Yasmin Nair

"Yasmin Nair: Eat This!" Or: How to Leave Comments Without Going up In Flames

Filed By Yasmin Nair | May 19, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Blogs, comments policy, gay marriage, Immigration, Queercents, UAFA, Yasmin Nair

I recently began my stint as a regular contributor on queercents.com. The blog, devoted to queers and money, has a tagline that reads: "We're here, we're queer, and we're not going shopping without coupons." My first post was about the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), widely touted by many in the gay community as the gay immigration bill. I work on and write about immigration a lot, and it made sense that a subject so intimately connected to labor issues should be discussed on queercents. To date, there has been no widespread discussion on UAFA. Instead, like gay marriage, UAFA has been thrust down our collective queer throat as something we should all support. My piece, to the best of my knowledge, is among the very, very few to explicitly critique UAFA. The immigration scholar Eithne Luibhéid has written about UAFA in a special issue of GLQ (14:2-3), but it's not available to a general audience.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is an ever-evolving beast. There will never be a perfect immigration bill. The persistent xenophobia and racism of anti-immigration activists, combined with a general ignorance about the economic reasons for our current crisis, means that it will be a long time before we craft an immigration policy that's both sensible and humane. In other words, there's no perfect solution. But UAFA is especially problematic on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it privileges certain kinds of couples over others and the fact that it might even distract from CIR.

I've written about immigration here on Bilerico and elsewhere, and I fully expected both opposition and discussion. I also know from my experience that some UAFA supporters are capable of incredibly nasty and vicious responses, even as they go on about why the world should recognize their love and commitment (clearly, they're incapable of recognizing irony). So, I expected discussion and even fervent opposition. But I think it's fair to say that Nina Smith (founder of Queercents), Serena Freewomyn (editor) and I were taken aback by the vitriol that spewed forth.

It began well, with comments, which, even in disagreeing with me or laying out new issues to think about, were thoughtfully phrased to engender more discussion. And then the incoherence erupted as several people began lashing out in comments that became increasingly personal and repetitious. There was, for instance, the commenter who tritely informed me that I'd misspelled "Philippines" and then proceeded to refer to me as Jasmin. Frequently. And compared UAFA to apartheid. Or the commenter who likened Shirley Tan, a woman who may have to leave her partner in the United States, to Rosa Parks (what is it with the gay community and its persistent appropriation of the civil rights movement?).

There were those who seemed blissfully unaware that UAFA is in fact designed to help permanent residents as well, not just native-born citizens, and huffily wondered why they should have to care about people on H1-B visas. Clearly, this is not a lot that knows much about the very constituents, their comrades, at which UAFA is aimed.

The discussion went downhill early on, with several people claiming, in essence, that I was a heartless beast incapable of comprehending their pain and suffering. The comments were becoming redundant, there was now little to no discussion of the issues at hand, and it was clear that the post was being swarmed by UAFA supporters who had decided to alight upon queercents and try to shut down the conversation. At one point, I snapped that if people couldn't make new points, I'd have to start deleting their comments (oh, the power!). Serena gently reminded me, in a private e-mail, that perhaps the site's managers ought to see to those kinds of decisions. She was right, of course, and I let the comments be.

Soon thereafter, Serena and Nina wrote to me that the comments were becoming increasingly hostile, and there was no longer any discussion of UAFA - what did I think about shutting down the comments section altogether? I felt, at this point, that the comments were increasingly pointless, and agreed. That's when Serena posted an Editor's Note: "Due to the nature of many of the comments on this thread, comments have been disabled for this post."

I'm writing about this incident for two reasons. The first is to confirm that there was no censorship of comments on queercents, and to announce that the UAFA blog, with some added material, will be going up on bilerico in the next day or so. I never deleted comments. Yes, I expressed my intent to do so. But then, I may also have wished privately that some commenters would burn slowly in a hell of my choosing - I don't see any evidence of that having happened either.

The second reason is to raise questions and a discussion about the nature of blogging, the expectations it raises, and why some people seem to respond with the kind of vitriol that would get them kicked out of most real environments - including their workplaces, their friends' homes, and even their parents' dining tables.

The UAFA post has been migrating around the web. Dave Seattle, over at The Fake Mexican, posted it with some interesting points about his binational relationship. But beyond that, most re-posters have continued their mindlessly disengaged attacks. At one point in my responses, I suggested to a particularly long-winded person that he take his thoughts to his own blog instead on delivering disengaged and lengthy commentaries. He proceeded to do exactly that, with a blog titled "Yasmin Nair: Eat This!" This, from someone who claims that his blog is all about "building happiness and prosperity for all human beings" and "positive news, opinions, issues and ideas, to aid and promote the opening to Light." He also pointed out my cock-sucking habits, and that brings me, first, to the misogyny of the gay movement (sections of the gay community seem oddly hostile to the idea of cock-sucking when it's not done between males, but that's another post for another day).

Sexist and misogynistic attacks are nothing new to me. In 2006, I publicly disagreed with Doug Ireland on the issue of the hangings of two men in Mashad, Iran. For having dared to disagree with him, Ireland and Jeff Edwards, a Chicagoan with whom I'd once worked in the now-defunct group Queer to the Left, sent an e-mail to the Queer Fist listserv about my sex life, in an attempt to discredit my politics. Among other remarks, they proclaimed that I was "damaged" and "only slept with men." This has been, for centuries, the classic method used to silence a woman - question her mental health and then drag her through what you fondly imagine is the mud of her sex life.

So, I'm not surprised at this kind of attack. But I'm still curious about the different kinds of personal attacks that emerged on Queercents, and which I've seen here on Bilerico and elsewhere, and I want to discuss them on a general level. For instance, there's a genre of comments that goes something like this: "You're a horrible/bitter/angry/stupid human being and you have no idea what it means to go through [insert situation here]." Now, as to the "you're a horrible human being" part: what, exactly, is the point here? First of all, commenters generally have no contact with bloggers, so I'm not sure what authority they invoke in these remarks. Secondly: yeah, maybe, so what? And, thirdly, does a blogger always have to be the subject of his/her blog? In other words, are we completely incapable of having a sustained conversation on an issue without everyone having personal experience with it? To use the broadest example: several of us are absolutely against war - I don't hear people complaining that you have to have enjoyed killing someone before you dare complain about the inhumanity of war. Does writing about a subject require someone to submit a resume testifying to personal experience in the topic? Is it so out of bounds for someone to dare suggest that we ask serious questions about a piece of legislation or an action that could influence a lot of other policies without ourselves being directly affected by it?

