Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Homophobic Commentary Does not Deserve a Polite Response

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.  

So, in the aftermath of the holidays, I’m pondering again on the nature of “good manners” and “rudeness”

No no, I’m not just repeating a post I made a long time ago.

No, I’m actually wondering when “polite”  became a matter of whether you used an angry tone or not? I’m confused at this idea that absolutely anything can be polite so long as you say it nicely? Or so long as you use the right words?

See, after the joys of the holiday season (my pills, oh my pills how you saved me) I have irritated many more family members with my rudeness. And I’m somewhat bemused here as to why I’m considered the rude one.

I question, for example, how it could be anything less than rude to say “you’re 30 now, shouldn’t you stop playing and start a real family?” to anyone. I really don’t see how that can be expressed in a manner that isn’t considered so shockingly rude that it would cause a hundred Victorian ladies to faint in fluster of petticoats.

I question, for example, how it is considered remotely acceptable dinner time conversation to tell me how happy dear cousin H is with her husband and how I could do the same and find a nice wife! (H being bisexual doesn’t stop the comparisons, or any thinking on her “fluid” sexuality beyond “he can change!!!” And her sexuality being fluid means mine must be, apparently) Especially when my husband is actually sat next to me.

I question, for example, whether it’s polite to repeatedly chide someone for not “taking the opportunity”  of visiting my cousin in Dubai even after I’ve made it clear that I have no intention of going to any nation with a genocidal law on the books. Maintaining the same lecturing not only all through lunch but well into the evening was certainly bad manners.

I question, for example, whether lamenting how I’d fail to ever provide appropriate grandchildren could ever be a reasonable thing to say to anyone, I really do.

I most certainly question why anyone even remotely thought it appropriate to bring up how very wrong you think marriage equality is over the turkey and then go on to express your disapproval of civil unions while I and my husband are sat right there.

See, I’m pretty sure none of this is even remotely polite. But what bemuses me is that, when confronted by these truly shockingly rude attacks, my curt and sharp response is the one that invites criticism. It’s not like I picked up the carving knife and severed an artery – I’m quite aware that would make a terrible mess on the table linens. I didn’t launch the bowl of sausage meat stuffing at anyone’s head, after all, people may want seconds. I didn’t even force anyone to eat Aunt D’s rather dubious bread sauce that I’m sure was moving. I didn’t even raise my voice which I think I was more than entitled to do, given the circumstances. But I did sharply demand the conversation cease before I felt obliged to leave the house or have a blazing row or use the Christmas tree as kindling on someone’s funeral pyre.

And it’s one of those moments when I wonder if clueless straight folks can even hear themselves –  because how else can you hear these offensive things being spouted –  over dinner no less, when I am trying to attend the vitally important task of eating until I cannot move – and decide that it is the objection that comes under fire? How can you hear what was said and criticise my sharpness rather than praise my restraint (and respect for how hard it is to remove blood stains from table linens)?

Or is homophobia just so normalised, such sentiments so protected by reasons of religion, culture and sheer bigotry, that such offensive statements are considered acceptable dinner time conversation?

Or do we have such a low respect for GBLT people that we’re just expected to suck it up and deal whenever a straight fool decides to season pigs in blankets with abuse?

I suspect all 3, especially when I’m then called on to explain why these obviously offensive things are intolerable – that certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth.