The Perils of Advocacy

Chris Rothbauer’s critique of The Gadfly Papers (it’s on medium.com; your search engine can find it) was recommended to me by a member of my local Unitarian Universalist congregation. She hasn’t read Eklof’s book, but she read Rothbauer. On that basis, she’s disturbed by what Eklof wrote.

I felt I shouldn’t ignore her input, so I read Rothbauer’s piece. He does indeed highlight some of the weaknesses of the book, but not in a way that allows us to have much confidence in his own views.

In his preface, he first says, “There are a lot of good arguments for not reading [the book] altogether. There’s also a good case for not buying it but, rather, trusting those of us telling you that it’s very problematic.” In the next paragraph he says, “People are continuing to use the above author’s note as supposed evidence that I’m in favor of a ban of Eklof’s book, even after I addressed it in my follow-up article. This is being amplified by people getting together in certain social media groups and deciding what it is I believe without asking me. To summarize what I wrote there: it takes a huge leap in logic to get from ‘There are arguments for something but decide for yourself what to do’ to ‘OMG BOOK BAN!!!’”

I would certainly read his initial statement as recommending a book ban: not, to be sure, a physical ban but rather a social and ethical ban. That’s more or less an aside, but it may suggest to the alert reader that Rothbauer is shaping the narrative to suit himself.

At the outset, Rothbauer refers to Eklof’s first essay as follows: “Its opening essay, ‘The Coddling of the Unitarian Universalist Mind,’ depends on the telling of stories to demonstrate how safetyism, identity politics, and political correctness are corroding the foundations of this liberal religion. As such, the minimum standard we can expect of these stories is that they be fair and present all sides of the issue.” (Below I’ll have more to say about the word “depends” in that sentence.) Later, he adds, “[Eklof’s] telling of stories lacks nuance, fact checking, and just presenting all sides fairly.” This seems a reasonable enough standard, and Rothbauer may be right that Eklof didn’t do his homework. Unfortunately, Rothbauer himself falls rather short of his own standard.

Alternatively, we might prefer to maintain that no author of an advocacy essay should be required to present all of the sides or diverging views in a fair and balanced manner. Advocacy is about taking a stand. An advocate is free, and must be free, to interpret events or ideas and then present to the reader or listener the result of his or her interpretation. An advocate must not distort, but may, in the interest of clarity or conciseness, freely omit. The point at which omission turns into distortion is not always easy to determine.

It is fair for a critic to use omitted information to discredit an advocate’s point of view; but it is not fair to criticize the advocate for failing to include divergent views in an essay. Rothbauer does the latter; he does not do the former.

There’s little question but that the Yiannopoulos-at-Berkeley story was a poor choice on Eklof’s part. It was a complicated set of events, and my own reading of it is that there are no good guys anywhere in it. But Rothbauer asserts, implicitly, that the reason the Berkeley students were protesting violently against Milo Yiannopoulos was, “At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milo publicly outed transgender students on campus, and publicity from the university made it clear he was going to do this again in Berkeley, this time with undocumented students.” His source for this information is The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray.

I don’t have Bray’s book, so I don’t know what Bray said about the events. Nonetheless, two or three things need to be pointed out. First, Rothbauer is relying on information from another source. He did not, as far as we can tell, interview anybody to determine what did or didn’t happen at Berkeley. This is the fault that he accuses Eklof of. And we may perhaps guess that Bray’s view is one-sided, that it is not “fair and present[ing] all sides of the issue.” Second, it is a primary principle of free speech, both legally and ethically, that no one can be punished (or silenced) for what you fear they are about to say.

