“We” Are Not “They”

I am part of the LGBTQ community, and it’s like being in a second fabulous family, only this one gets super rowdy on our holiday in June and occasionally finds glitter to be an acceptable replacement for clothing.

My favorite part about the LGBTQ community is that we are, as a whole, are an incredibly accepting community. We are a quilt of queerness, each person being incredibly unique and not necessarily having everything in common. We believe different things politically, spiritually, religiously, environmentally, and financially. We disagree on some things. We live our lives under different sets of morals. But we understand that we are a community, that we are a “we,” and we accept each other as we are. If you ask me (and I know you would), I think at least a part of this is because we as a community have faced discrimination, isolation, abuse, and restriction of our rights. 20% of homeless youth identify as being LGBT; LGB youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and 25% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide.

We are told, time and time again, that we are less than. Churches tell us that–or they don’t say anything about us at all. Pretending we are not there, pastors and preachers and ministers and priests speak over us and around us and through us, but none speak to us. Laws determine that we do not deserve the same rights as straight individuals, not just in marriage, but in adoption, hospital visits, financial responsibilities, hate crimes, and job discrimination. Families force us out of homes and into reparative therapy. We are silenced, rebuked, told to repent, threatened, misrepresented.

That makes us really accepting of each other. And that makes some of us sensitive to issues surrounding other minority groups. (LGBTQ individuals make great advocates!) But I’m not really writing this to brag about us. I want to let you know that we can hear you. You don’t exist in a world where LGBTQ individuals do not reside. We’re in your churches, your schools, your jobs, your neighborhoods, your cities (making it all more fabulous, probs). And we aren’t somehow blind to the godhatesfags.com or the Matt Walsh posts or the preachers who talk about beating or killing us. We aren’t unfazed by laws that are pushed in States asking for religious freedom that is somehow turned into a debate on whether or not gay people deserve to shop at bakeries (for real, America, if you are so afraid of us that you can’t sell us a cake, that’s fine. We don’t want your cake anyway.), or online petitions to raise money for shops that promote that they would never cater a same-sex wedding, or people who drop their gym memberships because their gym kicked out a woman who threw a hissy fit about a trans individual using a locker room, or when people talk about “homosexual struggles” and how they will “hate the sin and love the sinner.” We’re not immune to your callous comments. We see what you post on social media. And it hurts.

You don’t have to change a single thing after reading this. I don’t intend to change the world. But I would like you to consider that perhaps, just perhaps, you have friends who identify differently than you do. Perhaps you are hurting people in your life without knowing it. Perhaps you don’t realize that people are listening. Perhaps you don’t realize that “we” are not “they.” “They” don’t have a homosexual agenda. “They” aren’t trying to recruit your children. “They” just want to live normal lives with the people “they” love. “They” don’t want to force you to operate outside of your religious beliefs. “They” just want you to understand that “they” should maybe perhaps have the same rights as you do.

I’m going to end this like I end every blog: let’s start a dialogue. Nothing is going to change until we change the conversation around it. And let’s stop talking like nobody’s listening. We are listening, and we hope you listen, too.

A Letter to Myself (and Maybe to You, Too)

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Dear little me,

You’re going to make it. I promise. What is happening is terrible and scary and painful, and I know you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it, but I promise it will end. All of it will, even not being able to talk to people about it. You’re going to have some days that you feel like you won’t live through, but you will. He won’t kill you. They won’t kill you. You’re going to survive. You’re going to be incredibly resourceful and you’re going to figure out brilliant ways to stay safe and to stay away from him, and you’re going to keep yourself alive by locking those memories out and finding safety in your room. And that’s okay. You’re doing what you know. Little me, some day you’re going to feel safe again.

Little me, you’re going to blame yourself for what is happening. For each and every piece of it. You’re going to feel so much guilt that you are letting them do that to you. But let me tell you something: they are doing that to you, you aren’t doing a single thing wrong. They are horrible, evil, mean, terrible boys–that’s on them, not on you. You shouldn’t have to feel the need to protect yourself, but you are, and that’s incredible. That’s more than enough. You can let go of that guilt. And it’s okay if you don’t, too. You’re surviving, and that is amazing.

