Tag Archives: homophobia

Homophobia, allies, and definitions

I often enjoy looking over the stats for this blog, particularly to see how people run across this blog.  Today, I found myself fascinated by one visit in particular because of the search they used to land on my blog:

do people have to be an lgbt ally to not be homophobic

Personally, I find that a fascinating question.  I also think it’s a question that requires us to first understand what terms like “homophobic” and “ally” mean.  Of course, different people probably understand the words slightly differently, but since it’s my blog, I’m going to explore how I understand those terms.

I tend to view homophobia as any action which negates, denigrates, trivializes, or lessens the basic dignity and humanity of QUILTBAG people, either collectively or individually.  This means that actually being up a QUILTBAG person, fighting against full equality for QUILTBAG people, and telling a joke that makes fun of QUILTBAG people or trivializes their experience are all homophobic acts in my book.

So what’s an LGBT ally in my book?  Anyone who believes that QUILTBAG people deserve to be treated with the same humanity, decency, and respect given to heterosexuals as a matter of course and acts out that belief.  That doesn’t mean that I think that one has to run out and volunteer to help with the latest marriage equality campaign or anything else so “grand.”  For me (and others may feel differently), being an ally can be as simple as expressing displeasure when someone else tells a homophobic joke.  It can be as simple as lending moral support to the trans* friend who is having problems with a transphobic coworker.

So to get back to the original question, I think it’s actually inverted.  I think the real question is, “Can a person seek to rid themselves of homophobia and still not be an ally?”  As I think about it, I’m inclined to think the answer is no.  I think as a person becomes aware of how their thought patterns and actions — even the minor ones — hurt QUILTBAG people — even unintentionally — and seek to change them, they are in effect going through the process of becoming an ally (or a better one).  After all, when you become aware of such things in your own life, you tend to become more aware of them around you, and it tends to bother you there.

Catholic Cardinal Makes a [Pathetic] Apology

For those of you who missed it, Cardinal George of the Chicago diocese of the Catholic church recently made statements on FOX News comparing the QUILTBAG community to the KKK because pride parade organizers changed the parade’s route this year, meaning that the parade would pass by Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.  Because you know, marching past a church one day out of the whole year and potentially making things a bit more difficult for church-goers wishing to attend services that day[1] is exactly the same as terrorizing non-caucasian people with cross burnings and other such activities.  (For further thoughts on the Cardinal’s statements, be sure to check out Fannie’s post.)

Well, apparently that hasn’t gone well for Cardinal, (shocker, I know) because he issued the following statement on the archdiocese website:

Statement from Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
January 6, 2012

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year’s Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan.  I do not believe that; it is obviously not true.  Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I.  We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are.  I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church’s liberty.  This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

This is what some of us like to call a “fauxpology.”  Note that the Cardinal isn’t actually sorry for what he said, he’s merely sorry for the way some people interpreted what he said.  Apparently, to the Cardinal, there is some mystic context in which it’s okay to compare QUILTBAG people — any QUILTBAG person[2] — to the KKK.  A real apology would have started not with “I’m distressed that people took my statements that way,” but with “That was a rather cruel and defamatory thing I said.  I’m sorry.”

It would’ve ended there, too.  There would be no further need for an explanation or an attempt to rationalize his statements.  To be honest, the person you owe an apology to does not care why you said or did something hurtful to them. They don’t care whether you were motivated by fear, greed, or voices in your head.  They just want you to stop hurting them and make whatever restorative steps may be appropriate.

The fact that the Cardinal goes on to talk about his “motivating fears” means not only that he’s trying to make excuses why what he said wasn’t so bad, but he’s trying to make the whole thing about him.  Instead of focusing on the people he’s hurt, he’s making a shameless play for sympathy.

It’s a bad play at that.  He’s afraid of the loss of religious liberty?  Again, consider that the only “religious liberty” in jeopardy by the parade were that some church-goers might have been inconvenienced for a single service.  And while I appreciate that the parade organizers were willing to do something to mitigate that problem, such a minor inconvenience would have hardly made a martyr of anyone.  The Cardinal is simply playing into the persecution complex that his church has been well known for lately.

Recall that the Catholic church has lately been playing the martyr card because various states — including Illinois — has been telling them that Catholic Charities cannot take taxpayer money for adoption and foster care services while discriminating against QUILTBAG people.  They’ve also been complaining that Catholic health services cannot receive aid for health programs that refuse to either provide women with reproductive services or at least refer them to someone else.  It seems to me that Catholic leaders like Cardinal George only care about waning liberties when it’s their own religious liberties.  When it comes to the rights of women and QUILTBAG people that they’re religion doesn’t care fore, they’re okay with diminishing rights.

