Tag Archives: lgbt issues

what do if you have a homophobia brother and your gay

[Content Note: Homophobia]

The title of today’s blog post is based on a search term that someone used to find my site the other week. Strangely, I had a friend who was offering guidance to a young lesbian facing a similar situation ask me for any advice I might offer her several months ago. As such, I thought it would be good to talk about this subject.

First, I have a great deal of sympathy and empathy for anyone in such a situation. One should not have to deal with homophobia – no matter how minor or subtle – from one’s closest families. It can instill a real sense of betrayal and that you don’t belong. So to anyone who is reading this and is facing anything less than perfect acceptance from their immediately family, know that I would totally give you a hug right now if I were able to and you were comfortable with it.

To address the question, we first have to understand what we can do and what is our responsibility to do. For example, many of us – myself included at times – often think that what we need to do is convince our loved one to stop being homophobic. And in a perfect world, our loved ones would end their homophobia. (Well, in a perfect world, they never would’ve been homophobic in the first place, but hey.) But here’s the thing: we can’t make people change their mind or their behavior. It just doesn’t work that way. And trying to do it will only leave us even more frustrated and possibly (more) depressed and a lot of other things. In the end, we have to give our loved ones the freedom to address (or not) their own prejudices and their own actions in their own time.

So instead, we need to look at what we can do. And the thing I think we most need to focus on is the same thing we really should be focusing on anyway. We can and should focus on doing what it is that we need to do in order to feel good about ourselves. We can and should focus on making sure we like ourselves.

Liking ourselves and finding the good in ourselves can be difficult, especially when we have people saying or implying negative things about us. Doubly so when some of those people happen to be close and dear loved ones who are supposed to embrace, accept, and encourage us. In those cases, we have to struggle even harder to remind ourselves that we’re amazing people. (And if you don’t believe you’re an amazing person, please find someone safe to talk with about that fact as soon as you can!) Look at the things you enjoy and the things you are good at. Do you like to write? Write your heart out and cherish what you write. Treat yourself like you’re the next literary genius in training. Do you like to draw? Draw your heart out and treat your drawings like they’ll be hanging in the Louvre some day. Think of all the great qualities you offer the people in your life and the parts of yourself that you have to share with them. The sting of homophobia will never fully go away – especially when it comes from a loved one – but being able to confidently see yourself as a valuable and wonderful person does help.

Another thing that you can do is find the love, support, and encouragement you need. After all, that’s one of the really sucky parts about homophobic loved ones. Loving, supporting, and encouraging you is supposed to be THEIR job, and they’re failing at it in at least some ways. So it’s time to find people – and there are a lot of them out there – who would be happy to take on at least part of that job. Find and focus on other family members who are more supportive. Be honest with them and let them know that you need their support. Focus on friends – and make new ones if you need to – that will give you the support you need. When I came out nearly twenty years ago, I built an entirely new circle of friends. Oh sure, I kept in touch with some of my older friends and even have the occasional contact with some of them to this day. But my new friends were the ones who were both able and willing to walk with me through the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They were also the ones who felt safe to go through that process with. Those are the kinds of friends you need.

So if you don’t have them, find them. If you’re in school, see if your school has a GSA. See if there’s an LGBT community center or LGBT social groups in your area. See if there’s an active PFLAG chapter in your area.

Don’t rule out online friendships, either. For the first ten years after I came out, a lot of my friendships were online. Even the close and supportive friends I knew in person were people I mostly stayed in touch with via the Internet. An online friend may not be able to give you hug, but they can listen to you and tell you that you’re okay and that what you’re feeling is okay too. That’s extremely valuable.

You’ll notice that I talked about finding support after talking about learning to love yourself. There’s a couple reasons for that. The first is that while support is important and good, other people ultimately can’t make you feel good about yourself. That’s a gift you give yourself and you need to give it to yourself.

The other reason is because knowing what you like about yourself also helps you think about what you have to offer friends and possibly how to find them. If you’ve figured out you love to write, then finding friends that accept you for who you are and share that love of writing is an excellent plus. Maybe you can find a writing group locally or join a writing site online. The same is true of drawing or any other talent or interest you have. And the bonus is that they’ll encourage you and remind you that your talent or interest is awesome and valuable. Hey, other people can’t make you like yourself, but they sure can remind you of what there is to like about yourself!

