"Some of my younger cousins are being raised pretty religiously as Christians… One of them said that gay people make her feel sick, I’m really afraid to come out to them, what if they don’t want to be around me anymore?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
I am tired of people using religion as an instrument of physical, emotional, and psychological violence against other human beings. I am tired of this becausereligion comes from a word that means to re-ligament. Religion, when practiced with human flourishing and the Divine’s glory as the end, it makes humanity, and the cosmos itself, more whole. The way your cousins are practicing religion is not re-ligamenting our fragmented world. It is, in fact, fragmenting it further. It is tearing our ligaments of shared humanity apart. With this in mind, I would like to offer a handful of observations that you may or may not find helpful on your journey toward wholeness.
1. You don’t make your cousin sick. Her sickness is prejudice-induced. We live in a world full of variety. There numerous kinds of species, linguistic families, academic disciplines, and reality shows (Ok. There’s only one kind of variety show: tasty trash). Variety in sexual orientations and gender identities is no different. Some people are asexual. Some people are straight. Some people are queer. Some people are transgender. Does seeing a person with a different color shirt than hers make your cousin feel sick? How about people of a different eye color than hers? Your cousin must learn to let difference empower her, not nauseate her. Her prejudicial posture toward you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her inability to differentiate her emotional capacity to embrace difference from her weak stomach.
2. Fear is crippling and unsustainable. You stated that you are afraid to come out to your cousins because you disclosing your sexual orientation might cause them to not want to be around you anymore. This is a legitimate feeling. You don’t deserve to live your life afraid of the responses of people who supposedly love you with no strings attached. The fact that you are willing to wonder aloud about your about your relationship with your relatives is proof of your deep courage. You are not defined by fear. You are defined by the life you so desperately are embracing, question by question. Keep asking questions. Keep wondering about your flourishing and the relationships that matter most to you. When you stop asking those questions, your quest will come on to an end. Fear does not define you. Let your inquisitive, curious spirit define you and your courage sustain you.
3. God longs for your (and creation’s) wholeness. Since I am a Christian, I can’t help but speak as a person who believes that the God disclosed in the person of Jesus Christ is wholly love. Wholly. There is no fear in love. In love, in God, there is a deep longing for the flourishing of humanity. This means that God longs for not just your wholeness and flourishing, but the wholeness and flourishing of communities, nations, ecosystems, and the cosmos itself. Any feeling of fear, condemnation, or shame does not originate in God. It is from somewhere else. Any affirmation of your unique, beautiful humanity originates in God’s overflowing love and affection for you. Dwell on that affection. In Christian parlance, that dwelling is called contemplation. In contemplation, God invites us to be completely absorbed in the love that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the one whom Jesus calls “Father” share among themselves.
Throughout history, God has reached out in dramatic and subtle ways to share this love with you. Soak in it. Bathe in it. And, however difficult it might seem, invite your cousins to do the same. You, and they, will be better for it.
Though I have approached your question as a person firmly rooted in the Christian tradition, I readily acknowledge that compassion is not unique to Christianity. Anywhere a person or community is actively engaged in the difficult work of compassion, inclusion, and love, there exists true human flourishing. I encourage you to surround yourself with the people and communities that will embrace you with you compassion, empowering you to be the person you want to be, in deep and rich ways. Compassion knows no limitation. It is not bound by race, class, national borders, socio-economic immobility, or sexual orientation. Offer it freely and receive it freely.
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"I wholeheartedly support LGTB as a straight girl, and everyone who knows me knows that. However, my family has begun making subtle (and at times rude) remarks that lead me to believe that they think I am actually gay. In all honesty I don’t care what they believe, but is there some way for me to explain to my semi-homophobic uber religious family that I can support equality as a straight ally so that they can keep their comments to themselves?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
I think this is one of the most important conversations IN THE WORLD. We all have to be comfortable standing up for human equality, regardless of how we identify. It only separates us further to sit back simply because we don’t “fit” into a “community.” If my family were making racist comments, I would 100% say something and I am not a person of color. In fact, I HAVE been in that situation and though I felt a little off-base because it is not my personal experience, I still believe that we all deserve the same respect and that lack of respect makes me uncomfortable.
I think it’s amazing and wonderful and so perfect that you want to stand up for human equality. I beg you to do so without giving a reason or excuse. Simply asking your family to be respectful should be enough. It doesn’t have to be because you are gay, or you have a gay friend, or you have gay coworkers. You should NOT have to explain yourself.
If they ask you why, be real. You think all humans deserve the same respect / opportunities / rights and it makes you uncomfortable / upset when ANYone makes ANY comment that devalues ANY human.
YOU ARE JUST A GOOD PERSON, YOU KNOW!??!?!
Amen. Fighting for equality should never, ever hinge on your own, personal identity and the rights you are afforded in this very moment in history.
