The most common real-world argument against SSM

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered for Basic Rights Oregon, for a night of calling Oregonians and trying to persuade them to support marriage equality.

At the training, me and other pro-equality volunteers roleplayed conversations before we went onto the phones. Roleplaying the part of someone opposed to same-sex marriage, I explained that I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with gay sex or gay relationships per se., but that I was concerned with how changing the definition of marriage would alter the country’s already fragile marriage culture. If there’s no longer a special status set aside for generative relationships, how will we continue to say that every child needs and deserves a father and a mother?

My roleplaying partner was bewildered, and scanned through the sheet of suggested responses to common arguments without finding anything helpful.

Later, once I was on the phone talking to real-life opponents of same-sex marriage, it became apparent why such intellectual arguments against marriage equality hadn’t been included on Basic Right Oregon’s cheat sheet.

It’s because those arguments never came up.

What I heard, over and over, from opponents of same-sex marriage is that they’re against it because “that’s what the Bible says.”

That’s what all but two opponents of SSM I spoke to said. Other callers seemed to have a similar experience.

While there are logical rebuttals to “that’s what the Bible says,” some of which were on our cheat sheet, the responses that might score points in a formal debate didn’t seem persuasive.

What seemed to be more effective was to talk to people about their own marriages (if they were married). How long have you been married? Why did you want to get married? Why do you think gay people want to marry?

Most people said what anyone would say — that they married because they were in love, because they wanted to build a family, because it was the right time.

Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely rare for someone to change their minds (none of the people I spoke to did). But even among those who didn’t change their mind, most said that gay and lesbian couples want to get married for the same reasons they did.

I’m sort of addicted to the process of civil argumentation. It helps me to clarify my own arguments and thinking, and it also helps me avoid bad mental habits (like demonizing those who disagree with me). But I’m not sure that the sort of careful, highly intellectualized discussions we have on this site really have much to do with the real “gay marriage” issue as understood by most Americans.

And in the end, the issue will probably be decided more by cohort replacement — by older voters being replaced by younger voters — than by persuasion and changing minds.

This entry posted in crossposted on TADA, Same-Sex Marriage. Bookmark the permalink. 

77 Responses to The most common real-world argument against SSM

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    1) People smart enough to deploy the argument you used in your role-play, are smart enough to not have a number reachable by well-meaning busybodies in call centers. But I agree that it is not an argument/position held by very many people.

    2) When I read this headline I thought it said “Argument Against S&M” and I thought “geez, not this again”.

  2. 2
    Susan says:

    We’re only talking to each other here on this blog, preaching to the choir, with a few professional dissenters who are very intelligent and well-mannered, so our “arguments” here at this site are pretty useless, that much is clear.

    I once threw down a challenge at a very conservative site for anyone to debate me on this topic, and several people took me up on it, but the results were disappointing. They added up to either an argument from authority (“the Bible says so” or “we’ve never done it this way before”) or nonsense about how on the instant that same sex couples could marry suddenly heterosexual men would no longer care for women. (huh? we’re that marginal? news to me! Straight men don’t love straight women in Massachusetts any more?? Why isn’t this in the news??)

    But it’s obvious how the “debate” such as it is is going to come out. It’s obvious to everyone, even the opponents. The only question is, how much poop are we going to have to wade through before we get there?

    (Also this: people don’t have to announce to you on the phone that they’ve Changed Their Minds to be influenced by what you say.)

  3. 3
    Susan says:

    The computer thought my last comment was “spam” so I will again state that it’s pretty obvious to everyone how this whole “debate” is going to come out. Even to the opponents.

    And that you may not know how influential your arguments may be. It’s unlikely that someone you’ve influenced will announce this to you on the spot on the telephone.

    [Thanks for letting me know! I fished your comment out from the spam trap. --Amp]

  4. 4
    mythago says:

    I’m curious what the response in the script to “it’s in the Bible” was.

    Because, no, it’s not in the Bible. There’s a prohibition on men having intercourse with each other, right around the prohibition on having sex with a woman on her period. But nothing about marriage.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    To be fair, many of them said “my church,” not “the Bible.”

    The script suggested reassuring them that nothing in the law would ever force their minister or their church to host a gay marriage.

    But as I said, trying to talk to people about their own marriage seemed, generally, to reach people better than trying to be logical or talking about legalities.

  6. 6
    Megalodon says:

    Did anybody curse you out or hang up on you?

  7. 7
    Rob F says:

    I’m curious what the response in the script to “it’s in the Bible” was.

    Because, no, it’s not in the Bible. There’s a prohibition on men having intercourse with each other, right around the prohibition on having sex with a woman on her period. But nothing about marriage.

    How about: “Your own reasoning requires you to have no problem with a sexless same-sex marriage. If both parties in a same-sex marriage remain celibate, there would be no gay sex, and therefore no violation of any Biblical law.”

  8. 8
    Robert says:

    Because, no, it’s not in the Bible. There’s a prohibition on men having intercourse with each other, right around the prohibition on having sex with a woman on her period. But nothing about marriage.

    There is a ton of stuff about marriage. It is all expressed in terms of men and women, with nary a reference to gay people. There is no outright statement that same-sex couples cannot marry but it is manifest in the text that the authors were talking men and women as the matrimonial building block. Biblical authors may well have been non-condemnatory about homosexuality (because there are only scraps of language condemning gayosity) or homosexual themselves (*cough* Paul *cough*), but they excluded gay marriage from the Biblical conception of marriage by ignoring it, not by condemning it.

  9. 9
    mythago says:

    There is a ton of stuff about marriage.

    Indeed there is, and anyone who is trying to say “well the law should be just like what is in the Bible” is in for a surprise if they ever actually read their Bibles. But I doubt the callers were so much saying “the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman” (not quite accurate, as it ignores polygamy, but ignore that for the moment) but some vague notion that the Bible says NO WAY TO TEH GAY.

    RonF, if you read that passage carefully, it’s only directed at men.

  10. 10
    Decnavda says:

    Maybe you can tell the “It’s in the Bible” people that you will agree to change your position on SSM if they sell everything they own and give all the money to the poor, as Jesus said they need to do to get into heaven.

    I’ve booked Scott Lively (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Lively) to tell my son Isaac this weekend why the Gay Agenda is wrong, so I’ll let you know if he has anything better.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Scott Lively? Wow, that’s going to the extremes. Hope it goes well.

  12. 12
    KellyK says:

    The crappy thing about the Bible argument is that the logical counter to it is that we live in a country that holds separation of state as a virtue–but most people who argue on “The Bible says…” or “My church says…” don’t want separation of church and state. They do want freedom of religion, but often just for themselves.

    One emotional argument that might help is the idea that everybody’s marriage is quite possibly against somebody else’s religion. And yet, divorced people, interracial couples, interfaith couples, and people who’ve had sex before marriage are all allowed to marry. It might be worth asking people how they would feel if their marriage was prohibited because it was against someone else’s religious beliefs. If the church up the road said you shouldn’t be married, should they be allowed to enforce that?

