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Homophobia, Islamophobia, and Nuance-ophobia: Some Reflections on the Orlando Massacre
The horrible massacre of 49 innocent people at a gay nightclub in Orlando prompted national mourning, anxiety, and fear. But it also prompted a rush to blame: It’s about radical Islam, many argued. No, it’s really about extremist ideology. No, it’s really about gun control. No, it’s really about homophobia. No, it’s really about racism. No, it’s really about mental health.
The problem with these explanations is that they ignore the complex ways in which causal factors interact. In the process, they fan the flames of misunderstanding, while making it harder for us to solve the complex problem at hand. We need nuanced reflection, not soundbites and fearmongering.
That’s where John Corvino can help. A philosophy professor known for his insightful, measured, and sensitive approach to hot-button issues, Dr. Corvino is developing a new program that reflects on the aftermath of the massacre and invites audiences to a better conversation.
In this program, Dr. Corvino...
explores the delicate question of how to confront religion-based bigotry without “punching down” at marginalized religious groups
discusses intersectionality — the idea that multiple social identities function in interconnected ways
explains how some of the rhetoric following the tragedy not only fuels Islamophobia but also weakens our capacity to respond to violence
includes a substantial Q&A period to allow audience members to participate in a constructive dialogue
What Marriage (Equality) Means: Old Questions, New Challenges
Drawing on 25 years of experience in the “culture wars,” John Corvino, aka The Gay Moralist, reflects on the dramatic changes in the political and social landscape for LGBT people and addresses the new challenges arising. What does the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision say, and what are its implications? How should we treat people who continue to oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons, given our commitment to equality and diversity? What does trans* equality have to do with gay, lesbian, and bisexual equality? How is LGBT justice similar to racial justice, and how is it different? Most important, how can we have a better conversation about these issues, on our campuses and elsewhere?
“A Gay Man and an Evangelical Walk into a Bar: Frank Conversation in the Culture Wars”: A Dialogue with John Corvino and Matthew Lee Anderson
Longtime gay-rights advocate John Corvino and young evangelical author/blogger Matthew Lee Anderson disagree sharply about important questions concerning God, marriage, sex, and so on. Yet they agree that these issues deserve thoughtful, vigorous discussion, and that’s exactly what they provide in this program. Less of a debate than a lively conversation between friends, this program explores deep questions by way of hot-button issues of the day—which vary with time and with venue—and includes a substantial Q&A. Together, Corvino and Anderson model how it’s possible to build friendships and actually learn from one another despite deep disagreements.
"“Haters,” “Sinners,” and the Rest of Us: The Gay Debate Today"
Is it possible to have a productive conversation about LGBT issues? One side labels the other sinners, perverts, or deviants and dismisses them as beyond redemption. The other side labels the first as haters or bigots and—in much the same way—treats them as lost causes. There’s a lot of name-calling, but very little effort at understanding. That’s where John Corvino comes in. In this keynote program, he draws on two decades of speaking experience as The Gay Moralist to promote a better conversation on these issues. Using his trademark combination of logical rigor, sensitivity, and humor, he challenges people from all sides to rethink easy assumptions in the increasingly divisive culture wars.
"The Meaning of (Gay) Marriage"
The debate over same-sex marriage rages on in the U.S., with a handful of states permitting it, many more banning it, and still others contemplating it. But the debate doesn't merely concern the rights of gays and lesbians: it touches upon the meaning of marriage itself, as well as the role of government, the significance of sex, the function of family, and the deep human longings for intimacy, love, and security. In this new program, John Corvino—a national leader in the marriage debate—assesses the controversy and makes a compelling case for extending marriage to same-sex couples.
"What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?"
This is Corvino’s classic speech, which he’s been presenting in various incarnations since 1992. Is homosexuality unnatural? Does it threaten society? Are gay people “born that way”—and does it matter? Corvino responds by examining and dismantling some of the most common arguments against homosexual conduct—including those based on nature, harm, and religion—with humor and precision. This program is well suited for more conservative audiences, including religious audiences.
"Values, Diversity, and the Workplace"
Most of us spend the majority of our adult waking hours in the workplace, where we interact with a diverse group of colleagues and clients not always of our choosing. Yet we often find it challenging to move beyond diversity buzzwords to a real appreciation of others’ identities and values. In this program, Corvino explores various assumptions that we bring to the table, and he explains why it’s important to understand and challenge those assumptions. While placing special emphasis on LGBT issues—which often get marginalized—he draws broader lessons about how to maintain core values in a diverse and ever-changing world.
"Coming Out Skeptical"
John Corvino, who was once a candidate for the Roman Catholic priesthood, now considers himself a non-believer, agnostic, or atheist—depending on how one defines the terms. In this talk, which was an audience favorite at Skepticon III, he presents the personal story of his (de)conversion, makes the case for non-belief, and draws analogies between coming out as a gay man and coming out as a religious skeptic.
"Born or Made—and What’s the Difference?"
Some claim that gays are “born that way” and that same-sex relationships are therefore permissible. Others claim that gayness is a “lifestyle choice” and that same-sex relationships are therefore wrong. Both sides assume a connection between homosexuality’s cause and its permissibility. According to Corvino, both sides are mistaken. In this program he explains the difference between three debates that are often confused—the “nature/nurture” debate, the choice/non-choice debate, and the highly theoretical “essentialist/constructionist” debate—and he argues that none is directly relevant to gay rights.
"Maintaining the LGBT Moral High Ground"
In response to right-wing attacks, gays, lesbians, and their allies are often tempted to declare that “morality is a strictly private matter” and that “we ought not to judge one another.” Corvino disagrees, contending that although such declarations are well-intentioned, they are misguided—if not downright incoherent. He argues that progressives not only CAN speak the language of morality, they MUST, or else succumb to what he calls “moral mushiness.”
Debates and Custom Programs
John Corvino is available for custom programs and is constantly writing new material. He has been doing debates on same-sex marriage for years andhas just released an Oxford University Press book debating marriage with Maggie Gallagher, the founder of the National Organization for Marriage (which opposes marriage for gays and lesbians). He is also available for debates on the existence of God, the foundation of morality, and other subjects.
John Corvino, a.k.a “The Gay Moralist,” is an author, speaker, and philosophy professor.
For over 20 years he has traveled the country to speak at over 200 campuses on sexuality, ethics, and marriage. Combining philosophical rigor with sensitivity and humor, he challenges all sides of the debate to rethink easy assumptions. In addition to sexual ethics, LGBT rights and the culture wars, his research interests include business ethics and the existence of God.
John Corvino is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He is the co-author (with Maggie Gallagher) of Debating Same-Sex Marriage (June 2012) and the author of What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? (January 2013), both from Oxford University Press. Until 2011, his column “The Gay Moralist” appeared weekly at 365gay.com; he has also contributed to The Advocate, the LA Times,the Independent Gay Forum, the Huffington Post, The New Republic and the New York Times.
John Corvino is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2012 Distinguished Professor of the Year Award from the Presidents’ Council of the State Universities of Michigan and a 2004 Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit City Council for his work on behalf of LGBT rights. His short videos have received over a million hits on YouTube.