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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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The Rhetoric of Prejudice
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You will rarely hear spokespeople for right-wing groups, especially the politically savvy, manipulative ones like the Christian Coalition, overtly attack lesbians and gay men or say they hate us. Instead, they often use the common language of modern American political discourse, full of apparent tolerance and seemingly rational words. Don't be deceived, however.

A common body of code words has arisen; any press release by these groups dealing with the issue of homosexuality is likely to contain the words and phrases below. If you can use all the words below in a paragraph, you'll always have a job -- as a speechwriter for Pat Robertson! The real purpose of this slanted, prejudicial use of the language is to demonize homosexuality in a casual reader's or listener's mind. It's the opposite of truth, the enemy of free enquiry. One the most vexing aspects of the Radical Right is that they are such inveterate, pathological liars.

For example, take this little blurb:

"We respect the right of adults in America who choose the gay lifestyle. However, we do not believe that sexual preference should be grounds to receive special rights from the government. Parents have the right to protect their children from those who would flaunt their immoral lifestyles."

"choice"
This idea implies that gays and lesbians choose to be gay or lesbian. This is an important issue, because poll after poll has shown that Americans are more likely to support equal rights for lesbians and gays if they believe it is an natural condition -- which it assuredly is -- like eye color or left-handedness. The Radical Right knows this, which is why they use word "choice" so often, because they are against equal rights for all Americans.

"special rights"
The Radical Right uses this phrase when it refers to what most other Americans would consider equal rights under our Consitution and system of laws: the right not to be discriminated against because of who one is! It's effective, because most people are reluctant to support "special" rights for anyone. This phrase is often used in the standard Radical Right response to gay-rights initiatives or anti-discrimination laws. The truth is that lesbians and gay men do not seek "special" rights; we seek only those very same rights that the majority society has.

"lifestyle"
Of course there is no "gay lifestyle" in reality, just as there is no "straight lifestyle". Gay men and lesbians live the same lives as most Americans do: working, shopping, getting educated, attending religious services, going to the movies, etc. However, by using the term "lifestyle," the Radical Right hopes to make average Americans think of the stereotypical, theatrical outfits you see once a year during Pride parades. Furthermore, actual lifestyles are matters of personal choice and preference, which the Radical Right wants to link with us in peoples' minds: see "choice" above and "sexual preference" below.

"flaunting"
This is a loaded term that refers to those oh-so-pushy queers who just shove themselves down everyone's throat by doing things like holding hands in public, having a picture of their spouse at work, mentioning their significant other in conversation, or heaven knows, even getting married. You know, the stuff heterosexuals do every day. At issue here is the Radical Right's exploitation of our general invisibility and of the majority population's lack of awareness of its own social patterns and privileges.

"protecting children"
This is a phrase used under the assumption that even if homosexuality is OK for adults, we must protect children from seeing or hearing or learning about it lest they "turn" gay. The phrase rests on many false assumptions, including the "recruiting" myth (see below) and willful ignorance of the fact that over 99% of all pedophiles are actually heterosexual men preying on little girls. In addition, many gay and lesbian people are themselves parents, and it is monstrous to suggest that their sexuality makes them unfit parents; everyone knows that the most important thing to a child is be wanted and to be loved, and those of us who are parents do love our own children.

"family"
When you hear this, think nuclear family. Better, think nuclear family with Christian Coalition membership; PFLAG parents certainly don't count! Arrogant co-optation of the word "family" by the Radical Right to exclude everyone who doesn't agree with them politically is anti-democratic and truly despicable. They seek to disenfranchise anyone who opposes their backward, bigoted views.

"parents' rights"
A code phrase meaning "the right of parents to raise their kids to be as bigoted as they are" -- something most of us regrettably accept as part of America. However, the Radical Right wants to go further by forcing the public schools to assist them in their efforts, and is supporting efforts to change the law to make that easier. When you hear "parents' rights" just imagine Pat Robertson as your little girl's kindly kindergarten teacher, instilling in her fear and hatred of anything not like herself. Here too, the rhetoric flies in the fact of the obvious fact that many of us are also parents, parents whose rights and very humanity the Radical Right, however, seeks to abbrogate.

"sexual preference"
This may come as news to those of us who may have spent years coming to terms with our sexual orientations, but according to the bigots we don't have an orientation at all; rather, we have a sexual "preference." This is another way the Radical Right tries to reinforce their opinion that being gay or lesbian is some type of conscious decision. The truth is that being gay or lesbian is an essential and completely natural part of our humanity. A "preference" is whether one wants chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

"recruiting"
One of the oldest myths of the Radical Right holds that gays must recruit children to "become" gay. Imagine the posters: "You too can become an unpopular minority!" It is important always to re-assert the fact that one does not choose their orientation. "Recruiting" is a particularly vicious, hate-motivated lie.

"behavior"
A common assertion of the Radical Right is that being gay or lesbian is a "behavior." This is another side of the "choice" argument. We "choose" to engage in a "behavior." The hypocrisy is evident in the Radical Right's belief that we just have sex, while they make love. Using the term "behavior" seeks to remove any emotion or love from our life experiences, to manipulate the public into thinking we are unlike from them in this regard. The truth, of course, is that we are not.

"love the sinner, hate the sin"
This is a common ploy by Radical Right groups who claim that homosexuality is a sin. They usually preface this lie by stating that they love the sinner (gays and lesbians) even though they abhor homosexuality. The truth is that "sin" is a human invention, not a divine one, and being lesbian or gay is a completely natural phenomenon, rather than a sin.

"unnatural"
The Radical Right often argues that homosexuality is unnatural. This ignores the fact that homosexuality occurs among other species besides humans and that we exhibit the same natural desire to love as all other humans do. The truth is that denying all our human aspiration, including the obvious love we feel for one another, as the Radical Right does, is what's unnatural.

"moral principles"
It is usually assumed by the Radical Right that they are upholding "moral principles," protecting them from some fantasized assault by gays and lesbians. This is highly insulting, because it implies that the Radical Right has a patent on morality, which is assuredly not true. Actually, the Radical Right embraces some of the least moral principles in all of human history.

[Compiled by Mike Silverman, the webmaster of Turn Out, to whom many thanks for letting me use it. The changes and additions I've made are my responsibility, not his, however.]

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