If you are going to read this, please read the whole thing.  Otherwise, you may miss the point entirely.

This afternoon, I was contacted by an acquaintance from a long time ago, who was seeking my help in starting a program in the public schools in his area to "crack down on violence against LGBT youth".  I respectfully declined, saying that that type of activism isn't my area of interest, and was called a homophobic bigot.  I'm kind of used to it at this point.  I've been called homophobic, sexist, anti-feminist, racist, and more because I find the idea of "group rights" "hate crimes" and "protected classes" to be dangerous.  It occurs to me, though, that I've never thoroughly explained why, so here's my attempt at doing so.

People in our culture have this funny idea about injustice and interpersonal violence -- that the motive is more important than the act -- and it is damaging our society in countless ways.  First off, it bears pointing out that:

* If someone beats you to death, you are equally dead whether they did it because you made fun of their favorite sports team, or because you are black.

* If someone rapes you, you are just as raped if they did it because you were there and looked like an easy target as if they did it to "make you straight".

* If someone shoots you, the bullet doesn't care if they were a spurned lover, or if they disapproved of your religion.

* If you are imprisoned unjustly, the food is just as bad, the walls just as cold, and the company just as mind-numbing if it was because the judge and prosecutor were stupid and careless as if it was because someone didn't like your politics.

Unfortunately, ignoring the concrete problems of violence and injustice in favor of trying to make everybody like everybody else is really, really ineffective at stopping violence and injustice.

It provides a built-in out: "I didn't do it because she is gay/trans/Persian/female/whatever, I did it because she pissed me off" and suddenly the discussion is about whether it is okay to be $whatever, and whether the perpetrator has a problem with $whatever and not about the fact that the perp just stabbed or shot someone.

It divides people.  Systemic problems with violence and injustice affect everyone, because the targets are just a matter of fleeting fashion.  However, when you make the issue being $whatever instead of being free of violence, you've made it an issue only for those who approve of $whatever.  Consider this quote attributed to German pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group:

> First they came for the socialists,
> and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
> Then they came for the trade unionists,
> and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
> Then they came for the Jews,
> and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

> Then they came for me,
> and there was no one left to speak for me.

He saw how the Nazis used a campaign of "othering" various groups to break down resistance to the violence and oppression they caused.  Making race, religion, sex, gender, or anything else the issue instead of violence and injustice themselves gives power to the perpetrators, because it separates their opposition.

Our founding fathers got this, by the way.  They realized that the only way to protect their religions was to protect all religious expression, because that way every single person in the country had some skin in the game.  This was far more effective than trying to carve out protections for individual faiths, because members of other religions (or no religion) would have no stake in keeping that type of protection alive.

When I lived in Texas, I was attacked by a man who said he was going to beat me to a miscarriage because I was pagan, and my baby and I "didn't belong" in a Christian neighborhood.  The neighbor who came to my aid was Christian.  I asked him why he did it, given that he would likely face social fallout or even violence for having done so.  He told me that he didn't care what the guy's excuse was, killing babies is not okay.

Uniting people works better than dividing them.  If you want LGBT students to be protected in a community that isn't very comfortable with gender differences or differences in sexual orientation, you'll only thwart yourself by launching a campaign to change people's (often religion-based) disapproval of those things.  The truth is: we don't need everybody to like everybody else.  As a matter of fact, there are a lot of people I don't like being around -- religious evangelists, stupid people, pacifists, and so on -- but I don't get violent about it.  As a matter of fact, if I'm present when unprovoked violence or injustice falls on members of those groups, I'll step in if at all possible because I am against injustice and unprovoked violence.

Non-defensive violence and injustice are not okay.  Saying it's less okay for some reasons or against some people is saying it is more okay for other reasons or against other people, and it moves the goalposts from eliminating violence and injustice to making it okay to be X.  This approach traps us in arguments about demographics and internal thoughts of the perpetrator where actually addressing the crime is lost, divides people, fails to solve the general problem, and makes safety from violence and oppression contingent on being accepted rather than simply on being human.  None of those things are good.

Just say no to group rights, "hate crime" laws, and protected classes.  That's the only effective path to a safer, more just world for everybody.
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