If we assume that Bray’s account of Yiannopoulos’s intentions is accurate — that Yiannopoulos intended to out local trans people in his speech — we need to consider that this tactic is used by both sides. A recent news story outed thousands of law enforcement people for their membership in alt-right organizations. These people are clearly a threat, and they need to be identified by name; I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with the decision to name them. But if Yiannopoulos and his followers feel (bizarrely) that trans people are a threat to their pathetic way of life, on what basis would we say that Yiannopoulos’s tactics are wrong but identifying dangerous law enforcement personnel is right? What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Turning to the second story, which concerns the outrage (Rothbauer’s term) over the UU World article “After L, G, and B,” Rothbauer says this: “Eklof is right that the article was well-intentioned, but he makes his first mistake in assuming that the cause of the outrage surrounding the article was simply that it was written by a nontrans writer.” That word “simply” is slippery. (I use it a lot myself. Probably too much.) In issuing a public apology for having published the story, two of editor Christopher Walton’s three reasons for apologizing are as follows: “…it was hurtful to put a straight, cisgender person’s experience in the foreground, especially as one of the first major articles in the magazine on this topic. We should have developed another kind of story in such a prominent spot that centered trans and nonbinary voices. Finally, when we reached out to Alex Kapitan, a leader in the trans and gender nonbinary community, while researching the story and ze urged us against the approach I had picked, I erred in failing to grasp the important cautions ze offered: a story told from a cisgender perspective would cause harm.”

I’ll have more to say below about Kapitan — but there’s your evidence, in black and white. Two of the three reasons why Walton felt he needed to apologize for an absolutely unblemished article boil down to, “We should have let a trans person write the article.” Rothbauer is actively distorting the record.

After which, Rothbauer says, “I’m friends with Eklof on Facebook, but at no time during the writing of his essay did he contact me to clarify any details of what happened. To my knowledge, none of my colleagues on the steering committee [Transgender Religious Professional Unitarian Universalists Together (TRUUST)] were contacted either.” But that criticism is entirely beside the point. We know what happened: Walton apologized for publishing a well written, well researched, heartfelt article on an important issue. Walton told us. Why did he apologize? He tells us. He did it because trans people didn’t want to listen to the perspective of a cisgendered woman on the subject. They thought the cisgendered woman should have been shut down.

That’s the whole point of Eklof’s essay. As an observation of how the article was responded to by some segment of the trans community, it seems to be entirely beyond debate.

How would it have improved the essay for Eklof to engage in a dialog with Rothbauer, the steering committee, or Kapitan? Perhaps if he had explained his reasoning, they would have admitted that he was right and they were wrong. But that seems not very likely.

Rothbauer again: “…what came up over and over again in our discussions was not our anger that the writer was cisgender per se, but that the very first major article UU World ever published about transgender people was not only written by a cisgender person, but that it failed to utilize most of the data from the then-recent and well-publicized TRUUST report on the experiences of trans UUs in our faith.” The article did, in fact, mention the TRUUST report, so if we set aside the question of authorship, the substance of the complaint seems to be that Rothbauer and others felt that the article should have included more of their statistics. But why? The report has been made public. Why would it be necessary to reiterate more of the statistics from the report?

This complaint, it seems to me, is grasping at straws. Any editor of a print magazine has to be concerned, in every article, with the word count. The report was freely available; why waste words repeating what’s in it?

Diving down the rabbit hole, I had a look at the report on the trans UU experience prepared by the TRUUST steering committee to which Rothbauer belongs. There are quite a lot of statistics in the report. The method(s) by which the statistics were collected and the margin for error are not discussed, however, so we’re left to our own devices in judging what the statistics mean. We do know that the sampling size was small (278 people). We’re given no information about the wording of the questions that were asked; nor are we told how the people who responded were located and approached, nor how many people were solicited for responses and failed to respond. The statistics, taken all in all, are suggestive, but hardly definitive.

42% of respondents reported that they regularly felt marginalized in their UU congregations. But what does “marginalized” mean to them? The term would seem to have a variety of possible meanings, so we’ll have to look at what’s in the report.

Halfway through the report, there’s a sort of definition: “Trans-related marginalization, such as people using the wrong pronouns, un-inclusive language in worship, and a lack of (or resistance to) gender neutral bathrooms, is a key contributor to trans people feeling a lack of belonging.” Really? Is this what all the fuss is about? Given that the survey identified more than 80 terms that people in the trans UU community use to refer to their gender, it should surprise absolutely nobody that there’s some pronoun confusion.

