The celibate authors at A Queer Calling reflect on the ease with which people are “scandalized” by two females, when “people nearly always [can and do correctly] assume that [one] is a member of the LGBT community because of [her] physical appearance.”
People have all sorts of advice: we should not refer to ourselves as a couple and instead choose the more neutral language of friend or roommate, we should avoid describing ourselves as LGBT, we should constantly stress our commitment to celibacy, etc. We take significant time to reflect on how we’re being received by other people even as we simply try to live our lives. We do not pretend for an instant that we’re above having our way of life challenged, but we often wonder if, in a number of situations, people allege scandal rather than inviting conversations about how we’ve offended their sensibilities.
We can, and do, appreciate that these concerns have some merit when considered exclusively against the backdrop of a Church besieged by the culture wars. Unfortunately, the emphasis many churches place on the current political and social climate frames the conversation in terms of LGBT issues rather than LGBT people. Focusing on the culture wars places all the responsibility on LGBT people to address the fears of cisgender, heterosexual people. When a person perceives himself or herself on the “right” side, that individual can fall into a pattern of avoiding questions about his or her own discomfort. It seems to us that many cisgender, heterosexual Christians think they deserve a free pass on these questions because they aren’t actively doing anything that violates their sense of orthodoxy.
Then Rod Dreher, prompted by her scatological rant, gets a little overwrought (it seems to me) about a homeschooled girl’s embarrassment at being challenged at her homeschool prom about the length of her skirt:
I absolutely agree that if what Clare reports is how it went down, that she was humiliated, and treated disgracefully all around. She is owed a public apology. One of the infuriating things about this episode is that this treatment has probably alienated Clare from religion for a long time to come. I am all for modesty, but this is ugly stuff. The essay appears on her sister Hannah Ettinger’s website, in which the sister describes herself as a survivor of fundamentalist Christian homeschooling.
I know that people who hate homeschooling think we’re all like this. We’re not, not by a long shot. But this kind of thought and behavior does exist within religious homeschooling circles, and when we see it, we should have no hesitation to criticize it.
The common thread is people scandalized by their own imaginations. “These women may be a sleeper cell among us, feigning piety while doing raunchy things together at home and just waiting to attack our historic stance on sexuality.” “That girl is trying to inflame boys sexually even if she’s in technical compliance with our ‘fingertip length’ rule.”
If you read Clare’s rant, you’ll see that she’s scandalized, too (“I only got kicked out of the prom because the dads got as turned on as the boys”).
Perhaps even Rod (“People are going to think we homeschoolers are all like the folks who kicked Clare out of the prom”). I know that feeling, as I’ve frequently blogged, Tweeted, and otherwise disclaimed that Christians are all like some whack-job out their getting his 15 seconds of fame.
In any event, the cases seemed linked, and here, at least preliminarily and most superficially, is the link I see: someone is using “I’m scandalized” as a heckler’s veto. “It’s your job not to offend or arouse me, and if I’m offended, or aroused, by definition your words or actions were disorderly conduct. Away with you!”
Is this fundamentally different from the campus speech codes and other “political correctness” conservative Christians (notable among the easily scandalized) lament, or for the Muslim cultures that still cover women in Burkas so men won’t lust quite so much?
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)