An Open Letter to Mohamad Sibai, Re: Your article, "Viewpoint: Please Me at Any Price"
(Original article found at: http://justpaste.it/yfs)
Dear Mr. Sibai,
I would dearly love to take you up on your offer to call you whatever I like, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it would be graceless and tactless to bully you. Not to mention hurtful. So I’m going to be charitable here and assume you are totally ignorant of what exactly you were doing in your article “Viewpoint: Please Me at Any Price,” which was published in Volume 44, Issue 21 of Outlook. I know you’re not too good with technical terms (don’t worry, I’ll be happy to explain to you what the words ‘sexist’ and ‘sexual’ mean, and will gladly provide you with the appropriate words you were probably thinking to look for), but what you have presented to the AUB community is something we call bullying, hate speech, and bigotry.
Let me outline this for you. Just so you can, you know, understand. Because understanding is important. (By the way, there’s a lovely course given by the philosophy department called Phil 211: Introduction to Logic that might interest you. You might also want to look into Phil 210: Ethics). Just so you can see exactly what these terms are and how your article exemplifies them, I’m going to make it very easy for you and consult the Oxford English Dictionary. I think it’s easier to understand something when someone spoon-feeds you the relevant information, don’t you? Let’s start with the first two terms, because they are interrelated.
bully n. a blustering ‘gallant’; a bravo, hector, or ‘swash-buckler’; now, esp. a tyrannical coward who makes himself a terror to the weak.
hate speech n. orig. U.S. speech expressing hatred or intolerance of other social groups, esp. on the basis of race or sexuality; hostile verbal abuse (though the term is sometimes understood to encompass written and non-verbal forms of expression).
Those aren’t very pretty words, are they? You know what else isn’t pretty? You saw a gay couple lovingly holding hands as they walked down the street, and your sensibilities were so offended at the sight that you wrote an article announcing to the world that this phenomenon is “disturbing”, is “not right”. You have publicly aired a moral judgment proclaiming the wrongness of a single loving human gesture because you felt disgusted by it. That is, you gave a normative claim determining what people ought and ought not to do based on some bile in your throat.
In other words: you have judged that what millions of couples do worldwide to make themselves happy, without hurting anybody—that is, live together, love each other, and make love to each other—is morally reprehensible because you personally felt a little bit squeamish to notice that the two hands holding each other were attached to people with facial hair and rough voices.
Is that clear? Maybe you want to look up the word “arbitrary” right now.
But let me tell you why this is bullying. Perhaps you were not aware of this, but a person’s sexual identity, especially during puberty and young adulthood, is very strongly linked to their psychological well-being. When gay people are told that what they are feeling is wrong, that what they are feeling deserves bloody and violent punishment, that God hates them for what they are feeling, that what they are feeling repels other people, they become psychologically distressed. Duh.
Because why? Because this is hate speech. It is intolerance and discrimination based on sexual orientation, it is verbal and/or written abuse. It is hostile, it is judgmental, it is hurtful, and it attacks the innermost subjective feelings that human beings harbor.
Note that I say feelings—before they even begin to act upon them. Can you imagine a more personal invasion? Whatever the factors are that determine how and why gay people feel this way the fact remains that human beings are feeling this way.
You suggest that genetics has nothing to do with it and these factors are purely environmental, but I think this point, though very probably blatantly unfactual, is irrelevant because the feelings are still there. (Incidentally, by saying that sexual orientation is solely determined environmentally, you’re admitting that gay people have no conscious control over it. So you have one of two options: either God has the power to stop them from being this way and doesn’t do it because he’s cruel, or God doesn’t have such a power, and gay people are more powerful than God. You pick!)
Now, I don’t know much about you, but I’m willing to bet that you didn’t wake up one day as a teenager and decide that you liked girls. You didn’t wake up one morning and decide that you were going to have this sexual identity. Well, okay, you might say, so gay people don’t choose to feel this way—well, you know, they can change. They can be fixed, so to speak. What was it you said? Oh yes, “homosexuality can be treated in various ways.”
