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How Anti-Gay Activists Keep Their Gay Friends (hint: they don’t)

Timothy Kincaid

April 10th, 2009

In World Magazine, a conservative evangelical Protestant Christian publication, columnist Tony Woodlief laments that he can’t follow his instincts and be decent to his gay friends.

As the campaign for gay marriage continues its relentless march toward a place where even Rome in its deepest debauchery didn’t tread, I’m tempted, when I think about this issue, to capitulate. I want my gay friends to be happy, after all. And who am I to interfere with their desire to form a legally sanctioned relationship?

Oh, but don’t worry. Tony is no compromiser nor one to put individual rights or self-determination ahead of conformity to the demands of religious orthodoxy. He is, after all, one of those Protestant voices that demanded that the Catholic Church excommunicate Catholics that are not adequately socially conservative.

He quite easily got over his temptation.

Because, like most anti-gay activists, Woodlief justifies his behavior with contorted definitions and assigns to himself motivations of love where others would likely find other labels:

But I can’t, because supporting gay marriage is false compassion. It affirms the lie that men and women in open rebellion against God can inherit the kingdom of Heaven. I wish they could. I wish everyone could be saved. But the teaching of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is, and has always been, that homosexual practice is sin and that willfully unrepentant sinners imperil their very souls.

So what does love say? Assent to the farce in order that my friends will know my earthly, temporal, selfish affection? Or alienate myself from them by holding to the teaching of the Church out of a desire not to add to the lie they have been told by a world already gone so far astray that secular humanism is its default morality?

Because, of course, to allow civil recognition would “lead our gay brothers and sisters further down a path of lies”. So, like children, he needs to decide what is best for them. It’s the “loving” thing to do.

Now this essay is not so different from most anti-gay screeds. And it would not require us to step far from familiar phrases to discuss the arrogance of one ignorantly (and inaccurately) speaking for the history of Christendom, the self-righteousness of insisting that one’s own theology should dictate social mores, or even what Christ, the founder of his faith, would have to say to those who acknowledge that their policies cause pain and make people feel like outcasts yet justify them by appealing to doctrine and tradition.

But something else struck me, something that we hear repeatedly from anti-gay activists who feel shame about the consequences of their actions: “my gay friends”.

Woodlief is not alone. Over and over we hear from those who advocate for denying hospital visitation and wresting children from their parents and disallowing public service and unequally applying tax codes and banning adoption and refusing health care and a myriad other positions that cause tangible and measurable harm to gay people. And quite often they say, “my gay friends and I disagree” or “we just don’t talk about it”.

They feel it lends credibility to their positions if they can show that they are not “haters” or “bigots”. And it makes them seem like they themselves are making personal sacrifices (“I want my gay friends to be happy”) rather than harshly imposing their demands on strangers. So out come the “gay friends”, whom they love love love.

And then they define their “gay friends” in terms such as “debauched” “unrepentant sinners” “in open rebellion against God” who have been “lead down a path of lies”.

Considering the unfiltered contempt they have toward gay people, how then do they have and keep gay friends?

The answer is: they don’t.

Take a close look at how Tony Woodlief describes his relationship with “his gay friends”:

They remain friends with someone who believes what I believe about what they do because we don’t talk about it. Perhaps that’s their choice, or mine, or something in between, but we’ve steered clear of it—so far.

I have friends and I know what that word means. Friends are those you rely on, those you know deeply, and those with whom you communicate.

Friends talk about dating, spouses, children, family, social life, work, concerns about those who like or dislike them, difficulties in personal relationships with others, slights real and imagined, dreams, goals, desires. Heck, friends even talk about who they think is hot.

But all of that is off the table with Tony and his “gay friends”. They “don’t talk about it”.

No. Tony Woodlief doesn’t have gay friends at all; he has acquaintances with whom he is cordial whom are gay but who have enough sense not to have any discussions of importance with him and who choose not to share with him any personal aspects of their life. He has gay associates who out of politeness do not tell him exactly what they think about his activism and efforts to harm their lives.

