In trying to write about anti-bullying legislation a few years ago, I came across the difficulty of trying to determine what constitutes freedom of speech – respect for religious liberty included therein. This seemed pretty obvious to me: Don’t use your religion to make other people feel like shit about themselves.
But apparently this idea is a little too evolved for some.
All that some straight Christians really want is to be able to tell the gays how much they love them – even if they’re going to hell.
I follow NOM on Facebook, and I’ll be upfront with you: Sometimes when I read through the comments that people leave, it takes me back to a dangerous place. While a lot of people are happy to ignore NOM, and probably with good reason, I have a hard time doing so. Not because I think that NOM is a reputable organization that should be listened to and respected or that I think that our country is headed down that road. I think NOM is becoming an increasingly fringe organization, and though they try their best to make the general population fear the gays, truth is outing.
I don’t follow NOM because I need their approval or because I want to win arguments in the comments section of news stories.
I follow NOM because I care about all sorts of different people and perspectives. When we write people off, I think we lose something of our humanity. When we talk in terms of “us” and “them”, when we make people who look, act or think differently “the other”, we head in a dangerous direction.
Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Of course that doesn’t mean I always like what I read. My heart breaks on a daily basis when I see some of the things that people write on NOM’s Facebook page, counseling homosexuals to seek “therapy”, reducing homosexuality to a cesspool of STIs, hookups and debauchery and then mocking LGB people for making things “always about them” when we’re not the ones who have founded a national organization to deny someone else the right to marry the person their heart desires.
Before I get too far off track here, let me try to bring it back.
Freedom of speech is a sacred right. Simple as that.
Just as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are also innate, human rights. If your “freedom of speech” is coming at the expense of others’ misery, then there’s something amiss here. I happen to feel very strongly about this because I both care passionately about religious liberty and the right of every single human being to live in a respectful society where we can treat one another with civility and decency even if we’re very different people.
What does that mean? That means that no one should go to a school where administrators and teachers get to propagate lies about your identity. No one should have to worry about whether or not they can mention their significant other in the workplace for fear of getting fired.
Freedom of speech is your right. Making people miserable to the point of wanting to kill themselves, however, is not. Firing someone because of their significant other is discrimination.
I don’t go around every day demanding other people’s validation. I don’t have a questionnaire for people to fill out before I consider them my friends with a list of questions about their thoughts on my orientation and gender presentation. It doesn’t affect me. I’ve had people anger, even just recently when someone I work with refused to acknowledge that I even have a boyfriend, instead referring to him as “your friend”. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. They were only words, words to which you are perfectly entitled. No one can make a law to stop you from being an ass-hole. (How about a USA cheer for that one?)
You know, as a Christian, as someone who has read the Bible cover-to-cover more than once in his life, who knows that the Bible talks a fair bit about love and the downtrodden and the outcast and oppressed, I’m always astonished that there are so many people in the world who think that this love has something to do with making people who are already marginalized feel even more oppressed.
If you don’t approve of my life, that’s fine. But why do you feel the need to have some sort of special privilege to let me know that by discriminating against my relationship? By discriminating against my gender presentation?
Of course, there is some folly involved in trying to deal with discriminatory beliefs. Can you imagine if MLK had gone around the South back in the 60s telling the KKK that he thought it was cool that they didn’t like black people, just please would you mind not bombing our churches?
I make no apologies for myself or my gender or the guy I’m so lucky to have in my life. And there’s no ambiguity about my goals: A society in which everyone is free to comport themselves in such a way that they don’t need to fear attacks for the people they love or for the way they choose to present their gender identity. And more than simple “tolerance” but instead a broader celebration of all of our sexuality. A friend of mine who runs an awesome blog that I helped name sent me a video this week of a sermon by Gene Robinson, who really hit the nail on the head, I think, when he talked about there being as many sexualities in the world as there are people. Freeing transgender, lesbian, bi, and gay people to express themselves and live their lives without reproach frees straight people to express their own sexuality and gender without fear of the labels that might be thrown at them.
I’d simply like to end by saying that as easy as it is to get discouraged by the number of hateful people who wish to force their views on the rest of us and create their own sort of Middle Ages theocracy, I am equally encouraged by others who make me believe in a brighter future and help me to believe I see the face of God sometimes in their words, their actions, their conviction.
As a friend told me recently, the fact that I come from such a conservative background and that in my coming out process and that in the last 5 years since then I’ve had such a normal life in relation to my family speaks to hope for us, not just as LGBT people, but as people period. Any time we can look beyond the superficial differences and notice that we’re really still not so different, we’re winning a victory for ourselves and for our future.