Of course, the greatest insult is how Cardinal George plays the “I have friends and loved ones who are gay” card, as if that somehow absolves him of his horribly anti-gay and homophobic statements.  I recently talked about the “gay friend” defense and will not repeat myself here.

Given the importance that the concept that repentance and reconciliation plays in Catholic theology, it seems to me that Cardinal George would do well to do a better job acting out both in this situation.

[1]  To the parade organizers’ credit, they delayed the start of the parade when the church expressed concerns about the parade interfering with church-goers ability to attend services.  In my book, they’re willingness to work with the church made the Cardinal’s comments all that more egregious.
[2]  Okay, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s a QUILTBAG person out there who is actually a member of the KKK.  But then, they’re sexual orientation and/or gender identity have nothing to do with the fact that they’re a racist.  And it wouldn’t be a comparison.

Signs you might have a homophobia problem

Bert Hummel would totally get today’s post.

Like racism, sexism, and transphobia, homophobia is something that can be quite subtle, yet persistent.  Some people think that not calling gay people “dykes” and “faggots” and not perpetrating physical violence against gay people means they are free of all homophobia.  However, they miss the little things that they say and do that continue and encourage negative attitudes — no matter how subtle — toward QUILTBAG[1] people.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when I watched a random person stutter and stammer, and try to demonstrate his self-perceived non-homophobic status to me.  As I listened to him, I began to compile the following list of things that indicate one has a homophobia problem.  Some of the statements in this list are things that this person actually said, while other ones are things that came to mind.

“I’m not homophobic, but….”

I think it’s good to start with this one because it’s based on a greater and possibly universal principle.  You can replace “homophobic” with “sexist,” “racist,” “transphobic,” “ablist,” “classist,” or just about anything else, and the statement will still be problematic.

This statement fails because basic communications teaches that the word “but” cancels out anything said up to that point.  The preceding clause can be removed and not change the rest of the message.  So if whatever comes after the word “but” is the true message.  If that message “sounds” homophobic, it is homophobic.

This statement is actually about self-deception, in that the person knows what they are about to say is indeed homophobic, but they do not wish to be perceived — by themselves or others — as homophobic.  They think that simply asserting that they are not homophobic, they are somehow insulated[2] by the homophobic sentiments they are about to express or imply.

If you find yourself saying “I’m not homophobic, but,” stop talking immediately.  Accept that what you were about to say was homophobic and be a better person by not saying it.  Ever again.

“I didn’t know you were gay.”

If you say something in front of me and realize it wasn’t a good thing to say in front of me due to my sexual orientation, then you shouldn’t have said it in my absence, either.  It’s amazing to me that people don’t get this concept.

People are more concerned about not appearing homophobic than they are with actually being homophobic.  In their minds, it’s okay to make homophobic and other problematic statements as long as no one — at least no one who doesn’t share those same sentiments — actually hears them.  I’m reminded of the saying that what a person does when others are watching defines zir reputation while what zie does when no one is looking defines zir character.  It seems that we live in a society where many people are concerned about their reputation, but not their character.

“I have gay friends.”

To be frank, I think every QUILTBAG person I know is one of those “gay friends.”  If you talk about your “gay friends” as a defense against accusations of homophobia, stop and ask your “gay friends” how they feel about this.  Quite frankly, I’m the “gay friend” of several people, and they don’t make my list of people I’d call up if I just had a bad break up, if I needed to talk to someone about an STD scare, or even if I was just feeling depressed and needed someone to talk to.  Quite frankly, such people overstate the strength and value of our “friendship.”  I often suspect the person who starts telling me about their “gay friends” in this context are doing likewise.

There’s also the fact that having gay friends — even real gay friends — does not make one a perfect person when it comes to being an ally for gay people or homophobia-free.  I do have legitimate friends who occasionally slip up and say something stupid and hurtful.  The reason they’re still my friends is because when I point it out to them, they acknowledge it and apologize.  They don’t start telling me how they can’t possibly be homophobic because they have friends like me.

“I was only joking.”

Now, I like gay humor.  I make all kinds of jokes about myself, especially those areas in which I actually fit the gay male stereotypes.  I also make such jokes because humor can be a powerful way to reclaim power over something that is hurtful and othering.

However, as a gay man, I have the right to make that choice.  I can joke about things that hurt me because it’s my life and my pain I’m joking about.  When I do it, it’s a powerful weapon I’m wielding.  When someone else — such as a heterosexual person — does it, it’s likely to be rubbing salt in my wounds.  Someone else making light of that which hurts and others me is not empowering me, it’s having a laugh at my expense.

