I Am … Was … Speechless

For the first time in a long time, I am speechless. I have been for awhile, that’s why I haven’t written anything here since March 29th. I have been absolutely drained, indignant, and exhausted. I was feeling like my work as an advocate was irrelevant and ineffective. It’s not that I became weary of writing, I still love it very much, but I was torn that there was so much going on in my own movement that I disagree with, and I was particularly torn over what I will discuss in a moment. It’s hard to criticize both sides, it makes you feel alone. Then last week, I received a message from a former schoolmate and friend who reminded me that what I’m doing as an advocate is important. With that being said, let’s talk about the more troubling reason I have been speechless … the mind-numbing absurdity of the religious right.

It’s very easy for those of us who engage in pop culture, as progressives, to become blind to the dirty religious underbelly that still permeates our culture. We see progress, laws passed to protect us, backlash and swift consequences for laws that harm us, and our world continues to get better. But behind it all, behind every “religious freedom” bill, and in response to every celebrity who speaks out for us (thank you Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and others), there sits the brooding and plotting bitterness of the religious right. Every day, the most outspoken evangelicals take to their radio and television shows, their websites, and the publications who print their material, to spew more misinformation and hatred about us … and they have become so comical, so cartoonish, yet so dangerous, that I was left speechless.

By now, everybody knows about North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” HB2. For those who don’t you can Google it, I will not give it anymore credence by posting a link. In a nutshell, this bill keeps all counties and cities in North Carolina from enacting anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people. It actually prohibits municipal governments from extending non-discrimination ordinances to LGBTQ+ people! HB2 is the result of the irrational fears and panicked reactions of those furious over their loss of privilege, as they take to the streets screaming about “religious freedom.” Arguments for the bill were (are) few, focusing mainly on the debunked “allowing Trans people to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity will make way for pedophiles and other perverts to just say ‘I’m a woman;’ and get access to our wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.” Never mind the fact that sex crimes have not gone up in places where Trans people are protected while they pee. Never mind the fact that nearly everybody in North America who goes out in public regularly, has most likely shared a restroom with a Trans person and didn’t know it. Never mind the fact that most in favour of the legislation are getting their information from a book that is very obviously not an authority on LGBTQ+ issues, and its evangelical messengers who are just as ignorant as their congregants.

As soon as there were consequences from companies like PayPal … as soon as celebrities like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr started cancelling shows in North Carolina … as soon as politicians decided to veto discriminatory legislation in their own states … the loud and proud religious opponents of equality absolutely lost it. And they continue to lose it! Their anger is manifesting in more and more outrageous claims. Some of these claims are getting so outrageous that I have personally spoken with fans of these people who are starting to raise their eyebrows and question what is being said. This is unprecedented. In my experience, it’s very rare for a follower of any popular evangelist to question what that evangelist has to say. This is a good thing, but at the same time, we have to stay on guard. There are, after all, still many who believe it, and more fear means more risk of violence.

I wonder what it’s like. What is it like to live everyday in fear of what you have never encountered, a fear that only exists because of what a minister told you, or what you think you read in the Bible? Even when I was an evangelical Christian, I wasn’t as out of touch and afraid as these people are. It has really begun to reach a different level. America is boiling over, and it’s causing turmoil beyond her borders as well. Angry evangelicals, the ones who seem to have forgotten how to form a coherent thought or argument, are influencing the impressionable, and violence toward gay, lesbian, and transgender people the world over is going up at the very time it was starting to go down. This is a particularly scary time for Transgender people, who are being subjected to such an obscene level of misinformation that walking out the door can cause an anxiety attack. And all of this is happening because extreme conservatism is in its death throes, and Christian extremists are scrambling to ruin as many lives as they can before the ship goes down.