And that brings me to the whole purpose of a blog. Every now and then, a commenter will fire at a blogger with the words he or she imagines to be the ultimate put-down: "This is an example of bad reporting!" What blogs enable us to do is have a public conversation about issues in a loosely constructed and interactive way. I like engaging with people on blogs because the discussions, with rational people who can express themselves without screaming and yelling, usually help me think through and eventually tighten my own arguments. I'm a writer who writes about political issues I care about, so for me a blog is a way to test out an idea and the soundness of its construction. So, to those of you who think all bloggers are reporters: come on, get real, people. How do we break this to you? This thing here, that you're reading on a site that, you might notice, says nothing like "daily newspaper? It's called a blog. B-L-O-G. Seriously. Look it up.

There are topics on which we're all supposed to agree on because the "leaders" of the gay community say so, or because some of us have decided that some positions are the only way to gain "full equality." The point in asking for a more honest appraisal of such issues is precisely that: to ask for a more honest appraisal. If there are factual errors, they should be pointed out and explanations should be demanded. The same goes for issues that no one voted on but which got shoved down our throats (for an example of which, see aforementioned gay marriage - who said it was "our" issue, and why should it be the only way to gain "equality"?) I, for one, don't think that the tone of comments need be overly polite - this isn't a tea party after all, but a place to have discussions that can be contentious and involve deeply held political beliefs.

So be sarcastic, funny, whatever. But do remember that you can be civil without being ingratiating. And if you can't prove your argument without descending into mindlessly personal attacks, or without repeating yourself, and without engaging with the issues at hand, or demanding a personal resume from the blogger - perhaps you need a break from commenting. Otherwise, you might simply be engaging in what my friend J. refers to as "narcissism masquerading as politics."

Let me add this: the fact that so many UAFA supporters are vicious, angry, xenophobic, and hysterical people doesn't mean that UAFA in itself isn't worth considering, at least in its intent. I do believe that people should be allowed to sponsor visitors/partners/lovers/friends into this country without the state poking and prying and examining their lives and emotions and without drawing arbitrary distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable immigrants. But UAFA, as it stands now, only replicates the worn-out gender paradigms and potentially exploitative regimes of power that the state already imposes on us (it has nothing to say about friends, but only "committed partners.") Can we, should we contest that? I'm willing to have a conversation on how to make that happen. The question is: can the vitriol from the loudest and angriest UAFA supporters allows us to have a conversation?

A concluding note about the title, "Yasmin Nair: Eat This!" (which I shamelessly borrowed): my friend J. (not the same one as above) positively crooned when he heard it: "Oooh, I LOVE it!" So...we're thinking about t-shirts. Perhaps with the words in black across a red background, in Barbara Kruger-esque font? What do you think?


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The phrase has a nice ring to it. (I'd want it in red letters on a black t shirt.)

An extremely small percentage of commenters is dysfunctional and anti-social. Unfortunately, that group is loud. They lash out because they are frustrated and full of grief. They are very much like the schizophrenics who spend years marching up and down city streets muttering and sometimes shouting into the night. Discussion with them is impossible. Give them shelter and they disrupt it or shun it. This type of commenter-nuisance sets up camp in blogs because public places are all they have. Some of them have their own blogs that attract no readers and therefore give them no satisfaction. At their worst, they become malevolent and predatory and disguise themselves as credentialed crusaders.

I think it goes with the terrain. I think we have to expect a certain amount of heckling and shoe-throwing but when anti-social commenters become a cancer that threatens the life of the organism they invade, we edit. It is not easy to know when that surgery is appropriate and we go into the OR without malpractice insurance.

As someone whose struggle in trying to help my (Japanese) partner relocate in the US eventually led us both to Canada, I know that immigration issues are not always going to be dealt with rationally when it comes to criticism.

Yasmin, you're a brilliant writer and I'm glad you're aware of, but it's really really hard for people like me who have had to give up. We want a solution, and yes, even an imperfect one.

I know that's selfish and short-sighted, but we don't have all the time in the world to wait for the kind of perfection some seem to demand.

The truly sad thing is how moot it might all be. My representative in Congress wrote to say that, even though he supports UAFA, it seems to be stuck in committee.

So after rambling for a bit, what am I saying?

1. This issue is about our lives and our love. People do not always think rationally about such subjects.

2. The internets abound with trolls. Always have.

3. People always find it easy to rant when alone. Very few seem to consider a comment thread as much beyond a chance to rant in solitude.

4. I hope your article, Yasmin, offers a real and quickly feasible immigration solution ('cause a lot of people are sick of waiting), instead of simply a critique. It's never hard to criticize legislation in Washington.

5. I'll try to read it with an open mind. Best I can do. =)

Tony,

Thanks, you summed things up really well - I've had some of these thoughts about commenters but in a much more inchoate and can-this-really-be kind of way. And you're right about them being an extremely small but also very loud percentage of a larger whole. They do come with the terrain, and I've usually been able to shrug them off, but this last lot was scary. Writing this post was cathartic, I'll admit.

And, oh, I'm LOVING the red on black idea - much more striking that the standard black on red I came up with.

What? The Anti-Gay Christians may influence tonights vote against Adam Lambert on American Idol? Can you believe that? And now Bill O'Reilly is jumping into the fray spouting his homophic views? The nerve!!!

Just kidding! Great article on leaving comments without spontaneously combusting!

David,
That's actually really very funny - I'll admit you had me there for a moment!

Yasmin, often I disagree with your views, but I welcome your articles. They challenge the attitudes and opinions which I sometimes adopt out of complacency.

I guess the personal nature of the responses to your UAFA article isn't surprising, since most of the commenters have a personal stake in the passage of UAFA. It is hard to be impersonal about a topic which is so connected to one's personal life.

But I agree with you that UAFA is not going to pass anytime soon. Too many people will see it as a back door endorsement of gay marriage, and on a national level the US isn't ready for that yet.

Thanks, Dale. As I just wrote to someone else, disagreement is something I actually look forward to, since it helps me sharpen my own thoughts.