I may let some friends — those true allies that have walked beside me through my struggles and who would be the first to step up to my defense — engage in such humor.  They have earned that privilege in my mind, so I choose to grant it to them.  But if I have not explicitly granted you that privilege, claiming it for yourself is hurtful and wrong.  Joke about your own pains and struggles.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

This is another one of those deflective phrases that people use.  It was a common catchphrase used by the WINK 106 morning show back when I lived in the Elmira area.  Whenever they topic of homosexuality came up, one of the show’s hosts would quickly add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

Here’s the thing:  If you have to utter that phrase, then it’s clear that even you — or some part of you — feels like you’ve said something that implies there is something wrong with being gay.  People who sincerely believe that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and demonstrate that belief through their words and deeds need no such disclaimer.

If you find yourself making any of the above statements — or remember when you’ve made them in the past — it’s time to re-evaluate your understanding of and attitude towards non-heterosexual orientations.  It’s time to admit that, yes, maybe you need to address some homophobia still lurking in your thoughts.  That admission does mean that you’re a horrible person.  But refusing to make that admission will keep you from becoming a better person.  And ultimately, isn’t actually becoming a better person preferable to trying to convince people you’re a better person?

[1]  I’m actually hesitant to use such an inclusive term for this discussion.  While much of what I say is applicable to — or can be modified to be applicable to — intersexed, transgender, and asexual people, there are entire lists of ways that such people are additionally marginalized and othered which I will not be discussing in this post.  As such, mentioning them without at least acknowledging their unique experiences where I am actually privileged strikes me as problematic.

[2]  These are likely people who also operate under the mistaken belief that intent is magic.

Raised Right: False Equivalence

Trigger Warning:  Brief mentions of homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, and rape culture.

There’s a lot of good material to discuss in chapter seven of “Raised Right:  How I Untangled my Faith from Politics” by Alisa Harris.  However, for today’s post, I want to focus on the following statement, made toward the end of the chapter:

Our gayness, blackness, whiteness, femaleness are not parts of a complete identity but our whole identity, elevated from an accident of birth to a political credo.  We become misshapen when all the spiritual and intellectual parts of our identity become merely political.

There have been a number of instances in the book so far where Ms. Harris has offered some wonderful and self-reflective insights into her experiences with conservative Christianity, only to incorrectly — in my opinion at least — projects those insights onto liberals, feminists, QUILTBAG people, and others.  As this particular instance is especially egregious in my mind, I want to take the time to draw attention to it.

There may be some truth, at least in some instances, to Ms. Harris’s suggestion that one’s race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or some other aspect of one’s life that tends to take central stage, possibly to the exclusion of others.  As a gay man, I am particularly fond of the following line spoken by John Mahoney’s character in “The Broken Hearts Club:”

Sometimes I wonder what you boys would do if you weren’t gay. You’d have no identity. It was easy when you couldn’t talk about it. Now it’s all you talk about. You talk about it so much that you forget about all the other things that you are.

However, I think it’s important to understand why this is often the case, which Timothy Olyphant’s character in the same movie explains so well.  To paraphrase[1], he suggests that a lot of gay guys tend to spend so much time hiding, denying, and even trying to change who they are that when they finally come to accept their orientation, they feel like they “have a lot of catching up to do.”

I think we can expand on that sentiment by considering the way in which people are marginalized, repressed, and dehumanized for being gay, female, trans* or a racial minority.  Whether we look at racism, transphobia, homophobia, or misogyny, the message that many in our society — and the system itself — sends to many such people is clear:  “You are not fully human because of who you are.”

When someone’s basic humanity is constantly[2] diminished, challenged, and denied because of some aspect of zirself then it is perfectly reasonable that defending zir humanity from those attacks, which means focusing on that aspect of zirself.  For women, racial minorities, and QUILTBAG people, defending their rights and devoting significant amounts of time is a matter of self-respect and even survival.  Comparing the amount of time that such marginalized people spend on those endeavors to the endeavors of the conservative political efforts — efforts that often translate to the continuing marginalization of other people, is dubious at best.

I am thankful that Ms. Harris has rethought many of her previously held positions and untangled her faith from her politics.  However, when it comes to considering the plight of marginalized people and how they choose to handle that plight, I think she needs to think things through a bit more.

[1]  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an exact quote online.

[2]  And the constant presence of such othering of various groups is something that people who do not belong to those groups[3] often miss.

[3]  And this is true among the various marginalized groups, even.  For example, I’m constantly amazed at just how pervasive the rape culture and other forms of misogyny is as I read feminist blogs.  Being gay does not automatically sensitize me to the struggles others face.

How not to reach out to gay people.

Trigger Warnings:  Homophobia, suicidal thoughts, sexually violent dreams, frank sexual talk.  If you don’t feel you can handle reading this post, I completely understand.  Please feel free to ask Personal Failure to share one of her otters with you instead.

Confessions of a Former Conservative is one of my favorite blogs, as he critiques, challenges, and denounces some of the more spiteful things said by fundamentalist and other ultra-conservative Christians online.  One of the blogs he regularly critiques is written by a woman named Gerie.  He recently posted a critique on her condemnation of Christians who are pro-gay and reaffirmed her own certainty that being gay is a sin.  As she quoted the Romans 1 “clobber passage,” I offered the following commentary on Former Conservative’s post:

You know what? That particular passage pisses me off. You know why? Because it suggests that the cause of homosexuality is idolatry. Well, guess what? I grew up a good little Christian. i said the sinner’s prayer and meant it. I did everything I was supposed to. And I still turned out gay. I tried to convince myself it was a phase. I stayed gay. I prayed to God and begged with Him to turn me straight. I’m still gay.

So you know what? Fuck Romans 1 (or at least Gerie’s interpretation of it.) Because I did everything I was supposed to and I still ended up fucking gay. So obviously, either Romans 1 is bullshit or Gerie’s interpretation of it is.

And I’m not the only person who had that experience. There’s at least one website dedicated to people who did everything right and even tried to overcome their gayness and yet remained gay.

I understand that Gerie’s the type that will continue to believe her whacked-out interpretation over reality, but come on. She can at least acknowledge that she’s a reality-denier. It’d be the honest thing to do, and given how important the truth (supposedly) is to her…..

Apparently, Gerie read my statement, because it’s a fairly that her Monday post is a direct response to what I said.  As I read it, I was both amused and disgusted.  I was amused because I found many of the things Gerie said in response to my comment to be quite predictable.  I was disgusted for the same reasons.  Gerie’s response is a non-response.  A response actually engages with what was said and seeks dialogue.  Gerie’s lengthy missive makes no such attempt.  Instead, it is little more than a reiteration of her position and an attempt to make my own personal narrative fit into her preconceived ideas on the topic.

Gerie says the following of me and my comment in the introduction to her post:

But this heartfelt comment that I read, stood out from the others and I am sure, touched the heart of God. I know this because from the time I read it, the Lord had me on my knees, praying and interceding with many tears for this person. Who I don’t know personally and have never met, but for a little while, as I prayed for him, I could feel the pain in his heart, and the inner conflict and turmoil that sin has caused in his life.

To be frank, I find the above statements patronizing and sanctimonious.  Gerie claims that my post had her in tears and she had this great emotional experience over me.  However, note that her response is simply to pray and “know what I’m feeling.”  And yet she did not make any attempt to contact me.  She did not join the open conversation on Former Conservative’s blog.  She did not try to find my email address[1] in order to contact me directly.  Instead, she decided to write a blog post about me (she couldn’t even be bothered to address her comments to me) on a blog that doesn’t allow comments.

These are not the actions of someone who wants dialogue.  I will go so far as to say that this is not someone who even cares, despite her claims to the contrary.  A person who cares about someone seeks to engage in conversation with that other person.  Gerie is simply having another self-aggrandizing moment of (faux) piety.

 I also find it curious that based on a single, 225-word (not counting the quoted passage) comment , Gerie is sure that she knows exactly what I am feeling[2] and why.  If Gerie thinks that such a short message can give her a complete insight into my numerous and complex feelings on the topic of my sexual, romantic, and emotional feelings and the fact that I was brought up to think those things made me evil (a position I have since long rejected both with good reason and for the better), she is sorely mistaken.  And there’s certainly no inner conflict.  I’ve long made peace with my feelings and the Divine.  So any “inner conflict” Gerie is sensing is an invention of her own imagination.

Gerie takes a pause in her discussion to offer the following aside to parents, which I find very telling:

Parents, take the time to talk to your children and pay attention to what’s going on inside of their hearts. I am learning that Satan attacks our children mercilessly simply because he can get away with it and he is never suspected.

I bolded the part that I find most interesting in a most disturbing way.  Reread that and let it sink in.  According to Gerie, Satan is allowed to attack children.  By whom?  Well, by Gerie’s god, of course!  Again, take a moment for that to really sink in.  Gerie’s god allows Satan to attack children.  He does nothing to stop it.  What’s worse, if Satan’s attacks on children works, Gerie’s god sends those children to eternal torment as a punishment for not standing up to those attacks.

Am I the only one that thinks that makes Gerie’s god a complete fucking bastard?

I’ll also note that ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy “experts” have spewed all this “parents be careful or your children could go stray” stuff before.  Some of the family members of former ex-gays will gladly tell you that it places an unbearable sense of guilt on them.  Mom and Dad don’t need any more shaming over my sexual, romantic, and emotional feelings than I do.

Gerie continues:

For instance whether a child accepts the belief that they are gay or not, and believing they were made that way or were born that way, because the feelings were there as far back as they can remember.

