So it wasn’t just anxiety. It wasn’t all in my head. The danger was real.And because I’d been raised Southern Baptist, and I was the kind of nerdy kid who read the Bible all the way through on my own at least twice, I spent many, many hours begging god to take these feelings away from me. I spent a lot of time studying the guys that never got called out like I did, trying to figure out how to act more like them.
And while for many queer kids the world is a more tolerant place than it was for me in the 60s and 70s, thousands of teens in the U.S. are still thrown out on the streets every year by parents whose religion teaches it is better to drive the kid out than to “encourage their lifestyle.” Hundreds of children and teens still commit suicide every year because of bullying by people who suspect they are queer.
All the bullying, anxiety about being rejected, and so forth affects us. Studies show that most adult queers bear at least some of the neurological markers of PTSD—just like domestic abuse survivors. Coming out and finding communities that accept us doesn’t make that go away. We are always on the lookout for the next potential threat.There were always moments when I would get angry because of the way I was treated. But particularly when I was a young kid, anger was never useful. I was physically unable to stand up to the bullies (for instance, the middle school bully who was enough bigger than me that he held me upside down for many minutes while his buddies kicked and spit on me).
Over the course of several years anger began replacing fear. There are many moments I can point to, but one that sticks out came in my early 20s. I was sitting in a church pew in a church where the musical ensemble I was directed had performed several songs for to support a revival meeting. The visiting preacher had delivered an unusual message for a revival: he had talked about unity and finding common ground among fellow Christians who didn’t always agree with us on every detail. It was conciliatory, rather than a fiery call to fight evil, which was a much more typical revival tone.And then one of the pastors from the local church gave the closing prayer. That how I found myself with head bowed and eyes closed and suddenly shaking in fear as the pastor thank god for sending the scourge of AIDS to wipe out the evil homosexuals from the face of the earth. Oh, he went on and on about it. And because as far as I knew I was the only homo (very closeted) in that room, I half expected people to pull me aside for an intervention afterward. Or maybe that I would be jumped and beaten to within an inch of my life somewhere.
I realized some time later that the pastor wasn’t targeting he was arguing with the visiting pastor, using the passive-aggressive platform of a public prayer. But over the following days and weeks, as I realized that no one was targetting me, I began to get angry. And the more I thought about how that pastor had used a prayer to spew such hate, the more angry I became at the entire system.
That may have been the final nail in the coffin of my membership in the Baptist denomination—if not all of Christianity together.There are many people who will tell you not to become an angry, militant advocate for anything. They will urge you to try to find middle ground, to compromise, to make peace with those you disagree with you. The problem is that there isn’t an acceptable middle ground between the propositions: “I want to live” and “you deserve death.” And the people who thank god for AIDS, who tell parents to kick their queer children out on the street, who argue that transitioning treatments are not medically necessary, and who argue we shouldn’t have marriage rights (which legally include the right to make medical decisions for one another and so forth)—they are all implying, if not outright saying, that queers deserve death.
Seriously, the only middle ground is that some queers deserve death. How is that a morally acceptable position for anyone?So, yes, I am frequently an angry, militant queer. But all of the people on the other side are arguing in favor of murdering at least some queer people (or, I suppose you could argue that they are simply willing to allow some or most of us to die). That means that what I feel is righteous indignation. And if you don’t feel it at least a little bit on behalf of those kids bullied to death, the murdered trans people, and so on, well, I’m sorry to say, that means you’re on the side of the hateful murderers. I’m sure you have some rationalizations for why your position isn’t that, but you’re wrong. If you don’t believe our outrage is justified, then you’re not one of the good guys.
If that realization makes you unhappy, well, you have the power to fix it. Come over to the Light Side. Join the fight for justice, love, and life.
I received a lot of interesting replies. One person was particularly upset with me for sharing a meme similar to the one at the top of the post that talked about Jesus and his two dads. “Can’t you disagree without the blasphemy of saying god had a sexual relationship with Joseph?”
I responded by pointing out that the meme doesn’t mention sex, it simply affirms the Biblical texts which referred to Jesus as both the son of Joseph and the son of God. Then I said that the only blasphemy I saw were people trying to force some of their religious views into law, penalizing people who weren’t part of their flock. There were a couple of back and forths, but I had already promised myself that any bigots who chimed in would get two replies of me trying to clarify or whatever, and then after that my only reply to any further comments would be “Bless your heart.” So the discussion petered out.
blasphemy noun, Profane talk about something supposed to be sacred; impious irreverence.
I’m sorry, but I really was merely taking the Bible literally: the text calls Jesus the son of Joseph in some places, and the son of god in others. In fact, it refers to him as the son of Joseph more often than it calls him the son of god. The oldest surviving copies of the gospels never call him the son of god. And then there’s the whole genealogy in one of the gospels, showing how Jesus is descended from King David–through his father, Joseph!
So if it is profane to talk about Jesus having two dads, the profanity starts in the Bible.
If we’re going to get upset about any sex involving god, what about the nonconsensual impregnation of Mary? I mean, looking at the text, it’s pretty clear that god roofied Mary, then sent “the Holy Spirit to overshadow” her and conceive the child. I say nonconsensual because while an angel appears to Mary before it happens to tell her it is going to happen, at no point does the angel ask if she agrees to this thing. And really, Mary was almost certainly a teen-ager, confronted by a powerful otherworldly being who tells her that an even more powerful being is about the knock her up. With such a power differential, is the concept of consent even possible?
