Religion occupies a complicated space within the LGBTQ+ community. It has often been the source of much persecution and discrimination. Even though there's supposed to be a separation of church and state, politicians have been able to use their religious beliefs to prevent marriage equality.
Thankfully, we've won that battle. However, with the recent news about the Supreme Court's desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, the prospect of the same happening to marriage equality doesn't seem out of the question. It seems especially probable when you consider the alarming religious bigotry coming from those who support the conservative majority in the Supreme Court.
As a community, we've become quite jaded when it comes to large corporations and their Pride merch. We've begun to take the significance of seeing rainbow shirts at Target for granted. While it might not seem like a big deal anymore, it certainly is to some people in the country.
It's a big deal to a closeted teenager who comes from a strictly religious family. Religion has a way of brainwashing the youth and inflicting self-hatred upon them. To most people, religious bigotry has a very specific image. That image being of angry protesters chanting slurs while holding hateful signs. Your typical Westboro Baptist Church type.
However, that isn't the only way religious bigotry shows itself. It can show itself with a more gentle tone and approach. And just because it has a sweet tone, it doesn't mean the message being spouted is any less damaging. It's just being pushed in a less aggressive way. Don't allow someone to gaslight you because they litter their harmful message with words like "love."
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which manipulation plays a very big part. The abuser attempts to control their victim by causing them to question their reality. According to The Newport Institute, abusers who try to "smooth things over with loving words that don’t match their actions" is one example.
I believe that gaslighting is a very big part of this type of religious bigotry. I believe young people are particularly falling victim to this kind of abuse.
These people claim to "love" us. Yet, they claim being gay is a sin in the same breath. They also ask us to come to their church and be "transformed."
They wonder with such perplexity as to how we could ever be offended by such statements. After all, they're not holding a hateful sign. They're not yelling. They're not calling us slurs. They're saying the word "love." So that automatically makes them exempt from criticism, right?
Real love doesn't involve condemning an aspect of someone's identity. A person's sexuality isn't the same as someone's political beliefs. If you disagree with someone about the economy, you're not condemning an aspect of their identity. When you claim to disagree with someone's sexuality, you are absolutely condemning an aspect of their identity.
Not to mention the fact that our sexuality isn't theirs to "disagree" with.
Real love doesn't involve asking someone to come to your church and be "transformed." They want to "transform" us in what they consider to be God's image.
This involves speaking for God, an entity none of us have ever met nor consulted on these issues. To so boldly speak for another being, particularly the Creator of the universe, doesn't sound like love either. Rather, it sounds like self projection.
I believe that if one truly loved God and His people, they wouldn't believe a person's sexuality is a sin. I think they would trust God's process in creating people who are wired to love other humans, regardless of the gender of those humans.
But that's not how these people think. Instead, they claim not to support us if we "choose" to live that way, despite still "loving" us.
Sexual orientation isn't a choice. Believe me, as a gay man, I know this firsthand. So what exactly should we choose to do? Should we live a celibate life? Should we try to become straight and marry someone of the opposite sex? It sounds to me like these people would prefer one or some combination of those things.
That doesn't sound like believing in and loving God to me. That sounds like using God as a shield for one's own bigotry. How is encouraging someone to go against their nature a way of honoring God? I don't believe such a God exists. The God I believe in is truly loving and doesn't make mistakes in His creative process.
Religious people who claim not to hate the LGBTQ+ community sound incredibly passive-aggressive when following it up with claims that our very identity is a sin. Perhaps these people are filled with hate and are knowingly attempting to conceal it. Perhaps they have been brainwashed themselves.
I don't believe religion is bad in general. I do, however, believe that religion can bring out the worst in some people. What we need to remember is that the harmful aspects of religious people doesn't always show itself in the most obvious ways.
It's especially important for young people from bigoted religious families to be aware of that. It's important for them to know that they're not crazy. There's nothing wrong with them. They are right to feel that their family doesn't accept them for who they are. Perhaps they will eventually come around, perhaps not. But they should know that there is a whole community of other people who do.
There are people who will love them and be there for them. They won't come away from discussions feeling like their self-worth just took a beating. They will feel at home. They will feel seen and heard. They will feel the love God always intended for them to feel.