Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tyree Keeps Spouting Off: "Don't Want My Kids to Think Homosexuals Are Normal"

And so now we hear from Mr. Tyree re: what it's really all about for him, when he calls same-sex couples "unnatural and spouts off about what his bible says:  it's about the children, for God's sake!   It's about that old canard to which NOM and other anti-gay hate groups inevitably return, when they gather than people's appetite for gay bashing is waning: it's about the old insinuations that "unnatural" gays are out to molest and recruit my children.  

The NOM crew and other homophobes never tired of using that tired insinuation to try to leverage opposition to each initiative to promote gay rights that comes down the pike.  Because it continues to work.  Because it hooks into some of the nastiest sub rosa prejudices that keep fueling societal suspicion of and hostility to gay and lesbian human beings.

It does need to be said: it's particularly disconcerting to see this vile form of discrimination being spread around by a man whose African-American community has rightly challenged Americans to grow up and get over their racial prejudices. As I noted in a posting discussing this matter last week, New Republic author John McWhorter has recently addressed the considerable homophobia within his African-American community by appealing to the black community to get over its homophobia, and to stop imagining that African Americans are entitled to vent open, destructive anti-gay prejudice when the black community rightly expects other Americans to refrain from open, destructive expressions of racial prejudice.  

Several days after McWhorter published his statement on this topic, Clay Cane echoed McWhorter's analysis with an equally frank critique of black homophobia at the Root website.  As Cane notes, homophobia is hardly confined to the black community.  The ignorant rantings of a Tracy Morgan or a David Tyree are not nearly so toxic for our culture as the "institutionalized homophobia" that is on full display in any legislative body around the land, and in many of the nation's faith communities, both white and black.  It might also be noted that David Tyree is merely a tool in the hands of the powerful and well-heeled white anti-gay activists who run NOM, and who are using him and any other black person who will collude with them to drive wedges between the gay and black communities--when NOM and its funders have no interest whatsoever in addressing racism or bettering the lot of black citizens of the U.S.

Still, as Cane concludes, his African-American community is now giving many citizens strong reason to think that many African Americans (and I'd argue, African-American men, in particular) imagine that they enjoy a sense of entitlement to vent rabid, undisguised prejudice against gay and lesbian persons, merely because African Americans are themselves a minority community.

Cane writes:

But there is a particular bombastic banter that many African Americans think they can get away with because we are a minority ourselves. In the way that some whites tiptoe around racism, we -- particularly the public figures in our community -- should tiptoe around homosexuality.  

Gays are not just white men. They are poor, middle class, disabled, Native American, black, Asian, Latino, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, single mothers, single fathers and any other identity you can imagine. If any of us desires to damn people to hell, we can all dig for a user-friendly Bible verse to validate our hatred. But God loves us all. Life, whether it begins out of wedlock or within marriage; and love, whether it's gay, straight or on crack, are human rights that should be experienced authentically.

In my view, what needs to be placed on the table, in particular, in these discussions is the unexamined assumption of many black men that they can buy masculinity on the cheap by ridiculing and bashing gay men.  What's going on in the behind-the-scenes dynamics that fuel the open hostility of some black men to gay men is an assumption that black masculinity is under siege, and some target--the cheapest and easiest one available--needs to be found in order to allow black men to assert their threatened masculinity.  Because men have a right, you understand, to assert their masculinity . . . .

That target happens to be gay men.  Who are construed as feminine, as always white, as rich, as racist, as immature and selfish: there are a thousand imaginary, unexamined rationales floating around in minority communities that, in the minds of those venting anti-gay prejudice, give minority groups the right to dump on those who are gay.

The big question that needs to be asked about these social dynamics, and about the kind of prejudiced drivel that Tyree keeps producing, is this: what ever makes men suppose, in the first place, that they can buy masculinity by demeaning others?  What makes many men assume that their manhood, their sense of self-worth as a male, depends on being better than and having power over someone envisaged as inferior?

Though Tyree thinks that adults of one gender are incapable of being meaningful role models and mentors for children of another gender, my own experience has led me to the opposite conclusion.  My two brothers and I were raised by an African-American woman of extraordinary strength of character and high principles.  One of the lessons she worked constantly to instill in us--and she would not permit us to ignore it, without severe penalties--was that our worth as human beings and our sense of self-worth were not dependent on our thinking we were better than someone else.  Or on our imagining we had the right to demean someone else.

Let a racial slur or a hateful statement about those less fortunate than ourselves pop out of our mouths, and the woman who raised us was swift to act.  Every tub needs to sit on its own bottom, she'd say.  If you think your self-worth is going to come from assuming you're better than they are--if you think your little tub finds it stability by sitting on some bottom other than its own--you're badly deceived.

I would not trade anything for the tutelage in being a man I received from the wonderful African-American "mother" who raised my brothers and me while my parents were at work each day.  I am deeply grateful that she taught me very early in my life that if I imagine that something like pigmentation, gender, or socioeconomic status makes me better than someone else, I had better think again.  

I'm glad that she taught me the meaning of being a true man who finds his unique worth by looking inside himself and not projecting fears and animosities outward onto others, to bolster his self-confidence.  I'm glad that she absolutely refused to allow my brothers and me to trample on the rights of anyone else, and that she used forceful lessons to drive that point home, any time we tried to do so.

I am sorry that Mr. Tyree appears not to have learned similar lessons from someone in his life along the way.  His evident assumption that he's building his and other heterosexual men's masculinity by demeaning gay men and seeking to block their rights is deeply off-base, and will not serve him well in the end--if becoming a real man and and admirable one is what he's all about with his crusade to "protect" marriage.

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