Tom Gilson

Speech codes: The offense against LGBT people that no one seems to notice

Lydia McGrew performs a masterful analysis of events and reactions relating to a professor shutting down pro-natural marriage statements in class. Please read her post for the whole story and her insightful comments. I have just one or two things to add.

She quotes a blogger, MarquettePhilosopher, who says, “I am in full support of Marquette’s Harassment policy and Harassment training, which, as I pointed out, clearly states that there is zero tolerance for comments that are hurtful to homosexuals.” The reason for this is that he or she “has an overwhelming concern for marginalized others and is committed to fostering a safe environment for members of marginalized groups to learn in my classroom.

This incident could actually have been played out in any of dozens of colleges and universities, whose speech codes severely limit opinions students and faculty can voice concerning LGBT issues. (It reminds me of another classroom, where the topic was religion, and where the professor was also trying to keep the environment safe for marginalized minorities.)

I wonder just how this professor, and the writers of speech codes everywhere, think it’s affirming to LGBT people to tell them they need this kind of protection. They need a “safe environment,” says the prof. This is not about being safe from physical attack; if it were, I would agree with him or her. It’s about being safe from “conversation about whether or not he has the basic right to marry.”

What, are they too fragile to be able to handle a word of disagreement? Is that what he or she thinks about them?

If you want to build someone up–someone you actually believe in, that is–you don’t shield them from life’s realities. You walk through the challenges with them. You only shield people this way if you’re worried they’ll crumble before they can grow up enough to meet the challenge.

This professor’s attitude is incredibly demeaning toward LGBT people. So are speech codes like Marquette’s, wherever they’re enacted. It’s an offense against LGBT people that no one seems to notice. Why?

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20 thoughts on “Speech codes: The offense against LGBT people that no one seems to notice

  1. Why? If I had to guess it is:

    1. They really believe any speech that may hurt the feelings of LGBT people really *is* as harmful as physically assaulting them. So, its just as wrong and harmful to talk about marriage as union of man and woman or suggest certain intimate acts are sinful around a person that identifies as LGBT as it is to just go punch them in the face.

    2. People that identify as LGBT are just useful pawns. The people who enforce these kinds of speech codes really do not care about them.

  2. “..relating to a professor shutting down pro-natural marriage statements in class.”

    This is not true. It was a doctoral student teacher.

    This discussion was recorded outside of class by the student. It was recorded secretly by the student and he initially lied about recording it.

    The student then passed this recording on to a professor who used it to scold this student teacher in public (on his blog site) without first talking to her about it.

    This is a situation in which a student teacher may have made a mistake (which is understandable because she is still learning to teach) but a student and a professor acted unethically. If blame is to be laid, it should be on the latter two.

  3. Why do you use terms like LGBT? Can you imagine the early church running up the rainbow flag and canvassing LGBT issues? Could anything be more absurd and contrary to their mission?

    Defending the rights of the marginalized and afflicted in any scripture you care to name at no point objectifies matters of sexual orientation. Many minority people for a host of different reasons get targeted unfairly. This “LGBT” fixation when it comes to unfair treatment is an aberrant obsession in certain quarters of the American church. Poll the rest of the world and you will find you are in a tiny minority because most Christianity on the planet is reality-based.

    Your entire approach indicates that you aren’t coming from a Christ centered position… I’m arguing this not on the basis of scripture per se although it provides clear guidelines… but because the spirit transcends both hetero and homo declarations of any sort. Identity politics of this or any other sort has no place in the body of Christ. Churches that are moving to embrace this identity ideology and life-style will discover years hence the serious mistake they have made because the fall-out is inevitable.

    People of any sexual orientation should be made welcome on the understanding that the spirit of Christ transforms and liberates from sin. Their inclusion should not be a reason to celebrate LGBT issues. The focus should be on the mistreatment of a person without the LGBT and identity politics add-on because frankly part of the power of LGBT is derived from the propaganda of victimhood. Christianity isn’t and will never be about that. It will always be about the person irrespective of their orientation. Or should be.

  4. sean,

    If you read the rest of what I have written on this topic, you’ll find that I’m not celebrating anything about homosexuality.