Sweet Bee, what he is doing is going to make you feel so ashamed. You have so many feelings about what is happening, but one of the biggest and scariest and worst is the complete humiliation over what he is doing. You’re still a good person, a whole person. You are still whole, even though I know that you feel halved, torn, dirty. You will feel that somehow you are doing something wrong that will turn you into something disgusting. You are feeling embarrassed about that boy touching your body like that, and you are going to spend years trying to hide your body to make up for it. He’s going to make you so scared to tell anyone for fear for your life, but you’re also not going to want to tell anyone for all the shame you feel. But oh, my little Bee, you are still whole; you will be whole on the other side of this. You are not a chewed-up piece of gum, you are not less of a person, you are not doing anything wrong.

Little me, thank you for surviving. Your resilience is what got us through, and I thank you for that. I also thank you for looking out for the other girls at church, and for taking them under your wing. You could have only looked out for yourself, but you chose to be selfless and to make sure that others were safe. That is incredible. Thank you.

I promise it will end. There are so many great things ahead of you. And you’re going to make it.

Violence against women and Christianity

I was going to write about the prominence of violence towards women in organized religions in general, but I am sticking with what I have studied and read and witnessed and experienced instead: evangelical Christianity (take heed: this is not a happy post. If you want happy, go watch this video).

There are numerous women in the Bible about whom I have never heard a sermon, Bible study or Sunday school lesson on, but four stand out to me the most.1) the concubine in Judges 19; 2) Dinah in Genesis 34; 3) Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11, and 4) Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. Rachel Held Evan wrote a beautiful piece about these women, so I will try not to repeat what has already been said (indeed, if you only have time to read one blog post today, it should be hers). I grew up reading the Bible and reading these stories, but I don’t remember ever hearing anyone speak of the injustice done to these women. In fact, in the accounts of Dinah and Tamar, the prominence of the stories surround the wrongs that the avenging brothers do.

My contention with these stories is not that they happened; of course they happened; terrible, tragic things happen to people all the time, regardless of religion or era or sex. My contention is that they are just fact. Just there. Wedged in between story after story where men are the main characters; there are few times authors of the Bible took the time to even address the fact that there were women around, so it seems like when they actually do so, what happens to the women should be seen as a big deal. But they are instead glossed over, perhaps because they’re really hard passages to know what to do with, or perhaps because violence against women is so ingrained in our minds as normal that the stories don’t stop to make us think.

I remember reading the story of Tamar for the first time when I was going to church at a YMCA. I had just been raped by another church member, and was too afraid for my life to say anything to anyone about it. I had never read her story before, but I remember feeling my cheeks flush as my secret and her story collided, wondering whether she would tell, whether he would get caught, what God would do. (For those of you who don’t know: another of Tamar’s brothers finds out what happens and eventually kills the asshole [oops, did I say that?], but he is severely punished for it.) I didn’t know what to make of it. I couldn’t ask anyone about it, because they would automatically know my story, and now I found something in the Bible that told me people got in trouble when they hurt rapists (see also Dinah’s story). The best thing for me to do, then, was to remain silent.

I’m not saying that my church specifically was a place where all women felt trodden upon or silenced or less-than, but I am saying that I heard a lot more about women being submissive and respecting their husbands and not being leaders in the church (unless they’re singing or leading children’s church) than I heard anyone talk about abuse, harassment, or oppression. I didn’t know what to do with my abuse because I had never been told what to do. I didn’t know there was another option afforded to me, and I think that’s a terrible injustice done by the church. I certainly learned about all of the days of creation, and what the fear of God meant, and my life had already been inundated with men who needed a helping hand with their lives, but I can’t remember learning about how my body is MY body, or that bullying was a horrible thing, or what to do when someone does something terrible and threatens you.

When I reached my teens, I heard biblical lessons on modesty and teachings on how not to make our brothers in Christ stumble in their walk with God. I was told that my body was a weapon that was only evil until my wedding day, and that suddenly and miraculously on my wedding day S-E-X would turn from being an infectious disease that would make me half a person to a beautiful rainbow of glory and laud to the heavens, an intimate sumpin’-sumpin’ between my future husband and I. But until then, I would be a chewed up piece of bubble gum if I even so much as let a man glance my way.  As one author puts it, I was taught to fear my body. So what was I, an already chewed up piece of gum, to do? There were no lessons on that.

I’m frustrated that the church has been completely unaccountable for the injustice it has done to millions of women over thousands of years. I’m frustrated for myself, and for the women stuck in abusive relationships because some church leaders believe that wives being submissive to their husbands means they might have deserved being beaten, or they just need to stick with their man. (There was a study released this summer that announced less than half of the pastors surveyed had ever given a sermon on domestic violence.) I’m frustrated that the only time women are spoken about in church, it is a call to keep covered, to keep quiet, to keep submitting, rather than a “we are here, we are listening, you are a person, your pain is valid and we are going to change things.” I’m frustrated that youth groups will openly speak to their teens about abstinence-only “sex education” but wouldn’t dare to give them accurate information about sex, consent, safety, and respect because heaven forbid we acknowledge what is already happening. 

The church doesn’t know what to do with women. We are an enigma, perhaps, that men can’t quite figure out. Are we people? Are we valued? Are we valued as much as men? Are we valued on the same level as men? Do we have the same authority as men? (All of these are super redundant to me, but the differences between each question could have huge theological implications for some people.) It’s wearing me out that these are even questions. I am tired of being hushed and condescended to and told that my rights are less right than Man’s rights. I am tired of witnessing Dinahs and Tamars and daughters and concubines being ignored or looked over or left out. I am tired of physical, emotional and sexual abuse being glossed over as something that can be used for the glory of God (because yeah, sure it can, but we sure as hell don’t need Inspirational Quotes thrown at us to help us through).

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31  You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. - Revelation 4:11

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I’m tired. But I know there are thousands of women who are being lied to or ignored by their churches and religion, who feel stuck and ignored and hopeless and feel that they just have to bear abuse lest they go against God. So where do we go from here? How do we fix this ancient problem? I’m beginning to notice a mantra in my posts: let’s change things. Let’s talk about it. Talk about abuse and gender roles and the perpetuation of stereotypes and assumptions, and let’s acknowledge that something is wrong. And then let’s change it.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time,” (Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak).

*SEXUAL VIOLENCE TRIGGER WARNING*

Maya Angelou taught the world that silence was crippling. That mutism was a drug. That there was power in voice, in speaking, in telling one’s story. Laurie Halse Anderson first introduced me to Dr.    Angelou through her book Speak when I was fifteen. I didn’t recognize all of Ms. Anderson’s references to the Caged Bird at the time, but eight years later, I listened to Maya telling her own story of keeping silent for six years because she feared that her voice would kill people. She knew that her voice had power, but she believed that her power was something to fear. (Watch a video of Maya Angelou on finding her voice here.)

It is hard to imagine being seven years old and so terrified to speak that it would feel safer to stay silent for six years. But it is not hard to imagine being ten years old and being raped by someone older and heavier and stronger. It is not hard to imagine being so terrified of being killed if anyone found out that the pain felt safer to be buried deep rather than spoken. It isn’t hard because it is my story. It is my voice that had been safer silenced. It is my fear unmasked.

Maya Angelou knew the power of stories, and of speaking our pain, because speaking creates conversation. Laurie Halse Anderson knew the power of giving others the courage to speak their stories, continuing the conversation. I know the power of speaking through fear, because I know that fear unearthed can turn into something beautiful in time. Being wrapped in silence feels comfortable, but it is smothering. And survivors the world over have discovered how healing, freeing and empowering speaking out truly is.

Recently a mass shooting with women as its target has begun the social media conversation #YesAllWomen. While many women (and supportive men) have added their voices in support and in continuing the story, a large number of people (mostly men) are speaking against the movement, crying—more than anything else—#NotAllMen. “Not all men are like that!” they cry, not comforting victims so much as protecting their own dignity and worth. No, not all men are like that. But some are. And they make the world a terrifying place for women.

#NotAllMen began, I believe, as a way for men to try to pacify women while comforting themselves: ‘we’re not all evil,’ they implied. And that is true. But then it morphed into something cruel, as good intentions often do: suddenly it became a way for men to lash out against people who contributed to #YesAllWomen. ‘Not all abusers are men,’ they said, ‘and not all victims are women.’ No, those are very true, and are points not to be discounted. But this specific conversation is about women. We cannot get anywhere productive in the conversation if those with stories and unearthed fears are being muted. We have had enough of that. We have done enough of that to ourselves. Now is our time to speak out. We are simply asking the world to listen. (Here is a great post by a man about how #NotAllMen is hurting the conversation instead of helping; he also cites some powerful #YesAllWomen tweets.)

My story began shortly before I was ten; numerous times at church I was being chased, frightened, and hit by some boys from the congregation. I didn’t speak up. Then one day the oldest of the boys isolated me in a closet, where he raped me and threatened my life if I would ever tell. For ten years I stayed silent, keeping those memories buried deep so they couldn’t hurt me. One day I began timidly, haltingly telling my story. The journey has been painful, terrifying, and incredible. What happened to me was not my fault; what happens to any victim is not their fault. I have found power in disallowing the perpetrator to keep me silenced anymore, and I have also developed a deep respect and love for myself, both for doing what I needed to do to survive at the time, and for having the courage to change that now. “At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice” (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings). I began to see that my own surrender when I was ten was not weakness, was not defeat, was not consent. It was survival. There were no other options afforded to me, but I made it. I survived.

After Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Speak, she got numerous letters from fans of the book. (Watch a video of her turning her fans’ responses into a poem here). Numerous letters were from boys who had enjoyed the book, but didn’t understand one major piece. “I have gotten one question repeatedly from young men. These are guys who liked the book, but they are honestly confused. They ask me why Melinda was so upset about being raped.” She states that the first several times she heard this, she was shocked, but after so many letters of that same question, she began to see that society, schools, and the media are dismally failing children by not teaching them the realities of sex, but are glorifying it and treating it as something without consequences. Comedians joke about rape, it is a common fallback for shows who need a storyline for their female characters, judges blame victims, politicians make ignorant comments, religion tells women to submit and to feel shame about her body, schools don’t teach proper sexual education, police ask “what were you wearing?”, the media bemoans locking up rapists because they have so much potential, colleges don’t shut down fraternities where rapes were reported, victims are silenced, and when they have the courage to speak up, they are treated like they are at fault or never see the perpetrator punished for the crime. 

Convictions

We as a society have failed. There is a great injustice being done to women, and it is being done every day. It is being done visibly through #NotAllMen. It is the act of SILENCING. #YesAllWomen experience being smothered by a society that tells them they are responsible for sex, and when they don’t want it, then it is their duty to speak up, and if they don’t speak up, then it clearly wasn’t rape. #YesAllWomen read comments from men who say that the women at UCSB should have “taken one for humanity” and had sex with Elliot Rodger, siding with a murderer who blamed his attack on women who would not sleep with him. #YesAllWomen have been unnerved being in a social situation with a man, knowing that he has the power and the blind blessing of society to do as he pleases.

Violence against women is not fictional, nor is it rare. I believe that the statistics surrounding sexual harassment and abuse are greatly underestimated. But we live in a world where women hear “boys will be boys,” “never leave your drink unattended at parties,” “keep yourself covered,” “what were you doing there alone at that hour,” “did you say no/struggle/report it immediately,” “how many drinks did you have,” “we should figure this out as a family,” “he must have thought you were coming on to him,” “you should know better/act better/do better/be better.” Why is it easier to blame victims than to blame perpetrators? Because they hold the world’s power? Perhaps. Because they simply don’t understand? Perhaps. Because they haven’t heard stories, or because they haven’t been listening? BUT. What happens if society and the world continues to be bombarded with peoples’ stories? What if we release the hold that we have on each victim’s throat, allowing her to move from victim to survivor? To someone who controls her own story? To someone who regains power over her own life? I want to see that. As someone who knows the power of telling my own story and seeing myself as a strong-brave-fierce survivor, I desperately want to share that strength with others, taking part in a humanity that listens without blame, without doubt. Just listens.

My purpose behind this post is twofold, then: 1) for men, please listen to the stories being told. Don’t try to justify, or isolate, or redeem your own humanity. Women understand that not all men are like that. But some men are, and we need to be able to talk about it. Listen and respond by speaking up for us when you hear other men defending themselves, or blaming women for abuse, or joking about rape, or saying denigrating things about women. Advocate. 2) For women, tell your stories. It is hard and painful and scary and freeing and empowering and worth it. Tell your story to help illustrate the wide variety of ways in which women experience violence; times you have felt helpless or looked down upon or were harassed or abused in some way because of your gender, your vulnerability. Keep the conversation alive, and give yourself a voice. Give yourself the freedom. People are listening. I am listening.

We have all heard that we should be the change we want to see in the world. This is the change I want, so I am speaking up. I cannot tell others to have a voice when I am too afraid to use my own. Please join me. Let’s change things.

“…but after all, girls have to giggle, and after being a woman for three years I was about to become a girl,” (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

Ads and the isms

Isms in ads is/are an issue that has/have irked me for many years. I understand that ads are supposed to catch your eye, because that’s what makes a product stick in your mind. I totally get that. But I am curious as to why a company would want a product to stick in someone’s mind as “WOW that company is super sexist/heterosexist/elitist and I never want to buy their products!” Let me throw out some examples (be aware that I put the links to the ads on here with extreme reluctance because I don’t want people to watch them, but want you to see what I’m talking about and what exactly irks me).

Because we don’t need to sell hair products like this. Seriously, when did the world decide that sex sells products that don’t have anything to do with sex. Shampooing hair should not lead to an orgasm, unless the individual has trichophilia. And while we’re talking about fetishes selling products, let’s also throw out this one about shoe fetishism. Or there’s this ad that objectifies men, or Tom Ford ads that objectify everyone (I am not providing a link because they are way beyond pushing the envelope and I already feel vile enough posting the rest of these).

Because we don’t need to sell cars like this. And may I also say that this commercial frightens me an exceptionally LOT because it glorifies 1) Lust, 2) Wrath, 3) Envy, 4) and Pride. It thumbs up treating women like objects, violence perpetrated by anger, the Want of Better Shit, and “yep I’m better than you.” Whaaaat.

Because we don’t need to sell cars like this, either. This is classism, white male privilege, and “the American Dream” that isn’t actually achievable for the majority of the American population. But no, you go ahead and sell your car like that, guys. Freedom. ‘Murica.

(There isn’t really an ad depicting this, but it should also be noted that companies like General Mills actually get backlash for making commercials like this [know why people were mad? Hint: skin color. I wish I was joking] or when Nabisco gets in trouble for making commercials like this [locate the problem this time? Hint: same-sex relationships. Again with the wishing I was joking]. People throw fits about Cheerios and Honey Maid graham crackers but don’t blink twice about SEXSEXSEX commercials? Seriously, that’s where we are right now?)

Those of you who know me enough to have suffered through my speech about how Unilever unnerves me with their two-facedness can skip this next part, ’cause that’s what this is. Unilever owns Dove, the company that’s been doing all of the ‘remarkable’ ’empowering’ “Real Beauty” ads recently. They’re great. Really. They’re all like, “Hey, the media is presenting terrible images of women and we’re all buying into it” and “Hey women, you’re beautiful despite what you see in yourself,” and that’s great, really. Those are really good messages. UNFORTUNATELY Unilever also owns Axe, one of the most remarkably sexist objectionist products that I know of. Axe both objectifies women as sex products, as bodies to be viewed, used, and discarded, and objectifies men as only ever wanting sex. A lot of Axe commercials get banned worldwide, which is great, but guys, they’re trying to sell their products this way. This is what they want to be known for as a company. Here’s one ad that was banned, as well as all of these (not for those who think that women shouldn’t be objects/sex shouldn’t sell products/men shouldn’t be seen as only desiring sex). Unilever is telling women that they are worth more than just their physical bodies, and that those bodies should be treated with care and they should see the beauty in themselves, but they are telling men that women are Things that can be manipulated, as Objects that can be lusted after, as Prizes to be won. They are telling men that they are allowed to give in to their animalistic instincts (I am NOT saying that men have animalistic instincts and that men are just looking for a thumbs-up to use/abuse women) and wantwantwantneedneedneedhavehavehavetaketaketake.

Last week a male went on a shooting rampage; while we can speculate whether or not he was mentally ill, whether or not he felt entitled, whether or not he was a narcissist, what we KNOW (because he told us through videos) is that he blamed women for rejecting his sexual advances. That’s why he was killing people. And people pitied him. That’s misogyny. That’s a view of women that starts with the belief that they are for the taking. That belief didn’t come from nowhere, that is something that is being taught–or at the very least is not being admonished–by society. He was completely responsible for his own actions, but society is responsible for helping create the thoughts behind those actions. Belief: Women have a responsibility to men to fulfill their sexual desires. That’s. So. Wrong. (I’m not going to talk right now about how misguided society is about what feminism is or how there’s an actual thing called “Men’s Rights Activists” and how terrifying it is to be a woman a lot of days, that’ll be another blog another day, but suffice it to say oh WOW life is scary.)

