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10.7.13

Orson Scott Card doesn't get it

I'm not planning on seeing the new Ender's Game movie. I thought the book was probably the most overrated work in the SF/F canon, and I rarely see movies, so I'm not inclined to spend an afternoon on it. A lot of people who did like the book are planning to boycott the movie because the author, Orson Scott Card, is an unrepentant homophobe of the grossest kind. In response, Card issued a short statement showing that he really doesn't get it.

Card first claims that Ender's Game, having been written in 1984, has nothing to do with political issues that didn't exist then. But LGBT people aren't some new species that landed in the 1990s. Certainly the LGBT rights movement wasn't as prominent in the mainstream media in 1984 as it is today -- but that's because society as a whole was more homophobic and oppressive at the time. LGBT people have always existed, and the modern movement began a full 15 years before Ender's Game was written. Same-sex couples were still being denied marriage, and even arrested, in 1984. "Back then, I was too bigoted to notice your suffering" is not much of an excuse. Ender's Game doesn't directly address LGBT issues, it just imagines a future in which LGBT people do not appear, because its author had a deficit of moral and sociological imagination.

Card then argues that the recent US Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act renders the whole debate moot. This is ridiculous. Certainly the decision was a step in the right direction and will make things easier. But even if we confine our attention to the issue of same-sex marriage in the US, there's still a long road ahead. There are still 37 states where same-sex couples can't marry, and even with the DOMA precedent, it will be a long and difficult struggle for activists in those states to achieve equality. And it's not as if marriage is the only issue where Card holds, and has prominently advocated, repugnant views about LGBT people. The Supreme Court's decision didn't give us strong anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing. It didn't make it easy for trans people to change their legal gender or access appropriate health care. It didn't (and shouldn't be able to) establish frequent, positive, and well-rounded representation of LGBT characters in media, or end rejection of LGBT people by their families and peers.

The talk of SSM proponents having won the fight might make some sense if Card were announcing that he was throwing in the towel, a la Exodus International or David Blankenhorn. But he's not. He's trying to have it both ways -- to continue fighting against LGBT rights, but to deflect criticism for it by claiming his side has lost.

Card ends by saying "Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute."

The thing is, I do tolerate Card and his ilk. I don't want the police to arrest him. I don't want to threaten Utah's statehood unless the Mormon church has a pro-gay revelation. If I met Card I wouldn't punch him in the face -- in fact, I'd probably be polite to him. What I won't do is accept the validity of his views, because they are invalid. Card is deeply wrong about LGBT rights, and insofar as he advocates for those views, my views compel me to oppose them. Someone from the bad side who issues an honest and self-reflective mea culpa can -- cautiously -- be accepted by the good side. But there's no obligation (or reason) to forgive those who are unrepentant about the damage they and their allies have done to a marginalized group.

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