please post them here. I am learning a lot from you–again, thank you!

  • Vystrix Nexoth

    I second Mike’s suggestion (offer difficult questions under the pretense that you’re a supporter looking for responses to questions from those atheists at your blog). If they ask for your blog’s address, give them a tinyurl address that leads here. 🙂

    Or, as some others have mentioned, make ironic arguments ostensibly favoring their position but with flaws even they should be able to see, and/or that would turn others off (those who aren’t already firmly in their camp) if they were to use such arguments themselves. Perhaps, for example:“a woman being a lesbian means she’s being sexual in her own right rather than accepting men’s God-given authority over her sexuality” or “a woman being a lesbian means she’s exercising her own sexuality rather than exercising a man’s sexuality”“men who are gay are reduced to the status of women: men ought to screw, not be screwed”“genitals matter, people!” or “it matters whether you have a penis or a vagina!”Arguments like those might well resonate with those people. However, the arguments are overtly sexist, which many people— who aren’t already firmly in the sexist camp— are offended by, or at least uncomfortable with, so such arguments might turn them away from the anti-gay side. Just as with elections: you’re not going to convince hardcore partisans from the other side, it’ll be decided by those in the middle who can be swayed.

    (I chose gender as the basis for those examples because, ultimately, homophobia is sexism, in which approval of something depends on the genders of the people involved.)

    Hope I didn’t post this too late for it to be considered. Heh.

  • Cindy

    This is probably the hardest option, but the most productive. Go with, if not an open mind, an inquiring mind. Strive to find out where your own strawman of their position is.

    After reading the statement from the Vatican today about the “atheist” stance that evolution proves there is no god,(ack, giant strawman hurts my brain) my conclusion is that the only way we move forward is to argue against the real positions, not red herrings or outlying crazy folks or our misunderstanding of their beliefs.

    Find their best arguments from their most reasonable people in spite of how distasteful it may be. You have to assume that at least a few of them aren’t complete idiots and can at least present an interesting position.

    Or go and flirt with guys. 🙂

  • Pseudonym

    I have to agree with everything that Cindy said 100%. Especially the bit about flirting with guys.

    By going with an inquiring mind and an irenic attitude, you can find out for the rest of us what their actual positions are. Then report back what you found.

  • Go in drag!

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