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Archive for the ‘homophobia’ Category

Over at Facebook I have many different types of friends (like 2200 friends) and of course they have friends who represent many perspectives. Today on a friend’s wall posting about wearing purple in support of LGBT youth two straight folks raised objectives revealing that they felt “bullied” into showing support of gay kids. In frustration one of them said, “We need to have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.” The other agreedMr. & Mrs. Salt & Pepper.

Now I know a lot of straight people. Some of my best friends are heterosexual. In fact, I come from a distinctly heterosexual family that I love. I know that some straight folks feel put upon by all of the recent news about gay. lesbian and transgender suicides and bullying. “Why do we have to hear about THEM all the time?” Hmmmm. Welcome to my world where I constantly have to go out of my way to hear about anything other than straight lives.

Lately I have been thinking of the subtle powerful force of heterosexism, like high blood pressure, I consider it the “silent killer” insistent and constant in its messaging that heterosexuality is NORMAL, the idealized norm, what everyone is expected to be, an identity that is celebrated, rewarded and represented to the exclusion of all others.

Like a low-grade fever or undetected high blood pressure, non-straight, non-gender normative people live with a steady barrage of pro-heterosexual messages mixed in with anti-LGBT messages. Even in US states where they offer “gay marriage” everyone knows it is not the same as a straight marriage because of the federal protections granted to heterosexual couples and denied to all others. But beyond the legal protections or lack of protections in the household, on the job and elsewhere, we get a deluge of pro-straight messages in pop songs, commercials, movies, religious ceremonies, proms–shoot even salt and pepper shakers! I know that there is a growing movement to include LGBT lives and voices in the media and on the agenda of the board of education, but it’s spotty at best and is often drowned out by the heterosexism that exists in almost every encounter silly and sublime.

Here’s an example of straight pride & privilege.

Marueen says, “My husband Bill & I got together w/ our two daughters & their husbands to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and Cindy & Todd’s first baby. At church the pastor said a blessing over the family & we recommitted our vows.”

And everyone says, “Oh, that is so nice.” And it is and there are gifts and cards and photos and public sharing on Facebook and beyond revealing pride and affirmation and celebration of Bill & Maureen’s successful heterosexuality.

Of course most don’t think of Maureen & Bill expressing “Heterosexual Pride.”

It’s just “normal.”

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This week will mark six years since the premiere of my play, Doin’ time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and the begining of LGBTQ activism that has shaped, challenged and aided me in my own recovery from the Ex-Gay Movement and a life of rotting under the weight of homophobia and heterosexism.

How lovely to walk in the light, to be a peace within myself about who I am and how I am wired, to get beyond the crime of trying to fit in to please other people in the name of God.

Thank God I am gay. What a gift to be given! I once would have sold my soul to be straight. How I begged God to fix me or at least to collude with me to reject a part of me. It proved unecessary. No need for all that violence against myself. I am a man who desires men and who presents in what some say is in a feminine fashion. This is not only normal for me, and many others, but a most excellent way to be wired.

Today as I prepare for my play about transgender Bible characters I experience joy and gratitude.

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Dave Rattigan at Ex-Gay Watch has been blogging about a hate crime attack on one of his neighbors. He reports the sad news of Michael Causer’s death and encourages people to visit the Facebook group set up about Michael,

A gay teenager has died, just one week after he was brutally beaten in a homophobic attack.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Causer of Whiston, near Liverpool, England, died in hospital on Saturday August 2 at 12.30pm. He had been attacked by other youths while walking with friends in nearby Huyton, some time before 11am on Friday July 25. It was a busy road and it was broad daylight.

Emergency brain surgery the following day could not save him.

Michael lived just a couple streets away from me. He had many friends and family around here. Many of them are now part of a Facebook group dedicated to his memory. Please drop by and read some of the beautiful messages of support. Join the group and offer your own support if you can.