    There are persons who are same-sex-attracted and/or experience a sense of gender misalignment. Those categories of human beings exist. There are many different ways they could be identified or labeled. Many of those labels, they tell us, come across as dehumanizing. LGBT does not, from what I have been told.

    When I want to speak of persons who are same-sex-attracted or gender dysphoric, I could use labels they find dehumanizing, but I refuse to do that. I strive to treat others as humans, as I would want to be treated. Of course the whole point of this post is that treating them as fully human includes being open and frank about points of disagreement related to values, beliefs, and even behavior, so I’m not shy about speaking of those things.

    So I won’t use dehumanizing language. That leaves me with “same-sex-attracted-and/or-gender dysphoric,” which is rather cumbersome (maybe SSAA/OGD?—no, I don’t think so). Or it leaves me with LGBT.

    Or it leaves me not having any vocabulary at all to refer to a category of persons.

    Meanwhile, I suggest you use caution in judging whether my approach is Christ-centered. You don’t know me well enough to draw that conclusion. That’s the point of Matthew 7:1 (which, though it is overused and often misinterpreted, is still a word from the Lord and still means something) and John 7:24.

  5. The suspended professor has also been blogging about the situation.
    I hope you are open to more perspectives.

    This is the professor who used a secretly recorded conversation to publicly shame a student teacher without first talking to said teacher.

    Do you not agree that the professor’s behavior is unethical?

  6. Actually, that’s not so clear-cut. It’s unclear that the recording was made in a setting where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    Suppose, though, the professor was acting unethically. I don’t know for sure, but he might have been.

    Can you possibly direct your attention to any other facet of this situation, or are you committed to your belief that there is only one place where blame is to be laid?

    Are you open to the perspective that the professor’s suspension was wrongly handled regardless of his possible error? Are you open to the perspective that the instructor’s rebuke to the student was a violation of normal and necessary standards of discourse in a free society? Are you open to the perspective that Marquette University’s speech codes are also violations of said standards? Are you open to the perspective that those speech codes are demeaning to LGBT people?

    Or are you really just hoping we’ll just agree with you that the only matter of interest here is the bad behavior of the student and the suspended professor?

    It’s the only thing you’ve said about it. That’s pretty narrow, don’t you think?

    Are you open to other perspectives?

  7. Sure I am open to those perspectives. I noted in my first post that the student teacher may have made a mistake.

    The recording was made during a private conversation between this student teacher and the student. It didn’t take place during class. And when the student teacher began to suspect that the student was recording this private conversation he lied to her and said he wasn’t.

    Student teachers are going to make plenty of mistakes while they gain teaching experience. Nothing particularly surprising about that. It is bad enough that McAdams publicly shamed her over this issue. He did so without having the decency to talk to her first in private.

    I don’t believe this particular incident serves you well in promoting your views regarding speech codes.

  8. Duly noted. You think I chose a poor occasion upon which to comment on university speech codes. You think the student and McAdams are really blameworthy, and while you mentioned other blame, you really, really want to drive home how badly those two people acted. That’s what’s important to you.

    It has hardly anything to do with the point of the OP.

    The speech codes are demeaning for reasons I gave in the post, which are quite independent of these other issues.

    Are you willing to be open to that perspective? Or will you remain narrow in your thinking?

  9. Tom, I’m unsure if you are simply out of touch when it comes to gay issues or in some sense naive because LGBT is a highly loaded political term that is way more than a simple identifier re orientation. On a purely literal level yes of course, it is a descriptor, but in practice it signifies a raft of political and cultural baggage.

    We are speaking of a war and in any war language and symbols are important. The problem is not homosexual or transgendered people – at least not in my book – but rather the appropriation of radical gay terms and symbols by Christians who need to think more carefully about how they are aligning themselves on this issue.

    Victimization is used – and I can cite a book on this – as a political tool in order press LGBT issues in the courts and in the forum of public opinion with the allied intent of demonizing any who don’t cater to the radical gay agenda. There is a wealthy gay couple in the UK at present engaged in a million dollar lawsuit to “force” their church to marry them.

    A lot of the tactics employed by this constituency really amounts to a form of cultural fascism and deals heavily in demonization and intimidation of those who don’t cater to the agenda. This highly politicized power play is in no sense Christian… it’s about identity, control and in many cases the destruction or at least destabilization of what a number of radical activists view as the traditional het establishment, which in their minds is “the enemy.” It doesn’t matter to them that families are being ripped apart, that older church members are driven into isolation and despair by changing values they can’t understand let alone accommodate, that havoc is being created in church communities with divisiveness and polarizing opinion the order of the day. What they care about is driving their agenda.

