Not all anti-gay speech is hate speech in my opinion. I believe there are certain components that make some speech hateful and other anti-gay speech, just anti-gay. I have been pondering this question for few days while driving and brushing my teeth, looking for a list, criteria or a set of rules that would define what is purely just hate speech and what is just someone opposed to homosexuality. Here is what I came up with:
Intention of the message is a big part of what makes something hate speech. If the intention is just to speak to ones belief that homosexuality is sin, that isn’t hate speech. That is just someones belief and they are entitled to have such a belief. The line is crossed is when the message is no longer about religious opposition, but then turns to painting an inaccurate picture of gays and lesbians through the misuse of research, facts or surveys. The goal changes in the message from having a religious belief to wanting the reader or listener to come to a conclusion that gay people are bad people.
We should also take into account if the speaker is trying “reach out” to GLBT folks or just inform others about how evil they believe gays are so others will believe gays are evil too! Is the speaker using a language of compassion, respect and humanism? If the goal is just to point out every negative thing one can find about homosexuality and uses derogatory terms, then chances are the real goal is to make the reader or listener hate GLBT folks as much as they do.
“Presentation is everything”
This has been a famous line about fine dining but seems like a useful statement when we are trying to identify hate speech. If the speaker or writer is using language that is derogatory, that is a pretty good indicator that it’s crossed the line from compassion to hate. Words like “Sodomite”, “Pervert”, “Deviant”, are words used to describe GLBT folks in a way that is hateful. There is nothing positive that can come from the use of these words. The only increase people’s dislike and hatred for gays and lesbians. These are fear words, as they tend to create fear in people. Who wouldn’t be afraid of deviants or perverts?
Occasionally, these types of words are mixed in with bible messages. That changes nothing. It is still hate speech. It does nothing to enhance the lives of anyone. It is vicious towards gays and lesbians and dehumanizing to everyone.
Use of the word “homosexual” as an Adjective
The word “homosexual” is a noun, not an adjective. While some dictionary entries included it as an adjective, you find the only people who really use it this way are anti-gay activist groups. In today’s world, it is about using respectful terms like “gay” or “lesbian”, but not everyone has respect for GLBT folks.
When the word “homosexual” is used as an adjective is becomes disrespectful and crude. To call ones relationship a “homosexual Marriage” is derogatory. It becomes a way of connecting gays to crime when you say “homosexual murder” or “homosexual hate.” The sole intention of a speaker or writer using such terms is reduce anything gay or lesbian and make it sound almost clinical or disordered. Such a tactic works. Adding the word homosexual as an adjective will make just about anything have a clinical or disordered sound to it since that is from where the term came. It continues the myth that anyone who is gay or lesbian has a clinical disorder.
The word “homosexual” also has long roots back to days when all gay people lived in the shadows and had secret lives. The word has mental connections to a dark, gloomy existence for gay folks that we have now moved away from in the last 25 years. Mostly, this is about compassion, respect and humanism. Why would people use a word as a descriptor that they know will offend, scare, or dehumanize others when they’re better words available that are compassionate, respectful and human? The answer is hate speech. If a writer is not speaking about GLBT folks in a respectful human way, then what way are they speaking or writing? Is that life enriching for anyone? It is possible to oppose someones life, but still be respectful. Anything short of that is hate speech.
Use of War Terminology
Anti-gay advocates who promote hate speech seem fond of the terms of war. Frequently, these terms are added to words that refer to GLBT folks. (For example “Militant Homosexuals” or “The War on Marriage”) Such terms of war promote violence. War is violent and to use the terms of war when discussing a group or community is to promote violence against said group. Sadly, many conservative groups use war like terms when talking about gays and lesbians. The generally use terms of war or declare that there is a war on something people hold as precious. This creates an enemy image of GLBT folks. Although the bible is pretty clear about how to treat an enemy, we all know that is not how enemies are treated. Enemies are usually on the receiving end of violence, since that is what TV, movies and the media have taught us about dealing with our enemies over the last 100 years.
Use of Doom and Gloom
Anti-gay activists engaging in hate speech may create fear of gays by using terms of destruction. Claiming gays are out to “destroy” or “infiltrate” society. These are nothing more than propaganda topics. Gays are seeking their relationships to be recognized the same way heterosexual couples are recognized by the law. Not god, not satan, just the law. When anti-gay folks use these terms, they are attempting to invoke fear. Think about how you view a hurricane or disaster scenario that would “destroy” something you love. There is fear involved, right? So why would someone use that tactic to speak of gays? Hate Speech is the answer again.
The perspective that the message is placed in also has much to do with the line between hate and opposition. If the message is speaking about a perceived quality of homosexuality, ask the question if this has been put into perspective. Has the information about GLBT or any other group been measured against the norms? Say the writer is talking about “lesbian gangs”, have they given you the information about all gangs as well? Has they information been put into the perspective of the whole story?
Deception by Omission
This is an illegal tactic in the world of advertising. To not tell someone the whole story to change the truth of it, is lying. Such dishonest tactics used against an entire piece of the population is also hate speech. Often you will hear about the “sexual” antics of gays from conservative groups, but are they talking about all the married men in strip clubs at lunch too? Are they showing you the pictures from spring break in Palm Springs? Are they showing you the whole story or just what is convenient for you to see?
The link to Evil
Anti-gay folks engaging in hate speech will often use this tactic. This was a popular hate tactic of the Nazi Propaganda in World War II, but also popular amongst pro-segregationist in the South during the civil rights movement. The tactic involves a created threat by attempting to link a particular group to a particular crime. The Nazi’s often portray Jews as thieves and murderers and used news and media to link the Jews with such crimes. Pro-segregationists used this tactic to paint black men as rapists. These types of tactics become even more hateful when you create the threat of harm against children.
I am sure that I didn’t cover everything and somethings could always be argued in 60 different way to something, but I think the biggest indicator of all, is the audience. Who is the audience of the writer, speaker of other? If it is not gay folks, do they speak of gay in a way that is respectful? If it is gay folks, are they speaking in a way that will “reach out” or “push away”.
I believe fully in the idea that we are all one big community. What happens to the least of us, happen to the best of us. We are like the cells in a body. When one discovers they have a disease, that disease is fought with the knowledge it is still part of us. That is how I hope we all learn to treat each other.
The next time you read a site that expresses opposition to gays and lesbians, ask yourself the questions:
We may never all agree on the morality of homosexuality, but we do need to start to agree about how the discussion is happening. Currently the debate is ugly, mean and hateful on both sides. Hopeful that will change. Hopefully those opposed to homosexuality will begin to change the tone of the conversation, but on the other side, I hope GLBT folks can respond the current tone with love, since there is already enough hate in the world. If you want to stop hate, you can only do it with love. More hate won’t help at all.
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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