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Gay Eighth Grader Fatally Shot

Many of you know about this awful incident. I’ve been too sick about it to write up a blog post. But it comes as a stark reminder that we have work to do.

I will copy and paste what Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin wrote:

Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student at at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California was shot at least twice in the head by another classmate last Tuesday. Fellow students say that King was gay and was often taunted by fellow students.

King was rushed to St. John’s Regional Medical Center, where he was initially listed in critical condition. By the end of the day, his condition was reportedly improving. But today we learn that he has been declared brain dead by two neurosurgeons at the hospital on Wednesday at 2 pm. He is being kept on life support so his organs can be harvested for transplant.

Police said the 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot King at the start of the school day and fled the campus. He was arrested by police a few blocks away. Today, prosecutors charged him with premeditated murder, with a special allegation of using a firearm in the commission of a hate crime. Once King is removed from life support, prosecutors have indicated they will try McInerney as an adult.

Lawrence’s father described his son as “headstrong, confident, artistic and sweet“:

Larry King loved to sing songs by folk rock trio Crosby, Stills and Nash, and was studying “The Star-Spangled Banner” in hopes of singing it at his younger brother’s baseball games, his father said. “He had a very gifted singing voice.”

…He also enjoyed using licorice sticks to catch crawdads at Bubbling Springs Park in Port Hueneme, where his family would go for his younger brother’s baseball games.

You can read some of Jim’s commentary in his post.

You can also read John Ireland’s commentary at Gay.com.

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Like many people raised in the USA, particularly with an Evangelical church background, I always thought of Sweden as a place where gays and lesbians were freely accepted by a society that had done its work to embrace all of its citizens. And really it is an amazing place with progressive laws for many of its citizens. But anti-gay sentiments can still run deep regardless of laws. Anti-gay messages still get into the public’s minds through preachers, neo-Nazis and just plain ignorance.

In September when I visited Sweden for the first time, I felt shocked to hear about homophobic attacks in major cities like Stockholm and that most offices of the RFSL (the national LGBT organization) could not put signs up in front of their offices and meeting places because of anti-gay vandalism. At that time I also learned about people who felt compelled to live double-lives in order to find acceptance within their families, communities and churches.

In regards to the ex-gay movement, many Swedes told me that nothing like this happens in their country. That pleased me to hear, but I had my doubts. Sometimes ex-gay ministry happens under the radar through independent churches where youth ministers and pastors, influenced by US doctrines, engage in practices that most of the public never hear about.

During my most recent trip I heard from a teen who attends a charismatic church in the Stockholm area. At a gathering this month of teens they had a special speaker, a woman who says God delivered her from homosexuality. She used to be a lesbian, but not anymore, well not so much. She did go onto to say that she doesn’t really enjoy kissing men so much and still has some struggles. (Alex heard the same account, so perhaps he can add more details if I got them wrong or if there is more to add)

Who knows why the church chose this speaker? Perhaps one of the young women among them showed signs of lesbianism (what exactly are the signs anyway?) The organizer’s message came through loud and clear though that the “lesbian lifestyle” was not within God’s perfect plan and therefore the faithful must resist, repent, reform. I sense from the teen telling me the story though that most (but perhaps not all) of them saw through the ruse.

But what other messages do they transmit to these young people in Stockholm? If being lesbian is out of God’s perfect plan, then what does that make lesbians and gays? Sinners? Enemies of God? Enemies of society? Evil?

Where does violence against gays and lesbians and transgender people arise? I find it curious that Neo-Nazis and certain types of heterosexual Christians spend so much time attacking lesbians and gays. They use different weapons, but to me their hatred and intolerance comes from the same spirit. A spirit that proclaims, You are wrong, sick, flawed, a threat, and therefore you must be dealt with in this life or the next.

Alex sent me a link to an article about a horrific attack on a lesbian at the offices of the RFSL in Stockholm this week. It reminds me of a similar attack that took place near Boston not too long ago.