People don’t believe they’re gay.  People believe that there’s a god who hears their prayers.  People believe that humans are basically good.  People believe that buying lotto tickets from the middle of the row increases their chances of winning.  These are all intellectual ideas with a great deal of doubt, uncertainty, and unverifiability.

Romantic and sexual attractions are too concrete and too visceral to be considered mere belief.  The boy who is left feeling cold at the thought of kissing Judy or Lilly,[3] but whose heart flutters at the thought of kissing Ken or Roger has more than a “belief” that he is guy.  The young girl who wakes up from her fifth dream about making out with a girl all sweaty and aroused has more than a “belief” that she is gay.

Sexual orientation is about feelings and attractions.  These things are inherently involuntary.  People don’t plan to feel a certain way, and emotions tend to happen on their own.  If those feelings tend to be towards members of the same sex and of a romantic and sexual nature, that person is gay.  There’s no “belief” involved.

The belief that a person is born gay is correctly identified as a belief.  However, it is a belief that is based in a great deal of evidence and common sense.  There has been a great deal of research that has demonstrated a high level of certainty that sexual orientation is biologically determined and most likely a matter of genetics combined with pre-natal conditions.  Of course, this brings me to the next statement made by Gerie:

Common sense tells us
that if God will judge homosexuality as sin that He would never
intentionally plant those desires in our hearts, but that the source of
those feeling had to originate from somewhere else.

Gerie is correct about what common sense tells us.  However, I will argue that her conclusion is counter-intuitive and completely works the reasoning in the wrong direction.

You see, all the research and the experiences of actual gay people suggests very strongly — to those who value empirical data above blindly following dogma — that all those feelings and desires are inborn.  As such, the reasonable conclusion is that no loving god would “make” us gay and then condemn us, so no loving god would be condemn those who are gay.

Instead, Gerie chooses to assume — based on nothing other than a dogmatic acceptance of a “literal interpretation” of certain clobber passages that theologians have challenged repeatedly — that God hates homosexuality.  So instead of relying on scientific research and the experiences of countless gay people, she decides there must be another explanation for gayness.  As I said in my original comment, Gerie is engaging in reality-denial here.

Of course, Gerie’s explanation is still problematic.  Her solution is to say that Satan gave people those feelings, even at a very young age.  But as I noted earlier, Gerie’s god still had to allow Satan to do this.  I do not accept that a loving god would condemn people to eternal damnation for choosing to cope with the feelings He allowed Satan to give them the best way they know how any more than he’d condemn them if He had given those same people those same feelings Himself.

Gerie’s god simply makes no sense to me unless that I accept that He stands for some things I consider morally abhorrent.  If I accept that, then I have no desire to have anything to do with such a god.

After going on about Satan’s evil ways of getting people to believe various things and God’s abusive ways of sending people to eternal torment for falling for Satan’s tricks, Gerie hits upon a rather ironic statement about the hard questions:

Never go to your Pastor or any man with the hard questions that he couldn’t possibly know the answer to, go to God.

I find this ironic because Gerie has effectively condemned herself.  If you read through the post I’m critiquing and the rest of your blog, you will find that Gerie makes a regular practice of “answering the hard questions” herself.  Does this mean that secretly, Gerie believes that she is God?  It would certainly explain a number of things.

I’m sure that Gerie would defend herself by saying that she’s going to the Bible and giving not her own answers, but God’s answers.  The problem with this claim, however, is that this is the same claim that just about every pastor I know would make (except that many pastors I know would honestly add that it’s their understanding of God’s answers “as it stands now” and that it may be inaccurate).  There’s nothing that actually demonstrates that Gerie has any more authority to make that claim than they do.

At any rate, Gerie suggests that the correct thing to do is to ultimately go to God with the hard questions:

So we should always try
to understand things from Gods perspective. Get on your knees and go to
God and ask for wisdom and understanding. Be persistent and never give
We want everything to happen overnight and can I tell you that it just doesn’t work that way. Not with the things that matter.

This is sound advice, except that it assumes that people like me — or people who disagree with Gerie’s understanding of a wrathful god hell-bent on doing horrible things to people He disapproves of for reasons he has a hand in — haven’t done this already.  If Gerie doesn’t think I and tohers sought god earnestly and painfully, then her understanding of me is fatally flawed.  To be blunt, she has no understanding of me.  As I mentioned before, she is merely making assumptions about me and those like me to make our narratives fit her preconceived notions.  Gerie is engaging in more reality-denial.

As for the comment that God doesn’t answer questions over night, I will simply comment that I waited on God for eight years for an answer and only came to the answer I did when it nearly destroyed me.  Between accepting that I’m gay and slitting my wrists — something I seriously considered for over thirty minutes and in such detail that I can still picture the curve of the blade, the grain of the wood, and the exact color of the brass rivets of the knife I was going to use — I decided that any truly Divine being would rather see me accept my feelings.