I have had two reactions to the comical, yet dangerous behaviour of these people over the past few weeks. The first is to laugh. When I hear a full grown adult crying about how they can no longer exercise their religious freedom to oppress others, I find that so pathetic that it’s funny. The second is to become altogether angry and sad. Their rhetoric, as cartoonish and silly as it is, is doing real damage. My fellow Trans people are being killed in droves, my fellow LGBTQ+ people hunted down and murdered all over the world, and all because of the lies of people who use religion to gain dominance. That’s what this is all about, after all. Christians in the west have had the upper hand for so long, that the thought of losing it scares the hell out of them (pardon the pun). So many of them say “I do not condone violence. I am not a hater. I do this out of love.” These are the same people who support Uganda’s laws that punish homosexuality with jail time, and Russia’s reluctance to act in any way respectable. They say nothing of the “corrective rape” of lesbian women going on in so many countries, and some have even gone so far as to praise the actions of ISIS when they throw gay men from rooftops. At the very least, they stay silent on all of the harm, preferring instead to use their voices to say we’re wrong. If this is love, I don’t want it.

If you think you don’t support violence, think long and hard about what initiatives you do support. Learn about the beliefs of those who do support direct violence against me and people like me. Anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs and rhetoric is standard everywhere. It’s all in the same pot, and if you go around condemning me, I am going to see you as just as dangerous as the gun-wielding psycho hunting people like me in Russia. My desire to live, my instinct toward self-preservation, keeps me from differentiating between you and the predator in Africa waiting for the opportune moment to rape an LGBTQ+ person. I know you don’t want to be lumped in with those people, but your rhetoric is the same. And I know it’s the same, I have spent the last three years learning that it’s the same. I know very well the minds of those who wish me harm, either directly or indirectly. Don’t you dare tell me this is out of love.

So I was speechless, I have been speechless, but I guess I’m not anymore. As a matter of fact, I’m more pissed off now. It’s still not safe for me to be myself in some places, and that is unacceptable.

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Isn’t It Time For Some Of You To Grow Up?

This article is addressed to the many many people who insist on continuing their crusade against the LGBTQ+ community for religious reasons. The time for kind appeals to reason, I fear, is fast coming to an end; so today I’m just going to say it. The lack of maturity you display, as you consistently seek to deny rights based on your belief in a misinterpretation of an ancient holy book, is nauseating. It’s embarrassing to see full grown adults misrepresenting homosexuality as an “act,” conflating sexual orientation with gender identity, condemning people out of fear, making threats of violence, trying to make these views a matter of public policy, and seeking to protect hatred under the guise of religious freedom.

Our children are watching. Your children are watching. Grow up. Are you so childish, so petty, that you must continue with this ridiculous campaign? Are you so miserable in your own life that you have to hinder the happiness of people who are different from you? Must you use words like “cocksucker,” “faggot,” “homo,” etc? Isn’t it time that you stopped preaching love, and instead started to practice it?

When I approach this topic, I usually hear appeals to the well-being of our next generation. The truth is, our children ARE watching; and where I see them being impacted by the spiteful actions and attitudes of their parents, some of the parents I speak with see them being impacted by the harmful “gay agenda.” The difference between my perspective and theirs, is that one of us is appealing to reality, the other to perception. The reality is that children are heavily influenced by their parents. Among the many influences in our lives, the guidance of authority figures throughout our childhood have, arguably, the greatest impact on us. For the majority of us, the most present of those authority figures is a parent or parents. The perception that there is a “gay agenda” designed to make our children gay, trans, etc is NOT reality. It is a ploy designed to do exactly what it does – create fear. Our next generation is suffering much more from the bigotry of the adults in their lives than from a non-existent agenda. What you are really fighting against is a movement to recognize the dignity of every human being. You are arguing against a legal system that recognizes diversity, and protects the rights and dignities of all people. You are fighting against social equality … against the teaching of “love thy neighbour” you claim to believe.

So how about exercising the maturity most of you are capable of? Two-year-olds have more acceptance in their hearts than you do, but by the time they are six, you’ve ruined them. Get a grip, and stop being so miserable. And please, stop meddling in our affairs. If two men get married, and your kids don’t see a problem with it, who cares? It shows that your kids are more mature than you are, and it’s none of your business anyway. My gender identity doesn’t make a single bit of difference in your life, so try staying out of it. Stop teaching our children how to be bad people. Isn’t it time for some of you to grow up?

 

My Testimony

It recently dawned on me that although I’ve been very open about my life, I’ve never written an actual “testimony,” so to speak. I gave a fair amount of background when I came out on August 2nd, and little bits and pieces here and there, but I feel that with so much bad news on the daily, a good news story can brighten our spirits. A story about coming out of homophobia, into advocacy, and eventually into the realization and full acceptance of self, deserves to be told. So here it is, my “testimony.”