A woman thought to be in her forties was struck in the head with an axe in central Stockholm on Monday afternoon.

The attack took place at the offices of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) on Sveavägen just after 3.30pm.

Police arrested a man around fifteen minutes later in connection with the incident. He was still carrying the axe when he was apprehended.

RFSL chairman Sören Andersson has confirmed that woman was an employee of the organization. He is in no doubt that the crime was motivated by hatred.

“It’s obvious that this can’t be anything other than a hate crime directed at our organization,” he said.

“This clearly shows that the work done to counteract hate crimes has not been sufficient. More needs to be done. It is dreadful, really dreadful, when staff cannot feel safe at work,” he added.

The woman has been taken to hospital where the seriousness of her injuries is not yet known.

The former lesbian speaking to a youth group and a man attacking a lesbian in the same city are unrelated. But are they really? If you inform young people that it is wrong to be gay, outside of God’s will, even a threat to society like many anti-gay ministers proclaim, isn’t it possible that the result would be that someone reacts by hurling anti-gay slurs, vandalizing LGBT centers, or by physically attacking lesbians, gay couples or trans people?

How responsible are we for the words we speak, the messages we transmit? What happens when ex-gay leader teaches that gays are outside of God’s perfect plan while at the same time the same leader insists that he takes a public stand against homophobia? Can’t they see how they contribute to homophobia and operate under the same umbrella as people who violently hate gays?

Sticks and stone may break your bones, but words, well, they often the fuel the violence.

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People so often ask all the wrong questions. The press has been doing this for years in regards to ex-gay programs.

They display bold headlines, Is Change Possible? Exodus leaders and other Christian spokesmen assert that YES it is possible, while gay activists counter NO it is not possible. And so it goes round and round.

People ask the wrong questions. Few ask, What does this change look like that is supposedly possible? I have spoken with leaders at Exodus in the US and others in South America and Europe. Over and over I hear from them that they understand people with same-sex attractions will most likely have these attractions for the rest of their lives. In many perhaps (most cases?), they will not develop attractions for the opposite sex.

I remember how disappointed I felt when I first heard this at Love in Action, where I attended for two years. I spent 15 years trying to become a new creature in Christ Jesus to then show up in what had long been considered the Cadillac of Ex-Gay Ministries only to find that such a change was not a realistic goal.

So the change is not in orientation but in behavior and identity. Perhaps a tiny percentage insist they shifted in their orientation, which of course is something we have to just take at their word.

When looking at most Exodus testimonies, we hear stories of people who lived as sexually addicted, miserable, lonely, faithless, confused people (who also overindulged in drug and alcohol abuse, illegal activities and unprotected sex). They found Jesus and the church, and they changed their lives.

They became celibate, began to develop healthy relationships, changed their lifestyle–not to a straight one, but to one far less reckless and destructive than their previous life.

This is not exclusive to people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual. Lots of straight people, (in fact many more than gay folks), pursue irresponsible, reckless, self-destructive lives, and they would do well to change. Most likely they will be happier, healthier and feel closer to God and others once they do (they may find themselves with more money in their pockets too. Decadence is pricey.) So yeah, that sort of change is possible and can be sought after if needed, but one does not need an ex-gay program to do this.

In fact, I believe that over time attending most ex-gay programs prove harmful for most gay people. In many ex-gay programs (and conservative churches) the leaders teach that many of clients’ problems stem from being gay and that even without the reckless lifestyle, they have to daily reject a part of who they are and deny themselves love in the way that makes the most sense and is most authentic to them. These ex-gays will almost always be at war within themselves, a war not sanctioned by the Bible but one declared by the world around them.

Which brings me to the two major questions I rarely hear the press ask or asked by people considering going into an ex-gay program.

Why is change necessary and at what cost?

Sure we can choose to no longer identify as gay. We can deny ourselves relationships with LGBT people. We can even marry someone of the opposite sex and have children. This is no great miracle. Men and women have done this for centuries with and without the help of Jesus.

