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Skepticism and the LGBT Community

It is important to remember to be skeptical.

Skeptical of petition pushers who sound like they really are making the world safer.
Skeptical of ballot referendums that sound like they are being fair.
Skeptical of “natural transitioning” methods that sound easier and cheaper than Testosterone injections.

Critical thinking skills are more than just that section that you coasted through on the SATs. They are the little voices in your head that make you stop and ponder what you just heard, that make you fact check the Presidential Debates, that make you click on the Sources link in the news article you just pulled up off of Yahoo.

 At least they should

Let’s take a look at a few things that warrant a double take.

A few months back I was at the Fresno Community College Pride Festival. At the entrance to the quad where a dozen or so booths were set up celebrating diversity, a small table with petitions caught my attention. The two men working the table were gathering signatures for what they said was a proposed bill to make voting more fair in California.

Now, a non skeptical person might have assumed that a) they were part of the celebration and b) that what they said was legit. I am no such person.

It turns out that what they were gathering signatures for was for the formation of a political group backed by corporations, a political group that has a bit of a torrid past. The petitions clearly said “American Elect petition to participate in the primary election” but the men behind the table were spinning a different story… and preying on the happy touchy feely feelings of many of the FCC Pride Festival participants.

I was reminded of this recently as two other signature gathering storms arrived in my email box. The first was a no brainer. “Stop SB48!” the email cried! “It costs too much! It goes too far! Children as young as five will be taught not only to accept but also to endorse transgenderism, bisexuality, and homosexuality!” 

Otherwise known at the FAIR Education Act, the bill actually says that schools are no longer allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, Pacific Islanders, or people with disabilities in terms of historical impact and contribution. But why tell the truth when the spin is so much more dramatic?

The CRI, Capital Resource Institute, and its collations of pro-family (but only certain types of family) groups need 750,000 signatures by September 30th (according to their website) in order to put this referendum on the June 2012 primary ballot. Unsubstantiated sources tell me that they will most likely fall short of this goal due to the grass roots aspect of signature gathering. However, should the referendum be allowed to be placed on the ballot, there will a bitter smear campaign that goes along with it.

Either way, I trust that one wouldn’t have to stretch their critical thinking muscles too far in order to vote fairly on this one.

 But the second signature gathering campaign might not be as clear cut. The Love Honor Cherish grassroots organization is currently gathering signatures to get same sex marriage back on the California ballot, during the November national election.

Despite the fact that many many LGBT community leaders, and as of now EQCA as well, do not support going back to the ballot and asking for equal rights, the LHC people are out there working to do just that. 

And it sounds good, right? On the surface, going back to the ballot four years later when the population seems more in line with the idea, when professional sports teams have joined the “It gets better” campaign, when Jane Lynch hosted the Emmy’s, when Glee broke ground, when the President himself isn’t enforcing DOMA, when DADT has ended…. But still, no.

It isn’t a good idea to put the fate of the rights of the minority into the hands of the majority. Equality has yet to be truly provided by popular vote. It has always, in this country at least, been up to the courts to mandate equality and then enforce it. Now, maybe the general population has grown and changed in the last four years. But maybe not.

In fact, the statistics are still murky and just because someone says they are pro-LGBT rights does not mean they will vote that way. Considering who is likely to be running for President in 2012, and thus who is going to be turning out to vote, do we really want to muddy the waters with this issue? If the court system fails us, and as of right now we have no reason to believe it will, we can always try again down the road. But a defeat again at the ballot box would be more than heartbreaking, it could potentially set the cause back another decade.

So, if you get asked to sign the Love Honor Cherish petition… please think first. Think hard, and consider this. ( From the article I wrote back in June after the EQCA Town Hall Meeting: ) “{H}ere are a few statistics worth noting: In 2009: 47% approval for same sex marriage, 48 % opposed, 5% unsure. In 2011 the numbers had moved to read 45% in favor, 45% opposed and 10% unsure. Now, many people will applaud the increase of the “unsure/undecided” portion, but since that is more wild card than anything and it is usually better to count that as votes for your opposition and hopefully be pleasantly surprised, I’m not sure that these particular polling stats give us much to be happy about. The rest of the polling data that EQCA shared with us last night went pretty much the same way. There were areas were the support gained a few points, many cases where it simply hovered still, and a whole lot of increase in the “unsure/undecided” part. Yes, it is nice to see the opposition moving into the “unsure” category… but there seems to be plenty of supporters moving that way as well. Democrats that were polled, for example, moved from 65% approval with 4% unsure in 2009 to 59% approval and 9% unsure in 2011. You read that right.” 

Again, it isn’t anyone’s job to tell you to sign or not sign… to vote or not vote or which way to vote. The point here is that you must be fully aware. You need to ask the questions. You need to delve into the facts and figures and find the truth.

Last example: A recent post over at the Skepchick blog centered around a trans reader questioning the legitimacy of the process described in this book:. Natural Transitioning, an FTM alternative 

Debbie, a Skepchick with close ties to the trans world takes a very skeptical look at the book and the process and finds that it is not nearly as comprehensive, useful, or natural as it pretends to be. I won’t repeat her analysis here, but I do encourage you to read her post. 

Basically, she breaks down all the claims, does some research, and is able to draw conclusions based in facts: an excellent use of critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism.

 To sum up, because I’m pretty sure a few of you have zoned out by now, I want to encourage you to be skeptical, to be critical of “sure things” and internet stories, to take the extra four minutes to check the sources of the article that screams that soda will kill you or that Facebook is going to start charging you…. Be mindful of hyperbole and sensationalism. Be aware and be unafraid to ask ask ask and continue asking until you are satisfied.

Honing your skeptical skills takes practice, but it is well worth it.

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