The issue of UAFA as a back door to marriage is an interesting one - having been in on numerous conversations about that, both real and virtual, it's evident to me that a lot of people who stand to gain from it do, in fact, think of it as a step toward marriage (and will say so in so many words).

I'll expand more on what that means in the short and long term in the forthcoming blog, but for now I'd like to suggest that UAFE-ers would have done well to rethink the whole partner paradigm in the first place and worked to engage a new paradigm that could actually enable others, like single people, to sponsor friends, lovers, etc. That used to be the case up to a certain point in the nineteenth century, by the way. The person you sponsored did not to be a spouse or fiance.

But more on all that later.

Uh, that last sentence should be: "...did not *have* to be a spouse or fiance."

When I read the title, my first thought was "do you have something against flamers?" ;)

Yasmin:

I've had the same creepy experience with UAFA supporters at different LGBT events around the country and they all go like this- white woman or white guy get up and start talking about UAFA and then introduce their partner, who will wave, and never speak a word. There is always this creepy look at my "exotic" boy/girl friend who will not or does not speak for themselves.

Looking at the comments you received in your post from UAFA supporters, they seem to still fall in this world of LGBT activists who see their rights as something that they expect to be given to them and that they don't have to fight for. This expectation privilege that I have gotten everything I've ever wanted in my life and damn it I want this now.

But don't make me mingle with poor people or "illegals" because we are better than them. Not all- but there is still a large segment of our community who has a hard time seeing that the only way for them to "get their's" esp. on immigration is to fight for comprehensive immigration reform for all people.

Solidarity is tough for some folks I guess.

A few thoughts.

1. I think that there are a lot of queer ppl who have issues with discussing LGBT issues without thinking that someone who disagrees with them is going to kill them. I know, I've been there.

The other thing to consider is that these UAFA supporters, as Jeremy pointed out, are usually the American half. And Americans discusses issues related to international policy and immigration... sometimes even I don't want to be in the room!

Both those together is a mixture asking to be combusted. Not too long ago, and you were there, we saw how Wayne Besen, et al, reacted to very legitimate and very obvious criticism of his boycott of Jamaica. How dare someone suggest that LGBT Jamaicans are Jamaican! How dare someone suggest that "do something" isn't a well thought-out plan! No debate, because gay issues are self-evident and Americans always know what's right.

2. I'm bothered by a lot of the discourse that surrounds UAFA, as I've been paying more attention to it now both because of your posts and because I've found myself in a binational, same-sex relationship.

"I have to choose between the person I love and my country...." Does that make any sense? In any binational couple, gay or straight, marriage or no marriage, UAFA or no UAFA, one person will have to make that choice. My parents are a binational heterosexual couple, and I suppose one could say that my mother had to choose between the person she loved and her country, that she's living in "love exile" right now because she's not in Argentina.

Oh, wait, I forgot that only the American lives in love exile, and the non-American is always happy to get out of whatever unfree hellhole they came from.

I should post about this.....

3. Ditto on Jeremy's comment.

4. Some of this is just to be expected on the internet, but that doesn't make it OK. Some contributors on this site have become burnt-out, either on specific topics or blogging altogether, because of the commenters. Personally, I don't have a problem with it after 1800+ posts on bilerico (probably 2000 all blogs put together, and I totally wear that as a badge of honor). People can be shitty when they know their name isn't attached to a comment, although most are great.

I also think the particular crowd we have here at Bilerico, while tough, is usually pretty good at keeping a little distance. I mean, they read a blog where they're guaranteed to disagree with someone every day, so they probably a bit more mature about that.

Or maybe I'm just biased.

5. Red on black is standard for theater advertisements. I just had my first paying graphic design gig which was a poster and flyers for a play and I went to a theater to pick up a bunch of flyers for ideas, and half were red on black. Alberto said it's because the theater itself is mostly dark and the curtain is red, so people associate that color scheme with the theater.

6. I'm in a binational, same-sex couple, so I have more of a right than anyone here except Momotaro to speak on this topic. :P

Thanks, Alex. =)

I would like to state that although I am white, I do try to avoid being my partner's mouthpiece. His English is better after more than ten years in North America. Thank you.

But yes, we acknowledge that he chose a new life away from Japan. He and I met there, and social pressure there prevented us from living together. After he decided to move away from Japan, we started hearing from (gay) friends of ours who were being pressured into marrying people of the opposite sex by not just their families, but by bosses at work.

Hiro (my man) may not want to give up his Japanese citizenship, but he has made it abundantly clear to all who've asked him that he does not miss Japan, does not miss his family (his dad was abusive) and is happy he chose a life away from all of that.

Yes, there are creepy couples among the UAFA supporters. And thank you, Alex, from refraining from painting us all with the same brush.

Jeremy,

I'm glad you raised the issue of race/ethnicity in relation to UAFA. A friend of mine once looked at me and asked, "So, where are all the foreign partners in this? How come we never hear from them?" And she was right - it's always the scenario that you describe perfectly. That's not necessarily true of every binational relationship, obviously, but yes, I'm with you on the "creepy experience." I feel that way a lot of times, listening to folks talk about their situation but never letting their partners anywhere in the picture. Luibheid has some good points about the racial politics of UAFA, especially in relation to Australia.

Alex,

Great point about the love in exile issue. I need to remember to add that to the next resurrection (and will credit you, natch). As for the responses, yeah, I know Nina and Serena were taken by surprise and I've not seen such viciousness before. I do know that, over at the IE blog, people were talking about needing to go over to qc and post comments on my blog, so there was definitely an element of swarming.

Again, it's not a problem if people disagree and, as you point out, reading a lot of blogs inevitably leads you to that, but I think the UAFA crowd has some people who are more, ah, fervent than others (even more so thatn the gay marriage crowd, and I've been tangling with people on that for ever).

I think a lot of this has to do with the kind of nationalist, insular discourse politics of UAFA which both Jeremy and you point out.

And I'm seriously excited about the red and black, and the t-shirts. My friends and I are plotting to make them happen...

Yasmin - You get a kick out of tossing molotov cocktails, but are suprised when the result is heat as well as light?

Speaking of Serenas, why has our lovely Serena not posted here as of late?

Don't tell me it was naughty Charles's barbs that drove her away ;(.

