THE BLOG

Everyone Is a Little Bit Bigoted

24/06/2013 17:13 BST | Updated 24/08/2013 10:12 BST

I'm regretting having phrased the title of my previous post the way I did because it's apparently all anyone really noticed. In a sense, I have only myself to blame because I made it deliberately provocative in order to get some attention. Whoops. Henceforth I have decided to sit on ideas for blog posts for at least a weekend before clicking submit.

A lot of the arguments in the comment section last week centred on what being a bigot means. When I 'Wikipediaed' it, the following definition came up. A bigot is:

"someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats other people with hatred, contempt, and intolerance on the basis of a person's ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics".

Interestingly this would imply that almost everyone who commented on last week's post were bigots, gay, straight, Christian or atheist.

It's not nice being called a bigot. After a few days of rather unpleasant comments, I realised that I myself had bigot-like tendencies for having made such generalisations about the gay community to which I belong and also towards B.J. Epstein. I was annoyed and intolerant when I wrote the post. I was then annoyed and intolerant when I got sucked into arguments with other annoyed and intolerant people. The whole episode in general made me annoyed and intolerant.

After day three of annoyance and intolerance, I decided to stop reacting. The only people who leave comments tend to be people with an axe to grind. And I apparently have the biggest axe of all because I felt the need to write the post in the first place. It was the fear that I was wrong or that I had upset people that made me react defensively (and in a bigoted manner).

We all have the potential for bigotry. The difference is where that bigotry is directed. For some, it is religious groups, be they minorities like Muslims or established communities like Christians. For others, it is bankers, who seem to have successfully impoverished entire countries, or blacks/whites/reds/yellows who are, as a result of their skin colour, are deemed to inferior races. Personally, I tend to be less bigoted than I used to be, but when I do get on my high horse, which happens more than I like to admit, I tend to direct my anger towards the people I perceive to be ignorant, stupid, naive or socialist.

The problem is that when I do this, I stop thinking of the person in question and start thinking of a group. It's very easy to get angry at groups because you don't see the individuals that make up the group. Individuals, like myself, tend to belong to many different groups, be they national, cultural or linguistic. Which group I most identify myself with depends on my mood and my circumstances, which can change minute by minute.

So in relation to accusations that I am homophobic, based on what I said about the gay world last week, I'd like to clarify that I do not hate gays in the slightest. I was simply commenting on my own experience of the gay world, which is of course not necessarily the experience others have of the gay world. Saying this publicly should not, however, automatically make me a bigot. But if I am wrong, then fair enough. A bigot is someone who is unwilling to have their opinions disputed, which is not me.

Perhaps the problem really is simply the media only focusing on the promiscuity of the gay world, ignoring a comparable situation of excess in the straight world. I'm not sure that straight people have an equivalent of Grindr however. Either way, the stereotype is there for us gays to demolish. We can continue stamping our feet at the injustice of this stereotype perpetuated by the homophobic establishment or we can prove those who believe it wrong by breaking out of it.

The other focus of the comments was that my suggestion to have a cup of tea with someone you disagree with rather than shout at them is naive and pointless. Recent experience would suggest otherwise. I read a wonderful story about how the congregation of a mosque in northern England invited the English Defence League to have a cup of tea with them rather than protest. A few weeks ago I saw photos of a long chain of Christians encircling some praying Muslims to protect them from a Christian mob in Egypt. And the Standing Men and Women have quickly come to symbolise the protests in Istanbul and elsewhere. This to me is far more powerful a statement than hurling insults at a group, even if you disagree with them.

In the context of the gay marriage debate, try this. If you are an angry gay, go to a village church and say what you say online to an old lady sitting in a pew. If you are an angry Christian, firstly remember that Jesus didn't get angry that often and then go find a loving gay couple and tell them they are unnatural, sinful and going to hell. If that doesn't appeal too much, then have a conversation instead. And if that conversation gets heated, walk away. Anger begets anger, which leads to hatred, which leads to more hatred. This goes for the gay marriage debate as much as it does for pretty much every argument we participate in.

Bigotry is not about the position you hold on an issue. It is the way in which you convey that position. If you get angry, you are probably being a bigot. And as Oliver Wendell Holmes said (via Wikipedia), "The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract."