The LGBTQ community won’t be ok for a while, and that’s ok.

  
Please be patient and supportive of your LGBTQ loved ones right now. Many of us are angry, sad, scared, numb, frustrated, and/or grieving. We will each be processing our feelings about the attack in different ways. Some of us may not be ok for a while. Some will never be ok again. We may be less trusting and more angry for a while, and understandably so. 
Going forward, many of us will be fighting even harder for society to treat us with dignity. We may be asking our loved ones to get off the fence of neutrality and start standing up for us. We will be asking others to hear our stories, and to treat us with compassion and dignity. We will challenge homophobia even more because it is literally killing us. 
We need to stand together and not let this horrible act turn us against each other. We can’t change what happened, but we can choose how we respond to it.

Orlando Gay Club Shooting

  The worst shooting in US history was targeting a club full of gay people. While we don’t know his motives for sure yet, it’s possible that the shooter was a religious extremist and he was definitely homophobic. Homophobic people are already gleefully saying that this was “God’s work”. The shooter may have possibly been Muslim (we don’t know this for sure yet), but Christian extremists and other homophobic people are already applauding his actions. Even if he’s not a religious extremist himself, he’s revealed the violent natures of so many others in the US. 

Can you see why so many LGBTQ people live in fear? Why we are trying to get society to accept us? It’s about survival, not us pushing our “lifestyles” on you. When a minority group of people is not accepted by their culture at large, it makes them a target for violence and abuse, and it encourages terrorists like this to target them.
LGBTQ people face discrimination and violence all the time in the US, and from people in every belief system. Religious doctrines that condemn homosexuality or gender differences, plus rampant general social stigma against us, have resulted in a culture where LGBTQ people are regularly abused and targeted for violence. But many Americans don’t believe them because they aren’t personally affected by it. A mass shooting targeting a gay club is pretty hard to ignore though, isn’t it? 
I’m really glad I’m in Canada right now. The US scares me. It’s not a very safe place to be LGBTQ. 
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I hope people of all beliefs come together to help them. 

Socially accepting the LGBTQ community is important.

  My artwork above.
We need society to accept LGBTQ people as normal. Not because we care about what other people think about us, or because we want others to become gay or to give up their beliefs, but because we are abused and mistreated and shot down in cold blood because so many people see us as immoral, disgusting, and deviant. Being treated as abnormal and immoral is not only hurtful and emotionally damaging, it is dangerous. 
When you say there is something wrong with us or that we are abominations, remember Orlando. 
When you say gay marriage or gender non-conformity will ruin our nation, remember Orlando. 
When you oppose our equal rights and are silent when we are bullied and oppressed, remember Orlando. 
Remember that hurtful and violent people will listen to what you say about us, and and they will always take it much farther than you intend. Your words against us are not harmless, even if your intentions are good. Are you encouraging them to love us, or fear us? Accept us as equals, or see us as threats to their way of life? 
Silence only benefits the people hurting us. Silence encourages their awful actions against us even more. How much violence and harm could be avoided if more people stood up for us when people put us down or mistreat us? 
It’s a shame that it takes a mass shooting for people to take the rampant oppression and violence against the LGBTQ community seriously. How many more of us have to suffer or die before people will put aside their judgements of our personal lives and stand by us as human beings? 

We’re Outcasts Because You Made us This Way.

I see that look of disgust or shock on your face when you’re faced with someone who is “unconventional”. But why? We didn’t choose to be unconventional. You chose that label for us. 

You create a gender binary and then exclude everyone who doesn’t fit in it. You’ve decided how men and women are supposed to express their gender, and judge those who don’t fit that narrow mould. 

You tell us that only one sexual orientation is natural and acceptable, and anyone who has other attractions is deviant and perverted. 

You tell us that monogamy is the only way to express and pursue love and affection, despite history and current families proving you wrong. 

You tell us that belief in the supernatural is the default, shaming and excluding those who believe differently. 

You tell us that only certain methods of sexual expression and platonic affection are appropriate, and then show your shock and disgust when we break your social taboos. 

You tell us that our creative self expression with our hair, clothes, body art, and mannerisms make us unfit for “civilized society”. 

You tell us that the pastimes and activities we enjoy are weird because you don’t personally like them. 

We are normal and beautiful people, but you call us strange, scary, weird or perverted because you believe that there is only one acceptable way to be human. You have given us a tragically narrow template to stuff ourselves in, and we have refused to cut off pieces of ourselves to fit within it. 