The last thing to consider about finding love, encouragement, and support is to consider whether you want to and would benefit from talking to a trained mental health professional. If you have someone who is frequently – or even only slightly frequently – saying and doing things, that can really take a toll on you. It may be helpful to have someone in your corner who is trained to help you sort through that.

The final thing that you can do to take care of yourself in such a situation is try to limit your interactions with said loved one as much as possible. This can be tricky, depending on your circumstances. At 41 living on my own, I can get away and stay away from any homophobic relatives I may have as much as I want. If you’re a younger person who’s still living at home, you may be stuck living with a homophobic parent or sibling. If that’s your situation, you again have my sympathy. That totally sucks. It especially sucks if there’s more than one homophobic person in the house with you, or even if others in the household doesn’t see what the big deal is with the homophobic person’s behavior. Maybe they think you’re overreacting. They’re wrong.

In that situation, you can only do the best that you can do. If you can stay in your bedroom – and the rest of your family will leave you alone rather than barge into your room and try to force conversation on you – that may be what you need to do. You may need to find ways to keep yourself busy. (Again, this is where having those loving and supportive friends may be helpful – as you can go spend time with them whenever possible and get away from the homophobia.)

You may also want to consider calling out the homophobic person’s behavior when they’re being hurtful and disengage. “I feel what you just said or did was hurtful to me and I would like you to leave me alone now.” Then walk away if you can. Be aware that this can be a difficult thing to do. The other person is likely to get offended. They’re likely to try to get you to tell them exactly why you found what they said or did was hurtful – most likely so they can tell you that you were wrong to feel that way. If you decide to go this route, don’t let yourself be drawn into an explanation or an argument over it. Simply say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I need time to be alone.” Stick to your guns. Go talk to one of your supportive friends or loved ones, someone who will totally understand why you’re hurt and will tell you that it’s okay to feel that way.

At any rate, that’s the best advice I can offer to help anyone going through such a situation. My readers are welcome to offer their own insights in the comments. Maybe some of you found something that helped you. Please feel free and encouraged to share.

Moderation Note: All comments complaining about how “easily” the word homophobia gets thrown around will be deleted. Any commenter trying to open a debate about what does and does not constitute homophobia will be banned. This is not the space to get defensive over how your words and actions are properly labeled. This is a space for you to listen and carefully consider how your words and actions impact the LGBT people in your life. If you try to do the former rather than the latter, than you’re part of the problem, and likely a bigger part than you want to admit.

 

Open letter Christian webcomic artist Adam Ford

[Content Note: Homophobia, transphobia, mentions of anti-gay and anti-trans violence, mentions of suicide]

My niece posted a link to this webcomic earlier today. I decided the webcomic artist deserved a response.

Dear random Christian dude who wants to reassure me he doesn’t hate me by writing a lengthy and completely impersonal webcomic,

Look, I get it. Your uncomfortable with the fact that many LGBT people think of socially conservative Christians as hateful. The thing you need to understand is that A LOT of your fellow Christians do indeed act terribly hateful. Some of them may even be people that you and your church support and revere.

Plus, the other thing you need to understand is that you don’t have to be screaming obscenities or anything equally obvious to act in ways that are hurtful and even come across as hateful. So let me do you a favor and go through your webcomic and point a few things out to you that you get terribly wrong.

I am a Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God, any homosexual practice is sinful, and marriage will only ever be the life-long union between one man and one woman.

But I promise you, I don’t hate you.

You know, it’s hard to believe you don’t hate me — or at least that you have my best interests in mind — when your first volley in your “reassurance” is to state unequivocally that you will never consider any emotionally and sexually intimate relationship that I might build with someone to be anything other than irredeemably sinful and illegitimate. I mean, you could have started demonstrating your commitment to loving LGBT people by talking about what you are trying to get the church to do about the fact that many states still allow employers to fire  people simply for being LGBT. Or you could have talked about what you’re trying to get the church to do about anti-LGBT violence — especially violence against transgender people who are most often targeted. Or you could have talked about what you want to do about the problem of increased instances of homelessness and suicide rates among LGBT youth.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There are a lot of very real problems that LGBT people face, and you could be doing something right now to help alleviate and address those problems. But instead, you decided to start by drawing your line in the sand. Or let’s call it what it really is, your chosen battle line. Try and understand just how false that makes the rest of your claims sound.