People pretend that media does not have an effect on anyone. If that was the case, companies would not spend their money making commercials or billboard/magazine/internet ads. WE ARE EFFECTED. WE ARE AFFECTED. We buy products because of advertising, because of what the company promises us about the product. Companies that sell products based on the isms that are rewarded by having their products sell will keep on selling products that way.

Think before you buy. Find out about companies, and think about the message that they are sending through their advertising (whether or not you think they’re aware of it). [This is also not a blog about buying natural, local products or avoiding certain chemicals or anything like that, but those are good things, too, and I do encourage you to do so!] I am an idealist. I believe we can change things through conversation. So let’s talk.

Controversy du Jour: World Vision

In case you haven’t heard what’s been going on…

World Vision is a Christian organization run out of the state of Washington (that’ll be important in a second), and they do amazing things. They’re arguably the most famous for child sponsorship (that’ll be important, too). This past Monday, March 24–four short days ago–Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, announced that the US branch of World Vision would now hire Christians in same-sex marriages. He was quick to note that “It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there…this is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.” 

When I read about this on Monday, I was torn between feeling happy about the change in policy and being really confused, because World Vision has a history of discrimination towards LGBT people. And now here they were saying that people in same-sex marriages would be allowed to be hired by World Vision, without the company endorsing their marriages or indicating that their marriages were on the same level as heterosexual marriage. Essentially, “you’re not the same as us, but we believe in unity and we’re not going to let a disagreement on a minor issue to get in the way of our organization operating better and being more effective.” That’s not the most positive message, but I was hopeful that it would cause the course of the conversation to change, and would stand as a leader for other Christian organizations to follow.

I was wrong.

On Wednesday, after severe backlash from supporters (Stearns says that a bit less than 5,000 people removed their child sponsorship because of Monday’s decision), Stearns made a new announcement that not only said “lolz jk” but took further steps backwards by apologizing to the people spewing hate, removing their sponsorships, and generally saying horrible things about gay people. He also backslid from stating that including workers in same-sex marriages would help build unity to stating that “Rather than creating more unity [among Christians], we created more division, and that was not the intent. […] Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake … and we believe that [World Vision supporters] helped us to see that with more clarity … and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake…We cannot defer on things that are that central to the faith.”

So.

Let’s talk about business. 

I’m not a business person, so I’m not going to spend much time talking about this, other than to say that I wouldn’t have cared one smidgeon if World Vision had never changed their policy in the first place. They have standards for their employees, I get that. I have spent a number of years working for various Christian organizations, and each one had its own standards for what was acceptable and not acceptable conduct from an employee. I don’t think that World Vision’s hiring standards are absurd, and I respect their ability as a company to choose whom they want to hire. HOWEVER. They also get over 200 million dollars in governmental grants every year, and the government is encouraging businesses to have non-discriminatory hiring practices. As someone who has seen firsthand how grants can really tie an organization’s proverbial hands in certain matters, I get that sometimes grant-writers make you do things you don’t want to do. But World Vision’s reason to fight the government on this was because gay people can’t actually be Christians (I mean come on, ammirite?). 

Business-wise, I don’t think anyone would have raised a big stink if the policy never changed. But it DID change. And then it changed back after people stopped sponsoring children. And yes, I understand that it goes into a giant pot and the children affected wouldn’t suddenly be kicked out of life-saving programs, but losing 2.1 million dollars a year would have been a pretty hard loss for a not-for-profit organization. So while it wasn’t about the money…it was about the money.

Let’s talk about responses.

Y’all have probably heard all of the negative, angry responses (if not, check out World Vision’s Facebook wall Monday-Wednesday and feel the hate burning your eyes out of their sockets–and now they’re getting the same negative backlash from the other side, because apparently unity is a myth), so I’m going to share some heartbroken responses, both to Monday’s decision and then Wednesday’s “repeal.” Rachel Held Evans blogged about the scenario on Monday, and then on Wednesday she wrote what I thought was a perfect piece. “Honestly, it feels like a betrayal from every side.” And it does. I am hurt by Christians who are so opposed to my being sanctified by Christ that they would rather give up supporting an organization that would dare to hire me. I am hurt by an organization that for one small moment told me that my relationship was considered valid and valued, and then told me that I was rejecting a fundamental piece of the Christianity I claim.

