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05/02/2008

Smith protest footage: 'Gays should change!' vs. 'Gays should rage!'

by Jeremy Hooper

A few day ago, we told you how the opposition to an anti-gay speech being given at Smith College was so strong, speaker Ryan Sorba was forced to stop speaking. And almost as soon as we posted about, the situation immediately sparked a debate about dealing with the opposition.

On one hand: We all have a duty to allow everyone a chance to express their views (especially in an academic setting). In a perfect world we'd all be able to have conversations, not battles, on just about any issue. Colleges are marketplaces of ideas. And if we were talking about the university itself shutting down the speech, then we would certainly find that situation troubling.

On the flip side, however: We're not talking about the university shutting down speech -- we're talking about a student protest against a remarkably overheated speech. If the weight of the opposing voice is just so strong that it organically overpowers the anti-gay unsavoriness, that is an expression that we feel must be understood and respected. Especially when dealing with a speaker who so pointedly demonizes gay lives and encourages "conversion" of the same. If student protest to this very real and very personal condemnation manifests itself in a way that sends a strong message to those who foster bias and the acceptance thereof, then that is, from a gay rights perspective, the voice of diversity thwarting an attack that shouldn't have ever been waged in the first place. After all, this kind of thing wouldn't even be considered if it were against any other minority group of people. So when faulting the lowering of discourse, you have to consider just how incredibly bottom barrel Sorba's condemnations are. You have to consider the boulder that he is throwing before casting a stone.

Well, here's a new development that's sure to stir things up: It turns out that the anti-gay folks at MassResistance were on hand to film the whole thing. So now that we can all see a fuller picture, let the debate begin anew:


Now, as we said in the last post on the subject: We see this not as a clear-cut situation towards which one must necessarily have a "right" or "wrong" opinion, but rather a matter with plenty of room for discussion. Also, despite the way we humans so often like to boil things down to "black/white, either/or," we think it's very possible to be of two minds on the subject.

Your thoughts? Leave us some comments.

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Your thoughts

I've only had chance to watch the first five minutes, but so far it's looking really unproductive, if not counterproductive. I can't help but wonder how much more convincing and powerful could gay voices have been had they allowed the guy to speak and then countered forcefully but reasonably with intelligent argument? Perhaps those who could have been persuaded by rational arguments will completely shut their ears after having to sit through this kind of thing.

Posted by: Dave Rattigan | May 2, 2008 1:02:39 PM

Well Dave, for me the debate isn't so much about whether or not this was productive for our movement. I'd absolutely agree that little seemed to have been accomplished.

The point for me is in terms of whether the protest was hostile to fairness and freedom. That's where, for me at least, it becomes a little more challenging. He was undeniably silenced. However, his message of gay "change" is, in my mind, worthy of much scorn. Hell, he's trying to silence our sex lives!

So yes, this situation became a case of outraged people whose collective outrage turned into an emotional powder keg that prevented reasoned discussion. But I find it hard to blame or point fingers at anyone for the way it turned out, even if I would, in a perfect world, would've like to have seen a different scenario. It seems to me like when all of these justifiably angry voices got on site, youthful exuberance mixed with progressive politics and the above is what happened.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 2, 2008 1:18:01 PM

very empowering, very uplifting. sure this man has free speech rights, but people also have the right to demonstrate. we need to do everything we can to silence these bigots. is this jason sorba a self-proclaimed ex-gay or is he just a conservative who rails about homosexuality?

http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

Posted by: queerunity | May 2, 2008 1:22:24 PM

You can feel the raw energy in the room. As much trouble as I have personally deciding on how and if a line was crossed by these students...I have to wonder if I would have been swept up in that energy and joined in on the cheering. Actually...being perfectly honest...I probably would have.

I wonder, did he ever get an opportunity to speak without being drowned out by students?

And damn, those two or three people in the front, the nicely dressed ones that look like they're from their campus' College Republicans organization (pardon my stereotyping)...they look pissed!

Posted by: zortnac | May 2, 2008 1:50:01 PM

I think it's great - for the main reason that "ex-gay" groups wants to take part in every GLBT-positive event "so there can be an opposing view of homosexuality" (and they sometimes get their way); but never would they allow a stable GLBT person attend their events and church "testimonies" to offer an opposing view of "ex-gay therapy".

