An Open Letter To Franklin Graham

While combing through the news this week, I came across a story about how Franklin Graham, in the midst of a vile attack on the LGBTQ+ community and our fight for civil rights, has called Transgender people “predators and sexually perverted.” When are these evangelical preachers going to realize that their actions against people they fear are completely contrary to the teachings of the man named Jesus they claim to follow?

Mr. Graham:

So I’m a predator and a pervert, am I? I identify as Genderqueer, which puts me under the Trans umbrella, and at 34 years of age, I have never preyed on anybody for any purpose; nor have I ever had the desire to do so. Your hateful diatribe against me and those like me reveals a willful ignorance (you do, after all, have access to education on these issues), a fragile ego that feeds off of demeaning and degrading others, and an un-Christlike heart. You should be ashamed of yourself.

As a child, I was in awe of your father. Billy Graham and his message was ever-present in the charismatic and evangelical movements of the time. He was a powerful speaker, and I was convinced that he was ordained by God to spread the gospel. I later came to see him as a charlatan, a man who is not only dishonest, but deliberately deceptive, a man who played on the hopes and fears of people while tugging at their purse strings. You, sir, are just like him. The difference, though, and this is what makes you worse, is that you are actively campaigning to deny basic human rights; and using vile degrading language in the process.

I suppose, Mr. Graham, that you are actually quite proud of yourself. You did, after all, win your last battle to keep discriminatory policy on the books (referenced in the link above), and you are no doubt thrilled that a dozen states still have unconstitutional sodomy bans in place (as of 2014, and to my knowledge these have not changed). But while you insist upon making it difficult for us to be recognized as human beings, and as you carry on this disgusting crusade, listen carefully when I say that you are going to lose. You see, what was once a secret, what used to be dangerous to say, is no longer taboo. Of course in some conservative places, it is still dangerous to say that you are gay, Trans, or even an ally, but in most places it’s now safe to come out. The genie, as they say, is out of the bottle, and it can’t be put back in. We are out, and in the face of oppression we stand proud. That pride is why you will lose. We aren’t going anywhere, and we sure as hell are not backing down from a petty, vindictive, arrogant person like you.

I want to suggest that you sincerely try to learn about who and what we are, about the challenges we face, and about the legitimacy of Trans identity. I want to tell you that at your age it’s not too late. I want to encourage you to find it in your heart to stop fighting against humanity … but I’m almost ashamed to say that I don’t actually care if you do any of that. I am very proud of how I handle my advocacy. I am proud of my insistence on civility, my discretion with labels and ‘name-calling,’ my honesty … but I’m sick and tired of people like you. Since you’re so honest about wanting us to be treated like second-class citizens, and about wanting to deny us basic human rights, here’s a bit of honesty from me to you. I want to see you fail. I want to see your ministry investigated, to have your tax-exempt status revoked, and I want to see you fall out of favour with those who you and your father have been cheating and stealing from all these years. I want to see every piece of legislation you fight against passed, and everything you fight for struck down. And if everything I want happens, it still won’t be enough. Why? Because I could never wish enough ill will on you to match the pain and devastation you want to see levelled against us. I don’t want you put in prison for your beliefs. I don’t want to see you physically assaulted. I don’t want to see you homeless. I don’t want to see you subjected to unconstitutional restrictions on your rights and freedoms. I could never match your hatred for me, because I don’t have it in me to feel that way toward another human being.

Mr. Graham, you may think I’m a predatory pervert, but I encourage you to look in a mirror. I don’t prey on people, nor do I use them … but that’s exactly how your father got rich. I don’t publicly talk about my sexual preferences … but you seem obsessed with the preferences you imagine I have. I fight for people who are taking their own lives … while your fight is the reason they take their own lives. Stop calling us predators and perverts, Mr. Graham. You’re obviously projecting all over yourself.

