To the editor:
Andrew Breland’s recent article about Dan Savage insults the LGBT community, as well as members of other minority communities who are vocal about ongoing oppression and mistreatment. His effort to expose the hypocrisy of Dan Savage’s comments reveals his underlying bias and a subtle double standard. Gay people should complacently accept the vitriolic hate speech we are subjected to daily, but must never return the favor. If we do, then we become equally as blameworthy as our persecutors.
Breland’s style of victim blaming is nothing new, and he conveniently ignores the facts which weaken his position. Without mentioning the constant right-wing hate speech that precipitated Savage’s comments, the author provides four examples of Savage’s “hateful” remarks. A hypothetical example: If you were told that I insulted someone four times, you might quickly form a poor opinion of me. But your opinion might change if you learned I had been subjected to years of hate speech and disparaging remarks likened to animals and child molesters, and then denied rights to equal treatment under the law.
I agree with the well-worn axiom “two wrongs don’t make a right.” But no reasonable person could conclude that a small number of arguably hurtful utterances equal the longstanding, near-daily vitriol spewed by members of the religious right against the LGBT community. Dan Savage’s comments were not uttered in a vacuum. They were spoken against a backdrop of hatred, homophobia and LGBT youth suicide.
Breland’s article further states that after Savage was confirmed to speak at CWRU, his “anger began.” Anger? At having someone who started a successful project to combat LGBT despair and suicide, a project to which the current president of the United States contributed, be present on campus for a couple of hours? Breland expresses anger about a short one-time event he never had to attend, but if the LGBT community expresses anger about hate speech and denial of equal rights we contend with daily, we must adhere to the highest standard of diplomacy or else forfeit all sympathy?
It is clear that the elephant in the room is Breland’s bias against the LGBT community. He writes that “Dan Savage has no contribution to what we do on a daily basis.” I might accept this sweeping statement if there were no one at CWRU belonging to a minority group, involved in social activism, interested in opinion journalism or curious about successful web-based campaigns. The “we” to whom Breland refers apparently means the heterosexual, male, conservative Republican community to which he belongs. For the LGBT community, Dan Savage has made, and continues to make, a tremendous impact.
Breland also writes that he expects “his words here to cause outcry. [He] expect[s] angry classmates…spiteful and demonizing glances.” I hope his classmates will instead expound the many public instances of hate, discrimination and intolerance toward LGBTs, with specific examples of the detrimental effects of this culture on LGBT individuals. Regardless, I suspect whatever negative responses Breland receives to be ultimately benign—certainly nothing similar to the challenges LGBTs endure simply for being born gay, and far short of the constant gross mistreatment of LGBTs that triggered Dan Savage’s comments at issue.
Breland’s opinion piece attempts to arouse sympathy for a group that has typically enjoyed full rights and freedoms but has historically had the privilege of bullying sexual minorities without consequence. How many of the “upset and crying” attendees at Savage’s 2012 high school journalism conference took their own lives? Or suffered non-transient psychological harm of any kind? Compare that statistic with LGBT youth suicide, depression and homelessness rates and learn which group is truly deserving of sympathy.
Breland’s statements that his “anger began” while “minding [his] own business” as well as his question “how could this happen?” indicate his belief that some harm has been unjustly thrust upon him. There is none. If Breland’s threshold for harm is this low, I cannot imagine how he would fare walking a mile in LGBT shoes. But I can guess it would not go very well.
Dan Savage’s real views on bullying: He’s as mad as hell, and he’s not going to take this anymore! There is at least one more likely reason for the “outpouring of excitement and support” for Dan Savage’s talk besides students being ignorant, jaded or uncaring. Perhaps saving lives and contributing to the psychological well-being of millions of people outweigh four arguably hurtful phrases uttered in frustration. Actions often do speak louder than words.
Adopting a page from Dan Savage’s playbook, I invite Andrew Breland to join in a friendly one-on-one chat about his views. I always make time to provide perspective to others who are unfamiliar with, or who choose to ignore, the serious and unique struggles faced by minority groups. Perhaps Breland can enlighten me on the harms he believes to have suffered by not attending Dan Savage’s talk, or the daily hardships he must endure as a fully-included member of mainstream society.
William Metcalfe Lee