The world sets us up as polar opposites, though. It says we’re bitter enemies in a “culture war,” lobbing Molotov cocktails at each other on the front lawn of the White House.

Do you know who actually uses the phrase “culture war” regularly, and insists they’re fighting one. Many of your fellow Christians. People at the AFA. People at the FRC. People at Focus on the Family. Pat Robertson. These are extremely visible and powerful Christians. They’re the ones pushing the “culture war” framing. And that’s when they’re not comparing LGBT people to sexual predators, calling us mentally ill, or saying God sent AIDS to punish us. There are a lot of other terrible things they say, too. I encourage you to do some research.

So my question to you is what are you doing to real in your fellow Christians who are pushing this “culture war” frame? Are you pushing back and telling them to shut up? Are you making sure that neither you nor your church supports the Christian organizations that are actually promoting and acting as aggressors in the culture war? Or are you just remaining silent and hoping that I and every of LGBT person will magically know you don’t agree with them and “aren’t like those Christians” (or believe it just because you say so)?

If you are gay, your fallen heart tells you to lust after people of the same sex.

God calls that sin.

My fallen heart tells me to lust after people of the opposite sex who are not my wife.

God calls that sin.

Did you notice the major difference between those two statements. You see, according to you, God offers you a context in which you’re allowed to embrace and explore your sexual desires. But according to you, God offers LGBT people no such context. Any such exploration we may consider is sinful. Full stop. End of story. Try to understand how cruel that makes your vision of God in my eyes.

Also, stop to consider how you’ve just implicitly reduced all same-sex relationships to nothing more than sexual gratification. You’ve completely ignored and invalidated the fact that many same sex relationships also involve deep emotional intimacy, mutual care, nurturing, and many other qualities that I’m sure you value in your own marriage. Again, when you start trying to caricature our relationships to fit your “sin” narrative, it’s rather difficult to accept that you’re as hate-free as you claim.

The liberal “churches” which are now saying, “Oh hey! God changed his mind and is totes cool with the gay stuff now 4 real!” do not really love you. They want your approval.

Sounds to me like you need to write a follow-up comic to let liberal churches know you don’t hate them, too. Though I’m not sure they’ll believe you any more than I believe you. But on a more serious note, I think it’s entirely condescending of you to claim you know the hearts and motives of others. Also, I’ll note that many of those liberal churches have actively backed their claims of love by actively doing things to address all of those serious issues facing LGBT people that I mentioned earlier. You haven’t done that yet. I trust you’re familiar with he phrase “action speaks louder than words.”

Not because I say so; because God says so. (See: entire Bible)

There’s a problem with that claim — and it’s really relevant to your rather disparaging comments that liberal churches say God “changed his mind” by the way. People have been saying “God says so/the Bible says so” for centuries, only to later decide that maybe the Bible doesn’t actually say that after all. I mean, there was once a time when many Christians insisted that the Bible said that it was okay to own slaves. In fact, at least one denomination (hint: it’s the largest and most well-known Baptist denomination in the United States of America) was founded on the principle that the Bible clearly states that slave-owners are allowed to own slaves. I don’t know any Christian who would insist that the Bible says that anymore. I doubt that you or any of your fellow Christians today would phrase that change in belief or interpretation of the Bible as “Oh hey! God changed his mind!”

Truth of the matter is, the Bible is hugely open to interpretation and always has been. There have been huge arguments over what the Bible allegedly says, and people on both sides of many of those arguments have insisted that the Bible “clearly says” whatever position they happen to hold. So please, accept that liberal Christians might actually legitimately come to a different interpretation of the Bible, lest you fall into the hubris of thinking you are the authority of what the Bible says. Trust me, history is rife of examples of why that may not end so well for you.

