I have been reading many nodes on homosexuality today. Nodes about being proud of it, nodes defending it, nodes ranting about the homophobes. The disturbing issue here is that in nearly all the nodes I read, and I read at least 30, the heterosexual noders who wrote amazing nodes, I mean succinct, intelligent, well written nodes, all had to write: "I'm not a homosexual" or "I'm a heterosexual".

Why is this? Who cares what your preference is? You just finished noding that you didn't care, that you were cool with being called a faggot, a homo etc. By telling us all that you in fact are not homosexual in a homosexual node, is quite indicative of not really being okay with the whole thing. Your sexual preference was not an issue; it had no relevance to the node.

This of course pertains only to the nodes I read but! I think the magic to a well written node is to keep people wondering at least a bit, and when it comes to debates some may say that because the person was a heterosexual speaking strongly about homosexuality it may or may not have had more worth. Not so, the strength comes from not saying whether you are or not, because it does not matter. That is exactly what the node was trying to prove and that is exactly what you have proven by not saying either way.

Sexual preference has no weight in measuring a person's self worth, so why tell us you are or are not?

Swap race or religion or sex or social class or ethnicity for sexual preference, and you've got your answer. It states that while you might empathize with a particular group's plight, you have no personal experience upon which to base that empathy since you yourself are not in that group.

For some of the minority, it might make a world of difference -- there are always a couple who would say, "You're not one of us, you can't possibly understand.". Similarly, for the bigots, it would make the same world of difference -- "You're not one of them, how would you possibly understand?"

Unfortunately, those sort of people are also the least likely to be swayed by any sort of rational argument, particularly in the bigot camp. And the people who wouldn't care whether or not a gay-rights advocate was him/herself homosexual are open-minded enough that they don't need to be told.

So some writers do it anyhow, simply to be diplomatic, probably without realizing that it satisfies nobody who actually would need to know.

It's actually rather rare for people to defend standpoints they don't personally hold. It's similarly rare for people to bash beliefs they do hold.

It's easy to find a gun rant with sentiments like "You can pry my guns from my cold, dead fingers"; the classic pro-choice catchphrase is "it's my body".

People tend to make the generalization that if they stand up for it, they must be one of them.

Now suppose that Mr. Foo, a heterosexual, doesn't find anything wrong with a person's right to be homosexual. This is not the only opinion people hold. If Mr Foo writes in defense of homosexuals, Mr. Baz, someone from Foo's real life might easily find it.

Let's assume Mr Baz is an active bigot and decides to make Mr Foo's life miserable, because Baz thinks Foo is gay. Baz could even get outright violent. Baz is not a good man.

Mr Foo knows there are people like Mr Baz about and therefore includes the abovecomplained standard disclaimer.

There's other reasons too, but the fear of misplaced intolerance* is the one I can think of.


* Yes, intolerance is bad. But which is worse, being persecuted because you're $minority or being persecuted for being $minority even though you're not?

Sigh. Please tread carefully here.

One of the reasons I ultimately got out of the literary criticism game in college was that a lot of it has become a debate about the politics and semiotics of difference. If you are a member of the hegemony, you do not speak with a privileged voice the way a member of that group speaks. Period. I had a tough time getting used to this -- I'm not sure I ever really did. But the fact is that no matter how much you study, spend time with, or empathize with members of a group, you aren't, and you're speaking as an outsider. As such, it is perfectly natural and proper to say so, the way you would say IANAL if you were talking about legal matters. The same goes for the members of the group: you are signaling that you have personal experience that is relevant to what you are saying.

This is not to say that those outside the group don't have excellent things to contribute, and they may in fact be dead-on or much better insights than the people who are members of that group. In fact, your insights may be better precisely because you are an outsider, and have an objectivity that the member of the group may lack. But the members of that group are privileged with a subjectivity that you lack, and people that understand this (from either end) sometimes feel the need to communicate it. I don't doubt that some people do do it out of homophobia, but many do not, and shouldn't be chastised for it.

Remember that the internet, and forums like E2 specifically, have changed the structure of discourse. Before the printed word most discourse was face-to-face, so when somebody said something to you, you were aware of its context completely because you saw their facial expressions and hand gestures, you knew them, knew their family, etc., because you all lived in a small premodern town. We are now at the opposite extreme where not only can we converse with strangers with vastly different cultural backgrounds, indirectly via text, but even our identities are hidden behind usernames. We have to invent cues and signals like ';)' to make up for these deficiencies, in order to communicate properly. So bring on the context.

I feel the need to mention also that part of the original node here mentions a straight person's being "cool with being called a faggot, a homo, etc." I don't think anybody should be "cool" with that, gay or straight, as long as it is directed as hate speech and not appropriated language the way "queer" has become in many circles. Of course, this is exactly what I'm talking about: origin and context matter during speech acts. As a white guy I can't use "nigger" in basically any context without causing offense. The same with "queer" for straight people, etc.

And for the record...oh, never mind.

Hmmmmmmm.

Semiotics are all well and good, but let's roll up our sleeves and talk pragmatically here. There's a very practical reason why heterosexual auto-identification can be -- in certain situations -- a rather crass thing to do.

On the Internet, this sort of constant self-identification by straight folks is neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring- arguably, nothing you say here is going to have serious ramifications for your personal or business life. However, straight people also do this pretty often in "real life," where the consequences of being seen as queer are a bit more dire. What happens if you have a room full of people ALL saying, "I'm straight, but..." (gay people make great babysitters/twenty-seven of my closest friends are queer/Ellen is just the best TV show ever, etc., etc.), is that the one or two gay people in the room are automatically going to be picked out as gay just because they're not saying otherwise. So, this can actually create a situation where GAY people are saying, "I'm straight, but..." just so they aren't forced to come out.

"Lies of omission" alone won't allow one to pass for straight...in situations like the one above, one must actively tell falsehoods in order not to arouse suspicion. And although ideally, "coming out" would be as painless and offhand for queers as it is for straight folk, there are still lots of places in the world where walking around with a big pink triangle affixed to one's forehead is not such a hot idea.

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