Words can hurt, but actions hurt more
Dear Matt Birk:
Most of my friends don’t know it, but I’m a football fan. I have followed the Vikings for my entire life and when you were our center, I proudly wore your jersey when I attended games. When you left Minnesota for Baltimore, I understood your decision completely. That is the nature of the game. Your favorite players move on. I may not be a fan of the Baltimore Ravens but I can’t deny I would love to see you win a Super Bowl.
I was saddened, therefore, to read your Op-Ed piece in the Star Tribune supporting the amendment to ban gay marriage in the State of Minnesota.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that you are against gay marriage. I fully expect that most of the athletes in the National Football League share your opinion on the subject. Players like Chris Kluwe, who speak out in support of marriage equality, are relatively rare.
Here’s the thing, Matt, you seem to feel that by speaking out against your position, we are trying to silence your right to free speech. Fact is, a lot of us don’t like what you are saying.
People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labeled as “bigots” and “homophobic.” Aren’t we past that as a society?
So you are upset at people like me for name calling? I understand that it might hurt to be labelled as a bigot but I have a simple solution for that.
Stop being one.
This may come as a surprise to you, but approximately 10% of the population is gay. I would assume that number is the same for people who play football in the NFL. While there is not a single gay player (that I know of) in the NFL who is out, the odds are good that there is at least one gay man playing on your team right now. He could be the guy taking snaps from you. He could be the guy on either side of you in the offensive line. He could be the running back you are blocking for.
You don’t know who he is because he cannot publicly reveal his sexual identity. If he did, he might sacrifice his career. He would certainly sacrifice his relationship with some of his teammates.
How do you think that makes him feel?
You see, when you (and others like you) speak out in support of an amendment that will deny rights to a subset of the American population, you fail to understand that if this amendment passes, it won’t hurt you at all. Like me, you are a heterosexal male in a committed relationship with a heterosexual female. Our relationships will not be damaged. We’ll still have no difficulty visiting our spouse in the hospital. Nobody will stare at us or judge us when we hold hands or kiss in public. Nobody will be able to deny us rights with the click of a button or the stroke of a pen.
But that amendment will hurt a lot of people by reminding them every day that people like you feel they are broken in some way. So broken, in fact, that if they are allowed the right to enter into a legal union, they will break our entire society.
You may not like it but by holding those beliefs, you are a bigot. And by expressing fears that are not based on any sort of factual evidence, you are also revealing yourself as a homophobe.
I know you don’t like it when I bring that up but if you are going to behave like a bigot and a homophobe, I’m going to use those words to describe you. They aren’t the only words that I can use. Many other words are far more complementary.
Bigotry and homophobia have consequences. When people like you speak out in support of bigotry and homophobia, you damage the lives of other people. Including people who aren’t gay.
My son experienced that last week.
You (and others) seem to equate a same sex household with a single parent household in spite of the fact there is no evidence to suggest such an equivalence. You believe that children must be raised by a man and a woman to turn out “right.”
Where is your evidence? The studys cited on websites supporting your opinion don’t actually prove what you claim they prove, as Minnesota Senator Al Franken so famously showed.
Your opinion lacks any evidence to support it and yet you are unable to let it go. You know who continues to hold negative opinions about others in spite of a lack of evidence to support that opinion?
I get it, Matt. You don’t like that word. I don’t like it either. I don’t like calling you a bigot because I don’t want you to be one. I want you to understand that your children and my children will be better off in a society that supports the rights of all citizens. Not just the straight ones.
I want you to understand that when you vote “yes,” this November, you will be hurting someone close to you. You may know who that person is. You may not. But make no mistake, what you do will hurt them and it will not hurt you at all.
I want you to understand that your actions will have consequences. They are consequences you will never feel but they are consequences that will last. They will affect my son, who showed far more bravery in speaking out last week than you have by speaking out here. They will affect your children. They will affect the homosexuals in the National Football League who must hide their identity in order to play the game they love.
I would never argue against your right to speak in support of this amendment. By calling you a bigot and a homophobe, I’m not trying to limit your right to free speech. I’m using my own right to tell you that you may not like these words but in speaking out, you have revealed yourself to have earned them.
I don’t hate you for being a bigot. I’m disappointed in you. I’m frustrated with you. And yes, I’m angry with you.
You are upset because people are calling you names. The people whose rights you will vote to limit have been called names like “faggot, queer,” and “dyke” for a long time. They are used to being called names and they don’t like it either. What you are going to do to them is far worse than calling them names. You are going to help legally define them as something less than you.
I hope someday you will recognize the damage your words will do. I hope someday you will realize that the best way to avoid being called a bigot is to stop being one.