Which One of You Have We Wronged?

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Hugo. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Hugo. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published in December 2014. It is a guest post that Sophie Anna Platt wrote in response to James Dobson’s recent statement that marriage equality will lead to a civil war.

To the James Dobsons and Mike Farrises of the world who literally want a civil war over gay rights and gay marriage, I ask this. In fact, I should ask certain members of my own family. I ask the same thing Jesus once asked.

Which one of you have we wronged?

Which one of you have we cheated or stolen from or harmed in any way? I’m not saying we are perfect, but what did we ever do to you that could make you hate us so much that you literally want a civil war over us being allowed the same rights that you have? What could possess you to put us through the things you have? How can you bring yourself to hate another person – much less a whole group of people- to the point that you force us even as children into “reparative therapy” which is just a fancy word for psychological and physical torture? I’m not even speaking metaphorically here.

After everything you have done to us one might expect we would be the ones with hatred in our hearts. That we would be trying to outlaw the religion that has been used in such vile ways against us. The truth is that many, many of us still believe in God, and we certainly support your right to do so. We do not support your right to use your religion as a weapon against us, and that really shouldn’t surprise you.

How can you say that we and those who love us and support us should be killed? That is what war is. Killing the ones you are against. If you are without sin, then cast the first stone by all means. But don’t forget it was this Jesus you purportedly follow who stopped people like you from casting stones at people like us when he was on Earth. Don’t forget that He said that whatever you do to “even the least of these my siblings”, you do to Him. Don’t forget that in Christ there is no male or female. You like to take the rest of the Bible so literally. Why do you try to explain away verses like that? In fact, what makes you think you can explain away the second greatest commandment – to love your neighbor as you love yourself – just by saying, “Well, my neighbor is gay and that makes them imperfect in my eyes so that doesn’t count”?

So next time before you promise to go on a killing spree, think about whether you are really serving the wishes of the one you call “Lord”.

Let The Chips Fall Where They May: Jonah’s Story

Let The Chips Fall Where They May: Jonah’s Story

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Jonah” is a pseudonym.

“That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough”
–R.E.M., Losing my Religion

I’ve tried to write this more times than I can count. Each time it’s been something different to derail it. What is the point? How can it help someone else? Do I need to detail everything that happened to me? Is it for me to air my grievances? Am I still angry at my parents? These and more are all valid questions I’ve had to ask myself.

While outlining events and their details over the last few months in my private scribblings, I’ve come to realize a number of things. First, it has done me good to really look over my childhood with a fine tooth comb. So many things I’ve tried to understand about why I am the way I am have started to come to light. Second, there were things that affected me that I didn’t realize until I started thinking long and hard about them. Whether you plan on sharing it or not, I recommend you write out your story. Detail it, tell it to yourself. You may not realize how many things about yourself you never realized.

I was homeschooled K-12 in an ultra conservative Christian home (note when I say ultra conservative, I don’t mean biblical law over the top fundamentalism conservative). I was the good kid and my parents never saw anything bad coming. Then, at age 21 I slipped into a deep depression. It got bad to the point where I lashed out at my concerned parents and told them I hated them. This came as a complete shock to them.

How did I go from not a problem to this? It was something that was building for years. A combination of isolation, my parents’ emotional unavailability, religious guilt and other factors played into it. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood, at least not compared to what many have endured. However, depression can be incredibly crippling regardless of the cause.

My parents sent me to a Christian counselor. For the first time in my life I found myself admitting to someone (I had not even admitted it to myself really) how much I resented my parents for the years of being isolated and having few to no friends. I resented my parents for being unable to listen or talk about things like sex, relationships and so on. This was just the start, after several months of counseling I was just starting to unravel what was going on inside my head.

Coming out of counseling I was no longer in a deep depression. I could function, going to school and work. But, the darkness was still looming over me. I wasn’t at peace, I had not been for many years. I began to get my life back in order but I knew there was still a long ways to go. I had told my parents what I was angry at them for and had forgiven them

Why wasn’t I at peace? Isn’t that what I needed? To admit to myself what problems I had, forgive and move on? There was still an elephant in the room, something I couldn’t even think to confront at the time. Religion. Ever since I was little it was pushed on me. I was to be the perfect Christian with my parents perfect conservative Christian values. I needed to ask for forgiveness every day because I was a flawed sinner. There was a deep rooted guilt that loomed over my entire childhood.

