Who Is Declaring This “War On Gender?”

What’s with this trend on the right of fighting against the wars we’re supposedly waging on the left? Every year, the viewers of Fox News are treated to Bill O’Reilly’s insane antics over his made up “war on Christmas.” Those of us who want equal protection under the law are constantly accused of waging a “war on religious freedom.” Now, in the midst of the raging debate over Trans people using the washroom, a bunch of very vocal people are fear-mongering over a supposed “war on gender.” A war on gender? What?

It’s pretty easy to tell who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t when it comes to gender issues. For example, if you think we are all born as one gender or another, you are confused about the difference and relationship between gender and sex. If you think that all Trans people identify as the gender opposite their assigned sex and seek physical transition, you have obviously never bothered to learn anything about Trans identity; and if you think there is a war on gender, you have failed to listen to those of us who have been trying to explain this to you ad nauseum.

I’m going to take a different approach to this today, by saying that the acceptance of Trans identities, and the openness with which we listen and understand, reveals a beautiful truth about humanity. What the right has failed to realize, perhaps what many of us on the left don’t even realize, is that our movement is changing conventional wisdom on the human condition. What we have always thought, or known, about ourselves is not diminished by this, rather it is enhanced by the realization that we are much more complex than we ever imagined. As LGBTQ+ people become more emboldened, more confident in coming out and living their authentic selves, we learn more about our species. The movement sweeping our world is not a war on gender, it’s a revolution of discovery!

The bible, used by the right to justify opposition to progress, is not a textbook. It does not speak truth to the human condition, and the view(s) of humanity contained within its pages is simple and rudimentary, with little nuance. We are more complicated than that, and to embrace humanity is to try to understand that complexity. Passing judgment is something we do naturally, but when we depend on an ancient text to pass judgment in the ‘now,’ we do ourselves, and those we are judging, a terrible disservice. To insist upon this method, and to ‘double down’ on what we know, or even suspect, to be insufficient, is the very embodiment of willful ignorance. This is the problem in the church today. Too many people just don’t care enough. Too many people prefer to cast aspersions instead of seeking truth, because seeking truth, and attempting to understand it, is hard. It’s much easier to take what they have believed for so long and cling to that as infallible. What a horrible injustice it is to reject the fulfillment of discovering more about the world around us.

So I ask those who say we have declared war on gender: who is declaring this war on gender? I am what many of you would mistakenly call a “gay activist,” am I declaring war on gender? The only war on gender is the one you have made up. Just like Bill O’Reilly and his war on Christmas, you are fighting a figment of your imagination. There is no war on gender, we are merely learning. We are embracing new knowledge, preferring not to sit stagnant with ancient beliefs. Refusing to accept the ever-expanding library of knowledge about who and what we are, in favour of a belief that diminishes our complexity is, quite frankly, insulting. Why are you so threatened by the rejection of gender roles? Why are you so threatened by the notion that a person can be born in the wrong body? Why are you so threatened by a person who is biologically one sex, but whose brain is organized as both male and female? Why do you refuse to even try to learn about the reality of a gender identity that doesn’t fit the male-female binary at all?

Do you know how much we suffer? We live on edge, constantly having to check our words for fear of what we might let slip, and to whom. At 34 years old, nobody should be afraid to come out to their parents … but I was. Do you know how demeaning it is, how utterly dehumanizing, to be afraid to show your true colours, to be afraid of physical attack that too often ends in the deaths of our peers, and do you know that the suffering we endure is entirely your fault? Ideas based on religious beliefs and convictions, picked like low-hanging fruit from the pages of scripture, have been applied to social conventions with devastating effects. Those who hold these are to blame for the pain we endure. If those ideas were not pushed and insisted upon, if everybody embraced the beautiful diversity of the human condition, we wouldn’t have these problems. The issues we face are not internal, they are brought about by the exclusionary and restrictive norms and practices of tradition. My struggle, for example, is not with myself; it’s with the consequences of living openly as myself.

Think about that last statement for a minute. If you still can’t imagine any reality other than the make-believe one where me and my cohorts have declared war on gender, you’re not worth wasting any more time on.

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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.

 

Kim Davis Broke The Law

Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied the Supreme Court and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was found to be in contempt of court and sentenced to jail a few days ago. Cue her supporters, the droves of Christians who are now rushing to her defence, loudly screaming “foul” on the grounds of religious freedom being trampled. It’s a predictable response, and there’s one point her supporters are all missing … Kim Davis broke the law.

