(Please note that this piece was written prior to the Federal Supreme Court decision ruling it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.)
For a very long time, I’ve wanted to be able to write something that spelled out exactly why civil equality for members of the LGBT community was so important. I wanted to explain how the decisions made by people who opposed these rights affected our lives in such profoundly deep and painful ways. I thought that if they could only see how these decisions they were making impacted us so personally, that maybe they would reconsider.
There are so many ways to look at this issue. It is complicated, no doubt about that. Traditionally, historically, U.S. law has seen marriage as a binding act that instills certain legal rights to and between a man and a woman. Religiously, it is a ceremony to celebrate this act of commitment. Marriage, as a binding ceremony even outside of law, has been in existence for a very long time, we’re talking thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of years and predating many religions including Christianity.
All organized religions have marriage ceremonies and rituals to celebrate the commitment between two loving people. In the United States, weddings come in every religion and non-religion (such as atheism), in every race, between different races and of all legal ages. Same-gender marriage is the one thing that is still legally discriminated against.
The LGBT community has been fighting a long time to amend the law (state and federal) to define marriage between two people who love each other. In other words, to remove the specifications that one person be male and the other be female. This is the part that many religious groups, especially certain conservative Christians here in the U.S., draw disagreement with. Accordingly, the holy book of Christianity, in its many versions – the Bible, defines marriage as between a man and a women. Which was the custom around 100 to 200 A.D., when the first books in the Bible began to be written.
The trouble with using the Bible as a legitimate launching pad for reasons to oppose LGBT people from getting married is broad. Firstly, in order to accept the Bible verses as truth, one has to first accept that Christianity is true. I, along with other atheists, agnostics and the greater scientific community either directly reject or deeply question Christianity and every other religion as truth. More so they are based on legendary figures and stories, originally passed on through word of mouth, to inspire, convert, entertain, teach basic social lessons, enslave, justify abuse and the list goes on and on.
Secondly, one must consider the various versions (interpretations) of the Bible, I know of thirteen different English versions. Many different denominations have different understandings or interpretations of the original Hebrew language that the Bible verses were written in. This break-up in a consensus creates questions among believers and non-believers alike and greatly diminishes any one authority over another. Thus it is often left up to the individual to discern what is true or right and what isn’t. Which opens the door for certain self-righteous religious leaders to propagate hatred among their followers who do not know that there is no consensus among believers and then direct that intolerance towards other people who are different from themselves. In this case, members of the LGBT community.
Thirdly, and for me this is the most important thing to remember, is that the Bible was written by human beings. Inspired by God or not, the Bible along with every other religious text known to man, was written by human beings and more often than not, by men who were religiously motivated. Since the writings of the Bible were first jotted down, other men (who were not the original authors) have re-written these writings, into numerous languages and even into different interpretations to meet their needs or personal beliefs. Which is the case with many pieces of literature as they are handed down through generations. Neither I, nor should you, put stock into the beliefs of other human beings who disregard factual evidence and historical accuracy and laminate opinion. Above all else, use your own human morality system, ask yourself deep questions, consider compassion and tread the path of empathy (the ability to emotionally understand and perceive situations through the other person’s view and not solely your own).
I want to talk a little bit about what homosexuality is. Again, this gets complicated, equally the Bible also has had numerous interpretations as to what homosexuality actually means. In many cases, when homosexuality is referenced in the Bible it is referring to situations such as male-on-male rape, child molestation or rape and what many high-profile Greek men engaged in – homosexual relationships with adolescent boys. Again, interpretation is different between people who read it.
I would like to include links for further reading about LGBT, gay marriage and the Bible.
In my life so far, I have encountered people who have a wide understanding of homosexuality and can see far beyond the “sexuality” part. Others I have met, look at it very narrowly and only see the words “homo” and “sex” and immediately derive an opinion, usually religiously based, about immoral sex acts, pedophilia and other off the wall claims.
For me, a fundamental issue in attaining equal rights for LGBT members is educating the general populace about who and what we are… as people. Religious beliefs aside (though LGBT members make up Christian and other religious communities), we are just people. Human beings who think, learn, grow, who know love, pain and loss. We laugh and we cry, we cherish moments and we ponder our memories the same as you. We work and pay taxes, we celebrate birthdays and buy our groceries at the same stores you do.
If you show us love and compassion, we will smile and return the kindness, if you cut our skin we will bleed the same as you, if you betray us our hearts will be as equally broken as any other. I feel as though, so often, those who oppose LGBT rights, see us as less than human, usually based on religious doctrine that teaches them to take up this view. They are taught to see us as animals, treat us like criminals and express shame and disgust towards us and proclaim that we have some type of disease, for some they think it is contagious.
