Saturday, January 12, 2013

Righteous Indignation Doesn't Excuse Hypocrisy.

Some people have a problem with the phrase “I love you, but [any non-gay-affirming thing].” Not only do I not have a problem with that sort of phrase, I think that having a problem with it shows a lack of empathy. My next few posts will examine why I think that.

I established last week that “but” does not generally negate what comes before. When people say they love LGBT people and then say “but,” they are in fact saying (1) that they love us, and also (2) some other thing that contrasts with that love. However, even though no one has shown any hole in the reasoning from my last post, it seems pretty evident from the responses to Clive (and those who’ve preceded him) that, reasoning aside, quite a few people think it’s impossible to say “I love you” and “I don’t accept your lifestyle” and mean both.

I thought about why this might be, and I think I know. And as we leap into the meat of things, a question: is it really a question of being loved, or is it a question of feeling loved?

Because “but” can, certainly, be used to make one clause negate the other. It’s raining, but it’s clear. It’s 110 degrees, but it’s cool. I love you, but I don’t love you. The thing about these sentences is, they’re nonsense statements. It can’t be both raining and clear, and it can’t be both 110 degrees and cool, and a person can’t both love and not love you, because the meaning of the two clauses are opposites on the same scale, whether weather conditions, temperature, or degree of love, and (outside quantum things, I guess?) we can’t have a condition from one end of the scale and another from the opposite end of the same scale at the same time.

This is why so many gay people find “I love you, but I don’t support your lifestyle” -type statements so frustrating: they are clumping “support for lifestyle” onto the continuum of love. As a result, “I don’t support your lifestyle” is synonymous with “I don’t love you,” and obviously “I love you, but I don’t love you” is crazy making. In their minds, loving someone without supporting their lifestyle is as nonsensical as claiming it’s both raining and clear. The problem with this is that accepting someone’s lifestyle is on a completely separate scale from loving that person. You can love a son away at college without loving his lifestyle, which burns through your money. You can love a friend who cheats on her husband again and again, even though he’s your friend too. You can also support a lifestyle without loving the liver, as we all do for (almost) every elected official. “I don’t support your lifestyle” is not synonymous with “I don’t love you.”

But the homeless kids!

I’m not a heartless bastard.

However, Clive said this: “Rather than try to understand, support, and accept these young men for the sons of God that they are, their fathers and mothers demanded conformity as a pre-requisite for granting parental love.” This as an unjustifiable claim. Of course parents are wrong to put their children on the streets. Some of the demands Clive attributed to them were stupid ("I love you and want you to stay, but you can't keep thinking you have same sex attraction"), and some were reasonable ("I love you and feel your pain, but you better not bring your gay friends into our home"), but not a single one is a sign that those parents don’t love their children.

This was impressed on me by Misty, the same Misty Clive mentioned. In fact, my comment on her post and her response come just after Clive’s comment. If you read her post, brace yourself. It’s awful. It’s offensive. It’s infuriating. Yet in it, Misty is adamant about the fact that she loves gay people. I wracked my brain over how I could prove her wrong, and I came up with . . . nothing. I can’t prove that her mother heart isn’t full to bursting with love for the gays, just as you can’t prove that those parents who kick their children out don’t also love them, because it’s impossible to prove that a person doesn’t feel what they say they feel.

This should be a very familiar concept to gay Mormons, because so many of us have been in this situation with the roles reversed. How many times have you heard that gay love isn’t real love? “I love my wife, but what you have with yours? That’s just lust.” Though this happens less as the years go on, it still happens all the time: people try to tell us what we feel, and we dismiss them as ignorant patronizing hicks who literally don’t know what they’re talking about. How can we possibly justify using the same (failed, faulty, stupid) tactic on people who say I-love-you-but?

We can’t. Every time we do, we leave ourselves open to charges of hypocrisy.