Repent and believe that gospel.

The word “gospel” means “good news.” I ask you, what “good news” are you offering to LGBT people. Quite frankly, I don’t find “you have to live your entire life without any sort of sexual or emotional fulfillment or intimate companionship” to be all that good of news. Can you do it? Why not? After all, the Bible also makes it clear that it would be better for you to remain unmarried. And yet, you mentioned having a wife. Why are you trying to place burdens on other people that you have not accepted for yourself?

We love you, so we must tell you the truth.

Okay. You’ve told me. You’re at least the 100th person to tell me this. (Seriously, do you really think LGBT people have never heard all of this before? You might want to check your facts.) I’m telling you, I don’t buy it and it stinks like yesterdays garbage after it’s sat in the sun all afternoon.

But while we’re on the topic of how much you allegedly love me, let me ask you something: What good is love without relationship. You don’t know me. You haven’t taken a single moment to get to know me. You haven’t listened to my story or shared in my joys or my woes. To be frank, all you’ve done is preach at me, possibly hoping that the cutesie webcomic format will make it more tolerable. If your love is that impersonal and impersonal, then I think I’ll still with the “vote seekers” and “approval seekers.” Once again, at least they seem to understand some of the real and serious problems I and many like me face and are actively trying to do something. They’ve shown real, tangible acts of love.

So thanks, random dude who knows nothing about me and likely will do absolutely nothing to change that. I hope that your webcomic gave you that sense of “being loving” you were trying to create for yourself. It did absolutely nothing for me.

Best wishes,

Jarred.

A gay man who just doesn’t quite believe you.

Moderation Note: This is a no proselytizing thread. Comments trying to convince me that I need to “repent” will be deleted. Commenters that repeatedly ignore this rule will be banned. But don’t worry, there’s no need for you to tell me the truth. Adam Ford has already taken care of it. You can even see the proof for yourself.

 

Generous Spaciousness: Whose Space is It?

Earlier this week, i received my Kindle edition of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter’s book, Generous Spaciousness:  Responding to Gay Christians in the Church.  I’m about to start chapter 11 (which puts me a little over halfway through the book), and it’s so far been a pretty good read.  I haven’t decided whether I’m going to do a review of the book itself yet.  I’ll have to wait until I get finished with it and mull over if there’s anything that I want to say about it that other potential readers might find helpful when considering whether to pick up a copy.  (Generally speaking, I think people would do well to pick up a copy, but that statement alone is probably not very helpful to most potential readers.)

As I’ve been reading the book a number of thoughts have come up in my mind.  The one I want to blog about today is related to the question I put in the post’s title:  Whose “space” is it?

From reading the book so far and conversations I’ve had with Wendy1 in the past, generous spaciousness is a concept that is meant to be applied on the personal and institutional level.  On the personal level, it is an attitude of welcome and agreement to live in tension and even disagreement with others.  On an institutional level, it is a formal or informal policy that encourages leadership and members to embody that attitude in word and deed.  The latter, which I’m going to focus on, can be more fully seen in Wendy’s recent OnFaith article about how go engage gay Christian who attend one’s church.  Because the title of that article also points to the one nagging problem I see:  Whose church is it?

While I’m not arguing against the idea that churches need to consider how to be more welcoming of and how to minister to LGBT people, people who are questioning their gender and/or sexuality, or people who are simply wondering what God really says about sexuailty, gender, and same-sex sexual relationships, the very notion of “making space” for such people suggests that the church belongs to a different group of people and not those for whom such “space” is being made.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of how welcoming a space can truly be when the space is controlled by others who get to decide how welcoming to make that space.  Such a space still offers a great deal of comfort, safety, and privilege for those who control it and demands more risk and potential discomfort for those form whom “space is being made.”  Those who wish to truly be welcoming of LBGT people, their supporters, and those who are sorting through questions about LGBT lives and faith journeys need to wrestle with that injustice.  How does one make a space truly welcoming and generous to those who do not share “ownership” or control of a space?

