|Posted on October 11, 2013 at 12:20 AM|
By Andy Nemec
I've been at this Internet thing for quite a while now. So long that I remember seeing web pages rendered in text with no graphics. Long enough to remember 9600 baud modems. Before that, it was BBSs - crawling along at even slower speeds with ASCII graphics - which does make me appreciate the modern web delivered by a broadband connection.
While the technology has changed quite a bit, one thing has been constant: On-line debates. Yes, we've been debating, cajoling, and calling each other crazy even before the dawn of the digital age – it's just become faster and easier to do so. And we're all equal opportunity arguers – gay or straight, right or left, we all have something to say on any number of topics. However, the Internet, with its anonymity and lack of eye contact, makes it easier to spout off with impunity.
Anyone who's spent any amount of time on the internet will say that when anything gay-related comes up, the debate gets particularly fierce. It's no big revelation that there are a considerable number of people out there who express a lot of animosity toward the gay community, whether they are a public figure or some guy in his basement office who wishes to share his opinion. Of course, there are a lot of us out there ready, willing and able to fight back. Which is good – to a degree. It's one technique used in fighting back that troubles me, however.
Whenever a public figure, or that guy in the basement, gets negative or even abusive, an accusation is thrown out. It generally goes something like this: “Sounds like a closeted self-loathing gay guy talking!” I've seen it in comments regarding video clips from anti-gay preachers, politicians, or other public figures with remarks like “Oh honey, you're flaming gay!”
Marcus Bachmann, one of the more common victims of "the accusation." "Ha ha, you're gay. We can't think of anything
more insulting to call you."
It's used as some kind of insult that is the “killing argument” designed to shut that person up, and to denigrate them. It's the be-all, end-all that is supposed to swiftly win the argument and shut down the discussion. “You sound like you protest too much” is supposed to be the final nail in the proverbial coffin of the person expressing animus toward the gay community.
Why is that? Why would we consider that to be the ultimate insult when we are supposed to be content in who and what we are, and even proud of it? Why is it that we see that as the “Grand Slam” designed to shut down the argument?
I think part of it might be our own insecurity. We tend to lash out at those who would want to make us “lesser than,” to minimize our role in society and keep us from being on the equal footing that we so richly deserve. But I think there's another part of this that sometimes we overlook.
Some of us haven't quite, in spite of the advances we've made in the public acceptance of gay and alternative sexuality, fully come to terms with ourselves in some ways. Judging by the number of times I've seen this technique used, some still think of themselves as “the other.” In spite of the fact that a lot of us have been wounded and feel justified in lashing out, throwing out “the accusation” is a disservice done to the gay community. After all, why would we consider what we are, which is natural and good, to be an insult?
Those who use “The Accusation” are preying on the fears of those who are uncomfortable with all things gay – whether we realize it or not (and I think a lot of people do realize it – even if it's nearly an autonomic response).
Yes, we loudly proclaim “We're here, we're queer, get used to it!” But how is an attempted insult of “You sound like a closeted gay person” going to help our cause?
Of course, it's not.
It's tempting to throw that out there as a result of frustration with what are often invalid arguments and mistaken notions about gay people. It may help some of us think that we are not so alone. Maybe it's because we've been conditioned to think that we're not really part of “The Club,” and that if we drag someone into “Our Club” it will “even things out” and make us integrated into the mainstream.
It's not surprising that it doesn't work. Even if the person one is arguing with is a closeted gay person, how is this going to win them over, see that there's nothing wrong with being gay, and bring them into the community? In reality, it's not, and really is just a cheap shot designed to hurt the person to whom it is directed.
Even if the accusation might be true, remember this: Everyone who is now out was closeted at one point in their lives. While it's extremely unlikely that we'll ever get the opportunity to help a self-loathing gay person who is a public figure, or even some random person on the Internet, “calling them out” will only inflame the argument and obscure legitimate debate points.
Of course, it is completely different when there is evidence that a rabidly anti-gay person is in fact gay. But just throwing out “The Accusation” will not help in that case, either.
How then do you deal with disagreeable people on the Internet who live to marginalize and even lie about gay people?
Fact. Personal experience. An appeal to logic using circumstances that anyone can relate to. And if that doesn't work, recognize that some people will just never be won over. If that's the case, stop typing.
As they say, “Don't feed the trolls.”
Think of it as an investment in yourself. Getting mired in long-winded debates and subjecting yourself to needless name-calling and other insults does your psyche no good. Live to enjoy life, not to be a victim.
So for those who reflexively throw out “The Accusation,” I say this: Please Stop It!