As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a United States citizen, I am well acquainted with the various acts of oppression and attacks we face as an overall community in this country. It is never easy for any person to deal with any kind of oppression, regardless of the circumstances, but it is very evident that there are some demographics of people who face much more severe forms of oppression than others. There are various different countries and cultures that heavily demonize and oppress queer people, and in that respect I am considerably lucky.
Ellen Page and her best friend Ian Daniel, set out to investigate queer culture across the globe, visiting countries like Japan, Brazil, and Jamaica. In this documentary series, they explore how queerness is treated in each country, analyzing both the celebration of LGBT pride and the unfortunate discrimination many queer people face.
In their most recent episode, the duo travelled to Jamaica, a country that actively condemns homosexuality. On a daily basis, queer people are kicked out of their homes, shunned by their communities, verbally and physically attacked, and even killed. Ellen and Ian interviewed a small group of LGBT individuals who blatantly reveal the harsh reality of what it means to be a queer person in Jamaica. The group goes on to discuss how they were all abandoned by their families because of who they are and currently remain homeless, poor, and constantly aware of the threat of danger they face every day. It was heartbreaking to hear about the conditions in which LGBT Jamaicans live and how members of their own community continually attack and demonize them. However, the reasoning or justification of this aggressive homophobia seems to stem partly from religion.The episode examines the influence the church has on homophobia, and how scripture guides mainstream principles throughout the country. Various interviewees claimed that homosexuality is both a mental disorder and a sin. It is not accepted, or tolerated at any level. Gay Jamaicans do not have the same freedoms that many other LGBT individuals have across the globe. This is not to say that there is no hope. The queer people interviewed were very positive about the future, although the main goal of many is to simply stay alive.
Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is important for anyone to become aware of the various adversities LGBT people face all over the world. We are all humans, after all, and we should be informed of the injustices that many of our fellow humans face. Even simply being informed is a step in the right direction, and I encourage everyone to at least watch one episode. I have thoroughly enjoyed the show thus far and look forward to hearing about how queer culture is treated and maintained in the various other countries Ellen and Ian visit.
Quick and painful
like the way you went from
holding my hand to
holding my throat
like the instant joy and
sadness you could make me
turning me on
and off like a light switch
like the hole
your absence punched into
when I only wanted
and all that I had ever felt
came bursting through the flood gates
Short and sweet
like the way your lips wrote
love poems on my
neck and left me
like the sound of your
tired voice calling
like the fire you
lit in my
heart that tried to
keep me warm
Like the way you
said you loved me
that never had
When your friends go on about their crushes
do not feign interest in a boy just to blend in
tell them you would rather kiss girls even though that scares you
tell them you’re confused but
do not lie
When your uncle asks if you prefer Gail or Peta
explain to him that you like Katniss
that her female form strikes you more
than any teenage boy could
And when a girl comes up to you and offers to tell you a secret
listen to her
she will become the first love of your life
When a priest tells you that the way you feel is wrong
spit in his face
who you are is not a sin
and his cross is the biggest lie of all
When you start getting feelings for your best friend
do not ignore them
contemplate what it means to feel
and how friendship differs from love
When you can only imagine kissing her every time you see her
do not feel ashamed
your feelings are healthy and valid
and you deserve the same in return
And when you cry so much your eyes swell up
do not cry for her
Selling flowers or wedding cakes to a same-sex couple, or even issuing marriages licenses is not the same as being a part of a same-sex wedding ceremony. Usually no one invites their florist to their wedding anyway. However, you cannot simply disagree to do your job because of whatever religious beliefs you have. If a Muslim person worked at a grocery store but refused to handle any pork products because of their faith, they would be fired. So it is a wonder how some Christians can still have so much privilege and power and continue to ask for more.
There is no war on religion. Around 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. And regardless of whatever conspiracy theories are floating around, Obama is a Christian as well. Maintaining the right to freedom of religion and trying to enforce your beliefs on others without consequence from the law are two very different things.
And while Kim Davis may be in prison momentarily, there are an alarming amount of people who support her. But the fact of the matter is that your religion does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want. When it comes to the government, it should have no power whatsoever. Everyone has their own individual beliefs and that’s great, but this persistent urge to involve Christianity in a secular government is ridiculous, especially when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Why these alleged straight people of God have such a profound obsession with homosexuality, I know not. But I am tired of hearing the same rhetoric over and over again. We get it. You think everyone is a sinner and you still “love” gay people, you just hate the sin. How heartwarming. The thing is though, I don’t care. A lot of people don’t care. You don’t have to marry someone of the same sex, and no one has the right to force you to attend a same-sex wedding. And you also might believe same-sex marriage is illegitimate compared to “traditional” marriage, but a lot of people are gay, or LGBT, or they know someone who is. And the difference between your personal religious beliefs and the lives of these LGBT individuals is that their plight is evident and factual, and using your religion to strip people of their rights is anything but “Christian.”
Coming out is an ongoing process. While there will most likely be a definitive point in one’s life in which they will decide to come out to many of their family and friends, it doesn’t just stop there. There is the ever-present assumption that any given person is straight until otherwise specified, and it is a very harmful ideology to LGB youth. Many kids realize their same-sex attraction or crushes on those of the same-sex at an early age, but they don’t come out right then and there because they are constantly spoon fed the rhetoric that boys like girls and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Growing up confined to these gender expectations can be quite a struggle for someone who is questioning their sexuality. I spent a majority of my childhood feeling like an outcast and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I slowly began to come to terms with my sexual orientation.