What a crybaby! Yes come to Bilerico where you can be cuddled. I have commented on many blogs and this is the only one where during the heat of the Prop 8 aftermath Alex called my comments stupid in response to another diva Pam Spaudling. So get over yourselves boys and girls...when you put your politics out there like Ms. California then expect some criticism.

I actually do remember you complaining about that, so I went and looked up the offending comment on that highly-read post by Bil right after the election. You said this:

Let me get this straight blaming Blacks=wrong, blaming ourselves (victims)=is correct. That is some messed up reasoning there folks. If you guys want, go ahead and blame yourselves...that is why we lose and will continue to lose because we have weak, wussy mentalities such as many displayed here. To damn weak to stand up for yourself.

No, no insult for Bil and Pam there. And I responded with this:

So what's your angle? It seems like you're advocating complacency, telling us to blame black people, whine and bitch and moan because that's not the wussy thing to do.

Well, there are those of us who are going to work against this. "Blame black people" isn't a strategy for success, so you can leave that mentality at the door if you want to help.

I'm surprised you're still able to read the internet after such a terribly mean comment!

There's a difference, FCS. I doubt any of us write to be "cuddled." I still remember the pre-SPAM era of USENET and the trolling that happened there -- it was less frequent, but it sure could be ignorant or even brutal.

But current networking and access realities allow the trolls to swarm like never before. After getting punk'dpunk'dpunk'dpunk'dpunk'dpunk'd and drowned out every time one opens their mouth and often with no relevance to the original post, a person loses the love of blogging very quickly.

Yeah, sure, I'm here for the cuddling. That's me all over - soft, whiny, and in need of constant cuddling.

funny, Yasmin, you don't LOOK like a gay man... ;-)

Ah, but it's what's on the inside that counts, no?

Anthony in Nashville | May 20, 2009 12:19 PM

I was suspicious of how Tan got that hookup that allowed her to stay. But it seems few people reported on just how she was able to get a "private bill" on her behalf. She must be very A-list.

With regard to message boards and blogs, I have mixed feelings. I feel most of the "political" or "activist" ones have replaced direct action to the point where people feel leaving a comment qualifies as making a serious statement. Something about boards and blogs plays into the ego and there is usually very little discussion about the issues, only self-promoting in the guise of links, signatures, attempts at humor, or blatantly going off topic.

I admit to letting my ego color my view of blogs or leaving comments because by contributing I feel like I'm helping someone else "blow up" instead of focusing on my own ideas.

Blogs can do a great job of spreading information, if not general awareness (because they are so niche-oriented) or discussion.
I don't have great expectations of bloggers but I think many of them take themselves too seriously.

Alberto saw me writing a long comment on here and asked what this post was about. I explained the concept of a "love exile," and he was like, "oh, like you."

so this morning when he wanted me to go out for eggs and cheese (I'm not kidding), I said that as a love exile he could be a little easier on me.

That didn't work. I'll try again a few more times, though.

Anthony,
I agree about "leaving a comment qualifies as making a serious statement" - my friend J. calls this "narcissism masquerading as politics." Of course, I'd be the first to say that lots of bloggers are the same way :-)

Alex,
Nice try - but I'll keep my fingers crossed that being a "love exile" eventually gets you off having to do boring tasks in the morning!

colored queer | May 20, 2009 2:21 PM

Yasmin,

You do have guts to argue these issues which would benefit LGBT immigrants of color in the face of a very hostile white community as well as white gay organizations. UAFA is not going to solve the immigration issues faced by LGBT immigrants of color who are single, poor, illegal and HIV+. The gay orgs pushing for this bill are white groups with their own agenda and yes it is backdoor to marriage so do not expect this federal bill to be passed anytime soon. We all know that a lot of times organizations use issues to generate funding and name recognition etc. But, here, it is more troubling since it is playing with real lives of LGBT immigrants.

And there is a lot of concern about the abuse and exploitation of foreign partners by US citizens. Please read the report by GMHC regarding HIV+ immigrants and how they became positive in the US and the high infection rate among immigrants in the US. Can you imagine when you are dependent on a US citizen for your life and the implications and opportunities for abuse of the foreign spouse?

The reason white gay orgs like Immigration Equality and others only advocate for UAFA and not broader immigration reform is that majority of binational couples are white US citizens with white European partners and broader immigration reform means nothing to them. Also, LGBT immigrants of color have no role in defining the agenda of immigration rights. That is why you never hear a peep from groups like IE, HRC or others regarding exploitation of immigrants (mostly of color) by employers etc. Gay orgs like IE have even tried to change the face of "immigrants" from those of colored to whites in the hope that they would be able to receive support from conservative factions. But, all those efforts failed with growing population of people of color in the US and their increasing clout. That is why now you see some LGBT people of color that gay orgs like IE are using to argue for UAFA which is not a fix for all the immigration issues faced by lgbt immigrants of color especially who are single, poor, illegal and HIV positive.

The intention of these white gay orgs to tie the immigration issue to the relationship with a US citizen is suspect, questionable, racist and very, very troubling.

The full liberty for immigrants means full legalization with no strings attached to an employer or a US citizen to prevent abuse. To advocate for anything less is inhumane, shameful, and RACIST.

Yasmin, Bravo to you for your excellent analysis of immigration issues and your fearless advocacy in the face of a racist and hostile community!!


whoa. I find it amazing how the brush painting those in favor of UAFA has broadened to make us all racist and abusive...

thanks, CQ.

Just to clarify, no one here seems to be talking about all UAFA supporters. Yasmin said:

I also know from my experience that some UAFA supporters are...

Jeremy said:

Not all- but there is still a large segment of our community who...

I said:

I'm bothered by a lot of the discourse that surrounds UAFA...

colored queer said:

The intention of these white gay orgs to...

Let's try not to derail the conversation by taking what people are saying as personal insults. As someone a lot cooler than I once said on Monica Roberts's blog (I don't remember which post, sorry): "If it's not about you, then don't make it about you."

as ever, you are right, Alex.

I hadn't gotten truly upset with CQ.

as I used to say (about other people, but I think it also applies just as well to me):

if [I] were any more sensitive, [I]'d be a nipple!

I want a t-shirt that says "I'm a queer c**ksucking lesbian" personally. I'd wear that damn thing everywhere.