Right. Treated. So, in addition to telling human beings who are being made to feel guilty about their sexual identity that what they are feeling is wrong, you are also suggesting that what they are feeling is a disease or a sickness.
That is: you are telling human beings that there is something fundamentally sick about their bodies, their minds, about the thoughts and feelings they can’t help having. You are saying: you have an illness, and this happens to be the only illness on the planet linked to your morality. You are a bad person for having this illness. Go on. Deal with that, if you will.
(Incidentally, do you honestly believe that given enough ‘therapy’ a psychologist could cure you of your straightness? Make you stop liking women? Yeah, me either. So why would you assume that this can be done for gay people? This is almost a more interesting question than how you could possible assume that it should be done in the first place.)
These things that you are saying and suggesting: that gay people are bad, disgusting, and sick, are exemplary of the bullying and hate speech (which is merely a type of bullying) described above—human beings are pushed into corners and terrorized by squeamish self-righteous tyrannical cowards—people who believe themselves to be in a position of superior control, knowledge, and moral judgment—who will dictate to these human beings how they should view their own sexuality and what they can and can’t do with their own bodies in the privacy of their own homes. These are not merely dictates on actions—these are dictates on personal feelings of accountability and self-worth.
Now, here’s something else you maybe did not realize. Bullying hurts people. Sometimes very, very badly.
This is bullying because it causes desperate teenagers to commit suicide. Because it causes human beings who are not much more than children to hate themselves, to doubt themselves, to be racked with extreme and ongoing guilt, and to fall into depression. Clinical depression—you might want to look that one up too. That’s not an easy one to fix. This bullying causes adults who have been confused for virtually all their adult lives to have commitment issues, to be chronically unhappy, and to hide one of the most important features of their identity from the world for fear of judgment, slander, and ridicule.
Of course, it’s not just you. Not that his should be a comforting thought. The attitudes you expressed in your article are part of a hundreds-of-years-old ongoing discriminatory crusade against human beings magnified to ridiculous proportions. This is a phenomenon that has spurred laws that deny people inalienable human rights. Because of these laws two men or two women who have been together, perhaps even raised a family together, for many years, and who hold each other as the closest and most valuable companions of their earthly existence, are denied rights to make decisions about each other’s lives, property, and bodies, in life and in death. They are denied the right to visit each other in hospitals when they are sick, when they are dying, because they are not technically ‘family’. In some cases they may even be faced with the prospect of corporal punishment or imprisonment because they want to be together.
This phenomenon has a name: homophobia. Rest assured, I will not call you sexist (sexism n.: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex), but I will call you homophobic.
(Incidentally, I think the fact that you can’t seem to differentiate between physical sex and/or gender and sexual identity is pretty indicative of your abilities as an informed debater on this subject).
So congrats, you’ve joined the (inherently cowardly) homophobic bandwagon, where you get a kick out of making people miserable just because it allows you to swallow that little bit of bile in your throat and feel self-righteous about it, because, hey, you attached a moral indictment to it.
You want to know what else you did? (Since you seem to be so oblivious to the potency of your powers). In a manner that was very insulting, degrading and ignorant, you reduced homosexual relationships to (what you view to be) an unyielding and perverted desire for pleasure. Maybe your own sexual identity isn’t more complex than that of a common sea sponge, but I assure you that most human beings, by virtue of being human beings, use sex as a vehicle not only for physical pleasure (incidentally, yeah, there is totally something wrong with that), but also for companionship, intimacy, love, and union with a partner. Let me put it in another way: it might come as a shock to you, but gay couples have relationships just as straight couples do. They raise families and build whole lives together.
In case you need a pointer, I have employed the use of something we call sarcasm in this letter. I'm not trying to insult your intelligence by pointing this out, but I have good reason to believe that you don't understand the mind-boggling complexities of humor. I think Yakov Smirnoff is a wonderful comedian, don't you?