In one of my previous posts, Why Queer Representation Actually Matters, I explain how media has a huge influence on societal customs and expectations. When I was growing up, there were absolutely no same-sex couples on T.V. shows or movies. They always generally concluded with the guy getting the girl. Misogyny aside, this enforces how children form opinions about the world around them. If you tell a young kid that donuts are magical, they’ll most likely believe you because they don’t even think to question adults or authority figures. They can’t quite comprehend that there could be possible bias or untruth in what their parents tell them. They probably don’t even know what bias is. And many homosexual and bisexual(pansexual) children spend far too long attempting to unravel the societal norms that they have been forced to assume.
So when one finally comes out, it’s not like some major news announcement to the world. That may be the case for celebrities, but ordinary citizens find that coming out never really ends. Coworkers or new friends will ask you if you have a significant other of the opposite sex, and you’ll just want to say no and leave it at that, in fear that their response will be negative. However, it is also quite freeing to break down that barrier and to not feel like you have to completely avoid talking about that aspect of your life. It’s not about parading around town with a rainbow stamped on your forehead, (with the exception of Pride) but rather living as your authentic self. And in order to live authentically, you will most likely need to inform the people in your life of who you really are. It is certainly not easy, but one must hope for the best. And yes, it does get better.
*I am leaving out the T in LGBT simply because that has to do with gender identity rather than sexual orientation. I promise this was not meant to exclude anyone.
It comes as no surprise that the LGBTQ community is seldom portrayed in the media, and even when there is representation it is often negative or inaccurate. Heterosexuality is portrayed as the norm, the default. I can watch any show or movie and there are definitely heterosexual characters. In fact, they’re everywhere. But I have to look very hard to find a LGBT character, and such a character is often a flamboyant, white gay man who is treated as more of a source of amusement than as a prominent, meaningful character. If I want to watch a movie with any gay people in it, I often have to sift through the “Gay and Lesbian” category on Netflix, as if these movies can only be identified by the sexuality of the characters and not the more common genres of comedy, drama, and action.
I grew up immersed in this culture, just as many other LGBT youth have, which makes coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation very difficult. I grew up thinking that boys like girls, and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Every love song I listened to or romantic comedy I watched was exclusively heteronormative. It is the constant reenforcement of this male/female dynamic that is damaging for LGBT youth and the like. Growing up, I knew of gay people, but only of the stereotypes and celebrities who had come out. There was no form of media to inform me of any relationship other than a heterosexual one. So of course, I didn’t question my sexuality throughout my childhood, even though there were obvious signs. Culture heavily influences and impacts societal ideals and norms, behaviors, attitudes, and discrimination. And from what I had absorbed from my culture and the media, homosexuality was not a good thing. And while I was completely okay with other people being gay, I couldn’t accept it for myself.
I didn’t spend seventeen years of my life as a heterosexual kid, and then one day I decided to be gay. I thought I was supposed to like boys. I didn’t even know what being gay was until I entered middle school. There was no “agenda” preached at me like many fundamentalists love to believe. It was quite the opposite. I went to Catholic school for seven years, where I was taught that being a homo is a no-no. An abomination. An unnatural, devilish choice. Of course I never bought into it. I accepted anyone who wasn’t the living definition of a bigot. The priest who taught my religion class was as gay as the night is dark, yet he still condemned such a “lifestyle”. And whoever came up with the idea that being gay is a lifestyle? Being an avid skier is a lifestyle. Sexuality is not a lifestyle, it just is. And it is so sad that we have to somehow justify that in order to be respected and treated equally. Humans are born with their sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of what that may be. But, even if it was a choice, what gives someone else the right to tell you what to do with your life? Why? Because God says so? I have to prove my homosexuality is innate yet there is no empirical evidence that God even exists, let alone the ever evolving, rewritten bible that also claims we should stone adulterers. If you don’t have to justify or prove your religion, I certainly don’t have to justify my sexuality.
Religious liberty is attempting to make a most unflattering comeback in the United States. Mike Pence, Republican Governor of Indiana, recently signed a Religious Liberty Bill modeled on the former Religious Restoration Act. The bill will legally allow business owners and the like to refuse goods and services to LGBT individuals on the basis of religious freedom. While Pence later went on to “fix” the bill, the fix does not directly apply to religious groups and LGBT individuals are still unprotected by Indiana law. The fix was simply a way to make the bill more palatable to those opposed to it. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia are also in the process of enacting their own Religious Liberty bills, further enhancing the threat to LGBT Americans. The bill in question goes way beyond upholding religious liberty. It allows for discrimination on the grounds of faith. Many religious people argue that they should not be forced to participate in a same-sex wedding or serve same-sex couples and individuals because they believe it is sinful and unnatural. And of course these same people go on to implement the ever popular “it’s say so in the Bible” excuse. Anti-LGBT christians do not want to knowingly aid those of that “lifestyle”. But in what way is discrimination supposedly Christian? Of course no one who supports this bill is willing to admit to what it actually does, that it legally allows someone to discriminate against another person. Of course they deny it. Read the news articles and watch the videos. They cannot outwardly admit to it.
Interestingly enough, no one is preventing Christians from practicing their faith, going to church, praying, wearing whatever religious garments and accessories they choose to. Yet many still claim that is in fact the Christians who are being discriminated against. However, the Christians are not the ones being denied service, and that is the very important difference of the matter. One cannot infringe upon someone else’s rights, call it religious liberty, and then act as if they are the real victim in question. It is completely unethical. It is also uneconomical. Businesses will only end up losing profit by turning away paying customers on the sole basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Big businesses like Apple will take a stance against states in which the bill is enacted, which will certainly not be a loss for the billion dollar corporation, but rather for the various local Christian-run eateries and flower shops. Hopefully, it is this argument that will turn some heads because apparently money is much more greatly valued than the rights of other people. Needless to say, there are many Christians who strongly disagree with using religion as an excuse for homophobia. However, it is the Anti-LGBT Christians whose voices overpower the non-discriminatory ones.