Why is it necessary to change? Mostly because life would be easier for many of us. Parents would treat us better. Society would gift us with privileges and affirmation. We can feel normal for a change, for a time.

But at what cost? This is one thing that the ex-gay programs never ask. They never follow up to see what happens to people after they have been through programs. They only stay in touch with their successes, who typically have to be quiet about many of their internal struggles.

The ex-gay leaders do not meet the people Christine and I meet through BeyondExGay or the people who pull me aside after one of my talks or shows. The costs of putting ourselves through ex-gay experiences are very very high. In many cases depression, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal tendencies, discouragement and loss of faith all regularly occur for many who have been through ex-gay experiences.

At bXg we say if someone is happy as an ex-gay, that is fine. But such a life was not possible or healthy for us. Also, such a life is not necessary.

Is change possible? Yes, our societies and churches and families and laws can change so that people who are romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same-sex can be fully accepted and affirmed and celebrated just like heterosexuals. This change takes work and love and listening and painful realization, but well worth the effort.

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When I lived in New York City, I attended Time Square Church. Like our friend, Marvin Bloom, I went to church every time the doors opened–Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Tuesday night prayer meeting, Thursday night Bible study, Friday night praise and worship step aerobic class (okay, I made that last one up).

The senior pastor, David Wilkerson, preached most Sundays either morning or evening with a message filled with dire warnings if we as individuals and a nation did not turn to God. For nearly five years I sat under his teaching, and the teachings of the other pastors, in my pursuit of holiness and nearness to God.

My personal struggle with my same-sex attractions kept me close to the front and in the choir, often at the altar for prayer and always looking for answers.

David Wilkerson has traveled widely in the world. Just today I spoke with a woman here in Sweden who heard him speak back in the late 60’s when he spoke to nearly a thousand young people in Stockholm. She said it was the first time many of them had ever heard the word homosexual (homosexuell).

He preached a lot about homosexuality, well, particularly against it. He warned that like ancient Rome, the US along with post-Christian Europe would collapse under the weight of its wickedness. And in saying that I always felt the weight of my own.

Here is a sample from a dramatic sermon (they always are) by Wilkerson given at Time Square Church in 2005.

Hell was spilling out, and Roman society had become one vast orgy. Homosexuality was a respected lifestyle, preferred among the intelligentsia. The entire culture was immersed in materialism, with the rampant pursuit of money, fame and pleasure.

snip

We are living in those last, terrifying days right now, and the signs are everywhere. Europe is becoming wholly pagan, with the institution of marriage being rejected, partners living together and family values vanishing altogether. In Sweden, 30 percent of the population lives together unmarried.

Here in New York State, we’re seeing a “great falling away” of the kind Scripture predicts. Some 410 pastors have enlisted for a homosexual agenda called “Pride in My Pulpit,” in which they hang signs in their churches bearing this motto. The message is, “We’re proud of the homosexual community, and we endorse it.” The numbers of these pastors are growing.

Well, you get the point. Week after week, I heard that message from the pulpit and used that message to help drive me to Jesus, to prayer, to the Bible and nearly to insanity and worse. I even spoke to a minister at the church about my struggle. To my shock he told me that he too had a similar struggle. He warned that it is a spiritual battle, one where I needed to bind the devil, do spiritual warfare and drive out the evil spirits in my life.

Eventually I left the church to go to a smaller house church in Yonkers, NY and then to the mission field in Zambia. When I finally returned to the Northeast of the US, openly gay and integrating my faith with my sexuality, I talked to a Time Square Friend about that minister who had counseled me back in my time at the church.

“Oh, didn’t you hear?” he replied, “Brother _______, moved back to _____ . Soon after he returned home, he killed himself! So awful. And such a man of God. No one knows why he would do such a thing.”

Sadly, I think I know why, knowing the weight of wickedness he sat under, wickedness heaped on him every Sunday. Perhaps it eventually crushed him.

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