Lessons of a former Homophobe

Hello, my name is Ian, and I was born on December 2, 1984. I’m 6’1” with brown hair. My interests are religious history, current events, and filmmaking. I’ve been a big fan of Japanese animation for a while, if not necessarily the quality of the programs that use that particular style. My tastes in girls varies at times; sometimes I have no preference whatsoever, and other times I am very stubborn and picky. For the most part, I just like girls that are different in one way or another. I haven’t been in a serious relationship yet, and I don’t have any desire to. I have, for many years of my life, been a gay basher, and my mother, my brother, and my friends still feel this way. But it’s ironic, that because of my conversion to a religion that many consider to be one of the most anti-gay religions on the planet, was the one and only reason for the dissolving of those beliefs.

When exactly I found Christ is difficult to say. I’m actually still trying to understand him. Those of you who have been raised Christian probably might not understand that, but I am a recovering Atheist, and after living that kind of a life, I’m not going to make another mistake and bow my head to any belief system unless I know in my heart and in my head that it’s a belief that comes directly from God. This cautious approach has revealed some shocking revelations to me about what the Bible actually says, as opposed to what the fundamentalist establishment tells us it says. This has made me quite a radical in Christian circles, but in no way does that mean I’m not flexible. I change my opinion virtually every week because I keep absorbing new information so quickly. All I care about is what God wants, and I look at every passage of the Bible with a microscope in order to find it.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when all I knew about Christianity was from Sunday School and TV. Mom has never been very religious, and my dad is a Bahai. In all those dreadful years of being forced to go to Church on Sunday, I had never heard sex being mentioned; not once. Yes, despite the foaming-at-the-mouth obsession that most Christians seem to have about sex in any form, sexuality was never brought up, much less, homosexuality. In fact, I didn’t even know what a homosexual was until I was fourteen when I asked a friend of mine about it. He said, “Well, a homosexual is a guy who likes girls, and a heterosexual is a guy who likes other guys.” That wasn’t the first time he pulled a prank on me like that--I was the most gullible kid on the planet…haw, haw.

I don’t know when I started to dislike gays but it’s clear what my stance was by the time I was fifteen. At that time I was going to after-school church meetings with other kids my age. I didn’t care about the religious aspect of it, I just went there to see a particular girl I was fond of. At one meeting, the Reverend got to homosexuality. He said that it’s mentioned very few times, but when it is mentioned, it’s bad. I wanted to be funny, so I told others in the group that if I ever turned gay, that they should kill me. I described where the materials needed to dispose of my body would be located. The whole bit was a riot, but the Reverend was not amused. I later found out that one of the passages mentioned read in this way:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.
Leviticus 18:22

My initial response to this was, “Sucks to be them--not my problem.”

I had voiced my disgust for homosexuals many times in those church groups. One time I said that “all gay people should be put in a big rocket and sent to Alpha Centauri where they belong.” I wanted to say that all gays should be lined up and shot, but that probably wouldn’t fly with others, especially not in a church. I’ve talked to many Christians who say that they don’t hate gays themselves, they simply hate gay acts. Based on first-hand experience, I can assure you that this is simply not true. The core nature of homophobia is that gays are not committing sins, they are sin. This way of thinking continued for many years, even though I was beginning to hate religion entirely anyway.

I was watching a Cold Case Files type of show one day, which featured the thrill-killing of a gay man by three high school students. He was attacked at his home because of his sexuality. I felt no sympathy for him--quite the opposite, really. One of the students was being interrogated by a cop, he had already confessed to the killing.

COP: What happened at this point?
STUDENT: We knocked on his door, and waited in the bushes. Then he opened it to see who it was.
What did he say?
He said, “Hello? Can I help you?”

It was at this point that I started to feel different.

Then you hit him with the bat?
Did he scream?

I didn’t want to watch the program anymore; I felt too bad for the guy that died. This happened often to me, but it never lasted.

Sympathy for a gay person who was the victim of a hate crime is usually non-existent when it comes to homophobes, unless the descriptions of the incident becomes too graphic. It’s like when a soldier shoots a civilian, it demoralizes him, but if a pilot bombs hundreds of civilians, it affects him relatively little because it’s less personal. For the most part, there’s a general “one less fag” attitude, whether it’s out in the open or not. Sometimes this view is expressed openly, depending on the environment you're under.