So to Tony Woodlief – and Sarah Palin and Rick Warren and Donny Osmond and all the others who think that having “gay friends” justifies cruel treatment – I give this challenge: Produce these “gay friends”. Have a real and genuine talk with them. And if after you make it perfectly clear that you believe that your heterosexuality entitles you to preferential treatment and gives you the right to make determinations about their lives, rights, and freedoms – because your God told you so – then we’ll see just how close of a friend they consider you to be.

Comments

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Ben in Oakland
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

As flat out clear as you can make it.

Congratulations. you get the first Ben in Oakland Award for Clarity.

Chris
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

Dear Timothy Kincaid,

Thank you for such a great response to such a vile article.

You made my day.

We WILL overcome.

Johnson
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

Kudos also to Timothy–how many times do the most stridently anti-gay claim to have “many gay friends”? As you note, chances are, they don’t. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

SharonB
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

It is better to be openly hated than “loved” by these teachers of the law. Truly, they make their converts twice as fit for hell as they are themselves.

You knocked this one outa the ballpark, Timothy!

Christopher™
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

Now you know why I don’t write for World Magazine anymore. (Actually, it’s been many years.)

Long after we parted ways, I remember checking out one of their first online issues, only to stumble across a short “news” piece about a mass gay wedding that took place in San Francisco. One would expect a conservative Christian newsmagazine to be critical of such an event, but one of the lines in the article said something to the effect that “one can only imagine the sordid sexual acts that took place across the city that night.”

I was so dumbfounded by such an infantile view of GLBT people, I’ve never bothered to check out their magazine since. (Fine, call me clueless for expecting better, but I truly was surprised.)

World has clearly veered far, far to the right since the days when they could dedicate a cover story to “Rattle and Hum,” and praise U2 for its cultural influence.

Bruno
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

One of the best pieces you’ve written that I’ve seen here, thank you Timothy.

Tommy
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

Apparently Tony Woodlief doesn’t understand the firs thing about his own religion.

“It’s a pernicious belief—running through the very heart of even the most conservative denominations—that the individual Christian is invited to judge for himself what the Bible does and does not mean.”

Remember that guy, Martian Luthor? He invited individual Christians to judge for themselves what the Bible does and does not mean. That’s why he translated the Bible into modern language.

Titus
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

Fantastic article, thank you Timothy!

Zeke
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

Excellent commentary, however, you should NEVER underestimate the lack of self-respect that some gay people have. I have no doubt that there really are gay people who are “friends” with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Warren, Sarah Palin and the like.

Just take a little trip over to GayPatriot.org and read some of the comments there. It will take about two seconds to realize that many of the participants there would much rather hang out and be friends with raging homophobes than with out, proud, gay people. They WORSHIP people like Anne Counter. It sometimes seems like the more anti-gay a person is, the more they love them.

I think these people are under the misimpression that if you buddy up with the haters then they won’t hate you.

Emily K
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

I’m unfortunately inclined to agree with Zeke. They think all gays are leftists and since they can’t relate on that level – a level many are passionate about – they can truly call those gay men “friends.”

It’s like the geek trying to look like they have friends by sitting near the “popular” crowd in the auditorium. And maybe they’ll pay lip-service to that geek. But be-friend them? Never. They’re not “one of them.”

Jason D
April 10th, 2009 | LINK

or, or we have the “House F@ggot” as I like to call them, a variation on “House N*gg*r” a derogatory term, obviously. It describes those slaves who worked in the slavemaster’s family home, wore nicer clothes, bonded with the family, and were treated well, and in return defended and exhaulted their slave owners. They never seemed to understand why all the slaves in the field didn’t love and worship the master. They often took on the master’s belief that the field slaves were lazy, stupid, insubordinate, and “deserved” their lot in life.

The slavemasters, of course, could sleep better at night because they treated one (or a handful) of slaves almost like family. The modern equivalent is the “I have gay friends” mantra.

Dave
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

you should NEVER underestimate the lack of self-respect that some gay people have. I have no doubt that there really are gay people who are “friends” with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Warren, Sarah Palin and the like.

Yes, because no self-respecting gay person could possibly tolerate conservative thinkers.

Dave
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

I’m unfortunately inclined to agree with Zeke. They think all gays are leftists and since they can’t relate on that level – a level many are passionate about – they can truly call those gay men “friends.”

You agree with Zeke, Emily? What on earth for?

The attitude he expresses is exactly someone would think all gays are leftists.

