On being the subject of debate

Image description: Cartoon of television screen showing two people; one is shouting, the other is wide-eyed and leaning back slightly
Image description: Cartoon of television screen showing two people; one is shouting, the other is wide-eyed and leaning back slightly

Spare me from debates on the human rights of any minority. I’ve heard enough of them, and they all stank.

I’ve known this for a long time. I discovered what was wrong with debates when I was a young queer person listening to people debate my rights. Sometimes they were talking about a specific right like civil partnership or marriage. Sometimes they went for the “place in society” discussion, talking about where I should be allowed to work (not in schools!), live (not in this neighborhood!) or obtain essential services* (not from Christians!).

I saw it again as a twenty-something disabled person. People talked about how much it would cost to provide appropriate public restrooms and adapt transport and discussed whether we really needed them. And whether we really needed to work. And whether we needed access to every building in the city center.

And I’m seeing it again now as the partner of a trans woman and an ally to the trans community, seeing people discuss where and when my wife should be allowed to receive medical care, use a restroom, obtain services, work and live.

I’m tired of turning on the television or radio and hearing representatives of conservative groups use falsehoods and fearful rhetoric used to push back against equality. I’m sick of broadcasters giving platforms to people who come in bad faith, prepared only to belittle, mock or attack the identity and humanity of people who are different to them. I’m done with human rights debates as ratings grabs. I’ve had enough of watching representatives of the LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities** stay v

I’m particularly tired of being told I should welcome debate.

We’re told that debates are good. They’re part of the academic and democratic processes. They’re broadcast so that we can understand the motivations behind laws, public policies and social movements. They can help us to understand opinions; decide who to support; and even analyze, validate and disprove theories.

But things look very different when one side hurls opinions, beliefs, half-truths and fallacies with emotive force, all to justify their oppression of another group. People in televised debates are not required to combine verifiable facts with citations, rigorous logic and intelligent rhetoric.

In particular, they should not be the subject of televised debates where one side hurls opinions, beliefs, half-truths and fallacies with emotive force.

Good debaters should combine verifiable facts, rigorous logic and intelligent rhetoric to prove their point.

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