We are outcasts because you made us this way. We had a choice between fitting your mould and being ourselves, and we couldn’t make ourselves live a lie. Our potential and beauty is often overlooked because you cannot see past our differences. 

But society is slowly changing, and the outcasts are starting to take back their rightful place- no longer outcasts, but accepted, valuable members of society. 

To everyone who has been mistreated and ostracized for being different- we are building a better world by refusing to play by their rules, by refusing to hide our beautiful diversity. Your pain is not for nothing; the world is slowly catching up. Keep on being yourselves, and seek out people who understand just how truly valuable you are. 

Happy Thanksgiving and National Coming Out Day!

Happy Thanksgiving and National Coming Out Day!

  
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! 

I’m thankful for many things, but today I’m especially thankful for National Coming Out Day, which is also today. 

Coming out as LGBTQ, as an atheist, and/or as anything else seemed especially controversial within our circles is not easy. Many of us have lost friends and the respect of people we care about because of our openness and honesty, or worse. But hiding who we are to make others happier or more comfortable isn’t healthy, nor is it fair for people to ask it of us. 

We need to support people when they come out. Not supporting them means we are being silent and absent when they need us the most. 

Coming out takes a lot of courage and often they are rewarded with negativity and bullying, abuse and assault, or being disowned. Many have tragically been murdered after coming out. LGBTQ youth and adults make up a huge portion of the homeless population because in the U.S. it’s so common for them to be thrown out of their homes, or for them to be discriminated against in the housing and job markets. More than half of transgender people have faced attempted or successful physical violence just because of who they are. 

This is no joke; being LGBTQ, especially in the U.S., greatly increases a person’s chances of being treated violently and cruelly. And even if they don’t face violence, they face rampant discrimination and social injustices. Marriage equality has only addressed part of the problem. 

Let’s be supportive allies, friends, and loved ones. Let’s stop judging and assuming and open our hearts to people who are different than us. We need to see them as human beings, not enemy combatants in a culture war of our own making! Let our compassion lead our attitudes and actions, whether that compassion stems from religion or spirituality, humanism or feminism, or whatever. Love and acceptance is what’s important, not creeds or dogmas or labels or political affiliations. 

And above all we need to listen. We need to hear their real stories, not the ones we create in our heads for them as though we know their journey better than they do. 

Although my coming out experiences have been far from pleasant, I wouldn’t change it because being openly myself is far better than hiding to please others. I am me- you are you. We can live in peace if we try. 💕 

When the Hateful Accuse Us of Hatefulness (link)

I almost cried reading this article. We’re allowed to be angry. We’re allowed to share our anger and our stories about the hurt we’ve endured and still endure. We’re allowed to point out oppressive attitudes and actions when we see it. We’re allowed to express our anger and hurt even if it makes our oppressors uncomfortable. After all, their momentary discomfort at our expressions of joy and pain is nothing compared to the generations of oppression they have inflicted and still inflict upon us.

Just because we won this single battle doesn’t mean the fight for equality is over, nor does it erase the unimaginable harm they’ve done to us in the name of “love”. We’re allowed to make sure that our immense struggles are not forgotten or toned down to make our oppressors feel better about themselves. It is not hateful for us to show them how they’ve hurt us, to make them aware of the damage they’ve caused and are still causing. It is not hateful for us to be angry at the terrible way we’ve been treated, or to celebrate a victory over their oppression of us. It is not hateful to recover from oppression and live our lives in ways that our oppressors dislike. 

Although I personally don’t agree with the term “fundagelical” to describe anti-gay Christians (I find it unnecessarily abrasive and would personally use another term), after how I’ve been treated and my LGBTQ friends have been treated and countless generations of LGBTQ people have been treated, I think a strongly worded article in reply is more than justified.

But I’m not going to play nice here: the Christians opposing LGBTQ rights have rivers of blood flowing down their hands.

Every single demand that we shut up, give them “respect” (again, meaning: silence and an allowance to keep acting as if they won rather than lost), and stop being “hateful” is being made while they peek at us through bloody fingers. Their hands are so close to their faces that they can’t even see the blood streaming down their wrists.

They have turned their gazes away from the lives they have destroyed, the children they have murdered and abandoned, the bullying they have done, or the constant stream of filthy smears they have made against a marginalized group–marginalized, remember, because of their hateful pseudo-love–that never actually posed a threat to anything of theirs. They can’t see any of that. When this information gets shared with them, they try to silence the messenger–because the message runs so contrary to their crafted and curated self-image. Their emotional paychecks depend on seeing themselves as the “good guys”: the embattled paladins of truth and justice fighting against a monstrous and agelessly-evil enemy. The truth would destroy that image of themselves they hold so dear–and would put into question all the other false ideas they hold. But all of this is their problem and not ours.

