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Semiformalishmaybe

Recent dialogue on sexuality

Last week I had a conversation with someone (if this link is taken down, let me know and I'll put my saved copy on my website to replace this live link) on G+ on the topic of homosexuality. There are some nuances of my argument that tie into theory I've provided here; at risk of beating the topic to death (I've posted a lot near this topic recently), some thoughts:

As stated there, I draw distinctions between levels of societal acceptance of variance in personal conduct:

  • Legality - Whether something should be basically legal
  • Acceptance - Whether something should be seen as a way people live that doesn't require active/short-term struggle against
  • Pathpaving - Whether something should be supported by societal institutions
  • Approval/validation - Whether something should be seen as a solid and reasonable and good way to live, among alternatives
I hold that homosexual relationships should be legal, accepted, and have the same pathpaving that heterosexual relationships do. I approve of/validate such relationships, but I don't demand that others do, although I am willing to push fairly hard for their pathpaving and very hard for their legality and acceptance.

As you can see, I did my best to keep the dialogue civil, and hopefully didn't come across as shrill or defensive; I also intentionally used family examples (didn't name the names though) because I've found that family references generally soften tone of attack by family-type conservatives, and they ground the conversation in terms of concrete relationships with real people rather than abstract theory (I don't want to overdo this though, because sometimes we really should accept principles/laws that are not friendly to people somebody knows, like putting someone in prison for a long time for crime, or similar).

In this case, I don't think I convinced her, but a number of other people she (presumably) knows in some way gave me +1s, which is kind of nice; I think it's important that somebody shows up to offer criticism of perspectives like hers, and that somebody is polite and (if needed) in command of a good body of relevant evidence and a decent theory that can be argued for. And perhaps in time the arguments I've made might lead her to soften her position or reconsider it. Or perhaps it will echo in the ears of the other people who have read it. I'm a believer in the idea that a good argument leaves an echo in the heads of the listeners.

Comments

I think you argued that well.

When I've taken part in online discussions of the morality of homosexuality (which I used to do a ton; back in the day I was co-moderator of the orientation debate board on Beliefnet.com) one of the things I always kept in mind is what is now called the 90:9:1 rule. I figured I was never going to persuade a person who was committed enough to their belief that they were posting arguments, BUT that a ton of fence-sitters would read our conversation and be swayed by my ability to be rational and civil in the face of poorly-argued prejudice.

Now I've read more research that people whose beliefs are faltering are MORE, not LESS, likely to post vitriolic messages defending the position they're trying to talk themselves into. So maybe someone we argue with will secretly change their mind later, even if they can't back down in the moment. That was certainly true for me of some people who argued against my religious faith back when I was a Christian.

I was really struck that Obama used the same family-centric approach when announcing he approved of gay marriage. I think that that probably plays well among the demographic I understand he was reaching out to in talking to Robin Roberts, i.e., conservative, minority women.

Unrelatedly, can you tell me what the background pattern on this blog is? My daughter has spent the last paragraph demanding a video of the "wobot."

Edited at 2012-05-23 09:20 pm (UTC)
It originally didn't have the smiley on the front of it; I occasionally have nightmares/dreams of geometric figures with strange geometries, and the original version of this (which just has a single or double red cone in the front, visible on my twitter feed) was my blogbackground for a long time (the shape has served as my personal sigil, and I traced it in POVRay sometime in middle school to make the JPG, I think)

When I was dating-ish Kep, she had full access to my server and decided to make the red cone into the nose of a smile she drew, as a prank. I was amused enough by it that I never turned it back to the original.
oh haha I have wondered about that since the smiley appeared.
I am usually skeptical of the utility of arguing with genuinely homophobic people on the internet, but I appreciate this analysis. I enjoy seeing the underlying structure of these things developed.
" I think it's important that somebody shows up to offer criticism of perspectives like hers"

What is her perspective? She doesn't even seem to be sure of her own position. Does she imagine herself somehow being coerced to condone/accept/celebrate same-sex relationships?
Speech codes in schools and universities might bar her perspectives, and she might be miffed at that. Maybe.

I suspect you're right; I did draw some useful lines in the discussion that she might latch onto that would help her refine her positions; maybe it's analogous to how in conversations on jewish topics I offer the frameworks of yiddish (jewish culture), judaist (for judaism specifically), and hebrew (as a secular-ethnic term, not necessarily the halakah framework) because often I've found religious jews bullying nonreligious jews by saying they're "bad jews" for denying HaShem; if we can provide new terms that separate the relevant meanings (same as I tried to do for her), we can help people see more than two possible perspectives (jewish or not, pro-gay or anti-gay); as I said I don't really care if she gives non-heterosexuality validation or not; I'm mostly focused on building consensus around legality and acceptance.