[eDebate] Something forgotten about in this discussion: Tasting the Rainbow

Christopher Thomas chrisscottthomas
Sat Apr 12 21:37:24 CDT 2008

I guess I should start off with a few disclaimers

--I am a terrible writer and horrible at comprising complex thoughts; but I
felt compelled to post something

--I am not an amazing debater?I did not go to the NDT or large national
tournaments; so I do not know how qualified I am to discuss things
concerning the community.

But for the past few days I have been pondering the debates occurring on
Edebate and attempting to figure out how I want to word my opinion. And then
that first disclaimer comes into play and I find out why I have not gone to
the NDT.

To me, this discussion could have gone places and actually changed a lot of
things about this community. But it has become, pardon my French, one big
pissing contest for some people. They pick apart the small arguments, like
debaters do, and fail to look at the bigger picture. But that is simply my

My take on the issue of race and exclusion in debate is this; while the
discussion of race in debate seems ungodly important? I feel like this
discussion always glosses over other forms of identity in debate. It becomes
a black versus white issue, or policy versus performance issue rather than,
what I will classify as, a normal versus abnormal issue. For me the
community creates a center of normal?
White, Wealthy, Masculine, Male and straight. (Probably a few more
descriptors left out, sorry)

And everything outside of that center is abnormal and excluded one way or
another from the community. The issue of sexuality is what impacts my role
in this community the most and I feel no one ever discusses it. Things such
as religion or looks can be changed. And things like race or sex are
impossible to completely alter. But queerness is in a category of its own.
It is something that I can either hide or celebrate.  In the debate
community I feel like I have to choose every round which identity I need to
be in order to win or get speaker points. I have to act "straight" with some
judges in order to gain respect for my arguments. And often, if not always,
these issues get forgotten from this discussion of exclusion.

I don't think that there should be some pyramid of identities, and I agree
with a lot of what Ede, Jackie and some other people are suggestion. I guess
I am attempting to include another identity into this discussion which often
gets pushed to the periphery. There are things we can do for queer
communities in debate.

-understand there are identities out there beyond our knowledge: People who
are in the closet, transgender, bisexual are all that can feel scared and
excluded when we make homophobic comments, make jokes about queer sex at
award ceremonies and give away speaker awards that others in the room find
horribly offensive.

-include these discussions into our topic discussions: I know Skippy Flinn
on the courts topic pushed strongly for a case concerning homosexuality but
was laughed at because it did not provide "good ground to debate". Not every
topic needs to be "gay friendly" but just the consideration and the act of
discussion of it is important.

-As debaters and coaches, pay attention to the interactions on your squad:
this is probably where the majority of hetero normative exclusion happens. I
can speak from personal experience that it is not always coincidence when
the two homosexual men on your squad often share rooms by themselves. And
the other males on your squad have jammed 6 people into a room. And some
queer debaters do not like certain words to be used to describe their
identity or community, and while this may not pertain to me, can often
instill fear of retaliation(whether that is verbal, physical or
psychological) in others.

I don't know if this makes sense or even adds to this whole discussion. But
I felt that this community should understand that these discussions go
outside just race or just types of debate. This discussion of exclusion and
what is considered normal in this activity has multiple layers of
intersecting identities that cannot just be ignored. If this is meant to
really change something then we need to talk about all of it and not just
select identities.

But this is just my take.
Christopher Thomas
KU debate
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