I had my doubts for years. It always ultimately shifted back to me feeling there was something wrong with me. In spite of accepting Jesus I never felt like anything changed. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I wondered if it really mattered. Then I promptly got angry at myself for questioning Christianity. Then one day, I found my peace. It wasn’t with Jesus, or some magical prayer.

I was sitting in Church in October 2008. This was weeks before the 2008 election, in which Christians had a very big investment in prop 8 (banning gay marriage in CA) as well as getting McCain-Palin (Christian values!) elected. Obama is the anti-Christ and gays are the most evil, vile people on the planet! While I’m putting a snarky little spin on those things, that is very much the message coming from the pulpit. Spewing straight hatred and political propaganda. This wasn’t what I wanted to be. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I stood up quietly and walked out of Church. I was in no way demonstrative about it, I played it off like I was going to the restroom or something. The reality is I was done. I had found myself questioning more and more over the previous six months. Things from having my first gay friend to seeing my co-workers who were struggling to eat, to spending a lot of time with a buddhist girl I liked were changing my perspective on such things. I was done being a judgmental Christian. I was done thinking gays were evil people. I was done mocking people who used food stamps. I was done trying to judge others because they subscribed to a different belief system. Done.

Letting go of my parent’s ideology was the magic bullet. Years of guilt, anger and confusion were lifted in a matter of days. Was I rejecting the notion of God outright? No. I simply realized that I didn’t know. Nobody knows and nobody really can know for sure. Why should I spend my life trying to argue one way or the other? It was time to live my life for me and not to appease anyone.

That day was nearly five years ago. Since then I am still a work in progress, but I haven’t felt the ‘darkness’ that loomed over my life since. I’ve become my own person with my own opinions. I’ve done outrageous things like having a one night stand, exploring other religious philosophies and voting Democrat. I’ve found what works for me.

Sometimes I still feel the ‘darkness’. At times when I was detailing out for myself a recap of my childhood, I could feel those emotions looming over my head. But, it always passes. That is the past and I’ve moved beyond it. At times anger may bubble up, but I’ve forgiven my parents for the mistakes they made.

Today I consider myself agnostic, moderately liberal and I’ve been in a stable relationship for over two years. I have a job I like and I enjoy my life. I have a good relationship with my parents. I’ve never directly talked to them about my ideology, but I think they know. I don’t feel it really matters. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is I’m comfortable in my own skin.

The ultimate point I’m trying to make is this. Be yourself, do what makes you happy in life. It’s not selfish to think of yourself, it’s called self preservation. If something (religious guilt in my case) is choking you and holding you down, ask yourself if you really want that in your life. I’m not telling you it’s your religion, it can be different things for different people.

Many homeschoolers turn out fine as the prototypical conservatives that our parents always wanted. Many of us did not, for a wide number of reasons. That doesn’t mean you turned out wrong or should be unhappy with yourself. Embrace who you are, whatever you want to believe and let the chips fall where they may.

The “Homosexual Agenda”: Libby Anne

The “Homosexual Agenda”: Libby Anne

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on March 21, 2012.

I was (probably unwisely) perusing the conservative Catholic blogosphere, and it has started to get to me. I’ve read numerous blogs talking about the “homosexual agenda” that is taking over the country and oppressing everyone else. I remember being taught this growing up, to the exact minutia. Reading about it now, though, it makes me angry.

You know what the “homosexual agenda” is? Gay people want to be able to live their lives without threat, hold jobs without fear of being fired for their sexual orientation, and be legally allowed marry people they love. Right now, they can’t do that. The “homosexual agenda” is not about “oppressing” Christians, it’s about letting gay people be full human beings. It’s not about giving gay people more rights than everyone else, it’s about giving them the same rights as anyone else.

I think the reason reading about the evils of the coming “homosexual agenda” has been bothering me is that I have numerous gay friends. They’re great friends who are always ready to help me in a pinch, they have their own dreams and ambitions, and they have crushes and relationships just like anyone else. And so when I hear about the “homosexual agenda” and then think of my friends, I get mad. Mad, because those who speak with fear of the “homosexual agenda” want to deprive my friends of the right to hold a job without fear of being fired for who they are and the right to marry who they love. I feel mad because in some parts of this country my friends might still find their lives under threat, simply because they are sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own sex

I remember believing the whole “homosexual agenda” thing. Back then, I was afraid of gay people. They were different and scary. They were pedophiles who should not be trusted around children. I wonder if that’s how the people writing the blogs I was reading feel when they talk about the “homosexual agenda” – fear of something different, scary, and “unnatural.” But that fear does not excuse the actions anti-gay activists take, actions that seek to deprive my friends of their basic rights and to relegate them to second class citizens.

I was willing to change my views when confronted with actual gay people, and in response to additional information (for example, the fact that gay people are statistically less likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual people). I rather suspect, though, that the individuals whose blogs I read probably aren’t ready to change their views when confronted with contrary evidence.

When reading predictions of the takeover of the “homosexual agenda,” the common theme seems to boil down to “gay people want to force us to accept them as normal.” Well yes, yes they do. Because they are. But in actuality, the actions gay activists tend to take are directed not so much at personal beliefs as at physical actions that harm them.

Remember when I said that “religious freedom is not a get out of jail free card“? Well that’s what’s going on here too. Your religious freedom is violated if someone forces you to believe that gay marriage is okay or forces your church to perform gay marriages, but it’s not violated if gay people are allowed to get married. Your religious freedom is violated if someone tells you what you have to believe about God’s view of gay people, but it’s not violated if teachers are required to stop students from bullying gay kids and to explain as school employees that being gay is not considered a disorder by the scientific community, or if people are not allowed to fire someone just for being gay just as they are required not to fire someone just for being black. What’s at stake here is people’s actions, actions that do real harm to gay people, not their beliefs. You are free to believe as you like, but if your actions will do actual harm to others, you are not allowed to act as you would like.

Now sure, I’d really like to change people’s beliefs too. I don’t like beliefs that see some people as lesser than others, especially when these beliefs are based not on any evidence but simply on specific interpretations of a stone age text. I seek to oppose misogyny and homophobia both through fighting actual discrimination and through working to change people’s minds. Wanting to change people’s minds, however, is not the same as legislating what people are allowed to think or putting people in jail for their views, though those decrying the “homosexual agenda” don’t seem to realize that.

I’ve decided not to browse the conservative Catholic blogosphere. It’s not good for my blood pressure. But will continue to fight for LGBTQ rights and I will continue to work on countering homophobia by changing people’s minds.

Tough Love: Susie

Tough Love: Susie

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Susie” is a pseudonym.

Hi, my name is Susie. I am a gay woman in my 20’s who was raised in a very conservative Christian homeschooling family in the South. I have been “out” for six years.

A few weeks before my 22nd birthday I had a revelation; I figured out what was “wrong” with me. I realized — I’m gay. And what’s more, even though I was a very conservative Christian, I had complete peace about my sexuality. I knew some within my circle probably wouldn’t accept my sexuality, but I thought my family would accept it. My mom started asking me if I was gay or if I thought I was gay when I was about 14 years old and a few of my siblings had asked me as well as I got older. I had shown little to no interest in the opposite sex, and we all know how abnormal that is in the homeschool community.

My family is very close-knit, so shortly after I realized I am gay, I told them. Their reactions were nothing like I had imagined. Honestly, I must have been totally naïve because I really thought they would support me and still accept me. Instead, my family totally freaked out on me. My mother cried and cried. My dad tried to comfort me by telling me that I am young and just haven’t met the right guy yet. My older brother actually had the nerve to ask me if I was just trying to eccentrically prove that you could have conservative values yet be gay.

My family was — and, I am sure, still are — well known in the conservative Christian homeschooling community. So my mom kept asking me “What will people think?” For her, what people thought about me being gay — and how that reflected on my family — was a huge concern.

