We all come from different backgrounds, cultures and religions which shape our beliefs. As such, it is nearly impossible for all of humanity to agree on every subject. Some cultures push their ethos onto others based on past experiences, while others base their beliefs on the religion they seem to represent.
Society plays an outsized role in what is considered acceptable behavior and what is not. Since there are many people who are unsure of what or who exactly to believe in, they attach to something that makes them feel safe and secure. This explains the allure of religion, not only attracting people for what it stands for but to make them feel like they are a part of something.
Some people find a group they want to belong to and will do anything to live up to its expectations. This can be harmful depending on the beliefs or requirements religion has. As we all know, each religion has its own agenda when it comes to committing to God. There are some religions that have rules pertaining to personal habits, like diet or clothing. But one thing most religions seem to have in common is their negative feelings related to homosexuality.
For years, religion in general always had an ideal image that society worshiped with the concept of Adam and Eve. Because the Bible states that in the beginning there was a relationship between a man and a woman, most people who are religious find it completely unnatural for an individual to be attracted to another of the same sex. But what if it is natural and we have just been brainwashed to think a certain way?
In a piece by the Human Rights Campaign entitled, “What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?”, Myles Markham makes the Bible’s point of view clear:
“While gender complementarity is indeed rooted in passages from Genesis 1 and 2, it is worth noting that these stories say God began by creating human beings of the male and female sex (defined as the complex result of combinations between chromosomes, gonads, genes, and genitals) but there is nothing that indicates in Scripture that God only created this binary. This account says little to nothing about gender, (the social and cultural norms and practices corresponding to what is considered masculine and feminine.) Two dimensions of the text that become important in considering the biblical affirmation of intersex, transgender, non-binary, and other gender-diverse people, are discussed at more length here. To further complicate the argument against same-sex relationships, Scripture doesn’t suggest that respecting biblical authority means Christians should reject experience as a teacher.”
The Bible has always been known as a book that not only told of Jesus’ journey but also how to ethically navigate life. Throughout the centuries, many people have been spiritually connected to the Bible. They see it as the only source that has all the answers, and this belief leads some to be extremely judgmental of others who do not comply with all of the Bible’s tenets. When the Bible is used to control others and forces them to deny their true selves, we must recognize those interpreting God’s word in such a way are only using it to advance their own personal agenda.
Let’s be honest, religion is more than just a group of people spiritually connected to God. It is also a unique lifestyle and culture that has its own traditions passed from generation to generation. Since information gets passed down this way, certain beliefs become ingrained into the minds of younger generations. Even though a large portion will stand by their specific beliefs, that does not mean everyone agrees.
A December 2021 piece, “Does Religion Shape Culture or Does Culture Shape Religion?”, by Hindu statesman Rajan Zedhe explains how culture plays a part:
“Religion is tied to culture. Religion and culture are entangled. Both can infiltrate our lives. Both religion and culture surround social behavior and affect our value system. Religion assists us in our pursuit of happiness. As children, many are pushed into one belief system or the other, with children having no choice. Most of us claim our religion to be the only true religion, but the truth may not be the factor when we adopted it. Geography also impacts one’s alignment to a particular religion or culture.”
Children grow up in a particular environment and are raised based on the culture of their parents. It is normal for parents to develop habits that are hard to break. When a parent realizes their child is homosexual, it can be very difficult for people raised in a fundamentalist environment. Many religious people are brainwashed into believing homosexuality is immoral.
This mindset puts parents in an awkward position because they know the negative response their child will get from others. And, in certain situations, this can cause permanent damage to the child if the conflict goes the wrong way. In a 2014 piece for the Jesuit Post entitled “The Shame of Religious Families: Homeless LGBTQ Youth”, author Jason Welle gave a different perspective on how family rejection from the religious community leads to acts of violence.
“Recently, a story went viral about a teenage boy named Daniel from a Fundamentalist Christian family who, after telling his dad and stepmother that he’s gay, was verbally and physically abused before being thrown out of his home. A hidden camera recorded the entire altercation, and people everywhere, gay and straight alike, were horrified to witness the cruelty of these parents towards their son.”
Highly religious parents are more likely to reject their children for being gay, and a lot of them decide to leave their children to be by themselves. According to the true colors foundation, statistics show almost 40% of LGBTQ youth are homeless. This rejection puts these youth more at risk because it is harder for them to maneuver in the real world. A child going through life without family support can forever be put in danger. An op-ed by a group of Lesley College students called “The Cost of Coming Out: LGBT Youth Homelessness”, describes the reality of homeless homosexual youth.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who are homeless must face these challenges [typical to homeless youth] on top of social stigma, discrimination, and frequent rejection by their families. The failure of critical family and social safety nets to support these youth has catastrophic consequences on their economic stability, educational attainment … economic future, and life expectancy.”
Are any of these actions acceptable? If one does not agree with another’s lifestyle, is abuse or abandonment justified? Regardless of the situation, parents should stick by their children through thick and thin. Unfortunately, many religious parents try to see if they can solve or cure the “problem” of their child being queer. When that is impossible to do, rejection seems to be the only option.
Jason Welle also elaborates on the rejection of homosexuality in religious communities:
“And this kind of rejection is shameful and heartbreaking because, really, our faith tradition should teach us that rejecting our children is a rejection of the promises we make in Baptism, namely that when a Catholic parent has their child baptized, the priest or deacon instructs them to teach their child to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor, and then asks pointedly, “Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” The thing is, before you bring a child into the world no one asks you if you know what you’re getting into. But when a Catholic parent baptizes that child, they must respond directly to this question first. It leaves me crying out: what part of throwing a gay or lesbian child out of the home shows our love of God and neighbor?”
In most cases, religious parents do not know what to do when it comes to handling a homosexual child — some finding it easier to try and forcibly change their sexuality. And if they cannot change their kids themselves, then they will find someone else who can. This chain of events causes parents to turn to harmful solutions which brainwash and harm their children even more.
This is where conversion therapy comes into play, a form of treatment where an individual’s sexuality is attempted to be reversed by forcing the patient to become attracted to the opposite sex. This process attempts to hypnotize your mindset by testing out strategies to stop sexual attraction. Whether if it is role playing traditional gender norms, or group therapy, conversion therapy brainwashes homosexuals. The concept, in-part, is to find ways to get homosexual youth to see the problem in their sexual attraction.
However, conversion therapy is only developing a pathway of self-deceit.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity goes in-depth about the meaning of conversion therapy:
“Conversion therapy’ describes interventions that purport to achieve a change in a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and thus claim to aim at changing people from gay, lesbian, or bisexual to heterosexual, and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender — meaning whose gender identity corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth.”
Those in the LGBTQ community who are in denial about their own sexuality usually use this method in an attempt repress it. Most who go to conversion therapy mistakenly believe their queerness will just disappear.
The Netflix documentary “Pray Away” shows different members of the LGBTQ community going into conversion therapy and eventually becoming spokespersons for these types of programs. However, their conversion is only temporary, as the patients are only suppressing their sexuality. In the article, “New Netflix Documentary ‘Pray Away’ Explores the Pain Inflicted by ‘Ex-Gay’ Ministries”, Sam Thielman explains the concept behind this madness:
“But it is illuminating, especially in its exploration of McCall — someone so committed to ex-gay proselytizing, just as the other ‘former’ LGBTQ Christians in the film once were. He leads and worships in a community of people seeking to leave behind the parts of their identities they believe are no more than wicked temptations, and his sincerity is total. McCall troubles a conventional narrative about so-called ex-gay Christian ministries: He is obviously not a grifter profiting financially from the suffering of people who aren’t like him; in fact, he himself is the kind of person he is trying to reach. What does he get from it?”
Isn’t that funny? The ones leading the anti-gay movement are the biggest hypocrites. They are not concerned about gay youth, but only themselves. Because their identities contradict traditional religious expectations, they use conversion therapy to project their own insecurities on others. Many organized religions expect people not only to be heterosexual but cisgender as well. Since there is no real mention of LGBTQ individuals in the Bible, it leads the religious masses to adopt societal expectations based on those homogenous narratives.
This example explains why abuse plays an outsized role in the conversion therapy process. With acts of physical, psychological, sexual and verbal abuse, one cannot fathom the trauma these people face. According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, conversion therapy practices lead to higher rates of depression by 65%, substance abuse by 67% and attempted suicide by 58%.
In the UN article previously cited on conversion therapy, the independent expert further explains:
“Practices of conversion therapy are not only ineffective, but they can also be extremely harmful. They often lead to pain and suffering that will last far beyond their occurrence, leaving indelible scars on a person’s body and mind,” Madrigal-Borloz said. “The combined effects of feeling powerless and extreme humiliation generate profound feelings of shame, guilt, self-disgust, and worthlessness, which can result in a damaged self-concept and enduring personality changes.”
This abuse should be of public concern. Whenever anyone has that sort of power, it tends to be used in unintended ways. Many critics have found it very easy to use religion as a means to control others, especially when it comes to forming intimate relationships. Religious leaders tend to be put on a pedestal and congregations tend to forget their humanity.
The “power and control” dynamic may explain why there is so much hypocrisy within religions on the issue of homosexuality. According to the New York Times, between 30% and 40% of the American Catholic clergy are made up of gay men. This dynamic leads such clergy to live a double life. Because many incidents of pedophilia have occurred on more than one occasion, it has given the church a bad name.
