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Letter to the Editor: Homophobia point by point

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.

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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.

History:

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.

Morality:

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?

Silencing:

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.

Current Implications:

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

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Kelsey S

    November 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Amen.

  2. Sean

    November 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Please note the final paragraph of my article. I think it speaks for itself;

    “Perhaps, instead of requiring that we leave our beliefs at the doorstep, we would all be better served if we brought them in. Only then can we meaningfully engage with each other as individuals who acknowledge the consequences of our beliefs, and the value of each other. To be in real community, we must engage both individuals and beliefs. One view of tolerance allows for this, while the other will engage the individual only once they’ve sufficiently altered their beliefs.”

  3. Wade

    November 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Sean, I do not think you understood the point or message of Angela’s article. The final paragraph of your article was filled with a rhetoric that denotes some sort of two-way struggle between homosexuality and religion, which is not the case. It is completely one-sided. For example, “consequences of our beliefs” suggests that there is some sort of hardship that will be undertaken for both Christian and homosexual individual’s if they value one another. What consequence exactly might Christians be faced with by doing so? There is no consequence. What is really being said, is that homosexual identifying individuals on the other hand are facing the “consequence” of God.
    Again, the use of the word tolerance is offensive, and while your intentions may be to find equality between the two groups, continual use of such wording is in fact discriminatory. I felt Angela’s article explained this quite nicely using examples of “accepting” having to pay tuition or “tolerating” having the flu.
    Nobody’s beliefs are being asked to be altered. Nobody is asking for you to stop believing in God and finding comfort in the Bible. They are asking that you take the inclusive, all loving message that the Bible condones and perpetuate it in a real life setting. There is nothing in the Bible that supports Bigotry or says homosexuality is wrong. The only reason homophobia is existent is because of the sexual practice of LGBTQ people threatening the basic understanding of human nature. The same fear you have presented by saying you feel engagement of all individuals can only happen if they have “sufficiently altered their beliefs.” Homosexuality is not a belief system, it is an identity. No Pride parade has ever asked for anyone to stop believing in God, so where does anyone find the permission to hold up the signs saying homosexuals can’t be who they are?

  4. Jonathan Hall

    November 22, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    “There is nothing in the Bible that supports Bigotry or says homosexuality is wrong.”

    Have you ever read the Bible?

    1 Corinthians 6:9
    1 Timothy 1:10
    Leviticus 18:22
    Leviticus 20:13

  5. Sarah

    November 23, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Jonathan,

    The Bible also says, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24).

    Considering things like GDP and the HDI, all North Americans would be considered “rich men”, does this mean that all North Americans will not enter into heaven?

  6. Wade

    November 23, 2012 at 12:58 am

    Not sure how Timothy 1:10 has any relation to homosexuality, unless you are insinuating that homosexuals are perverts?

    I could fight back with interpretations of scripture for as long as there are hotel room nightstands and Internet connections. It’s a tired debate. My point was mainly that nothing was giving anyone permission to switch their moral compass to “ignorant bigot.”

    What was also interesting is how heavily rooted all of those Bible versus are in sexual practice and not someone identifying as homosexual. If you don’t want to have anal sex, don’t. If Leviticus is right, then maybe you shouldn’t let a woman with her period into your camp, either. Might be tough if there are any plans or expectations for having a wife or a daughter at some point in your life. It is just as arbitrary as any of the other old testament scriptures about conduct.

  7. Thom

    November 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Wade, I’d like to gently point out that much of your argument (and, to a degree, Angela’s) rests upon the assumption that there is massive controversy over the interpretation and meaning of the verses and larger context which Jonathan brings to the table. The truth of the matter is that in the academic theological community (especially in the more conservative denominations) there is little debate that the Bible does condemn the practice of homosexuality. Therefore it is (as you state) a rather tired argument, similar (although not as extreme) as basing one’s logic upon the exploded assumption that LGBTQ sexual orientations are overwhelmingly a “choice” made by the individual.

