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. 💕 

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Are you taking the side of the oppressor without realizing it?

Many anti-gay Christians think they’re being kind and loving to LGBTQ people because they’re not physically beating them up or calling them fags like Westboro does. But social oppression is about much more than just physically oppressing us or calling us a few specific names- and you’re probably contributing to our oppression even while praising yourself for being so “tolerant”. Here are a few things to consider.

When you stand by while others are oppressed and demeaned and bullied, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. They think that no one will stand up to them, that other people in their faith accept their treatment of us, and it tells us that we’re not worth defending. Multiple times I’ve been bullied by believers, and my “friends” would defend the bully instead of me just because the bully shares their beliefs and I don’t. But hurtful behavior is hurtful regardless of the beliefs behind it.

When you tell the oppressed that their struggles “aren’t that bad”, that they “shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it”, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. You’re also telling the oppressed that our stories and pain aren’t believable or important to you. Instead of listening to us, you are telling us how bad our pain is even though you have no first hand knowledge of it- and when we tell you that you’re incorrect, you get defensive. Bottom line: We’re telling you about our pain and you won’t believe us. That’s what an oppressive society does: It pretends that the pain they cause minority groups doesn’t exist so the oppressors never have to change. 

When we point out that you’re one of the people causing us pain through your actions or attitudes or words you use to describe us, and you get defensive and call us “bullies” or “too sensitive”, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. We all make mistakes- are you compassionate and humble enough to admit when you’ve made mistakes? Can you learn from them and refrain from causing us more pain in the future? Just because you’re not calling us “fags” doesn’t mean you’re not using words and phrases that demean and belittle us. Not sure what those are? Ask us! Or look it up! Many of us write blogs about this issue all the time.

When you tell us that our oppression is acceptable or even necessary because you believe we are “sinning”, you are taking one of the most oppressive stands of all. You’re telling us that it’s ok for us to suffer because of your religion, even if we did not consent to live by the rules of your religion. Our freedom of choice does not matter to you. Our right to live in peace and without persecution does not matter to you. Our right to follow our OWN beliefs does not matter to you.

Yes-I-am-a-Christian-I-believe-the-bible

Memes like the one to the left are supposed to sound loving and non-oppressive because they say they love us and won’t let anyone bully us. But it’s all very shallow.

“Name calling” and “stereotyping” is what we’re usually accused of when we point out that you’re still causing us immense pain and social oppression- we’re essentially called bullies for calling you out on how you’re treating a marginalized, mistreated minority. We can’t say anything about the negative way you treat us without being accused of having bad attitudes or being mean- even though your camp has been putting us down and restricting our rights for generations.

You say you’re not judging us, and yet in this meme you are:

Demeaning and belittling our loving unions by calling it “homosexual marriage”. Why the quotes? It’s clear that you don’t even accept this as a real thing, even though it’s very real and important to us and it’s now 100% legal. Your disgust and refusal to accept our relationships is crystal clear, and it’s not remotely loving. How would your black friends feel if you posted this meme with the words “interracial marriage” instead of “homosexual marriage”? Would they feel loved and accepted by you? Probably not.

Also, our sexual orientations are not up for debate in whether or not you support it- it’s a core part of who we are, just as yours is. Do I support your sexual orientation? I don’t demean it, I respect your right to live it even if I’m not straight myself, I don’t support laws that would restrict your right to live out your sexual orientation, so yes I do support it. So why won’t you do the same for me? You can support my basic human rights even if you think it’s sinful, just as you do with divorce and many other things that the Bible condemns but we allow in society. Supporting me as a non-heterosexual person doesn’t mean you’re condoning sin, it just means you acknowledge that not everyone is the same as you and that’s ok. 

You still won’t support our right to choose for ourselves or to be ourselves. You don’t have to agree with someone to support them and their choices. I don’t agree with your religion, but I support you as a person and I’ll always support your right to go to church even if I hate what they’re preaching. And I certainly wouldn’t imply that your religion isn’t real or valid just because I strongly disagree with it. You won’t support me as a non-hetereosexual person at ALL, even when my basic human rights are being denied and it’s causing me pain- but I’d better support you, or I’ll get accused of stereotyping and name calling and attacking your religious right to persecute me.

Do not diminish our struggles. Don’t patronize us and tell us that this is just about us “having different opinions” because it’s not. You are treating us like second class citizens, and then getting upset when we tell you that it isn’t enough- that being second class people is not ok with us. We’re ALL equal, we ALL deserve legal and social equality. And when you treat us like second class citizens and then call yourself our friends or say you love us- well, don’t be surprised if we don’t believe you, or when we get upset at the hypocrisy. With friends like these, who needs enemies, right? If our friends and loved ones won’t even support our right to be treated equally and fairly, socially and legally, what do you think we deal with from our enemies? Let that sink in for a moment.

And this is what we deal with. Every. Single. Day. And you wonder why some of us have short fuses. We have these very unloving friends that we must either put up with and try to coexist with even as they contribute to our social and legal oppression, or we remove them from our lives and get accused of being intolerant of someone else’s beliefs because we can’t stand seeing them claim to love us even as they hurt us over and over again. We can’t win!

‘Great Precaution Not To Offend A Minister’: Couple Denied Marriage Explains Why They Chose A Judge (link)

“We took great precaution not to offend a minister — that’s why we went to a judge to get married, never dreaming that he couldn’t follow the law,” Wilson told WTOL. “That he wouldn’t follow the law.”

“To go through that experience when it’s not pleasant and singles you out at a time in your life when you’re celebrating the fact that you have the same right as everyone else, it’s just not good. I don’t want anyone else to go through it,” she added.

But of course, the religious right will never be satisfied. Most same-sex couples who want to marry aren’t asking clergy members they don’t know to marry them, to avoid awkward situations and out of respect for their religious beliefs.

But taxpayer employees of the state have, as written above, a legal duty and sworn oath to do their jobs, “faithfully and impartially.”

How much more are same-sex couples supposed to do to appease anti-gay activists and “Christians”?

What more does the religious right want?

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/_great_precaution_not_to_offend_a_minister_couple_denied_marriage_explains_why_they_chose_a_judge

So what more can we do? This couple specifically didn’t go to a church in order to not offend any clergy, and they were STILL faced with a religious person who refused to marry them, even though it was literally his job to do so.

This is the next stage of the LGBTQ movement for equality- making sure that state officials actually obey the law. State officials are NOT entitled to refuse service to anyone because of their personal beliefs- they are obligated to represent the law, not themselves, even when they personally disagree with the law. Any government official that cannot represent the law consistently should find a new profession, since they’re unable to fulfill their most basic duties which they swear to uphold.

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.