Ultimately, I think that Christians also need to consider that rather than or in addition to “making space” for others in their space, they need to be prepared to completely give up their privilege, comfort, sense of control, and “home field advantage” by humbly2 seeking out those they wish to know in their own spaces, where they can feel safe and truly feel on equal ground or even at an advantage.  After all, trying to meet others only on one’s own terms is not an attempt to meet others at all.  Wendy talks about doing just that in her book when she talks about the first year she attended the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference.


1As an aside, I should point out that I have spoken with, met, broken bread with, drunken wine with, and gotten my butt kicked in a game of Stone Age by Wendy.  As such, my interactions with her do affect how I approach and engage with this book and the subject of generous spaciousness in general.

2As anyone who has maintained or or belonged to any space that caters to and seeks to be safe for marginalized people can tell you, there are different ways for privileged people to try entering and behaving in those spaces.  Some of those ways can disrupt such spaces and even make them unsafe.  Wendy exemplifies one of the better ways to go about this when she talks about how she approached seeking entry to her first GCN conference.

Such a superficial attempt to show one cares

Over at Right Wing Watch, Brian Brian Tashman reports on Tea Partier Selena Owens’s reaction to the Grammy awards.  His post is titled “Prove You’re Not Homophobic By Complimenting Your Lesbian Store Clerk’s Haircut,” which helps draw attention to this part of Owens’s statement:

Sometimes I deliberately go through the checkout line of the lesbian clerk to drop a few words of Jesus’ love in her ear and then compliment her haircut.

There’s just so much that’s wrong with that statement.  Not least of all, I find it telling that her go-to example of “coming into contact with LGBT people” is a situation where she approaches a working class person at her place of employment.1  Owens is approaching someone in a situation where she’s operating from a position of power.  This poor lesbian who’s just there trying to do her job has to put up with whatever conversation Owens may start up2 because, let’s face it, she has a job to do.

Heaven forbid that Owens actually seeks out LGBT people in places where they may be on equal footing to her and be equally comfortable.  Or heck, heaven forbid she step outside her own comfort zones3 to approach LGBT people on their terms.

Then there’s the whole “compliment her hairstyle,” an act that Owens seems to pat herself on the back for.  As if such a superficial pleasantry somehow shows she actually cares about the woman.  You know, as I think of a lesbian working as a cashier in a grocery show, here are the things that cross my mind:

  • How much is she making?  How many hours does she get per week?  Does her schedule and her hourly wage work out to something she and any family she has can live on?
  • Does she have healthcare through her employer?  Can her partner (if she has one) be covered through that her employer’s plan?  Her partner’s kids (if she has any)?
  • What kind of harassment does she have to put up with from some of the customers who come through her line?

Granted, these are not questions I’d ask a random stranger who’s ringing up my groceries.  That would be completely inappropriate.  But knowing those are serious questions with potentially serious ramifications, I also wouldn’t do something as superficial as compliment her on her haircut and pat myself on the back as if I’d become the epitome of compassion.

Owens’s second example is just as awful:

Or I encourage the star-struck 17-year-old to become informed on political issues that will affect her life, then discuss those big hoop earrings she’s sporting.

Why is Owens automatically assuming that this young woman isn’t already informed on political issues that will affect her life?4  And why does she simply encourage the young woman to “become informed” on such a topic and then go on to discuss those big hoop earrings?  Maybe the young woman would rather discuss the political issues that affects her life — those issues that she may well know better than Owens, as it’s her life.

This whole thing reeks of a person who obviously sees herself as superior to others seeking to engage others in situations where her perceived superiority is reinforced by the circumstances, behaving in a manner that makes it clear she feels herself superior, and acting patronizing.  And she thinks this paints her in a positive light?


1And don’t even get me started on the whole “deliberately” doing so thing, as if Owens finds choosing to through a particular checkout lane some major effort or ordeal on her part.

2Let’s face it, I’ve seen what passes for “a few words of Jesus’ love” in some Christians’ minds when it comes to LGBT people.  It ain’t pretty, and most decent people would wonder what definition of that word such Christians are using.

3Assuming she doesn’t think just talking to a lesbian — even in a place where Owens can probably still create problems for her by simply complaining to the store manager — as something terribly uncomfortable.