Until they wash their hands and get cleaned up, they have no right at all to try to shut anyone up for pointing out their error. We however have every right to talk about that error, and we will continue to do so.

We are not being hateful, and we will not be shamed into silence by those culture-warrior Christians feeling stung over their loss.***

We are not being hateful, any more than they were ever being loving.

Read the whole article here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/excommunications/2015/07/when-the-hateful-accuse-us-of-hatefulness/#sthash.C3pGWfEH.dpuf

To My Christian Friends who Oppose Marriage Equality

This past week has been a roller coaster of emotion for me. On one hand, marriage equality finally came to the U.S.- although there are still other important areas to be worked on, this was a massive step for LGBTQ equality and that’s wonderful! My first Pride Festival was also a very positive experience; I loved the acceptance and freedom to by myself that I felt there. It was a safe and happy place and I was able to meet other people just like me. I was also very happy to see support from countless Christians in my life this past week- even those that did not personally agree with me were still vocal in their support of my right to choose for myself, and they shared my joy with me even as they stayed true to their own religious beliefs.

But there was another side to this past weekend- Christians who don’t approve of marriage equality did a lot of posting and talking about their feelings on the matter. Of course it’s your right to believe whatever you want and express those beliefs, and I’ll always support that right because freedom can’t be given only to those we agree with- but your words come with consequences. And often it’s other people who have to live with the consequences of words we so causally throw around.

I cried this past weekend. I cried because the way you used your freedom of speech hurt me deeply. You’re not strangers on the internet, people I’ve never met who understandably wouldn’t have as much personal empathy for me. But you are people I know personally, people who claim to respect and care about me. I need to express to you how you’ve made me feel this week, I need you to understand the power of your words to tear people down and push people even farther away from your faith.

1. This isn’t just a simple disagreement.

I disagree with my Christian friends all the time. Our conversations usually look like this:

(Me) “I believe homosexuality isn’t a sin. I don’t believe in sin. Therefore I would marry someone of the same sex if I fell in love with them.”

(Them) “I believe homosexuality is a sin. Therefore I would not date or marry someone of the same gender.”

THAT is a disagreement. We both have our views, we express them respectfully, and neither of us are forcing our views on each other. This, however, is what has been happening with the issue of marriage equality:

(Me) “I believe homosexuality isn’t a sin. I don’t believe in sin. Therefore I would marry someone of the same sex if I fell in love with them.”

(Them) “I believe homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, no one should be allowed to marry someone of the same gender, even if their beliefs say otherwise. I also believe that you are pushing your beliefs on me by even asking to marry someone of the same gender.” religion-505x320

Do you see the difference? You’re not just disagreeing with me, you’re literally telling me that I do not deserve legal freedom to follow my own beliefs if they happen to be different from yours. You want YOUR religious beliefs to be legally enforced on my personal life. That isn’t a disagreement- that is you using your religion to oppress me.

And then, to add insult to injury, you are getting upset at me for even ASKING to be allowed to legally live out my own beliefs, or for pointing out that the way you’re addressing this issue is extremely hurtful and oppressive to the LGBTQ community. My fight for legal equality is presented as an attack on your religious beliefs, even though you’re the ones trying to make me live according to your beliefs and not mine. Me wanting to live out my own beliefs is not an attack on your religious freedom.

When you say we don’t deserve legal equality, you’re saying that we are second class citizens who can’t and shouldn’t make decisions for ourselves. By saying that your personal religious beliefs should trump our personal freedom, that you should dictate how we’re allowed to live our lives, you dehumanize and demean us.

You’re also going against everything our nation stands for, since our nation was literally founding on the idea that all people should be free to follow their own personal beliefs without our shared government promoting any of them over another. The same constitutional clause that unequivocally protects your right to follow your religion also protects me from being forced to follow your religion in any way.

I don’t care what you believe about sin. That’s a matter of personal belief. I may respectfully debate it with you (if we both want to have that conversation), but as long as you’re not shaming, belittling, or mocking me I don’t care what you believe. However- I DO care that you think your beliefs about sin should be enforced and regulated via our shared government, which was founded upon freedom for every American. Freedom and justice for ALL, not freedom and justice for Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians. Your religious freedoms only extend as far as my freedoms begin. I can’t (and wouldn’t!!) force you to marry someone of the same gender or perform same sex marriages, and you can’t (and shouldn’t!!) force me not to.