Oh yeah. That. That thing you quoted and took seriously that was (kind of very obviously) a joke. Yeah. You used a joke about gay men wanting to go to jail so they can be imprisoned with other men (how old is this joke? is it humanly possible that you haven’t heard it twenty thousand times in the last decade?) to express your reduction of homosexuality to an unwarranted pleasure-chase.
(Incidentally: do you honestly expect people to take your opinion seriously when you display what are either very poor research skills or what is an indifference to checking your sources? And what does the fact that you were so willing to believe such a hyperbolic statement say about you and your preconceptions about and prejudices against homosexuals?)
Let me quote your (not so) grand finale: “The lust, the hunger, the addiction. Men hungering for gay pleasure are willing to withstand the freezing environment of a metal cell in Russia just to please their insides. Is this what the human race has become?”
No, this is what the human race has come to: normal, contributing citizens in society being forced to withstand attack, discrimination, and hatred just because they want the happiness and fulfillment of a loving relationship with another human being.
But that’s not terrible at all, right?
Now I will try to make you understand why you are a bigot. Back to the Oxford English Dictionary:
bigot n. A person considered to adhere unreasonably or obstinately to a particular religious belief, practice, etc.
Okay, let’s talk about religion. This is what you said in your article:
“Almost every holy religion has condemned it. Islam condemns it to a point where the culprits are to be stoned to death. The bible States “if a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13). Judaism also condemns those who commit such an ‘abomination’”
Clearly the best way to argue your point is to cite books written hundreds of years ago and that often contradict themselves (you appealed to logic twice in your article; how about this for a basic logical principle: a thing that entails a contradiction cannot be true) as good grounds for attacking people. Because, you know, it seems to me that stoning to death, putting people to death and proclaiming that ‘their blood shall be upon them’ because they are attracted to other people with similar sex organs a pretty darn reasonable claim.
Here’s the thing: If you are going to quote something at me as a reason for why I should entertain your point of view, that thing had better be able to stand for itself. “Don’t do this because it is an abomination and you will die for it!” is not an argument.
Ever heard of the word ‘hermeneutics’? Look that one up too. Maybe you should also entertain the notion of interpretation and underlying justification. After all, are you supposed to have blind faith as a religious person, or are you supposed to question the principles you are told to uphold? To think about them, engage in scholarly discourse, develop methods of interpretation? If you find them to be in line with proper non-dogmatic thought and reasoning, then perhaps, maybe perhaps, you can argue for their widespread adoption.
Fact of the matter is this. You quoted things at me that are calling for the bloody and violent death and punishment of human beings and you held this up as conclusive proof for the rightness of your opinion. You are arguing for a principle that controls, sanctions, and regulates through brutal punishment what individuals do with their own bodies in their own homes just because a book said it. Call me crazy but… that sounds like bigotry to me.
But maybe you’d like to say that God knows things that we know not, and we cannot justify these claims, but they are God-given and so must be right. Let us set aside, for now, the blatant philosophical flaws with this mode of moral argumentation, not to mention the screaming glaring fact that there are sound, rational arguments that obliterate many of these godly dictates to a mushy pulp. If it is true that whatever God says must be true, then according to the Bible, people can acquire foreigners as slaves and inherit them as property (Leviticus 25:44-46). Also, if a man commits usury (lending money for interest) he ‘shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:13). Sound familiar? Yeah. Let’s all go shut down our bank accounts because it’s evidently immoral. God says so. What about eating pig, and shellfish, and working on the Sabbath, and a woman cutting her hair? Surely abominations, all of them. Abominations, abominations, abominations.
What about this claim you made: “Religion has done well in keeping society working well and efficiently in a respectable manner.”
I don’t know how it is possible to willfully ignore the problems plaguing Lebanese society with respect to basic human rights, many of which are fed and bolstered by religion and religious scholars. To give one example out of hundreds, the recent attempts to propose a draft law criminalizing domestic violence and marital rape has been opposed by both Dar Al-Fatwa and Al-Majlis Al-Shii-i Al-A’la on the grounds that such a law would threaten the closeness of familial bonds.