I’ve seen the arguments made, sometimes by people who claim to take the Bible literally, that this is just a standard divine intervention trope: Eqyptian and Greek mythology, for instance, are full of stories of gods having sons from mortal women. As if “everyone else is doing it” is a moral precept?
Among the many problems with people of various conservative types of Christianity imposing their beliefs on others through the force of law, is that even their own holy book isn’t very clear on these points. The person they have named their religion after, Jesus Christ, never once said anything about gay people, one way or the other. And believe me, there were gay people there in Galilee and Judea. If being gay was such a big sin, you would think he would mention it.
There are only six verses in modern English translations of the Bible that appear to refer to homosexuality directly. However, the four in the New Testament have only been that way since a re-translation in the 1920s. In the oldest versions of the text we have in the original languages (Arameic and Greek), the words were gendered references to temple prostitutes in two passages, the third is a reference to two separate sins (cheating on one’s spouse after making a monogamous committment, and having sex with someone before you have married). The fourth, meanwhile, no one knows. The Apostle Paul made up a greek word that occurs nowhere else in any ancient greek document my combining two existing words meaning bed and lewdness.
Honesty, given how opposed to marriage of any kind Paul was (he thought it was a waste of time and energy that would be better spent evangelizing), this might have been a word he coined to refer to those men who “so burned with lust” that they couldn’t concentrate on god’s work unless they married and had an outlet for the aforementioned lust. If so, then Paul was calling heterosexual marriage an abomination, not gay sex.
As to the old testament passages: modern Christians have no problem ignoring the other parts of Leviticus they don’t like (the prohibitions on bacon and shrimp, for instance), so it is difficult to take them seriously on this. Further, I’ve read more than one argument written by Jewish Rabbis that those texts should never be discussed out of context of the rest of the books (including a lot of commentaries and documents that were not absorbed into the Christian Bible), and are probably referencing some specific issues at the time of writing with men visiting temples of other gods and partaking of temple prostitutes. So it is more likely those verses are admonitions against idolotry and sex with someone other than one’s spouse after making a monogamous committment.
Please note I am paraphrasing. Wrestling with the Torah is a lifetime commitment of its own, and the fact that the church I was raised in has co-opted a not-terribly-well-done translation of the Torah doesn’t make me an expert.
Holy books, no matter whose holy books we are talking about, were written by humans. You can believe that they are divinely inspired if you wish, but the words were written by imperfect humans, using imperfect language, which is being read centuries later by other imperfect humans with imperfect understandings of languages that have changed during those centuries. Just to narrow it back down to the bible, that book itself contains many stories of people who were absolutely convinced that they knew what god wanted them to do, who turned out to be wrong. It also contains stories (go read an annotated version of the Saga of Sampson for one of the most entertaining) of people who were believed to be immoral or otherwise unsuitable for god’s work by all the godly people around them, who were actually the ones doing god’s work.
As my Bible professor in my university days was fond of saying, “The text keeps telling us that we can’t find all of the answers in the text. We have to think and develop compassion and a sense of justice on our own. And that’s a lot of work.”
If your argument that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, trans, nonbinary et cetera don’t deserve equal rights is to quote your holy book without applying compassion, testing the situation against the notion of justice, and just thinking about whether you are even holding yourself to a similar standard, then you aren’t doing the work. You are failing your fellow humans. You are failing at your own religion.
And you are failing to regard the life and well-being of some of your neighbors with reverence. And that is true blasphemy.
Gilbert Baker was born in Kansas in 1951. From an early age he was fascinated with fabrics and color. He attributed this early interest to the women’s clothing store which was owned by his grandmother. Even with that family connection, though, in small town Kansas in the 1950s no one thought a boy should learn to sew. In 1970 the 19-year-old Gilbert was drafted into the army, where he was trained as a medic and stationed in San Francisco, where he treated soldiers who had been wounded in Vietnam.
“In 1978, when I thought of creating a flag for the gay movement, there ws no other international symbol for us than the pink triangle, which the Nazis had used to identify homosexuals in concentration camps. Even though the pink triangle was and still is a powerful symbol, it was very much forced upon us.
“I almost instantly thought of using the rainbow. To me, it was the only thing that could really express our diversity, beauty, and our joy. I was astounded nobody had thought of making a rainbow flag before because it seemed like such an obvious symbol for us.”
—Gilbert Baker, 1951-2017
In 1970 there was a thriving queer community in San Francisco. Gilbert found other people like himself, and managed to serve out his tour as a medic without getting caught (being gay was a court martial offense), so he was honorably discharged. But having found a community, he chose to stay. He bought a sewing machine and taught himself to sew. He hung out with a lot of other artists. He designed fabulous drag costumes. And he also began designing pro-gay and anti-war protest banners for a variety of marches and rallies. Soon he was known as “the banner guy.”
When Harvey Milk was elected a city supervisor, becoming the first openly gay man elected to public office in the U.S., he had worked with Gilbert a few times in relationship to those rallies and protests. And so when Milk thought that the community needed a new symbol to unite around, he asked Gilbert to create it.