 

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Some Thoughts On “Drop The T”

An unfortunate petition recently appeared on change.org, calling on groups like Lambda Legal, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign to drop the T from the LGBT acronym. Among the justifications for this were claims that the Trans community has a different ideology “from that promoted by the LGB community,” and that this ideology “is ultimately regressive and actually hostile to the goals of women and gay men.” Now, the above named groups have all spoken out against the petition, and it hasn’t gained much support from the community; but this is being latched onto by anti-equality activists like Dr. Michael Brown, as a sign of weakness … a rift among the “gay activist movement.” There are three things I would like to touch on. The first is a response to this ‘rift theory.’ The second is a thought on cooperation and communication for my fellow Trans activists. The third is a direct response to a part of the petition that I was particularly struck by – that the Trans ideology is hostile to the goals of women.

(1) Within any group of people, you are going to find differing viewpoints; and every once in awhile you are going to find someone who takes a misguided and hurtful idea into the public sphere. This doesn’t mean there is a rift, however, quite the contrary. The “Drop the T” petition has been met with opposition from within the community, because it stands against the very foundation of LGBT activism itself – Equality. We talk about, promote, educate, and give exposure to our issues and struggles because equality depends on understanding. The “Drop the T” petition has been met with a calm, matter-of-fact, and very professional “NO” from the groups it was directed at. What we have here is a few people who are disillusioned and angry, and an entire community denying their request to take unnecessary action. If anything, this is a sign of strength. The community is coming together against someone seeking to undermine all that we’ve worked for. Those who see this a sign of weakness, people like Dr. Michael Brown, had better look again. We are strong.

(2) I think it’s important to point this out. We aren’t perfect. Despite the fact that the petition is a minority view, it shows that we still have work to do in our own house. One of the big problems the drafter of the petition has with the Trans community is the reaction some Trans people have when questions are raised. This is not a new complaint, and I have seen it myself. Often (though not always), Trans activists are not entirely receptive, and will lash out when certain queries are made. I saw this firsthand at a conference, where a woman asked a Trans panel if it was necessary to have so many identifying terms within the Trans community. Now, I understand that gender identity is very complex, and “Genderqueer” is the word I use for my own gender variance. But “Genderqueer” is just one of many terms I could have gone with. It’s a deeply personal thing. Some of us understand and accept that, but not everybody does. The woman who asked the panel if so many terms were necessary was asking an honest question, but the response was loud and angry. This should not have happened, and it disillusioned quite a few people.

The frustration is understandable. Trans issues are currently the most misunderstood in our human experience. From washrooms to pronouns, people just don’t get it, and we are losing a lot of lives to the same hatred that has taken the lives of countless gay and lesbian men and women. The discussion on gender is just getting started, and the desire to live freely and openly is a desire worth working for. But we have to realize that change comes with time. Prior to his murder in 1978, Harvey Milk had been a leader in the infancy of the Gay Rights movement. It would be 37 years later, in 2015, that marriage equality would be reached in the United States; and we still have a long way to go. Trans issues are decades behind. Gender identity is not understood, the social dynamics and implications are not understood, and the way we are going to get them understood is by education and discussion. The way to achieve for the Trans community what has been achieved for the LGB community is by using the same methods. I understand the frustration, and I understand the very real and present dangers we face, but it’s up to us to lead the discussion on this topic … shouting at people for asking questions creates enemies, not allies.

(3) The statement that the Trans ‘ideology,’ as if there is only one, is hostile to the goals of women is offensive from the outset. Aside from the implication that all Trans people are the same, the pressing problem is what is meant by the entire statement. What the petition is saying is that people like Caitlyn Jenner are men masquerading as women, and in doing so using male privilege to further oppress and/or mock women. For a homosexual person to say about Trans people exactly what has been said about them is absolutely disgusting.

Homosexuality has been called a choice, a mockery of gender and gender roles, and a lifestyle, among many many other things. Ignorant critics think they’re clever when they say that in same-sex relationships “one plays the man, the other plays the woman.” The similarities between what’s been said about the LGB community and what this petition says about the Trans community are so glaringly obvious we shouldn’t have to talk about them.