2. You have dehumanized and mocked me and my struggles.

This week I’ve watched as my Pride symbols have been taken apart, mocked, belittled, and appropriated to support your own cause. Here are some examples:

o-STRAIGHT-PRIDE-facebook10574291_742552252457683_9052486822310658960_n

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Please stop.

The LGBTQ community faces discrimination and persecution that Christians in the United States don’t even come close to understanding. 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ teens and young adults that were thrown out of their homes when they came out of the closet, or that left home in desperation because they couldn’t stand the constant judgment and stigma from their loved ones. Transgender people face a 66% risk of violence or attempted violence, most have been severely bullied or discriminated against, and 41% of them have attempted suicide because of how society treats them. LGBTQ people are regularly assaulted, harassed, and judged in public places in the United States. Many have literally lost their lives, whether because of violence enacted against them or because of suicide after years of unending societal torment. The LGBTQ community faces a high rate of depression because of the stigmas and discrimination they have to endure. BQstZ8vCEAA6IqI

THIS is what these symbols represent. Our struggles, the blood and tears we have shed, and the hope of one day gaining freedom from oppression, societal violence, and unjust laws. Our flags and colors and symbols represent unimaginable struggle, but also courage and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. The rainbow represents HOPE for us, just as it represents hope for you. For us it represents hope that there is beauty after a storm. We can both gain equal and different inspiration from this beautiful manifestation of nature. 

And yet you mock our symbols, manipulate them to promote your own religious agendas, you put our symbolism down to build up your own. And then you wonder why the LGBTQ community gets angry at you?

3. “God will judge our nation for this!” “It’s like Sodom and Gomorrah!”

This is so incredibly insulting. With all the horrible things happening in the world and in the United States, such as sex trafficking and priests sexually abusing children and black churches being burned by racist terrorism, THIS is the issue you think that God will destroy America over? Loving committed relationships will ruin our nation, but the Christian holocaust of Native Americans in our early history didn’t? Our massive slave trade and legalized racism prior to the 60’s didn’t? America’s terrible treatment of the LGBTQ community wouldn’t? If your God would judge America for loving relationships but not these atrocities, then he is an unjust monster that is not worthy of worship.

4. “We win in the end!”

I didn’t see this one specifically on my friends’ posts, but it was certainly being thrown around by a lot of Christians this weekend. Even if you believe this is true, try to see it from our point of view. Your God is going to destroy us anyways in the end, and you’re happy about this? Wow.

5. “One Man One Woman” isn’t just insulting, it isn’t even Biblical.

one_man_and_one_woman_is_a_marriage_shirt-r64bca016ec19467d9304d1d1817ac763_f0yq2_1024This one has long been posted by anti-gay Christians, and a huge number of Christians on my Facebook have been posting them this week. it’s by far been the most popular. But here’s the problem: It’s not even Biblical.

While the Bible may not allow same sex marriages (debated hotly in Christian circles), it certainly DOES allow polygamy, sex slaves (concubines) and treating women like property. The only place that says a man should have a single wife is specifically referring to bishops. This is an issue that Christian missionaries overseas have had to come to grips with, since other nations still embrace polygamy even while also embracing Christ. These missionaries had to acknowledge that the Bible doesn’t actually condemn polygamy, and thus they had no right to condemn the cultural practices of the local people. I studied this when I was in Bible college preparing to be an overseas missionary, and I remember having to reevaluate my idea of what marriage meant in other Christian cultures.

“One man and one woman” is NOT the only type of marriage God allowed in scripture, so these memes are far more indicative of your own personal prejudice than of God’s alleged words. So not only are these memes hurtful because you’re making it clear that our marriages disgust you, but they don’t even match what your own Bible says about the types of marriage that God allegedly condones. i_support_traditional_marriage_pin-rd49d3b1df1b24668a0ff03ad723ca880_x7efx_1024

And as for the memes that state “I support traditional marriage”: “Traditional” doesn’t mean it’s right. Banning interracial marriages was once traditional too. Treating women like property was once traditional. Marrying girls barely out of puberty (or still in puberty) is STILL traditional in many countries. Until 1993, “traditional marriage” included the legal rights of the husband to rape his wife, and not that long ago wives were not allowed to vote or hold their own property. And the Biblical versions of marriage are VERY different than the marriage traditions we hold today.

“Traditional marriage” is a meaningless phrase that can be translated into “We’ve always done it this way, and I don’t want to change it!” Our laws should not be based on tradition, but on what’s fair and just for all citizens. And sometimes that means challenging and changing traditions that shouldn’t have been traditions in the first place.

