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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The Following, I Freely Admit, Is A Rant …

The following, I freely admit, is a rant; but I believe it to be a necessary one. There is something that must be said, and I am tired of waiting for someone else to say it.

On Saturday, November 8, 2014, I had a moment of morbid realization when I came across a headline that read “Being Gay In Iran Can Mean Death – Or Getting A Forced Sex Change.” The best way I can describe my reaction to this is that moment when you realize that there is no limit to the ways in which some members of our species will hurt each other. It seems that there are no lines that cannot be crossed. The increasing amount of good being manifested in our society is uplifting, but the dark side of humanity still has too much control over the actions of deranged psychotics willing to kill over religious attitudes toward difference.

For every horrifying idea, there are a few disturbed people willing to carry it out; and when such ideas become state policy, we have new blood on our hands. The fact that Iran is one of 10 countries in which homosexuality is punishable by death, is a testament to the human potential to fail. I am going to go ahead here and assert that Iran is one of the most backward nations on Earth. Along with countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran is a prime example of what happens when you run a government in accordance with religious principles. The archaic ideas and human rights abuses found in the books of the three primary monotheistic religions should never be used to inform policy, law, legislation, or ANY matter regarding the running of a state (It is said that many Western laws and statutes were based on Biblical morality, but this is not true. Every example of our “Biblically inspired moral code” is based on a value that predates Biblical times).

To be clear, I refuse to identify this as a Muslim problem. This is a religion problem. It is the great failure of humanity, when faith in religious doctrine trumps reality; and it applies to every religion in which doctrine leads people to mistreat others. The fact that most of us miss, is that these things always have religious foundations. In North America and the U.K, discrimination and hate is rooted in Christianity. In the Middle East, it’s Islam. In Russia, much of the hatred toward LGBTQ people is informed by the Orthodox Church. In Africa, it’s the colonial brand of hate-filled doctrine introduced by the parasitic missionaries of the past. In every country where minority people are routinely mistreated to the point of fearing for their lives, religious belief can be found at the very foundations of the social structure. In countries that experience very low levels of hate-inspired action, we see higher levels of secularism. The correlation here points to the root cause. Religion informs culture, and in those precious few cultures where religion has not gained dominance, we see much more acceptance, equality, and overall social health. I point this out for two reasons. (1) It’s relevant. (2) I often encounter “you make a lot of good points, but what’s your solution?” Well, I believe the answer to that lies in what we deem worthy of respect.

As long as we have countries where minority people are treated as inhuman, threatened, and demeaned in horrifying ways, we must continue to try to understand where the underlying ideas are coming from. Change cannot happen unless we understand what it is we have to change. I believe that an important part of this fight involves taking the perceived right to respect away from religious ideas. Ideas must be judged by their merits, not by the tradition behind them. If an idea is causing harm, it is deserving only of contempt until it either changes or ceases to be. The notion that religious belief is inherently deserving of respect has forced silence from people who may have otherwise cried out, if only it were acceptable to do so. There are some religious ideals that are deserving, but they are deserving because their merit is relevant and beneficial, NOT because they are a sincerely held religious belief. I don’t particularly care where an idea comes from – if it is hurting minority people, I will speak out against it, and if it is accepting and inclusive, I will support it. We do need to understand where an idea comes from to know how to fight it, but we only need to know the effects of it to pass judgment (and we have every right to that judgment. As a matter of fact, we have a moral obligation to it).

Now, I realize that a person with deep faith could be pretty angry with me at this point, if indeed you are in disagreement and have read this far, but it was really time for someone to say this. Religion is trashed all the time, but not generally by people who know what they are talking about. I have spoken out against ignorance in non-belief before, about the dishonesty of reading only what fellow non-believers say, and then taking their arguments as your own; without actually learning about what it is they argue against. Simply put, if you read only Richard Dawkins, you will wind up with the opinions of Richard Dawkins … but you will not be any closer to understanding religion, faith, or religious people. The difference here is that I know exactly what I’m saying, why I’m saying it, what my saying it means, and what objections may come my way. I have no problem criticizing religion because I study it. I know its power. I have lived it, and every day I struggle with the baggage associated with leaving it. Most importantly, I see it hurt more and more people every single day.

When I see a headline talking about capital punishment and forced sex changes as legal sentences for homosexuality, I get angry. This time, as you can see, I’m angry almost beyond my ability to remain tactful. To be honest, I’m tired of the continuing position of privilege held by religious ideas. I can no longer even accept the argument “not every Christian/Muslim/Jewish person is like that,” because the radicals can find just as much justification for violence as the moderates find for peace … in the exact same book. Enough already. I beg of you … if you subscribe to an ancient text … please understand that your belief does not give you the right to lash out at what you do not understand. I realize that coming out of the dark ages is a frightening prospect (and I realize that saying that is probably offensive), but please do us all a favour and join us as we march toward equality. If you decide to stand on the sidelines frowning and holding your “Adam and Eve” placards, know that you are displaying a complete lack of moral behaviour. Subscribing to ignorance is not righteous. It is dishonest and shameful.

In Defence Of The West

After a brief two-week hiatus I am back to writing, and I have decided today to write about something I never thought I would feel the need to. It is no secret that the western world has many problems. In both Canada and the United States, governmental decisions are threatening to financially and morally bankrupt each nation, and things are not much better in many parts of Europe. The western world has become very good at doing many detrimental things, but there are criticisms from other parts of the world that I feel are unfair.

The name “Boko Haram” allegedly translates to “western education is sinful.” The terrorist organization that bears this name has been responsible for thousands of deaths in their jihad for sharia law. They recently kidnapped approximately 220 schoolgirls in Nigeria as a way to deny them an education that sharia dictates they are not permitted to have. When groups like this warn of the “evils” of western education, I take exception. In the western world, we are consistently looking for ways to change things in order to do what is best for the largest number of students. We are consistently collaborating with professionals in varying fields in order to ensure that the most accurate and effective information is taught. Perhaps most importantly, we are consistently enacting and promoting policies and programs that protect and nurture both male AND female students as they grow in character and knowledge. The education system in the west is generally progressive, positive, and moral. A system in which young women are not permitted to learn, a holy book is taught as fact, war is taught as a necessity, rape is taught as the fault of the woman, and non-believers must be punished if they speak against Allah or Mohammed, is grossly immoral. For those who subscribe to sharia law to claim that anyone else is “sinful” is a shameful testament to their willful ignorance of humanity.

I am not one to defend everything that we do in the west, and you need only to read anything else written on this site to see that. The problem I have here is that we are condemned and threatened for our “sinful ways” by people who feel a righteous obligation to rape, kill, and pillage; and this problem is not isolated to Muslim extremism or “Boko Haram.” The Islamic faith worships the God of Abraham, as do the Christian and Jewish faiths. In the Bible, slavery is condoned (see Exodus 21 for your ‘how-to’ guide), a virgin who is raped must marry her rapist after payment has been made to her father (Deuteronomy 22: 28-29), and Jesus came not to change the laws but to uphold them (Matthew 5: 17-20). There are many Muslims and Christians who are peaceful and even progressive in their approach to the world, and with them I have no issue. The point here is that the people who do pose a problem on account of their holy book(s) do not have any moral authority upon which they can stand to condemn the rest of us.

In the case of general education and way of life, I will defend my culture and the people who co-exist within it. We have many problems, but none so great as those who are loudest in their condemnation of us.