Way to go!

We couldn’t have asked for a better accompaniment to our letter (see below the fold) this week to the Purcellville Gazette, thanking the editors for publishing “A Boycott,” the letter by young “William A.”

We conclude by saying that if the letter “had not been published, community members would not have been informed about the increasing extremism of what we call the ‘anti-gay industry.’ We would have missed the opportunity to have this public conversation, which is a valuable one.”

As if on cue, the next letter perfectly showcases that extremism. With claims that “the gay perversion agenda” is to “teach homosexual practice to 1st graders,” and the equation of GLBT people to “pedophiles,” “thieves,” and “welfare whores,” we couldn’t have written a better illustration if we’d tried.

The writer is Ranjani Johnson, who is very active with the LCRC (guess which faction) and the Lovettsville branch of Jay Ahlemann’s Church of the Valley (the church that ran the full page anti-gay advertisements last year). Some readers may remember the 2006 election day story of a woman who had to be repeatedly admonished by the election official for violating the posted Board of Elections rules; she was allowing her several children to chase voters to the door with pro-Marshall/Newman Amendment literature, and having them say “vote for Jesus!” That was Johnson.

She seems annoyed because the “American Psychiatric Institute” (along with all other mainstream medical and mental health associations) no longer agrees with her belief that “homosexuality is the product of a sick mind.” They have “changed with the times,” she says. Yes, that’s generally what evidence-based institutions do. They continually adopt new positions that reflect greater knowledge. Medical associations “changed with the times” when penicillin was discovered, too.

Johnson also believes that it’s “natural” for a child of William’s age to agree with her views, and that such visceral discomfort with GLBT people as she seems to be burdened with “doesn’t need to be taught.” That of course isn’t the case at all; homophobia must be “carefully taught,” as the song says. That’s why such hysteria ensues among the anti-gay set at the appearance of a book about penguins, and why a Massachusetts parent tried to require that his child’s classmates be prevented from talking about their own families at school. In fact, the parents in the Massachusetts case explicitly made the argument that they fear their own inability as parents to counter the exposure of their children to different kinds of families. Their lawsuit was predicated on the claim that the school district is failing to accommodate their efforts to carefully teach their children to share their aversion to gay people.

The idea these parents are trying so urgently to teach is extremely fragile, precisely because it is a construction. It does not reflect reality. This is one of those interesting areas of anti-gay “thought” wherein logical consistency falls by the wayside. Here we have Focus on the Family demagogue James Dobson giving advice about the necessary “training” in gender identification:

Meanwhile, the boy’s father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son’s maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.

In Dobson’s world, children have to be carefully taught to be boys and girls. In Ranjani Johnson’s world, the idea that it’s normal and natural for some people to be gay or transgender is something from which she feels she must “protect” her children. Why? If particular gender behaviors and the idea that gay people are “sick” are natural, then why is it necessary to exert so much effort to enforce them?

We eagerly await the answer.

Purcellville Gazette, August 8, 2008

Positive to Publish Letter

As president of Equality Loudoun, I would like to thank you for your decision to publish the letter from young “William A.” This may surprise some people. After all, our organization strongly objected to the decision last year by some other newspapers to accept a patently offensive anti-gay advertisement from a local church.

These are two very different events (although both were generated by the misleadingly named “American Family Association”). With regard to paid advertisements, publishers have the responsibility to reject material containing claims that are demonstrably false, and that violate community standards. The advertisement of last year failed both of these tests.

With regard to letters to the editor, the standard is different. The First Amendment guarantees each of us the right to express our opinions – short of libel – no matter how offensive they may be to others; there is no constitutional “right” to not be offended. The irony of William’s letter is this: It reveals the sense of entitlement his parents feel to not be offended by the full participation in the life of our nation by a group of people they consider to be inferior to themselves. So strong is their feeling about this that they have taken a position well outside the mainstream of American society – boycotting McDonald’s, of all things. Not only that, they have shown a willingness to use their child as a pawn in the pursuit of this agenda. Readers (and the editor of this paper) have responded with appropriate condemnation of this behavior.

Where I think some readers have been mistaken is in protesting the printing of the letter in the first place. If it had not been published, community members would not have been informed about the increasing extremism of what we call the “anti-gay industry.” We would have missed the opportunity to have this public conversation, which is a valuable one. My greatest hope is that it will help William A. to understand better than his parents the big world in which he lives.

David Weintraub
President, Equality Loudoun

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