Writing about sensitive topics: what not to do.

People often struggle with sensitive topics. In executing their papers, they often portray those who disagree with them as not only wrong, but also dishonest or insincere. In this example, we will use homophobia as a topic, in order to be specific and have the topic make sense.

Take for example someone who believes that homophobia exists and is wrong. They might say that homophobes are probably gay (or LBTQ). Claiming your opponent is insincere or dishonest is too common, “they don’t actually oppose gay rights, they are secret closet cases!” This is 1) inaccurate and 2) blames LGBTQ people for biases against them. What research actually is that people who are homophobic are more uncomfortable with sexuality, including their own, than average. It also shows gay people deal with internalized homophobia. As the actual targets of bigotry, they feel it more acutely. Be accurate, it’s compelling to want to say inflammatory things to “win” an argument, but you damage your own credibility when you do. Further, if you are straight and want to be an ally, you may be contributing to bigotry that LGBTQ people experience. Most importantly, it has nothing to do arguing for LGBTQ rights to say that those who oppose it “are probably gay” a

Now consider the person who is not sure that homophobia even exists and thinks that bias against LGBTQ people is morally right. This person will sometimes support their argument by claiming that people who support LGBTQ people “hate the family” or “hate religion”. Once again, rather than arguing for their idea, they describe their opponents as insincere, dishonest people hiding some other agenda. This person finds it so unimaginable that someone could have sincere affection for someone they don’t like that they recast those alliances as phony. The problem again is that they aren’t defending their own position; they are making up nonsense about their opponent.

Feel free to ask questions about this and other posts!

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