    If I recall correctly, someone made a similar argument with me when I was opposed to SSM. (Man, if I could take back all the stupid stuff I believed as a teen and as a college kid…) I don’t think it was what actually changed my mind, but it definitely planted a seed.

  13. 13
    shalom says:

    Please ignore my question if it seems like a derail, but KellyK’s comment made me curious–can any commenters who were once opposed to SSM share why they changed their minds?

  14. 14
    Susan says:

    they excluded gay marriage from the Biblical conception of marriage by ignoring it, not by condemning it.

    I think this is a very fair argument, assuming you buy into the idea that the Bible is, as they say, “inerrant.”

    I’m a Recovering Roman Catholic, and there is something to be said for the “official” Catholic view on this matter, if only because it’s consistent (which is almost as good as, but not quite as good as, being correct). Unlike the Biblical “condemnation” of same sex marriage, which you really have to look for, Jesus himself forthrightly condemns (heterosexual) divorce and remarriage in no uncertain terms. Right there in the gospels, no interpretive skills needed. The remarriage is unambiguously condemned as “adultery.”

    The Catholic Church officially (not that anyone is actually paying much attention to this) follows along, does not regard such remarried couples as “really” married, and tells them that unless they live “as brother and sister” (that is, without sex) they are to be refused communion. Then they go on to condemn SSM too, but there is at least a scrap of integrity here, at least in theory. (This also means that the Catholic Church refuses, and has refused for many years, to perform marriages which are recognized by the civil authorities, to wit, the remarriage of divorced Catholics. No one has yet attempted to force them to perform such marriages anyway. So adding one more category of civil marriages they don’t recognize should not bother them, right? One would wish.)

    On the other side of the fence, however, I’ve read any number of Christians who have no problem whatsoever with heterosexual divorce and remarriage picking through the Scriptures to find some kind of condemnation of SSM. Then they proclaim, “because the Bible tells me so.”

    This is simply intellectually dishonest. I don’t see how anyone can respect this position, and I’m wondering how anyone can proclaim it in public without being embarrassed. If the Bible is “inerrant” it’s inerrant, all of it, not just the parts you like.

  15. 15
    hf says:

    “Biblical” doesn’t mean biblical. To the extent that it has a meaning beyond, ‘Do what our group says,’ it probably refers to the amount of stress the speaker feels their community can take. In this case (again, to use the charitable interpretation) it means the speaker sees same-sex marriage as too sudden or too great of a change for their group to take.

    This argument of course seems weaker every day. It seemed pretty weak even before Massachusetts joined our neighbors in Ontario (and British Columbia, and Quebec).

  16. 16
    Susan says:

    Much of the secular law under which our society functions has the same sort of “flex” that the term “biblical” does (thanks, hf! great article!).

    This frustrates beginning law students. Take the Contracts casebook. Typically in considering the issue at hand, the first case will say, “in this case, do A.” The next case will say, “in this same case, do B”. Then will follow a section from the Restatement of Contracts, maybe something from the UCC, which says, “in this case, sometimes do A, sometimes C.” Law students, who are being deliberately driven berserk by this teaching method, throw up their hands and say, “There IS no law, courts just do whatever they want!!”

    This last statement is untrue. You can legitimately push the law of contracts, say, a long way, but at a certain point you run into a steel wall, and y0u cannot push it any further. As you will find out to your sorrow if you get the idea that “anything goes.”

    I think the Bible is like that. After all, it’s not a book, it’s a lot of books written by a lot of different people over the span of perhaps a thousand years, and it’s going in a lot of different and contradictory directions on just about everything. Hence the wide variety of opinions on just what “the Bible says” on any given topic.

    But there’s steel in there too. The Bible does NOT say and cannot be made to say that human life is meaningless, or that what happens to all of us happens merely by chance. And read as a whole it does not say and cannot be made to say that the Power which runs the universe is non-existent or malicious or uncaring. Or that human life has no value. Or that it is perfectly OK by this Power if you behave in hateful ways, earlier in the book to the members of your own tribe, finally to anyone. (This parallels moral development in many different cultures, and we’re still working on that one.)

    You can buy into this value structure or not, as it suits you, but I would put it to you that this underlying structure, which abolished slavery (which is blessed in very many specific statements), also goes in the direction of welcoming same sex married partners. When did love and fidelity get to be sins?

    Unhappily, partly because of the factors hf’s article states so well, you cannot usually use this argument in talking to people on the other side. It’s also pretty intellectual, this approach, and most people are not so intellectual, particularly on this topic.

    I think Amp’s approach the best under the circumstances he describes.

  17. 17
    Schala says:

    “You can buy into this value structure or not, as it suits you, but I would put it to you that this underlying structure, which abolished slavery (which is blessed in very many specific statements), also goes in the direction of welcoming same sex married partners. When did love and fidelity get to be sins?”

    J Michael Bailey was ahead of the curve on this one question, as if he anticipated it years ago. Much of his work about gay and bisexual men is to prove that they don’t want to marry, are less likely to form long term monogamous relationships than heterosexual men, and thus, don’t even need marriage.

    If there was one guy who got out all the crude stereotypes about gay and bisexual men, and trans women, it’s him. To him, they’re on a continuum of perversion, rather than identities or orientations. Trans women are a kind of (extreme, and more feminine) gay man, and bisexual men don’t exist, they’re gay men in denial. Where did you heard that before?

    You can look up the studies he got out specifically about same-sex marriage I bet. I always run into pay walls.

  18. 18
    Schala says:

    Keep in mind that, like his colleague Ray Blanchard, Bailey only cares about MAAB people. He won’t study lesbian and bisexual women, except to say that they’re different than gay men (to prove women are naturally bisexual but men are not). He won’t study trans men, and neither will his colleague.

    They already decided, back in the 80s, that it was common sense that FAAB people did not have perversions, could not be pedophiles, could not have fetishes, and therefore, could not have perverted sexual motives to transition, unlike MAAB people. So they don’t study they because it’s less spectacular and crass what they have to say about them.

    FAAB people are almost boring in comparison to what they say every MAAB person is – and coming from MAAB people themselves, it sounds pretty self-hating to me. It’s more serious than Hugo’s myth of male weakness, it’s more like the myth of male extreme perversion.

  19. 19
    Susan says:

    Much of his work about gay and bisexual men is to prove that they don’t want to marry, are less likely to form long term monogamous relationships than heterosexual men, and thus, don’t even need marriage.

    Tell it to my next door neighbors, Brad and Jeff, who’ve been together for probably longer than most married people reading this.

    So what if some people, hetero or gay or whatever, don’t want to marry? So, for them it’s not a problem.

    (What’s MAAB? What’s FAAB? Children are born every minute who do not know what you are talking about. I did an internet search on both terms without useful results. I’m 66, and I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please try to communicate in words which are comprehensible to the majority of the educated public, or define your terms.)

    What about the people who do want to marry? That some heteros don’t, for example, doesn’t impact those who do, the latter can. Also, so many of these studies ignore women because…women don’t count or something?

    Only gay MEN are worthy of consideration? Yuck. For the love of God, please don’t get me started on that.

  20. 20
    KellyK says:

    shalom, I can, but I’m afraid mine is of pretty limited use as a rhetorical strategy.