As an atheist, I object to the spiritual language used in Sunday services (and hymns) just about every week, but I seldom bother to complain about it; the lack of inclusive language is not, in my opinion, a big deal. And let’s be frank: If you need to use the bathroom, use the damn bathroom! If the biggest complaint trans people can muster is the sign on the bathroom door, they need to get a grip.

The report includes a number of (anonymous) quotes from trans people who have left UU congregations in which they explain why they did so. Some of these quotes may indicate real problems at some church or other. (“The minister engaged in active bullying toward me.”) Others indicate nothing specific. (“The worship and community left me feeling empty and felt like going through the motions.”) But let’s look more closely at that bit about the minister bullying. It’s horrifying! Or is it? Wait a minute — did the steering committee contact the minister in order to hear both sides of the story and present a fair view of all sides of the issue? That’s Rothbauer’s own standard for the presentation of a public document, but the TRUUST document, which quite likely he was involved in preparing, flagrantly violates the standard.

What are we to make of this? Could it be that TRUUST only wants to look at one side of the issue?

It’s undoubtedly true, as indicated in the TRUUST report, that trans ministers have a hard time getting called to full-time ministerial posts with a congregation. This is a shame, but it’s understandable. Here’s how it looks to me: An important part of a minister’s duties is providing emotional support to members of the congregation. Emotional support is an intangible; it’s not something that can be mandated by policy. And it remains the case that many people (UUs along with everybody else) do not feel perfectly comfortable interacting on a close personal level with a trans person. Hell, I don’t feel perfectly comfortable, and I used to date a trans woman!

No matter how supportive of trans rights we may be at a public level, being comforted by a trans minister during an emotional crisis will feel awkward to some people within a congregation. This is not surprising, and it’s not an indication of bias or marginalization; it’s just the real world.

Fifty years ago, the same thing would have been true of a gay minister. We’re moving past that, but work remains to be done. It will take a lot more time for trans ministers to be fully accepted. And I don’t think it’s wrong for a ministerial search committee seeking a new minister to take their own intuition into account with respect to this important aspect of a minister’s job.

It’s perfectly true that a trans member of a congregation might feel awkward in a counseling session with a non-trans minister. But let’s be realistic. If the search committee is weighing the merits of two well qualified candidates, and decides that in a pastoral counseling situation one of the candidates would be effective with 95% of the congregation, while the other would be effective with only 50% of the congregation, which candidate should the search committee prefer? I will leave it up to you to answer that question for yourself.

Rothbauer goes on to complain that Eklof didn’t contact Alex Kapitan, “the trans person who asked the article [in UU World] not be published.” Let’s see what Kapitan said about it. Here’s the relevant quote from Kapitan’s own online description of the situation: “…an article written by a cis person, that centers cis people and cis perspectives, about trans people, is not incremental progress—it’s harm.” That’s the substance of Kapitan’s complaint: The article should have been written by a trans person. The fact that it was written by a cis person and addressed primarily to other cis people (who of course are more than 90% of the UU community) is “harm.”

This is precisely the sort of narrow, one-sided view that Eklof is protesting in his essay. But Rothbauer thinks Eklof should have reached out to Kapitan in order to include Kapitan’s view in his essay. Does anybody doubt what the result of reaching out would have been?

Kapitan’s piece (if you’re curious, it’s at https://rootsgrowthetree.com/2019/03/06/what-it-takes-to-de-center-privilege/) is grotesque. It’s immature, it’s one-sided, and it’s whiny. I’m not going to dissect it here by offering quotes. Well, maybe just one more. In conversations with editor Walton prior to the publication of the article, “I named that a cis person writing a piece about trans people would cause harm.” There it is, in black and white. Only trans people, in Kapitan’s childish view, are to be allowed to write for publication about trans people.

Quite evidently, Walton did in fact reach out to Kapitan and discuss the upcoming article, but he didn’t find Kapitan’s view persuasive. That he later backtracked is not to his credit. And in any case, it’s abundantly clear from that quote that Eklof is on firm ground in his analysis of the incident.