So if these "ex-gay" groups and supporters think they're allowed to take without any giving (being the charlatans they are, anyway), they might be in for a surprise. Keep up the good work guys! I hope this sparks a new revolution against these quacks and thieves.

Posted by: Scott | May 2, 2008 2:35:45 PM

I think that the activists should've protested outside of the area where the speech was being given, instead of inside and intentionally disrupting the speech....if indeed they felt the need to protest.

I'm all for free speech, but this was actually pretty rude and in my opinion, didn't do much to further the discussion.

Posted by: Stacy Harp | May 2, 2008 2:39:46 PM

Just my observation, but it appeared to me that very few of them actually wanted to hear him. Which begs the question: what if they had all just left en masse? There might have been five remaining in the audience, and that might have been "statement enough."

But I do have to say that speach which seeks to undermine the status of law abiding, productive and peaceable segments of a society, that speach is (in every way) hate speach. And, hate speach is dangerous not only in the hands of people who might use it to fuel their own aggressive nature, but also to wellbeing (mental and otherwise) of the to those demeaned by being the target of that speach.

It's hard to know where to draw the line. I really applaud the ladies of Smith for drawing a line, and standing their ground.

Dick Mills

Posted by: Dick Mills | May 2, 2008 2:55:42 PM

Stacy: It's very indicative of your movement that you would take eight words that I've said on a post filled with hundreds and take them out of context:

http://blogforbooks.com/archives/2008/05/03/jeremy-hes-trying-to-silence-our-sex-lives-hooper-decries-ryan-sorba-as-ryan-is-drowned-out-by-lesbian-activists/

But since you have made the baseless post and then gone on to pose the question, "If homosexuality isn’t ultimately about who a person chooses to have sex with, then why did Jeremy Hooper say, 'Hell, he’s trying to silence our sex lives!'?" I will try my best to answer you (even if I can't fully decipher your point).

Ryan or anyone who is trying to "change" gays is, in fact, trying to silence gay sex. It doesn't matter if that sex is every hour on the hour with five hundred partners a day, weekly with a monogamous partner of thirty years, or once a decade with a random stranger -- the total elimination of the sex practice is what your side is seeking! It would be the same exact thing if gay activists were trying to "convert" straights. Stating the fact doesn't speak to anything other than the obvious -- the desire to eliminate one certain type of sex.

But then, Stacy, you go on to say:

"I believe the dear man just made and confirmed my point, as stated very clearly in my famous phone call. 'It’s all about sex….'"

Wow, what a chasm of logic you had to leap over to make that statement! Because again, it speaks nothing to the frequency or focus towards which we place our sex lives. It's just a statement of fact. It's also our love, companionship, culture, bonds, organizations, media outlets, parades, political ideas, etc. that Ryan and yourself would like to "convert." And in the thousands upon thousands of posts I have written on the subject, all have been discussed.

I, for one, would hope that nobody's life, gay or straight, is "all about sex." And in my mind, it just weakens your discourse when you present gay life so childishly.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 2, 2008 4:11:27 PM

WAIT A MINUTE!!! What about this 'Mass Resistance just happened to be there' with a camera (and after guaranteeing adequate lighting, etc.) This is all just too much of a SET UP folks. They were played!!!..... are they too lame-brained to get it?

Posted by: LOrion | May 2, 2008 4:18:56 PM

Wrote last, before I saw this reply to Stacy, JH. Yes, yes, yes... and again thank you, thank you for having the courage and stamina to keep saying this over and over and over. We'll keep reading it and trying to pass it on.

Posted by: LOrion | May 2, 2008 4:23:04 PM

LOrion: No, no -- I think you're jumping to a conclusion there. MassResistance has been meticulously covering Ryan Sorba's career in recent months. It seems they're trying to recruit him for their fringe team. They would have likely be on site no matter how liberal or conservative the college (as they were at Framingham college just a few weeks ago).