    The logical argument that holds the most sway with me is an argument from religious freedom, combined with a shift in my own personal religious beliefs in general, but that’s not the thing that actually changed my mind. A good friend of mine came out to me, and told me she was engaged. Anything negative I had before said or thought about homosexuality and SSM pretty much evaporated in the face of the fact that I was happy for my friend, and would not want anyone to tell her she couldn’t marry the woman she loved. The fact that the two of them were born-again Christians, thereby knocking a lot of holier-than-thou thinking right out of the water, didn’t hurt, but it really came down to emotional and empathetic reasons, not a logical argument.

  21. 21
    Susan says:

    Fabulous post KellyK!! That kind of thing should change anyone’s mind.

  22. 22
    standgale says:

    shalom – “…can any commenters who were once opposed to SSM share why they changed their minds?”

    Although it sounds pretty harsh to Christians, I was opposed to SSM once, and when I stopped being Christian I changed my mind completely. I think it was due, not surprisingly, to the fact that my religion (via. various channels) told me it (SSM/homosexuality generally) was wrong. If I am in the religion, I must believe what the religion believes, otherwise I am not in the religion, or should leave the religion. This just makes sense to me.
    (note: Christianity, and many religions, for the general worshipper is not really about what is in the holy books and so on, but about the community. Those higher up in the church have it as their job to study scriptures, understand their nuances and pass them on to the congregation. Preists and so on are specialists, whereas we are just normal people, so we have to rely on their teaching)
    So, when I was part of Christianity, I necessarily had to believe what I was told was meant by it – that’s what it means to be a member of a religion*.
    Kind of interestingly, I generally accepted the “homosexuality is wrong” message, but did not accept the intolerance for the transwoman at our church. I think this is because I had been told that homosexuality was wrong, but I’d never been told that being trans was wrong, so I was free to form my own opinion.

    *other people may disagree with this, but I always felt that if you’re in it, you believe it, and if you don’t believe it, you’re not really in it. You can’t just ignore half of it. You’ve got to be honest about it. If the religion says that you can make up your mind about stuff, then it is ok to do so. But Christianity states that some things are wrong and others are right, and that these things are decided by god. In my view, part of Christianity as a religion is that certain moral values are decided for you. However, this does not mean that people cannot redefine Christianity and evolve it.

  23. 23
    Susan says:

    If I am in the religion, I must believe what the religion believes, otherwise I am not in the religion, or should leave the religion. This just makes sense to me.

    Makes sense to me too if we’re talking about “being in the religion.”

    If we’re talking about being a follower (or, in my case, an attempted follower) of Jesus the Christ, it’s a different question. (I hesitate to call myself a “Christian” (“follower of Christ”) because I follow him at such a great distance that I feel like I’m giving myself airs.)

    You might try separating Jesus from the people who claim to speak for him.

  24. 24
    Schala says:

    J. Michael Bailey, chair of the psychology department at Northwestern and one of the foremost researchers of homosexuality (and prohomosex in outlook), contends that “because of fundamental differences between men and women” and “regardless of marital laws and policies,” “gay men will always have many more sex partners than straight people do. Those who are attached will be less sexually monogamous” (The Man Who Would Be Queen [Joseph Henry Press, 2003], 101).

    I got this quote from an anti-SSM site that is extremely religious, but given I did read the book in question when it was online in 2003-2004, I know it’s a real quote.

    MAAB is male-assigned-at-birth and FAAB is the same with female.

    It is a term used when it actually matters, and in this case (Bailey and Blanchard) it does, because they only care about the male-assigned-at-birth. Wether those people identify as male or female. They believe in a sort of essentialism of maleness that predisposes to being perverted or deviant – that no female-assigned-at-birth person, wether a heterosexual woman or a trans man, could ever have. Tautologically assumed that femaleness is pure and free of those vile sexual desires (ie never proven…even if it would be rather easy to prove the opposite).

    Only gay MEN are worthy of consideration? Yuck. For the love of God, please don’t get me started on that.

    It’s more a thing that they don’t think lesbian and bisexual women are yucky in the same way that gay and bisexual men are. So they’d agree to SSM for women only, but they know it wouldn’t pass and that people would scream discrimination.

    Edit:

    His “fundamental differences between men and women” deal is that men want sex all the time, women want it some of the time (even given a LTR), so if women don’t do the gatekeeping (deciding if/when sex happens), men with men would be having sex like bunnies 24/7.

  25. 25
    Schala says:

    So, when I was part of Christianity, I necessarily had to believe what I was told was meant by it – that’s what it means to be a member of a religion*.

    I heard, but this is hearsay, that Jewish faith included critical thinking about their religious tenets. Critical thinking about interpretations. And reconsiderations of traditions on that basis. This is why many branches are reconsidering the status of circumcision.

    Conversely, no one would reconsider Baptism, unless they rejected Christianity itself – there is no room to discuss it.

  26. 26
    hf says:

    The Bible does NOT say and cannot be made to say that human life is meaningless, or that what happens to all of us happens merely by chance.

    Challenge accepted.

    (See also the whole Book of Job.)

    I know you go on to say, “read as a whole”. But when I look at the Hebrew Bible, it seems to praise clever deception first and foremost (with this other theme of compassion developing later). From this perspective, the strained scriptural interpretations that we find within the Christian additions to the Bible and the later Jewish commentaries seem like further examples of a consistent pro-lying stance. So yes, it seems quite possible to read the Bible as saying that God does not exist. And for any non-self-refuting meaning or interpretation of the word “meaningless”, we could very easily see the lack of any meaning for life as a major theme of the Bible.

  27. 27
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Conversely, no one would reconsider Baptism, unless they rejected Christianity itself – there is no room to discuss it.

    So you think Quakers are not Christians?

    I heard, but this is hearsay, that Jewish faith included critical thinking about their religious tenets. Critical thinking about interpretations. And reconsiderations of traditions on that basis. This is why many branches are reconsidering the status of circumcision.

    I was raised Jewish, and I can tell you that this varies a *lot* among different branches. In Israel, where I grew up, Judaism is very institutionalised and conservative, and it has only become more so during my adult life. (As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that the comparison to Christianity is complicated in that Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity – you can self identify as a Jewish atheist and be recognised as such by the religion institutions, but you cannot be a Christian atheist.)

    At least in the Orthodox sects that dominate Israel, the Jewish faith is subject to questioning and re-interpretation – but not by lay people. Rabbis get to debate and decide, the rest of us get to follow. In America, where Orthodox Judaism is in a decline and other sects are at the ascent, the situation is different.

    I should point out, however, that to the best of my knowledge it is not true to say that “many” branches of Judaism are reconsidering circumcision – only a handful of branches are, but some of those branches are sizable. That’s probably too much a derail for this thread.

    The fact is, however, that it doesn’t matter what the official position of a religion is towards questioning its beliefs. No Christian or Jewish sect is the same today as it was a hundred years or even fifty years ago. All religions adopt to changes in the world and society, because while god may be eternal, people are not, and priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, and other religion officials are human. They get replaced, and except for the most isolationist of sects, the incoming generations will be informed by ideas from outside the religion. In a few generations, it’s quite likely that homophobia will still be an institutional policy of many Christian denominations but that it will not be held as a value by most practitioners. Ultimately, it’s very difficult to change the mind of an individual, but it’s not that difficult to change the mind of a culture.