Note that Milk asked him to create a symbol, not necessarily a flag. But Gilbert said he settled on a flag very quickly, because a flag represents sovereignty. “A flag,” he said, “proclaims that gays are a people, a family, a tribe.” He chose the rainbow as the basis of the flag because it represented diversity—of race, gender, age. “Plus, it’s a natural flag — it’s from the sky!”The Gay Freedom Day Committee provided money, and the Gay Community Center provided working space. Gilbert Baker and approximately 30 friends gathered together with over a thousand yards of cotton fabric and a lot of bottles of dye, and carefully created fabric in eight colors: hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise and violet. Gilbert also worked with Fairy Argyle, who was known as the Queen of Tie-Day, to create a square of blue fabric that had tie-dyed stars on it, to evoke the field of stars on the U.S. flag. Gilbert sewed two different flag designs in 1978, the first was the 8-stripe rainbow, the second one looking like the American flag, but with the tie-dyed stars and rainbow stripes.
The two flags were first hoisted into the sky above San Francisco’s U.N. Plaza as part of the Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25th, 1978. Gilbert’s longtime friend, Cleve Jones, described the day as having the perfect amount of wind to make the flag furl, but not be unpleasant on the ground: “It was just stunning.”Five months later, Harvey Milk was assassinated, and the community was thrown into mourning. Thousands gathered that night in the Castro, that marched to city hall where they held a candlelight vigil. In the following days, people began asking for rainbow flags. To meet the sudden demand, Gilbert worked with the Paramount Flag company to mass produce flags. They used a then stand available rainbow fabric with only seven stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet. The Freedom Day committee wanted larger flags for the next Pride Parade, and Gilbert went to work, dropped the hot pink stripe from his larger hand-sewn flags in part because the dye was difficult to obtain, and no one was manufacturing stock hot pink fabric.
And the next year he dropped another stripe. Some say that the turquoise was dropped because when the flags were hung vertically from city light poles the middle stripe wasn’t visible from other angles. Gilbert said that turquoise and indigo fabric was difficult to obtain, so he switched to a navy blue stripe.
I’ve written before that the rainbow flag was not immediately embraced by everyone in the LGBT+ community. In fact, it was considered more a regional thing until a court case in 1989, when a West Hollywood man had to sue his landlord for the right to fly the rainbow flag from his apartment balcony.
In 1994 Gilbert supervised the creation of the first mile-long rainbow flag to commemorate the 25 anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The flag was cut up afterward to make smaller flags. Some sections were sold as a fundraiser, others were distributed to Pride Parade committees in other cities. In 2003, the 25th anniversary of the creation of the rainbow flag, Gilbert was commissioned to create another giant flag. This one was one and a quarter miles long and was carried in the Key West, Florida Pride event. It was eventually cut into 100 slightly less giant flags and again distributed to various cities around the world.
Gilbert often described himself as the Queer Betsy Ross and was sometimes asked to give his blessing to some variants designed by others (such as the Victory Over Aids Flag, which used a lighter violet and had a black stripe to symbolize our mourning for those who have died of complications of AIDS). It is worth noting that except when he was directly commissioned, Gilbert didn’t make money from his creation. In his later years he struggled financially. But the one interview I saw where someone asked him about it, he said it would have been wrong to try to trademark the design. How could it be a symbol of our tribe if it legally belonged to one person?
After 2003, Gilbert started lobbying for a return to the original 8-stripe version, so far to little avail. When Barack Obama was elected President, Gilbert hand sewed an 8-stripe version as a gift to Obama, and during the Obama administration that flag was displayed in the White House.Gilbert redesigned the flag one more time before he died. The election of Trump prompted him to add a 9th stripe, lavender for diversity or resistance. He sewed 39 by hand before his death, and they were used in the following San Francisco Pride Parade.
When I was first coming out of the closet in the late 80s, pink triangles were the symbol I saw around the Seattle queer community. You could find pink triangle buttons and key chains and bumper stickers and so forth in every store in the gayborhood. There were rainbows, as well, but the pink triangle outnumbered them. Then in the 90s, when suddenly there were rainbows everywhere, especially at pride, there was a bit of a backlash. I heard more than one person grumble about rainbows everywhere.
But I think Gilbert was on to something. The pink triangle was forced on us by oppressors; it was also most often used to identify gay men in the concentration camps—therefore many lesbians felt the reclaimed symbol didn’t include them. There is something joyful about the bright colors of the rainbow flag. The different colors side-by-side can signify that diversity Gilbert talked about: different races, different genders, different generations of queer people.
And I confess that as long as anti-gay religious wingnuts have conniption fits about us supposedly stealing the symbol from god, I’m going to take a bit of delight in raising my own rainbow flag. And it isn’t just about sticking it to the haters. Rainbows appear in the sky after a storm. They are beautiful and ephemeral and otherworldly. It’s difficult to look up at one in the sky after storm clouds have cleared and not feel at least a bit of wonder.
As queers we encounter a lot of storms in life. We may be bullied as kids. We may face discrimination and even physical assault as adults. We achieve a small victory, and then face a conservative backlash. In my lifetime there have been campaigns to pass laws to bar us from certain professions, even as courts and civil rights laws open some doors for us. The AIDS crisis killed tens of thousands, and it wasn’t just Republican politicians who laughed at our suffering during the 1980s. But every tempest and onslaught that we weather makes us a stronger. We have setbacks, but we fight on, moving ever forward.
Like the rainbow, we shine on after each storm.
He tries in the article to layout the problems that denomination is failing to address. And he makes a nice point that simply praying for something without doing the work to make it happen is not merely impractical, it’s actual contrary to the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow.
But he doesn’t come out and say what really needs to be said. I can’t tell for certain if he is being vague in his comments about how they need to engage with the culture and spend less time pursuing culture wars because he knows the article wouldn’t be published if he is blunt, or if he is afraid to say it, or if he’s in denial himself.