In the article “Startling Statistics: Child sexual abuse and what the church can begin doing about It”, by Boz Tchividjian, the author cites multiple studies that show how often this activity occurs: “[P]edophilia molesters average 12 child victims and 71 acts of molestation. An earlier study by Dr. Abel found that out of 561 sexual offenders, there were over 291,000 incidents totaling over 195,000 total victims. These are enough victims to fill 2 ½ Superdome! This same study found that only 3% of these sex offenders have a chance of getting caught.”
Unfortunately, churchgoers barely speak up in the face of these predatory cases, preferring to pray in response to any problematic behavior. But they fail to realize that praying alone is not an effective solution. Priests are in a position where they automatically gain respect. Because most churchgoers revere the clergy, it is easy for them to continue to get away with their bad behavior.
“As much of the nation was recently celebrating Christmas, a Memphis pastor was arrested for sexually abusing a 16-year-old family member. What makes this heartbreaking story even more repugnant is that church and family members had been informed about the abuse two years earlier, but failed to report the crime to the police. Instead, they decided that the best response was to simply pray for the offender and hope for the best. Tragically, this response to child sexual abuse by those within the church is not uncommon. Equally as tragic is that such responses fuel perpetrators to continue destroying the bodies and souls of untold numbers of children.”
When this behavior continues, it does an injustice to all gay priests because it leads people to believe they all molest children, seemingly making them more uncomfortable in their own skin and putting queer people who grew up in the church at a disadvantage. No wonder many queers in today’s generation rebel at the religious agenda.
Americans are starting to come out and embrace their sexuality despite the abuse and repression, especially in the entertainment industry. More stars are even going to the lengths of not only openly sharing their experiences, but also their opinions on the religious perspective.
In Lil Nas x’s music video “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, the artist presents his version of heaven and hell where the viewer simply sees the artist having a relationship with a male figure but ends up getting caught and ultimately hung up in court. When Lil Nas x dies, he begins to ascend into heaven but ends up sliding down a stripper pole to hell, then gives the devil a lap dance just to get his crown.
Many queers have always felt a disconnect with religion due to the threatening and fear tactics, which has caused a reconsideration of the entire concept of heaven or hell. Pop culture commentator Tee Noir further explains where Lil Nas x is coming from.
“So you agree? You think gay people are going to hell. I think lil Nas x is saying ‘if they want,’ because at this point it has nothing to do with the destination and everything to do with your reaction. You have been asking gay people if they think they are going to hell for years now and usually the answer is no I be saying no but that usually causes too much excitement so Lil Nas x is saying what if they do? Just ponder on that not confirming or denying just ponder. ‘Your [sic] going to hell’ is so many people’s main weapon against us and those same people are so caught up in trying to control us with fear tactics they don’t even take the time to consider that maybe us, hell seems much less bad than having to deal with you. But it is very hard to imagine that when your desire for good is caught up in egotism.”
Can blame be attributed to the LGBTQ community? Given a negative stigma by religious groups, queers will eventually rebel and find their own way. How can homosexuals be expected to accept a system that refuses their necessary rights? Especially when certain parts of religion are creating laws to harm them. In the article “All We Want is Equality”, Ryan Thorsen goes into detail on how religion plays a part in how laws impact queers.
“These laws and bills vary in scope. As has been widely publicized, some would permit people to refuse to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies or to provide goods and services related to such weddings. Others, less widely publicized, would permit child welfare agencies, physical and mental health providers, businesses that serve the public, and other actors to refuse service to LGBTQ people and other groups. Such legislation immediately endangers LGBTQ rights. Allowing people to elevate their prejudices above fairness and equality, also threatens the broader principle that people should not be refused goods and services solely because of who they are. Together, the failure of most states to enact nondiscrimination protections and the growing number of religious exemption laws leave many LGBTQ people with little recourse when they encounter discrimination. While these exemptions are almost always couched in the language of religious freedom or religious liberty, they, directly and indirectly, harm LGBTQ people in a variety of ways.”
Queers in general have come a long way but that does not mean they still don’t face discrimination. The LGBTQ community still must endure hardship due to laws that prohibit discrimination protection. It is normal to see queers struggle in areas such as housing, employment and access to public services because their sexual orientation is causing them to be fired or evicted. These pro-discrimination laws are pushed by the right-wing, fundamentalist Christian agenda.
This author understands why religion can be hard for some queers to participate in. Not everyone is going to agree with the LGBTQ lifestyle. It’s not their life, so it’s hard to understand, and it’s normal to be confused. But that doesn’t mean one group should punish others just because they don’t subscribe to their beliefs. The best thing one can do is try to understand their perspective and treat them as you would like to be treated.
Think about it, if you were in their shoes, how would you feel?
Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash
Edited by Abbigail Earl & James Sutton
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