This was no more obvious than a few years later when my home state of Maine was going to decide whether or not to allow gay marriage in Maine. It was number eight on the list of many new proposed laws. It was a simple yes or no to gay marriage. I wasn’t old enough to vote at seventeen. The whole state was filled with signs that said “Vote Yes on 8!” and there were several assemblies in support of gay marriage. It was so obvious that they would win…but they didn’t. The morning news was clear: no on 8. The silent majority had spoken, and the activists had been defeated. It was an unexpected treat for me, but I had wondered why those who voted no hadn’t been more vocal about it.

I was certainly vocal about it. I had no problem saying that I was a homophobe. I said it in a class at break time once, and a girl I knew said “You are?” with a hint of distress in her voice.

Later that year she made a comment about hentai, which is known as Japanese animated erotic films. Now, you can believe what you want about adult entertainment, but I say that hentai is God’s greatest gift to man!! But, I was curious why a girl would watch it. So I asked her, “Why would you know anything about hentai?”

She said with a nervous smile, “Because I watch it.”
“Because you are…?”
She said slowly “…bisexual.”
Then I said, “That’s so cool!” I could see the tension lift from her face. I found out later that she was attracted to me, and she was worried I wouldn’t like bisexuals, but I didn‘t. I was being a hypocrite, I know. I was, at this time, becoming more open to Christianity, and more open to the possibility of being a Christian--and if there’s one thing that Christianity is clear on, it’s that you need to be consistent.

By the time I saw “The Passion”, I was beginning to realize that if I wasn’t with Christ, I was against him. So I needed to follow his rules--but what were his rules? Though I had no problem accepting the traditional views on homosexuality, I was rather perplexed by how little biblical foundation there was for those views, and how the anti-gay philosophy didn’t seem to go hand-in-hand with standard Christian philosophy. It was an idea that floated around Christianity, but never seemed to be part of it.

I had no idea that a constitutional amendment would be proposed to ban gay marriage. Bush was losing credibility in my eyes at that time. He was becoming more and more of a deceiver and an advocator of a war that was unjust, even though I strongly supported it in the beginning. When he started talking about a gay marriage ban, I said “Finally, this joke of a president is doing something good for the country,” and I supported the President’s actions fully.

As time went by though, I had to realize that, though I detested hearing how the controversy over the ban was a “civil rights issue”, I eventually had to admit that it was a separation of church and state issue. The vote was for the Congress to decide, but if I had to vote for the ban personally, I would be saying that religion overrules freedom. I could not stand for that. I couldn’t simply set aside my obligation to protect the Bill of Rights in order to further my own beliefs! If Maine had another vote on whether gays could get married, and me being eligible to vote, would I vote against gay marriage? The answer was no, I would not. We need to have the choice to believe what we want, without the state telling us what choices we have. I think Jesus said it best:

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar…
Luke 20:25

I have been on many message boards that deal with political topics, and I often gave my standard opinion on gay issues such as sodomy. I argued with lots of people on issues like this and when you talk about it long enough, you’re bound to be labeled as a bigot. When this happens, you need to soften up your character in order to make your views more easy to grasp. So I tried to assure them that I wasn’t against gays, just gay impulses and urges. I said that I thought they were unnatural, and we should find ways of figuring out what makes a person gay, so that we could correct the “problem”.

There was one particular forum where a member brought up the subject of gay marriage in Church. He said that he thought gay marriage should be done in court instead of church. I agreed, but there were others that didn’t. After much debate, I knew I had to bend my opinion, so I told them that I simply thought all marriage should be in court, and that whether gays got married or not didn’t matter to me. The responses were more of the same, and I found myself being egged from every direction. Then, I said it:

Okay, I believe that gays have a right to marry. I just think that they shouldn’t be married in church.

That first line was a huge leap for me, even though I was lying. The response from my adversaries was simple and obvious: “Not all churches believe that gay marriage is wrong!”

There was no real way of getting around this. The subject matter had to change, and the motive for my view suddenly was about tradition, instead of homosexuality. I said things like “I just believe that marriage should be one man and one woman. What’s wrong with that?” This didn‘t help the situation, and the other members started attacking me personally. I left the forum licking my wounds.