6. You Were the Catalyst for Me Leaving Christianity.

Not directly, and probably not for the reasons you’re thinking, but it’s true. Years ago, when I was still a Christian, the state of Maine was voting on marriage equality. Although I believed it was a sin at the time, I didn’t think it was right to force any of my beliefs on non-believers, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. I had several gay and lesbian friends and I supported and loved them even though I disagreed. However, countless Christian friends on my Facebook were not so empathetic. Most of these Christians were people I went to Bible college with, though there were others from my circles growing up.

The message they sent was clear: They did not respect or love these people. They wanted to force their religion on them, and were not above dehumanizing and degrading them to accomplish this. And not only that, but they started attacking and belittling any Christians who dared to disagree with them. I saw this on one of my friend’s pages: “You can’t be a Christian and support gay marriage!” Really? You’re speaking for God now?

Their hateful attitudes and lack of empathy caused me to question whether or not being gay was actually a sin. After all, Jesus never said the things they were saying. Was this anti-gay attitude really Biblical after all? So I dug deeper into scripture and actually listened to other Christians who believed it wasn’t a sin, and I was shocked. The issue wasn’t as black and white as I’d thought- there were other legitimate ways to interpret those scriptures, similar to how we interpreted verses about slavery.

That day I realized two things that shocked me to my very core- One, my Christian circles only accepted me if I thought just like them, and two, that the church that I had trusted to teach me truth had been wrong on something really important. This last realization caused me to dig into other issues as well. Once I started openly questioning my faith, the questions I’d pushed down for years on many issues all came flooding to the surface. Eventually I wondered whether the Bible was divinely inspired, and realized I didn’t think it was. And then came the biggest question of all: Does God actually exist? My answer surprised me, but it was also comforting too because I no longer had to try to explain away the things that had never made sense to me. I no longer had to struggle with cognitive dissonance.

If these Christians in my life had not been so blatantly hateful towards the LGBTQ community and Christians who supported them, I would probably never have started questioning my faith. If my religion had been a source of love and acceptance instead of division and intolerance that was causing immense pain to LGBTQ people I cared about, I would have had very little reason to question those beliefs. But you made it impossible for me to coast along anymore. You forced me to dig deeper, to ask the tougher questions. And for that I thank you.

I want to clarify that I didn’t leave Christianity because of mean Christians. I’m not foolish enough to judge the validity of an entire belief system on the hurtful actions of some. There are mean atheists too, every group has its good and bad members. Truth is not determined by how people act. However, while your attitudes didn’t directly result in my unbelief, it was the catalyst that caused me to begin openly questioning my beliefs.

I know that converting people to your belief system is important to you, and keeping them in the faith is even more important to you- and the way you’re dealing with this specific issue is turning people away from your faith in so many different ways. For some like me, it was the catalyst that got us questioning our beliefs in general and was thus an indirect cause of our leaving the faith to become atheists or agnostics. For others, the hatred and anger coming from the church made them not want any part of it anymore, so they left the church to follow God in their own way, often joining the ranks of the “nones” who have no specific religious affiliation.

Here’s my point: If you want to get people into your faith, and to stop people from leaving it, then you HAVE to change how you’re addressing this issue. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs on sin to acknowledge that how you’re treating sinners isn’t effective and may not be how God would want you to act.

Conclusion:

I love you all, even those of you who have caused me pain this week. I don’t begrudge you your right to express your beliefs just as I express mine. But I need you to understand that how you’re addressing this issue affects me and the rest of the LGBTQ community. It’s hard to see my friends post and say these things, even as they claim to love and respect me. Saying “I love you!” means little when you’re using your religion to belittle and hurt me. And when I’m hurting, sometimes my filter doesn’t work as well as it should. I’m more apt to passionately comment on those posts trying to make you see how hurtful it is. I’m more apt to share posts that may hurt you in return, things that on a normal day I’d refrain from posting. I’m not excusing any reactions I’ve had that may have gone too far, I’m just saying that I’m not perfect and when my friends act this way it feels like I have to defend my right to even exist in their world. I’m saying that in my pain I sometimes lash out because I just want the pain and judgment to stop, and nobody seems to listen when I say things nicely. I’m doing my best to coexist with you, but some days you make it so damn hard.

I don’t expect any of you to change your beliefs on homosexuality being a sin. I’ve never asked that and never will. But I am hoping that perhaps you’ll find a new, kinder, more effective way to address it, just as you address other sins.