This is Not About Cake

 

Dear Christians,

Why are you so afraid of us?

I worry that you all are insistent on passing so many ‘religious freedom’ bills because you are genuinely concerned that if you do not, we, the LGBT community, will burst in through your front door and demand lodging and goods. Bills supporting religious freedom are not new, but they are being revamped to specifically deal with LGBT issues. Primarily, the issues of who uses what restroom, and whether or not businesses have to provide services to people who don’t share their morals. Arkansas, Georgia, and Kansas have all determined not to pass these laws at this time. The most recent of these was Georgia; the Governor vetoed this March 28, 2016. Georgia Governor Deal stated, “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives.” Indiana passed their bill in March 2015, Mississippi passed theirs April 5, 2016.  Arguably the most extreme opposition on this front, legally, has been North Carolina’s recent law, which was pushed to and signed by the governor all on the same day.

I recognize that the “bathroom bills” are to keep people from being attacked in restrooms, but listen: there is no statisstical evidence that a trans* person has ever attacked someone in a restroomYou know who has been attacked in restrooms? Trans* and gender non-conforming individuals. OVERWHELMINGLY SO. Please do not continue to be ignorant about this: no one has ever reported being the victim of violence from a trans* person in a bathroom, whereas in this survey 70% of trans* people report negative reactions in bathrooms, 9% report being physically assaulted, 58% report that they have avoided going out in public because of bathroom issues.

trans-bathroom-law-south-dakota

Listen, I get it: everyone is worried that people will dress up as the opposite sex to assault someone–most of the arguments I’ve heard are that men will dress up as women in order to gain access to  women’s restrooms and assault women and children. Sexual assault is awful, always. No one trying to protect trans rights is trying to minimize this. But I have an issue with society making the trans community responsible and punishing them for these possible attacks, rather than the male community. To me, this feels the same as teaching women how not to be raped, rather than dealing with the cause and teaching men not to rape. The bathroom issue is strange to me in general because it seems so simple, if people are so terrified that others are going to be using the restroom for dubious means rather than to relieve their bladders, then businesses should just install single-stall restrooms that are accessible to everyone, rather than making it a biological issue.

As a mental health counselor, I work with suicidal people every day. And I can testify that when statistics report 41% of trans individuals have attempted suicide, this is most likely a conservative figure. When someone faces discrimination, negative reactions, and the threat of violence every day, there is naturally going to be depression, anxiety, and trauma. When you have to choose between being true to your own identity and conforming to society’s standards for you, something is wrong with society. Violence against trans women, especially trans women of color, is at an all-time high, with 23 known murders taking place in 2015 alone.

 

I understand that many people do not agree with marriage equality and do not condone my marriage. I understand that they do not want to be forced to take photographs, sell flowers, solemnize the wedding, or bake a god-forsaken (pun intended) cake. And that’s fine. I don’t want to sue those people. But these laws go farther than providing an ‘out’ for businesses that want to condemn someone’s else’s “lifestyle:” laws that allow employers of religious organizations to fire, or not hire, individuals based on their sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression. Landlords can choose to deny housing–or can kick out tenants–based on their code of ethics. Adoption agencies can choose not to allow gay couples to foster or adopt children–and conversely, Mississippi’s law makes sure that adoption agencies are NOT allowed to make this decision based upon a couple’s religion. LGBT people can be refused services at restaurants, hotels, stores, and can legally be denied access to restrooms. This is discrimination. This is ironically exactly what Christians are afraid may happen to them, to they have written laws protecting themselves and condemning others to the same kind of “persecution” that they try to avoid.

indiane

Unfortunately, nationwide, unless your state or city has specific ordinances against these discriminatory acts, LGBT are largely unprotected under the law. Larger cities generally have some type of protection for their citizens, but for those that live in more rural areas, there is not a lot of protection to begin with–now that these laws are becoming so popular, their protection will shrink even more.

