GUEST COLUMN: LGBTQ people and Christians are not enemies
LGBTQ people and Christians are often framed as complete opposites.
We’ve seen this in debates around same-gender marriage discrimination laws and Karen Pence’s recent choice to teach at an anti-LGBTQ Christian school.
A recent Central Michigan Life guest columnist framed some Americans’ disappointment in the Second Lady’s choice as anti-Christian bigotry pushing “LGBTQ dogma” (a phrase eerily reminiscent of the “homosexual agenda.")
The columnist argued that Christianity is under attack based off media coverage of the March for Life, the Covington Catholic High School boys and the Second Lady's aforementioned decision. The columnist ended with a plea to return to the "Judeo-Christian principles" our country was purportedly founded on.
While there are certainly media personalities, and ordinary individuals, who treat Christians unfairly, I do not agree that the media coverage mentioned by the columnist demonstrates an attack. I would also disagree that Christianity is under attack in our country. Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study of more than 35,000 Americans found that Christians made up 70.6 percent of our population in 2015. American Christians do not generally experience routine or systemic discrimination, but it's still perfectly legal for Michigan employers to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Rather than respond to the column, I want to focus on one specific idea: the implication that Christians and LGBTQ people are inherently at odds.
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"There was an uproar in the media because the Christian school does not accept the LGBTQ dogma from the employees or the students," the columnist wrote.
As a bisexual trans man who grew up in conservative evangelical homeschooling subculture, the column’s language and its implications felt painfully familiar — and I do mean painfully.
Only recently have I begun to unravel the trauma left from my religious upbringing and the damaging words from even loving Christians with good intentions — including the deep, lasting impact of being framed as an enemy to my own God and religion.
I grew up with the explicit and implicit message that LGBTQ people were one of Christians’ biggest enemies, even that our fight for rights was a sign of the end times. Yes, it was frequently cloaked in the language of “love” — but the disgust was painfully palpable. I still sometimes hear those voices as a violent underbelly in my life: "You're absolutely disgusting."
After all, why shouldn’t Christians feel disgusted by us? It makes perfect sense, if our fight for rights is so anti-Christian.
Still, I wanted to be a good Christian. I followed the first, greatest commandment: I loved God with all my heart, soul and mind.
But when I first realized I was queer, I thought I was evil — even that I had demons. I felt like I was anti-God, no matter how much I sang in worship, read my Bible and prayed. Countless times I pleaded for God to take away my queerness.
This tears a person apart more than words can say. All I wanted at that point was to die, but dying meant God would send me to Hell.
All the while, many surrounding Christians who spread anti-LGBTQ bigotry proclaimed they “loved” LGBTQ people. This distorted my sense of love. It shattered my sense of reality and my ability to trust and value myself.
Some Christian reconstructionists in my homeschooling community even advocated the death penalty for gay people; those who advocated divine murder fit in better and were seen as more moral than myself.
Then there was my church's youth group, where most of the homophobia wasn’t as explicitly hateful — there, homophobia might take the form of equating trusting gay relationships with adultery as similar “sexual sins.”
This all builds up. Gay men who've never experienced a major traumatic incident often experience PTSD symptoms from a lifetime of mini-traumas building up, according to Alex Keuroghlian, a psychiatrist who studies LGBTQ health.
I can guarantee there are LGBTQ children in Karen Pence's school experiencing those traumas.
I think about those children, and I see the child I once was. I see the child who spent every day wishing he could only die without having to be tormented for all eternity by the God who supposedly loved him. I want to give that child a hug, tell him he's beautiful just as he is and tell him true love is never violent.
LGBTQ youth are growing up in conservative Christian churches and schools. Existing as who we are is not antithetical to Christianity. Many individuals far more qualified than myself have written well-advised scholarship on how we've misunderstood the anti-LGBTQ “clobber passages.”
We LGBTQ people do not have a “dogma,” other than to have our loves and our lives respected just the same as anyone else.
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, and it taught me “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Hate crimes wouldn't happen if there weren't people spreading toxic stereotypes. Painting LGBTQ people’s desire for human respect as anti-Christian is fundamentally dehumanizing. It feeds a long-running machine forged with prejudice and fear of the other.
I am LGBTQ. I am a skeptic rediscovering my spiritual side. I love so much of Christianity and the Bible.
I have no prejudice toward a Christian so long as she has no prejudice toward me.