Tangential: "
The underlying issue is that these parents do not or cannot accept the fact that their sons are homosexual males, no more afflicted than any of their heterosexual children. They believe that in the end, their SSA-behaving sons have a choice."--Clyde, same post I linked to in the middle

Now, whether it's ever, ever, ethical to pressure or guilt someone into "choosing" a life they don't want, that's a different question.


“If language is not correct then what is said is not what is meant. If what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone. If this remains undone, then morals and acts deteriorate. If morals and acts deteriorate, justice will go astray. If justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence, there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything."--Confucius in The Power of Words

"Aristotle is only warming up to his main theme, which is the study of sentences that assert or deny something . . . He says that one statement is contradictory of another if it is an exact negation of it, and, as he points out, it's a matter of some subtlety to determine this. For instance, the contradictory of 'all humans are white' is not 'all humans are not white,' but rather 'some human is not white.'"--Peter Adamson in The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Episode 35

“Offence-takers win by society’s choice of appeasement as its response to their unreasonable demands and incessant agitation. The agitators will generally present themselves as people of peace. They have no desire to start a culture war. All that society has to do is to accede to their – perfectly reasonable! – demands and peace will prevail. . . . Offence-takers consistently lament the belligerence and intractability of their opponents.” --Alastair Roberts in On Triggering and the Triggered, Part 4

There’s no call for butchering innocent conjunctions and denying the feelings of our straight family. Leave the hypocrisy, the faulty logic, and the victim cards to the small-minded Christians. We don't need those things to win, and in fact, they're only bogging us down.

Next week I’ll explore the concept and consequences of feeling love without making that love felt.


  1. Wow.

    I was really looking forward to this series of posts, and, I must confess, I was rather disappointed by the first one. I thought what you said was accurate enough, but it felt insensitive and like the points you were making--while logically correct--did not really serve any purpose greater than arguing for the sake of it.

    This one made up for that and more. I see where you are going, now, and although the initial buildup was unpleasant to read, I can see how it lays the foundation for this important argument to not dismiss the narratives, feelings, and experiences of others.

    I think that the position you lay out here is definitely taking the moral high ground when we choose how to evaluate what those around us are saying, and I strongly agree with the necessity for not denying others their defining of their own experiences and thoughts.

    However, that said--and this is where the tetchy reactions to your last post (and probably this one, too, though probably less vehemently, I would guess) probably come from--people do not always say what they mean. Words', phrases', whole utterances' fields of meaning can range over semantic space that overlap and exceed the meaning intending to be conveyed. I do not doubt that the people responding strongly to your original post have had experiences where they are told "I love you, but..." where in real-life context the "love" was in fact abstracted to a point of meaninglessness and the utterance behind the but clause indicating an actual lack of love.

    In our context here, I think as attitudes in general toward homosexuality change, new discursive space is opened up that can enhance communication and make it more easily convey true intent. For example, if in the communicators' mind in the seventies homosexuality did not exist, the meaning behind an utterance of "I love you, but I do not support your lifestyle" could very well mean "I don't love you" to the person being communicated to because in the communicator's mind homosexuality does not exist, so of course (s)he loves the one being communicated to by default; "I don't not love you as a homosexual because--whatever you're dealing with or choose--_you_ _are_ not a homosexual"; in the second party's universe, actually he _is_ homosexual, so the communicator must not love him.

    I agree with you in all the examples that you give that the love those people claim should not be denied prima facie...

    Anyway, I'm rambling, and my comment probably doesn't even make much sense, so I'll stop. I think that what you're talking about here, though, is absolutely key to bringing about rather than hedging up the way for changes of mind about gayness in Church culture and culture at large and, more importantly, in allowing individuals to take responsibility for their choices and not deny themselves of love and self-respect.

  2. I think this is definitely a very interesting and important conversation to have. I tend to react with anger when people do the I-love-you-but thing, but I do agree with you (after reading this) that having a gut reaction and denying other people their feelings is definitely very wrong and not my place. I'm in kind of a different situation; my parents say I-love-you without the -but, but their actions negate their words. I know that they love me; I'm their daughter, and they do mean it when they say that if I were dead, they'd be sad. But at the same time, they have no problem telling me again and again how ashamed they are of me without understanding that how they treat me only adds to my depression, and adding to someone depression and suicidality and then acting as if you don't care and it's not your problem negates the positive benefits of telling someone that you love them.

    I guess what this boils down to is, yes, I agree with you that we shouldn't discount what people say about who they love, why, and how. At the same time, people don't always mean what they say, or perhaps they do mean something, but their failure to enact it or put it into more than just words remains highly problematic. What are the consequences of being told that you are loved but being unable to feel that you are loved in any way? This doesn't necessarily mean accepting your child's "gay lifestyle," but there should be some basic working definition of how to act on unconditional love so that words parallel actions.

    Also, I have a little bit of a problem with your tangent; I agree that behavior is always (or at least almost always) a choice, though we often need to be made aware of our behaviors in order to accept them as actions and change them accordingly. However, I don't really like that you link to a bunch of blogs by gay Mormons living a "straight" lifestyle. First of all, the terms don't really make sense--if you're a gay person, shouldn't whatever lifestyle you choose to live be a gay one? Based on the fact that you're a gay person? I guess I feel a little bit sensitive to this because as a bisexual, I tend to "blend in,"--if I'm dating a man (which I am), people assume I'm straight; if I were dating a woman, they would assume I'm gay. At the core, regardless of who I'm dating, I consider myself bisexual, which determines my reactions to certain things, some of my likes and dislikes, etc. I feel like it's silly to term a "straight" lifestyle as acting "straight" all the time. I guess this is more of a problem I have with you than with cultural in general and a resentment at the black and white terminology we use that boxes us in, so I apologize if I'm making generalizations about you in expressing my frustrations with the culture. I do agree with you that it's unethical to pressure someone into choosing a lifestyle that they may or may not feel good about. I guess my problem with blogs like those you linked to is certainly not with the bloggers themselves, whose experiences are inherently valid, but with the way the Mormon culture tends to seize them (as you just did) and use them as examples of what is good and right and just for lgbtq Mormon members. I saw dozens of statuses about how this is the way to do it and if this man can do it, all gays should be able to -- a point he vehemently does NOT make, but his blog (and the one you posted where one post was about why faithful gay Mormons should oppose government-sanctioned gay marriages, which confuses me to no end) still makes me wildly uncomfortable because I know that people like my parents read and love it.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post. I look forward to seeing what you post next.

  3. Also, Matt, after thinking about it for a little while longer, I think your semantic issue about "but" is missing the point. Although there are many grammatical and semantic cases in the English language where "but" doesn't necessarily negate everything, and although it's important to focus on the "I love you" bit, you seem to be more of a prescriptivist than a descriptivist, and a descriptivist will likely emphasize that the semantics doesn't matter--the child being told "I love you, but," which I think Clive aptly points out isn't inherent in Christ's doctrine ("Give money to the poor, but not if you think they're going to just go buy crack..."), likely isn't going to interpret this the same prescriptivist way you do. As a grammar person, you have a different understanding of the issue than the typical American, which is cool, but might parallel your lived experiences more than it parallels the lives of those who equate actions with meaning rather than semantics.

  4. People do not always say what they mean.

    They sure don’t. Next week I’ll discuss this more. I’d like to clarify that last week and this week and next week’s posts aren’t meant to solve every problem and make everything hunky-dory, but they are small truths that can help.



    Adding to someone’s depression and suicidality and then acting as if you don't care and it's not your problem negates the positive benefits of telling someone that you love them. . . . people don't always mean what they say, or perhaps they do mean something, but their failure to enact it or put it into more than just words remains highly problematic.

    I agree with you about this.