Homosexuality, is not a disease or illness according to the World Health Organization, the CDC and the American Psychological Association, among other prominent mental health organizations. It is certainly not contagious. If you think about it, if sexuality was contagious, we’d all be heterosexual, as the majority of human beings define themselves as heterosexual. It’s honestly absurd for hate groups to attempt to make the claim that homosexuality is a disease to be cured. And because it is not a disease or illness, the idea of “curing” or “reversing” it is also absolutely absurd and despite this, certain religious groups have created facilities or camps in which they proclaim to treat homosexuality in young people.
If you actually attend one of these places, they will tell you that there is no cure and that they cannot “get rid” of your homosexuality, despite having claimed as much. What they do is attempt to teach you how to suppress your feelings and what steps to take to avoid acting upon your desires. For any young person, this type of “treatment” would be more detrimental to their overall psychological health, than beneficial. Leading to a life long struggle with identity, self-esteem and emotional disorders. So much so, that some states have actually banned this type of therapy.
If you are heterosexual, imagine attempting to be “cured” of it. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? If you’re straight, you know you are straight and no convincing otherwise from anyone else is going to make you think you are gay. Just as you did not choose to become straight, gay people did not choose to become gay.
Most gay people realize they are gay at about the time of puberty. Some realize it sooner, others later. The environment in which they are raised plays another major role in how soon or late they perceive their orientation. It’s no coincidence in my mind, that gay people perceive their homosexuality during puberty, the same time heterosexuals generally perceive their attraction to the opposite sex. This is a key piece in helping to understand homosexuality as just another part of human-to-human attraction.
People being attracted to the same gender is not something new, it’s not a fad or a trend that just happens to be occurring in our modern times. Homosexuality – the attraction to members of the same gender – has been around for as long as humans have lived in social groups. The structure of that relationship has changed and there are different dynamics in that attraction, but generally speaking, homosexuality has always been with us. Not just here in America, but on every continent and in every civilization. I highly recommend you do independent research to learn more about this topic. Not only does it occur in humans, but some 1,500 animal species have been documented engaging in homosexual relations, whether that be strictly sexual or engaging in a same-gender partnership.
Understanding the different facets of same-gender attraction, will help us all better grasp morality. I strongly disdain being compared (as a gay man) to pedophiles who engage in the sexual exploitation of children. There is likely no other anti-gay argument that insults and offends me the most than that one. Pedophiles, who can be of any orientation, have been intertwined with homosexuality by groups who wish the general populace to confuse them as the same. Simply, this is an attempt to criminalize the LGBT community as nasty immoral people.
I won’t argue that some gay people are pedophiles… just like some straight people are pedophiles. Some gay people are serial killers, some straight people are serial killers. Do you understand my point?
Let’s move beyond sex, because I feel like that’s always the focal point of gay discussion. Yes, it’s true, gay people have sex… just like straight people. Some use protection, some don’t, some have anal sex, some don’t, some exploit themselves through prostitution, some don’t, some are very sexually active and do not seek long-term committed relationships, but some do. Some are more concerned with romance, about finding a life long partner to share their life with. Some of us are more concerned with love and loyalty, with integrity and dignity, with being parents and are very family oriented. Some of us are concerned about a bond that we would like to last a lifetime. Which is why marriage is so important to us.
Just as our interests in relationships as gay men are different, our preferences in partners and our own personal differences are widely different. Some are more feminine, some of us are more masculine, some of us are tall, some short, some hairy, some not, some talk with soft and high-pitched voices and some of us speak with deep low voices. Being gay does not limit us from being one particular way, we are a wide and varying group of men. And the LGBT community itself is a vast and diversified group of individuals. Our beliefs, our national origins, our ancestral heritage, the color of our skin, our gender, everything about us is not limited by our orientation. Just like straight people are not limited solely because they are straight.
I would love nothing more than to eliminate the need to say gay and straight. I wish I could jut say people, after all that’s exactly what we all are. People.
There is so much to know about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. I could write twice as mush as I have already written and I would still not have it all covered. It’s like defining a human life and that takes a lifetime to do. More time than I can devote to this piece. Whether anyone wants to admit to it or not, being gay is natural for gay people, the same as being straight is natural for straight people. Natural in the sense that it happens for physiological reasons, reasons that scientists still don’t know for sure.
For gay men, some argue that it is because of the mother and her hormone levels and involves how many male children she had before the child who is gay. That due to these altered hormone levels, the part of the male brain called the hypothalamus develops differently. Developing more similarly to how a female brain would develop and that a gay man’s brain may have more in common with a female brain than a straight male’s. And like everything else, the list of possible causes goes on and on to include genetic inheritance and genes. We may never actually know the true cause. What we do know is that the brain is involved and that it likely occurs prior to birth and is generally realized around puberty and that it cannot be “undone.”
The best thing that I could ever say is to do your own research, talk to people who are members of the LGBT, question both sides of the argument and look deep within yourself and challenge your own views as well as the views of others. Listen to your heart and listen to your mind. I say these things based on experience. Time and experience can change many thing and what’s right and true and just will always prevail.
This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud: