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Gossip, trash talk is heart of the anti-LGBT movement

by Jeremy Hooper

Since becoming a parent, something I've prioritized for both myself and my family is the elimination of gossip and smack-talk from our lives. At only twenty months old, my daughter is already a sponge who often mimics words and actions right after I say or perform them. My husband and I are hyper-aware of how we are modeling behavior for her every second of the day, and it has informed how we treat our fellow travelers on this planet, whether they are in the room or not. We've never been all that bad about negative or catty or judgmental talk at other people's expense, but Andrew and I both feel compelled to wipe it out of our lives as much as possible. We both realize its potential to corrode, regardless of whether the person being talked about ever becomes aware of the secret convo. Negativity seeps into everything.

I've been conducting lots of research on how to combat this garbage talk wherever and whenever it appears. I've learned all kinds of axioms and affirmations to move toward a more satisfying personal worldview. Moreover, I've come to think more deeply about how fully this kind of crap-talking seems to find us in this quite connected society in which we all live. From reality TV to social media to our increasingly polarized political system, it does seem we are more inundated than ever with hostile tongues that move us away from debates on issues, matters of concern, and actual things that people actually said (which are always fair game) and into the realm of harsh personal judgement. The overexposure has desensitized us, and it has led us to accept forms of public engagement that were once confined to more private arenas.

But as I thought about it more, I realized that it isn't just parenting or modern life that has sharpened my awareness and resistance. I realized that my overflowing cup is likely due at least in part to the movement I've long challenged: the anti-LGBT rights movement. The more I thought about it, I realized that it really is one of the most major perpetrators of this unrepentant crap-talking in modern American culture.

Loose Lips Might Sink ShipsThink about it: The entire anti-gay campaign was crafted around the notion that those of us who happen to have been born a certain way are somehow a threat. Initially, this was focused on our supposed threat toward children in the predatory sense. Oppositional forces portrayed gay men, in particular, as roaming the country in search of young people to "recruit" and ultimately endanger. While that has morphed into different permeations over the years, this remains the underlying mindset that sustains the anti-LGBT movement to this day. The practitioners of the discriminatory arts continue to push the untruthful portrait with little hesitation or repentance.

The anti-LGBT movement also operates without awareness of and/or concern for the very real damages it poses to very real people. Like all whisper campaigns that traffic in corrosive and caricatured notions of others coupled with insistence that their words are the gospel, the anti-LGBT campaigners offer us crude broadsides without any concern for the men, women, and children whose wellbeing is hindered (or worse) because of the maligning. It's a movement that is quite careless with its words, to say the least. Just like gossips get off on the adrenaline rush that comes from knowing something or feeling superior to the target of the gossip, many anti-LGBT activists seem to take great delight in the immediate stimulation that one of their dehumanizing and stigmatizing talking points provides. Casualties, schmasualties. The lack of mind this movement pays to the kids and teens and families it hurts is as stunning as it is definitive.

It's also a movement that requires constant feeding in order to stay alive. Like any rumor, the ideas that form the anti-LGBT cause (e.g. gays harm kids gay people can "change;" same-sex marriage = a threat; etc.) must be repeated time and time again in order to stay in circulation. If not, their game of telephone would end with one generation. Unlike acceptance, their discriminatory ideas are not instinctive or organic. This is why they must be so aggressive in repeating the same tired phrases and attack lines over and over and over again. If they didn't, the ideas of Falwell would have fallen (and not well) by now. Gossip requires gossips who are willing to keep the fallacies going.

And of course they insist on talking about us rather than with us. The anti-LGBT movement is notoriously closed off, most always preferring, if not demanding, monologues rather than dialogue. You see this on social media all the time, with younger anti-LGBT activists writing off all critics as "trolls." Or you see it in anti-LGBT comment forums, where anti-LGBT groups wipe clean all comments from LGBT people standing up for their lives, no matter how rational and focused the pro-LGBT pushback may be. In fact, you see this sort of thing throughout the anti-LGBT movement in all its various manifestations. That's because gossip is much easier to spread when the target of the rumormongering is shut out from the conversation. It's easier to talk crap when the person who has the life experience to actually call you out on your crap is not around to do so.

Like a clique of high schoolers desperate to social climb, the anti-LGBT movement conjures up stories that make their adversaries seem unsavory and make their own crowd seem better by comparison. Sometimes these stories are built on half-truths, but not always even that. One thing that those of us who have tracked this movement find so astounding (and why they hate so much that we call it out) is how readily and unscrupulously the FRCs and NOMs and AFAs of the world will create a "story" out of a stretched truth, at best, and even of out of whole cloth in many occasions. It truly is a movement more aligned with gossip columnists than government reporters.

This M.O. is not true of everyone who works on the other side. I do know some anti-LGBT activists who very much believe in the rightness of their views and the worthiness of their cause, but who do not personally go down (or at least strive to not go down) this road of excessive judgement. In most every case, these individuals do work closely with people and groups who do, so the distinction only carries so much weight. But I do feel a need to say that there are some exceptions within the movement. It is the movement to which I am referring, not every individual who carries water for it.

In general, however, I do feel comfortable saying that the movement that has long fought against us is one that would not exist without the tittles and tattles and conjecture and busy-bodying and scandalmongering that should earn criticism at a junior high slumber party, much less in American politics. This is a movement that took smug satisfaction in its perceived superiority and chose to act like mean teens who get to run the halls of American governance, if not mortality (not to mention morality) itself. The notion of calmly and rationally considering the human spectrum was always an available option for adults to choose. Instead, the anti-LGBT movement chose grunts and groans and excessive bad-mouthing in order to sell a preconceived script.

As the years go by, there will be much to unpack about the past five decades or so of the modern anti-LGBT versus LGBT fight. And I do think that as we go on, these stark realities about a movement that never-should've-been will become more glaring.

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