And I feel obligated to point out that your fan club has noticed your post here: "Who is Yasmin Nair, and Why Does This Alleged “Queer Lesbian” Parrot Right-Wing Anti-Gay Talking Points?" The author does pose an interesting question tho:

I’d rather deal head-on with the likes of Maggie Gallagher and Peter LaBarbera and all the rest. They lie about us, shamelessly and without repent or remorse, but at least they’re honest about their contempt for us. I never have to wonder where they’re coming from, or what motivates them. Yasmin Nair, on the other hand… Is she a right-wing plant? Just a pot-stirring attention whore? Or does she actually believe the half-baked garbage she comes up with?

So what is it, Yasmin? Are you a super secret right wing agent sent amongst the good decent Projectors to spur discord and herpes? Do you just get off on being called names and denigrated for your academic and political thoughts? Or do you actually believe the values you've based your life around like some sort of starry eyed activist? :)

Thanks, Alex and CQ,

Glad you clarified matters before the whole comments devolved once again into the whole "everyone's calling us racists" flare-up, which conveniently gets away from the main arguments.

And, Alex,
Whoever said that on Monica Roberts's blog is right on (and I think I dimly remember when that comment came up).

Bil, oh, Bil,

I fear that, alas, I have finally been found out by the diligent Lavender Police. I am, in fact, neither lesbian, nor queer, nor on the Left. I am...part of a giant Right-wing Conspiracy that's based on Pluto. I was sent here millions of years ago by the intergalactic ancestral regime of Rush Limbaugh (yup, you've been right about him all along - the man truly is not of our planet). I'm here to sow discord among the pure and loving gays and lesbians who want nothing more than to assert their love for each other (because, after all, love operates in exclusion of all other conditions).

That whole cock-sucking thing? Secret weapon. With my heightened technique (ah-hem, wouldn't you like to know more?), I'm secretly siphoning off brains for shipment back to HQ, where they will be sifted through for evidence. Of what, I don't really know - I don't ask too many questions.

And all that attention-gathering and whoring -- it's all a distraction, and I'll admit it gets SO very, very hard to keep my politics straight (as it were). I'll be glad when the end of the world comes around and I can finally revert to my real shape, which is a cross between Ann Coulter and the Blob. Or, no wait... the Blob became Ann Coulter. Or did Ann Coulter eat the blob? Oh, no, I forgot ... who am I? What movie am I in again?

Sigh. Sometimes my complete lack of ideology and values leaves me so confused...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear the villagers screaming outside the door.

I don't get why people are so worked up over negative comments, or even intensely negative comments: They're a common part of the Internet. Whenever someone states an unpopular opinion in a blog post, or perhaps if a blog from the opposing view links to it, that post will get negative comments. If someone writes, "Your hair is green" when it isn't, we can all shrug it off. But if someone says something equally stupid about our opinions we can't. I'm well aware of how hard it is to do, but seriously, we ALL need to grow thicker skin.

On this thread, the vast majority of comments have been supportive of Yasmin. I strongly disagree with her about both UAFA and marriage equality, but we all ought to be capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable. I'm pleased to see that, for the most part, that's been the case.

However, I'm troubled by the comments that have implied that UAFA supporters are racist. I disagree with Alex: Despite weak qualifying words, the clear implication of some comments is that it's only white folk who'd be supporters of UAFA, and that we'd do so because we don't want to be around or support people who are poor or aren't white. Where's the evidence of that, apart from clearly deeply held belief based on, I'm guessing, ideology? Just because you see UAFA as something that benefits only wealthy white people doesn't make it true.

Similarly, the declaration that UAFA is a "backdoor" to same-sex marriage is the same argument made by the far right, which is why, Bil, some have questioned Yasmin's authenticity. Unless DOMA is repealed, UAFA would offer no benefits to same-sex married couples, and passage of UAFA would not, by itself, get any more states to enact marriage equality. Let's argue about marriage equality if you want, but let's not muddy debates about immigration reform by parroting right wing talking points.

Comments have been made about "creepy" bi-national couples (and that's not a personal attack?) and about the American focus of UAFA supporters. UAFA is a bill before the United States Congress, so of course there's an American focus. We're trying to get US immigration law to treat sames-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples, as many other countries do.

This boils down to a fight over tactics. UAFA is a limited, targeted approach. It does not preclude support for broader comprehensive immigration reform, nor does support for "CIR" preclude support for UAFA: This isn't an either/or proposition.

To me, it looks like many of you who oppose UAFA do so because of ideology—that it's not broad enough. I understand the left's desire to bring liberation and happiness to all people. I applaud you and I often support you. But don't tell any of us that we have to wait for our rights because you don't think UAFA's enough or because you don't like the emphasis on relationships. Don't try and impose your moral views about relationships—because that's what it amounts to—on the rest of us. I expect this from the far right, not from the left with whom we allegedly have more in common.

This issue practically demands impassioned (and often intemperate) comments because it deals with love, perhaps the most deeply personal "issue" there is. But to the extent we're able, we need to try and stick to facts rather than ideology. I back the "many paths to equality" approach, which is why even though I strongly disagree with Yasmin, I will ardently defend her and her right to express her opinions free from personal attacks. Her opinions on UAFA and marriage equality—and those of some commenters here—may annoy me, but considering them makes me better informed and sharper in my own thinking. And isn't that the whole point of these Internet discussions and debates?

I back the "many paths to equality" approach, which is why even though I strongly disagree with Yasmin, I will ardently defend her and her right to express her opinions free from personal attacks. Her opinions on UAFA and marriage equality—and those of some commenters here—may annoy me, but considering them makes me better informed and sharper in my own thinking. And isn't that the whole point of these Internet discussions and debates?

*Stands up and applauds Arthur*

colored queer | May 20, 2009 6:27 PM

Yasmin, that is a hilarious response. Yes, we do wonder about your origins and species that you belong to. Certainly not from lavender land of loving LGBT families.

However, back to immigration issues and some more thoughts.

Based on a number of positions that we have seen here's the vision of "LGBT immigrants" of white gay orgs like IE and others which solely advocate for binational couple issues:

Bad immigrants = single, poor, illegal, COLORED or HIV+ ones without a US citizen partner.

