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I think it was one of the preachers. I forget which. You’ve all seen the preachers by now, I guess. There was the one who wanted to punch the gay away, most prominently, but there were others. Or maybe it was the kid singing his “no homos in heaven” song in church, with the enthusiastic backing of his congregation. I forget. Anyway, after one of these incidents, a gay friend of mine asked why everybody was sharing this hate speech, promoting it on their Facebooks and Tumblrs and Twitters and blogs. Why not ignore it? Wasn’t rebroadcasting it giving it power? Weren’t we just playing into their hands?

I grew up in a community where anti-gay attitudes were so unremarkable that you could almost say they didn’t exist for the people who held them. Homophobia was not a thing you could even talk about, because homophobia was consensus reality. That’s really the only kind of environment where the worst kind of loony homophobia can thrive: an environment where nobody even notices it exists. Once it has been noticed it immediately apologizes and shuts itself up.

So that’s the reason to share this shit: to drag it out of the murky madness where it thrives, into the light of everybody else’s consensus reality — the one that is actually, you know, real — not so that people who already disagree with homophobic idiots can point and laugh, or not just so that we can, but so that people who assume that homophobic idiocy is the only way to think about these issues can see and hear and think about us pointing and laughing.

Most homophobes in the South don’t really hold their homophobia quite so closely to heart as you might imagine. It’s just another thing they’ve picked up from everybody around them. They think it’s the way normal people think. When they realize that it’s not, that their local community has been infected by a bizarre shared hallucination, they sometimes leave their homophobia behind as quickly and as easily as they might abandon any socially embarrassing practice. Not all of them, no, and not always. But sometimes. And that’s useful.