This case has nothing to do with religious freedom. Everybody has the right to freely practice their religion, but they do not have the right to impose their beliefs on others. When you work as a public servant, your right to religious freedom is limited to you – you may not infringe on the rights of the people your job requires you to serve. This is how rights and freedoms work in general. My right to swing my arm ends at my neighbour’s nose. When a law ensuring the rights of an oppressed group is passed, you follow it, and if you refuse to follow it you suffer legal consequences. It’s not complicated. The same thing happened when Jim Crow laws were abolished. People complained about losing religious freedom then as well, but I think we can all agree that re-enacting those laws would be a very bad thing.

The U.S. Supreme Court took mandatory prayer out of schools in the early 1960’s. That was one of many legal actions made to remove the imposition of Christian values onto people who do not subscribe to, or practice, Christianity. These laws are in place because they are good for us as a society. We may all freely practice the religion of our choosing, including none at all, but the government can’t take sides. When state laws are based upon religious belief, equality is, by definition, impossible. We follow the laws that bring equality closer, and if we are jailed for our refusal to do so, we may NOT then truthfully say that our religious freedom is being trampled. This is what has happened in the Kim Davis case.

Please don’t try to make Kim Davis going to jail into a reason to complain about religious freedom falling by the wayside. She is NOT a martyr. She refused to issue marriage licenses to a specific group of people, despite her job requiring her to. She broke the law, and she is suffering the legal consequences of doing so. Her anti-gay stance IS disgusting, it IS deplorable, and yes I DO think she is presenting herself in a very negative way … but none of that has anything to do with her going to jail. Before you start to complain about Christians being jailed for their beliefs, understand that doing so is to complain about something that isn’t happening; at least not in this part of the world. There is but one fact here: Kim Davis broke the law.

 

Religious Freedom And The Protection Of “Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs”

For anybody who watches and reads the American social and political news sources on a daily basis, there is one phrase that keeps popping up in relation to religious freedom. Spoken by Christian zealots and charlatans cornered after putting their bigotry on display for the world to see, this phrase is used as a line of defence. On almost a daily basis, I come across yet another story of a person claiming some terrible wrong has befallen them for doing nothing more than merely expressing their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” For some time now, legislators in various states have been attempting to enact laws and statutes to allow discriminatory exemptions for “sincerely held religious beliefs,” effectively allowing businesses to refuse service to people of any given minority; so long as that refusal is done on religious grounds. Fortunately, those proposed laws are continuously being struck down by the courts, but this widespread misunderstanding of what religious freedom actually means is disturbing. Freedom of religion is just like freedom of speech. We may practice any religion we like, but that freedom ends at our neighbour’s nose. Sincerely held belief or not, the denial of rights or services based upon subjective interpretations of a given holy book, is entirely unacceptable, ignorant, and ultimately detrimental to civilization.

This idea of protecting one’s actions based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” is a raging issue in America, so there is no shortage of controversy surrounding it. Outrage among the religious right was recently sparked by President Obama’s signing of non-discrimination orders, orders that extend federal protection against discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This has been done specifically to protect LGBTQ people from religious bigotry, and the faith-based groups opposed to it are furious. In every argument I have yet seen put forward, the issue of religious freedom is raised; and every time there is an underlying misunderstanding of what religious freedom is. We as a society must realize that freedom, inasmuch as freedom can exist at all, is not all-inclusive to the individual. We are all free, and because of that our freedom depends upon our consideration of others. You may speak, but you must accept the consequences of what you say. You may practice your faith, but you must respect the freedoms and rights of those who do not. This is not a negotiable idea. If your religious beliefs require you to oppress, control, and condemn, then perhaps you should re-evaluate what it is you believe and why.

Slowly and steadily, allies and outspoken minority people are winning the war against religious oppression. You can join us and accept that religious freedom protects you as long as you do not impose harmful “beliefs” on others, or you can choose to close yourself off to reality. Either way, the world is heading toward acceptance and equality. We are moving in the right direction, and as we progress, it is important that we maintain our freedoms and use them in the ways they were intended. I support Religious Freedom. I do NOT support religious justification for exclusion and inequality.