Benjamin Moberg wrote on Monday out of his pain, “I am tired, friends, so tired of being hit. I am tired of being the most galvanizing symbol for evangelical Christians.” To which I say a heartfelt ‘yes.’ And his follow-up words on Wednesday ring just as true: “I am not ready to forgive those that held starving children as ransom because of who I am and I am not ready to forgive Richard Stearns for this profoundly deep betrayal. I am not ready to forgive either of them for the devastating message they have sent to gay children everywhere.David Henson also had some really great things to say.

I get that this is a hot button for everyone right now: it’s political, it’s religious, it’s personal, yada-yada-yada. But it’s also 100% about people. It’s about me, and it’s about my legitimacy in the eyes of God, in the eyes of my Christian brothers and sisters, in the eyes of organizations, and in the eyes of the world. Me and God, we’re all right. We don’t need anyone else’s approval. I know where I stand with Him, and that’s really great. I just get so tired, my friends, of having to defend myself, my spirituality, my relationship and my reconciliation of teachings in Scripture. But hey, let’s go ahead and talk about them, in a minute. First, I think it’s time for a little sex talk.

Let’s talk about sex.

It seems to me that people sit around thinking that all gay people ever do is have sex: sex, sex, sex. That is the only thing that makes up someone who is LGBT, because, after all, it is their SEXual orientation. Geez, is that all you heteroSEXuals think about? That gay people don’t fit together like a puzzle piece (I’m looking at you, old college ethics professor!)? Did you know that LGBT people actually have entire RELATIONSHIPS that are not solely (and sometimes not at all) involving sexual intimacy? I know, crazy thought! A romantic evening with my partner typically involves playing Rummy or Nerts and watching Netflix. For how obsessively straight people talk about gay people sex, you’d think there was nothing else about which they could fill their minds.

But let’s bring the sex talk back to the World Vision conversation: World Vision was (albeit however temporarily) allowing Christians in marriages to work for them, holding them to the same standards they held all of their other employees. Washington (I told you it would be important) allows same-sex couples to be legally married. World Vision was saying, “that’s fine, Washington. That’s fine, same-sex people. Abide by our rules and you’re welcome here.” So whatever sex these Christians were having was within the confines of a legal marriage (and I could talk ALL DAY about how if you want to argue that marriage is purely a religious thing, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote on who can do it, and if you think it’s purely a political thing, you STILL shouldn’t vote on who can do it–but that’s another talk for another day), thereby fulfilling their employee policy.

Let’s talk about love.

I want to talk about Christ’s love for ALL PEOPLE. “How can Jesus love gay people when they are constantly sinning?” one might ask. “There are so many verses in the Bible that clearly condemn homosexuality!” Well, I disagree. The context behind those verses do not indicate to me that they’re really about gay people at all. They’re about inhospitality and gang rape, they’re about the purity code and trying to build a nation, they’re about pagan prostitutes, they’re about acting against how you were created, but they’re not about modern-day homosexuality as we know it. (I know that many of you will disagree, and we can dispute this until the sun goes down, but I believe what I believe [and I respect that you believe what you believe, as well!]. Our beliefs do not have to get in the way of loving each other and treating one another with respect, kindness, and genuine interest in each others’ lives.) Regardless of the translation of these verses, there are about 75 verses about love to every 1 verse that might-or-might-not be about gay stuff. My favorite of these verses, and one of the ways that my heart feels at peace in my spirituality and my orientation, is something Jesus said. Answering the Pharisee’s about what the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).

Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you, and Jesus loves me. Jesus loves those people. He seriously actually really does love everyone. His love isn’t hidden under condemnation; he doesn’t tell people that they need to change in order to be loved. He says “go and sin no more” and knows that literally no one can. No matter what your views are on sin (what it is, what it means to stop, what counts and what doesn’t), you can pretty much be sure that you’re sinning. I’m sinning, too. And Jesus loves me, anyway. And Jesus loves my partner. And I believe with all of my heart that Jesus loves us together, and loves the family that we’re going to be, and loves that our church extends His love to everyone. I believe Jesus loves World Vision and the wonderful work they do and the staff that tirelessly work at being God’s hands and feet on this earth. I believe Jesus loves the people who were so mad that World Vision changed their policy to include gay people, and those who are so mad that World Vision changed their minds. Love, love, love. I know I am far from perfect in showing that love. We all are. So let’s all try a little harder, yes? Let’s listen, and respect, and LOVE.

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!