I have a lot of feelings about bills that promote bigotry

Last week, I was going to write about the Kansas bill that was about to pass, but it was struck down [“100 points for Kansas!”] because the language in the bill was not specific enough. I rejoiced, I determined that the world (or the few, few people who might stumble upon the blog) didn’t need to hear me rant about something that didn’t pass. Then the same thing happened in Arizona. And Tennessee considered it. And Idaho. And South Dakota. And Utah. Mississippi. Oklahoma. Hawaii. Nevada. Colorado. Oregon. Ohio.

This bill hasn’t been passed in any state yet, either being stuck on the floor or being shot down by people who understand politics, but I want to address why even the introduction of these bills represents something that is painful and vile.

All of these bills are based upon the notion that people who practice religion–more specifically, Christians–are being persecuted by society by being forced to provide services to people who don’t live up to their moral code. They claim that they are being harassed by these people, and that they are suffering because of their faith. The bill, then, allows them to refuse services to anyone who might go against their religious beliefs. This is to prevent discrimination and harassment. I’mma tell you why I disagree with this bill from a legal standpoint, from a Christian standpoint, and from a lesbian standpoint.

I: THE LEAP BACK IN HISTORY. The dilemma here is that most groups are protected by the law, and even if those groups went against the religious person’s beliefs, the person would still be forced to provide their services for that protected group. Who isn’t protected? LGBT. Regardless of what the politicians say about how the bill could be relevant to anyone for any reason, other minority groups are protected under the law. Which leaves those rainbow-waving ickies to be the only ones left standing. Many people have protested the bills, recalling Jim Crow laws of the South just a handful of decades ago. History is trying to leap backwards, they say. Businesses might as well be allowed to post “No Gays Allowed” on their doors. Society is once again trying to permit businesses to discriminate against a certain group of people solely due to a characteristic they cannot control. To prevent discrimination.

II: THE LEGALITY OF HATE. I have issue (and by “issue” I mean many sad feelings) with this bill because it is asking to legalize hate. It supports the behavior of what it claims to be against: discrimination, harassment, and segregation. We are telling the future generations to accept and respect everyone–except, obvs, for this entire group of people. Christians get a lot of things right, but it seems like we forget about Jesus way too much–his teachings and his practice. He taught a lot about love. Not too much about hate or exclusion. He illustrated a lot of love. He didn’t show very much preferential treatment. He didn’t deny someone his services based on who they were, how they acted, or where they were from. This is a blog that I think perfectly sums up everything about how “Jesus” and “love” should not create a dichotomy for anyone. If people truly believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, how can they justify supporting discrimination rather than love?

III: THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I AM UNWANTED. As I said before, none of these bills have passed, and for that, I am truly grateful. However, the fact that the bills are being written, are being pushed, are being strongly supported by so much of the country makes me feel incredibly demeaned as a human being. It’s the frustration that our country has so far to go until we are all equal under the law. It’s the heartache that I feel when bills and news articles and church sermons teach that being gay is being less, is being perverted, is being unworthy. It’s the anger I feel when people publicly speak about what we should do to gays to teach them a lesson. It’s the misunderstanding I feel when someone talks about how hilarious it is that people are stupid enough to believe gays are Less Than (it is not hilarious; it is heartbreaking and infuriating, but definitely not hilarious). If it is a small minority of the population that so openly opposes being gay, then there is a large majority that is not taking a stand on either side, and that makes me sad, too.

Last night, I sat in one of my classes and we all mourned, collectively, the hate that we feel coming from bills like this. LGBT, allies, and those who are just trying to care for people, felt anger, and sadness, and frustration, and despair. It was collective heartache. And while I do feel isolated, frustrated, and voiceless, at the same time I felt heard and understand and justified in how I felt about what is occurring. People need people who feel with them, not just who understand. We all sat and felt together, and it was heartbreaking, and it was beautiful. What would happen if the majority who chose to stay silent began to speak up for the minority that cannot speak up?

My point is this: rather than Christians speaking against love and trying to justify their bigotry by making it law, what if they did what the Bible says and be a voice for those who are cast down by society? Proverbs 31:8-9 speak to this. I believe Micah 6:8 and Isaiah 1:17 speak to this. There are a lot of verses about justice, a lot about not judging others lest ye be judged, but not too many about having the right to treat people horribly just because you don’t agree with them. In fact, I see a lot that speaks directly against that.

Finally, and with great sincerity, I want to assure the people who supported those bills: if you own a company and you genuinely want to refuse service to someone who is LGBT, don’t worry: I doubt they want to give you their business anyway!

LGBTQ and the Law

Recently, I’ve had a number of friends who have shown genuine surprise when they hear that gay people cannot get married in Ohio yet. So, in order to better educate those who ask and to get a better understanding myself, this is a run-down of some of the laws for and against LGBTQ people in the US.

Image

1. There are 17 states–plus D.C.) that allow same-sex marriage. These are Washington, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire, Maryland and Vermont.