    The more interesting debate (and the one we’ve seen taking precedence in various denominations) is whether or not our personal convictions and beliefs about justice and equality should take precedence over an archaic, historical text. Some communities (most notably the Episcopalians) have made the easy choice and abandoned Scriptural authority, while others have clung to it. I personally am in favour of clinging, but I understand while the alternative is attractive.

    I think the more disturbing feature of the above letter is the obvious disconnect between the accusation of pseudo-hate speech in the second paragraph (I’m not sure how else “steeped in homophobic beliefs…deny[ing] historical events…[and] us[ing] offensive and belittling language to silence and deny the voice of those that they attack” could be interpreted) and the lack of evidence in the rest of the article to support such claims. The accusations against Evans betray a lack of understanding of his central thesis (as he attempted to demonstrate above), although I will concede that his opinion is controversial. The accusation against Esau is the destruction of a straw man at best, since both pieces of “evidence” provided require rather creative interpretation to approach the conclusions reached in the second paragraph.

    The rest of the piece includes thoughtful historical research and perspective, for both of which I applaud Ostrikoff. Yet it is still disappointing that she feels the need to begin her response with such shocking (and poorly evidenced) accusations. The progress which was made between UFV’s UCM and Pride groups during that night of discussion would not have been possible if either group had initiated in the manner which Ostrikoff feels is necessary here. In that sense her letter ignores the spirit of the event.

  8. Jonathan Hall

    November 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Sarah,

    I think you’ll find the answer to your question if you read the two verses following the verse you quoted:

    When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26).

    I’m not clear on how your question is relevant to the discussion here, but since you asked, let me take this opportunity to try to explain. The point of this passage is not that rich people cannot possibly go to heaven. Rather, those who trust in their wealth and value their money more than God will not go to heaven (Matthew 6:24); this is clear given the context in which Jesus made that statement. Money cannot save you; only Jesus can do that. So yes, I’m sure that there are plenty of people in Canada and the USA who are living for and trusting in their money, especially given the relative wealth that we enjoy, but that’s not to say that no one with “riches” can be saved; “with God all things are possible”. Instead, we North Americans need to pay special attention to the following:

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17).

  9. Sarah

    November 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    So it is a matter of cultural context then?

  10. Jonathan Hall

    November 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    Cultural context does not dictate what is right and what is wrong. I’m sure that you can think of examples in history where a practice was widely accepted throughout a culture that we view as wrong or immoral today. Does that mean it wasn’t wrong at the time, given the different cultural context? I don’t think it’s possible to consistently hold to the view that morality is dictated by one’s social or cultural context.

  11. Angela

    November 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Please see the attached link, this is the consequence of staying in a place of moral judgement about people’s sexuality. If you are not actively fighting against homophobia in ALL of its forms, than you are giving permission and space for this:

    http://www2.wkrg.com/news/2012/nov/26/family-teen-beat-sisters-girlfriend-being-gay-ar-5051599/

  12. Jonathan Hall

    November 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Angela,
    Neither myself, nor any Christian who understands the Bible, would ever condone this kind of personal physical violence against anyone for doing what we believe is wrong. That would entirely contradict everything that the Bible says about how we are to treat others. Suggesting that the belief that something is wrong (and the expression this belief) necessarily leads to violence against those with whom we disagree is entirely unjustifiable. You have no basis for trying to infer that from the terrible incident described in the news article that you referred to.

  13. Wade

    November 27, 2012 at 12:36 am

    “Understanding” the Bible is way too subjective, so that is a complete over generalization. It is so obvious that you will never get it or understand how cyclical, contradictory and filled with double standards all of your arguments and beliefs are. You believe someone who is different than you is wrong? Great. You have completely disenfranchised them as a person and thus made them inferior. Does this lead to physical, mental or emotional attacks on people such as LGBTQ identifying individuals? Absolutely. This is not unjustifiable in any sense. If you’re willing to keep up with the times, I’d suggest you Google violence against LGBT individuals and religious correlation with them. You preaching that they’re still the ones who are wrong is the grassroots to this discrimination and perpetuated hatred. Read between the lines and try and give you and everyone else that is trying to argue from your perspective some credit, because I want to believe that you are not that stupid or ignorant.

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