My story is an increasingly familiar one. I’m a former Christian, the evangelical Anglican kind, who also grew up in the charismatic movement. In my younger years, I was one of the worst behaved homophobes I’ve ever met. Hateful and proud of it. The word “Gay” was an insult, and as far as I was concerned homosexuality was a sinful and deplorable choice. I am profoundly ashamed to say that I viewed gay men in particular as almost sub-human. As for Trans people, I thought that was a myth. Every chance I got, I used my words to humiliate and degrade LGBTQ+ people, and if the chance didn’t present itself, I would bring it up anyway. I was everything I now fight against.

After graduating from High School, it was eight years before I decided to attend University. Five of those years were spent at sea. As a crew member on oil tankers sailing the Atlantic, I learned about loyalty, inner strength, hard work, emotional fortitude, and courage. I joined in 2001, a cocky immature child of 20, and after five years of a 73-days-on-73-days-off rotation (that never quite worked out that way), I had grown into an adult. At the age of 26, I was accepted into university. While there, I became more moderate, less hateful, more … tolerant. I played music to earn part of my income, and one night I landed a gig at the local ‘gay bar.’ The moment I walked into that nightclub, I felt at home. I’ll never forget that feeling. It’s not that I assumed LGBTQ+ people were less judgmental, but for some reason I felt like I was surrounded by people who weren’t concerned with who or what I was. The bartender greeted me as you would a friend. Nobody knew if I was LGBTQ+ or not, and it really didn’t matter. If there was negative judgment from anybody, I wasn’t aware of it. In contrast to other bars, I didn’t feel like I had to watch my back. That experience helped me on the path to becoming an ally.

A year after my university graduation, my wife and I were driving down the highway on a sunny afternoon. My wife, a brilliant educator, had already become an ally and active advocate for LGBTQ+ equality. During the course of our conversation that day, I used the word “fruit” as a slur. I didn’t realize what I had done until she called me on it. The loud and spirited argument that followed ended when I finally admitted fault, and I realized then that change was in order. A short time later, following a homophobic incident perpetrated by some Christian fanatics in a nearby town, I became an outspoken ally.

I now specialize in the relationships between traditional Christian doctrine, the LGBTQ+ community, and pop culture. In university, I earned a degree in cultural anthropology, with minors in religious studies, history, and Spanish. I understand the religious foundations of hatred on a personal level, and thanks to my education, I understand it on an academic level as well. After a couple of years writing as Outspoken Ally, I went through a period of internal turmoil and struggle as I came to realize and embrace my own gender identity. I came out as Queer in August 2015; and living in an extremely phobic area of Canada’s east coast, I’m beginning to understand things on a whole different level still.

I am not simply an advocate for equality. I am personally affected by the ignorance I fight against. Until I can walk into a business in the next town over without being met with rolling eyes, or shop in “women’s” clothing sections without getting angry looks from male patrons, my work isn’t done. My testimony, to ironically use some Christian lingo, is that I once was lost but now I’m found. I struggled through life pretending to be something I wasn’t, because I was taught that who I was was wrong. Having broken the shackles of that God-based fear, having embraced humanity for what we are, having found myself … my testimony is a happy one. It’s not that it got better, it’s that I gained knowledge, and with that came self-realization and acceptance. I have found the experience very freeing, very uplifting. I feel fully human for the first time.

Embracing my true self in public is the hardest part now, but it gives me confidence to know that if I can do it, LGBTQ+ youth might learn from that example. Then again, it might not help anybody at all; but it’s worth talking about, and knowing we aren’t alone is a powerful thing.

