Michael Aaron

At what point should speech be censored?

Earlier this month, an event touted to be an LGBT conservative forum and drag show was canceled because the venue pulled their space hours before it was to begin. This was the second venue that found the forum “too controversial.” Both feared a backlash if they housed the event.

Mind you, the introduction to the forum — an open letter calling Utah’s LGBT community a cult — was over-the-top, but should that mean their voices should be silenced?

In the offending blog post, Ryan A. Woods, who once performed in drag as Ryana Woods and now has created a new persona as Lady Maga, bemoaned the fact that the gay movement has moved beyond the time where they “just wanted acceptance and basic rights, such as the right to get married.”

“But now…insanity prevails. Within the ‘LGBT Community,’ there’s no room for dissent. If one does not adhere to the following Leftist principles, you lose your LGBT card. If you say anything against these ideals, you’re sure to get in big trouble,” Woods wrote.

Among the principles listed, all with an exclamation point at the end, were “You must hate President Trump, the greatest threat to the LGBT community is white Christians, Gender does not exist, there are endless genders, speech we don’t like is hate speech, transgender children under 18 have the right to take life-altering hormones, stop the NRA, not using someone’s pronouns is dangerous and incites violence.”

You get the point.

I wonder, though, if raising these issues is inherently transphobic, racist, or anti-gay. Could it also be that someone questioning what we call our basic truths maybe just has a different viewpoint? Could people who have different beliefs actually carry on a conversation that doesn’t use name-calling, hostility, and outrage?

I’ve been on the Log Cabin Republicans Utah Facebook page and found it full of name-calling and belittling comments, and I called out the people running it.

I’ve also been on my own Facebook wall, and QSaltLake‘s page and have had to delete such posts of belittling and name-calling.

What I’m wondering is, what good came out of shutting down a forum you disagreed with? Is this not censorship? Should we not be able to present our ideas for the world to weigh and consider?

In June, I had a ton of social justice warriors calling me a misogynist, a mansplainer, a privileged white cis-gender male (and everything that goes with that) because I had the audacity to review a performance at Pride as being a machine gun of the word fuck rather than music that can unite. Do I hate the word fuck? Fuck no. I think it has a vital place in our discourse. Do I think there is a time and place where perhaps it goes too far? When every third word spoken and sung is fuck, then yeah. In public, I was eviscerated. In private messages, I was threatened. In other private messages, I was told I was 100% spot on. But I couldn’t leave the post up. I was, effectively, censored.

I’m personally against almost all forms of censorship. While I won’t be hosting Milo Yiannopoulos at one of my events, I also won’t be picketing to keep him from speaking. I don’t like what he says, and I just wish he’d go away, but I think that should happen because people have grown weary of him and his messages simply don’t resonate.

As presented, this conservative forum could have been a good, constructive beginning to a deeper conversation, even if it wasn’t built on a good, constructive foundation. But we won’t know, because we don’t now live in a world where dissenting opinions can be safely aired.

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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