Acceptable immigrants = colored immigrants who fuck white US citizens

Good immigrants = Lesbians from Europe with white US citizen partners

Excellent and most sought after immigrants and couples = white Euro professional males with white US citizen professional, wealthy males for fundraising etc

Because of the above classifications of immigrants by a white org you see and hear the advocacy accordingly -- UAFA is the cure of all immigration and other issues faced by LGBT immigrants. So be it even if this involves hurting the cause of broader immigration rights movement which would affect millions of immigrants in this country including LGBT and HIV+ immigrants. But, ofcourse, who gives a fuck about those illegals who can't give us money or sex except cheap labor. Wait, we may need some legals ones from their communities for our blame game when we can't have prop 8 passed again. While we are at it lets blame and kick some black asses too.

All this just shows what happens to a movement when it is stolen by people who don't have any substantial connection to immigration issues or are not stakeholders. Imagine an org populated by whites and positioning themselves to exclusively define issues for blacks, latinos or asians and then exploiting those issues for their own agendas. Given the history of racism in gay orgs nothing is beyond them though.

colored queer,

Why aren't you around at some of my meetings? :-)

Putting aside your broad-brush attacks on all "white" gay organisations, how on earth can adopting UAFA in any way prevent comprehensive immigration reform? Given the lack of support for GLBT issues in Congress, one could argue that broader immigration reform that includes GLBT concerns might lose specifically because of that. So, pursuing UAFA and comprehensive immigration reform separately could give the latter a better chance of being adopted (and, possibly, GLBT reform less chance).

Not all non-white immigrants are poor and unskilled, nor are all white immigrants skilled and rich. But that's irrelevant: UAFA seeks simply to give GLBT couples the same legal standing for immigration as heterosexual couples—nothing more, nothing less. It was definitely not intended to be comprehensive immigration reform, which means there are no grounds for criticising it for not being something it never pretended to be in the first place.

colored queer | May 21, 2009 12:21 AM

Arthur, you see valid arguments/questions as "attacks" on gay white orgs and that is exactly how white gays kill dissent or any discussion and attacks on Jasmine clearly prove that how they bully every person who dare to question or express a different opinion. so much for civil liberties in gay world..

Why don't you at least acknowledge that gay immigration issues are pushed by whites (US citizens and Europeans) with no presence of ethnic groups or LGBT immigrants of color. That is not hard to do, is it? You do not address the facts whether this whole gay immigration rights movement is through the lens of "whites" or not. Other day Jasmine pointed to the politics behind that people magazine article in which the leader of IE pointed how "good" immigrants in relationships with US citizens should be allowed to stay. It is white gay orgs like IE who are discussing this analysis of good immigrants (those who fuck US citizens) vs bad immigrants (single, poor, colored and with HIV).

Why there is no discussion about the potential exploitation of LGBT immigrants especially of color by US citizens as they would depend on those citizens for their green cards. In immigration rights movement there is huge concern to tie immigration status to employers who exploit immigrants. Same analysis applies to LGBT immigrants of color as Europeans have choices to take their partners back home and are least likely to endure abuse by US citizens. Recently, GMHC issued a report about high infection rate of HIV among immigrants where they got infected in the US. Can you imagine power dynamics in a relationship with immigration consequences?

But, ofcourse, you chose to ignore the facts. And yes it is a fact the majority of beneficiaries of UAFA will be white US citizens and white Europeans.

And why don't white gay organizations running the immigration show openly address the question that they don't support larger immigrant communities or single/poor/HIV+ LGBT immigrants of color?

And, finally, how can gay community ask for support from other ethnic groups when we are not willing to support their causes such as immigration reform. This would have huge consequences for the community in the long run but ofcourse the vision of our self-appointed leaders is limited to their own narrow imagination of what immigrants should look like.

Arthur,

I don't think we're "getting worked" about negative comments to the point of simply being peeved about them. As you can see, if you'd read carefully, we're asking some broader questions about the nature of interactions on the web.

As for politics and what you call my "authenticity": Many people, not just conservatives, disagree with gay marriage supporters. That doesn't make them right-wingers overnight. It simply means that, on certain issues, the positions of opposing sides may be the same but the reasons why can be very, very different. The same is true of hate crimes legislation - I don't believe in it but I also know that several people (even those who might agree with me on gay marriage) do believe in it. And the same is true of UAFA.

So, in brief, I think it's important to get out of this left-right dyad as an easy way to argue *for* gay issues, and start acknowledging that several aspects of current gay politics are not necessarily automatically progressive just *because* they're defined as gay issues.

As for the comments about binational couples - they're not about individual couples. Let's face it - so far there has been little to no real public discussion about UAFA, and the racial/ethnic/nationalised aspects of binational relationships have gone unchallenged (Luibheid discusses these in her article, but it's not available to a general audience). Let's face it - yes, there are some incredibly creepy situations and people out there. The issue of mail order brides should remind us, of course, that there are some really creepy hetero situations as well, no?

I'm an activist who actually has to spend time in public forging ideas and coalitions, and I can affirmatively state that the racialised and nationalist component of UAFA is something that few will discuss in public but everyone sees. As with the discussion about UAFA in general, I don't think this is about deriding individuals, but it is about asking questions about issues that don't get discussed at all.

As for your suggestion that the "this issue practically demands impassioned (and often intemperate) comments because it deals with love" -- I think you're only partially right. I can see people getting irate with the criticism of UAFA because they really are only concerned with their immediate situation. What you're missing is that several of us, including people in binational relationships, come at the issue in very different ways. We're not obliged to suspend ideological critique just because we're in such relationships, and we can fully be aware of the need for this legislation (and really want it) even as we question its foundation. You might respond that this is true of immigration reform, period. You'd be right - but there are a lot of us carrying on those debates in that arena as well.

In sum, arguing that something is about "love" doesn't mean that it isn't a political issue. Someone once asked me what to do about queers in San Francisco who didn't want to engage their own position in gentrification because they saw themselves as just wanting a nice house, a partner etc. My answer was: Not wanting to be political is a politics in itself. UAFA is hardly free from ideology - it's completely permeated with a certain ideology and a politics about what counts as family, love, commitment, stability - and about what kinds of relationships (and countries) count, period. Love, as constructed by the state, is an ideology - that's an uncomfortable reality we need to face.

Thank you for the thoughtful response. I do want to say what I should have before, namely, that *I* don't question your authenticity; I was trying, ineptly, to explain the background to what Bil was pointing out.

