Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gay on Facebook; Commie in Congress

What I don’t understand about this story is how Peter TerVeer’s Facebook activity “led his boss to discover[..] he is gay”: I “like,” “share,” and comment on lots of Facebook content supporting gay and transgender rights, but anyone assuming that means anything about my sexual orientation or gender identity would be entirely incorrect. In this case, TerVeer really was gay, and the workplace harassment he suffered was unjust on its face… but if that harassment was based on the assumption that he was gay, and that assumption was in turn based on his Facebook “likes,” then the fundamental injustice of homophobia is compounded by the all-too-common categorical error of thinking what someone likes or supports defines what someone is.

Of course, right-wing Florida Congressman Allen West doubles down on the error by inverting it, assuming that who likes you defines who you are: Apparently, when West claimed that about 80 Democratic members of Congress were communists, his “logic” was that they are members of the Progressive Caucus, and that the Communist Party USA has, according to West spokesperson Angela Marvin, “publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies.” SRSLY? Because someone expresses support for you, you’re suddenly just like that someone? Communist Party USA Vice Chair Libro DellaPiana, in the process of unequivocally declaring that no members of Congress are members of the Communist party, points out the absurdity of West’s position: “We support public parks and I assume Congressman West does too, that doesn’t mean he’s a Communist.”

Given how rabidly the American right seems to hate anything “public,” I’m not sure how safe DellaPiana’s assumption really is… but point taken, just the same: Neither what or who you like nor who likes you defines who you are. Homophobic bosses and right-wing radicals, please take note.

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