    So while on the individual level there should never be stigmatization of homosexual or transgendered people, this shouldn’t amount to a rollover position with respect to catering to the ideology and culture-war rhetoric which the accronym “LGBT” most assuredly announces, whether you choose to believe it or not.

  10. Hal, you have a lot of grace to offer a student-teacher who is just learning. Is there any grace to be offered to a student who is being taken to task by an instructor for sharing his beliefs in a class discussion; who is in a position of duress; who might have believed that some evidence of that duress could be helpful in obtaining relief; who might have been caught off guard by the question about the recording; who might not know about the laws and ethics that have to do with recording conversations; and who is younger than the instructor and also just learning?

    No. No grace for the student. None at all. If blame is to be laid, it is to be laid on this student. (And on McAdams, but that’s another question.)

    Why would you not offer that same kind of grace to the student?

  11. sean, read this, please.

    I am fully aware of all that you have said. I am not out of touch. I’ve read After the Ball and The Overhauling of Straight America. I’ve read a lot. I have a book on these things in publication by Kregel Publications.

    If you read a dozen or so of the articles linked there and you still think I’m playing rollover, then we can talk.

  12. I don’t understand what you are asking for here, Tom. The student who lied and surreptitiously recorded a private conversation has not been punished in any way. His name has not been released so he has not been publicly shamed.

    What is this “grace” that I am supposed to extend to him?

    I hope you don’t believe that students are completely free to say whatever they want to in a class, that they are the ones who can determine what the subject matter of the class should be.

  13. So you’re thinking that in spite of all that I just said, the student should have blame laid upon him, but the instructor should not (per the end of your comment 3).

    I’m not talking about punishment or public shame. I’m talking about your view of the situation, and where you think blame lies. (I could hardly expect you to extend grace in any other fashion, after all; you only control your own views and behaviors, not others’.)

    You know what grace means in the case of the instructor: “This is a situation in which a student teacher may have made a mistake (which is understandable because she is still learning to teach).”

    But here you say, “What is this ‘grace’ that I am supposed to extend to him?”

    Isn’t it obvious? Hint: look at my last comment to you, then read your words inside the parentheses.

  14. By the way, what did you think of the point of the OP? We’re still off on a bit of a rabbit trail here.

    I’ll admit to taking it in this direction. I think we’re learning something important about who you’re willing and not willing to blame. I hope you learn something about yourself from it, too.

    But I’m also still interested in knowing what you think about university speech codes and how they demean LGBT people.

  15. I’m actually with you, Tom, in that if there’s any place that should be open to all ideas, even controversial ones, it’s a college. Of course there are plenty of things that could qualify as harassment even at a college, but I haven’t seen anything in this case that rises to that level. (Although I do see several mistakes and incidents of rudeness.)

  16. On that, Hal, I think we really are in agreement! (Merry Christmas!)

    (I’ll let the university’s treatment of McAdams, and the generally harassing nature of its speech codes, slip by for the sake of the holiday.)

  17. Please pardon the ensuing use of scare quotes; I provide them because I don’t think the terms really mean what they are put out there to communicate (that may be a little bit Inigo Montoya of me, but so be it).

    The “protection” of these “fragile” persons by college and university personnel at both the academic and administrative levels, the intent to spare them anything that might cause “discomfort” is simultaneously a disservice to those they are purportedly trying to educate AND a means of perpetuating indoctrination. The surest way of maintaing a pattern of thinking is not to allow it to be challenged. This practice extends far beyond the matter of sexual preference; it is an attempt to engender (excuse me) a perpetual state of victimhood, which serves the larger sociopolitical aspirations of those who seek to overthrow the “oppressors” on the behalf of the “oppressed.” We currently see it just as much in the way students at some academic institutions are both using the unrest occasioned by the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City and being used by their handlers (for lack of a less pejorative label) to maintain the conflict. On some level (most levels, actually), I feel sorry for these kids. They are being cheated out of a real education in order to be made, willingly or otherwise, into pawns.

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