This is a response to two articles that were printed in The Cascade, UFV’s student newspaper. The articles in question are, “The problem of tolerance: Are we strong enough to disagree (and keep talking)?” by Sean Evans and “Unlikely as a double rainbow: UCM and Pride co-host forum” by Paul Esau. I believe that media should have the right to print stories without the fear of censorship and yet should also be able to be questioned and called out for journalism that is discriminatory and excluding to some members of their student body.
The articles I have pointed out were steeped in homophobic beliefs that still try to put sexuality on a moral versus immoral binary; they denied historical events and policies that have been discriminatory and restricted human rights; and they use offensive and belittling language to silence and deny the voice of those that they attack. In the interest of time and space, I have organized my response into four main points: history, morality, silencing and current implications.
The article makes reference to “a long and public history of antagonism” (Esau 2012), I do not believe that the relationship between the queer community and Christianity has been that of mutual antagonism, but instead one of control, repression and persecution. This does not mean that every Christian has participated in this; however, Christianity as an institution in society has behaved this way. In 1977, fundamental Christian and worship leader Anita Bryant launched the “Save our Children” campaign. This was in direct response to anti-discrimination laws that protected individuals’ jobs despite sexual orientation. Her very public and offensive campaign pitted her against human rights activist, Harvey Milk. Bryant preached that homosexuals “recruited children” (and thus accused homosexuals of also being pedophiles) and that God was calling the nation’s Christians to protect values over people.
Members of the LGBT community have been subject to lynch mobs, physical violence, public discrimination, social exclusion and bullying all because of the fact that they are not heterosexual. This is not antagonism; this is abuse and a violation of human rights. As offensive as it would be to refer to the struggle for civil rights in the United States as “public antagonism,” so is referring to queer rights in this way.
The foundation of anti-queer sentiments is founded on ideas about morality. Many Christians believe that homosexuality is sexual immorality and thus subject to judgment and condemnation. Regardless of the few verses that call homosexuality sin, the rest of the Bible, and the life of Jesus himself, is ignored. Jesus not only “spent all his time with people he didn’t agree with” (Esau 2012), but preached that all sin is the same, and that not one of us is without sin. This would make the morality debate obsolete since all sin is then arbitrary and committed by everyone.
A very famous Bible verse, Matthew 19:19, says: “Honour your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Another famous quote, Luke 6:31, says: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Both of these verses seem to be saying essentially the same thing. Treat others in the way you would want to be treated, and to give them the same respect, love and grace that you would want. Who wants to be judged because of any behavior? Who wants to be excluded? Who wants to feel ashamed, embarrassed and confused about a crucial part of their identity? Who wants to constantly have to justify themselves to strangers, family, friends, co-workers? Nobody. If you don’t want to be treated that way, than don’t treat others that way. The use of words such as “tolerance” (Evans 2012) and “acceptance” to describe people is offensive and discriminatory.
Queer individuals are constantly being judged based on their identity, which is not the case when people disagree about political views, worldviews or even religion. Using the term “tolerance” to describe a person is reinforcing the morality argument and is speaking out of a place of implied moral high ground. I accept that tuition is increased every semester; I tolerate when I get the flu, but this is not how I would describe people. The use of these terms is viewing what is being accepted or tolerated as something negative, unnatural and wrong. Shouldn’t people be celebrated, embraced and enjoyed? How would it feel to hear you described by your friends and family as someone who was just tolerated?
In both of the articles, the students who exist outside of the heterosexual or “normal” framework are silenced and illegitimized. The title “Unlikely as a Double Rainbow” does not give any credit to the advancement of queer rights in today’s society. There is still a long way to go, but there have been changes and movements forward. By saying that getting queer individuals and Christian individuals in the same room in a civil and respectful way is “unlikely” denies that there are Christians who don’t necessarily hold the same views as is traditionally shown within Christianity and individuals from the LGBTQ community that identify as Christians themselves. The voices of those who have moved beyond the tired debate are silenced and made to be invisible.
In Evans’ article he states, “Feel free to disagree with me on what I believe to be the new tolerance, but please, realize the implications of your disagreement” (Evans 2012). To me, this sounds like the end of a conversation, rather than the start of an open and safe dialogue. In a university newspaper article that is published and circulated to students of all walks of life, this is inappropriate and promotes exclusivity.
In February of 2012, a campaign was started to deny Ellen DeGeneres a job, which was entirely based on her homosexuality. Gay youth in high school are often tormented and bullied to the point of suicide, as was Jamey Rodemeyer in 2011. This discrimination and hatred is still something that many queer people face today. Publishing articles that deny this reality and reinforce the argument that it is okay to think that gay is wrong only contributes to this. This argument is steeped in self-righteousness, claiming that some groups of people have the world so figured out that they now get to place their values on others. In a day where teen bullying is leading to teens taking their lives, if you are not actively helping to stop the problem, than you are taking part in it.
The point of this response is not to blame Christians for homophobia, or its consequences, but to take a stand against publications that are not inclusive to all people, but silence and condemn some students while perpetuating the exclusive privilege of others. Both of these articles have contributed to the current barriers that keep queer people on the fringes of society; and deny that many other people have embraced and celebrated them.
Regardless of a person’s personal beliefs on sexuality, should we not fight for equality and safety for everyone? Martin Luther King Jr. stated that, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” Regardless of personal beliefs, affording the queer community the same rights and freedoms as their heterosexual counterparts not only promotes respect, love and inclusivity but is a command from Jesus Christ himself.
– Angela Ostrikoff