  28. 28
    Susan says:

    So yes, it seems quite possible to read the Bible as saying that God does not exist.

    Makes the whole book pointless, yes?

  29. 29
    Susan says:

    His “fundamental differences between men and women” deal is that men want sex all the time, women want it some of the time (even given a LTR), so if women don’t do the gatekeeping (deciding if/when sex happens), men with men would be having sex like bunnies 24/7.

    Whats LTR? I mean, I’m sorry to be constantly asking these questions, but you know, a lot of this jargon is only understood inside a very narrow group, of which I am not a member. There are other readers too here, I imagine, who are in my position. If you wish to be understood by all of your readers you need to use definitions.

    Moving right along, Brad and Jeff next door I guess would know more about this than I. They’re in their late 40′s; Jeff is an important and high-energy exec at an important company. Very highly paid too. He seems, like all of his kind, to be kind of pressured. Type A.

    Are they “having sex like bunnies”? Well, you’d have to ask them, I’m not privy to such things, just as they have no idea how often we have sex over here, or whether we any of us wear long ears the while.

    It quite passes my understanding why either question would be anyone else’s business, or why the answers should control the legal relations between these rather similar couples. We’ve been together quite a long time; so have they. We own property in common; so do they. As it happens we have children and they don’t, but it could very well be the other way round. We are both of us stable, tax-paying, solid couples. The law should treat us equally, and leave questions of who-all is “having sex like bunnies” to other forums.

  30. 30
    Schala says:

    So you think Quakers are not Christians?

    I didn’t know that 1) Quakers were Christian 2) Baptism was not accepted in any denomination.

    I hear the same point (my 1) is directed towards Catholicism, too. Though I find it a bit weird, given Catholicism is “the original” branch. This might be a thing going back a few centuries, from the Old Continent.

    I knew about Mormons (though I don’t know their stance on Baptism), don’t know if Quakers are the same. All I know is they exist and that there’s the picture of a Quaker on some oatmeal brand (aptly named Quaker).

    I’m agnostic by the way. I was baptized Catholic, had first communion, and confirmation…and that’s it. I know what the Bible says, I read much of it (but not in-depht like seems required in some religions or denominations), and rejected it in favor of the belief in Buddhism’s perpetual reincarnation towards perfection and many religions view of Karma.

    I posit that a superior power might exist, but that it’s probably not male or female, not bearded, and not named God (which is not it’s name in the Bible either anyway, but it’s also not named JHVH, Jehovah, or Allah to me).

    What was clear was that I had to reject Christianity and Catholicism. There was no way to discuss about reincarnation within it. Fortunately, atheism and agnostism are the norm here. Even if many will claim to be “officially” how they were brought up, they don’t practice or even follow it. Don’t go to church and don’t care. They celebrate Christmas, with presents, not Jesus. And Easter is the holiday of chocolate, not Jesus’s resurrection.

  31. 31
    Schala says:

    Whats LTR?

    Long Term Relationship.

    It’s a pretty convenient term when discussing dating and long term stuff.

    And to answer your question as to why he cares. He thinks they’d cheat a lot more. Hence marriage wouldn’t be monogamous, and thus to him, it wouldn’t mean a thing (he’s never heard of Open Marriage I bet).

  32. 32
    Susan says:

    His “fundamental differences between men and women” deal is that men want sex all the time, women want it some of the time (even given a LTR), so if women don’t do the gatekeeping (deciding if/when sex happens), men with men would be having sex like bunnies 24/7.

    Whats LTR? I mean, I’m sorry to be constantly asking these questions, but you know, a lot of this jargon is only understood inside a very narrow group, of which I am not a member. There are other readers too here, I imagine, who are in my position.

    Moving right along, Brad and Jeff next door I guess would know more about this than I. They’re in their late 40′s; Jeff is an important and high-energy exec at an important company. Very highly paid too. He seems, like all of his kind, to be kind of pressured. Type A.

    Are they “having sex like bunnies”? Well, you’d have to ask them, I’m not privy to such things, just as they have no idea how often we have sex over here, or whether we any of us wear long ears the while.

    It quite passes my understanding why either question would be anyone else’s business, or why the answers should control the legal relations between these rather similar couples. We’ve been together quite a long time; so have they. We own property in common; so do they. As it happens we have children and they don’t, but it could very well be the other way round. We are both of us stable, tax-paying, solid couples. The law should treat us equally, and leave questions of who-all is having sex like bunnies to other forums.

  33. 33
    Susan says:

    And to answer your question as to why he cares. He thinks they’d cheat a lot more. Hence marriage wouldn’t be monogamous, and thus to him, it wouldn’t mean a thing (he’s never heard of Open Marriage I bet).

    Thanks Schala.

    Someone should get this person out of the cloister and into real life so he can figure out what’s really going on out here, gay and straight.

    The law, quite properly, does not concern itself with who-all is cheating on who-all, until someone complains. We have enough trouble dealing with the cases where someone does complain without delving any deeper.

  34. 34
    KellyK says:

    I probably shouldn’t jump up as the spokesperson for Quakerism, because I’m not a Quaker, but my husband and my in-laws are and I’ve been to enough meetings for worship and talked religion with the hubby enough to get the general gist.

    From my understanding, the major things about Quakerism that set it apart from the rest of Christianity are pacifism, a rejection of rituals (like water baptism and communion) and both religious and secular hierarchies (there are no priests or pastors–religious decisions are made by committee, and people don’t need an intermediary or authority between them and God), and a belief that there is that of God in everyone. Historically, they were also big on racial and gender equality way before the rest of Christianity got that memo (not that all of Christianity has even today, unfortunately).

    Quotes on Baptism from the Ohio Yearly Meeting’s website:

    “Quakers don’t believe in water baptism. Friends eschew the importance of all external religious practice. There is no efficacy in water baptism, just as there is none in observing the “Lord’s Supper” using bread and juice, or calling a minister “Rev.” or processions, or liturgies, etc. etc. We are ‘baptized’ by the Holy Spirit, as John the Baptist even clearly states “I baptize you with water, but the one who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. John 3:16 ‘Baptism’ means to ‘be put into’ or ‘submerged into’ something. Are we put into Christ by water? No. By His own blood we become a part of Him.”
    (Brian Daniels)

    The purpose of baptism is to wash one clean of past sins and of the power of sin, to leave one pure to go forward as a member of the body of Christ. Jesus plainly warned of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who washed the outside of the cup and left the inside unclean, or who whitewashed the outside of a tomb when the inside was corrupt. In the same way, outward washing with water, (even scrubbing with soap!) has no effect on the source our our defilement – the heart. Hitler, Stalin, the Spanish inquisitors were all baptized with water – it did not make their hearts pure! But Christ will can wash us clean and make us pure, Christ “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Mt 3:12 This true cleansing is the baptism we recognize and humbly seek every day.

    Although Jesus submitted to baptism himself, he clearly stated that he did so to fulfill the scriptures. Once they were fulfilled, baptism by water, as the ministry of John the Baptist, was to decrease and the ministry and baptism Christ were to increase and take their place.

    So they believe in baptism, but not outward water baptism.

    Wow, this is a major digression. Amp, please let me know if I’m going too wildly off-topic and need to take this to an open thread.

  35. 35
    Susan says:

    Way cool, Kelly!

  36. 36
    standgale says:

    “Makes sense to me too if we’re talking about “being in the religion.”

    If we’re talking about being a follower (or, in my case, an attempted follower) of Jesus the Christ, it’s a different question. ”

    Yes, if you are following the religion of Christianity, it has a structure and rules, rituals and the Bible, a history of philosophy and discussion, and professionals (ministers/priests/etc). The religion contains much more than personal beliefs, it is some kind of institution or social structure.

    If you are following Jesus and making your own interpretations then it is different. Most of the Christians I know now are of this type and they say that they do not follow a religion as such but have a personal relationship with God, etc. Since they are “Christian”, but not part of “Christianity” they have more freedom in their interpretations. They have tended to say that they don’t like “religion” as described above.

    And yet, like any human, they are being influenced by their social group – in this case the church and church community is still strongly influencing their moral views. Most pertinent to this discussion is the gay, or possibly bisexual, woman that is now focusing solely on men for future relationships as a necessary result of her becoming Christian (as she says). She does seem to be a supporter of SSM however, so she’s in an interesting position.

    I think it will be very interesting to see how the Christian church/religion (and all the others) evolve in the future. Well, by “future” I mean the next few hundred years, so I won’t actually get to see it happen.

    I should mention again, that these are simply my opinions – which are only important because without them I could not answer the question asked earlier of “why did you change your mind”

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    Amp, please let me know if I’m going too wildly off-topic and need to take this to an open thread.

    No worries! I’m finding the digression interesting, so let’s let the conversation develop in whatever way it develops.

  38. 38
    standgale says:

    sorry, I edited my comment and apparently it got marked as spam and deleted.

    [Thanks for letting me know! It's been fished out of the spam trap. --Amp]

  39. 39
    mythago says:

    I think the Bible is like that. After all, it’s not a book, it’s a lot of books written by a lot of different people over the span of perhaps a thousand years, and it’s going in a lot of different and contradictory directions on just about everything.

    Are we talking about the same Bible?

  40. 40
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    Adults should be legally allowed to marry whom they want, and as many as they want.

  41. 41
    mythago says:

    CCC @40: Assuming that was an actual statement of belief and not simply trolling, how do you believe we should restructure civil marriage to permit unlimited marriage?

  42. 42
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    No idea. I just think it should be legal for any adult to marry whoever they want and how many they want. I don’t neccessarily believe they should be getting any government benefits. But marriage? Hey, knock yourself out.

    I think the rest, like lets say custody in cases of divorce, should be worked out in small family courts amongst the people involved.

  43. 43
    mythago says:

    In other words, you haven’t given it much thought? Okay.

  44. 44
    dragon_snap says:

    @ mythago and CCC – it’s not marriage, but a few years ago in Ontario the provincial supreme court there ruled in favour of having three parents listed on a child’s birth certificate: the biological mother, the non-biological mother (the parent being added to the certificate), and the biological father, who was/is involved with raising the child. All three parents were very much in favour of this arrangement, and its legal recognition. (Short article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2007/01/03/twomom-court.html … More details: http://www.familyhelper.net/news/070109threeparents.html)

    So there’s at least some Ontarian precedent for further expanding our definitions of families with children to include more than the usual number of adults (which might eventually lead to making our definitions of families that don’t have children more flexible and accommodating).

  45. 45
    Elusis says:

    Susan, I just want to point out that when I Googled for MAAB acronym, this was the fourth link that came up, right near the top of the page. And when I Googled for LTR acronym, nearly every link in the top half of the page showed its common definition right in the preview without even having to click through.

    And to return to the topic of the original post, I want to strongly recommend the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So” as both an educational resource for pro-SSM folks and a possible option to offer those who might seem a little “convince-able”. It does a great job of two things: first, showing religiously-conservative families who dealt with a child coming out, talking about their struggle to reconcile their beliefs with their feelings. And second, showing a wide variety of religious leaders (mostly Christian and Jewish but from a number of denominations) directly addressing interpretation of the verses that supposedly address homosexuality in the Bible, and observing the inconsistencies of those who claim Biblical literalism (there’s a small excerpt of the infamous scene in “The West Wing” where President Bartlett confronts a Dr. Laura clone and asks how much he should charge for selling his daughter into slavery as per some verse.) I considered myself somewhat educated on the topic but learned new things about potential ways to understand Leviticus etc.

  46. 46
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    I’m not sure that the sort of careful, highly intellectualized discussions we have on this site really have much to do with the real “gay marriage” issue as understood by most Americans.

    I suspect many opponents are against it on a gut level and their reasons are post facto, but that may just be because I can’t justify being against it. I dont’ however, think it necessarily changes anything, when someone says “I’m against marriage equality because of X”, to respond “well, X is wrong” or “X is irrelevant.” And it seems cruel to do that when X is religion and the person is genuinely and sincerely devout.

  47. 47
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Hershele Ostropoler says:
    November 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm
    ….And it seems cruel to do that when X is religion and the person is genuinely and sincerely devout.

    Why, out of all the multitude of philosophical grounds for an opinion, should religion get special treatment?

  48. 48
    Schala says:

    And it seems cruel to do that when X is religion and the person is genuinely and sincerely devout.

    People can be devout all they want, but religious tenets should have nothing at all to do with the law and benefits.

    Legally, marriage is a contract. Religiously, it can be whatever you want, or nothing at all – it won’t affect the legality of it.

  49. 49
    Robert says:

    Why, out of all the multitude of philosophical grounds for an opinion, should religion get special treatment?

    Because we’ve worked out a delicate balance wherein the religions don’t wage eternal war in/on the secular society, and in return the secular society shows some deference to religious opinion.

  50. 50
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    On the other hand there are people that are for equal rights and same laws for all, but can understand how gay marriage is a controversial and potentially problematic phenomena.

    Legally for, but personally skeptical, is probably the best way to put it.

  51. 51
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    What’s the line between a religion and a philosophy for you?

    And Schala, the argument to use in that case is “this is about the law” (I guess); the argument I’m saying is cruel is “well your religion is wrong.”

    Easy for me to say, all the really religious people I know are pro-equality.

  52. 52
    Charles S says:

    I actually shifted someone’s position a little (I did this phone calling too) by bringing up the reasoning of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, so I feel like our arguments here were directly useful to at least one of my conversations (no way I’d know the MA SC’d reasoning without Alas).

