Bill Becker, Freedom X, President/CEO/General Counsel
A couple of years ago I was invited to speak to a group of millennials attending a Summit Ministries summer camp at Biola University in La Mirada, California south of Los Angeles. Summit is a Christian youth organization that teaches a Christian worldview. Biola (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) is a Christian University. One of the first rules of effective rhetoric is to know your audience, so I had no reason to question my audience’s sincere Christian cred.
My message that day was meant to encourage Christian millennials to be strong against the cultural currents threatening to snatch them into moral darkness. My PowerPoint presentation took note of the era in which I grew up, the Sixties’ counter-culture revolution. It was my generation, the baby-boomer generation, that popularized vulgarity with comedy from Lenny Bruce and George Carlin and pornography from Hugh Hefner, I informed the large gathering. I battled with sex, drugs and rock and roll growing up in those times and allowed the culture to influence my choices.
Now, my generation has expanded its influence over the culture in ways I could never have imagined, winning the battle to normalize same-sex intimacy, venerating the discretely perverse mental illnesses of transgenderism and transsexualism, promoting gender-neutrality and gender-fluidity as civil rights ideals, defending illegal attacks on our national sovereignty as the natural right of pilgrim “DREAMERS,” and so on.
It was the week the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to issue its ruling in the Obergefell same-sex marriage case, so my lecture was effectively taking place during the final throes of a bygone era in which marriage between one man and one woman was presumed to be the definition of marriage. Caitlin Jenner was a hot topic as he (yes, Bruce Jenner still has male chromosomes however he may want to be reclassified) appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. So I posed a string of rhetorical questions: Why stop with same-sex marriage? Why not legalize polygamy? Or marriage among three or more same-sex people? Or marriage between a man and his father? Or a son and his mother? Or with your dog? Or yourself? Or your pillow?
Although these questions may seem whimsical, I asked them while showing news reports documenting how such preposterous acts of degeneracy have actually already occurred. Audience reaction conformed to my expectations with laughing, gasps and groans all around. After my talk ended, I was approached by a young lady. “I’m offended by your use of the word tranny,” she said. “I’m trans. Don’t you care?”
The clear intention of this young lady was to solicit empathy for her sexual identity choice, but I was having none of it. The entire point of my lecture was to marshal resistance to alluring appeals to morally relative impulses the counterculture tries to ensnare us with. This was the first time in my six generations of life that I had ever been asked such a question, and, admittedly, I was caught off guard, especially because I assumed there to be a collective orthodoxy my audience and I shared. My instinct was to go on offense. “Why should I care about your sexual confusion?” I replied. “I am a speaker and you are a member of the audience. My relationship with you is not personal, and your personal struggles are none of my business.”
Failing to elicit empathy, the young lady adjusted her appeal. Instead of empathy, she would now try for sympathy: “Don’t you care that I suffer from gender dysphoria?”
Do you see that? Her initial appeal sought my acceptance of her gender choice. But she presented no argument for eliciting such approval, no logical reason for me to bend her way. When that rhetorical appeal fell flat, she drew the only card left – the victim card.
In After the Ball: How America will Conquer its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90s (1989), written at a time when the AIDs epidemic was booming, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen detailed a list of marketing tactics conceived to normalize homosexuality within American culture. A few of them, all victim-focused, are relevant here: (1) portray gays as victims of circumstance and oppression, not as aggressive challengers; (2) give potential protectors a just cause; (3) make gays look good; and (4) make victimizers look bad. “The purpose of victim imagery,” they wrote, “is to make straights feel very uncomfortable; that is, to jam with shame the self-righteous pride that would ordinarily accompany and reward their antigay belligerence, and to lay groundwork for the process of conversion by helping straights identify with gays and sympathize with their underdog status.”
Today, the LGBTQI+ movement, which is beginning to appropriate an entire keyboard, has not only realized its ambitions and then some, it has somehow managed to solidly maintain its place in victimhood, even though a mere 3.8 percent of the adult population in America identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (these terms are quickly becoming antiquated and illusory as the list of sexual identity classifications expands and as gender-neutrality/-fluidity becomes a thing) and even though an overwhelming share of America’s LGBTQI+ adults (92%) say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade.
Yet, even as the movement continues to enjoy victim status, it is a movement that in unprecedented ways bullies Christians and others who do not buy into it. Investment banking behemoth JP Morgan Chase is among a long line of major corporations putting pressure on employees to sign up for the cause of gay rights. And they have not-so-subtly let each employee know not signing up will be noted. Employees were told “to help create an environment for open and honest dialogue.” Descriptors such as “wife” and “boyfriend” are frowned upon, and “partner” is preferred. Not referring to your wife as your wife “offers up the opportunity for more inclusive conversations.”
The human resources departments of businesses across the country single out LGTBQI+ individuals for special treatment and anyone who questions it is out of a job. The Obama administration implemented civil rights protections for LGB … (do I really have to spell it out every time?) … under Title IX, in labor directives and throughout civil service agencies.
Among our lawsuits is one in which a Christian working as a student intern at an L--- community center under a university program was removed from the job after telling someone she was a Christian. Admitting to being a Christian “could alienate” those who overhear her, she was told.
Then, of course, there are the Christian photographers, bakers, printers and florists accused of discrimination for exercising their religious liberty right not to violate their consciences. Oh, yes, and the licensed therapists who are denied the right to perform conversion therapy on consenting youth who wish to rid themselves of their sexually immoral tendencies.
I present these thoughts because as a matter of legal, political and social policy, founding principles securing our liberties are being renegotiated by constitutional deconstructionists in the courts, the statehouses, the media, the entertainment world, the private sector and even in the church. Freedom of religion, a paramount ideal at the founding, is now just something silly the framers strapped us with. As a judge in the New Mexico case of Elane Photography v. Willock put it, after finding Jonathan and Elane Huguenin guilty of discriminating against a lesbian couple who demanded the couple photograph their wedding, the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives…. it is the price of citizenship.”
I’m not really sure where all of this will wind up. Much of the antipathy toward the Christian worldview is politically entrenched. “Christian,” after all, is code for bigot. So, for now, my client may have to conceal the fact that she is a Christian in order to avoid alienating people, never mind that she feels alienated by the sexual identity militants demanding her allegiance.
I think about the young lady with sexual dysphoria and wonder if she really was reaching out to me for help. I don’t think so. It was more important for her to let me know she prefers to be labeled a “trans,” not a “tranny.” That’s an identity she covets. It provides her with a life mission. She also wanted to shame me. I could feel the hot stares of other millennials standing near us as I was made to look like a bad victimizer.
But this is where I depart from the coddlers, because I see through their rhetorical tricks. She can declare her power for now, but perhaps one day when she looks back on her youth, she may wonder why she fell under the spell of a dissolute culture.
Bill Becker is the founder, president and general counsel for Freedom X, a 501(c)(3) non-profit public interest law firm and advocacy center protecting conservative and religious freedom of expression. Freedom X recently reversed a California college’s decision to suspend a student for videotaping his instructor as she launched into an anti-Trump tirade following the presidential election. Their lawsuits have involved numerous cases in which conservatives have faced discrimination simply for holding to a conservative worldview.