If Gerie and her god doesn’t understand that…well I’d say my opinion of them would go down, but I’m not sure that’s possible at this point.

Next, Gerie moves into one of her favorite subjects: how it’s important to fear her god.  Now quite frankly, considering all the horrible things Gerie’s god allegedly does, I’d be apt to fear him if I believed in him at all, too.  That’s a god who should be feared, not loved.

To support her position, Gerie quotes Luke 12:5:

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has
killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

So there you have it.  Even Jesus says we should fear god.  But maybe we should see what Jesus had to say in the verses that bracket that one.

4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!  6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?[a] And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

So basically, Jesus isn’t saying “fear God” so much as he’s saying “if you’re going to fear anyone, it should be God, but you shouldn’t even fear him.”  This actually goes along with what the apostle John said about love casting out fear.

I’m going to jump over the section where Gerie goes on at length about how for heaven to work, God has to have perfect obedience in order.  That in itself would make a great blog post.  However, for now, I’m simply going to suggest that reading this part of Gerie’s post about how God needs to be a tyrant for everybody’s own good with Bob Altemyer’s book “The Authoritarians” in mind.

The thing I will note, however, is that Gerie makes a switch in her argument about morality at this point.  Up to this point, she has been calling for blind obedience to God’s commands (or Gerie’s interpretation of them) simply because He’s God and if you don’t, He’ll torment you forever and ever.  Now she’s trying to claim that God only does this because it’s the only way to keep things going smoothly, as if suddenly keeping things going smoothly is now the real reason for morality rather than avoiding God’s wrath.  Of course, she offers no proof that (her interpretation of) God’s commands will actually make things go smoothly, so this comes off more like an abusive father who is claiming that beating his child until limbs break or a lung gets punctured is “for their own good.”  Both arguments are just as unsubstantiated.

Of course, it also implies a real flaw with Gerie’s god.  If the only way that God can make things to work is to give commands from on high and torment those who disobey, he’s a terrible God.  Hell, he’s worse than some of the worst human leaders to have ever walked.  If Gerie’s god has no way of motivating people to follow him,[4] then he needs to go back to god/management school.

Gerie eventually gets back to me and my comment, offering this rather condescending analysis:

The comment that I read, said that he did everything right, and he is still gay. He said the sinners prayer and begged God to take away his gay tendencies. What we have to understand is that saying the “sinners prayer” won’t save anybody, despite what we have been taught by church people. And understand that all of your sinful desires don’t go away automatically once you are saved.

You know, I’m always amused by the number of conservative Christians who claim to know my heart.  In this case, Gerie doubts the sincerity of my prayer of repentance.  Other people simply think I didn’t pray hard enough, have enough faith in God, or didn’t give God enough time.  I’d like to know what Divine Power these people think they possess to know what I did, where my heart was, or what I was really thinking for my childhood, teenage years, and even my early twenties.

I could give a lengthy story about my life, my choices, and my pains.  I could talk about the horror the first time I woke up from a wet dream, horrified that the dream had involved not a girl, but a male classmate[5].  I can talk about the nights I laid in bed for several minutes to an hour praying for forgiveness over every little perceived sin — and things I wasn’t sure really was a sin but asked for forgiveness for “just in case.”  I could talk about the time I spent in church praying, worshiping, and leading others in the same.  I could talk about the time I spent in high school and college being just as obnoxiously “righteous” as Gerie.

But I won’t, because I don’t have to explain myself to Gerie.  I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.  And i certainly won’t bother trying to explain myself to someone who doesn’t have the decency to ask me rather than just go off making whatever assumptions about me will prop up her preconceived notions.  I deserve more respect than that and I have more respect for myself than that.

Gerie goes on to say the following:

What saves us is that
after we turn to Jesus with a sorrow for the condition we have allowed
ourselves to get into, that we firmly determine in our heart that we
will never commit another sin.

The problem with this is that Gerie is now trying to blame the person for being gay.  However, Gerie has already conceded that someone else — she believes it’s Satan — has planted these feelings in gay people.  So basically, Gerie’s trying to say that it’s both not gay people’s fault for being gay and is their fault.  Gerie has just contradicted herself at this point, and it becomes apparent to me that Gerie will say whatever she has to in order to defend her position, even if it means contradicting herself.  Logic, consistency, and reality be damned.

Gerie goes on to tell me (oh, it appears she does address me in the second person after all — after a huge wall of text) that while my feelings may really, they are a lie.  You know, while I understand that feelings are not always an accurate depiction of reality — like I how I occasionally feel that no one loves me despite the fact that there are dozens of people who love me — this idea of “feelings as a lie” as Gerie presents it makes no sense.