I am infuriated, Christians and conservatives. Heartbroken that you will not hear the LGBT population when we try to speak with you about our concerns and fears. Frustrated that you are shielding yourself behind the law and claiming that we “got our marriage equality but that’s never enough.” Marriage equality isn’t enough: my wife and I are legally married, yes, but if we did not live in a large city that protected us, we could be thrown out of our home, denied jobs, and denied services by city workers if we were attacked (yes, that is in the law as well). It is not enough when trans individuals fear for their lives and their safety and are often too scared of police brutality to come forward when they are hurt. It is not enough when access to appropriate healthcare and mental health services is impossible for those in the community who have been kicked out of their homes and their families and are living on the streets.

Of course it is not enough. It cannot be enough until every citizen is equal under the law. We do not want more rights than you, we want equality.

 

Your Heaven is My Hell

Dear Christian,

Hello again. Today we meet on the other side of a door that, until this week, had been left unopened: nationwide marriage equality. This was a historic, monumental day and it is a day that many in the LGBTQ+ community never imagined would come true, in large part, friend, because of you. You have put so much effort—so many arguments, so many articles filled with biased polls and inaccurate information, so many prayers, so many days petitioning or voting against us—in keeping us from gaining as many rights as you possibly could. You’ve done very well, and had many successes. But this year, dear friend, the tides have turned. Marriage equality is nationwide (notice that I call it marriage equality and not “gay marriage”), the President has formally spoken against reparative therapy, the general public is being educated on trans* rights and issues. We have a long way left to go, but we have come far.

This makes you sad. Or mad. Or, as many of you have put it, “heartbroken.” You take a public Facebook stand, proclaiming “I believe the Bible’s definition of marriage, which is one man and one woman,” you send messages loaded with Bible verses encouraging acquaintances to repent, you rally a group of friends and march in or picket a Pride Parade to tell the participants they are going to hell. You call trans people confused, you call us sinners. “But don’t worry!” you say, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!” There is still time, you imply.

Chicago Pride Parade

Here’s the thing, Christian, that I’ve been saying in my head for years. Here’s the thing that I wish you knew when trying to sell me on eternity spent with you. Your heaven is my hell. A place that shames and excludes, a place filled with those who proudly stand against my own and my friends’ rights, a place where no one may think for themselves or love who they love or be who they are? That is not a place for me. Everyone agrees that Westboro Baptist Church takes their messages too far, but you, friend, are preaching the same message, and it is not a message of love. It’s not a message that makes me want to draw closer, I want to push farther. You have tried to deny me my rights, and are still calling for it. You have stopped speaking to my wife and I upon our coming out. You have refused to be a part of our lives because you disagree with our “lifestyle.” You toss Bible verses our way when we have not asked for your interpretation of your Scripture. The murder of 9 transwomen this year alone is on your hands because you publicly state that they are confused. The countless LGBTQ+ youth who are thrown out of their homes, cannot access needed services, and attempt or complete suicide because they are told, directly or by this hate-infested culture, that they are leading perverse, sinful lives is on you. Do you see how hurtful religion is to the LGBT community? We have been shot down and shut out as a community for decades. Come on, friend, you’re killing us.

A comic depicting Georgia’s new Religious Freedom Law

You have made this life hell for people, so excuse me if I pass on an invitation to your heaven. If it is more of the same, I’d like to avoid it at all costs.

The thing is, I know all of the verses. I know your intention: you’re trying to save me from eternal damnation, which is in some ways really sweet and caring, but also forceful, unsolicited, and generally pretty ignorant. A blog on Herman Cain’s website explained why Christians’ nonacceptance of marriage equality should be seen as loving, and I have to say: I know it already. I went to a Christian college and—believe it or not—studied the six verses damning me to hell long and hard, and I’m still happily here with my wife. I’m tired of having long, circular discussions: everyone knows where I stand, and I can pretty much tell where you stand without you having to spell it out for me.

I’m not trying to win a spitting contest. I just want me and my community to be recognized as whole people who aren’t wearing “ask me if I know about your Savior” signs. We are people who deserve love, safety under the law, and peace, just as everyone deserves.

[Also, gay heaven has ice cream.]

Unbelievers—Vampire Weekend

“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.

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!