You made a really good point, that "several aspects of current gay politics are not necessarily automatically progressive just *because* they're defined as gay issues." I think too many gay activists make that assumption. Obviously when the left/progressives oppose something sought by centrists, they're not suddenly morphing into the right wing.

What I'm struggling to understand, though, is the limits of left/progressive support. Even though gay politics are not necessarily progressive, doesn't being progressive imply support for oppressed people, including gay people? And wouldn't that then also imply support for the aspirations of those oppressed people, even if what's on offer (like UAFA) doesn't tick all the boxes on the left/progressive agenda? Or, does ideology mater most?

I actually agree with you that people shouldn't have to suspend their ideological critique. That’s led me to take positions on issues that are against my own "best interests" because I believed it was the right thing to do.

When I was a gay activist in the Midwest, we used to repeat the old saying, "the personal is political" to drive home the point that even things like love have political implications. However, I disagree that love is an ideology. The state tries to define "real" love for its purposes (like immigration and other things), but the love itself isn't the ideology, while accepting the definition may be. I accept that the UAFA's adoption of the existing definition of "family" as legally correct is potentially an ideological position, but it's also one of expediency: Change the law now to bring bi-national couples legal equality with similar heterosexual couples, then change definitions later.

Tasmin, you and I may not agree on these issues, but I sincerely appreciate your efforts to initiate discussion about them. There's a lot about immigration, UAFA and marriage equality that people never discuss and, like you, I think we should.

Arthur,

I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the first words of your recent post - so thank you, in return, for continuing to engage.

As for this part: "Even though gay politics are not necessarily progressive, doesn't being progressive imply support for oppressed people, including gay people? And wouldn't that then also imply support for the aspirations of those oppressed people, even if what's on offer (like UAFA) doesn't tick all the boxes on the left/progressive agenda? Or, does ideology mater most?" Well, but being lefty/prog (however we define that these days) should surely mean that we support lefty/prog ideology, no? Otherwise, we'd all just be a bunch of liberals, I think.

The second point here is that gays are not being oppressed because they can't marry. On this point, I suspect we will have irreconcilable differences - but I don't see marriage as a human right. I see my work as the advancement of a society where people don't have to marry for something as basic as health care.

Should we allow gays to marry when, after all, straights can do so? I actually think that's a separate question - and here's one of my many issues with the gay marriage movement: It has conflated two thing a)the fact that marriage grants, unfairly, certain rights and benefits and b)that gays and lesbians don't have the same right to freely marry. And it has, in doing so, simply asserted that married SHOULD unfairly grant basic rights to some.

Here's the rub: the two don't have to be linked. Queers were, in fact, beginning to convince straights that not having their relationships defined by something like marriage could be a good thing (hence the rise in domestic partnerships among straights). But we've now gone completely awry and decided that only *marriage* can count as equality. Ask the major orgs - what if we got civil unions/dps with EXACTLY the same benefits as marriage, and their answer will be to refuse those other kinds of relationships. Why is that?

I'll be writing a separate post about my issues with gay marriage, so I don't want to dwell on it too much here. But that's just an example of a gay cause that is not lefty/prog and that can, in fact make significant dents in the ability of people to define their lives and relationships in more flexible ways. The same is true, for me, of hate crime laws - look good on the outside but the reality is that they won't prevent violence, and they increase the scope of the prison industrial complex, among other issues.

The point in all of that is: supporting non-progressive/lefty agenda items has nothing to do with supporting an oppressed minority. Not to mention that there's also some element of condescension here, and also that the "oppressed" might themselves be on the left.

As for whether or not ideology matters most -- well, that depends on what part of the organizing/activism you're involved in, doesn't it? If yours is a legislative agenda, you work with what you have and what can translate to maximum support. If you're working on transforming the vision of what the world should look like, you persist in insisting that we stick as hard as possible to a lefty/prog agenda.

Furthermore, supporting agenda items like marriage and hate crimes legislation has long-term corrosive effects. In the case of marriage, there's now no questioning of the idea that marriage should be tied to health care, and that has to affect the fight for universal health care. That's just one example. In Mass., right after gm became legal, several companies cancelled domestic partnerships for straights and gays saying, hey, you can *all* get married now - so you should, if you want any partner benefits.
That's another example.

As for love and ideology: I was clear in writing "Love, as constructed by the state, is an ideology..." Which is to say, the state defines "love" and "family" in ways to suit its purpose. That's not to say that I either believe or don't believe in "Love" as a concept - I think that's an issue for philosophers and some lovers. My point is that the state has no business passing out benefits according to its version of "Love" or good" love and good families - married, monogamous, with one breadwinner, etc. And when we buy into those ideas of what counts as the good relationship, as worthy love, we're contributing to the exclusion of millions of people (single people, single parents, poor people etc.)

Here's what I also want to emphasise: I recognise that the needs of those in binational couples are seen differently by many of those in such relationships and differently by people like myself. I think that's a necessary tension, a vital part of any attempt to rebuild this mess that we've got ourselves into. UAFA supporters have a right to be ideological and act in the interest of expediency -- those engaged in any reform, including immigration reform in general - act in such ways all the time. But that doesn't mean that we ought not put the brakes on and have a fuller discussion.

The immigration rights movement has been through some bruising internal battles of its own - family reunification vs. labour rights, the initial hostility of many in mainstream labour organising to immigration rights - to name a couple. But the result is a stronger and more dynamic movement. It can also be, on occasion, problematic in its disavowal of gender and sexuality but at least there's some potential for discussion. I don't see anything in the GM/UAFA movements that indicates that dissent is even tolerated.

This has been very helpful. I think I better understand where you're coming from—so much so that while I initially thought we were complete polar opposites, I now see we're more like variations of the same flavour.

For example, I actually share many of your reservations about marriage, but—and I think this is where the organisations are coming from—marriage is universally understood in terms of legal rights and privileges in the US, which is why so many states tripped all over themselves in a rush to ban same-sex marriage.

In many ways I'm a bystander to these debates: While I support UAFA, I'm not an activist on it. Even if it passes, it probably won't affect me because my partner and I have built a life outside the US.

And here in New Zealand, our immigration laws treat gay and heterosexual couples—and people—equally. We also have civil unions which provide the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage, and are open to same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike (we became partners in civil union just this past January). But New Zealand actually provides few benefits for either marriage or civil unions, though we can now be buried in the same grave; as you can imagine, that was always the first on my list of rights I was fighting for…

But seriously, thank you for the discussion. I still may not agree with you on every point, but I at least understand your points, which I didn't this morning. It's been very valuable for me.