    She was an interesting case. She was struggling with the issue. She was religiously opposed to same sex marriage (as a Catholic), but she knew that her position was wrong, she just hadn’t found it in herself yet to commit to rejecting what she had believed in for 60 years. She had a nephew who was gay and in a committed relationship, who had an adopted child, and she said her nephew’s relationship was the best romantic relationship she had ever seen, and that her nephew and his partner were the best parents she had ever known. We talked for a long time, and I brought up the MA SC reasoning that denying marriage equality was an injustice against the children of same sex couples, who were being denied the protections that come from having married parents. I said that while most of the time it doesn’t matter whether your parents are married, at the moments when it matters, it can really matter a lot. She said she didn’t know that about the MA case, and that she’d never thought about how marriage equality would matter to her grand-nephew.

    I didn’t shift her opinion entirely, but it was definitely a positive step for her thinking on the subject.

  53. 53
    KellyK says:

    And Schala, the argument to use in that case is “this is about the law” (I guess); the argument I’m saying is cruel is “well your religion is wrong.”

    Yeah, “Your religion is wrong,” can be a nasty thing to say. (I think there are exceptions. For example, I have no problem telling the Michigan GOP who just legalized bullying with “religious reasons” that if their religion tells them they need to bully children, that’s not just wrong but evil.)

    But I think that if someone makes an argument citing Scripture, it’s valid to talk about whether it really says what they’re arguing it says, or about the historical context behind it, or why this particular thing from Leviticus is supposed to be enshrined in US law but a zillion and one other rules aren’t, or about any number of things in that vein. Not necessarily *helpful* in a lot of cases, but valid. That is, it’s cruel to say “Your religion is stupid and backwards,” but not so much to have a more thoughtful conversation about what “The Bible says so” means, or should mean.

  54. 54
    chingona says:

    Whether it’s cruel or not to tell someone their religion is wrong, I think that’s probably one of the least effective ways to argue with someone who is coming from a religious perspective. As someone who wouldn’t be married by the vast majority of clergy in this country, the argument that religious restrictions shouldn’t have any bearing on someone’s right to a civil marriage sounds pretty good to me.

    But then I’m already in favor of same-sex marriage.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about not changing someone’s mind right then and there on the phone. You never know what seeds you might be planting for the future.

  55. 55
    Charles S says:

    Amazingly, on average 1 out of 2 conversations in this phone calling effort shifted an opinion (at the start of the call we asked whether they supported marriage equality (not in those exact words) and at the very end we asked them how they’d vote on a ballot measure today, and half of people who said they were opposed said they weren’t sure how they’d vote, or who said they had mixed feelings about marriage equality said they’d vote for it after talking to one of us on the phone).

    Planting seeds is really important, and I was satisfied with all the calls where I felt like that was what I was doing, but we actually did have people explicitly say that we had shifted their thinking. This is an issue that a lot of people who were sure they were opposed to same sex marriage a few years ago are really struggling with the question and trying to figure out what is morally right. While there were plenty of people who were hostile to callers, there were lots of people who were really eager to have these conversations.

    For anyone in Oregon who is really interested in this issue, Basic Rights Oregon is holding a series of townhall meetings all across the state today through Wednesday Nov 16th (Portland is tomorrow) to get a final round of feedback on whether we should go to the ballot in 2012 to establish marriage equality in Oregon.

  56. 56
    Grace Annam says:

    Amp:

    What seemed to be more effective was to talk to people about their own marriages (if they were married). How long have you been married? Why did you want to get married? Why do you think gay people want to marry?

    This is brilliant, because it relates the other (“those gays”) to the person you’re talking to, personally, and it does it by prompting them to make the connection themselves.

    It reminds me of one of the most brilliant pieces of activism I’ve ever heard of, done by Clarence Jordan, in the 1940s. I heard about it on This American Life, episode 420, in a story by Jim O’Grady:

    a guy I’d read about named Clarence Jordan, a white man who had founded an interracial farming commune in rural Georgia in 1942. Now this got the attention of the local Ku Klux Klan. So every now and then at night they would come by, shoot a shotgun, throw a firebomb at the houses. Clarence had a problem, but Clarence was a disciple of non-violence. So he did one thing that you do, try to find some mundane human activity that you share with your enemy and use it to make them see you as a person. So one day he’s at the local post office and he sees some Klan guys and he goes over and he says, “Hey, fellas. Are you married?” And they go, “Yeah.” And he says, “Children? Do you have children?” They go, “Sure.” And he says, “Well you know how when a baby wakes in the night and it’s fussing and you just can’t get it to go back to sleep? And you’re up until dawn?” And they say, “Oh, yeah. God.” And he said, “Well when you shoot at us it wakes the babies. And we have a hard time getting them to go back to sleep.”

    Suddenly, the KKK people had an understanding of the commune people which came from their own lived experience. I think that this is one of the very best ways to reach people, particularly on moral topics.

    In the case of being able to marry whom you please, I have never heard the anti side argue from a position like this, by connecting how barring other people from marrying the people they love has a direct negative impact on the their own personally experienced lives. I have many times heard the pro side make this argument, but usually in a much less effective way, by presenting it intellectually. I have done it this way many times in the past: “Why shouldn’t they have the same rights you have?” This is a good argument, but it’s an intellectual argument.

    A much better way:
    “Hey, are you married?”
    “Yes.”
    “Have you ever been in the hospital unexpectedly?”
    “Yeah, sure.”
    “Pretty scary, huh?”
    “God, yeah. Until we got that diagnosis/When we got that diagnosis… Wow.”
    “But it probably helped that your spouse was there, huh? Taking care of the kids, looking after the finances, bringing in comfort food, whatever [he or she] did?”
    “Of course. I don’t know what I’d have done.”
    “Yeah. A gay friend of mine got hit by a car while he was on vacation in Florida last year, and he had a concussion, so he was pretty groggy. They wouldn’t let his partner into his room, or let him talk to the doctors about the medical situation. They’re married, in Massachusetts, and they have all the power of attorney paperwork and all that, but they wouldn’t let him in.”

    One of the problems with this way is that it requires interchange, which is best done face-to-face. It doesn’t work as well in forums like this one. It would probably work pretty well over the phone, though, and it sounds like your training ran along those same lines.

    Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely rare for someone to change their minds (none of the people I spoke to did). But even among those who didn’t change their mind, most said that gay and lesbian couples want to get married for the same reasons they did.

    Don’t discount the power of time and sleeping on it. Just because they didn’t want to admit to you, a stranger on the phone, that you might be right, doesn’t mean that you didn’t plant a seed… in a day or a week or a month, that seed may sprout into doubt … “Am I really doing the right thing, voting this way?”

    You have to start somewhere. Thank you for doing what you did.

    Grace

  57. 57
    Grace Annam says:

    Susan:

    (What’s MAAB? What’s FAAB? Children are born every minute who do not know what you are talking about. I did an internet search on both terms without useful results. I’m 66, and I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please try to communicate in words which are comprehensible to the majority of the educated public, or define your terms.)

    Susan, I enjoy your posts and respect you, but I disagree with this. I know that Schala already did you the courtesy of providing a definition, and Elusis already pointed out that she found definitions easily.

    So first, I’ll just show how easy it was when I tried it.

    I put into Google:

    maab

    The fourth result result down was “Decoding the FAAB/MAAB argument”. Clicking on that would probably have worked. The sixth link down actually gave the definition in the short preview text.

    Then I put into Google:

    maab faab

    The first result was “FAAB and MAAB << TransFeminisms".