 

The Pope Met Kim Davis: What Matters Is The Impact

I was waiting for confirmation from the Vatican before saying anything, and now that they’ve confirmed it, it’s time to talk about the Pope’s recent visit with Kim Davis. If by now you don’t know who Kim Davis is, I recommend both reading my September 5th post “Kim Davis Broke The Law,” and doing a quick Google search for her name. This woman is a hero to the evangelical right, and a pariah to the secular left. She is a polarizing figure to say the least, a beacon of God-inspired exclusion. She has been marketed as a martyr, embraced by Mike Huckabee, and now Kim Davis seems to have found favour with the most influential Christian leader on Earth – Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has done a lot of good. He refuses to live lavishly, he shuns the rich to eat with the poor, he is a champion against our destruction of the planet, and he was surprisingly impressive when addressing the U.S. Congress on his recent visit. He is also a skilled hypocrite. Very recent exceptions aside, the Pope panders to his nearest available base. He eats with the poor but does little to help them. He said “who am I to judge,” and then slammed the LGBTQ+ community at a Vatican-run interfaith International Colloquium On The Complimentarity Of Man And Woman. He is, quite frankly, very similar to another well-known Catholic figurehead – talking out of both sides of his mouth while holding to the values and ideals that keep those he claims to care about in the same desperate situation. Francis is nothing new, he is merely a deceptively polished version of the same charlatanry the papacy was built on. His meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise, but the impact of it is worthy of discussion.

Now, it should be noted that Charles P. Pierce wrote a piece for esquire.com, published just yesterday, effectively arguing that the Pope may have been swindled into meeting with Davis; an attempt by his enemies within the Vatican to discredit him. Mr. Pierce is not the only one suggesting a set-up here, and I must admit his argument is plausible. That being said, for the reasons stated above, I believe it naive to just give the Pope a free pass. Meeting with Kim Davis is not unbelievable given his loyalty to traditional doctrine, and he may very well agree with the many Christians who praise her ridiculous behaviour as heroic. Given the likelihood of Francis agreeing to meet with her had he known the situation, the issue of whether or not he actually knew and was tricked into it is irrelevant.

On to the important part of this story – the impact. Pope Francis’ approval numbers are through the roof. Catholics, evangelicals, members of most Christian denominations, even some Atheists, like this man. What he says carries a fair amount of weight. So what is a 10-year-old child supposed to think when the man they have been told to revere meets with a woman who is seeking to deny that child the same rights and freedoms as the heterosexual cis majority? Even if Francis never utters a public word about Davis, his actions speak loudly enough. The LGBTQ+ children dragged to mass every week learn that the Pope stands against them, the church stands against them, and their parents tell them to listen to the Pope and the church. In this childhood scenario, the world is not safe. These damaging influences on the developing minds of young people more often than not cause self-loathing, fear, hatred, bullying, too often suicide, and fatal attacks. We know this because it’s not a hypothetical. It keeps happening. Religious and familial influence play a huge part in who we become, and when that influence tells you that who you are is wrong, the impact is devastating.

It doesn’t matter if the Pope knew about Kim Davis, and despite the noise being made about what might have been said at the private meeting, the words spoken don’t matter either. What matters is perception, and the perception here is that the figurehead of the Roman Catholic church had a private meeting with one of America’s most notorious homophobes. The message sent is that the Vatican approves of Davis’ actions, and although not surprising to some of us, the impact this can have on LGBTQ+ Catholics is something we should be concerned about.

The message I wish to give to LGBTQ+ Catholics is this: There is nothing wrong with you. Kim Davis is wrong. Pope Francis is wrong. The doctrine that dehumanizes and oppresses you is wrong. Many of us understand the difficulty reconciling your identity with what the church teaches. We’ve been there, and we can help if you reach out and ask for it. You’re never alone in this. Whatever your identity, no matter who you are, Outspoken Ally has people who can help at the email address on the ‘About’ page. We can also put you in touch with other organizations that are on your side.

You don’t have to listen to the Pope. What’s wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.

 

3 Quick Points To Improve Our Approach

To my LGBTQ+ and Allied readers: Please accept this as constructive advice. To my evangelical Christian readers: Please feel free to read my outline of the approach I wish to see LGBTQ+ rights advocates take. I am interested in opening dialog with an understanding of where you are coming from. We are not angry rabid animals as many of you seem to think.