4Oh, right.  Because Owens is probably assuming that anyone who is really informed on such issues will automatically agree with her.  The condescending smugness of it all is vile.

Some days, you just can’t win

[Content Note:  Homophobia]

Today, I ran across this Right Wing Watch post:

American Family Association talk show host Sandy Rios this week once again connected the gay community to child abuse, this time telling Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality that the fact gay people want to serve as Scoutmasters or Big Brothers or Big Sisters is “big proof” they are pedophiles.

As I noted on Facebook:

This is what gets me. Some anti-gays will scream “gay people don’t have children, so they contribute nothing to society!” [Libby Anne did a post on this phenomenon yesterday.] Yet, when some LGBT people choose to get involved in programs where they can mentor and otherwise help youth (often at-risk youth), they turn around and scream “Oh look, they want to be around kids! They must be pedophiles!”

Some days, you just can’t win.

 

Happy National Coming Out Day

"National Coming Out Day:  I'm gay...Ask me how!"To all my QUILTBAG friends and readers:

May your day and every day be filled with more opportunities and the freedom to be authentically you and open about every aspect of your life.  All in accordance with your need for personal safety and security, of course.

To all my supportive friends and readers:

Support your QUILTBAG friends.  As I noted on Facebook, your friends’ gender or sexual orientation may be “no big deal” to you — and that’s great.  But bear in mind that they’re still taking a risk in sharing that deeply personal information with you, so the act of sharing is a huge fucking deal to them.  Don’t lose sight of that when responding to anyone who comes out to you.

 

Why I appreciate John Shore’s letter

[Content Note: Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Moral Judgement of Same-sex Relationships, Some mentions of racism.]

Angry LetterA couple days ago, a friend on Facebook shared a link to John Shore’s open letter to Alan Chambers regarding Alan’s apology.  I read it and winced.  It was full of John’s well-known snark and sarcasm and is, in my opinion1, way over the top.  Plus, I often disagree with John about some of his positions.  For example, I’m willing to give people a lot more leeway on their views of same-sex sexual relationships2.  And that whole KKK comparison?  Yikes3.  So like Wendy Gritter4, I found myself uncomfortable with John’s letter.

But as I thought about this letter more and more, I’ve also come to appreciate it.  Yes, there are things about it I’m uncomfortable with.  There are things that I would have said differently or possibly not said at all if I had been the one writing it.  But on the flip side:

  • It is nice to see someone who is all in for supporting my rights and protections and defend not only my humanity and my dignity, but even my (relative) moral rectitude.
  • I look at the number of people (including that friend from facebook) who not only found validation for their own feelings about Alan’s apology through John’s letter, but were better able to understand and clarify what their feelings were because of it.
  • As someone who has gotten a bit of the “why can’t we all just forgive Alan” pushback and even got accused of “yelling” at someone when I objected, I appreciate the fact that there’s a voice that’s full of even more fire that makes my already calm (in my opinion, at least) objections look downright gentle by comparison.

I consider all of those outcomes good things.  So yeah, maybe John’s comment is unhelpful in the sense that it does nothing to smooth things out between Exodus and those hurt by them.  But maybe smoothing things out between the two groups isn’t the only goal.  Who knows, maybe it’s not even one of the top five priorities right now.


1Several other people will disagree with my opinion, including many LGBT people.  That’s cool.

2Ultimately, I do think John is right.  To truly be 100% in the corner of LGBT people, I think someone has to give up their right to pass moral judgment on our relationships5.  However, I do agree with Warren Throckmorton when he says that we all have to live together, and I’m willing to have some degree of relationship with someone who thinks there’s something sinful about same sex sexual relationships.  However, that belief will create boundaries between that person and myself that don’t exist between myself and those who feel otherwise.  So my position may be close to John’s or miles away from it depending on your perception the nuances I’m hinting at here.

3Confession time.  My problem isn’t that I don’t think that there should never be comparisons between homophobia, transphobia, and racism, or the struggles of various marginalized groups.  What bothers me more with this analogy is that far too much of LGB6 activism is being spearheaded by white men who are notorious for only bringing up issues of race to make analogies like this.  We as a community have been rightfully called on this, and John’s analogy makes it clear that many of us and our allies have not internalized that challenge.