Being gay is all about feelings.  If you have certain feelings towards members of the same sex and only members of the same sex, you are gay.  That’s the very definition of the word gay.  So to acknowledge that I really have those exist and yet deny that I’m gay is a contradictions — or an attempt to redefine what it means to be gay.  I’m afraid Gerie will lose that battle every time.

Next, Gerie goes on to demonstrate her complete lack of comprehension of homosexuality:

Stop right now, believing in your heart that you are gay, its a lie! You are caught in a trap by believing the lie. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. Look at yourself. You are a MAN!  You are not a woman. God Himself created you and He made you a man!

In my thirty-seven years of life, I have never doubted I am a man.  I have never thought of myself as a woman.[6]  Gerie seems to be conflating being trans* with being gay or bi.  They are not the same thing.  It is perfectly possible to see oneself as a man[7] and still prefer the romantic and sexual companionship of another man.

Again, Gerie’s inability to understand what it actually means to be gay and her willingness to uphold her incorrect assumptions about what it means to be gay rather than learning from the narratives of actual gay people shows a callousness and lack of caring in her that is inexcusable.  Someone who will not even listen to what I have to say and consider my narrative as it is rather than what they want it to be is not someone who deserves my ear or my respect.

I’m going to end my commentary here, as I believe I’ve said everything that needs to be said.  The rest of Gerie’s post is a combination of exhortations to fight (displaying assumptions about what I have and haven’t done and why I changed my point of view), making faulty analogies between other (alleged) sins that fail for reasons I can’t be bothered to go into right now (hey, I’m allowed to get tired, and I’ve been working on this post for over two hours now), and threatening me with hell if I don’t.  That last makes her closing comment about hoping that she’ll meet me some day (but making no real effort to enter into real dialogue or relationship with me at the present) all the more ludicrous.

[1]  If you click my linked name next to the note on FC’s blog, it takes you to my main site.  On that page is a link to send me an email address.  Apparently, clicking through two links to find my email address is too much effort for Gerie.

[2]  I suspect she’d claim that God let her feel my pain, as I get the impression that Gerie is a Pentecostal/charismatic Christian as well.  However, as I’ll demonstrate as I continue through her post, she’s either wrong or God sent her a “distorted picture.”

[3]  I cannot say whether this is universal or even common, but personally, I was almost more disturbed by my lack of attraction to girls as I was the presence of feelings for boys.  I vividly remember laying in bed realizing that the thought of kissing a particular girl (one I had convinced myself I had feelings for) left me feeling cold and uncomfortable, and wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me????”

[4] And now we’re back to one of my points in Monday’s post.

[5]  What’s really messed up is that I was more disturbed that the sexual activity (non-penetrative, by the way) in the dream was with another man rather than the fact that it was non-consensual on my part.

[6]  Granted, I have occasionally wondered what it would be like to be a woman.  However, that is not the same as thinking that I am a woman or want to be one.

[7]  Though I grant you that my understanding of what it means to be a man is far more fluid and far less riddled with stereotypes than Gerie’s.

Free speech for who?

Recently, a New Jersey teacher posted comments on Facebook that spoke out against teaching about LGBT people of historic significance and denigrated gays.  She went so far as to call homosexuality a cancer.  This has led some people, including Garden State Equality head Steve Goldstein — to criticize her and even recommend that the school reconsider allowing her to hold her position.

Proving once again that the conservative Christian caricature of them is quite unfounded, the ACLU has actually defended teacher Viki Knox:

“Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her comments are protected by the First Amendment,” ACLU Legal Director Ed Barocas stated. “The ACLU believes that the response to offensive speech is not the restriction of speech, but more speech.”

I agree with Barocas, and I am hesitant to remove a teacher for making personal comments outside of school and outside the capacity as a school employee and representative.[1]  As distasteful, hateful, and bigoted as I find the quotes in the article, I cannot in good conscience seek to silence Knox or prevent her from saying them on her own time and when she is acting as a private citizen.

Having said that, I think it’s important to note that while I and the ACLU are more than willing to stand up for her freedom of expression, Ms. Knox is quite happy to deny that freedom to QUILTBAG individuals.  Indeed, the whole thing that sparked this controversy was the fact that she took issue with recognizing and acknowledging gay people of historic significance.[2]  And she made it perfectly known that she would like all QUILTBAG people to remain completely closeted:

“Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us?

Bear in mind that according to religious conservatives and other homophobes, immoral behaviors includes things like two men holding hands and one woman giving another woman a back rub.

Knox is not unique in this matter.  Many anti-gay individuals and groups will work towards the silencing of QUILTBAG individuals, forcing us into the closet, and making us all but invisible, yet will complain about their own rights to spew their drivel are being violated — or even just when they perceive them as having been violated.[3]

I don’t fault them for sticking up for their rights.  I do think some LGBT advocates go too far in some (hopefully rare) cases.  I just wish they’d grant us the same courtesy.


