Monday, May 27, 2013

Is This the Smiling Face of Passive Homophobia?

“To each his own. I’m not with it. I have relatives that are gay. I’m not biased towards them. I still treat them the same. I love them. But, again, I’m not with that. That’s not something I believe in. But to each his own.”

So said Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson during a May 23 Sirius XM NFL Radio interview, making what must be some of the most contradictory, muddled comments I've seen on the subject on gay marriage.

First of all, I think he meant to say he's not biased against gay people (though he clearly is -- more on that in a second), but I'm not here to correct Peterson's grammar. I've got bigger fish to fry.

I don't want to take a giant leap and say that to be anti-gay marriage is to be homophobic, too, though I do suspect there is a strong correlation. Homophobia, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals." To seek to deny marital rights based on sexuality is the epitome of discriminatory, in this case, against homosexuals. Draw your own conclusions.

It's not Peterson's lack of support for gay marriage but the way in which he expressed it that troubles me most. He's not biased against gay people (in his intended words), yet he clearly has issues with them. It wasn't enough for him to say he's "not with it [gay marriage]." He had to reiterate, "I'm not with that," adding, for extra discriminatory emphasis, "it's not something I believe in."

So why don't you tell us how you really feel, Peterson? Except he left out one important piece of information: Why is he against gay marriage? The implication is that he just is. It is what it is, right? Gay marriage is just wrong. No explanation necessary. Unspoken like a true homophobe.

Not only is what Peterson did say incredibly biased, but it was pretty dismissive, too. He couldn't be bothered to present a compelling argument. He's just not with that. If he was trying to make himself seem like less of a jerk by not saying too much on the subject, he failed. I'd still give him an A for asinine.

As for his kicker, "to each his own" is a cliche whose very non-committal ambiguity makes such a crystal-clear statement (while underscoring a dismissive attitude). He wants us to think he's a swell, accepting guy, but "to each his own" reeks of disapproval. It's tantamount to saying, "I don't get it, but I'm willing to tolerate it." I'm so tired of straight people who treat homosexuality as something to be tolerated. That indirectly implies that it's bad, since you generally "tolerate" something that's negative, an annoyance.

I don't want anyone's tolerance. There's nothing wrong with me, so I don't need to be tolerated. I do demand acceptance, though. Either you accept me, or you're against me. And you're against me if you feel the need to qualify your acceptance: I love you, but I don't truly respect your relationships. Well, no thank you.

When I was younger, I remember hearing certain white people taking the same approach to mixed-race marriage. "I don't believe in interracial marriage," they'd announce, before trying to protect themselves from accusations of bigotry by insisting, "Some of my best friends are black." It sounded as racist to me as the whites of the '50s must have sounded when they rallied against desegregation while, as Peterson did, declaring their love for the very thing they were trying to keep separate.

It might be shocking to some to find out that being against interracial couplings was at one point a perfectly acceptable point of view where I come from (and for all I know, might still be). I wonder if Peterson, who once compared the NFL to slavery, sees the irony here or the parallels between the antiquated black and white point of view that I grew up hearing and his own ideas about gays and gay marriage.

Of course, he doesn't. He's just not with that. Clearly his thoughts don't go that deep.
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