He tiptoes around it, saying things like “As of yet, we’ve not made it to the point where we have… become known for what we are for rather than what we are against.”
But the clue that leads me to believe he probably is still in a bit of denial is when he says, after implying that the church is waging battle on two many fronts of the culture war, “For many of our neighbors, our warring is interpreted as being against them.”
No, Mr. Stetzer, it is not an interpretation Or perception that you are warring on us. Fundamentalist evangelical churches and affiliated organizations are literally attacking a whole lot of their neighbors.
The attacks on queer rights are the ones I most often link to or comment on, but that isn’t all of it. And even if they were, the way the fight is waged is a series of assaults on the lives and well-being of the queer people in question. At the same time that the church and related institutions keep cozying up to the special interests of big business and billionaires. So they are both ignoring Jesus’s teachings of “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” as well as “sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
Long before I reached a point where I could fearfully say outloud to a friend, “I think I might be gay3” I chafed at the church’s political choices. It wasn’t until my midteens (the early 1970s) that the SBC officially stopped opposing racial segregation. Even after that, a lot of churchs and affiliated organizations actively opposed civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act. That didn’t seem to line up with the command to Love Thy Neighbor.
I’m old enough to remember when official Baptist theology was not pro-life. In fact, among those Baptists willing to voice their anti-Catholic beliefs, the Catholic Church’s strong stand against abortion was used as an argument that Catholics were not a Biblical faith. Seriously! Southern Baptists used to look at the verse in the old testament which stated that a person who injured a pregnant woman such that she lost the baby was not the same as fatally injuring a child and was no worse than injuring a non-pregmant woman as proof that unborn babies were not yet people.
The shift in abortion was a calculated one by a number of evangelical leaders who met in the 70s to discuss what to do about fundraising now that segregation didn’t whip up the troops to donate. Again, that sudden about-face made no sense to teenaged me.
When Falwell’s so-called Moral Majority rose as a political force and allied itself strongly with the Republicans and doubled down on opposing women’s rights, gay rights, medical treatment for AIDS patients, and nondiscrimination laws in general, that was the final straw.
If there are people in the fundamentalist evangelical community in general–and Southern Baptists in particular–who want to turn around this downward spiral in membership, they have to change. They have organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom suing left and right to thwart gay and trans rights as well as lobbying politicians to pass anti-queer laws. Jesus never said a thing about queer people, but he commanded his followers take care of the poor, the sick, prisoners and even to welcome refugees4. Where is the evangelical organization suing government officials for withholding funds for the poor or the homeless or the disabled? Where is the evangelical organization lobbying in politicians for more funding for the poor, the homeless, the sick, the disabled or resettlement of refugees?
Their usual argument is some BS about charity being a private duty, rather than a governmental one. But you can’t demand that government enforce your private religious beliefs about marriage and gender and so forth while claiming to believe that government shouldn’t do these other things your holy book actually demands.
Evangelicals got themselves into this ridiculous hypocrisy because of two things: leaders who are addicted to money or power of both; and the dearly held evangelical myth that they are always the persecuted. The nakedly greedy leaders like Joel Osteen and Franklin Graham harp on the culture war issues and characterize any gains for “other” people as an assault against “true Christians” and rake in the dough. More sincere leaders like the late Billy Graham become so blinded by the thrill of access to Presidents and Congresspeople and other leaders, that they let their proximity promote the fearmongering of unscrupulous politicians.
And too many of their congregants eat up the rhetoric, becoming so inflamed with the fervor to fight so-called evil, that they don’t see the real evil they are inflicting on others. Instead of looking at other people as the neighbors they are commanded to love and care for, they see them as armies of sin. And their advocacy, donations, and rhetoric constitute very real attacks on people, not sin.
If they want to stop this decline, it won’t come from a new emphasis on evangelizing, as Stetzer asserts in his article. That would be as meaningless as praying without working. Instead, they need to focus on things their Christ actually told them to do: love your neighbor, feed the hungry, take care of the sick, clothe those who have nothing, be kind to the meek and powerless.
Do good, and people will see those good works and will stop feeling like enemies under attack.
0. The title of today’s post is a lyric from the hymn “The Kingdom is Coming” word by Mary B. Slade, music by Rigdon M. McIntosh, # 409 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.
1. When I first read his assessment that the church will cease to exist for all intents and purposes in decades, my only thought was, “Darn! Not sooner?”2
2. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised Southern Baptist and I have a lot of fond childhood memories of deep friendships there. But as I have said many times, I didn’t abandon the church, the church drove me away.
3. Which didn’t happen until I was 25.
4. Again, I learned my strong sense for social injustice by reading the Bible they claimed to follow.
A person crossed my social media this week (I presume because I reblogged a bunch of pride comments and memes on my tumblr) to admonish me for provoking normal people by celebrating the freaks of the queer community. They claim that they aren’t at all homophobic, yet they use the same tactics and the same language as the rabid bigots. Just like the bigots, they say that being visible is flaunting our sex lives. They say we are freaks. As a certain famous man from Galilee once warned us to beware of people who claimed to be our friends: “by their fruits shall you know them.”
Since I promised that this would be an adventure in dictionaries, let’s look at that word, freak. I call your attention to the following excerpt from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary’s definition:
4 Something fanciful or extravagant; (more fully freak of nature) an abnormal or irregular occurrence, an abnormally developed person or thing, a monstrosity.
b A person regarded as strange because of their unusual appearance or behaviour.