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 2, 2008 4:23:10 PM

Didn't Ryan Sorba explicitly say that he supports a re-institution of anti-sodomy laws? In that sense, yes, he is indeed trying to silence the sex lives of *anyone* who isn't straight and using missionary position. Pointing out exactly what he's trying to silence is not the same thing as saying one's sexuality is *entirely* about one's sex life.

Stacy, how you figure that this is proof of any of the childish assertions from your "famous phone call" is beyond me.

Posted by: zortnac | May 2, 2008 4:41:55 PM

Don't colleges have rules about filming on campus? I guess they do and Mass Resistance had permission, but the kids need to be forewarned then. Of course, with this youTube generation they all should expect to be exposed at any and all times I guess.

However, it might have been a good idea for a faculty/administration member who knew about the potential for 'reaction' to remind the college audience that they are being filmed...and that anything they say or do may be used 'against' them.

Posted by: LOrion | May 2, 2008 4:45:01 PM

What I find interesting with this situation is the take that other sites have had. Our friend Pete at AFTAH says this is OUR intolerence. Yet what Rev. Hutcherson did outside Mt. Si High was not a show of intolerence. With this thinking going on out there, I say good for Smith, Fight on Sisters!

Posted by: Greg Collins | May 2, 2008 5:28:38 PM

In the end, I don't think it benefits the movement to behave like a bully.

Sorba should have been vigorously challenged in a question and answer forum, and I don't even object to hissing during his speech. Certainly, a massive protest outside was called for. I also think it would have been appropriate to question whether Sorba's "work" has sufficient scholarly foundation to merit an invitation to speak at Smith; it needs a certain amount of academic expertise to command academic respect.

But I think we cross a line, especially on a university campus, when we exercise what is called a "heckler's veto" -- that is, using the force of your numbers, not your ideas, to silence a speaker. There have been and still are plenty of times and places where pro-gay speakers would face the same suppression by a hostile audience.

To endorse the heckler's veto requires one, I think, to conclude that the system of free speech is so broken that truth about LGBT people cannot emerge from wide-open debate. Personally, I don't see much evidence for such a lack of confidence given the incredible gains our movement has made since Frank Kameny and his little band of protesters marched in front of Independence Hall and the White House in the mid-1960s.

It may not seem like it sometimes, but in this country at least, our arc of history crested during the brutality of the 2004 election campaign. It may take a few more decades, but history is now moving toward a final, pro-gay resolution -- and people like Sorba and MassResistance know it.

Posted by: Steve | May 2, 2008 5:35:52 PM

I thought that Stacy's "famous phone call" was all about penises and assholes?? No?? I doubt that these ladies from Smith were all that interested in either of those anatomical parts? That is probably why she called it the famous phone call, rather than repeating what she said.

Posted by: Dick Mills | May 2, 2008 5:38:52 PM

Much better sound quality in this one than what was posted on You Tube. My opinion hasn't changed. If anything, these two videos provide a better view of what happened and Smithies should indeed be ashamed. Where was campus security? Are they such incompetents that they couldn't do anything when the girls rushed up to the podium? No, Sorba may be speaking nonsense but this so-called 'spontaneous' protest (which I don't believe for a second it was) to silence him was very wrong and extremely counter-productive. Did Sorba and his group go into this knowing it would happen, thereby seeking video "ammo" to help their cause? Probably, but so what? Their cause stands or falls based upon how they justify their views, not on the antics of others. This gives them some temporary sympathy and certainly doesn't help counter-groups, but doesn't give any validation to them. I couldn't make out most of what Sorba was saying yet from what I could, it sounded like the same speech I found the text of online. I wasn't very impressed.

As for Ms. Harp's comments on her blog, methinks she doth miss the forest save for the trees...

Posted by: John | May 2, 2008 6:05:20 PM

Jeremy,

I presented your gay life childishly? That's funny considering the lesbians who were acting like spoiled brats at this speech. My point stands.

Posted by: Stacy Harp | May 2, 2008 6:07:12 PM

P.S. I didn't take your quote out of context, in fact I highlighted the previous comment to yours so that my audience could see in context what you were referring to. I'm not sure how you missed that.

Posted by: Stacy Harp | May 2, 2008 6:08:25 PM

Stacy: Other than serving as the vehicle for their existence, the Smith situation has nothing to do with the assertions you made about my eight words. And yes, it was quite childish for you to pull those eight words from the comment and twist them so that they are somehow, in some odd way, an admission that gayness is "all about sex."

But whatever. It's absurd for me to even dignify this any further.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 2, 2008 10:24:01 PM

Stacy, Jeremy and anyone who cares to read this thought!

Stacy seems feels disgusted that homosexuality is nothing more than just sex. I am sad to hear this from Stacy because I know she knows better. She has gay friends and relatives. She knows that it is more than sex. She has seen it if she truly has gay friends. he is always welcome to come out to Rhode island and come hang on the beaches and hang with me and my partner Rick.


Stacy has chatted with me online about relationships. I know she knows there is more to it than just a **uck.

My relationship has lasted eight years now. We have had good times, bad times and some boring times. We have had ups and downs and even disagreements. We have also had the most amazing laughter sessions I have ever breathed. We have also had the most passionate moments of my life and there was no sex in those moments. There was truly a love I can barely find words to explain. To reduce those feelings down to "just sex" is the same as reducing Shakespeare down to just words that happen to rhyme.

Sadly, there is a profound beauty in a love between two people. homo or hetero, love takes deliberate and conscientious choices that despite what comes at you, you commit to the person you are with. You may not have made the choice to be attracted them, but you made a choice to stick by them, see them authentically no matter what.

Gay or straight, to reduce that to just sex is to reduce the people involved to just breathing blobs with no humanity.

I have learn in my 38 years that no matter who cute they are, no matter who hot they are, it takes 6 weeks to go from hot to ho hum, but the person inside can jump to amazing. What is on the outside fades in time no matter who you are. If it was just sex, no one would ever stay and we know they do.

Stacy knows that the rules of attraction are more than sex, but even ms. Harp can't explain attractions. Who knows the ins and outs. Leather stud boy loves the 50's prom queen (street care name desire) or the slutty waiter loves the Mormon missionary (Latter Days) or in my case the collage professor fell for the cute blond boy who delivers the mail in a law office and sings in a band. 8 years later I still love and have been committed to the professor (does that make me Gilligan or Marianne?

Trust me Stacy, for all the days I did stuff I didn't wanna do...it was love, not sex.
For all the days that I watched his Tv show choice instead of mine came from a place of love.
For the shower curtin that has hung for 7 years that I hate with a passion, trust it hangs there because I love him and since I love him and I know loves the hideous shower curtain, guess what is still hanging.

For all the dinners I tried to make interesting and burned instead. He ate them and said the were great! I know that sucked.....that s the love.


Posted by: Joe Brummer | May 2, 2008 11:14:46 PM

I keep trying to get Stacy to learn "Nonviolent Communication" (NVC) as presented and taught by Marshall Rosenberg. Maybe she is getting it, maybe not. Today, her lesson comes in a form of taking her above statements and in turn, translating them into the NVC statements they could be, so others can learn.
Remember NVC translate all sentences in
OBSERVATION without evaluation.
Feelings without thoughts, expressing emotions
needs or values behind our actions.
Request (not demands)

Lets give the a try.....
Stacy originally wrote:
I think that the activists should've protested outside of the area where the speech was being given, instead of inside and intentionally disrupting the speech....if indeed they felt the need to protest.

I'm all for free speech, but this was actually pretty rude and in my opinion, didn't do much to further the discussion.


What Stacy meant to say?
When I aw the protesters inside yelling [observation without evaluation or judgment], I felt displeased. [feeling] I really value people's right to free speech and try to honor it. [expressed need] I wish they had been willing to voice their opinion without disrupting the program. [positive language request] This would have met my need for respect for church group expressing their beliefs. [need expression again]

Joe add's: wouldn't this whole dance of opinoins look different if we played different? WHat if I really did teach Stach to use NVC to express herself? Could she express her disapproval of gays:

Observation: State what you are opposed to without judgment, evaluation or diagnosis. example "when Kevin Kaatz writes "XX" about me..."