Rothbauer doesn’t analyze Eklof’s LREDA story. Nor could I find anything about the LREDA incident online, so I can’t comment on it either. Rothbauer then says this: “…that’s really the problem with the crux of Eklof’s book: it all hinges on the accuracy of the stories he tells.” No, this isn’t the case at all. The stories are illustrative, but they’re not intended to be the core of his argument. He quotes several times from The Coddling of the American Mind by Lukianoff and Haidt. He also quotes from Fukuyama’s book Identity.

Perhaps it’s significant that Rothbauer focuses entirely on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the stories Eklof presents, and on the research he assumes (without proof) Eklof failed to do. It’s safe, I think, to assume that the three UU incidents Eklof discusses are not the only incidents he’s aware of. I doubt he would have bothered to write his book if he didn’t know any more than that about what’s going on. What Rothbauer doesn’t do is engage in a dialog with or attempt to disprove Eklof’s central thesis. He specifically declines to do so: “…there are plenty of think pieces out there about the concepts he describes, both pro and con; I don’t need to rehash them to make my point.”

His point, when we boil it down, seems to be this: He doesn’t feel Eklof is accurately representing what’s going on in the UU community. But Rothbauer’s own account is not free of bias, misrepresentation, or failure to research. Possibly it’s worth mentioning that at no point in Rothbauer’s critique does he tell us that he himself reached out to Eklof for a response to the points he raises. At best, what we have here is the pot calling the kettle black.

Oops. I shouldn’t have used the word “black” to refer to a less than admirable state of being. I don’t think I’ll apologize, though. Make of it what you will.

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6 Responses to The Perils of Advocacy

  1. Pingback: Shut Up! You’re Not Liberal Enough! | Jim Aikin's Oblong Blob

  2. Hi, Jim. As I said on Scott Well’s blog, thank you for being one of the few who has actively and honestly critiqued my article and opening the lines of communication (I’m actually kind of excited about that!). If this discussion goes beyond one comment, I would be happy to continue in dialogue. Just to note, my pronouns are they/them.

    For simplicity, I’ll try to quote your words by prefacing them with a > so people know what I am referring to.

    >Alternatively, we might prefer to maintain that no author of an advocacy essay should be required to present all of the sides or diverging views in a fair and balanced manner. Advocacy is about taking a stand. An advocate is free, and must be free, to interpret events or ideas and then present to the reader or listener the result of his or her interpretation. An advocate must not distort, but may, in the interest of clarity or conciseness, freely omit. The point at which omission turns into distortion is not always easy to determine.

    >It is fair for a critic to use omitted information to discredit an advocate’s point of view; but it is not fair to criticize the advocate for failing to include divergent views in an essay. Rothbauer does the latter; he [sic] does not do the former.

    I responded somewhat to this in my follow-up to the article. I would agree that a person is free to interpret events or idea and then present them to the reader or listener the result of interpretation. Of course, this necessitates that sometimes one will not report all sides of a story. But let’s take a hypothetical situation. Let’s say that, in reporting on Eklof handing out the book at General Assembly, the Spokane newspaper had only reported the UUA’s perspective and interviewed one person who was offended by Eklof’s actions. Let’s say the newspaper failed to interview Eklof or even indicate they had attempted to interview him. I think you would rightly feel angry that the newspaper was failing to do their due diligence in regards to their story and was showing such a bias towards the perspective of the UUA. You might even be upset that their article was likely to influence people away from a perspective you agree with and towards a perspective that Eklof was being completely unreasonable.

    Now imagine how I feel when I read Eklof’s perspective of events I was directly involved with and know that Todd relied on random Facebook comments and his interpretation of Chris Walton’s public statement to construct his argument. Of course, I’m going to use my perspective to criticize his, but it’s kind of calls into question whether he was ever interested in dialogue in the first place if he literally had at least one person involved on his Facebook friends and never reached out to ask, “What the hell happened?”

