Part of me thinks I should really stop reading Utah newspapers. It’s the part of me that strives to keep my temper in check; believe the best about people & the world; and, give people the benefit of the doubt. Those damn papers are really giving me a run for my money!
As I mentioned in The Gay Stigma article, I am not anti-religion. I believe that religion can be a means for some to try and do good things and be better people. I usually use the metaphor of religion being like a car: different people need different cars to get around based on their own personal needs, and some people don’t need a car at all. Myself, I am not part of an organized religion at this point in my life, however, I respect the decision of anyone who has decided to join a congregation. Everyone is free to choose, and just as I expect their respect for choosing my own path, I will afford them the same courtesy.
With that said… earlier today, I came across this article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Leaked memos: Gay rights group make new charges over LDS Prop 8 role, which opened up a lot of fresh Proposition 8 wounds for me. Although I don’t live in California, the Proposition 8 campaign has affected me in a lot of ways. As an American, I hate to see any legislation of this type regardless of the state to which it belongs. As a gay man, I hate to see this type of thing still even being considered. And, as someone who was raised Mormon, I am saddened to see that the church I grew up in- and that means so much to my family- decided to take such an active, overt and hurtful stance against my community.
After reading the article, I followed a link to this next one, which is an open-forum letter from a reader: No gay missionaries. Originally I’d thought the article was going to be about Mormon missionaries and someone actually trying to say that there weren’t any gay ones- but it’s not. Rather, it can pretty much be summed up by its final sentence: “You may think we’re out to convert your children and run the world, but we’re not the ones with missionaries.”
I then started to read some of the comments that were posted in regards to these two articles and it was deeply troubling to read what some people actually still think about the issue of homosexuality in general. Some people out there really do believe that homosexuals are recruited or converted into being gay- and that we’re actually engaged in trying to recruit new people. They think that it’s a choice we make one day to just suddenly like people of the same sex. Here are some of the comments:
- “Then why have gays adopted the saying: ‘Come out, come out, where ever you are,’ and why are they, in their own words, ‘reaching out to queer and questioning youth’? As we see more and more adolescents proclaiming themselves with labels such as ‘bi-curious’, we’d better be scared.”
- “People aren’t born gay… they get sucked into it. “
- “Race and gender are genetically determined. Sexual orientation is not.”
From there, I also read an interesting article regarding bigotry in Utah aimed at Mormons. What I find so interesting about the article is that while true, (the non-Mormon portion of Utah is very outspoken against the Mormons simply because they are the biggest and easiest target), the obvious parallel is the bigotry being displayed by religious groups towards gay people. Sometimes you’re just too close to the trees to see the forest.
The other challenge for me when reading these comments is trying to understand what some people hope to accomplish with their comments- regardless of which side of the argument they originate from. Some of them are written in such an insulting, angry and intense manner that they are completely worthless to any sort of productive dialogue that one might hope to have. I mean, I love a good debate. I love to get fired up and get a good back and forth going on- but it has to be productive. The minute you pull out the name calling, the insulting and the yelling, you’ve lost all objectivity and neither party is going to leave feeling any more enlightened, knowledgeable or understanding of the opposition’s point of view.
Reading these articles and the comments associated with them has made a few things pretty clear to me. First of all, we gay people clearly have a lot of work to do- and I don’t mean just in Utah. I pick on Utah because that’s where I’m from, but much of North America is in the same boat. Gays need to band together- no matter where you live- and we need to educate the public. They need to be shown that gay people are just like everyone else, that the fight for equal rights has nothing to do with sex- but rather about love- and most importantly, they need to see that love is not an exclusively heterosexual trait. Secondly, we must go about it with respect and seek to understand where they are coming. Ignorance breeds bigotry and bigotry feeds on intolerance. Try to understand what motivates their point of view and they’ll likely try to understand yours. You may never end up agreeing, but at the very least you’ll both have learned something.