Most conservative Christians are against psychology and therapy. Somehow or another its anti-God or whatnot. I am sure that is a topic in and of itself…anyway! My mom called around, found a ‘Christian Therapist’ and sent me to this therapist.

During this time, things were extremely hard for me at home. My family treated me totally differently. Every conversation was about my struggle. I was under complete surveillance; my every move and action was monitored. My mom kept track of the mileage in my car based on the approved places I was allowed to go, which was pretty much limited to my therapist. I was not allowed to go to the therapist without a chaperone, which typically was one of my siblings. My cell phone had been confiscated and I was not allowed to get on the Internet without — yep, a chaperone. At the time, I was a partner in the family business so my parents really controlled every aspect of my life.

After a few weeks of gay therapy, I was still gay so my parents did the unthinkable. They both, in my opinion, totally slipped over the edge of reason. I had gone to my therapy appointment and when I came home, as I was pulling in the driveway I realized my driver’s license was not in the console of the car where I usually kept it. So I went inside and asked my mom if she knew where my driver’s license was. Long story short, in an effort to “protect me from myself,” my dad had taken my driver’s license, passport, social security card, birth certificate, credit card and debit card and put them all in a safety deposit box at the bank. I had no legal identity!

I am trying to share enough details to paint the picture, without boring you. So I am going to cut to the chase.

My mom ended up driving me two hours away, in my car, with some of my things and dropped me off with $7 to my name. Tough love is what they called it. I was lucky enough that a friend had a house with two of his friends and they let me stay in an open room. I had no bed, just a pillow and a sleeping bag with some clothes. I didn’t even have a blanket.

Tough love.

I have not been home in six years. Three of my four siblings refuse to talk to me. Two of my siblings have gotten married; I was not at either of their weddings, nor was I invited. I have two nephews and a niece, I have not met any of them and I don’t think I ever will.

Sounds pretty sad right? Well it is. I am not going to lie, I miss them. I miss them so much it breaks my heart.

But you know what? That’s their choice, not mine. I may be missing out on their lives but they are missing out on mine, as well.

Within a year of coming out, I had been made homeless, put through hell, I am sure I had a breakdown. But I discovered who I am, what I am made of, what I can go through and I leveraged my stubbornness into becoming a hardcore fighter. And best of all, I met the love of my life. We just celebrated our five-year anniversary.

Coming out, for me, was a spiritual experience as much as it was a literal/physical one. Depending on feedback to this post, I can and will share more. Just let me know. I can go on and on about homosexuality and the Bible/Christianity.

From Homophobe to Gay Rights Advocate: Libby Anne

From Homophobe to Gay Rights Advocate: Libby Anne

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 16, 2012.

I didn’t meet a gay person growing up. “Homosexuals” were talked about in tones of disgust and sorrow, and we children knew that it was wrong for “men to kiss men” and “women to kiss women,” and that the Bible condemned homosexuality, but it was all in the abstract. It was about those depraved people who were out there trying to ruin marriage and subvert youth, not about any actual people we knew.

This is the story of how I met gay people, heard their stories, realized that they were human, and changed my position on homosexuality.

I met my first gay person in college. I didn’t know he was gay when I met him. Bobby was just the clean-cut, fun-loving guy who hung out in the dorm lounge and cheered everyone up with his words of encouragement. Bobby was smart, compassionate, and encouraging, he was there for everyone and everyone loved him. He came from a good family and was extremely successful in school, headed toward a career in computers. Halfway through freshman year Bobby came out as gay. This was completely unexpected.

Growing up, the most important things my parents and church had emphasized about homosexuality was that it was a choice, and that it was a horrible, ruinous, depraved lifestyle. Bobby challenged the later of these two teachings, for I could not understand how this wonderful, loving, compassionate young man could be holding such depravity inside. I had expected every gay person I met to be sporting piercings, tattoos, outlandish clothing, foul language, hedonism, depression, and likely several incurable diseases leading him to his grave. Bobby challenged this expectation because he did not fit it, not in the least.