    The point of last week’s post and this one isn’t to justify or excuse people doing hurtful things, it’s to keep us from jumping to the conclusion that automatically we’re justified in dismissing someone just because they don’t believe gay sex is ok.

    I’ve never been arguing that when people say ilub (my new abbreviation for "I love you, but") their love is automatically real or useful. At the same time, it’s important to be clear that not everyone who says ilub doesn’t also put it into actions, and that the hurt caused by not supporting one's lifestyle isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, relationship-wise.

    There should be some basic working definition of how to act on unconditional love so that words parallel actions.

    I agree with this wholeheartedly.

  5. Also, I have a little bit of a problem with your tangent; I agree that behavior is always (or at least almost always) a choice, . . .

    That right there is the point of the tangent, so I’m glad you at least don’t have a problem with that. :)

    . . . However, I don't really like that you link to a bunch of blogs by gay Mormons living a "straight" lifestyle.

    Are they, though? I’m willing to bet that Samantha at least would say she’s living “the life she chose,” not a “straight” lifestyle. (If any of those blog authors want to chime in, that would be great.)

    If you're a gay person, shouldn't whatever lifestyle you choose to live be a gay one?

    It depends on where you put the emphasis. If you say “gay lifestyle,” you could mean “a lifestyle that happens to match people’s definition of “gay” (having sex with people of the same sex), or you could mean “the kind of lifestyle that gay people have,” which is considerably less narrow. If you wanted you could make a case that all of those bloggers I linked to are in fact living gay lifestyles, even when they’re married to opposite sex partners, by virtue of the fact that they’re gay.

    Since you’re not a fan of mine, what pithy and moderately snarky mode would you have used to contradict Clyde’s insinuation that we don’t, in fact, have a choice?

    I guess this is more of a problem I have with you than with cultural in general . . .

    (“less of”?) As it happens, these labels are a part of culture that I have a problem with too, though I continue to use them because they’re easy and so I am, I guess, part of the problem.

    . . . the way the Mormon culture tends to seize them (as you just did) and use them as examples of what is good and right and just for lgbtq Mormon members.

    I think using them as examples of the ‘righteous’ way to handle things is wrong, and I think that when Mormons do that they’re overstepping their bounds. I hope it’s clear that I am not seizing them as examples of what’s good and right and just for lgbtq Mormon members, but simply as examples of people who have chosen not to get involved sexually with people of the same sex. I’m not saying it’s the right way or even a good way, just that it is, contrary to Clyde’s insinuation, a way.

    I think your semantic issue about "but" is missing the point.

    Perhaps we have different ‘the point’s. The point for me is that ilub isn’t inherently a nonsense statement. Clyde’s series seemed to me to be arguing from a grammatical standpoint that it was impossible to use ilub without being a hypocrite; I was simply pointing out that it is not impossible. I think this is a very important 'the point' because the technical flaw does give people an excuse to dismiss the argument; because assuming that people are hypocritical based on ilub alone makes us hypocrites; and because if we want to build bridges, assuming hypocrisy won’t help (and neither will actual hypocrisy).

    As a grammar person, I think that my understanding is different in that I see both the descriptive and prescriptive meanings, and so I try to keep one from steamrolling the other when I see that happening. There’s a distinct imbalance in arguments like Clyde’s which damages our credibility and makes Roberts’ “offense-taker” title apply to us, when I would much rather it applied only to our opponents.

    I think you invited [strident tones] by beginning with overgeneralizations like, "Some gays hate to hear this phrase . . .

    This is not actually an over generalization. It’s not even that hyperbolic, as Suzanne demonstrated.

    I feel that your post doesn't show enough empathy.

    You’re probably right about this. “Sometimes we’re not strong or good enough to be empathetic, and that’s understandable, but it’s still a failing.” I hope that this week’s and next week’s posts are better in that regard.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    You’re welcome! Thanks for the thought provoking comments, Trev and Kylie.