    >Nonetheless, two or three things need to be pointed out. First, Rothbauer is relying on information from another source. He did not, as far as we can tell, interview anybody to determine what did or didn’t happen at Berkeley. This is the fault that he accuses Eklof of. And we may perhaps guess that Bray’s view is one-sided, that it is not “fair and present[ing] all sides of the issue.” Second, it is a primary principle of free speech, both legally and ethically, that no one can be punished (or silenced) for what you fear they are about to say.

    For the record, I’m glad we agree that Milo was a poor choice of an example. And I think this critique would be fair if I had direct access to the people involved. The difference between the Milo example and the events Todd describes is that, as a UU minister, he literally has the contact information of a ton of people involved in the events described, and, because he is in fellowship, it is considered colleagial to speak to colleagues who are reaching out. I suspect Todd may say he was afraid of backlash if word got around that he was asking such questions, which is something that I’m open to talking about and dialogue. But it doesn’t change the fact that, in his June minister column to the UU congregation in Spokane, he declared he wasn’t afraid of conflict, yet avoided it at every turn.

    >If we assume that Bray’s account of Yiannopoulos’s intentions is accurate — that Yiannopoulos intended to out local trans people in his speech — we need to consider that this tactic is used by both sides. A recent news story outed thousands of law enforcement people for their membership in alt-right organizations. These people are clearly a threat, and they need to be identified by name; I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with the decision to name them. But if Yiannopoulos and his followers feel (bizarrely) that trans people are a threat to their pathetic way of life, on what basis would we say that Yiannopoulos’s tactics are wrong but identifying dangerous law enforcement personnel is right? What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    I feel comparing outting trans people to outting police involved in the alt-right is a disingenuous comparison. I definitely have political reasons for believing so that you may or may not agree with, but, more so, there’s a huge power dynamic with the police that is not present in all but the most upper class of trans people. I’ve been reading Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” and he talks about this extensively. I am uncomfortable with casual public shaming that targets vulnerable populations. I am not as much uncomfortable with exposing those in power who could misuse that power against marginalized people. It’s the difference between calling out Donald Trump for calling on the execution of the Central Park Five and now refusing to apologize for it verses publicly shaming my (fictional) racist Uncle Joe who held the same opinion in 1989. One is in a huge position of power and clearly doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. The other may also not understand the consequences of his actions but doesn’t have the power to carry out his beliefs.

    I don’t have much quibble with your framing of my argument for the article or with your quoting of Walton’s apology. Here’s where I would begin to disagree:

    >But that criticism is entirely beside the point. We know what happened: Walton apologized for publishing a well written, well researched, heartfelt article on an important issue.

    But…it wasn’t well-written and well-researched. CB Beal’s article, which I referenced in both the original article and the follow-up, make that clear. Nobody disputes that it was heartfelt and well-intentioned, but it was not accurate, something French did not dispute when she issued her apology.

    >Why did he apologize? He tells us. He did it because trans people didn’t want to listen to the perspective of a cisgendered woman on the subject. They thought the cisgendered woman should have been shut down.

    I’m concerned you view it as a case that the cisgender person should have been shut down; it’s alarming to me that you interpret it that way. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to listen to the perspective of a cisgender woman; in fact, I can think of many ways her article in a modified form could have been paired with an article centering the perspective of a trans person on how to be a good ally.

    As I’ve said before, it’s not that cisgender people can’t write and talk about transgender issues; that’s kind of not a fair characterization of what we argued for and, to be honest, it’s borrowed directly from the language of right-wing reactionaries. To give us the most charitable possible interpretation, as even Eklof advocates, we are the most qualified to talk about our issues. It doesn’t mean others can’t, and, I suspect, were it not for the issues CB Beal presents in their article, there would not have been so much of a blow-up. There still would have been some hurt that we weren’t centered, but you would not have seen the blow-up that happened.

    >That’s the whole point of Eklof’s essay. As an observation of how the article was responded to by some segment of the trans community, it seems to be entirely beyond debate.