Feelings: Express a clear feeling: When kevin kaatz writes XX about me....I FEEL [blank] Fill in a feeling, but no psuedo feelings that imply someone else has something to do with the feeling. Feelings are not thoughts. The words after "I feel" should be a feeling. a real emotion. No metaphor, not "like" or "as if". Just tell us what you feel with a real emotion.....

Then Stacy could express a Need, a value she would like to uphold, maybe even why....

So we should have Stacy Statement down to:

"When I see Kevin Kaatz writes [blsnk] about me, I feel displeased because I value {insert what you need, value, or like, but a truth about you and a need) honesty and authenticity. I fear Kevin is not seeing me authentically and I would him to. Kevin, WOuld you be willing to tell me what you have heard me say so I know you understood me that I was hoping to be understood? [REQUEST, NOT A DEMAND] I would add that a true request is made of "positve action langauge." What do you want someone to do, not what you don't want them to do.....Example: Wife "I don't like it when you spend too much time at work" Husband: Okay I will join the golf club a few time a week. Wife is upset, why? She really wanted him to spend time with her, but that was not her request, she said I want you to spend less time at work. He is, golfing, no with her.


I believe that if Stacy tried this method of speaking she could get a positive message out there that is congruent with her faith, yet not offend anyone. I Could teach her....or I could get an outside party to do it.

The difference between a request and a demand is what happen if they say no....

Punishment and reward don't work.....Ask yourself....what is it I want someone to do and why do I want then to do it?

If I threated them to do it, there will our of fear.

If I makes them feel sorry for me, they will do it out of guilt.

If I reward them, they will do it to get the reward.

If I punish them, they will do it to avoid being punished.....

If I show them who happy I will be if they do it, they will do it to enrich my life.

What do you want people to do things for you?

Posted by: Joe Brummer | May 3, 2008 12:00:53 AM

I myself am an older lesbian and I am very proud of the younger generation getting vocal and loud. This is long overdue. We have to stand up and refuse to be intimidated by and discriminated against by these self-righteous bigots. The Christians have become a fascist political power and we have every right to shout down their propaganda and hate where ever it is spewed. Shouldn't they be busy feeding the poor as Jesus instructed instead of trying to run everyone's lives?

Posted by: Yvonne | May 3, 2008 5:17:16 AM

Stacy, do you think that posting a screen shot of Jeremy's entire comment saves you from the critique that you've still taken what he said completely out of context? It doesn't, it just means that your own blog has visual evidence that you've cherry-picked 8 words and applied bogus meaning to them.

I could post a screen shot of your entire comment, caption it: "Stacy's comment, in full context!" and then start insisting that half of a sentence in the middle is *really* you confessing that you're kookoo for Coco Puffs®.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make a statement either about your mental stability or your preference for breakfast cereal, though both are suspect from what I've seen(and heard), but if I were I'd have to do it in a way that makes sense, not simply pretend that I can completely misrepresent what a person said and then think my ass is covered because I posted a screen shot of the whole thing.

Posted by: zortnac | May 3, 2008 9:30:20 AM

FYI: Rather than comment here like everyone else, Peter LaBarbera chose to email me his thoughts late last night:

http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2008/05/late-night-pen.html

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 3, 2008 10:33:59 AM

As if a gay pornographer like Peter LaBarbera has any room to talk about gay issues.

He just needs to mind his own business, and continue editing "Homosexuals in Leather: For Conservative Eyes Only, Volume 845".

Posted by: Scott | May 3, 2008 11:17:04 AM

I watched this video many times. I actually had a very hard time deciding whether or not this form of protest was going to be helpful to our cause or not. After hours of contemplating, I came to this conclusion. Ours is a voice that has been hindered and silenced by the government long enough. We are a people of this country and have the same amount of worth as any other person. It is the right time to be heard. This is supposed to be a country that separates state and religion. However, it is clearly being driven by the latter.
This is the time to actually be heard and make our country(the melting pot of the world) acknowledge our rights. Perhaps it shouldn't be " We're here, we're queer, get used to it, but instead, "We're her, we're queer, we won't be denied."

Posted by: GuyuxLee | May 6, 2008 7:17:07 AM

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