CQ, I can't speak to any of those issues: I'm not a member of any US organisation, I haven't known anyone involved in any of them for more than a decade and I have no idea who's running them or workong for them, so I can't possibly discuss whether they are, in fact, white and racist. I simply don't know.

Similarly, I'll neither defend nor attack either IE or the magazine article you mentioned. Again, I know none of the activists involved and haven't read the article.

You make a lot of assertions that can't be proved either way, such as "the majority of beneficiaries of UAFA will be white US citizens and white Europeans." There's no way to know that, and you're assuming an awful lot; as I implied in my response to you before, you're assuming that all non-white people are poor, unskilled and easily exploited which is incredibly condescending.

Where you are completely right is that UAFA will not do anything for poor people with no skills or education. In fact, no country allows such people in except through UN refugee programmes. Single people may be allowed into countries, depending on the skills needed by those countries—no country, including the US, automatically excludes single people just because they're single. Many countries also exclude people with HIV, but not all.

Basically, I'm saying that labelling all gay organisations as white and racist seems overbroad to me and I'd need some evidence. But mainly, I think you're asking too much of UAFA which is by definition a very limited bill. I also think that an immigration policy that welcomes poor, unskilled people is a long shot, and probably one that would lead to infamous "guest worker" programmes. It's already possible for single people to immigrate, depending on their circumstances, and I doubt that the US will allow immigration by HIV+ people any time soon.

If you want allies in the fight for the things you care about, you're unlikely to get them if you dismiss them and what they want as racist. I'm not saying you have to give support to get it, but if you put out endless negative energy, don't be surprised if you don't attract allies to your side.

a couple of issues bubbled up in my mind (and thanks to Arthur for his input)...

yes, I live in Canada now, but I never realized who the apparent majority of UAFA supporters were.

I had thought that most were people like my partner and I, who had tried to make a go of things in the US but failed because we do not have the money, connections, what have you.

I had thought that most were in long-term committed relationships.

when people rail against the racists and the creeps (and I agree, we should all be railing against them), are we railing against the true majority of UAFA supporters? or just an obnoxious minority?

I kinda thought that most UAFA supporters were like me and Hiro.

colored queer | May 21, 2009 2:01 PM

I will give Arthur benefit of the doubt because you are not living in the US and we can believe that as you say that you have no idea of dirty and ugly racial politics in gay organizations. However, if you ask any LGBT person of color including immigrants all that ugliness and racism in gay community got exposed after the passage of prop 8 in CA. Do you know that there is not a single person of color leader in any of national gay orgs? They either can't find "qualified" people of color or the tokens of color that these orgs keep are not good enough to be visibly appointed as the leaders. The racism has become so deep seated in gay orgs that it would take drastic measures like a shame on you list to bring about changes. There have been surveys/reports of LGBT persons of color who have reported widespread racism within the gay community and orgs. And ofcourse a group claiming to work on immigrant rights deserve special scrutiny especially when there are no visible immigrants defining the issues.

White gay orgs have created good old boy/girl networks where they hoard power and systematically exclude LGBT people of color and as a result you see advocacy on a single issue like this one for white US citizens and immigrants (white Europeans) and nothing for LGBT immigrants of color who would benefit from broader immigration reform.

Good vs bad immigrant analysis by leaders of groups like Immigration Equality is a slap in the face of LGBT immigrants who are single, poor and HIV+ without US citizen partners and millions of other immigrants who are just trying to survive on a daily basis and in the hopes to become legal one day. It is also a slap in the face of hundreds of immigrant activists who are working hard for legalization of all immigrants including LGBT ones.

Opposing (by implicitly remaining silent) broader immigration reform is RACIST as that would benefit millions of illegals who are primarily of color and many are LGBT as well. It is widely known that gay orgs have historically oppressed their own, for example, transgender community bore the brunt of violence without any meaningful advocacy on their behalf. Likewise, LGBT immigrants of color who are single, poor and hiv+ are bearing the brunt of immigration raids and ofcourse gay orgs which are dominated by whites only advocate for people who look like them.

This is a different perspective other then what is being pushed by loud and vicious folks who indulged in those mean spirited attacks against Jasmine for just expressing her opinions and ofcourse those attacks were orchestrated by that very crowd of angry people from certain blogs. just another example of extent these white folks would go to defend their racist positions and label dissenters who happen to be people of color as angry, crazy or whatever names they got in their arsnel. But, the truth stings and you are just witnessing classic defense mechanisms of certain white gays to discredit people of color who differ from them.

This may surprise you, but we actually agree on quite a lot—not everything, obviously, but hey: we have to start where we start, no?

I guess my issue is that words matter, and if you want allies you may want to keep that in mind. Try and find commonality rather than focusing on our differences. If you don't want allies, don't worry about it, but I promise you people respond better to attraction than hands in the face.

I was one of the first commenters on your post on Queercents and I just checked back today for the first time and saw the long list of comments and the closed post. So I decided to reply here instead.

I have read over the post again and many (not all yet) of the comments and your replies and I still feel like my comments were appropriate. If you saw it as a personal attack, then I'm sorry for that, but I feel very strongly about this issue, being in a bi-national relationship myself, and I don't like seeing my situation minimized to a class issue, which is what I felt was happening in your post.

I'm going to tell a personal story. You know, there was an Indian guy who worked for me, who I sponsored for his work visa, who got his green card after just about 3 years. Immediately he petitioned for a visa for a woman he never met who his family had chosen for him as his wife and within months if not weeks she became a permanent resident as well. This is the way family unification should work and it did work brilliantly.

Yet, for me, despite being with my partner for so long (not to mention being with someone I actually chose for myself, but that is a separate issue), the fact that my partner is a man means I am ineligible to benefit from the same privilege as my employee, who was not even a citizen, was entitled to. I don't begrudge him the right to bring his wife here, but I do think that as an American citizen my government should allow me the same right to be with my partner in this country. Don't you think so?

I know you don't want to hear personal stories, but I think that personal stories are the way people can understand and relate to an issue. It's all about people after all, so there is no other way to make a point more clearly.

Anyway, I'll read over all the posts and maybe I'll have a different opinion after doing so. But that is where I am now.