    Well, that’s what makes this interesting. It is debatable because both of the Facebook comments Eklof refers to were written by cisgender people. He explicitly admits one of them is a cisgender person. But the person who wanted Walton to resign was a cisgender male. So, actually, Eklof doesn’t quote a single trans person in his account of the article.

    I think some of your critiques of the TRUUsT report are fair. We had very little time to plan it out and it was the first time we’d ever done something of that nature. I won’t argue about it as I think there’s some genuine room for dialogue about how we can do better next time so thank you for bringing up your concerns here. I hope, at the very least, it gives people pause for reflection, even if it’s maybe not the most scientific survey in the world.

    Still, I stand by my critique given the problems that CB Beal highlighted in their article.

    Let’s be fair and not attack Alex Kapitan here without Alex being present to defend perself. What I wanted to highlight from per article is:

    “In a political environment in which trans people are being actively targeted for violence by the state, in a context in which trans UUs are increasingly voicing the fact that Unitarian Universalism’s approach to LGBTQ welcome has failed trans people, an article written by a cis person, that centers cis people and cis perspectives, about trans people, is not incremental progress—it’s harm.”

    I’m not debating harm verses disagreement language here, but this very much says that Alex was concerned about the centering of trans voices, and the concern was that the very first major article about trans people in UU World was not being written by a trans person. Imagine if someone wanted to write about you and you told them you were willing to write up something for them, but they not only said that they were going to ask someone who only knew you by association to write the article instead but they weren’t even going to let you read it for fact-checking and accuracy before publication. This is one of the compromises that Alex offered, to read over French’s article before it was published or have someone else do it, but that was also turned down.

    >Rothbauer then says this: “…that’s really the problem with the crux of Eklof’s book: it all hinges on the accuracy of the stories he tells.” No, this isn’t the case at all. The stories are illustrative, but they’re not intended to be the core of his argument.

    Isn’t it? Let’s say that the Milo incident was the only example Haidt and Lukianoff give (I don’t know for sure but I’m almost certainly sure that is where Todd got the example) for their concept of safetyism. Let’s say they told the Milo incident and went about the book. We both agree that the Milo example is very weak. We would not be unjustified in saying, “You haven’t proven your case. You need to tell us more or modify your thesis.”

    This is the same thing here. If the four stories Todd has chosen to utilize for his examples (I’m including his self-reported experiences working on the GA Worship Team) are weak or fall apart under scrutiny, he either needs to give more examples or modify his thesis. He is making the case that Haidt and Lukianoff’s as well as Fukuyama’s works are applicable to the current moment in Unitarian Universalism. It is incumbent on him to choose his strongest examples and make his case using those stories. When people like me complicate his narrative, it doesn’t say he’s wrong; it says that he has yet to make his case.

    Significantly my argument has never been against the concepts of his book. I think he could have presented them in a different way and I wish that he had avoided using right wing buzz words like “virtue signaling” and “political correctness” that are often used to shut down marginalized people, but I’m under no illusion that our programs are beyond criticism. In fact, I recommend an alternative book in my follow-up for people to read that talks about some of the stuff Eklof tries to raise, queer theorist Sarah Schulman’s “Conflict is Not Abuse.” And, for the record, I have tremendously enjoyed reading some of the works of Rev. Dr. Thandeka that have resurfaced during this.

    But there’s a way to initiate dialogue and I feel, at the very least, Todd owes some apologies for the way he choose to initiate it.

    >Perhaps it’s significant that Rothbauer focuses entirely on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the stories Eklof presents, and on the research he [sic] assumes (without proof) Eklof failed to do.

    In my follow-up, I addressed this somewhat and pointed out that most of the third part of my first article was, for the most part, pointing out a pattern in the way Eklof tells stories. I challenged him in that follow-up that, if I’m wrong, and he did more research than he presents in the book, I invite him to let me know and I will be happy to approve his comment on my blog or if, like you, he doesn’t want to register for a Medium account, I’ll make the offer here that I will post his response in a third article.

    >But Rothbauer’s own account is not free of bias, misrepresentation, or failure to research.