You did notice his slander of many commenter at Gay Patriot as self-loathing fools who prefer homophobes to homosexuals, didn’t you? This, even though by posting at Gay Patriot, they are hanging out (online at least) with lots of “out, proud, gay people” and not homophobes.

Michael
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

“you should NEVER underestimate the lack of self-respect that some gay people have. I have no doubt that there really are gay people who are “friends” with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Warren, Sarah Palin and the like.”

Hey, I wouldn’t be too hard on these guys. Remember, the gays who feel compelled to align themselves with social conservatives likely live (at least publicly) in stark contradiction of the stereotypes these conservatives assign to gays.

I’d much rather they have some contact with gays, gradually chipping away at their world view, than no contact at all, leaving us a distant and faceless enemy.

John Ozed
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

It’s possible they do have gay friends. Self loathing gay friends perhaps. Deeply closeted gay friends.

Jason D
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

Michael, that’s just the problem. They have gay friends and it doesn’t make a difference. Because those gay friends don’t challenge them. These people, by having complicit gay friends, are vindicated in their own mind.

When they say “but I have gay friends” it isn’t just an attempt to quell opposition and make themselves look good — they’ve drank their own Kool-Aid.

The passive acceptance of their anti-gay tendencies and beliefs by the homosexuals in their lives tells them they don’t need to rethink or change anything. Those “agree to disagree” and “we don’t talk about it” friendships don’t help, either. It also tells them that the gays who oppose them, just don’t “get” them the way their House F@ggots do. They don’t have gay friends, they have gay toadies.

Tommy
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

“Yes, because no self-respecting gay person could possibly tolerate conservative thinkers.”

No self-respecting gay person could possibly tolerate “thinkers” who are actively working against their fundamental human rights. Of course there are plenty of self loathing gay people who do…

Timothy Kincaid
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

Gentlefolks,

Let me remind you that these self-loathing gay friends you mention probably do not really fit the definition of friends.

Anti-gay activists do not talk with their self-loathing friends about their dating, spouses, children, family, social life, work, concerns about those who like or dislike them, difficulties in personal relationships with others, slights real and imagined, dreams, goals, or desires.

They may have self-loathing admirers, but not friends.

Molly Bauckham
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

Wonderfully articulated response…thanks!

I was watching the SNL VP debate sketch with Tina Fey the other day, and laughed again (but sort of sadly) at her line, “Don’t let anyone tell you I don’t tolerate gay people. I tolerate them with all my heart.”

Sigh.

Esther
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

When the anti-gay bigots talk about their so-called “friends” it always amazes me. How could they have gay friends and yet display such a lack of empathy toward gay people?

I’ve learned so much from my friends – black, white, Latino, gay, straight, etc. I can’t be friends with someone, listen to their hopes and fears, talk about our lives, about the person they love, and still refer to them as some kind of “other” who doesn’t deserve my full respect.

Having a diverse group of friends has made me more sympathetic and more committed to equal rights. I love my friends and I want the world for them.

Dave
April 11th, 2009 | LINK

Tommy,

You write,

No self-respecting gay person could possibly tolerate “thinkers” who are actively working against their fundamental human rights.

Actually, Tommy, you’d be surprised at the differences that friendship can make room for.

Philosopher and gay activist (there I am daring to use that phrase again) John Corvino has written about his friendship with Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family, with whom he often debates the issue of same-sex marriage. Stanton has done likewise.

Of course self-respecting gay people are allowed to have their own opinions as to what constitutes a fundamental human right.

If a gay person like B. Daniel Blatt, who blogs at Gay Patriot, thinks that marriage isn’t a human right at all, but rather a privilege because the state privileges the relationship, he doesn’t deserve to be called “self-loathing.”

The point of my comment was that gays who dare to hold conservative opinions are labeled self-hating by gay leftists all the time. The accusation is nonsense.

Tommy
April 12th, 2009 | LINK

“You did notice his slander of many commenter at Gay Patriot as self-loathing fools who prefer homophobes to homosexuals, didn’t you?”

Well first off, you mean libel, not slander. (The statement isn’t libel by the way.)