I think the simplest way to communicate that with your family is by saying, “Would you like to have your rights taken away from you?” When they say no, of course not, and then start to explain why their rights are different than the rights of LGBTQ people, politely stop them and explain further. Say, “Well, Aunt Lisa, I understand that right now you think those rights are different… but what if someday someone thinks your rights are different, and their argument is the exact same as yours… but instead of others being affected, it is your own rights being taken away?” Use an example of something that Aunt Lisa is — maybe she is Christian or Japanese or a woman (HINT HINT) — and maybe there is a way to run a parallel to those parts of her that might run a risk of being discriminated against (or a parallel to those parts that have been blatantly treated as a lesser in many parts of our history).
Remember when women couldn’t vote? Remember when being Japanese ran you a risk of being put into an internment camp? Remember when Christians were being burned at the stake? OKAY COOL.
Should we have to pull on personal factors to get others to want equality for all? No… we shouldn’t. However, sometimes facing the fact that when any single one of us is being treated unfairly, we then all run the risk of being treated unfairly, is the best way to get a deeper understanding for the situation you are in.
This fight isn’t about being gay or trans or bisexual or anything else. This fight is about being a human being, and fighting so that any and all human beings regardless of sexuality, gender identity, race, religion, ability, and the list goes on, are treated with the same respect and given the same rights as anyone else. Period.
Thank you for fighting with us, and for working to help those around you understand why that fight is so vital. The more people behave the way you are behaving, the closer we are to achieving equality.
“I’ve been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness [JW], but I know I’m gay and that the religion is not for me. How should I tell my mom? I’m still in high school and I’m afraid she’ll kick me out.”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Mel Mendoza as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Well for starters, you probably shouldn’t just open the Questions Young People Askbook, point to Chapter 28 on Homosexuality and say, “Hey Mom, I got something to tell you about this chapter…” And try to avoid reading her the passionate bromance between Daniel and Jonathan in the book of Samuel in order to get her used to the idea. Instead, consider these tips:
Be Prepared. Unfortunately, being kicked out for being gay is a possibility for many JW youth. It was for me. Coming out, as a Jehovah’s Witness, has to do with remembering that you have people outside the Organization who are there to support you and help you. When I knew that I was going to be coming out to my parents, I called a few friends from work and school and told them about my situation. Many were willing to help take me in for some time until things cooled down or until I could find more fitting accommodations. You’re also still in high school, so there are many counselors available to help you out if you are having a hard time. There are other resources that are available on the intranets, as well.
Be Yourself. Usually, when you are a JW coming out, you are coming out twice: once as a person who identifies as LGBTQ and once as a non-JW. I think that you should try to be as honest with your mom as possible. Sit her down and let her know you love her and that this is why you don’t want to keep anything from her. If you feel afraid that she won’t love or accept you, tell her. Let her know that you have thought about it and have come to the conclusion that the religion just isn’t right for you. She’s going to ask questions. This can be a very good transition into the way you identify as gay. (Try to avoid talking about creationism, excommunication, and other problems you might have with the teachings and doctrine.) Come out to her. Confidently tell her that you know it isn’t a phase. Reassure her and remain as calm and as respectful of her beliefs as you can be. Let her ask questions. Give her time to process.
Understand. There may be backlash. Your mom may call the elders. She might ask you to meet with them. She might ask you to pray and think about it. In situations like these, the best thing to do is keep yourself composed and try your very best to understand where she is coming from. What she says and does, in her mind, is out of love; unfortunately, sometimes this love hurts us. Try to think positively and be patient. Still, remember to stand your ground. You have the right to find happiness. Remember that Biblically, Jehovah gives everyone free will and a chance to choose how they want to live their life. You are entitled to that, too, and your mother will come to understand this in time. (Disclaimer: If you are a baptized Jehovah’s Witness and are called into a meeting with the elder body and would not like to be disfellowshipped, simply do not attend the meeting. THEY CAN NOT DISFELLOWSHIP YOU IF YOU ARE NOT THERE. This does not apply to those who write a letter of disassociation, which is personally NOT recommended.)
Maintain respect. Above all else, remember that respect is earned. If you expect your mother to respect your choices and lifestyle, you should always do your very best to respect hers. She finds inner peace, love, and purpose living as a Jehovah’s Witness. Don’t speak disrespectfully about God, the Organization, the brothers and sisters, or their teachings/comments. Don’t start breaking rules and rebelling against them because you no longer consider yourself a JW. Remember that your parents are watching to see just how “bad” you become when you go into the world. In situations like these, if you remain the bigger person, parents can be very surprising.
Find your community. I cannot stress how important it is to find and develop a new, uplifting support system. Reach out to the Gay-Straight Alliance at school, if there is one. If there isn’t, think of starting one. Taking on a task like that can keep you busy and distract from any possible unpleasantness at home. Talking to people on LGBTQ hotlines and utilizing other resources will help boost your confidence and self-esteem when things get difficult. Volunteering and getting to know other wonderful people in the gay community will help to recreate that brotherhood and community you felt in the congregation. In the long term, the community you choose will be able to hold you up and give you a strong foundation for your growth as the individual that you deserve to be.
Remember that you deserve happiness and fulfillment. In the words of mydrunkkitchen’s Hannah Hart, “It [will be] hard, but better.”
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Offended Religious Parents: "How do I like 'gay' things without freaking my religious parents out?"
Religious Self-Hate: "My girlfriend is religious and thinks being gay is wrong. How do I deal with this?"