So this is something of a departure for my little bookish blog, but with the things happening in the media recently, I couldn’t help but give my two cents. And it is a long two cents, for which I apologise, but there are many things to say. These are my opinions.
It’s a confusing time for the LGBT community, like we haven’t been through enough confusion already! On the one hand we have England and Scotland legalizing gay marriage, we have publishers such as Puffin, Atom, Orion and Hot Key Books all publishing LGBT characters/stories in the near future and we have Ellen Page bravely coming out in the past week. Then, on the other hand, we have people who seem to persist in pushing the gay rights and equality movement back. Just this week, while the Sochi Olympics goes by with no word about the state of their country from the IOC or government, the Arizona state senate has passed a bill that allows businesses to refuse service to gay people based on religious beliefs. One step forward, two leaps back.
The very idea that Arizona has opted to have businesses reject people based on a personal belief and a personal choice made by that person is frankly ridiculous. The gay people who want to hire you to photograph their wedding (which I guess wouldn’t happen since you unconstitutionally banned that in 2008) and the gay people who want to stay in your hotel/motel/Holiday Inn and even the gay people who want to eat at your restaurant could be banned from doing so purely because you have chosen to have a belief in an ancient book that has very little relevance to today’s society and a man who lives in the sky who has planned out your life for you. Forgive me for feeling more than a little hard done by.
Senator Steve Gallardo said, “[t]he bill opens the door for discrimination against gays and lesbians” while the rebuttal from Senator Steve Yarbrough was “It’s about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”
On a day when #ConfessAnUnpopularOpinion is trending on twitter, it seems apt that I express my own. But this isn’t really an opinion; this part here is fact. Religion is a choice, being gay is not.
I didn’t choose to be gay. It is not a choice; it is a part of who I am. It doesn’t define who I am but it is a part of what makes me, me. Fortunately, while growing up in High School, I had a great network of friends, including my best friend Vikki, who helped me come to terms with it and helped me realize that it is not wrong to be myself. I’ve had people, friends, colleagues, write to me on Facebook because they are scared of coming out but admire that I’m just me with no filter, no hype, no gloss, just myself. I will not apologize for who I am. It was not a choice. It was something I have come to accept and love about myself. If I weren’t gay, I wouldn’t be with Jordan who is the love of my life. If I had been oppressed by the religion that I left, I would not be as happy as I am today.
I am lucky. There are a lot of people in this world who have gone through grueling conversion therapy, corrective rape, exorcisms and the like over the years. I’m lucky to not be the subject of testing or to be considered insane. I’m lucky to have been born into a country that is, for the most part, accepting of who I am and is happy to let me marry the man I love should we ever decide to. And while this post may do nothing to help people in Arizona who may suffer beneath this bill that flies in the face of human rights or the people in Sochi who are suffering every day under a regime that is reminiscent of Nazi Germany and being completely ignored by the IOC, I want to show my support.
I didn’t really write this post to get angry at the bible and at religion but when you are stopping people from living their lives based on an ancient belief that science has proved to be null, I’m going to get angry.
I have religious friends and they are nice people, as nice as my other friends that aren’t religious. They are just my friends. Some of them are as pro-gay rights as I am because they believe in the core teachings of the bible; teachings of Love and Acceptance of all of God’s children. One of my best friends is a Mormon and, while I find their beliefs to be more backward than most branches of Christianity, we get on fine. But when her friend tells me that her brother “threw up because two guys were kissing in public” or is questioning whether or not I really am gay or asking why I’m gay, I’m going to get offended (even if it is prefaced with “no offence”). Just because God is on your side does not give you the right to criticize my way of life. You are from a religion that, up until 1978, didn’t even allow black people!
I am living proof that you choose religion. I was brought up Roman Catholic and, when I realized that I didn’t believe in it, I got myself out of there. And I’m quite glad I did considering the persecution of the gay community that has continued within that religious group since. My dear friend Kate is the same. She was brought up in a different branch of Christianity but, after going on a mission trip to Uganda, she decided that it wasn’t for her and that, in her eyes, their belief system was ridiculous. My friend, the Mormon, is also living proof that you choose religion. She was not brought up religious but, in her late teens, opted to believe in Mormonism. She even attends BYU-Idaho in America and is having a great life. I’m very happy for her.
This is not an attack on religion or religious beliefs. You are more than entitled to your beliefs and you are more than entitled to express your beliefs until it starts to infringe on human rights. That is when it goes too far. The people in Arizona and the people in Russia are choosing to use religion, a man made construct for the control the masses, as an excuse for bigotry and discrimination against other human beings. The whole point of the equality movement is that we are no different from you, we are all human beings trying to live happy lives on this planet. What about your religion or belief system means that your way of life is more important than mine? It is not about gay or straight it is about right and wrong. To discriminate against someone because they love differently to you is wrong. Your religion is a choice and you are choosing to hold down your fellow man. I live in hope for a day when posts like this will not exist because situations like Sochi and Arizona and the like will not exist. I live in hope for a day when we are not gay, straight, Christian, Muslim or whatever else; we are just human beings.
Thanks for reading. Sound off below if you feel the need or tweet me @TheGeorgeLester