I’ve been carrying the idea for this post in my head for a few months now. If I’m being honest, the initial notion was planted back in the fall of 2018 when a stranger struck up a conversation with me on my way into the office, but I will get into that here in a bit.
I think that I am still working out what my writing ‘process’ looks like, but I have to say, I’m really not a fan of an idea bouncing around my mind indefinitely. It can take up both mental and emotional space that I usually would rather us to focus on things in the here and now like friends, family, or some aspect of BraveNewLove. The issue is that, when the idea is something like this, I struggle with how to get it out. Even more perplexing is the act that thinking and dwelling on something like this brings up emotions that I don’t like - the type of dark or uncomfortable emotions that cause us to withdraw, avoid, or self medicate.
In addition to struggling with the topic and emotions it brings, I also struggle with how to present the information. I want it to be accessible for folks because the whole purpose of writing something an essay like this and putting it out into the world is for folks to read it, but those same feelings I mentioned above can create sharp edges that cut and make folks feel uncomfortable.
The topic can be summarized as the ways LGBTQ+ folks like myself face discrimination in our culture.
I’ve finally landed on a hybrid blend of some previous writing styles I have gone with for this idea - aka I couldn’t make a decision! I will start with a bolded subheading that will offer an example of how we face discrimination then offer mix of my own experiences and some information on current events. Yes, I’ll be tackling the ‘Christian’ worldview and treatment of my community, but I’ll also be outlining specific areas where secular culture still has us regulated to 2nd class citizen status.
My hope is that folks who aren’t as familiar with the LGBTQ+ experience will better understand some of the issues that we deal with on a daily basis, and that LGBTQ+ will be able to feel some validation in these daily struggles.
While all of my posts are continual works in progress due to my poor of grammar skills, I’m hoping to update this one quite regularly when I or others put fingers to keyboard to examine additional ways in which the LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination as this will unfortunately not be an exhaustive list.
For this first installment of Abomination, I have three forms of discrimination to discuss.
“You have just as many rights as I do.”
Back to what I mentioned at the start of this post, that morning a stranger stopped me on the way into work was my first experience of hearing this type of statement in regards to my rights as a gay man. It was earlier than most folks get into the office that Friday, around 7am or so, so the parking garage was relatively sparse. We had both parked on the same floor and he noticed that I had a ‘Beto for Senate’ sticker on the back windshield of the car.
I was presenting pretty heterosexual male that morning with a pearl snap long sleeve shirt, jeans and boots, and this man had what I would describe as a “good ol’ Texan” look about him. He was dressed pretty similarly and I’d say was in his early to mid-40s. I think our similar appearance is what made him feel comfortable striking up a conversation as we rode down the garage elevator.
He started with a question about the building clueing me in that he was a visitor. Why the hell is he here this early? I thought to myself as I gave him directions. He also went on to ask what he clearly wanted to ask initially:
“You’re voting for that ‘Beato’ guy?” At first I was caught off guard because I wasn’t sure how he would have even known that before I realized he had seen the sticker on the back of my car. I was less creeped but still on guard mainly because political conversations with strangers was still pretty new for me even in 2018.
“Yes, I like what he stands for,” I said hesitantly.
“Why would you vote for someone like that? A Democrat, I mean.” Woof, I thought to myself. This guy can’t even fathom voting for anyone that doesn’t have an R in front of their name which is a clear indicator that a conversation is going to be pretty rough, but he asked for my reason specifically.
“Well, I’m a gay man and it is currently legal in the state of Texas to fire me for that reason. Beto is the only candidate who thinks that is a problem.” This was a pretty big milestone for me because 1) it was potentially the first time I had ever explicitly told a stranger that I was gay in a somewhat business setting and 2) It was the first time I ever said why I was voting for a political candidate with a stranger as well.
Without even taking a moment to consider the man responded with:
“No it’s not. You can’t be fired for being gay…” I could tell by his tone that he was like ‘Come on Texas dude, vote R with me.’ He had an incredulous look on his face either from my admission of being gay, the new info that I presented to him about lack of protections for LGBTQ+ people, or a combination of the two.
“Yes, folks aren’t protected based on their sexuality in this state and many others,” I said still hesitantly but getting a bit more confident now. “You can look it up if you’d like, but as someone who’s job in jeopardy every day based on something I can’t change, I can promise you that I have looked into this. That’s why I am voting Beto.”
We were finished with our elevator ride and in the lobby of my building. The man still looked extremely confused but I left him to ponder this new information alone so that I could get my work day started.
