Stuff Gay People Like: Being contrarian
March 1, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 4:01 pm)
To a gay person, groups of people in complete agreement are scary. It’s what happens in a totalitarian state, a Catholic school, church, or worst of all, the suburbs. Since those places are all horrible, a gay person is committed to constantly come up with ways his opinions and political views are different from everybody else’s.
It goes without saying that gay people disagree with Republicans, religious conservatives and their own parents. It also goes without saying that arguing with those groups is a lost cause. So a gay man finds it in himself to meet entrenched opponents with a shrug and a sigh.
He’ll put his energy, instead, into disagreeing the most often and most passionately with other gay men.
It’s a chain reaction, starting whenever a gay man opens his mouth. The original point can be pretty much obvious – something everyone hearing it would believe wholeheartedly if only they had been the ones who said it first.
Yet, from the others, like a reflex, personas emerge: the contrarians. Contrarians have evolved beyond simple concepts like “makes sense” and “accurate” and look for ways that everyone, even if technically correct, is still wrong:
Statement: “You know, not all gay men are obsessed with sex.”
Response 1: “Even if they were, that would be OK.”
Response 2: “ALL men are obsessed with sex, gay or straight.”
Response 3: “That’s a stereotype. Being gay is about who you love.”
Response 4: “Just because someone likes sex doesn’t mean he’s ‘obsessed.’”
Response 5: “I’m obsessed with sex.”
Statement: “Rush Limbaugh is a Right-wing asshole.”
Response 1: “Both the far-Right and the far-Left are assholes.”
Response 2: “But that’s his free speech!”
Response 3: “Actually Rush’s politics are all for show, for the money.”
Response 4: “Why are you giving some irrelevant air head your attention?”
Response 5: “’Right-wing’ and ‘asshole’ was redundant.”
This has probably always been something gay men are good at, but it has become much more apparent since the invention of Facebook. There, people of all stripes, even straight folks, pride themselves at being able to poke holes in the logic of a status update:
Status: “The worst part about this low-carb diet is I really miss mashed potatoes!”
Response 1: “Why on Earth would you be on a low-carb diet? So unhealthy!”
Response 2: “Potatoes are gross.”
Being a contrarian is, at its heart, an emotional impulse. We know because we have that impulse. But contrarians are also contrary to themselves, and therefore believe their perspectives are based on intellectual superiority and rational nuance – they’ll be the most eager to argue with whoever seems the most passionate. We know because we do that too.
Self-appointed educators of an unphilosophical world, contrarians point out that personal expressions of feeling just take it too far and should take a step back.
Statement: “I’m sick to death of all these gay teen suicides caused by bullies!”
Response 1: “Kids will be kids. At some point we have to tell the ones who get bullied to grow thicker skin and be mature about it.”
Response 2: “Actually, in the grand scheme of things, more people die of cancer.”
You’d think the best way to battle contrarian is preemption: load each statement with nuances and caveats so they can’t offer them for you.
Statement: “Although there are other pressing issues to address, I am concerned about bullying and think we need a two fronted approach to educate perpetrators and teach victims social skills and strategies to deal with trauma.”
This will fail. Ask any politician; they all know that being forthcoming and transparent only gives the opposition more to criticize. And a contrarian will get so meta you’re head will spin: to give us a whole essay? And who’s “we?” By the way ‘two-fronted’ should have a hyphen.”
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