And secondly, after a cursory glance at that particular website (because I don’t think I could stomach much more than that), my conclusion is that the readership suffers from the same thinking that causes poor people to support tax cuts for the rich. Namely that they have been convinced what is in their best interest, is of little importance, and what is in other people’s best interest is of primary concern.

Regan DuCasse
April 12th, 2009 | LINK

I might reiterate the El Coyote kerfuffle again. I’ve just recently had a run in with an anti gay friend of Marj Christofferson’s who also claims to have gay friends.

In making claims that she loved and cared about her gay friends, she had to know also what was at stake with regard to gay marriage. She should have known from them experiences with loss of careers, children, each other, their property and families of origin.
All but for lack of the freedom to marry.

She should have known that this is a quality of life issue, not a difference of political, religious or affiliate backgrounds, but a difference between life itself.

Her involvement wouldn’t have been any different if she’d claimed having black friends and support for her black employees, and participated in any laws that supported Jim Crow specific or like intended discrimination.

Her friend, Burt Prelutsky, is a local to the Valley and likened the loss of marriage rights in CA, to losing the Presidential election to BO.

The proper equivalence to what happened was lost on him AND Marj.
People who consider themselves upright and morally sound people.

Right.

I’ve noticed that the ONE or few exceptional experiences most of these types have with gays and lesbians, it just HAPPENS to be the most stereotypical sort of gay person they could describe.
And gay people who just HAPPEN to share their opinions, so therefore the WHOLE of gay people SHOULD have the same beliefs too.

They must think us all fools to believe what they tell us…

Regan DuCasse
April 12th, 2009 | LINK

Tim, Jim…
I’ll forward Burt’s emails to me and our exchanges. Your opinion is welcome.

homer
April 12th, 2009 | LINK

Who are these hypothetical friends? I guess these people never learned the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.

Dave
April 12th, 2009 | LINK

Well first off, you mean libel, not slander.

No, Tommy, I meant slander: the expression of injurious, malicious statements about someone.

Zeke said that many Gay Patriot fans “would much rather hang out and be friends with raging homophobes than with out, proud, gay people.” That is a malicious statement, and one meant to harm their reputations in the eyes of gay people.

As for your opinion of Gay Patriot’s politics, that is irrelevant.

John
April 12th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

You really hit the nail on the head on this whole “gay friends” issue. Whenever these homophobic bigots spout this trash about how understanding their “gay friends” are, I really wish that the press would ask for references they could contact. If none are provided, that should be reported, and if some are provided, they really should be followed up for a quote or a “No Comment.”

Emily K
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

I like that Gay Patriot exists because being gay has nothing to do with political inclination and everything to do with who you are attracted to.

What I DON’T like about Gay Patriot (and this might not be their fault per se) is that people like Exodus V.P. and “ex-gay” Randy Thomas uses Gay Patriot to “prove” that gays align with his views. He gives a caveat saying “Gay Patriot is a gay-identified blog and supports the redifinition of marriage.” But in the end it’s just exploitation, as though he’s saying “SEE??? gays are DIVIDED. Even THEY oppose anti-bullying measures and hate crimes legislation. And if ALL gays don’t support that stuff, they obviously don’t really want it; they just want to push their agenda to force me to accept homosexuality.”

nuncio
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Please, someone show me in my bible where it says gay = sin.
I’ve looked and it doesn’t say that anywhere.
Not in MY bible.
Not in MY beliefs.
Not in MY environment.

I was raised Catholic and I never heard such a thing. I’m not even joking. We even asked the nuns about Jewish people. We were told they just believe something different. And that’s OK. Because God loves all his children.

Bob Greenpoint
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Someone who is as religious as Woodlief (not to mention tortured and repressed), also believes the following will happen at the direction of God:

Revelation 15-19: “The Four Angels were untied and let loose, Four Angels all prepared for the exact year, month, day, and even hour when they were to kill a third of the human race. The number of the army of horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard the count and saw both horses and riders in my vision: fiery breastplates on the riders, lion heads on the horses breathing out fire and smoke and brimstone. With these three weapons—fire and smoke and brimstone—they killed a third of the human race. The horses killed with their mouths and tails; their serpentlike tails also had heads that wreaked havoc.”

What’s hating a couple fags at work when you believe God is going to kill 2,300,000,000 men, women and children in a single act of the Book of Revelation?

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