Posted by: minnow | April 28, 2016

Love Never Looks Like Hate

Recently the mom’s (of LGBT-identifying children) group I belong to via FB asked us to share our “coming out” stories.  Initially, I didn’t think I had a “coming out story”, at least not one worth telling. But later, I posted a slightly different version of the following because, while not earth shattering, we did “come out”, out from under an unhealthy mindset that let religion hijack our faith.

My son came out to us when he was 18. My husband “came out” to his men’s prayer group soon after and inadvertently “outed” our son to our church “family”.  Despite a prayer room rule that what is shared in the prayer room stays in the prayer room church leadership (who did not attend the men’s prayer group) were “notified”.  My son was told he was no longer welcome in the church youth group until he repented of being gay. (This was before he’d had any physical same-sex relationship, mind you).  Obviously my son felt betrayed.  It drove a wedge between my husband and son which, five years later, is still healing.  Since I and one older brother had already stopped attending that fellowship, I didn’t think too much about the fact that my youngest son suddenly quit going.  Had I known the full situation sooner I would like to think I would have confronted them but since I had not fully found my footing I don’t honestly now what I would have done. In this past year, I have written each of the current pastors (3).
Beyond this church fellowship, I have had no family or friend talk to me directly about my son “being gay”.  I am separated from my husband so his side of the family and I don’t talk.  And, my side of the family doesn’t ask personal questions so I don’t honestly know how most of them feel.  The few friends I have either don’t care, don’t need me to see it their way, or know I wouldn’t and don’t want to get an ear full. I freely share on Facebook so the “friends” I have via FB know as much as anyone.  Finally, I have mentioned casually to most of my students that I have a gay son. I wanted anyone who needed a safe place to know there was one–in school–especially since I live in a very conservative corner of a pretty conservative state.
Honestly, I have had it easy by my group’s standards.  I was already climbing out from under religious oppression when my son told us he is gay. By God’s grace, I was never so far under religion’s thumb that I would have considered my son to be anything but who he is. I accepted him immediately; there wasn’t anything not to accept. My son, however, was wrecked with guilt and self-loathing.  He had been under the church thumb much more intensely than I had been and I am convinced had I not “gone before him” he might easily have told us he was gay in a suicide note, afraid that like the Church we would reject him.
When religion causes a child the kind of pain it caused my child–THAT religion is evil. Our children and our world deserve better.  And the God we claim to believe in, the God we tell the world we serve, the Christ we say is our role model, deserves better as well.  I will never be convinced “God’s ways” look anything like the fearful, judgmental, character assassinations people like James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Michael Brown, and Kevin Swanson spew forth while others make excuses and repeat the mantra: “God’s ways are not our ways”.
I have told my story, my son’s story, in other posts. I do so now because once again people in the LGBT community are the targets of discrimination in the name of religion–most recently with a we-need-to-keep-our-women-and-children-safe twist. The right to discriminate laws passed by NC and elsewhere are indefensable.  And Christians, who truly believe in a God of love should be standing with their transgender brothers and sisters not against them.
Statistics do not support the claims by the religious right and their GOP puppets that women and children are at risk when transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom of their choosing. IN FACT, a well-traveled public restroom is a notoriously bad place for a would-be attacker to hang out unless he hopes to be caught. IN FACT: women and children are at greater risk of being assaulted or sexually abused in their own homes than any other single place. According to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, 93 % of child sexual assault victims know their assailant. 34.2 percent are family members.  IN FACT: in states where transgender individuals are free to choose which restroom to use there have been no verifiable cases of a bathroom assault by a transgender individual or person pretending to be transgender.
On the other hand, crimes against transgender people paint a dismal picture.  Transgender people are at a greater risk of assault and rape than any other single group of people.  According to the Office for Victims of Crime in Washington DC, a conservative 50% of transgender people experience sexual assault in their lifetime. This figure increases to 66% when talking about people of color.  Hate crime statistics release from the FBI indicated that such crimes perpetrated against transgender individuals tripled from 31 to 98 between 2013 and 2014.  Of the 53 transgender people murdered from 2013 to 2015, not a single case has been prosecuted.  When you consider the fact that transgender people make up only .3 % of the US population these numbers are alarming.
I have no desire to minimize the damage done or the trauma experienced from sexual assault and rape. However, laws like North Carolina’s HB2 will do more to allow such crimes than to stop them.  Harming innocent people never solves a problem. We must be willing to “out” the fear and ignorance behind these kinds of laws. For God’s sake, don’t let hate win this debate.  True love never looks like hate.

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