  6. For you, Matt, because you requested it:

    I don't really think about my life as a "lifestyle." While the people I find sexually attractive are women, the person I chose to spend my life with was a man. It wasn't a religious choice (when I met him, I was really not active in any church, nor did I claim belief in any religion), it was the knowledge that being with him made me happier than I had ever been, that I knew he would work with me through any difficulty, and that he wanted to spend his life with me regardless of the gender to which I felt attraction.

    Do I advocate my choice to others? No.
    Do I believe this was the right thing for me? Yes.
    Do I tout myself as an example? Never.

    In fact, when my friend Josh came out and his blog went viral, I removed the most visible parts of my blog that let people know I'm in a mixed-orientation marriage because I didn't want my blog to become a cited life possibility by straight people to their gay family members. The information is still in my blog, just not as easily accessible as it used to be, because it IS a part of my life (the operative words here being "my life").

    Anyone who knows me well, knows that I advocate allowing people to make their own choices and believe the things that bring joy and authenticity to their lives. And I spend a lot of time loving people just because they make me happy.

    That's all. Did I do okay, Matt? :)

  7. You did excellent Samantha. I'm glad I haven't been misreading you all this time, and also to know that you read us. :)

  8. The grand inquisitor burned all those heretic's and witches at the stake because he loved them and so thoughtfully purified their souls.
    What a bunch of ingrates those heretic's were, objecting to being roasted alive. Om my, the hypocrisy. So intolerant.

    Often those heretic's were in need of extra blessings, so they had the mercy of such things as being hoisted up by a stake driven up the anus.
    I hope those hypocritical heretics were thoughtfully considerate of the inquisitor's feelings and showed proper empathy by accepting those demonstrations of love.

    When I look through human history, I see all sorts of love.
    And it is in the buts, that we find the repercussions of that love.

    Did you hear about the set that only contained numbers that weren't members of sets. Want to deconstruct that. It's been done.

    What's next, grammar master? Gonna lecture some young woman that "such a pretty face" and "such a sweet spirit" are highly complimentary and if she cringes when she hears "such" then she's ungrateful and needs lessons in empathy.

  9. (empathy, empathy, empathy . . . )


    I told you earlier, twice, that I’m not saying that gays shouldn’t stand up for themselves. Perhaps you could show me what exactly I said to give you the opposite impression?

    the set that only contained numbers that weren't members of sets

    Do you mean the empty set? That’s a fairly basic mathematical concept that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with my post . . . maybe you meant something else.

    I know grammar masters, but I’m not one of them. If I were, I’d’ve brought the OED into this instead of just m-w.

    I have no plans at present to lecture young women, but if I were a young woman and a sizeable portion of my compatriots started saying that those phrases are necessarily ironic or insulting and particularly if they started equating hearing those phrases to being impaled and burned alive, I probably would feel the need to clarify that they can also be sincere.

  10. Trying again.
    People were burned alive because they were loved. Not a matter of equating, but showing an example. Although in that case it's not I love you but I'll still burn you, but, But because I love you, I will burn you.
    Othello loved Desdemona, yet she still got strangled. How's that work for you. Doesn't make her a hypocrite to not want to be strangled.
    Battered spouses don't need lessons in the sincerity of their spouses love. Love is what makes the whole thing painfully complicated and conflicted.
    And to use a stereotype , an abused wife should not be told by
    someone reaching out to her that she needs to submit to her husband and let him preside over him in the God given traditional heterosexual lifestyle.
    The sexist and heterosexist bullshit needs to stop.
    And if someone has established a healthy boundary with those that love them or those that don't care, you don't get to violate that boundary with a bridge of heterosexist nonsense.
    Doesn't matter if you sincerely love or sinisterly love, you don't get to violate boundaries.

  11. (empathy empathy empathy . . . )

    “I’m not saying that gays shouldn’t stand up for themselves. Perhaps you could show me what exactly I said to give you the opposite impression?”