[1]  Of course, as Goldstein notes, one of Knox’s comments include the phrase “That’s what I teach and preach,” which does suggest that the school would do well to make sure that she is not using her teaching position as a bully pulpit for not only expressing her views, but giving them some sense of authority.

[2]  For a wonderful examination of how writing marginalized groups out of the pictures contributes to their continued marginalization and oppression, see mmy’s fantastic take on the well-known incident where it happened to women this past Spring.

[3]  This example was the result of a racist comment rather than a homophobic one.  However, the principle remains the same:  haters want to silence others while wrapping their hatred in the First Amendment.  Specifically who they hate is irrelevant.

Homophobia Comes in Many Forms

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 29:  A reveler holds a ga...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, an annual day sponsored by Fondation ?mergence to raise awareness of and combat the ugly phenomenon known as homophobia.  This is an important thing, as homophobia is something that adversely affects millions of LGBT people, not to mention those who choose to embrace homophobia.  (I hope to talk about that last bit in a later post.)

This is also an important issue because while some manifestations of homophobia are easy to spot, some are far more subtle, easily rationalized, and therefore more insidious in some ways.  It’s easy to spot and speak out against thugs who go around beating up gay people.  It’s pretty easy to spot and stop the school bully who calls smaller boys “queer” and otherwises taunts them.  It’s much harder to spot and address the more decent, mild mannered person who still manages to be homophobic in subtler ways, the person who might not even be aware that what they’re doing is homophobic.

Some will complain — and quite loudly — that believing that same sex sexual relationships are wrong or immoral is not homophobic.  Most days, I’m inclined to agree with them.  I think that such a belief is wrong and wrong-headed.  But I don’t think taht such a belief in itself homophobic.

However, beliefs don’t exist in a vacuum, and one of the biggest problems with such a belief is that it usually leads to actions that are homophobic.  So while keeping in mind that believing that same-sex sexual relationships are wrong is not homophobic, I’d like to point out some of the subsequent homophobic pitfalls that someone who holds such beliefs might fall into.

Refusing to befriend, get to know, and actually listen to gay people simply because they are gay is homophobic.  If concern for maintaining the purity of your beliefs gets in the way of being a friendly and personable individual, that’s something you will need to address.

Having “gay friends,” but quickly changing the subject whenever they start discussing their love life or romantic interests is homophobic.  Real friends don’t get to pick and choose what aspects of their friends lives they’re open to.  They don’t even ask for such a privilege.

Making assumptions about what gay people are like, what they value in their relationships, and what their sex lives are like (and if you’re spending that much time thinking about that last one, ew!) is homophobic.  Gay people are people too, and we can be very diverse.  Making assumptions based solely on who we are attracted too is wrong on a number of levels, including the homophobic level.

There are many other such examples.  In short, any way in which someone treats or thinks of an LGBT person differently from other people — often in ways that are dehumanizing — is homophobic.

The good news is that people can do something about homophobia.  We just need to work on making people aware of its existence and the need to change the way things are.

Homophobia: I’m not the enemy

Today, Pam reminded her readers that today is International Day Against Homophobia. Thanks to this reminder, I felt it important that I not let such a day pass by without some sort of comment.

Homophobia is one of those unfortunate things that all of us wish would go away. It’s a shame that in 2007, people still have to worry about whether they could lose their job if their boss finds out they’re gay. It’s terrible that same sex couples still have to worry about their legal status and the protections offered to their relationship, things that heterosexual couples take for granted every day. It’s wearying to think that we have to listen to paranoid people attempt to raise animosity towards us by making alarming references to the dreaded “homosexual agenda” and “special priveleges.” It’s annoying to listen to these same people make accusations about “recruiting attempts” (which I’m convinced is little more than projection on their part).

I think the one thing that makes all of this more bearable for me is the realization that homophobia is not about me or other gay people at all. Homophobia is actually merely a manifestation of a greater problem: Some people’s need to have something to fear and attack as “the enemy.” If people didn’t have gay people to blame for the ills of society, they’d merely have to look for something else. They’d have to find some new danger to rally against, because it’s that perceived danger and fear of it that such people need to galvanize their will and draw their strength from. Without it, I suspect most of them would be lost.

I am not the homophobes’ enemy. I’m merely the screen they have chosen to project their own inner demons upon. Their real enemy lives within themselves. And as I keep that in mind, it enables me to deal with the issue of homophobia from a completely different mindset. It enables me to fight the consequences of homophobia — such as legislative discrimination — while understanding that the underlying issue isn’t about me — or even homosexuality — at all. And for me, that realization is liberating.