“Hostile to the goals of women.” Anybody who says this doesn’t understand what gender identity is AT ALL. Gender is a matter of brain organization, a matter of function. A Trans woman IS a woman. A Trans man IS a man. A Trans person who’s gender is both man and woman, a person like me, IS both a man and a woman. A Trans person outside of the binary … IS a person outside of the gender binary. These are intrinsic pieces of identity, they are as naturally occurring as sexual orientation. To say that Trans ideology is hostile to the goals of women, is to say that sex and gender are the same thing, that being Transgender is wrong, and that being biologically male while “claiming” to be a woman, or being biologically female while “claiming” to be a man, undermines the goals and issues of women’s rights. You might as well say “I want to say something about Trans issues, and I know all I need to know from watching Jerry Springer. I think it’s fake and offensive, so I’m just going to go with that.” A much better strategy, unless you’re trying to look foolish, would be to say nothing at all.

So in response to those giddy with excitement over a perceived rift in our cause – sorry to disappoint you. To my fellow Trans activists, effective communication is incumbent upon us if we are to make any kind of progress. In direct response to the petition – I could write a book on the problems with it, but for now I’ll keep with the point that struck me hardest. If you think we are hostile to women, you might want to consider looking for credible information on Transgender issues. It couldn’t hurt to learn a few things, so that next time your foot doesn’t go directly into your mouth.

 

Africa – Homosexuality, Rape, And The Need For Education

On May 16, news broke that the President of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, had threatened to kill anybody caught seeking asylum in Europe by citing Gambia’s anti-gay laws. The article ( http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/05/gambia-president-threatens-to-kill-asylum-seekers-who-cite-anti-gay-laws/ ) on this story, as with all articles since, is a glaring example of just how dangerous the world still is for LGBTQ people.

Death threats, uses of words like “vermin,” likening LGBTQ people to malaria-causing mosquitoes … none of this surprises me. We’ve seen this before. We’ve seen it in Uganda, Zimbabwe, now Gambia, and other African nations. The reason I am writing about it now is because the African prejudice against LGBTQ people does not get the attention it should. Most of the reports on polls that I have seen reveal that the majority of people in choice countries on the continent of Africa are opposed to homosexuality (this is allegedly true even in South Africa, where same-sex relationships are legal, but the state routinely turns a blind eye to violent attacks against LGBTQ people). Laws against love are abundant, dolling out sentences of 14 years and more for having a relationship with somebody of the same sex; and they are widely supported by an approving citizenry (ie: 95% of the Ugandan population according to some estimates). Some people speak out about these crimes against human dignity on a regular basis, and it’s time for more of us to join them. For those living in this hell, this is not some issue to be dealt with eventually … evading capture, living in fear of being discovered, hiding in the shadows and living in slums to blend in … this is their everyday life. They are human beings. Our fellow human beings.

As often as I see stories about the deplorable treatment of LGBTQ people in Africa, I come across articles about rape being defended in those same countries. I have seen documentaries in which men tell the camera that rape is the fault of the woman, that she must not wear short skirts because that causes them to rape her. In February of this year we all heard of Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, saying that men raping girls is okay because it is heterosexual rape, “which is natural” ( http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ugandan-reverend-simon-lokodo-child-rape-better-homosexuality-video-1437976 ). This paradox wherein rape is acceptable but homosexuality is not is a grossly immoral ideal not often seen in our western discourse. It is common, however, in other places, and the root cause is ignorance. When a population is ignorant of something, in this case the inherent violence and subsequent harm caused by rape, there is nothing to prevent it from happening. In a patriarchal society, things that satisfy men are justified regardless of what consequences may befall the female victim. In Christian societies, and most of Africa has been Christian since colonialism, moral confusion drives the problem. Laws that are in direct conflict with the actions of the deity who imposes them serve to confuse the population to the point where we simultaneously have socially acceptable violence against women, and laws to prohibit and torture people who love the “wrong” person.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that an appropriate course of action is to barge in to Africa and tell them that we have a better way of life they must abide by. That happened in the past – it was called colonialism, and it destroyed the cultural fabric of every society it touched. What I suggest is that we educate. Society functions best when it is given quality education. Africa does not need missionaries, they don’t need more churches, and they don’t need a spiritual awakening as I’ve heard some people suggest. What Africa needs is the education that has been denied them by corrupt doctrines like “AIDS is bad but condoms are worse,” and “suffering is good because the last shall be first with thy father in heaven.” No, education must not be denied them any longer. With education, rape will eventually become unacceptable. With education, homosexuality will become something that is understood rather than reviled. With education, AIDS infections will begin to decline, and with education the laws of nations will change to reflect more empathic and unified societies.

