I was reviewing some posts on Facebook last night when I came across one that was written as an “Open Letter to Homophobes (The Few of You Who Remain)” (Star Tribune, April 14 2013). I have to say: it irritated me almost as much as the anti-gay propaganda I’ve read over the past decades. I found it absolutely embarrassing that it was out there… especially because the author, Kevin Winge, sounds like a decent chap (“he is is the executive director of Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to people living with disease”). But from what I read here he has an enormous chip on his shoulder that needs to approached… dealt with… extracted… before he writes anything public on this topic again. This kind of “opinion” piece does far more harm than good.
It was nice to see a review of some of the recent successes internationally for the LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) community: that’s true. But that’s where it ended. The purpose of the article bothered me. Mr. Wing was not trying to encourage those on one side of the fight: he was trying to discourage those on the other. Hatefully. And yes, I use that word specifically: this is not anywhere near hate-speech, so I’m not claiming it should not have been published. But it does illustrate that Mr. Winge does not just hate the attitudes and opinions previously levelled against them. He hates the people. No matter what side you’re on, that’s wrong.
My first comment is that there are undoubtedly more “homophobes” out there than Mr. Winge seems to think. He lives in San Francisco, so I suppose he can be forgiven his hyper-local perspective, but he needs to wake up and look around. I live in Toronto, and see see a lot of them: from our mayor on down. These are not people to be brushed off lightly. There are very large areas, in fact, where anti-gay sentiment is overwhelming. Sure they might be wrong: but the way to convince them of that and to get them to embrace their gay neighbour is not by lording it over them and rubbing it in their collective face. I know that understanding and compassion has not been the hallmark of the debates on these issues… but that does not mean that we, the LGBT community, can abandon it as we gain power. If we do, we become no better than the “homophobes” who once oppressed us. Indeed, I think we’re worse: because we’ve been there. We know what we’re doing when we write this kind of thing. It’s not meant to make anyone better: it’s sole purpose is to hurt.
I read through the comments and I could see that I was not the only one who felt this way. Indeed, almost all of them expressed the same kind of sentiment. There are a lot of ways to bully: and I’m amazed at how quickly it will start as the balance of power shifts from one side to the other. A true testament to human nature.
Jesus’ words touched me as I was writing these paragraphs: “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Unfortunately, those who write like Mr. Winge know exactly what we’re doing.