    Of course not. We’re all human. That’s why I have, multiple times, called on him to contact me for dialogue.

    >Possibly it’s worth mentioning that at no point in Rothbauer’s critique does he [sic] tell us that he [sic] himself [sic] reached out to Eklof for a response to the points he raises.

    Let me put it this way: Let’s say I was visiting Todd in Spokane a couple months ago when the book was still in manuscript form. Let’s say Todd leaves me alone in his office and I find the unpublished manuscript for his book. What if I was angered by it and immediately went home to then write an article about how wrong Todd is. You would be absolutely right in condemning me for overreacting to something that was not even published yet and would probably be asking me why I didn’t go to Todd.

    However, that’s not the case here. Todd has published his book. This is the final product, at least for the first edition, and it is now open for critique. Todd and I both studied philosophy before he entered ministry so I would be surprised if he didn’t understand how the back and forth of critique goes. It’s the same as you critiquing my article and now I’m providing a response to you. I would be shocked if Todd doesn’t formally respond to some of the critiques that have been raised at some point. He probably won’t agree with everything I say, but that’s why this is a back and forth. I am being sincere when I say that I fully invite him into dialogue. In fact, I welcome it.

    >At best, what we have here is the pot calling the kettle black.

    Can we agree no name calling on either side? I hope we both believe the other is acting in good faith. 🙂

    To summarize, my intention has never been to shut down dialogue (I’m not much interested in debate to be honest because the purpose of it is usually to win, not to convince other people), but, rather, to ask how Eklof could have gone about opening dialogue better. The hurt is coming because it feels like an attack to some people, especially when he doesn’t accurately report events or only tells one side of them. As I hope I’ve made clear, had he come to me, I would have been glad to talk with him about his concerns. I still am.

  3. midiguru says:

    Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response, Chris. I apologize for using wrong pronouns; I was going by your photo. As a writer, I’m professionally opposed to the invention of new pronouns, but I’m happy to use “they” to refer to a person who prefers not to be gendered. Be glad we’re not having this conversation in France. In French _everything_ has a gender. You can’t even say “my neighbor” without indicating whether you’re referring to a male or a female.

    I’m not going to go further in a point-by-point discussion of this. I have some more interesting, and probably more useful, writing to do tonight.

    I’m perfectly willing to concede that Todd Eklof may have done a lousy job of seeking dialog before he published. My initial response to this affair was based on my reading of the Open Letter. That document seemed to me a shameful pile-on and a clear violation of the 4th Principle. I also object strenuously to the use of the phrase “white supremacy culture.” I’m fine with “dominant white culture,” because that’s what we live in, but “white supremacy” has specific meanings, as Eklof clearly explains — meanings that have absolutely nothing to do with Unitarian Universalism. And when I learned last year that there were objections to “Standing on the Side of Love” because some members of some congregations can’t stand, my gut reaction was, “Oh, fuck. Grow up, for Pete’s sake.” Nothing I have read or heard since then has softened my response. The speech Eklof includes in his essay articulates my reasoning.

    In sum, for all his imperfections, Eklof supports my own views pretty well.

    • So I appreciate you reading my response and I don’t blame you if you don’t want to do a reply–I’ll make no assumptions about what parts you agree with and what parts you don’t. The only ask I’ll make of you: don’t sit in your discomfort with the things you describe in your second to last paragraph by yourself; I’m scared that was Todd’s mistake. Find someone you feel safe with, preferably someone who will be willing to disagree with you at times, and talk it over with them. We need to be having these conversations. Good luck to you, Jim.

  4. midiguru says:

    I wouldn’t call it discomfort. I’m perfectly comfortable with my view of these things. But I’m sure I’ll be having ongoing discussions with members of my own congregation. The summer programming is devoted to half a dozen services on inclusion and diversity.

  5. Pingback: CISGENDER JOURNALIST PUBLICLY SHAMED AND THREATENED FOR ARTICLE ABOUT TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY – A FOLLOW-UP | theblackspark

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