4I don’t know if Wendy did this intentionally, but I appreciated the way she phrased her statement regarding the letter.  “I’m uncomfortable with….”  Not “John shouldn’t have said that.”  Not “his tone wasn’t helpful.”

5But then, I think that when a person goes from a morality that focuses on “this is what I believe I am called to do” and instead starts to focus on “this is what you should do,” that person is in trouble territory.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking sexual choices or any other kind.

6I’m intentionally leaving off the T because the activists I’m thinking of also have a tendency to ignore or pay minimal attention to trans* needs as well.

Musings on Alan Chambers’s Apology

[Content Note:  Anti-LGBT Discrimination, Sexual Orientation Change Effort, Ex-Gay Rhetoric]

Just saying.
Just saying.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Alan Chambers offered an apology to the (other) members of the LGBT community.  I wanted to take a moment and look at it and offer my thoughts and reactions to it.

Before I get to the apology itself, I do want to offer a bit of criticism of his lead-in commentary.  Let me just say that I can sympathize with the fact that Chambers is taking a lot of flak from people who used to support him, not to mention the continuing flak that many in the LGBT community might be giving to him.  However, I also have to say that I find it highly inappropriate to start talking about one’s own struggles and how you feel you’ve been wronged when building up to an apology to the people you yourself have wronged.  Apologies 101 says that you keep the focus on the hurt you’ve caused one another.  I think that’s something Alan needs to keep in mind.

He opens the apology itself by telling a story about a four car collision that he caused.  He tells this story to draw home an important point:

I never intended for the accident to happen. I would never have knowingly hurt anyone. But I did. And it was my fault. In my rush to get to my destination, fear of being stung by a silly bee, and selfish distraction, I injured others.

This is actually something a few of us were concerned about.  We were concerned that Alan would try to pass off any harm done by Exodus and its member ministries as “accidental.”  It’s good to see that he instead chose to tackle this head on and say that he’s responsible for even the “unintentional harm.”

He then goes on to name some of the ways — mostly the more extreme ways — in which some people were hurt by their experiences with Exodus member ministries.  He even admits personal culpability in the fact that he wasn’t always up front about how much he still struggled (struggles) with same sex sexual attraction, thereby reinforcing a false image that others hoped to, failed to achieved, and felt grief and shame over.  He goes on to talk about the ex-gay narratives that shamed parents.  He confesses to not standing up against those Christian supporters he had who said horrible things about LGBT people.  Overall, Alan lists many criticisms that have been leveled against him and Exodus, acknowledges them, and apologizes without defense or excuse.

The one thing I note as lacking is that Alan never challenges how Exodus’s message of “change” was often used as political cover.  The relationship between those who promoted Sexual Orientation Change Effort (whether based in religion, some form of therapy, or a combination of the two) and those who would deny LGBT the full protection of the law and the same rights as their non-LGBT counterparts has always been mutually reinforcing and symbiotic.  Those who would deny LGBT people rights and protections often point to the ex-gay narratives and say, “See?  They don’t need these protections.  They can just turn straight.”  Similarly, the difficulties that LGBT people face due to discrimination and social stigma perpetuated by anti-LGBT activists also keep many LGBT people in a state of misery that makes them more susceptible to promises made by ex-gay organizations.  Alan’s failure to acknowledge those relationships between the two groups and apologize for contributing to the overall toxic mentality toward LGBT people is troubling to me.

Also, I note that Alan does not seem to acknowledge that, while Exodus will be closing its doors and he will personally be getting out of the ex-gay industry, the legacy he helped to build will still go on.  This apology will not stop people from building on the foundation he and the rest of Exodus have already laid.  It will not stop people from continuing to point to his relationship with his wife and his past words as “proof” that LGBT people everywhere should make the same choice and condemn those who don’t.  I hope that this is a truth that Alan comes to wrestle with and considers what more he might do to loudly decry those who would continue to build on the legacy he’s left.

Furthermore, an apology will not heal any of the wounds already inflicted or any of the damage already done.  That takes more effort, and I find myself wondering what Alan is prepared to do to go beyond simply apologizing and restoring those who he and the rest of Exodus have hurt.  Perhaps that is part of his and the other board members’ vision for the new organization they hope to start.  Only time will tell.