2. Two states, Nevada and Colorado, allow full civil unions and domestic partnerships.

3. Oregon both allows full civil unions and domestic partnerships and recognizes out-of-state marriages.

4. Wisconsin recognizes partial relationship status, which gives same-sex couples some of the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Now, recently there’s been this big drive of federal judges ruling that bans against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional; in fact, this happened in Kentucky just over a week ago. It happened in Utah in December, as well, but then the same-sex marriage ban ban was banned…which got awkward fast.

Ohio, not surprisingly, doesn’t make it into any of these categories. Ohio does not allow same-sex marriage, does not recognize marriages or partnerships from other states, and has no other type of legal recognition for same-sex relationships. This means that a couple who has been together for their entire adult lives are still granted 0 rights as a couple. While a few years ago, Obama ruled that hospitals cannot limit gay couples’ visitation rights, there are no legal rights recognizing the other partner if there is a death. “If a couple is not married and one partner dies, the other partner is not entitled to bereavement leave from work, to file wrongful death claims, to draw the Social Security of the deceased partner, or to automatically inherit a shared home, assets, or personal items in the absence of a will” (freedomtomarry.org).

“Surely not being legally recognized in a relationship isn’t the most horrible thing that could happen! It’s not like there are other rights being denied LGBT people.” Ah, but is it the only thing? Let’s take a look.

State law mandates that employees of the state and local governments be protected on the bases of both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression–YAY. State law does NOT protect employees in the private sector from either of these things. What does this mean? If I work for a private company and they somehow discover that I am gay, I could be fired without any other cause needed. Essentially, an employer could fire me because they are homophobic and the homophobia would be protected under the law.

But that’s not too bad, right? Just stay in the closet at work; after all, straight people aren’t always announcing that they’re straight! One day I will probably tell you the story of when my best friend forced me to come out at work, but that’s not today. I’m just bringing it up to say sometimes things happen and employers find out.

“So you can’t get married and you might get fired; that still doesn’t sound too bad!” Alright, let’s keep looking.

We can’t adopt! Unless we have really, really good lawyers. I have to stop here a minute, as adoption runs in my family’s blood. I think of the thousands of really crummy parents out there whose parental rights are (or need to be)–for the good of the children–stripped from them. Then I think of all of the children who are stuck in the foster system just waiting for someone capable of loving them and caring for them, many until they age out. I could adopt without my partner being legally named as the other parent, but if something happened to me (say, for instance, death), the state could very easily take away OUR child just because they would not view my partner as the child’s legal parent. That’s stupid, guys.

Finally, there’s the issue of bullying. Did you know that bullying is outlawed in the state? Bullying in public schools and online is prohibited. Do you know what isn’t? Issues of bullying specifically surrounding sexual orientation or gender identity. Do you know where the state doesn’t prohibit bullying? Private schools and religious schools. There are new bullying cases coming to light all the time, children who don’t feel safe going to school (private or public) because they hate being called names, being pushed around, being beaten up. Some decide that they would rather die than face their peers. That should never have to go through a child’s head; it should never happen. And it is all the time.

If we tell children who either identify as LGBTQ that they are not worth protecting, and that they are deserving of the words and actions against them, they will grow up believing that to be true. And just as sad are their peers, who will see that LGBTQ are supposed to be treated differently, poorly, and will grow up continuing to treat them that way. They will vote against them. They will teach their children to hate them.

Why Ellen Page coming out is A Big Deal

Ellen Page

Ellen Page, the actress known for her work in Juno, Inception and X-Men came out during a speech at HRCF’s Time to Thrive conference on Valentine’s Day (watch the speech here). During her eight minute speech, she spoke passionately to those who work for safety and inclusion for LGBTQ youth, and then snuck in her own story, to monstrous applause. “I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain. I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”

But let’s not focus on what she said for a minute. Let’s focus on all of the people whose responses went something like this:

From HRC’s Facebook announcement;

  • “I’ve got an announcement: I am a man and I like the company of females of the human species.~~ What? No marching band? No headline in the NY Times? Not even a little applause? It’s no wonder our world is so screwed up.”
  • “I do not like…more and more…ill people”
  • “I always thought she was gay!”
  • “Stop trying to hijack the phrase “human rights”. Advertising a lifestyle that spreads aids like homosexuality does and is perverse and repulsive to the majority of the population does not constitute human rights.”

From George Takei’s announcement;

  • “Ha, i would’ve been shocked if she came out as straight.”
  • “yea yea your life is so hard – I love you George but there are worse things than being gay – announce you’re a pedophile and see what happens”
  • “If she didn’t “come out”, then there wouldn’t have been a soundboard for all of these comments. I would bet in her Hollywood world everything was just fine, she brought this on herself. I would be willing to bet that her life would have been just fine if she didn’t need to announce to the world her sexual preference.”