    I’m serious. I want quotes, and I want you to tell me how you get from my words to the meaning you’ve been giving them, because I’ve read my posts over and over again and I just don’t see it. I think you’re ignoring what I’m actually saying and having the argument you want to have.

  12. Since I love clichés, here’s the argument I want to have.
    Some people are so intent on deciding if it’s a Jeffery or a ponderosa, that they don’t look around and see the diversity or beauty of the montane forest.
    Some people are against controlled burns and backfires because they oppose forest fires. They love the forest. They want to save the forest. And it would be hypocritical to oppose forest fires and then set them.

    You play grammar games. Go through theoretical, possible meanings in order to discredit the actual meaning that affects people’s lives. But all you come up with amounts to an empty set. If you’re gonna wager the paradox of tolerance, then I’ll up the ante with Russell’s paradox--Does the set of all those sets that do not contain themselves contain itself? And while the analysis of the difference between "such a set does not exist" and "it is an empty set” goes on, the forest burns. Show us the quotes, they say, that say we support forest fires.

    The quotes I see are from old dead patriarchs. Why am I not surprised. Three cheers for filial respect.

    Misty can love who she loves. She can feel what she feels. But if Misty comes in my house and starts preaching heterosexism, then I know where her head is going. In her case, in the toilet. The heterosexism and the harm it causes are getting flushed down to the sewage treatment plant.
    Mary Griffith’s loved her son. She wanted what was best for him. Here’s a quote from her, “Homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals are doomed to spend eternity in hell. If they wanted to change, they could be healed of their evil ways. If they would turn away from temptation, they could be normal again if only they would try and try harder if it doesn't work. These are all the things I said to my son Bobby when I found out he was gay. When he told me he was homosexual my world fell apart. I did everything I could to cure him of his sickness. Eight months ago my son jumped off a bridge and killed himself. I deeply regret my lack of knowledge about gay and lesbian people. I see that everything I was taught and told was bigotry and de-humanizing slander. If I had investigated beyond what I was told, if I had just listened to my son when he poured his heart out to me I would not be standing here today with you filled with regret. I believe that God was pleased with Bobby's kind and loving spirit. In God's eyes kindness and love are what it's all about. I didn't know that each time I echoed eternal damnation for gay people each time I referred to Bobby as sick and perverted and a danger to our children. His self esteem and sense of worth were being destroyed. And finally his spirit broke beyond repair. It was not God's will that Bobby climbed over the side of a freeway overpass and jumped directly into the path of an eighteen-wheel truck which killed him instantly. Bobby's death was the direct result of his parent's ignorance and fear of the word gay. He wanted to be a writer. His hopes and dreams should not have been taken from him but they were. There are children, like Bobby, sitting in your congregations. Unknown to you they will be listening as you echo "amen" and that will soon silence their prayers. Their prayers to God for understanding and acceptance and for your love but your hatred and fear and ignorance of the word gay, will silence those prayers. So, before you echo "amen" in your home and place of worship. Think. Think and remember a child is listening.”
    Quisling loved Norway. Some thought his actions stupid, while others defended them as reasonable. The question is, how did Norway fare?

  13. If you can’t show me anything I said that makes your arguments relevant, I’m going to continue to believe that the problem is your understanding, not my writing or my ideas.

    My posts don’t say that gays shouldn’t stand up for themselves. They don’t say that saying “I love you” excuses harmful actions. They don’t say anything about submitting or presiding. They don’t say anything about violating boundaries.

    My posts don’t contain grammar games. They contain distinctions and clarifications. You say I’m trying to decide what breed of tree I’m looking at; really, Clyde yelled “This is a rattlesnake!” and I’m saying “No, it isn’t.” If you interpret that to mean "You should pick it up and hug it," that's not my fault.

    Once again, your obstinate misunderstanding leads me to say that I’m done with these comments. You can have the last one.