The Luxury of “Reasonable”

When I went to World Fantasy last year, I think I met almost as many people who knew me from this blog as I did people who had read my books. (I try not to think about that too hard.) Frequently, people would say they read my blog because it’s usually so reasonable and calm. (And yes, I’m aware that not everyone shares that opinion.)

I appreciate that. But I also worry about the way we sometimes privilege reasonable above so much else.

Another blogger recently linked to Brandon Sanderson’s old post about Dumbledore and homosexuality. I hung out with Sanderson at ConFusion this year. He struck me as a nice guy, and I came away liking him. His post is calm and intellectual in tone as he talks about his church’s stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

He recognizes that there are other points of view. He expects and accepts that people will disagree with him. And he asks that people not yell at him, saying:

…those who cry for open mindedness often seem to be as hateful and unwilling to look from someone else’s perspective as the people on the far right. Rationally work to enlighten us through thoughtful nudging. Don’t call us idiots and homophobes.

In other words, be reasonable. Be calm. Be understanding and patient with those you disagree with. It’s a demand I’ve seen repeated elsewhere many times.

But there’s a reason Sanderson can be so reasonable. He’s not the one being spat on and beaten and burned (In front of a church, no less) and killed because of who he loves. He’s not being told he can’t bring his boyfriend to his own prom. Agents/editors aren’t rejecting his work because he wrote about LGBT characters. He’s not being denied basic rights, like the ability to visit his partner at the hospital. He’s not being told he can’t adopt a child he loves, a child who instead gets returned to an abusive home because the court feels that’s better than letting the child grow up with gay or lesbian parents.

I can more easily write a “reasonable” post about LGBT rights, because I’m comfortably and safely married. I know my insurance will cover my wife, that every state will recognize my family as valid, that my children won’t be hassled because I love my partner. I’m not directly, personally threatened by kind of beliefs and attitudes Sanderson describes.

It’s easy to tell advocates for LGBT rights to slow it down and stop being so loud or angry. It’s easy to demand reasonableness, and to call for negotiation when you’re not the one being hurt every day of your life.

I understand that faith is powerful stuff, and to his credit, Sanderson genuinely appears to be struggling with this issue. And he’s willing to write about it in public, meaning he risks being called names, or having his books boycotted.

In the meantime, those on the other side risk being beaten and tortured and murdered.

I fully believe Sanderson would be horrified by these crimes … but I hope he might also recognize that there’s a justifiable basis for anger and fear of those claiming to know God’s will. That such anger and fear are based on experience. That it can be difficult to distinguish the person who says “My God tells me that homosexuality is sinful” and hopes to have a calm, reasonable discussion from the one who says those same words and plans to beat you to death in the parking lot.

I’m not defending or encouraging name-calling. (I also don’t believe that telling someone they’re being bigoted is name-calling.) But it’s easy to demand calm, “safe” discussion when you’re the one who’s safe and comfortable … it doesn’t strike me as a terribly reasonable demand.