As a former evangelical Christian with an education in cultural anthropology and religious studies, I advocate for social equality and LGBTQ+ rights as ‘Outspoken Ally.’ Understanding religion and its effects is my life’s work, and I advocate by confronting the religious foundations of anti-LGBTQ+ ideals. As we push forward and gain tremendous ground in the fight for understanding and acceptance, I feel that many opportunities for discussion are being lost, and this is due to the fact that we can’t engage with what we don’t quite grasp. Traditional religious doctrine, in this case traditional Christian doctrine, is ingrained into our culture. North American society was built, after all, with Christian teaching in mind. Our laws, traditions, holidays, our collective worldview, and our cultural norms all share a Christian foundation. This also applies to the way we view difference, and in the case of the LGBTQ+ community, difference is both misunderstood and wrongly condemned by churches who adhere to a perceived 11th commandment: thou shalt not be gay.

Understanding religiously fuelled exclusion is vitally important if we are to confront it. We can’t just ignore the issue, or at least the cause of the issue, and saying “you’re just an asshole” does nothing but make the problem worse. If we are to achieve equality – true equality, and true acceptance – we have to meet our opponents on their level. Given that LGBTQ+ phobia is firmly grounded in religious teaching, that level IS religious teaching. The problem is that very few of us understand, and many just don’t care, why so many Christians feel the way they do; and why they fight so vehemently against a level of acceptance that should be of obvious benefit to everyone. There are three quick points that we should all keep in mind when confronted with comments like “it’s a sin,” “it’s a choice,” “it’s unnatural,” etc. We should also remember that there is more to it. This is just a start, Christianity is surprisingly complex, but these three things are a good baseline for understanding.

#1: They mean well

When an evangelical Christian says ” I don’t agree with homosexuality, it’s a sin,” we immediately think “what a jerk.” In many cases, though, they actually mean well. The Bible explicitly tells believers that they are to witness, to spread the gospel, and this means pointing out the sins of others so they can know God and be saved. It comes out as hate of course, and we’re right to take them to task for that, but we must do it with the understanding that they have no idea what impact their words have. For me, understanding this causes a reaction of calm rather than anger. There is a lot of dishonesty on the evangelical side to get angry at, but if I know the person I am speaking with genuinely doesn’t understand what they are talking about, I feel sorry for them. They have been taken in by a false doctrine. Empathy for their situation makes me proceed with more calm than aggression.

#2: They either don’t understand the Bible, what homosexuality IS, or both

There is an entire page on this site titled “Think,” dedicated to discussing apparent biblical condemnations of homosexuality. The reason I wrote it was that few Christians understand the culture in which the books of the Bible were written. More importantly, they don’t understand what homosexuality, or any identifying term other than their own, actually IS. It’s important to know this, because if we know they mean well, and that they don’t even understand the thing they are condemning, then we can take it upon ourselves to educate. Just be sure that when you attempt to confront someone with factual information about LGBTQ+ issues, you come across with empathy. Too many of us attack, and come across as … well … jerks.

#3: They will be quick to defend

Even after calmly and rationally explaining things, many people will still feel attacked, and that spurs a rush to defend themselves. This can be very frustrating, because it feels like you’ve wasted your time and breath. The important thing to remember as they fly into a diatribe is to keep your composure. Show them that you aren’t here to fight, you’re here to talk. I rarely get into heated arguments anymore, because nothing gets accomplished. If my opponent gets loud, I let them shout, and I speak again once they calm down.

We’re all quick to defend when we feel that a personal aspect of our identity is under fire, and that’s how deep it goes for many in the anti-gay camp. A lot of emphasis is put on homosexuality at the pulpit, especially in the last decade, to the point where bias around it has come to be viewed as a vital tenet of faith. The more personal something becomes, the more defensive people become of it. It’s not okay to defend exclusion, bigotry, or misinformation, but understanding where the defensive stance is coming from makes a big difference. Understanding informs us on how to proceed with pointing out the exclusion, bigotry, and misinformation, that church teaching has blinded them to.

Above all, be kind and be honest. There is no need to intentionally offend, no need to call people names, no need to be uncivil. We are victims of exclusion and hate, and they are victims of false teaching. I get very angry at times, as is natural when you deal with these issues daily, but I recognize the importance of introspection. I have to keep myself in check, constantly think about what I write, and about the arguments I present. Everything is carefully considered, and although I say things that are intended to stir emotion, there are some lines I just won’t cross. Understanding these three things helps me stay within those boundaries. Most evangelical Christians mean well, but they don’t understand the Bible, what homosexuality IS, or both, and they will be quick to defend what they see as an attack on their faith.