This so-called ally is hardly the first person to call me a freak. One of my uncles used to refer to me as an over-educated freak as early as age 9, for instance. It was one of the mildest insults my eighth grade Reading and Literature teacher called me. Other teachers and school administrators told my parents that the bullying I experienced was impossible to stop as long as I failed to act like a normal boy.
What was the behavior they were referring to? Was I showing up at school wearing bondage gear or dressed as a drag queen? No, of course not. The sorts of behavior that was called out were things like:
- I would rather read a book by myself than play sports
- In elementary school when most boys hated the girls in class, I got along great with them
- I knew more about cooking than I did about horsepower and gear ratios
- My favorite TV shows were things like The Carol Burnett Show or The Partridge Family or The Mary Tyler Moore Show instead of Gunsmoke or The Streets of San Francisco
- My favorite books were mostly science fiction
- In middle school I treated girls I talked with as friends, rather than as objects of desire (and didn’t understand for a long time what the difference was between the way I interacted with girls and the way most of the other boys did)
- I liked to draw and write fiction
- I laughed at the wrong things
- I liked to wear clothes that were interesting colors
Some of that list will not strike many people as gender nonconforming, particularly the science fiction bullet. But you need to understand that before 1977 and the advent of the original Star Wars movie (when I was a junior in High School), normal boys did not like sci fi.
The first Freedom Day Marches didn’t happen until I was in fourth grade, and they were not being covered on news stations and the like until several years later. All the bullying and teasing I got for being a sissy or a freak or “not a normal boy” was deeply rooted in homophobia that was hateful and destructive long, long before the first Pride. So don’t tell me that Pride causes homophobia. Anti-gay hatred was around for centuries before Pride.
And kids like me—kids who could never figure out why the way we talked or the way we walked or the things we found interesting were wrong—were subjected to that hatred and bigotry without appearing in public in fishnet stockings or elaborate make-up. We were bullied and mocked and scorned and ridiculed because our behavior wasn’t the usual expected of our gender. I was bullied because I didn’t understand why it was unusual for a boy to think that a pair of burgundy pants was cooler to wear than plain blue jeans. I was bullied because I thought a girl’s ideas were more interesting than what was hidden by her clothes. I was bullied because I would rather sing along (and dance or pretend to be a member of the band) to the radio than play cops and robbers.
Not all queer kids are gender nonconforming (but studies show that at least 75 percent of boys who were consistently identified as “sissies” during childhood will come out as gay as adults), just as not all queer male adults are into show tunes. But the scant number of queer athletes who have come out of the closet, as well as the large numbers of “straight acting” and “non-scene” gays, have been free to do so because the nonconforming or freakish queers decided not to take the hate and loathing lying down. The freaks decided to stop being ashamed of who they were and who they loved. The freaks decided to stop pretending to be non-freaks.
If those freaks hadn’t stood up, none of the assimilationist queers, none of the suit-and-tie or “masc for masc” gays would have the right to be out—they would all still be hiding in the closet and secretly having sex on the sly deeply steeped in self-loathing and guilt. And those folks who say that the freaks should stop flaunting who they are are no different and no less deplorable that the folks who fire gay bashing victims for talking about their assault or stab men for holding hands in public or murder trans people just for being who they are.
I’m not a drag queen and I don’t wear fetish gear to Pride. I wear my purple hats and various rainbow or unicorn-adorned t-shirts year round. I’m unashamed of my fabulous rainbow parasol and my purple earrings. But I cheer and clap for the people who do dress in drag or other outrageous clothes at Pride. I support their right to be there and be out and dress however they want without being harassed. Just as a woman wearing certain clothes in public doesn’t make it all right for someone to harass or sexually assault her, neither do queer and trans people wearing whatever they’re comfortable in make it right to exclude or denigrate them.
If my love of bright colors, glittery earrings, and silly t-shirts makes me a freak, I’m proud to join that fanciful and extravagant legion of the out and proud. If you’re going to call me a freak, fine, but that’s Doctor Freak to you, and don’t you forget it!
Bigot Bulletin: Principal and Police Officer who harassed students at Oregon high school are both fired
For some background: Gay teen says she went to school resource officer after getting bullied — and he told her she’s going to hell. The “resource officer” is a local police officer assigned to the school supposedly for the purpose of protecting the students. But he wasn’t the only problem. The principal of the school punished gay kids who reported incidents of being harassed (including at least one incident where the principal’s son nearly ran two of the other kids down with his car while yelling anti-gay slurs). Teachers who tried to help the kids in varying ways were retaliated against by the Principal and the district Superintendent, and so on.
So the Oregon Department of Education sent in an investigator. The local officials admitted to several issues, including that they had forced the gay kids to read and recite passages from the Bible as part of their punishment. The ODE investigator issued a report finding that the actions of the officials probably constituted illegal discrimination under Oregon law as well as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of church and state. A final finding was pending, but the state ordered to school district to come to a settlement with the kids and their parents by the end of April. They didn’t.
During that time, many more former and current students came forward, with more incidents of anti-LGBT and racial discrimination. Meanwhile, the ACLU was pursuing a lawsuit against the district.
Monday things came to a head: ACLU OF OREGON REACHES SWEEPING SETTLEMENT WITH NORTH BEND SCHOOL DISTRICT OVER LGBTQ DISCRIMINATION AND BIBLE READING.