Later in college I met a biology graduate student, Eric, who was openly gay. Like Bobby, Eric was clean-cut and respectable. I enjoyed talking to him about evolution, global warming, and other science-related issues. Because I knew him only ephemerally, I felt comfortable enough to ask him how he first figured out that he was gay. He explained to me that when he was nine or ten a friend of his showed him a playboy magazine he had found, and that was when he first realized he was different, because that magazine was doing something for his friend that it didn’t do for him. As he went through adolescence, he was never sexually attracted to females. Instead, he was sexually attracted to other males. This was not, he explained, something he had chosen, and it was not something he could change. After all, being gay had cost him his entire family, which had rejected him when he came out.

Eric thus challenged the second thing I had been taught about homosexuality, that it was a choice. Eric explained most emphatically that being gay was not something he had chosen and not something he could change, not anymore than I could change being sexually attracted to males.

In graduate school, I had a gay coworker, Doug. His background was similar to mine, growing up in a conservative religious family very involved in the church. Doug explained that being gay was never something he asked for, and that as a teen he prayed that it would disappear. He heard the teachings of his church about the evils of homosexuality, and he came to despise himself, to wish that he were dead, to feel that he and his family would be better off if he were dead. Finally, halfway through high school, he attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle full of pills. This left him violently ill, vomiting blood, but did not kill him. In college, after years of hiding it, he finally came out as gay, and for the first time the depression lifted and he felt that he could truly be himself. For the first time, he was truly at peace, truly happy, truly fulfilled.

Meeting gay people thus threw into question the things I had been taught about homosexuality as a child: that it was a choice and that it was a depraved, hideous lifestyle. Yet even with this, I had been taught that the Bible condemned homosexuality. I knew that if this was the case then whether or not homosexuality was a choice and regardless of how nice or loving or normal-seeming gay people might be, it was wrong. Yet it was during these same years that I realized that I could not take the Bible literally, and and that I must understand it in its proper cultural and historical context. I soon learned that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is not at all as clear cut as I had been raised to believe it, and I did not see how a God of love could create people with homosexual attractions and then condemn them for it. As I began to see God’s love as more important than his judgement, and his ways as less black and white than our narrow understandings, I reevaluated my theological position on this issue. A few years later I became an atheist, which made what the Bible says or does not say about homosexuality irrelevant.

Today, I feel completely comfortable around the gay people I meet and befriend. They are people just like me, with their own hopes, dreams, and interests. They are not defined by their homosexuality any more than I was by my heterosexuality. Today at long last I can accept gay people without any remnant of my earlier inside squeamishness or disgust.

Furthermore, stories like Doug’s have turned me into a big of a gay rights activist. Something like 30-40% of gay youth attempt suicide just like he did, not because being gay gives them depression but because the homophobic messages they receive from their families, churches, and communities make death seem more attractive than life. Last week on NPR I heard the story of a gay young man whose mother suspected he was gay when he was only ten, and took him out into the woods, pointed a loaded gun at him, and told him that this was the place she would shoot him through the head if he ever became a “faggot.” There is also the story of my bisexual friend who was rejected from her religious community when she came out as bisexual, even though she had been raised in that community from infancy.

There is also the fact that if Bobby, or Eric, or Doug wanted to marry their partners (two of the three are in long-term relationships), in the states where they currently live they could not. They would not be allowed to visit each other in the hospital or make medical decisions, they could not file joint tax refunds or have any of the other benefits that go to married couples. I hear people like twice-divorced Newt Gingrich condemning gay marriage as a threat to the institution of marriage, and I become angry inside. Bobby, Eric, Doug, and the other gay people I have befriended are not bad people. In fact, they are some of the most loving, accepting people I know. They deserve to have the right to marry the person they love just as much as I, or Newt Gingrich, or any heterosexual person can.

I understand where people like Newt Gingrich are coming from. I understand that they believe God has condemned homosexuality and that they harbor a veritable library of destructive myths and stereotypes about gay people. They are my parents. They are the church I grew up in. I get it. It’s just that I no longer agree with them. Today, I believe in equality.