Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins, and there is no way for me to adequately convey my everlasting gratitude for this. I have a friend who is just as in love with our Savior as I am. Everywhere she goes, she wears a cross around her neck. She is a Christian both inwardly and outwardly, the world knows. The world sees us and defines us based on a book that we read and a church that we go to. The world judges us based on our Christian values, and it seems like they disapprove of something that is innately me. I cannot explain it, I do not feel like I ever chose to be religious, the word of god was just so strong, and the love of my savior so complete. I feel his glory everywhere I go, and I thank him for the pain he endured to save me from my sins. I don’t flaunt my values, I don’t oppress others with my beliefs…but when people ask me “do you believe in god?” I say yes. It seems that this has become a problem for many, because instead of accepting my convictions on face value or asking why I have such strong faith, they ridicule me for believing that the son of god could be so gracious as to die for all of humanity’s sins.
But now it isn’t just my peers that mock my religion, it is my government who is taking away my rights to worship as I please, to affiliate as I please, to congregate with my peers and to live as a Christian. But despite this, I believe that it is my duty to be bold and passionate, to fight for something that is so central to who I am. Will you as a Christian join me? Employers are afraid to hire me because I am impassioned and unafraid, because I speak for what I believe in and fight for what I know is right. This is a nation built on judeo-christian values, and I will fight to be a part of the political process and to end arbitrary discrimination. According to the Oxford dictionary, Liberty is the freedom from arbitrary or despotic control. It is arbitrary that my government would discriminate against me because I am Christian, and it is despotic that they would repeat the systematic discrimination against religious people that our forefathers escaped from. I am an American, how dare they say that I can be fired because of my religion! Everywhere I look I see people forced out of their jobs because they dare stand for their conviction. I do not understand how a CEO who donates his private money toward the Prop 8 movement can be forced out of his position even though it does not affect his actions in the work place. Our values are important and ought to be protected, yet corporations discriminate because of it and the government allows them to.
The government systematically punishes people that are religious, infringes upon their freedom, destroys their liberty, regulates their speech and sterilizes any vestige of religion from public places. My government and fellow citizens discriminate against me because of the things that I hold dear. And even though they institutionalize discrimination, the people greet it with a smug approval…or at least tolerate it despite their disagreement. They don’t fight for me, they don’t fight with me. Instead they just say “if you don’t like it, you can move.”
All of this is true, except for one thing…I am not nor have I ever been persecuted because of my belief in god; it is because I am gay. But despite this key difference between my situation and what you have read, the things that I have described are very real consequences of something out of my control.
I have grown up in towns all across Utah, Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma. All of my life the social narrative around homosexuality has not just been that it is wrong and sinful…it has been something more extreme. In the past, I have heard family members say that “all of the faggots should be rounded up and shot.” I have lived in places that not only morally oppose homosexuality, but actively discriminate because of it. No one wanted a gay neighbor, no one would have welcomed a gay neighbor. And a gay high school student? Repulsive.
I believed that they were right, I believed that my sexuality was a choice, and so I joined them in their crusade against the “gay agenda” and throughout this process I lost sight of who I was. For years I repressed something that is central to the person I am in order to assimilate into a society that legitimized discrimination based on a certain worldview. I think that many people who claim that there is a “gay agenda” can relate; they feel that the government’s efforts to institutionalize gay rights is an attack on their own nature…because religion isn’t just a choice for them, it is central to who they are. They feel oppressed.
But I also feel that oppression.
Oppression happens when I get a job in Blackfoot Idaho, but my manager thinks that I might be gay and so he fires me. He has the right to fire me. Oppression happens when my car breaks down after work, but when I call the local mechanic he doesn’t come because I’m a “faggot.” Oppression happens two women make an offer on a house, but the owner rejects it because they are gay. Discrimination isn’t just an abstract inconvenience, it is a feature of everyday life. And even though I have not been fired because of my sexuality or denied services because of someone’s impression of me as a gay man, I know the sting. I know how painful it is to be an oppressed minority.
Sometimes I go to bed at night and I cry because not all of my family supports me. It hurts to know that someone who had a significant influence on the person I am today would abandon me because of my sexuality or gender identity. Even though I have known for a long time that I am gay, they think that I am a different person now that I have told them. I have no expectation that everyone will approve of it. Would it be nice? I don’t think that people would be so harsh toward me if I were an atheist; I think that they would be able to conceive of a person not believing in god. But being gay? No, that is a choice not just to be sinful, it is a choice to be amoral.
I am destroying the moral fiber of America, because of me traditional institutions and values are under attack. But is it not the Christian thing to do to show kindness to your neighbor? How can you say those things and then claim that you love me anyway?
The government has a history of systematically punishing people that are gay, infringing upon their freedom, destroying their liberty, regulating their speech and sterilizing any vestiges of “non-traditional” activity in the public and private sphere. My government and fellow citizens discriminate against me because of something that is innately a part of who I am. Everywhere I go they say “states have the right to make laws as they see fit,” and “it is up to the citizens to decide how their state is run.” And even though they institutionalize discrimination, the people greet it with a smug approval…or at least tolerate it despite their disagreement. They don’t fight for me, they don’t fight with me. Instead they just say “if you don’t like it, you can move.”