- Principal fired
- District dismisses Resource Officer and requests local police assign a new officer
- District will create a diversity committee (keep in mind that teachers already tried to set up a Gay-Straight Alliance and were stopped by the principal) which will hold celebrations for Coming Out Day and Ally Week and will issue an annual report on how the school is doing on issues of diversity, inclusion, et cetera
- District will hire an anti-discrimination expert to help them craft policies to appropriately respond to harassment and discrimination
- District will donate $1000 to a local queer support group
Additionally, as a result of the state investigation, the district will be under supervision of the state ODE for at least five years while all of this is monitored. The remaining bit of less than awesome news from my point of view on this is that even though the state’s investigation and the discovery process of the lawsuit found that the district Superintendent knew about all of this and committed some of the retaliation from teachers who tried to help the queer kids, he isn’t being fired. Maybe everyone assumes with the state breathing down his neck he’ll behave?
I get such a bee in my bonnet on these stories because of my own experiences being bullied as a kid. More than one teacher and administrator told my parents that until I acted like “the other boys” or “normal” there was nothing they could do to prevent the bullying incidents. Never mind that some of the worst bullying came from teachers. In middle school I was called “faggot” and “sissy” by four specific teachers far more often than most of the other kids. And then there was the time I was the one threatened with expulsion for being bullied again and again, unless I attending regular counseling sessions where, apparently, the counselor was trying to teach me to act like a normal boy.
A lot of people think that those kinds of days are behind us, but these incidents happening for the last several years at this school are merely one of many such cases. Fortunately, the ACLU keeps coming in to represent the students, and again and again the districts wind up paying big penalties for their discrimination, bigotry, and bullying. As Dan Savage has asked (many times) when will public school administrators get it through their thick heads?
And I agree with Dan on another thing. This story is a good reminder to go make a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon!
Let’s begin with the headline: This Gay Mormon Man Who Got Famous For Marrying A Straight Woman Is Getting Divorced. Quick sum-up, back in 2012 Josh Weed and his wife went public about the fact that he was gay, but that as devout Mormons they were choosing to be married. He claimed to be happy and fulfilled in this loving marriage with a woman, and by the way, he mentioned he was a therapist who was always happy to take on new patients.
He was quick to deny that he was pushing so-called ex-gay or conversion therapy. He was simply “helping those with sexual identity issues, unwanted sexual attractions and behaviors.” In interviews he insisted again and again that this wasn’t conversion therapy because he knew that no one could stop being homosexual. No, he was just helping people (“particularly young people”) struggling with this problem by “meeting them where they are and helping them find a solution that meets their needs.”
And specifically, he was holding himself up as an example of a gay man who could enter into a heterosexual marriage, never act on his same-sex attractions, while living a happy, fulfilled life that was congruent with his church’s belief that being gay was an abomination. Except, of course, he didn’t mention that abomination part.
To claim this wasn’t conversion therapy was to draw a distinction without a difference, at best. To do it while advertising one’s therapy services moves it squarely into the lying category.
“The couple is now apologizing to the LGBT community for how the “publicity of our supposedly successful marriage” has been “used to bully others.””
As part of the process of the downfall of the explicitly ex-gay conversion business (and it was always a business), there were a number of court cases (often parents of children sent off to this quack therapy now suing over the wrongful deaths of their children) where the practicioners were forced to admit under oath that at least 99.9 percent of the time no one was ever cured of being gay. Their previous claims about cure percentages was to count anyone who was able for a period of time to resist their feelings and put on a good front pretending to be happy while the refrained from acting on those feelings as a “cure.”
In other words, all the people doing it knew that it never worked.
Part of Josh’s and his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s apology now is to claim they are deeply saddened and ashamed that their story was used to bully other people. They write a supposedly heartfelt account of a person in his twenties coming home for Thanksgiving not long after the Weeds’ story first came about and being physically assaulted by his father because, “If Josh Weed can stop being gay, so can you!” And many many other horrible tales.
Here’s one of my problems taking this apology as sincere. This assault? Happened back in 2012. The young man who endured it wrote to them about in shortly after it happened. And he wasn’t the only queer person from a conservatively religious family who during the time the Weeds were in the headlines previously experienced something like this, went to Josh Weed’s website, and posted a comment years ago.
If Josh Weed was sincerely sorry about people supposedly misconstruing his allegedly not-homophobic story, he would have began issuing apologies and clarifications when the comments first turned up on the website. What he did instead, was to continue to insist in interview after interview in various publications throughout the years since that 1) he wasn’t providing conversion therapy himself, and 2) he didn’t think that him choosing to live in an opposite sex relationship implied that other people ought to do it.
That’s not my only problem with this. As part of their announcement and apology, they recount the epiphany that Josh had that his sexual orientation isn’t a “biological aberration” after all. Back in 2012 and in all those subsequent interviews, he constantly insisted that he didn’t think there was inherently anything wrong with being gay, he was just offering help to those who didn’t want to act on their desires. But now we clearly know that he and his wife (because while talking about the epiphany he also talks about all the conversations he had with his wife about it) believed all along that being queer was a biological aberration.
So in his apology he is tacitly admitting he was lying for all those years.
