Bristol Palin couldn’t let President Obama’s historic endorsement of marriage equality pass by last week without throwing in her two cents. In a post on her blog, she tried to turn a story about a civil-rights milestone into one about how she, her mother, and other “Christian female” presidential candidates are, in fact, the victims of the current President’s social conscience. His daughters’ perspectives helped him evolve on marriage, but when “Christian women” run for President, they’re picked apart about the degree on which they rely on their spouses. As an example, Bristol cites Michele Bachmann being asked at a debate about whether, as president, she would “submit” to her husband Marcus. (Palin writes as though the question was just plucked out of thin air by a mean-spirited, anti-Christian debate moderator rather than a logical follow-up to remarks Rep. Bachmann made herself when running for office in Minnesota in 2006.) And of course, there’s also her mother, the perpetually victimized Sarah Palin, who her daughter believes was the target of unjust questions about the role her father — Gov. Palin’s husband, Todd — played in decision making (despite the fact that Todd Palin was widely known to be one of Sarah’s closest advisors).
Bristol also hauled out two thoroughly debunked right-wing talking points about marriage — first, that it’s been a static and unchanging institution for “thousands of years,” and second, that “in general kids do better growing up in a mother/father home” (when in reality, study after study after study shows that claim to be patently false).
As it turns out, a lot of people had a lot to say about Bristol Palin’s factually inaccurate, anti-Obama, anti-gay blog post. Some were supportive, some opposed; some were well-reasoned and calm, others were vicious and mean-spirited. In response, Bristol came out with another post on Monday where, in vintage Palin fashion, she failed to address any of the legitimate arguments made by her critics, bashed “Hollywood-type sheeple” for their allegedly uniform intolerance for people with anti-abortion and anti-gay views (apparently I missed the memo that a stint on Dancing with the Stars qualifies one as a Hollywood insider these days…), and said that she felt “[hated] in the name of love” and “[bullied] in the name of tolerance.” She then attempted to imply that in voicing her belief in marriage discrimination, she was speaking for her generation — my generation, the Millennials, who support marriage equality by a landslide margin of 22 percent.
But it was Bristol’s attempt to cast herself as a victim of hateful bullying that really bothered me. In fact, it bothered me so much that I spent part of my lunch break on Tuesday writing a response that I posted to her blog and Facebook page. While she’s not likely to see it, reply, or come around to a pro-LGBT perspective anytime soon, I thought I’d share it with just the same because it may be helpful to others as they discuss LGBT issues with anti-gay friends and family members:
Hey, Bristol. I’m so sorry that you felt bullied by some of the abusive comments that were left on your original post. They are indeed awful and inexcusable.
That said, welcome to the world that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people live in every day. In fact, according to an exhaustive analysis of FBI hate crimes data by the Southern Poverty Law Center, LGBT people are at a greater risk of being targeted for a violent hate crime than literally any other minority group — more than twice as likely to be attacked as Jews, 2.6 times more likely than African-Americans, nearly 4.5 times as likely as Muslims, almost 14 times more likely than Latinos, and 41.5 times more likely than whites. In large swaths of our country, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth are regularly teased and beaten up for who they are (or who their peers *think* they are), all the while living in a culture that shames them into silence. Many of them have homophobic parents or guardians, so they can’t even turn to the people who are supposed to love them unconditionally. LGBT youth are four to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts because of the malicious bullying and crushing hatred that they’re surrounded by every day. I should know: I attempted suicide myself at age 16.
Do you know why that world of bullying, death threats, verbal and physical violence, and murder on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity exists? Do you know why my community, the LGBT community, faces such a grave threat of hate-motivated violence? Guess what – it’s because of religion-based bigotry. I work for an organization that fights the “ex-gay” myth (propagated, incidentally, by your own church, among many others), which is the lie that it’s possible to change from gay to straight – to “pray away the gay” – through a mixture of prayer and so-called “reparative therapy.” Anti-gay pastors and religious profiteers across the country peddle this lie to scared, self-loathing teenagers and homophobic parents who’ve internalized the vicious anti-gay rhetoric they hear from the pulpit every Sunday. The claim that gay people can become straight is denounced by literally every single reputable medical and mental health organization in the country because it has no basis in research, doesn’t work, and can actually be dangerous to its victims, but that doesn’t stop the evil charlatans who cash the checks and make bank while holding out false hope for change, oblivious to (or utterly careless about?) the lives that they ruin in the process. And before you even *dare* to doubt that lives are ruined, I’d like to challenge you to walk in my shoes. We hear from people who bear permanent emotional and mental scars as a result of the “ex-gay” myth literally every day. Many who attempt suicide as a result of their guilt about their inevitable failure to “pray away the gay” bear physical scars as well. We also hear from many parents, siblings, and relatives of those who are no longer alive to tell their own stories – people who killed themselves trying to live a lie in order to accommodate the religion-based bigotry of people just like you.
So while I am truly sorry to read about the abuse that’s been directed your way since your anti-Obama blog post, I strongly object to your attempt to cast yourself as any kind of a victim. To the contrary, you, your mother, and the putridly anti-gay Republican Party are the ones who are victimizing LGBT people. And spare me the line about how your anti-gay views are unassailable because they’re your firmly-held religious beliefs. It’s utterly hollow. Hate wrapped in the name of God is still hate.
In closing, I must submit an important correction. You wrote about the “younger generation” in the context of abortion, then continued in the same sentence about how “voters just keep defending [so-called] traditional marriage.” If you meant to imply here that the “younger generation” — *our* generation – supports the continued exclusion of loving same-sex couples from full civil marriage equality, you are wrong. Seriously, no, *incredibly* wrong. In fact, you couldn’t be more wrong: repeated polling consistently proves that our generation OVERWHELMINGLY believes that EVERY American deserves the freedom to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. You’re free to hold any views you like, no matter how bigoted they are. But you are *not* free to misrepresent the truth. And the truth is that when it comes to marriage equality, the jury is in – and you’ve lost. The anti-gay mistakes of our parents’ generation (anti-LGBT marriage discrimination amendments, laws that marginalize and persecute the LGBT community in the areas of employment, housing, etc.) will be fixed by our generation, if they aren’t rectified even sooner than that. Despite your own personal homophobia, ours is *not* a homophobic generation; your anti-gay views are already a minority view among your peers. The day will come, very soon, when the loving marriage (of six years and counting!) that my husband and I enjoy will be recognized from coast to coast, and our nation will be the better for it. My hope and prayer for you is that someday you’ll be able to stop your homophobic bullying, let go of your own bigotry, and come to embrace your lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends, family members, and fellow citizens as equal Americans and full human beings.
John M. Becker
Let me know your thoughts. Am I wrong to get so irritated when bullies play the victim?
(Also published on the Huffington Post.)