Tuesday, June 1, 2010

When studies and debates are insulting

image This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

When it comes to gays and lesbians, there are no shortages of debates and studies and research. Lots of questions to ask, lots of information for the boffins to process, lots of ethics and morals and cause and effect to analyse in detail.

People have researched whether we make good parents or whether our children are worse off than the children of heterosexuals. Repeatedly. Over and over. We have studies and investigations about us adopting, surrogacy and the terrible bad naughty things we do to vulnerable little kiddie brains.

People have considered whether gay men should give blood, or whether our gayness will pollute the precious straight bloodstream (yes, it bothers me, you may have guessed).

People have studied if we're more prone to domestic violence.

People have studied if we're more prone to abuse children.

People have studied over and over and over again whether we can be "cured."

People have debated on whether gay families should count and are due the same respect as straight ones.

Even now, there is a study (yet another study) in America looking at whether openly gay soldiers are a major dire badness (and there has been no shortage of those either) and scourge on the military despite the presence of openly gay soldiers in so many militaries that it's laughable that it's still debateable.

Then there are the debates. On the internet, on forums, on TV, in newspapers. In endless opinion pieces as lots and lots of (straight) people weigh in on these big gay issues

And we criticise many of these studies, debates etc. We criticise them because they use horrendous bigots as 'experts' (like CNN using Richard Cohen or just about anyone using George Rekers), we criticise them for their biased reporting and obviously prejudiced and clueless assumptions. We criticise them because they're always used as an opportunity for the bigots to have a hate-fest.

But we rarely criticise the study itself. We never say how offensive the question being asked in the first place is.

It is offensive to ask, study and debate whether I would be a worse parent simply because I am gay.

It is offensive to ask, study and debate whether my being gay makes me more prone to abuse children.

It is offensive to ask, study and debate whether my relationship is as valid as a heterosexual relationship.

It is offensive to consider my sexuality an ailment in need of treatment.

It is offensive to ask, study and debate whether I am more evil, more flawed, more broken or simply wrong just because I am gay.

Why are these questions debateable? Why is my fitness as a person considered a topic for scholarly discourse? Why is whether I am evil considered something that needs analysing?

These questions are not just questions - they're attacks. They paint us as not only less, but as evil. And they frame considering us as evil as a reasonable position to hold. Our humanity is not assumed - it's something that is open to debate. The people who hate us aren't presented as bigots - they're held as having a differing opinion - a rational, sensible one even!

And I reject that. These questions don't need answering, there's no reason even to raise them. It's like sitting around and considering whether torturing kittens is a valid pass-time. Why are we asking this? Why do we need to debate and study this? Why are we presenting bigotry as a reasoned, sensible position worthy of scholarly consideration?

The only time I've seen people finally driven to say "why are people even ASKING this question?!" is when the BBC asked "Should Homosexuals face Execution?"

And that worries me. It worries me that the questions have to be this extreme, that the topics have to be this obviously offensive for us to realise that the debate is wrong. It worries me that our existence can even remotely be considered a subject for debate. And it worries me that this is still considered acceptable, mainstream discourse.