Yes, because such a law will threaten the loving fabric of a happy family, and giving a man the right to beat and rape his wife definitely will not. This is how religion is regulating society. It is preventing women from having the option to legal recourse in case they are being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused in their homes. These are facts. A man in Lebanon has the right to beat his wife and children to a pulp. A man in Lebanon has the right to insult, control, and emotionally batter his family. A man in Lebanon has the right to rape a woman if he is married to her.
This is what religion regulates. Religion is assisting in empowering men to terrorize and abuse women in this country. Religion is dictating to the women of Lebanon that they do not have the right to protect and determine the use of and fate of their own physical bodies. This is only one example.
You said this: “I mean, let’s stop for a minute and say that it was okay to be gay all over the world and have a chain around a man’s neck and have him dragged around.”
So you are using language to compare gay sex to being shackled around the neck and dragged around. That is, you think having sex with a man will do this. What does that tell me about what you think of straight women who regularly have sex with their partners, who are men? So this action, which you think is so degrading, is okay for women? Admittedly your language is ambiguous. You might mean that having sex with a man is degrading in this manner only if you yourself are man. So you are determining the moral worth of an action by conflating the action itself with the sex of the person carrying it out. Because the physiology of a human being performing an action is so obviously directly linked to the moral status of the action itself. Of course. How could anyone not see this brilliant correlation?
Speaking of correlation (correlation-does-not-imply-causation!!!)… you also seem to think that having gay sex as opposed to straight sex magically makes STI’s explode and proliferate among the population (fun fact! Statistically, lesbians as a group have the lowest incidence of AIDS. That means that all women should have gay sex, right? Oh. Darn).
You also seem to think that being homosexual magically renders your reproductive system useless, and you can no longer have children if you want to. Because if you didn’t want to have children in the first place, refusing to have gay sex would certainly make kids or the desire for them appear, right? And if you did want to have kids, being gay would totally stop you from doing that. Even if you really, really wanted to. Shucks. Oh and if you can’t have kids then you shouldn’t be having sex at all, right? How about you go ahead and take it upon yourself to tell the girl who got into a car accident when she was 5 years old and had to have a hysterectomy that she is doomed to a sexless life because any sex she has cannot possible end in procreation. Oh, but that would be ridiculous, right? Also, let’s stop masturbating (not that I would ever accuse you of doing such a morally reprehensible thing), having oral sex, or heterosexual anal sex. You know, because none of those lead to having kids.
I’ve had enough. In case it hasn’t been made very clear what my standpoint on this issue is, it is more than okay to be gay.
Gay couples have the right to get married if they want to, with all the legal benefits that come with a civil union.
(This is referred to as same-sex marriage, not ‘sexual’ marriage. It is a common assumption that most couples, straight or gay, who get married will at one point or another have sexual relations, and I don’t believe that there is any law in any state or any place in the world criminalizing sex in marriage. Correct me if I’m wrong, though).
Gay couples have the right to bear and/or adopt and raise children if they want to.
Gay couples have the right to interact with society without being slandered, discriminated against, attacked, and hated.
Gay people are no more sick or unnatural than straight people, and it is insulting and ludicrous for anybody to say that they should change.
Since you seem to be happily oblivious of the fact, I will let you know that there is not a single rational mode of argumentation that has been devised by the human mind that poses a threat to the standing arguments in support of gay rights. Every ‘objection’ you have very poorly jabbed at or attempted to refer to in this half-assed article of yours was refuted phenomenally long before you were born. I have merely touched upon them here. The ‘unnatural’ argument, the God-said-so argument, the ‘harmful’ argument, —including the STI and reproduction arguments—have all been addressed and beaten to a pulp by people who have brains and enjoy using them. It would delight me to rectify your ignorance on this subject, but unfortunately there is no further space for this in my Open Letter. Instead I will refer you to John Corvino’s article “Why Shouldn’t Tommy and Jim Have Sex?” I believe it is simple enough and clear enough for you to understand it.
An anonymous heterosexual woman