Starting to Review the Pew Research Center’s Survey of LGBT People

On Thursday the Pew Research Center released their findings from a survey of 1,197 LGBT people.  I’m currently looking over it, as it’s not exactly a short document.  However, I wanted to share a few points from he summary and my observations.  One of the opening statements in the release has to do with how LGBT feels about societal acceptance:

An overwhelming share of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults (92%) say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead. They attribute the changes to a variety of factors, from people knowing and interacting with someone who is LGBT, to advocacy on their behalf by high-profile public figures, to LGBT adults raising families.

At the same time, however, a new nationally representative survey of 1,197 LGBT adults offers testimony to the many ways they feel they have been stigmatized by society. About four-in-ten (39%) say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30% say they have been physically attacked or threatened; 29% say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship; and 21% say they have been treated unfairly by an employer. About six-in-ten (58%) say they’ve been the target of slurs or jokes.

While the text of the summary does not include this information, the graphs accompanying it break down the percentage of LGBT respondents who reported facing each form of bigotry in the last year:

  • Been subjected to slurs or jokes:  16
  • Been rejected by a friend or family member: 6
  • Been threatened or physically attacked: 4
  • Been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship: 6
  • Received poor service in a restaurant, hotel, or place of business: 5
  • Been treated unfairly by an employer:  5

I think some of these figures are quite telling when compared to the percentage of LGBT people who have experienced these things ever in their life.  For example, of the 21% of all LGBT people who reported being treated by an employer, nearly one fourth of them say that this happened in the last year.  I’m curious how the experiences of the other 16% would map out on a timeline.

I also think that this underscores why ENDA and hate crimes legislation that protect LGBT people are so important.  People who claim that violence and discrimination against LGBT people are a thing of the past need to be directed to surveys like this.

Speaking of legal protections, I found the commentary regarding marriage equality and other LGBT issues worth noting:

Despite nearly universal support for same-sex marriage among LGBT adults, a significant minority of that population—39%—say that the issue has drawn too much attention away from other issues that are important to people who are LGBT. However, 58% say it should be the top priority even if it takes attention away from other issues.

Personally, I’d like to see that significant minority to gain more traction.  The other issues mentioned in that paragraph — as well as healthcare coverage for trans* people, which are mentioned later — are of great importance as well.  And I tend to think that some of them are things that many who are in charge (and I’m thinking of myself and my fellow cis white gay men who are financially secure) tend not to have to worry about and/or can take for granted.

I’ll hopefully have more to say as I digest the rest of the findings over the next few days.

Sharing Shane and Tom’s story

[Content Note:  Anti-gay Discrimination, Anti-gay Violence, Death, Loss of a Loved One]

I know I said I was going to be doing light and easy posts until after my birthday.  However, a friend on Facebook posted the following video yesterday and I feel it’s important enough to share here, my plans be damned.

Tom and Shane’s story is heartbreaking and not uncommon.  It’s what happens when people whose relationships are not honored by their family are given no form of legal recognition and therefore no protections.  A surviving partner can be left out in the cold.  This is the reality that many “defenders of traditional marriage” want to ignore and sweep under the rug.  Oh, when confronted, they’ll pay lip service to wanting to find “other ways” of protecting same-sex couples and LGBT people in general.  But I have yet to see them put actions behind their words.  And words without actions to back them up are little more than lies to me.

I’m also deeply disturbed by the behavior of Tom’s family.  I mean, this is their son’s lover they’ve shut out completely.  As Shane himself suggested, he was (almost certainly) the most important person in Tom’s life.  How Tom’s family can do something that I find so incredibly disrespectful toward and dishonoring of their own son’s memory astounds me.  This is why I say that people in my life do not have to like or approve of my love relationships.  However, they have to accept that they are what they are and deal with that reality.

According to the EqualLoveEqualRights Facebook page, there’s a documentary about Tom and Shane’s story which was shown this past April at the Tribeca Film Festival.  I look forward to checking it out when it becomes available on DVD.