The recent passage of an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio highlights yet again why the LGBT community urgently needs to call out the propaganda that serves to demonize our community.
Before San Antonio City Council voted for the ordinance, members of the LGBT community had to sit through demeaning testimony that cast them as "promiscuous abominations." One supposedly well-meaning gentleman even took it upon himself to school everyone in graphic detail about sodomy, thereby invoking the stereotype of gay men wallowing in bodily wastes.
I personally felt nauseated when I read the tweets about the testimony. I felt as if I'd been strapped down in some time machine and transported back to when Anita Bryant was trumpeting the false claim that gays "recruit" children to supposedly "replenish" our ranks.
It was such a long time ago that Bryant smeared the gay community, but here we are, decades later, hearing the same lies in spite of the fact that we are supposed to be a bit more enlightened. After all, isn't this the post-Will & Grace era in which the LGBT community are no longer consigned to the closets of fear, stereotypes, and self-hatred?
So why did so many people in San Antonio freely embrace some of the worst and most nauseating stereotypes about the LGBT community?
To paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves. The LGBT community has deceived itself into thinking that if we just sidestep the lies and distortions and solely focus on "telling our stories" as ordinary people seeking fairness under the American system, our problems with those who oppose our right to equality will dissipate.
It's high time that the LGBT community realize that this belief is a false bill of goods that serves as a pitiful Band-Aid to a problem that requires more than stories designed to yank at the heart strings; indeed, such efforts make it look as if we are begging for "tolerance."
For every one LGBT individual who successfully educates his or her neighbor, organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association send out press releases to thousands of people, spinning tales of gays persecuting Christians, diseased gays who live shorter lifespans than heterosexuals, or gays who enjoy abusive relationships when they are not seeking to harm children.
We are dealing with a veritable juggernaut of lies not unlike those spread about African Americans by segregationists, or those spread about Jewish people by anti-Semites. The problem is that we don't take this juggernaut seriously. We laugh at the outrageous lies uttered about us by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth, or Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, but we fail to see that by not publicly and forcefully refuting these lies, we give them a clear field to influence Americans.
When we underestimate the comments and claims that deliberately cast us as the dangerous "other," we forget that they do in fact move a significant part of the population, either because of those people's religious beliefs or because Fischer and company are so adept at infusing fear of a gay takeover in their minds.
We are consistently under the illusion that addressing this propaganda gives it power, but we have the entire idea backwards. Our refusal to confront this propaganda is the very thing that gives it power.
Until the LGBT community and our leaders declare war against the lies and liars and make a serious effort to confront this propaganda head-on, America will have serious problems seeing the real LGBT community. They will have problems seeing us as tax-paying citizens who are concerned about our families, our children, and our loved ones just like every other American citizen.
Instead, they see a false image of LGBT persons as hedonistic, intolerant hypocrites who are out to "force" people to "accept" our supposed "lifestyle" while we "recruit" children or "persecute" Christians. These misconceptions will continue to nip at our heels, undermining any progress we make at attaining equality.
Are we ever going to turn around and confront these false images and the parties who push them?
Alvin McEwen is the author of How They See Us: Unmasking the Religious Right War on Gay America, a short but definitive guide to calling out and refuting homophobic propaganda. The book is available for free on Scribd. You can also obtain it for free by emailing McEwen at firstname.lastname@example.org.