    Pretty easy. The same goes for LTR. Just putting in LTR didn't do it for me, so I put in:

    LTR men women

    …and there it was in the first link.

    In both cases, it took me only one or two searches. I admit that I have an advantage because I knew what they meant and how Schala intended them. However, I don't think that it would have been as hard as you implied.

    Now, I dislike acronyms generally because they are overused, but they do have their uses, and for me, this is one of them, probably because they replace a very long phrase and probably because they are personally meaningful to me and my lived experience.

    If you're going to communicate, you must speak to be understood, which means trying to use your conversational partner's idiolect as much as possible. However, I also agree with Julia Serano:

    …to ask me to only use words that cissexuals are familiar with in order to describe my gendered experiences is similar to asking a musician to only use words that non-musicians understand when describing music. … Just as a musician cannot fully explain their reaction to a particular song without bringing up concepts such as “minor key” or “time signature”, there are certain trans-specific words and ideas that … are crucial for me to precisely convey my thoughts and experiences regarding gender.
    –Julia Serano

    Finally, I think it is important to realize that, while a speaker succeeds best when she speaks the language of the listener, the listener comprehends best when she puts some effort into understanding the language and perspective of the speaker. It’s a two-sided effort. When a listener has a dictionary at hand (and the Internet is way faster than any dictionary we pull out at family dinner), it is a discourtesy to say, “Educate me” without putting in more than a token effort. It’s also important for a listener to ask why the speaker might be choosing to use an acronym in spite of the difficulties you’ve outlined. There might be a reason beyond “it’s easier”.

    Minorities, including the trans minority, already operate at a significant disadvantage in discourse, for many reasons. Demanding that we educate you simply tilts the playing field that much more against us.

    http://derailingfordummies.com/#educate
    http://derailingfordummies.com/#educate2

    Hope this wasn’t too preachy, or insulting. I tried not to be either, but sometimes when I’m trying to say something politely and gently I get all complex and wordy.

    Grace

  58. 58
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    One can be for something legally but against it religiously so I don’t think its neccessary, or perhaps not even possible, to convince religious people that gay marriage is right according to their religion or even some universal sense of ethics.

    However, equality before the law is a legal principle, a legal right.

    One can be for gay marriage legally because they believe in equality before the law, without neccessarily supporting it from a religious, moral or personal perspective.

    I believe that marijuana use should be legal but I don’t think its good for me and I would never use it.

  59. 59
    Jessica Metaneira says:

    Heterosexual marriages do not NEED special status in order to support children. What two consenting adults do with their private lives does not AFFECT them.

  60. 60
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    “Finally, I think it is important to realize that, while a speaker succeeds best when she speaks the language of the listener, the listener comprehends best when she puts some effort into understanding the language and perspective of the speaker. It’s a two-sided effort. When a listener has a dictionary at hand (and the Internet is way faster than any dictionary we pull out at family dinner), it is a discourtesy to say, “Educate me” without putting in more than a token effort.”

    When someone seeks out a speaker because they have an initial interest in the subject matter than of course more than a token effort is reasonable to expect, and such a seeker usually puts in more than a token effort because, again, its something she herself sought out to learn about.

    But a phone call from a stranger? Naw. The onus is on the caller to make sure the receiver understands what’s she’s going on about.

  61. 61
    Robert says:

    “Please ignore my question if it seems like a derail, but KellyK’s comment made me curious–can any commenters who were once opposed to SSM share why they changed their minds?”

    Amp convinced me I was wrong.

  62. 62
    chingona says:

    Robert, what were the arguments that made you change your mind?

  63. 63
    Robert says:

    Intellectually speaking, it’s hard to pin down any specific argument, chingona, since in fact I still think Amp (or more broadly, his side of the argument) is wrong about many, if not most, of their underlying assumptions. (For example, I keep reading people saying that marriage is a “basic civil right”. I totally disagree with that; if it’s a basic civil right, then legal prohibitions against incestuous marriage or polygamy must fall. “Basic civil right” trumps “state concerns about genetic damage” or “it would be a pain in the ass to revise all the vast legal codes about marriage to deal with multiple partners”.)

    Rather, the process of continued civil and respectful engagement (on Amp’s part, though I hope my own participation in the discussion was civil and respectful) forced me to engage the idea for much, much longer than I would have otherwise. And in so doing, I came to the conclusion that the state must not grant civil privileges to one group of people without granting that privilege to others willing to perform the same rituals and undertake the same legal and moral responsibilities. State recognition of the marriage bond is a privilege, and a highly favorable one; it is simply wrong to deny that privilege on the basis of gender. (I guess that last bit is an Amp-ism.)

    If the state is going to valorize two-person partnerships, then it needs to be neutral about the contents of those partnerships where there is no compelling interest requiring discrimination.

  64. 64
    Decnavda says:

    At the interview yesterday for “Educating Isaac”, Scott Lively bagan by acknowlging that there are religious and secular reasons to oppose homosexuality, and he is a minister, but he was going to concentrate on arguments that religious and secular people can agree on. He then began with Aristotle and spent 10 to 12 minutes beatifully crafting an argument from design, explaining with examples about how you can determine the purpose of something and how it is used from its design, leading to being able to tell the proper use of human sexual organs from the purpose determined from their design. To which Isaac responded, “A thing may have one specific purpose it was intended for, but it can have an infinite number of other purposes. Like, the other day I used the eraser on my pencil to scratch my back.”
    Lively then went into a breakdown of the family argument similar to what Amp outlined at the begining of this post. The problem with that argument in 2011 is that we can skip theory and speculation and go right to results. He then started to pull out the anecdotes and stereotypes, and when I countered with scientific studies, he then began arguing that the poltically correct ideology among accademic researchers makes studies showing such “counter-intuitive” results unreliable. Which was fine with me: Isaac is rabidlly pro-science, and whenever I can get someone arguing against a scientific consensus, I have won with Isaac.
    Scott Lively has been arguing this for decades, and he was on this best behavior appealing to logic and reason, and he couldn’t come up with an argument that an 11 year old could not see through.
    Not *MY* 11 year old anyway.

  65. 65
    Ampersand says:

    That’s awesome!

    One problem — you forgot to include a link to Educating Isaac.

    Please let us know when the podcast with Scott Lively is posted. :-)

  66. 66
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    I don’t think there’s even a need to go into debating same sex marriage based on religion, culture, morals or science. Are we equal before the law or not? That is the only argument.

    Of course not everyone is going to be personally, morally, culturally or religiously FOR same-sex marriage. Maybe not even the majority of people. And that does not matter. If we are equal before the law then that is the sole legal precendence for it.

    We don’t have thought and opinion police yet (or do we?) and therefore I, you, or anyone else can think whatever they want, positive or negative, about same sex marriage from a personal, moral, religious, etc perspective.

  67. 67
    Susan says:

    Sorry Grace (at 57) I certainly didn’t intend to “derail” the argument by trying to decipher it.

