Trying to Avoid Straightsplaining While Speaking Out Against Injustice
The day my book came out last fall, someone in the twitterverse snagged an announcement I made and lobbed criticism my way. Here is what they tweeted,
In my post from last week (That Time an Angry Tweeter Judged My Book by its Cover) I tried to make the point that UnClobber is most certainly not a book that "explains homosexuality" to LGBTQ people. Or even "explains homosexuality" at all.
The only "explaining" I try and do in my book is around the idea that the Bible does not condemn LGBTQ people like the church has historically thought and taught.
Then, at the end of that post I said this,
Now, before I come across as a victim here, suffering from straight fragility, let me clearly state that while Angry Tweeter’s tweet annoyed me, I do not have the opinion that he was way out of line for such a tweet.
I don’t begrudge him for his tweet or for the energy behind it.
But I’ll get to that in my next post.
So let me say a few things about that.
First, the feelings of this person (and those online who expressed their support of him) about me and my book are based on incorrect facts. So yes, in that regard, he is simply wrong about what UnClobber is.
That being said, when it comes to someone from an historically discriminated-against people group (in this instance, a gay man) starting from a place of mistrust toward a privileged person (in this case, me, a straight, Christian man), that seems entirely normal to me. I get it. That makes sense. And like I said, I don't begrudge him for the energy behind his tweet. Nor can I fully fault him for making the sorts of assumptions he did.
When he (and others) see a straight, white, Christian male fist-pumping their excitement about publishing a book that has the word "homosexuality" in the sub-title, I've no doubt that he was triggered, because I've no doubt that he's had plenty of experiences in his life where straight Christian men have told him exactly how he should think about sexuality (and about religion, for that matter).
This is what is known as "straightsplaining."
In this Field Guide to Straightsplaining, Rich Juzwiak describes it as "the practice of straight people explaining how gay people are, or what gay people do, or how gay people do what they do, or why. This second-hand information can range from being virtually benign to chronically malignant."
I am sure that, just as I've been guilty of mansplaining in my life, I've no doubt stepped in to areas of explaining homosexuality where I don't belong. And, just as with mansplaining, I'm hopeful that my awareness of such things is helping me step in it less. When you know better, you do better.
So no, I don't blame this tweeter and his followers for judging me or my book.
I get it. (Not experientially, of course. My own abundance of privileges has not really afforded me such lived experiences. But I can listen and learn from others enough to understand and trust that it is a thing.)
I may think he's wrong, but I sure as hell understand why he would think that and why it would feel that way.
My hope would be that an honest reading of UnClobber (or just a reading at all) would reveal that I'm not just another straightsplainer. That I'm not trying to usurp the perspective of LGBTQ people, that I'm not telling their stories for them.
Which brings me to the second thing I want to say...
Several people have suggested that I'm "using LGBTQ people for my own platform."
What a fascinating accusation.
My first reaction was disgust. Using anyone--especially marginalized people--as a "platform" is just gross.
Then I laughed at just how inaccurate and lazy the accusation is. Inaccurate because no, that's absurd. I'm just simply not doing that. And lazy because, well, I suppose you could take any potential audience or demographic for any book and then just decide that that author is "building their platform" on them.
Just because a particular demographic of people might be one part of the subject of a book does not therefore mean that the author of said book is "building their platform" on those people.
However, the truth is, this sort of thing does happen. There are those with power and privilege who are garnering more power at the expense of marginalized people.
So after I was disgusted at such a notion, and then after I laughed off its inaccuracy and laziness as it relates to UnClobber and to me, I then realized that--regardless of what might actually be the truth in my case--it very well can still feel to some people that that is what I'm doing.
In other words, the critique itself (of "building a platform on the backs of marginalized people") is a fair and reasonable one--because it happens! And yet I want to simultaneously argue that it's not true of me or what I've written.
So if you're reading this and you've felt like I've tried to build my platform on LGBTQ people then I want to say that I see you and I hear you and I understand why you'd feel that way. It totally makes sense.
To the extent that you can believe me, though, I hope you hear me say that that is unequivocally not what I'm about.
The platform I've tried to establish with UnClobber (which, side note, is only my first book. With this blog, and with my weekly teaching at Sojourn Grace, my "platform" is much, much broader than engaging the topics of sexuality and faith) is built on trying to liberate people from a harmful view of the Bible as it relates to those who identify as LGBTQ.
The platform (ick, I'm kinda tired of writing that word) is, how can Christians rethink the way we've misused the Bible, and ultimately put an end to centuries of discrimination and injustice...
and very much not,
how can I explain homosexuality and use LGBTQ people for my own gain.
Okay, this post is getting too long. So I'll save the third thing I wanted to say for the next post.