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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.