States that fight for “traditional Christian values” are celebrated for their lack of fear in fighting against a government attack on individual rights. But how can you not see that the ability of citizens to arbitrarily decide that someone should lose their job based on their sexuality is wrong?
The city that I live in recently passed a non-discrimination ordinance that would prevent businesses from firing someone based on perceived sexuality or gender identity. It was the right thing to do, even if you believe that our morals are misaligned because we are gay, how can someone say that it is bad to ensure that everyone has the ability to provide for their basic needs? Should we allow people to die because we don’t like their “lifestyle?” Should I be able to make this same decision based on my perception of your religion?
It isn’t just fellow citizens that discriminate against me because of my sexuality, it is my government who is taking away my rights to love as I please, to affiliate as I please, to congregate with my peers and to live as a gay man. But despite this, I believe that it is my duty to be bold and passionate, to fight for something that is so central to who I am. Will you as a human join me? Employers are afraid to hire me because I am impassioned and unafraid, because I speak for what I believe in and fight for what I know is right. This is the nation of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and JFK. I will fight to be a part of the political process and to end arbitrary discrimination. It is arbitrary that my government would discriminate against me because I am gay, and it is despotic that they would repeat the systematic discrimination of the pre-Civil Rights era. I am an American, how dare they say that I can be fired because of my sexuality! How dare they allow homeowners associations to deny me access when I don’t fit their mold!
I have friends who are in worse positions than I am. Everywhere they go, they have a target around their neck. Their identities are displayed both inwardly and outwardly, the world knows. The world sees us and defines us based on their perception of our actions and “lifestyle”. The world judges my community based not on the good things that we do, but the bad things that some are capable of. They justify their hate based on the actions of the few and they disapprove of something that is innately me. I cannot explain it, I do not feel like I ever chose to be gay, it’s just something that has always been there. When people ask me “are you gay?” I say yes. It seems that this has become a problem for many, because instead of accepting me for who I am, they allow systematic discrimination based on their own judgement and biases.
Instead they should help me because I am a fellow man, join me because I am their neighbor. End discrimination not because you agree with someone’s lifestyle or worldview, but because it is the right thing to do. Look into my eyes and tell me that I am not entitled to this, look me in the face if you think that I should be denied the right to work, the right to fair housing, the right to love whom I love.
“God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” As a Christian, you must understand something being at the core of who you are, central to your being. You must feel the pulse of god in your veins, his spirit guiding your every action. Based on your conception you must be able to empathize with the fact that romantic and sexual attraction are just as central to who other people are. Hold whatever beliefs you may about the sinfulness of homosexuality, but keep in mind Jesus’ prime directive, the golden rule. I would never tell someone that their religion is invalid because of science, do not tell me that my sexuality is invalid because of religion. God loves us all, god tells us to judge none. You have no authority to say that the things I do are things that god hates just as I have no authority to dismiss the things you feel as a Christian.
Your fear of me is not justified. I am not a pedophile, I am not a rapist, I am not some shadow in the dark that seeks to destroy your Christian way of life. I am a human being who feels, I am a human being who hurts because of the things that happen around me. I want to change the world, because the only measure of human success is whether or not we leave the world better than we found it. I denounce pedophilia and rape, I denounce those accusations made against my community based on hatred and ignorance. I just want to be treated like I am human, not some separate type of life form that just so happens to live in this country. While you may not understand my sexuality, I know that you can empathize with oppression. End it not because you support the “gay agenda,” end it because it is the right thing to do.
A note to you (don’t read this if you don’t want to…you know, just like the rest of the blog):
(1) I want to take a moment to recognize the fact that I am surrounded by supportive friends and family members. Even though I recognize and feel discrimination in the world around me, it is also apparent that people are rising to the challenge. Thank you so much for being brave enough to end oppression.
(2) I hope that it is also apparent that I have deeply held religious beliefs. While they are still developing and transitioning, I very much understand what it feels like to be a religious person. It is important to have these narratives and for both sides to see important issues and understand why things develop the way they do. I have an intimate understanding of this issue from both sides, and I think that there is a place where we can end discrimination. I hope that point comes soon, and I think it will.
(3) Also, I want to address the fact that I think there is a line between public and private speech. The CEO I mentioned was the CEO of Mozilla for a brief time before he stepped down. Did his position affect his work performance? Employees said no. If a company fired an LGBT advocate they would be looked down upon, but if they do the same for someone who donates private money to a cause they believe in that company seems to have gotten the green light to strong arm individuals out of their work positions. That is something that bothers me immensely. Now this differs somewhat to the Duck Dynasty controversy where they disseminated their views in a nationally seen publication, however I do not have any significant comments as to a test that government or a court could devise that would delineate between wrongful and non-wrongful termination based on statements issued. In the case of Duck Dynasty, their contractual obligations were probably that dividing line. It will be interesting to see how this plays out (this is something I will think about to write on in possibly 3 to 90 months from now).