Listen, I used to be a self-loathing closet case. I spent most of my teens and twenties scared to death that people would find proof that I was the faggot that many of them called me all the time. I prayed and cried and pleaded with god during those teen years to make it go away. The Southern Baptist churches I was raised in are no more welcoming to queers than the Morman churches Weed grew up in. I understand how he got in that situation. I understand how the fear of being rejected by your family, your church, and everyone you know drives a closeted queer person to terrible rationalizations. I understand that when you’re in that situation, you are lying to yourself and trying to convince yourself to believe the lie even more than you are lying and selling the lie to everyone else.
And, yeah, I’m happy for him now that he’s finally realized that forcing himself to pretend to be happy and fulfilled in a marriage to someone with whom he wasn’t in love—a marriage in which his sexual and emotional needs weren’t being met—was actually harmful. And I’m happy that, unlike a lot of other ex-gays out there who came to their senses he’s actually gone public about it. And sure, it’s nice that he’s apologized for some of what he did.
But it isn’t enough. The current apology is just a variant on the old “if someone was offended” non-apology. He’s apologized that other people used his story to hurt queer family and friends, as if it’s just a completely unexpected side effect that he has only recently learned about. We know that he was contacted by a lot of the victims years ago. He knew. He knew and yet he used the impression people had that if he could pretend to be heterosexual than anyone can to advertise his own counseling services. And in those therapy sessions he told many patients all the things that he says now he’s realized weren’t true.
When people like Josh Weed tell their story of choosing not to act on their sexual orientation—when they actively seek out interviews and coverage in the religious press for their story—that lie he’s telling himself is weaponized by other people. It is used as an excuse by those people to bully their own queer children or any other queer people in their families and communities. It is used in far too many cases to bully those queer people to death. It is used as an excuse to throw queer and gender nonconforming children out on the street.
I’ve written before about my personal experience of having family members use the stories of people like Josh Weed as the justification to reject me, threaten me, and say I and my husband aren’t welcome. I don’t know a single queer person who hasn’t had someone browbeat them with stories like Josh Weed and other ex-gays.
I’m going to keep insisting that Josh was an ex-gay. It doesn’t matter that he rejected that label. The hair-splitting he was doing to justify the rejection was ludicrous. And I’m not going to accept this apology because it is incomplete. He wasn’t just deluding himself for those years, he was literally selling that lie to other people. And until he admits that he was doing that; until he admits that the weaponizing of his story wasn’t happening without his knowledge; until he admits that his denials about the nature of his counseling was wrong; until he admits his silence until very recently in the face of that weaponization was also wrong; he doesn’t have an ethical right to ask for forgiveness.
One of the things I love about tumblr is how easy they make it to share something cool, interesting, or informative you find on someone else’s tumblr blog with your followers, while maintaining a history of who all has shared it and where it was originally posted. Especially of someone says something that I’ve been thinking or trying to write a post about, but here is someone else’s words saying this thing I’ve been thinking for a while so well. And I know that now if I try to finish my own blog post, even if I try not to phrase things the same way as this other person, I’m going to repeat key phrases and so forth. So I’d much rather quote the whole thing, then add a few comments of my own.
Such as this interesting post from the blog the only living boy in new york:
The thing I hate about coming out is the way society expects it to go down.
When gay people come out, more often than not they are expected to almost have to beg for their families love, and if they receive it without having to, they are expected to be over the moon and rejoice and be thankful and think, “what loving family and friends I have”.
The way coming out should go down is the exact opposite.
Families and friends should almost have to beg for your love, and should most definitely be apologetic for the homophobic shit they most likely put you through whilst you were still in the closet. They should be like, “I’m sorry I was a bigoted prick all these years, I hope you can still love me and forgive me”.
The thing that bothered me the most when I came out was that my families reaction was just, “of course we have no problem, we love you no matter what”… when what I really wanted was an apology. An apology for having been ignored for years, an apology for having to sit though homophobia not only by them, but by my extended family and their friends. But what I got was, “of course it’s not a problem, now lets not talk about it again and lets not bring up all the horrible shit that we said to you openly or allowed to be said about gay people openly because we don’t want to feel bad”.
It bothers me so much to this day how much society loves to praise straight people for being so accepting of gay people but no one ever praises gay people for accepting and loving their families through the years despite all the homophobia.
—the only living boy in new york
While the beginning of the post focuses on coming out, that isn’t the only part of a queer person’s life this is limited to.
Yes, it is more than just annoying that people who spent years regurgitating anti-gay myths and homophobic stereotypes around us when we were closeted (and in many cases ridiculed us directly using homophobic slurs) act as if they are doing us a favor by being tolerant or accepting when we do come out. But the truth is that they are never as tolerant as they think they are. The homophobia becomes a bit more subtle. They use dogwhistles rather than bluntly bigoted language.
If we point out that something they said is unintentionally homophobic, we get accused of being too sensitive. If we point out that a politician they support advocates homophobic policies, or that a charity they support has actually contributed to the deaths of queer teens, we’re told that we’re overlooking all the good things because of one little bad thing. Never mind the queer people are denied needed healthcare, or lose their jobs or homes, and so forth. It’s not important.
And we’re supposed to be grateful?
The same people who accuse us of being too sensitive throw hissy fits because some businesses say “Happy Holidays” in their advertising rather than “Merry Christmas.” They’re the same people who tried to organize boycotts of businesses that chose to provide health care coverage to the partners and kids of their queer employees. They’re the same people who do call for boycotts if a movie and television show includes a queer character (usually supporting character who is given little screen time and is never shown with a same sex partner except in such ambiguous ways that the casual viewer will think it’s just a friend or a sibling).