There was no doubt that the people at that forum were rude and narcissistic, but once I stopped focusing on them, I began to look into my own eye: I had lied about how I felt about gays, I lied about how I felt about gay marriage, and I lied about why I thought gays shouldn’t get married…and for what?! What was the point of all this? Why should I care about whether gays get married? Things began to build up in me: how I censored myself about shooting gays, how the voters of my state who were against gay marriage didn’t voice their opinion publicly, and now me lying about my personal feelings in order to fight against something that doesn’t hurt or benefit me in any way, shape, or form. Why was I doing this? Why was I carrying this with me everywhere?

At this time the Iraq war was getting more expensive and more violent, and I found myself becoming very political. History gave me great analogies for the growing problems in the present. I became increasingly interested in the Kennedy Administration, and how many problems during the Bush Administration mimicked that of the Kennedy years. What I found astounding, aside from the similar situations both presidents were under, was how Kennedy seemed to handle these situations much, much better, and seemed to be far more presidential and ethical in the decisions he made. I was so fascinated by it, that I made a thesis on it entitled “Comparisons between United States presidents.”

While researching for this long paper, I listened to many of Kennedy’s speeches. One particular speech, the request for a Civil Rights Act made on June 11, 1963, had words in it that changed me forever:

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free, except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens, except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race, except with respect to Negroes?

Tears welled up in my eyes. I knew I was doing the exact same thing to people right now. I was thinking hate, I was preaching hate, and I was nurturing hate against my fellow man for only one reason: because he was different than me. I was living hatred and I didn’t even have the balls to admit it--all of it was bullshit; it was nothing but pure bullshit!

I quickly found out just how much silence there was on homosexuality in the Bible, to such a degree that the word “homosexual” doesn’t even exist in Hebrew or Ancient Greek! When I looked at the clobber passages with more of a skeptical eye, I saw that the passages in Leviticus and Romans are taken greatly out of context and are not gay bashing at all. What emphasized this belief the most, was comparing the Bible to the Muslim holy book, the Koran:

"We also sent Lut : He said to his people : "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds." Qur'an 7:80-81

"What! Of all creatures do ye come unto the males, and leave the wives your Lord created for you? Nay, but ye are forward folk."
Qur'an 26:165

Both passages reference Sodom and Gomorrah. Sayings written in the Hadith are even more blunt:

"When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes."
"Kill the one that is doing it and also kill the one that it is being done to."

Yikes! No room for misinterpretation there! Allah says gay sex is bad, bad, bad! Both books were written roughly six hundred years after Christ’s death, long after the Catholic establishment had begun enforcing it’s own opinions about homosexuality. Will we ever learn from our mistakes? You bet your ass we will!

No matter how intelligent or compassionate we may think we are, we will always have a little room for prejudice in our hearts, we just don't call it that. When you are dealing with someone who is anti-gay, logic will not help you. Logic is a weak weapon against hate. Hate is a fire that produces no warmth, and is a motivator even though you have no goals. I’ve seen it, I’ve carried it; it isn’t anger, or disapproval; it’s something else.

“Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish,” wrote Albert Einstein. Someone could be a perfectly moral, decent person, who respects others, yet feels differently about a certain group of people. I had always thought tolerance was good, but when it came to homosexuality, I would say, “Well, that’s different.”

I am very pessimistic about human nature at times; humans can be inherently dumb creatures, with a monkey see, monkey do element to them. At the same time though, I marvel at the inherent good nature humans have. Hate is a thing that dies when it’s exposed to light. People used to refer to homosexuals as if they were faceless boogiemen, but gays are on TV much more now, and people say, “They don’t seem so bad to me.” Gay rights is by no means the final frontier. For any person reading this, which includes homosexuals, there may be others out there who are being treated the same way I once treated gays. My honest advice is that you simply question everything, and that you engage in debate or conversation. I’ve learned a lot about world religions, philosophy, atheism, bigotry, and sin--and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that open dialogs with people you disagree with, is the most spiritually healthy thing you can ever do! I’m telling you the truth, and it will make you free.

Cynics regarded everybody as equally corrupt…Idealists regarded everybody as equally corrupt, except themselves.
- Robert Anton Wilson


© 2005 Ian

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