Now, this call for civility may bother some in my own camp. I get that. I certainly don’t mean to say that everything we’re doing is wrong. Culture and law are moving toward equality because of our efforts, and that’s no small feat. I chose to write this because Christian news anchors, interviewers, radio hosts, and other influencers are very adamantly talking about how we are militant, angry, vicious, and insulting. They make up lies and present them as truth, and their work leads ultimately to suicides, beatings, and murders. We have every right to be pissed off, but when we stoop to their level, it gives them more to talk about. The legal issues and overall cultural discussion are being dealt with effectively, but those of us on the ground, so to speak, have a voice also. It’s very important that we use that voice as effectively as possible.

Religious Freedom And Education

I feel like I’ve written about religious freedom ad nauseam, and with all of the information out there – the articles, the discussions, the actual laws available for the public to read – the lack of understanding of this topic is truly astonishing. It’s a well defined idea, but it bears repeating given the outlandish statements I keep hearing from people who just don’t get it.

Every time religious privilege is taken away, people get their backs up in a panic. By religious privilege, and my perspective is culturally conditioned for North America in particular, I mean preference for Christianity in various institutions – namely schools. So for example, when prayer was taken out of schools, the churches lost their minds. Every time the teaching of Intelligent Design is denied by the courts, social media blows up. The uttering of “Happy Holidays” actually spurs outrage. People are taking their children out of school and putting them into Christian schools (or homeschooling), to keep them sheltered from exposure to the fact that LGBTQ+ people exist; and are not disordered or sinful, but just perfect the way they are. Some even go so far as to claim that us fighting against this is tantamount to a hate crime. (*As a disclaimer here, I am NOT saying that homeschooling is bad. I am saying that homeschooling for religious purposes is not a good idea.*)

People removing their children from public schools for biblical reasons is increasing in popularity in the area I live in, and often when it’s talked about, the issue of religious freedom comes up. I’ve broken the argument down into two parts. The first goes something like this: the public schools are “denying Christ,” teaching a “false morality,” and exposing our kids to “those sinful gays.” The solution: Put our kids in the basement of a church and teach them about the world from a biblical perspective. The result: We know from research into the ‘Bible Belt’ areas of the U.S. that strictly Christian teaching results in many social problems, including increased teen pregnancy, higher than usual porn use, domestic violence, drug use, and family discord within the evangelical community. It’s not even hard-to-find information; a quick Google search reveals this, and yet more and more people are doing it. It’s an exercise in futility. These negative effects are not true for every individual, but the mass social effects can’t be denied.

The second part of the argument sounds something like this: the examples above are the method for taking away religious freedom. You have to respect everybody’s beliefs, but now we have a society where anything goes. In addition, you’re committing a hate crime by trying to advise people against this. So, the removal of privilege does not equal the removal of freedom, and respect for one’s beliefs is NOT required. As I’ve said time and again, beliefs do not deserve respect just because they are held. If you believe that “the gays should burn in hell,” I am free to disrespect that belief, and because I feel very strongly about it, I’m going to tell you so. We do NOT have a society in which everything goes, nor do we want it. There are restrictions on our behaviour, laws that we have to follow, so that those who do harm to others are held accountable. Is it a perfect system? No, but we have it and it’s worth improving upon; and that’s what we fight for. If you mean anything goes morally, well that’s an interesting conversation. The moral decay argument is one that I wouldn’t dare to tread if I were in the anti-gay camp, and as far as hate crimes are concerned … the idea that I am committing a hate crime by fighting to stop religiously fuelled discrimination and social division is just wrong.

Religious freedom IS worth fighting for … but only when it’s actually in danger. Legalizing same-sex marriage, banning hate speech, and taking God out of schools, moves us toward equality. Fighting for those things does not qualify as a hate crime, nor does it qualify as the removal or denial of freedom. Christians are not being persecuted against here in North America. They are losing their privilege, and that has to happen for equality to be possible. If the government tries to deny religious freedom, I will march against that. Religious freedom is vitally important. I will not, however, stand idly by and say nothing when a community considers their desire to persecute and misinform a matter of that freedom. If your religion requires you to reject other human beings and keep your kids away from “those sinful gays,” perhaps you should question whether or not it’s worth following in the first place. In truth, the Christian religion does NOT require that, at least not scripturally anyway, but sadly people are being taught otherwise.