This has unfortunately been my experience ever since I started being more vocal and public about being a gay man. Whether in person or online, when we start talking about civil rights the most common thing that is said is that my understanding of my rights is incorrect."
“You have just as many civil rights as I do.”
“Gays shouldn't have special privileges.” (Agreed, no one is asking for that)
Almost always, these comments come from straight white men in my conversations. Sometimes they come from straight white women as well, but the majority are men. They are often times said along with insults to intelligence as well.
It is hard for me to put into words how enraging it is to try to be silenced on a topic that directly pertains to you by someone who clearly does not have any skin in the game.
That however seems to be the most common play in America when any discussion that might disrupt the status quo comes up. We tell folks to keep their mouths shut, be more ‘patriotic,’ (ie think the way I do), or worse, we tell them to leave. We would rather continue and with the marginalization than listen to the marginalized which often creates more trauma.
If you’ve ever been that person who told someone they were wrong or tried to silence them when they brought up an issue that pertains directly with their life, I have a challenge for you the next time that comes up:
Ask yourself, does this topic involve me specifically? If yes - engage and share your personal experience with the issue, If no - listen to the folks who deal with the topic every day.
Don’t silence someone by denying their experience during the course of the discussion.
It’s as simple as that - basic human decency. That is all that is needed to reduce this one form of discrimination and actively create space for LGBTQ+ people to be able to present themselves authentically.
For The Bible Tells Me So…
After coming out to myself as gay, I have had a bit of a pendulum-like evolution in my thinking regarding the Bible and homosexuality over the years. I started off by letting folks who were close to me know that there were two types of conversations that we could have when they were first learning about my sexuality: the first would be a Biblical theological discussion while the second was solely a conversation about who I am completely outside of any discussion of scripture. I then would let them know that I wasn’t interested in having the first type of conversation.
I basically took the Bible (and any religion for that matter) off the table as a boundary and protection mechanism for myself. I either read something somewhere, or saw a video in my initial research on ‘how to come out’ (yes - legitimately researched that) that led me to believe that was the best approach. It could have been a God thing honestly. No matter how it got there, the idea was that these initial conversations that I was having with friends and family needed to center on me. My thought was that if religion was brought into the conversation, the discourse would become more of a debate, and no one’s value or worth as a human should be dependent on their ability to win an argument.
This approach worked for the most part when I would hold the line. I was able to discuss my sexuality with friends and family where the sole focus was just accepting me for who I was. I was able to make it clear that as someone who had virtually cut out many folks in my life in order to build confidence in who I was, I would not be making any changes (aka go back in the closet, pray the gay away, etc) in order for them to feel better about me based on their belief system.
A few years ago after I started attending an affirming (LGTBQ+ accepting) church after my decade(ish) long sabbatical from organized religion and reclaimed my faith from a system that drove me away and told me I was less than, I started to open up to the idea of having that first conversation I mentioned about Biblical theology and homosexuality. I was more confident in who I was overall and in my identity as a queer person of faith. I believed for the first time in my life that my voice, opinion, and experience was just as legitimate as any other person of faith.
Those conversations have been mixed if I am being honest, and I will take ownership of them going south in some cases. I am by no means a shrinking violet in these discussions and as someone who has a bit of high school debate experience and a tendency to not just want but NEED to be right, I can come off as a bit of a firebrand. It was also obvious that many times in these conversations, my level of study of these specific versus was much more intense than the folks I was speaking with. Basically, they were bringing a knife to a metaphorical gun fight and I was packing a bazooka in comparison.
Overtime, as that metaphor would indicate, I realized that I was using the Bible as a weapon much like in my Fundamentalist Evangelical days. Even though I was using theology in self defense, we were still ‘fighting’ in these discussions and if I’ve learned anything from the Old Testament, the only way to truly ‘win’ is to kill the enemy, loot their kingdom and take their women and children as prisoners. That model doesn’t exactly lead to a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s worldview when you are having a conversation.
This is why I describe it as a pendulum-like evolution because I am back to not really engaging in those theological discussions with most folks. I will still have those conversations with people who are genuinely looking to better understand my worldview in good faith, that just doesn’t happen too often.
All of this is why I debated as to whether or not I should even include Biblical theology in this post. I ultimately landed on including it because I truly believe that the Christian viewpoint of homosexuality has influenced our nation's opinion on the topic over the years.
Yes - we are in a much better place these days thanks to advocacy from LGBTQ+ activists and support from allies, but much of that change and acceptance has come only within the last decade or so. While the number of Christians in the nation is shrinking, their systematic bigotry towards the LGBTQ+ community has permeated our culture.
As long as religious teachings* are shaping public opinion and inflicting trauma (both in and outside of the church) on LGBTQ+ folks young, and old, we need to examine how they impact self image, worth, and mental health.
So with that, let’s get Biblical, Biblical…I want to get Biblical….
**As another aside - I am breaking down Christian religious teachings in this post based on my experience and the fact that it is still the most common religion in terms of numbers in the US, BUT if anyone has experience or interest in breaking down religious teachings from other faith practices that harm the LGBTQ+ community, please reach out at email@example.com.
The clobber verses are the 6 (or 7 depending on who you ask) passages out of the 20,000+ versus in the Bible that have been used to make up the traditional Church’s outlook on religion. They picked up the nickname ‘clobber verse’ because they are metaphorically used to clobber LGBTQ+ folks into submission by ‘Bible thumpers.’ They shut down conversation outright, leave little room for alternative interpretation when they are taken literal, and I would argue that they inflict emotional and mental on my community. They did for me at least.
The clobber passages are:
Sodom & Gomorrah, Genesis 19:1-38
Levitical Laws, Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul’s letter to Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus, 1 Timothy 1:9-10
‘Strange Flesh’, Jude 6-7
Paul’s letter to the Romans, 1:25-27
If you’re interested in a deep dive on these texts, I’d recommend this blog post by Wyatt Houtz that explores the history, context, and societal implications of these versus. It is dense, but well researched and well cited with multiple Biblical scholars. I'd also recommend a documentary titled "For the Bible Tells me So," as another resource.
In short, when taken literally they are a tough pill to swallow. They not only name homosexuality as a sin (by traditional Evangelical standards), but make sure to separate it out as a much darker and irredeemable sin. Words like shameful, unnatural, and immoral are used to describe the act of homosexuality - according to the traditional interpretation of these versus.
Leviticus 18:22 has been translated over the years to say that a man shall not lie with another male as one lies with a female and throws in the A word for good measure:
Abomination is defined by Merriam-Webster as something regarded with disgust or hatred. It is something to be loathed. Sure, traditional christian folks will say things like “all sins are equal,” but it doesn’t seem like any of the other sins have their own vocabulary assigned to them that encourages a loathing. Not to mention the fact that many of the more culturally acceptable ‘sins’ that straight people have to deal with are regarded more figuratively and with a certain level of nuance. Folks certainly aren't being pushed out of churches, or turned away from certain businesses because of those other sins.
It’s hard to describe the impact of reading that you are an abomination when you are in the 3rd grade. How years of looking in the mirror and seeing something that was marked, other and wrong because Christian theology has conflated the act with the person. This outlook, this hatred burns in churches across this nation and the world for the ‘abominations,' and it hasn’t been much better in secular culture for many years either.
I haven’t done the research to determine if society was bigoted and influenced the church to interpret the original Biblical texts in such an hostile way towards LGBTQ+ people, or if it was the other way around. Society in America, separate from the evangelical church, is getting better but I think the symptoms of this loathing are apparent in our suicide rates and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
For me, it is a daily struggle to remind myself that I am not an abomination. It is my default, my status quo. It is the hateful voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough, wrong, and gives me permission to mentally beat myself down just as much if not more than the folks in the pews of those churches want to. ‘If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I?’
Over the years that voice is getting more quiet. Therapy, self development, and living authentically all have helped to silence that feeling, but it takes time.
In Conclusion (for this installment)
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to read these words. I realize it is pretty heavy and its not always comfortable to hear about pain. If you aren’t that familiar with this type of stuff, my hope is account might help you might better understand the LGBTQ+ experience in this nation. If you’re already an ally, thank you for your support. I realize there is a lot of stigma surrounding discussing discrimination and bigotry and have recently started learning that is because it puts us in an uncomfortable place of realizing that changes must be made.
I use a lot of light imagery with BraveNewLove because it resonates with me so much for multiple reasons, but my personal work over the past year and a half when dealing with these issues has been learning to make space for some darkness as well. If we don’t fully understand what is wrong, we can’t make things better. That’s why I believe posts that this matter
Like I said, I’ll add subtopics here over time as they come up. Some of the ones that are planned include Supreme Court cases, various bans, queer healthcare, and conversion therapy.
I’ve already alluded to it in the post, but if you are part of the LGTBQ+ community and want to contribute by suggesting a topic to be discussed or writing a section please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can only offer commentary based on my experience, but I’d love to start sharing the experiences of others as well.