Monday, January 29, 2007

Hypocrisy isn't such a good thing

The Advocate has an interview with Alexandra Pelosi about her HBO documentary Friends of God. She touches on something that I've been thinking about:
We talked about gay marriage. He said, “I think the gays should be lobbying for civil unions, because that’s more doable.” He wasn’t a hater. And I know everyone likes to talk about how he was a hypocrite, but I think Stephen Colbert said it best [originally about Mark Foley]: Ted Haggard is not a hypocrite—he didn’t try and gay-marry anyone. He knows homosexuality; he preached from the pulpit that homosexuality is a sin. That’s what he believes because that’s in the Bible. Now, he did it…that doesn’t mean he didn’t know it was a sin.
OK, this touches on why I think that the hypocrisy narrative related to outings like those of Mark Foley and Ted Haggard is both inaccurate and ineffective in trying to get queer equality.

Alexandra Pelosi basically says why it's inaccurate: these Christians think that homosexuality is sin. They believe that every single human being sins. When they commits this specific sin, it's not hypocrisy; it fits quite neatly in the way they see the world. In fact, it bolsters their view that homosexuality is a fleeting desire; part of the fall from the grace of God that can be solved through salvation and prayer (ignoring his repeated attempts at praying away the gay, which they do). Ted Haggard as a closet case is much closer to their ideal than Ted Haggard as a out and proud gay man would be.

Second, it's not an entirely effective way to interpret the phenomenon of gay gay-bashers. Let's think about Lisa, the hypothetical person. Lisa is big on getting people to donate money to breast cancer research. She tells everyone she meets about how important it is to get money for this sort of research, tries to get sponsors for her to Race for a Cure, and vocally laments the lack of such funding from the government. But she herself, even though she lives quite comfortably, doesn't donate any money at all to breast cancer research. She's just plain selfish.

Does this make Lisa a hypocrite? Absolutely. It would be much better if she donated money as well. But she would also cease to be a hypocrite if she just stopped being such an advocate for breast cancer research as well. Supposing there were no way to pry this money from her hands, would it be better if she just shut up about the whole thing? What if she were effective at getting people to donate?

This is the way heterosexists view the Ted Haggards and Mark Foleys. You can even read about it in their press releases, how the views that a certain politician holds and his or her legislative actions are far more important than his or her personal actions. They have a built-in answer to the hypocrisy charge that is quite persuasive, if one buys into heterosexual supremacy.

A better way to frame these instances is to label it for what it really is: proof of a direct refutation of their argument that being queer is a choice. Here are people who would absolutely choose not to be queer if they could. No doubt about that. Haggard tried to pray away the gay, as he said in his public statement just after Mike Jones outed him. But he couldn't. If he couldn't, how are we to believe that anyone else can?

By speaking the language of fact, truth versus untruth, instead of the language of morality, I think that we stand a better chance of interpreting this situation in a way that conservative Christians can understand. They already think that we're morally bankrupt, and they have a more than logical answer to that interpretation, so it's not going to change any minds.

While I've said before that heterosexism is more than just a lack of information, it's also something that can be changed. It's a worldview that people invest a lot of energy into, but if we seize on opportunities like to show the obvious (to us) contradictions is heterosexist thought, we can change a few minds.

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