by Gwendolyn S. Patton, First Speaker, Pink Pistols International
I was interviewed for an article: Gay gun activists: Growing LGBT push to support the Second Amendment, by Hollie McKay, which was published by Fox News on October 2. I had a great talk with Hollie, and got a sense that she really cared about the topic. After you’ve given a few hundred interviews, you learn to catch the subtle hints, the subtext beneath the questions, general attitudes that aren’t spoken outright. Hollie is a fine reporter, and she asked excellent questions. The only problem I have with the article is…she had to pick and choose from our talk, and didn’t use some of what we talked about. I’m not upset by this, the article is excellent, and what she used dovetailed perfectly with Chris Cheng had to say. But some of what I said would have directly addressed what Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said . . .
“The law contains explicit protections for members of the LGBT community,” he said. “If groups like Pink Pistols are feeling targeted or under threat, it might be from members of their own community in the pro-gun movement.”
When I read this, I had to look at it twice to figure out what Everitt was saying. Even then, I couldn’t believe it. Everitt appears to believe that the Pink Pistols should be afraid of their fellow shooters and believers in the Second Amendment. It didn’t take much thought to determine what Everitt meant — that gun enthusiasts and pro-rights individuals are violent bigots specifically because they are pro-rights.
It has been my experience with anti-rights agitators that they tend to hold views and opinions that don’t match reality. They believe that more guns equals more crime and violence, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They claim that concealed carry laws or reduced regulation on firearms will lead to “blood in the streets” or “OK Corral-style bloodbaths,” but these things never come to pass. They believe that owning or carrying a gun makes you far more likely to be killed with your own gun, that someone in your family will injure himself or herself, or you’ll shoot a family member or friend rather than an attacker. But this was the result of a flawed study so bad that the researcher who made the claim declared his own findings invalid. So when I see an anti-rights activist like Ladd Everitt make a claim such as this, it’s not so much that I assume his conclusion is specious, the fact that he could even entertain the thought makes me shake my head sadly.
I have been involved with the Pink Pistols since shortly after its creation in 2000. I founded the Delaware Valley chapter in the Philadelphia area in 2001, and officially became the organization’s Media Spokesperson in 2005. I took a brief leave of absence in 2011 due to complications of a car accident, but came back in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. At that time, Doug Krick, the founder of the Pink Pistols, was no longer able to effectively administer the organization, so he gave it over to my care. I rebuilt the website and took back the role of spokesperson, along with the founder’s administrative position. I call myself the First Speaker of the Pink Pistols as I hold the public honor and integrity of the organization in my heart and speak on its behalf. And when such a patently false statement as the one made by Ladd Everitt is made, it falls upon me to answer it.
Everitt’s assumption is based upon a belief that pro-rights persons who own and shoot guns are radical right-wing theists that “hate” gay people and want to hurt them. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
An observation I routinely make is that we are nearly universally welcomed by the pro-rights community. Our fellow shooters make it clear, time and time again, that our sexuality is irrelevant. Chris Cheng’s perception is the correct one — shooters don’t care who we love. They care whether or not we support the Second Amendment. They care whether or not we are safe and responsible armed citizens. They care whether or not we are serious about shooting. They only care that we can shoot straight, not whether or not we ARE straight. The animus towards GLBT persons is generally not seen among, as Everitt termed it, “the pro-gun movement.”
Paradoxically, we get far more negativity from other GLBT organizations than from other shooters, but even this doesn’t involve violence. We get two kinds of responses from them. First are the typical anti-rights rants, fearful or angry diatribes centered on inaccurate perceptions that our guns might “go off” and hurt someone. Or we get political complaints that we have “left the reservation”, betraying the community because we don’t adhere to the left/progressive ideology shared by much of the GLBT population. The former, we can discount because all anti-rights persons give us the same arguments. The latter, however, is more troubling, for it comes directly from an identity-politics point of view. Because Democrats engage in identity politics, essentially promising gay rights legislation in return for votes, engaging in something the Democrats don’t agree with is seen as “threatening” the gay rights movement. But even this animus does not sink to the level that Ladd Everitt did.
Everitt is saying that the people who violently attack GLBT persons because of the perceived perception of their sexual orientation or identity — the people that justify the existence of the Pink Pistols — are our fellow shooters. This is patently false and a shameful slander of the pro-rights community. While we may once in a while run into a shooter who doesn’t like us, he is still a lawful gun owner, among the most law-abiding persons in the entire nation. Pro-rights persons are so unlikely to violently bash a gay person, the probability is virtually nil.
Why do people gay bash in the first place? Everitt’s stated belief suggests that it’s because they hold right-wing views (because gun owners are ALWAYS right-wingers, even when they’re not), probably religious in nature, and the ones who own guns are particularly dangerous because they are armed. This is not a rational position, it is a prejudicial one. Or perhaps the right term would be postjudicial (yes, postjudice is a word), as Everitt has been exposed to enough gun owners that he should know how they actually behave, yet he still maintains a bias against them contrary to the facts presented.
I perceive gay bashing to be the result of a catastrophically challenged world-view. A person who maintains a judgemental view of how men and women “should” be, and when they are presented with a person that behaves contrary to that view, it causes strong cognitive dissonance. But rather than use this new experience to reformulate their world-view, the person converts their prejudicial belief into a postjudicial one — they cling to their original belief even though evidence has been presented that would refute it — and they are presented with a fight-or-flight dichotomy. Do they run and hide from the new world-view presented to them, or do they fight against it? In the case of the gay basher, they fight against this challenge to “how things should be” by essentially trying to kill the messenger.
Those who attack gay people out of boredom, or for the sake of a “thrill”, are also using a challenged world-view as a rationalization for their bad acts. They hold a prejudicial belief that “gay people are weak and passive,” that they are cowards, or “sissies” that can’t stand up for themselves. The “limp wrist” stereotype is a prejudicial belief in the “weakness” of gay people. Because of this imagined weakness, they are considered easy targets for bullying behavior. Because they present an identity contrary to the stereotypical norm, the attacker feels “justified” in attacking the gay person because they deviate from that norm. Gay bashers aren’t engaging in political discourse. They’re simply violent lawbreakers who have rationalized away their crime, and they can come from any political group.
The Pink Pistols is in the business of breaking stereotypes. We shatter the preconceived notions people have about both gay people and gun owners. We shatter the notion that gay people are always all about the differences, about how gay people aren’t like everyone else. We shatter the prejudices and the postjudices that make assumptions on how we “should” be.
The Pink Pistols builds bridges along roads of sameness, not of difference. We accentuate the similar, not the contrary. We point out how much we are just like you. We do love differently from you in some cases, but we still put our pants on one leg at a time. We are just like you in millions of ways. We feel that is far more important than the few, small ways we are different from you. We aren’t ashamed of those differences, but we aren’t so proud of them that we lord them over anyone. We’re just people.
We do, however, recognize that some individuals will judge us not on the ways we are the same, but on the ways we are different. And we will defend ourselves from those who seek to harm us because of those differences, perceived or imagined. One thing is certain, though: the ones who threaten us the most are not the gun owning community. They have accepted us because of how we are the same as them. As Chris Cheng intimated, the differences between us are irrelevant.