    Perhaps (undoubtedly!) my perspective is influenced by my profession. I am a lawyer, which means I am a professional writer. (That’s most of what lawyers do.) My audience, if you will, are educated, literate people (usually), but they don’t necessarily agree with me; I am often trying to persuade someone of something, or I am writing a document which may be read a generation from now, and I am trying to convey information. I can’t make the assumption that my reader “speaks my language” except that they speak educated English, and I certainly can’t assume that they are part of an ongoing in-group discussion. Accordingly if I use a term which is not absolutely standard, and every single time I use an acronym I define it. Even if it’s NAACP. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.)

    I don’t feel disadvantaged or burdened by this, as you assert that some trans people do, but the situation is different I guess. I’m not trying to extract some kind of effort from my reader, even the effort of opening up a new window in a browser. I don’t expect anything from my reader except a fair mind (and I don’t always get that).

    As a writer it is my job (not yours as a reader) to make sense of what I am saying, and to make it accessible to the widest possible audience, because usually I am trying to get you to agree with me, or, at a minimum, to understand what I am saying without having to look much stuff up. Ideally, without having to look anything up. If I require that my reader possess some knowledge not widely available, or that they go off and research my terms, I am narrowing my audience a good deal, which does not serve my purpose of persuasion.

    (If I’m writing, say, an insurance contract, I’m trying to conceal information rather than reveal it, and you’ll find the jargon in such documents is thicker than jungles. The presence of such prose in such documents is a tip-off as to the intent of the writer, by the way.)

    Now this post is going to turn out like the ones that criticize grammar and spelling: you’re going to catch me out repeatedly, probably in this very post, breaking my own rules. I don’t always rise to the standard I am enunciating, but I don’t think that makes it invalid.

    I have learned a great deal from the posts on this blog, but I am not, properly speaking, a member of these communities. (I’m way too old, for one thing.) And I do work for a living, and I’m taking recreational time out to read here. So I don’t want to run all over the internet to untangle a conversation I can’t understand because it uses all kinds of in-group acronyms, and usually I just skip those posts altogether, which I don’t think is what anyone intends.

    I doubt that I’m the only outsider who reads here, though most of them probably don’t post. Let’s give the outsiders a hand up here and define terms like “MAAB” which are not in common usage in the larger American community. Anyway, that’s what I think.

  68. 68
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    Susan, 67

    I’m trying to conceal information rather than reveal it, and you’ll find the jargon in such documents is thicker than jungles. The presence of such prose is a tip-off as to the intent of the writer.

    Wow.

    “Stop trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes with your abbreviations, trans people! You wouldn’t say ‘MAAB’ and ‘FAAB’ unless you were up to something!”

    It’s possible that’s not what you meant. But it’s what you said.

    Also, this is not a legal document; most of the posters and I imagine a lot of commentors are actual writers (counting cartoonists). We don’t use the bluebook (I mostly go by the AP Stylebook, but that’s just me). In a legal document, spelling out abbreviations is standard practice; in a blog (especially, in my experience, a feminist or left-wing social justice blog) it’s expected that people will look up unfamiliar terms — for one thing, you’re on the internet already when you’re reading, and even most mobile browsers have tabbed browsing now.

  69. 69
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    There are a variety of arrangements where it’s appropriate to “demand something” from your audience.

    Academia.
    Parenthood.
    Being a religious figure.
    Speaking to a group of people who have paid/travelled/otherwise expressed a desire to learn what you have to say.
    Punishment.

    Ordinary conversation, though? Nope. Well, sure: you can ‘demand’ to your heart’s content, just like everyone else, but good luck with that.

    In normal conversation, some demands are rude and some are not. this post gets them backwards.

    What is NOT rude (in normal conversation) is to request an explanation, a definition of an unfamiliar term; a citation; or that sort of thing. Bizarrely enough, some folks are alleging that this practice-SOP for most normal conversations–is, in fact, rude.

    What IS rude (in normal conversation) is to switch it from a conversation to a lecture: to try to grab the moral authority of forcing them to treat you as a parent/guru/teacher/etc. IOW, it’s rude to suggest that a random conversational partner has an obligation (moral, social or otherwise) to do more than listen to you in good faith; it’s rude to suggest that they have an obligation to go beyond that listening, and engage in active research. Bizarrely enough, you’re alleging that this practice–which should fairly result in a response of “stop lecturing us!”–is actually polite, or (worse yet) viewed as polite or impolite depending on the minority status of the speaker.

    in a blog (especially, in my experience, a feminist or left-wing social justice blog) it’s expected that people will look up unfamiliar terms
    Yes. And this is one of the failings of many writers across the political spectrum. Unfortunately it’s more common in the liberal sphere, us being the inventors of the ridiculous “conversational AA” tactic.

  70. 70
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    No more “edit” feature, it seems, so to clarify:

    If you’re having a good faith disagreement about something, you are trying to convince your opponent that your POV is correct. For them to request further details or explanation is generally a sign of respect: it demonstrates their interest in what you actually are trying to say. (Ignoring terms they don’t know is not great, because they’re not really listening to you.)

    Unless you happen to be starting from an unusual position like I described in the post above, you don’t command automatic respect. You certainly don’t command a high enough level of respect to require folks to do “extra work” to understand you.

  71. 71
    Charles S says:

    Could we take the derail to an open thread? Preferably an old dead open thread, so the recent open thread remains a useful open thread.

  72. 72
    Cross Cultural Comparisons says:

    If someone was trying to sell me on an idea and expected the onus to be on me to “look up” what they are talking about, you can bet your bottom dollar they just lost an ideological client!

  73. 73
    Susan says:

    “Stop trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes with your abbreviations, trans people! You wouldn’t say ‘MAAB’ and ‘FAAB’ unless you were up to something!”

    It’s possible that’s not what you meant. But it’s what you said.

    You got this almost right. That is not what I meant. However, it’s also not what I said. Not even close. Please to re-read what I actually said.

    Guess I wasn’t clear enough, but you do seem to be off on a tangent. And you’re assuming hostility where I don’t think I demonstrated any. People who assume hostility, in my experience, can find it almost anywhere.

    in a blog (especially, in my experience, a feminist or left-wing social justice blog) it’s expected that people will look up unfamiliar terms

    This is known as “preaching to the choir,” that is, writing for people who already agree with you. Nothing wrong with that, but this isn’t really that kind of place. We have a wide variety of views here (that’s why it’s so much fun), but that also means we have to aim our prose a little higher.

    Again, my opinion only, your mileage may differ.

    But. If you write in secret codes, know that only those who already know the code will understand what you are saying. If this is your intent, no problem.

    If someone was trying to sell me on an idea and expected the onus to be on me to “look up” what they are talking about, you can bet your bottom dollar they just lost an ideological client!

    Yup.

  74. 74
    Ampersand says:

    Charles, who is a moderator, already asked that this subject be dropped or taken to an open thread. That should have been the end of it on this thread.

  75. 75
    Decnavda says:

    The Educating Isaac episode with Scott Lively has been published. It is available on iTunes or here:
    http://traffic.libsyn.com/educatingisaac/Lively_Gay_Agenda_Interview.mp3

  76. 76
    Grace Annam says:

    This is an example of the effective sort of argument I was talking about in comment #56.

    Grace

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