These thoughts on the power of education may seem idealistic or insurmountable to anybody reading this, but it’s exactly what is working here in the west. Africa is the cradle of life, it is the birthplace of humanity. What a terrible disservice and disrespect has been paid by her descendants. People need not suffer any longer, and we need not sit idly by and watch it happen with self-righteous “empathy.” We can’t all go to Africa, but we can still speak out and make ourselves heard. We all have a voice, and we have a moral obligation to use it to defend those who are worthy. Those who have been denied proper education, and suffer because of it, are worthy. The people of Africa are worthy.

The Past Is Gone. It Is Time For The Age Of Equality

I have often heard the complaint “why are we still hearing about this? For the love of God, shut up already. I am so tired of hearing about gay rights.” This sentiment has led to the contemptuous term “the gay agenda,” used by evangelical pastors, politicians, and pundits. There seems to be a perception that the LGBTQ community is an evil force bent on indoctrinating the world and convincing everybody to become “one of them.” This ridiculous and childish misconception has led to many attacks by people who are so weary of hearing about it that they feel threatened by the mere mention of social equality. If you are one of those people, I urge you to thoughtfully read what I have to say. Allow me to explain to you why the fight for social equality is here to stay.

First of all, I must say that the idea that LGBTQ people are dangerous predators is reminiscent of something straight out of a conspiracy theory. Evangelical pastors like Jack Hibbs and Scott Lively are routinely given platforms from which they teach that homosexual men are pedophiles, rapists, and savages. By viewing LGBTQ people in this way, they remove humanity and victimize an entire human community. These views portray their victims as base, instinctual, incapable of human thought, cognition, compassion, or empathy. They assume that the entire LGBTQ population has lost whatever it is that makes us human, and are in need of salvation. The misunderstanding required to make such claims is so extreme that I sometimes wonder if those making them are even aware that there is a world outside of their own. I have said it many times before, and I will continue to say that human beings have been viewed this way many times in our history. The most poignant examples of this, as we all know, were during the days of slavery in the US, and of course Nazi Germany.

The above view is of course a major contributing factor as to why this fight must continue, but now on to the primary reason why the protests and outcries continue. It’s very simple, really. They continue because the abuse continues. How many times do we have to stand up and demonstrate injustice? How many times must we offer evidence as to where active discrimination is happening? How many times are we going to have to protest human rights abuses only to have the perpetrators rewarded with honours like the Olympic Games? The list goes on and on, and the conversation surrounding it must go on also. Things will not get better by putting the issues back into the closet. Change has never happened by letting a problem sit silently while everyone ignores it and goes about their day-to-day, and the major issue here is that fear is the day-to-day norm for many LGBTQ people the world over. There is no good reason to shove this problem aside. If you feel weary of the discussion, ask yourself why that is (and be very honest with your response. Don’t worry, only you have to make peace with the reality of how you feel. Nobody else has to know).

Yes, the fight for social equality must continue. The white, heterosexist, male-centric culture that still dominates much of the world has had its day; and it is time for that to end. A lot of people may not like it, but paradigms of superiority have not worked for the human race. It is time for the Age of Equality, and the discussion is just getting started.