And they expect us to explain why something is offensive, no matter how many times we’ve already explained it. Besides the fact that if they applied the teeniest tiniest bit of empathy they should be able to see it on their own. Heck, they get angry at us if we hold hands with our partner in front of them, and think it is horribly thoughtless of us not to realize they were uncomfortable, but don’t expect them to know they shouldn’t tell an AIDS joke in front of us!
And I don’t have an answer. Except to urge you, if you think that you are a supportive friend or co-worker or family member of a queer person, to stop and check yourself. If you start looking at your own words and actions from an outside perspective, you may be in for a sobering surprise.
I’ll give you a couple of suggestions for some ways to do this:
1. If you’ve ever said, “no offense!” to an LGBT+ acquaintence…
2. If you’ve ever said, “I’m not talking about you, of course, I’m talking about those bad people” or “Present company excepted”…
3. If you’ve ever dismissed anything as being politically correct…
4. If you’ve ever said, “I’m not homophobic, but…”
5. If you’ve ever noticed that your queer relative declines your social invitations again and again…
…you may not be nearly as accepting as you think you are.
A tumblr post recently came across my dashboard that summed up an issue I keep running into (often with folks who I consider friends). The original blog, feministpixie.tumblr.com, has been deleted, but the words are still true:
“Oh, so because I’m straight I’m not allowed to have an opinion on [insert LGBT issue here]”
I’m an english major. I know next to nothing about science, engineering, and astronomy. Sure, I think space is cool. I’m very supportive of NASA’s efforts. I might even have an opinion on where we should send the next shuttle or how much money we should spend on space travel.
But at the end of the day, my opinion on the matter is not valuable. I’m not going to enter into a discussion about the next shuttle launch with a bunch of trained scientists and expect them to take me seriously.
Sometimes, your opinion is not valuable. Sometimes, you aren’t qualified to enter a discussion.
And, lets be honest, straight people’s opinions are valued in literally every other situation. Hell, straight people get more awards for lgbt “activism” than queer people themselves.
If you really can’t accept that sometimes your voice isn’t the most important in the room, you might need to get over yourself.
Recently I’d re-tweeted something someone else retweeted in which a person commented about some “no homo” behavior he had observed in the real world with a comment about how fragile some people’s masculinity seemed to be. A friend jumped on the tweet to lecture me about how there were plenty of other reasonable explanations for the observed behavior, specifically saying the observation was the moral equivalent of an anti-gay slur.
I pointed out that the original observer was summarizing something he saw in a 140-character tweet, and might have left out a lot of other cues that he might have observed to deduce that the guys in question were homophobic. To which the friend replied, “That’s like gaydar, which is fun, but—” and then went on for a bit, concluding with the tired old chestnus, “I try to just mind my own business and not judge strangers in public.”
There are several things to unpack here:
- Gaydar isn’t merely a game. Gaydar isn’t accurate (though there is science to show that it is more often right than random guesses). And I’m sure to a straight person someone claiming to have gaydar is just about fun and giggles and guessing who might be part of the family. But that isn’t what gaydar is. Gaydar is an outgrowth of a survival mechanism. In a world where people are gay-bashed (sometimes to death), a queer person learns from a very early age to start looking for signs of who might be a friend, and who might be an enemy. Gaydar is just one manifestation of that.
- Therefore, keeping a wary eye for possible homophobes is not being judgmental. Again, as a queer person, I don’t have the luxury of minding my own business in public. I have never had that luxury. It isn’t just the bullies that beat me in school. It isn’t just the junior high coach who called me “faggot” all the time. It isn’t just the stranger on the street who shouted the word “faggot” and other things at me as I walked to work years ago. Gay bashing still happens. It isn’t just the occasional nutjob who goes on a mass shooting and kills 49 queer people in a single night. We never know when it might happen. So again, from an early age we look for warning signs, non-verbal cues, et cetera. We learn to avoid certain types of people, not because all of them are violent homophobes, but because some of them are and not being careful is risking more just getting our feelings hurt.
- It isn’t always about you. I get it, you’re not a violent homophobe. You may share some superficial characteristics or behaviors that a stranger might interpret the same way, but you would never attack someone. That’s good to know, but this isn’t about you. This is about our own safety and our experiences.
- Being thought of as possibly homophobic is not the equivalent of being gay bashed. I also understand that when you, a straight person, read about this sort of thing, you get your feelings hurt because you think that queer people who don’t know you might think you’re a homophobe because you act in a similar way. I’m sorry that your feelings are hurt, but your fear of being judged doesn’t balance out against our very real fear of being attacked. You’re not going to have to go to an emergency room to get stitches in your feelings. Your loved ones won’t be going to a funeral for your feelings. We, on the other hand, very well might get beaten or worse if we just mind our business and be ourselves around the wrong person.
I hate the fact that I still have to check myself constantly. I hate the fact that I can’t just be in the moment when I’m out in public, especially with my husband. I hate the fact that I have to keep an eye out for how strangers around me are acting. I hate the fact that I always do a quick assessment of our surroundings when I’m in public with my husband and one of us calls the other “honey.” I desperately yearn to live in a world where I can just mind my own business and not pay attention to how other people talk or act or what their facial expression is when they look at me, et cetera.
Believe me, I really wish that I could just mind my business.
But I can’t. Instead of getting upset because someone might misinterpret some of your behavior and be careful around you, be thankful that you don’t live in that same fear.
Stop straightsplaining. We really do understand homophobia far better than you ever could. That’s just a fact.