From Variety Magazine’s announcement:

  • “Seriously…no one with a an IQ over 80 was surprised.”
  • This is actually kind of insulting. Hollywood is very accepting of homosexuals as there are a lot of gays in acting and they aren’t being persecuted in the least. So the fact that she felt she had to hide it makes it seem like she is the one that is ashamed of being gay.
  • Very Pointless! Im so happy for her!
    Even though most of the world doesn’t really care about her coming out of the closet the narrow-minded young girl believes she needs some press conference to “Stop Lying”
    A good role model would not have even lied about themselves being gay in the first place/

While there were a lot more people to comment about their support for Ellen and their love of her work, there were also several Stinky Pete’s who couldn’t help but state their Opinion. And while everyone stating these clearly felt justified for sharing their unique and delightful perspectives with the world, I couldn’t help but find four basic themes in their sentiments.

1. Shame on you for not having come out sooner.

I was surprised to read so many comments from so many articles and announcements shaming Ellen for having come out so late in the game. Their claim is that if she was actually brave, she would have come out as soon as she turned gay–and I mean the second she was like, “huh, maybe girls kiss better than boys. Probs. This will now be my lifestyle.”

JK that’s not how it works. Most LGBTQ people realize that there’s something “different” about them from a very early age, so ix-nay on the oice-chay involved here. Regardless of whether it is biology, environment, or benvirology (dibs on the copyrights to that, by the way), I’m just going to assume that nearly every LGBTQ person would tell you that if they could have somehow changed this portion of themselves, they would. Also, since when do we get to decide what is or is not brave for someone? I have a horrible case of ichthyophobia, and when I work through that enough to even be near such a carnivorous beast, I am brave, despite others’ ability to swim with sharks or fish for piranhas or whatever the hell you crazy people do. We do not define someone else’s definition of bravery. And we certainly should not belittle them for making a conscious step towards being a healthy, complete person.

2. Shame on you for coming out at all.

“Why is this even a big deal” is getting thrown around a lot. It is partially a big deal because people still freak out about it. It is partially a big deal because in the United States, being an LGBTQ person could cause you to lose your job without warning in several states, and because consenting adults who love each other are denied the recognition as a married couple. It is partially a big deal because children who identify as LGBTQ are either too afraid to come out for fear of attack, or they do come out and are met with harassment from students and teachers alike, more bullying than their classmates, and ultimately have a higher rate of suicide. It is partially a big deal because countries like Russia pass bans on the dreaded Homosexuals, allowing for fines and imprisonment and no governmental help when public beatings occur and then those countries get to host the Olympics and the world cheers them on. It is partially a big deal because there are countries like Uganda that sentence the afeared Homosexuals to life in prison. (P.S. While I would LOVE to legally marry the woman I love, it is not the ONLY thing that I want. Equality does not end with marriage rights.)

Why coming out is a big deal is because telling someone “no one cares” when they have told you something that is tied to Who They Are as a human is an incorrect response for anything. As Joss Whedon once calmly and perfectly stated, “You don’t have to hate someone to destroy them; you just have to not get it.”

3. Society should be able to decide what you are and when you are it, rather than you.

One of the comments that has been needling me in a particularly needlesome way are the many comments stating that Ellen’s fans knew before she did. However clever/snarkily/jovially they spake such words, the ultimate message is: “You don’t get to choose when you will share something unique about you.” When I was coming out, I heard this from several of my well-meaning friends, and while it was comforting in some ways that they already kind of figured out the Big Dark Secret of My Life and loved me anyway, their responses of “Duh. Let’s make popcorn” belittled my power moment into an eh.

4. Don’t be gay: it’s gross, it ruins my chances with you, and it’s sinful. Like pedophilia bad.

Some people think that gay sex is nasty. Also, some people who think about gay people only think about gay sex. Like the only part of an LGBTQ person’s life exists in the bedroom–or wherever. The word “homosexual” is stuffy and scientific sounding, but it’s also really annoying to hear because I’m concerned that the people who use it are defining it as homoSEXUALS. The emphasis is on the sex, and it’s not normal-people sex, it’s nasty, depraved, lost people sex. While this might be where you are as an individual, that’s cool. But as far as arguments go for an entire group of people to just.stop.existing, it’s kind of weak. Build up other arguments and we’ll revisit this.

A lot of heterosexual males are now disappointed because they’ll never have a chance with Ellen. I want to tell them their chances were pretty nonexistent before she came out, too. It’s this whole big thing. I won’t get into it.

Before I came out, I was at a conservative job in a conservative position doing what I loved to do, and my best friend told me that if I did not repent, she would call my boss and tell him what I was. Doesn’t matter what happened, but that person does not hold the BFF position anymore. Her dilemma, in this case, was that because I was gay, I could no longer be Christian. That’s an entirely different post on a different day, but ultimately, there’s this whole “you’re not God” argument in which any person can be any religion they want and also whatever person they are and no other human being should be getting in the way of that.

I’d also like to point out that my experience is completely unique to me, and Ellen’s experience is completely unique to her, and your experience is completely unique to you. I’m not speaking for anyone but myself here, so please do not take my words and hold them against anyone else. Because dumb.

I know this is already achingly long and horrifically rambly, so I’m going to end with one more piece of Ellen Page’s speech, with a hearty AMEN: “If we took just 5 minutes to recognize each other’s beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That’s not hard. It’s really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives. Then again, it’s not easy at all. It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves.”