 

A Legitimate Question

On May 1st of this year, I asked “Anti-Gay Activists, Why Do You Persist?” Today I’m asking again. It’s not that I don’t understand the scriptural basis for your condemnation – I understand it very well. My question has to do with why you insist upon waging war against equality. Why the animosity? Since the landmark SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage, a number of pastors and religious leaders have blatantly declared outright war on the LGBTQ+ community and allies – even more than before. They just can’t let it go, and I’m curious as to why that is.

Bryan Fischer takes to the airwaves every day, and you can regularly count on him to decry the dangers facing America as a result of the acceptance of the “gay lifestyle.” He compares pro-equality activists to Hitler’s Nazi’s, and even claims that “Hitler surrounded himself with homosexuals because he couldn’t get straight soldiers to be savage enough.” What is it that makes a person feel so threatened that they resort to such bizarre and offensive falsehoods?

Politicians, televangelists, and country preachers write books, articles, and Facebook posts in which they claim that gay men are more likely to be child predators. The available research (credible research) on same-sex families suggests a different picture, and even if that information didn’t exist, the claims would still be speculative at best. Now, it would be one thing if they admitted speculation, they would just be wrong in that case, but they prefer instead to claim that they’ve actually researched the issues and know what they’re talking about. Why?

There are thousands of examples that could be used here. As a former evangelical homophobe, I understand the desire to aggressively jump at issues of equality when you believe that equality isn’t deserved, but these people are really taking it beyond the pale. Even when they’re caught lying or proven to be just flat-out ignorant, they don’t stop. Paul Cameron has been disowned by every reputable psychological association in North America, and Tony Perkins has never made a factual statement about the LGBTQ+ community; aside from the admission that they exist. Regardless, they continue to make things up and their followers stay loyal. They just keep lying. Why?

It must be stated again and again that this war is being fought entirely on one side. Our goal is simple – equality. That’s what we fight for, and we’re getting there. To the religious right, though, this fight is about the destruction of society. They are convinced that pro-equality activists are after their children, their churches, and their faith. As I said on July 9 of this year (“The Gay Agenda”), they are fighting a monster that doesn’t exist. They are fighting a war being waged only by them. We’re not even really responding. We just challenge the status quo in favour of a more loving and equal society, while they wage war on an enemy that exists only in their imagination. Why?

A tactic that bothers me most in all of this is when pastors and Christian publications occasionally read and publish transparently fabricated “ex-gay” letters. Christianity Today has done this in the past, and every once in awhile I come across these letters being read in sermons. When I read and listen to these, I almost feel embarrassed for whoever is presenting it. I also feel embarrassed for those who believe it. Obvious fabrications made to enforce homosexuality as a choice, a sickness, a curable disease. The ex-gay man who found solace in the arms of men because his father didn’t love him. The ex-gay woman who grew up with a single mother, and rejected men because her father had left them when she was young. The ex-gay convert to Christianity who found love in the arms of Jesus, and in that love the strength to reject same-sex desires. Sound familiar? Now, I don’t want to downplay the experiences of someone who legitimately went through a tough time and triumphantly came through it, but the “ex-gay” movement is a sham. It’s a coercive religious movement that uses shame and guilt to force people back into the closet. Ex-gay stories are the evangelical equivalent of chance encounters written about in Penthouse Forum – made up scenarios to excite and engage those who believe that these things actually happen. The difference is that the “ex-gay” movement leaves a tragic mess of guilt-ridden and broken hearts in its wake.

I have always been open about my hateful past. I understand how it feels for a person who believes wholeheartedly that the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. I understand that the perspective from that vantage point is completely closed to the possibility of being wrong, and entirely closed to the possibility that scripture was not written in a vacuum but has linguistic, historical, cultural, and spiritual contexts to it. All I’m asking here is for evangelicals reading this to think about the question. Why insist upon this so vehemently? I’ve asked this question before, but it bears repeating. You say “Jesus said to love everybody,” and you openly condemn in the same breath. Why? If I may be so bold as to suggest an approach similar to 1 Peter 3:15, ask yourself if there is a rational justification for your distaste toward LGBTQ+ people. It’s a legitimate question.