This article is going to focus on the contents of a Providence Journal Opinion piece, June 10, 2019, linked here:
It’s pride month. A month for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate as well as acknowledge the hard-fought progress they have made over decades.
Like other minority groups, they have been marginalized, ridiculed and victimized — and that brief summary is an understatement. As a straight, white male, I cannot even begin to understand the social hardships members of their community have endured, never mind the emotional battles won and lost, the difficulty in navigating friends and family, the path forward to acceptance.
For as long as I can remember, gay marriage has been a divisive issue. Several years ago, a bakery owner refused to bake a cake for a gay couple. Conversion therapy is still a thing. It is clear and evident that there is a contingent of American citizens hellbent on making sure they control sexual orientation, gender identity… the lives of other people. It is discrimination and in some cases, it is hatred.
The former mayor of Providence and current RI congressman, David Cicilline is the principal sponsor of the Equality Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives by a large margin. 236-173. The bill amends portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Fair Housing Act, and other non-discrimination bills to ensure LGBTQ+ Americans are included within the protections these laws ensure. It also updates the definitions for “sex,” “gender identity,” and “sexual orientation.” Public polling indicates that 70% of Americans support the bill. If signed into law, it would provide the LGBTQ+ community with the non-discrimination protection that has long been due.
So the Providence Journal has chosen this moment, in the midst of pride month, with major legislative sponsored by a Rhode Island congressman just passing the House, that the newspaper chose to run an opinion piece that not only argues against the protections of the Equality Act, but does so in an offensive manner. And with the city of Boston tentatively hosting a straight pride parade later this year, to which there has been a massive amount of criticism, I imagine the Providence Journal knew exactly what kind of reaction this opinion piece would elicit.
And they ran it anyway.
Here are some quotes from the piece by David Carlin, former RI Senate leader, that speak for themselves…
“In those far-off days, you may remember, people spoke of something called sex, not something called gender.”
“If the Act becomes law, it will pretty much destroy sports for girls and women.”
“In other words, real girls will be subject to great embarrassment (and who knows what else?) in order to accommodate the delusions of certain boys.”
“Kids who are pre-teens today will in a few years have to worry, not just about the perennial things, but about gender identity. They will lie awake at night wondering,’Am I a boy or a girl'”
These points are both despicable and laughable.
The first is your typical old-timer, nostalgic for the days of yore, when things were “simple” and you didn’t have to consider other people’s feelings.
The second is his attempt at piety. How righteous of him to consider the female athletes. I wonder what work he has done to empower female athletes and provide them with equal opportunity to participate in sports.
The third….REAL girls. There is too much to unpack with this statement. But this is one of those lines that pushes this piece from an argument against proposed legislation into the realm of an all-out assault on transgendered people. It is demeaning and cruel to imply that a transgender woman is not a REAL woman. It others that person. It segregates that person and it diminishes that person’s existence. For someone so worried about the Catholic Church’s perspective on the matter, he certainly shows no love or compassion for his fellow citizens.
The third quote is in reference to transgendered people using the restrooms of their choosing as opposed to their assigned one. It is the same scare tactic that has been employed in this debate for years. It assumes that men specifically will pretend to be women for the sole purpose of being able to stalk women in bathrooms. it seems this is the only way Carlin, and others like him, could possibly accept that a person assigned male would identify as female. I think it says a lot about him as a person to be able to entertain this possibility, but seemingly unable to comprehend all the very real, human reasons that exist for people to make these life-altering changes.
The fourth quote is equally juvenile. To summarize, in my own words, Carlin is saying that because we now aim to accept members of the LGBTQ+ community, pre-teens will suddenly face the new “hardship” of wondering whether or not they are a boy or a girl. Besides demonstrating (again) his complete lack of empathy for, sympathy for, and basic understanding of people who have those questions, he again diminishes those who had those very real questions growing up, and somehow thinks that because those will become acceptable questions to have, that straight people will suddenly feel the urge to change their sex or gender just because they are ABLE to ask the question.
David Carlin thinks sexuality and gender are a choice. His arguments support that. David Carlin thinks transgendered people are just perverts who want to stalk the opposite sex in public restrooms. David Carlin believes men only swap genders to gain a competitive advantage in sports.
David Carlin is an asshole.
So why would the Providence Journal publish this piece? Every single argument is archaic. Nothing is new. The article only pretends to be academic while it repeatedly insults and demeans the LGBTQ+ community. Based on reactions I have seen, this has been clear to many readers. It was evident to me immediately. So how was it not evident to the editors at the Journal? The Journal offers no guarantee that an opinion piece will be published. The choice is clearly theirs. And yet, here we have it, an opinion piece published in RI targeting LGBTQ+ Rights legislation during a month that celebrates and lifts up that community.
It’s more than a poor decision. It’s more than poor judgement. This isn’t about freedom of speech. David Carlin can write this piece 1000 times. The Providence Journal has no obligation to give it a platform. David Carlin can post this on a blog, on a Facebook page, wherever he’d like. He is free to do so. But the Providence Journal did not have to publish it. It did not have to give it the public stage.
When discussing these big issues, it can be too easy to forget that we are talking about real people. We are talking about real lives. We are talking about issues that people die for. We are talking about issues that are deeply personal, and the public discourse can have devastating effects on the emotional well-being of our brothers and sisters.
So when the largest newspaper in our great state moves forward with an Opinion piece like this, targeting legislation sponsored by our own congressman, that shows no respect for our LGBTQ+ community in the midst of pride month, that employs the same old arguments in oppressing them, I think it is fair to assume that the Providence Journal does not care about Pride Month, does not care about supporting the LGBTQ+ community here in RI, is not willing to take a stand against hateful rhetoric and seemingly does not care about its readership numbers. Maybe the Providence Journal cares more about a one-day uptick in social media buzz than they do about the integrity of their business. One thing is certain, it is all in bad taste.
*As a general note, I am a straight, white man speaking on an issue that I understand is close to people’s hearts. I will gladly welcome feedback on perspective, language, or terminology that would strengthen my role as an ally to thslis community.