‘Fessing up, part 2
When I posted earlier about my journey from my redneck Southern Baptist roots to my city-dwelling ultra-liberal gay taoist present, I phrased it as a confession, which may have seemed odd.
Because I often write about matters of conflict between some people purporting to speak for Christians and the LGBT community, and because I frequently make references to Biblical passages (sometimes quite obscure ones), and also because I have been known to construct Biblical answers to some of those conflicts, I suspect some of the folks reading my blog think that I’m speaking as a gay, liberal Christian. I don’t intend to identify that way, and don’t wish to speak on behalf of any Christians. I’m a gay, liberal taoist. And when I speak, I speak only for myself.
You might ask, why does that require a confession?
The real issue is not that strangers or acquaintances reading this blog might get the wrong impression, but rather that while I am out and proud as a gay man and card-carrying liberal, I am less obviously out about my religious affiliation (or lack thereof) to some rather important people in my life. I’ve written about this issue before, on my essay site, specifically about why I chose never to get into it with my grandmother.
I have followed the same logic with a number of other family members. I don’t lie to them, I just sidestep the issue. Some people would argue that this is just another kind of closet, and you could say that I am being a hypocrite, since I frequently argue that gay and bi adults have a moral responsibility to live their lives openly and honestly.
The reason I don’t think I am being hypocritical is because I do make my disagreement known to those family members regarding specific issues. Rather than appear to be attacking their faith by saying I reject their beliefs, I instead present the reasons I feel differently on the specific issue. Because the fact that I no longer consider myself a Baptist isn’t why I think anti-discrimination laws should apply to all businesses open to the public, for instance. Nor is it why I am in favor of a single-payer health care system. Nor is it why I oppose institutional prayer in public schools. I have moral reasons for each of those beliefs, and on those occasions where we get into a discussion about them, I keep my argument to the moral principles.
The mere fact that I “insist” on living openly as a gay man, living with and sharing my life with my husband, gives them a baseline of understanding that we disagree on religious issues. When I have discussed it with them, among the arguments I make is to explain why I think the fundamentalist cherry-picking of some Bible verses to justify discrimination against LGBT people is wrong within the context of their faith. Which is my honest belief.
In this blog post and numerous essays I have said that I no longer consider myself a member of the religion in which I was raised, and that I identify as a taoist. Because that information is out there, it is always possible that the family members I haven’t explicitly explained this to will read about it (or may have already read it long ago). As it stands, they know that I no longer attend church, and they are quite aware that we have different feelings on a number of religious-related issues. It’s not that we never disagree, it’s that we try to disagree with each other respectfully.
I think LGBT adults have a moral obligation to be out because not being out enables dismissal. It allows your friends, co-workers, and family members to believe that no incidents or issues of sexual discrimination have anything to do with them. It allows them to imagine all LGBT people as freaks, or monsters, or myths. And that enables discrimination, bashing, and worse.
To the extent that any bullying, cultural harassment, or legal discrimination is endured by non-Christians in our society, it tends to be focused not on whether one is an actual member of a Christian church or not, but rather on specific applications of those beliefs. All these relatives know how I feel about separation of church and state, for instance. My disagreement with them about public endorsements of religion has been a subject of discussion more than once. I am “out” as someone who does not share their evangelical fundamentalist outlook. So I’m not invisible, and I’m not letting them think that no one they know feels that way.
While there have been plenty of incidents of people vandalizing Muslim temples and attacks on people thought to be Muslim (often it’s actually Sikhs, rather than Muslims, because the sort of jerks who do that sort of thing think that anyone in a turban is “one of them”) and the like, there isn’t exactly an epidemic of taoist-bashing incidents.
If it comes to that, I’ll reconsider. For now, I’m going to stick with engaging my relatives on specific issues—because I want to keep the conversation going.