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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Corrective Rape

Corrective rape. It’s difficult to accept that it happens, really difficult to talk about, but it’s real and that needs to be known. If you haven’t heard of this term, it refers to the disgusting practice of raping lesbian women and gay men with the idea that it will somehow make them ‘straight.’ Why am I bringing this up? Because it’s happening. It’s common across Africa, it’s common in India, and it’s also happening right here in North America. Women are being raped by men who seek to ‘fix’ them, and young boys are being forced to have sex with their female relatives. Most recently it was discovered that a boy in India was forced to have sex with his own mother! These perverse parasites are convinced that homosexuality must be eradicated, and they have chosen sexual violence as their weapon.

Now, part of Outspoken Ally’s message is that patriarchy, and its offspring misogyny, tears apart the social fabric that could unify us if given the chance. Patriarchal and misogynistic ideals are what guide the perpetuation of rape culture. They quietly tell us it’s okay. They make excuses for drunken frat boys armed with the date rape drug. They blame the victim for dressing too provocatively. They tell us to teach our daughters to be modest yet sexy, and our sons that man = animal. They tell us that men can’t be raped, and are ‘pansies’ if they claim to have been. They tell us there’s no such thing as a real lesbian, only women who don’t know how good sex with a man is … and that men have the right to show them, by force if necessary. They tell us that male cisnormative standards are correct and must be upheld. In short, patriarchal and misogynistic ideals drive sexual violence, including corrective rape.

Corrective rape is a joke to a lot of people, and a non-issue for others. Aside from stand-up ‘comics’ and over-privileged knuckle draggers at keg parties, nobody really talks about it. Perhaps, though, we would all benefit by taking a moment to think about the victims. Those faceless victims who have had their lives taken from them, forced to live in fear of the next attack, the next violation at the hands of someone who is so threatened that they justify trying to right what they think is wrong – people who feel entitled to meddle in the personal lives of others to the point of using extreme violence. This is a very real issue for the victims, and that makes it an issue for us.

It’s fair to say that corrective rape is a major failure of humanity, and that those who use and condone it are base creatures lacking empathy, compassion, respect, and the capacity for logical thought. How entitled does a man have to be to feel so threatened by the mere existence of someone who couldn’t possibly be attracted to him? How small-minded and incredibly insecure to think that desperately forcing himself upon a woman will change her sexual orientation. How disgusting and vile the people who force young boys to have sex with family members. It is a sick and disturbed individual who feels a God-ordained duty to bring gay and lesbian people “out of sin” and into agreement with “God’s plan for man and woman.” Apparently this plan does not include homosexuality, but is just fine with violent assault.

I doubt anybody reading this thinks that corrective rape is a good thing – if you do, you have problems and should definitely seek help. The point of bringing it up today is to say that it’s very real, and we need to start talking about it. Most people just aren’t aware that corrective rape is happening, and if we don’t draw attention to it, more and more victims are going to suffer. We have to seek out these stories. Learn about it. Talk about it. Fight against it. Let’s not allow the victims of this horrible crime to suffer in silence any longer!