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What Peter LaBarbera Will Never Understand

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In a recent post on his website Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera criticizes so-called "pro-family leaders" for focusing on issues such as gay marriage while neglecting to oppose homosexuality itself. Citing the need to emphasize "WHY homosexual and transgender behaviors are always wrong," "how homosexual sex is fraught with health risks," "why homosexuality violates Natural Moral Law, the teachings of Judaism and Christianity," and "the inordinate drug and porn use among homosexual men, and 'gay-on-gay' assaults and abuses," he says:

Simply put, we as a movement must conquer whatever timidity, fear and political correctness we have in NOT wanting to debate the morality of homosexuality -- because our fanatically-driven LGBT opponents will never relent in their audacious campaign to "sell" homosexuality to the public. Notice that while many conservatives shrink from the homosexuality debate, self-described out-and-proud "queer" activists never back-track in their misguided, indeed, pathological quest to compel society to approve of their aberrant "lifestyles."

LaBarbera gives little thought to why this might be the case, but the answer should be obvious to anyone who isn't consumed with self-righteous loathing for gay people. There certainly is a reason why the mainstream anti-gay movement does its best to avoid openly attacking us for being drug-addicted rapist sinners, and that's because most people just don't want to hear it.

Over 50% of Americans personally know someone who's gay, and this figure holds true among liberals, moderates, and conservatives. Those who do know someone gay are more likely to support gay marriage and the legality of gay relations. Knowing gay people puts a human face on what would otherwise only be an abstract concept of what gay people, their relationships and their "lifestyles" are like. Without any actual firsthand experience, their understanding of us remains foggy and vulnerable to rumor, suspicion and distrust. Familiarity serves to ground this in reality -- a reality which LaBarbera and his colleagues have dedicated themselves to fighting against.

What is it that makes these personal connections and interactions so effective at humanizing us in the eyes of the public? Many in the anti-gay movement seek to diminish our struggles in a historical sense by asserting that sexual orientation is nothing like one's race or color. But in one crucial respect, this is absolutely true.

The fact of our sexuality does not visibly manifest itself in an easily recognizable way, with the unfortunate side effect of the superstitious marking of certain appearances or mannerisms as "gay." While this has often resulted in plenty of anti-gay abuse being directed at young children and anyone who strays even slightly from established norms, it has also deprived people of any certainty about who among them might be gay. Our sexuality does not afford them the opportunity to recoil from our very skin the moment they lay eyes on us. It's something they must come to learn.

In no small part because of a pervasive history of societal homophobia, many of us have been reluctant to share the truth about ourselves with anyone but those we trust the most: our good friends, neighbors, co-workers, and hopefully our families. By the time we feel comfortable enough to come out to them, this can spark an extraordinary shift in perspective, because these people have already come to know us, appreciate us, and love us for who we are -- not what we are. When faced with the fact that the wholesome and upstanding person they respect and care deeply for also happens to be gay, this goes a long way toward dispelling any misconceptions, including the vulgar lies of anti-gay activists. Our own lives testify to the truth.

So how do you think our families and friends will react when Peter LaBarbera's partners in homophobia such as pastor Patrick Wooden claim that gay men use gerbils and baseball bats sexually and "die in diapers"? What will they think about the notion that our very love should be subject to criminal sanctions and we're going to burn in hell? How will they feel about baseless accusations that gay people are pedophiles and even orchestrated the Holocaust?

These wildly hateful confabulations may serve to rile up the anti-gay base, but this is utterly repulsive to anyone who knows us. Does LaBarbera really expect people to believe that their loved ones are actually child-molesting Nazis? If he thinks his moralistic bloviations can take precedence over our humanity, then we can only hope that even more anti-gay groups will follow his lead. He's just given them a lesson in how to drive their movement directly into a brick wall.