I hear a lot about religious freedom. And I understand why there is some concern- politicians and religious leaders are making it sound like freedom of religion is under attack. I think this is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what religious freedom actually entails, and what it does not (restricting the rights of other citizens because of your personal beliefs).
1. Don’t deny us legal equality.
This should be a no-brainer, but sadly it needs to be said. One group’s personal religious beliefs should not and cannot dictate the legal right of choice to another group. And since many other Christians support marriage equality and believe same sex marriage is something they should participate in, opposing marriage equality is actually an attack on those believers’ religious liberties. Someone else being allowed to “sin” or not agreeing with your views of sin is not an attack on your religious liberty. You going to church is not an attack on our freedom of non-religion, after all. We’re both just living our lives- or we would like to.
2. Don’t socially oppress us.
This includes: Bullying, sexually or physically assaulting us, verbally or abusing us, disowning or throwing us out of your homes, ganging up on us and berating and belittling us for being different, discriminating against and humiliating us in public businesses and government institutions and hospitals and adoption agencies, and so on. Add in constantly blaming us for all of society’s problems and future apocalypse, constantly reminding us that our relationships and existence are disgusting and evil to you, and telling us that you ‘love us’ while judging and demeaning us and our movement for freedom, and it gets pretty hard to breath under the sheer weight of society’s mistreatment of us.
Again, it’s terrible that this even needs to be said, but based on shocking statistics and endless personal stories, it’s something that needs to be said.
3. Do acknowledge that others are not obligated to share your beliefs, personal moral standards, or worldview.
We’re allowed to have different opinions and lives. The beauty that the U.S.A. was supposed to be founded on is freedom- liberty and justice for all. No single group was to be given preference over another, nobody was to be forced to follow anyone else’s personal beliefs. Just as I cannot and would not force you to marry someone of the same gender, you should not force me to abide by your personal opinions regarding marriage and relationships.
4. Do listen to our stories, and be willing change hurtful behavior when made aware of it.
If you don’t want to engage in hurtful or oppressive behavior but aren’t sure what that entails, just ask us. We’ll tell you our stories, explain why it hurts. If we explain to you that certain terminology, attitudes, or actions are hurtful, please hear what we have to say and don’t write it off as silly; you’re not in our shoes, dealing with our oppression. If we ask you to consider how we feel about you mocking our Pride symbols, we need you to listen to us. The LAST thing we need is to be called “bullies” for trying to point out the way you’re causing us pain (true story).
5. Do stand up for us.
When you don’t say anything, the people who ARE oppressing us think it’s ok and that nobody will stand up to them. If someone is doing or saying oppressive and cruel things and they’re claiming to share your beliefs, shouldn’t you say something? By staying silent, you’re giving your consent to how they’re mistreating us. Even the smallest gesture of support is important because you’re showing that you don’t think the oppression is ok. You can still believe it’s a sin without standing by while others mistreat and socially abuse us.
6. Do see us as human beings, not combatants of war.
We’re not trying to destroy your world. We just want our shared world to be a safe place for us, too. We’re not asking to make this world all about us, we’re just tired of it being all about you and we want things to be more equal. We’re not asking for you to give up who you are so we can ourselves, you can still be straight and believe in sin and we’re ok with that as long as you don’t expect us to be or believe the same way. We don’t want to be at war, we never did. But sadly we have to fight to be treated equally. We should both be on the same side- the side of freedom and justice for all.