LGBTQ Agenda: Texas man writes to SF about Nextdoor reviewer's 'sodomite' comment

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday January 23, 2024
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Suburban Dallas County resident Edward H. Sebesta has sent a letter to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission complaining about Nextdoor, which is headquartered in the city. Photo: Courtesy Edward H. Sebesta
Suburban Dallas County resident Edward H. Sebesta has sent a letter to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission complaining about Nextdoor, which is headquartered in the city. Photo: Courtesy Edward H. Sebesta

A Texas man has not heard back from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission after he complained that a Nextdoor reviewer used the term "sodomite" when replying to his post.

Nextdoor, a neighborhood-based social networking site, is headquartered in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. Edward H. Sebesta, a 71-year-old gay man from suburban Dallas County, told the Bay Area Reporter that the reviewer used the term on his post about homophobia in local evangelical Protestant churches in the Lone Star State.

Sebesta's post was a link to his Substack, where he discusses a 20-year-old Halloween event, dubbed "Hell House," at a Texas church. The event featured people acting out the consequences of allegedly sinful behavior, and in one scene, a grinning demon welcomes a man dying of AIDS into hell.

Ryan Short, a Nextdoor reviewer based in Texas, replied, "The Bible — as a standard — would condemn Nazis and the KKK and I could show you where. The Bible also condemns sodomite behavior. So the Bible, as a standard is clearly not the standard you are basing your morality off of. So what standard would you point people to?"

Nextdoor local reviewers serve as moderators for the social media site. According to Nextdoor's website, "our neighborhood moderators — leads and reviewers — facilitate belonging in their online neighborhoods by ensuring conversations stay helpful and kind. Not 'kind' in the syrupy sweet-way. 'Kind' in the respectful, welcoming, empathetic, and willing to boldly act and support one another-type of way. This is what we mean when we use the phrase, moderation."

Short did not return the B.A.R.'s request for comment for this report.

The word sodomy comes from Sodom, one of the two cities destroyed by God in the Book of Genesis, chapter 19. Despite lack of an explicit reference to homosexuality, per se, in the text (just before it is destroyed, the men of Sodom attempt to gang rape two angels), over time it came to be axiomatic in some Jewish and Christian theologies that the cities were destroyed because of God's anger over homosexual practices. Though the term sodomy technically refers to oral and anal sex regardless of the genders of the participants, in practice the term sodomite is usually only used against LGBTQ people.

In his December 26 letter to Karen Clopton, chair of the SF HRC, Sebesta wrote that "we ask for your help and support by holding Nextdoor accountable."

"We need some help," he wrote. "The situation here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is deteriorating. Nextdoor headquarters is there in San Francisco."

The B.A.R. called the commission and left a message January 10. The next day, an unnamed spokesperson called to say a statement would be forthcoming but that "generally speaking we don't share information about private individuals who request investigations or mediated services with the department, but having said that, let me continue my work here." The commission did not follow up as of press time.

Sebesta also wrote to Nextdoor officials.

"If homophobes who use the term 'sodomite' to condemn gays can get into review teams in the Dallas area, I don't see any reason homophobes of any type haven't infiltrated review teams everywhere," Sebesta stated. "Or that racists and antisemites can also get in the review teams. Nasty homophobes don't give neighborhoods vitality."

Nextdoor also did not reply to Sebesta, he said, nor did it return the B.A.R.'s request for comment.

Sebesta's feeling is that the Lone Star State is backsliding on LGBTQ acceptance, saying that "they systematically have shut down every drag show off the strip," referring to Cedar Springs Road, which has several LGBTQ bars on it.

"They're chipping away at it," he said.

When asked who "they" is, Sebesta said a number of right-wing, religious protest groups, such as Tradition Family Property, a traditionalist Catholic group. The American branch of TFP did not return the B.A.R.'s request for comment.

"I have a whole list of shutdowns, they just decide they don't want to deal with the whole hassle," he said.

As another example, Sebesta mentioned the Stedfast Baptist Church, which moved to suburban Dallas County last year. The Dallas Morning News reported that just before the move, the church's pastor said, "every single homosexual in our country should be ... sentenced to death" and "they should be lined up against a wall and shot in the back of the head."

The church did not return the B.A.R.'s request for comment.

Sebesta, who said he lived in San Francisco in the 1980s, is grateful that Dallas, which, with Fort Worth, is the fourth largest metro area in the United States, has an active queer community.

"The semiconductor industry moved here and I moved with it," he said. "We have a gay community here and so, you know, I'm in contact with them and we get together, do protests. I think I'm the oldest protester there. I also have a significant other, but you do watch the situation and I have evaluated where I could move to if I had to."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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