This post was inspired by a religious debate I had with an acquaintance. He is a fellow Christian, but sadly has an “against the behavior, not the person” kind of stance towards LGBTQ+ folks. Usually, I avoid religious debates, but as my acquaintance was able to write civilly to me, I was willing to engage.
For a long time, I’ve been pained by how my fellow Christians could possibly believe in something so damaging and harmful to an entire community of people. On the surface, this “disagree with the behavior, love the person” attitude doesn’t seem so bad. But when you think more deeply, saying that someone’s identity is morally wrong, immediately denigrates and discriminates against the person. It would be like proclaiming, “I like Chinese people. I just have a problem with their ethnicity.” How racist that statement is, even if the speaker claims to like Chinese people.
The acquaintance I debated with, whom I will call “Ray” in this article, said that he is fine with queer and trans identities, but is simply against their “behaviors,” i.e. same-sex romantic relationships, gender transitioning, etc. However, it is absurd to think that you can divorce such a central behavior from an identity. It would be akin to saying, “I’m okay with the Chinese ethnicity. But speaking Chinese is wrong. Please stop using the Chinese language.” Again, how discriminatory this statement is!
People like Ray might claim that incidents such as the gay club shooting at Orlando, are only because of some extreme, “mentally ill,” and violent individuals. However, what they do not realize, is that the beliefs: “same-sex romantic relationships and medical gender transitioning are wrong,” have become a part of our society’s belief system, and it is because of this homophobic and transphobic culture that “extremists” would kill queer and trans people. If our society did not have an anti-gay and anti-trans attitude, aggressors would not feel the need to target LGBTQ+ folks in the first place.
It saddens me deeply that some Christians I know who are nice people otherwise, would collude in such a bigoted and destructive belief. Just as it is impossible to look down on the Chinese language without indirectly looking down on Chinese people, it is impossible to scorn same-sex relationships and gender transitioning without indirectly scorning queer and trans people.
As a result of the anti-gay, anti-trans preaching of numerous churches (but not all churches), they have alienated many LGBTQ+ folks from religion. I feel triggered almost every time a queer or trans friend expresses their hatred towards Christianity and Christians in general. On the one hand, I completely empathize with their rage and hatred; but on the other hand, it angers me that, because the conservative churches preach homophobic and transphobic beliefs, their anti-queer mindset has affected the entire Christian community, making the allies and LGBTQ+ folks who happen to be Christian themselves, guilty by association. For this reason, I am actually more closeted about my religious identity than about my gay and trans identities, even though I may talk about these identities on the internet for the sake of discussion.
In the next part of this post, I will summarize the religious debate I had with Ray.
Religious scholars disagree on how to interpret the Bible. Some think we should take the scripture at face value and believe that the Bible is “clearly against homosexuality.” Yet, other theologians believe that we should take historical context and linguistic translations into account. I won’t cover the latter, as I do not know any Biblical languages. But I can talk about the part on historical context: Some theologians argue that in the Sodom chapter, God punished the people for attempting gang rape, not for having same-sex attractions. As for passages in the New Testament where St Paul seems to denounce same-sex acts as “unnatural” and sinful, a number of scholars interpret this as condemning sexual assault, temple prostitution, and pedophilia rather than homosexuality per se. In fact, some scholars point out that the same-sex acts Paul would have seen, were the sexual assault of slave boys by their masters. Of course St Paul would be against this!
Many anti-gay believers point to the “be fruitful and multiply” section to justify heteronormativity. However, how does this explain all the people who choose to be celibate, including St Paul himself? How about people who have sexual dysfunctions, such as vaginal pain or erectile dysfunction, people who are sterile due to medical reasons, and those who are disgusted by sex (e.g. sex-repulsed asexuals)?
Ray explained to me that some people were called to be celibate, so they could better serve God, as they did not have to take care of a spouse or children. As for those who are unable to have children, of course they are not sinning. In fact, Ray believes that celibacy is better than engaging in sexual activity, and that gay couples are fine as long as they do not have sexual relations.
Now, I’m aware that not all anti-gay Christians have the same opinions as Ray does. But about Ray’s opinions, how odd it is that he finds it acceptable to not have children, due to physical incapability, sexual repulsion, or voluntary celibacy; yet, there is something wrong with gay couples who can actually have biological children! For the latter, gay couples can use artificial insemination, surrogacy, or even traditional methods of conception, e.g. for a trans male and cis male couple, or for gay folks who once married someone of the opposite gender, and had biological children with them. Is there something innately better and more moral about having children via cisgender, straight sex?
As for Ray’s remark that gay couples are okay as long as they don’t have sex with each other, wow, it is none of his business what others do in the bedroom. And how does a gay couple sleeping together hurt him? How can he even tell if a couple had sex, if they don’t take the trouble to inform him?
Another very interesting part in Ray’s viewpoint, is that he greatly appreciates those who adopt orphans, and is fine with gay parents adopting too. Well, he is contradicting himself here. His arguments so far are: 1) You should have biological children unless you are unable to do so, or if you choose to be celibate. 2) Adoption is commendable, and gay couples can adopt too. 3) Gay, nonsexual couples are fine. 4) Gay sex is not fine.
Doesn’t #4 sound out of the blue and even arbitrary?
Ray elaborates that gay sex is “wrong” because they do not result in children. Yet, he just said earlier that it’s okay to have no children, as those without offspring will have more time to devote to serving God. Plus, gay couples can have biological children. And what about his statement that it’s good to adopt orphans? Wouldn’t couples with no biological children be extra motivated to adopt?
About sexual unions that do not produce children, I did not talk with Ray about this, but he appears to be against premarital sex and birth control as well. He stated his belief that committed, monogamous partners do not need to use condoms. I’m not going to discuss premarital sex here, as that will open up a whole other debate. But for the topic of condoms, I think it’s better even for committed couples to use condoms, partly because birth control pills can have negative side-effects for some people (e.g. contributing to vaginal pain), and partly because you can’t know for sure that your partner is not cheating on you.
Some conservative folks, and maybe Ray, think that it’s wrong to have non-procreative sex. They don’t seem to realize that sexual activity can deepen the bond between a couple (e.g. through the attachment-promoting chemical, oxytocin, which is secreted during orgasm); and some couples use sex to express their love to their partner, or to grow emotionally closer together. So sex is not just for physical pleasure; it’s for emotional bonding as well.
But even the straight people who engage in premarital sex, and sex that is not for procreation, are not as demeaned or scorned as people who are attracted to the same gender. All I see here, is a case of the majority population oppressing the minority, where the majority make the rules about what is right and good, and anyone who deviates from these rules are seen as wrong and aberrant. Just because most people are cisgender and straight, doesn’t mean that sexual relations between people of the same gender are “sinful,” or that there is anything bad about being transgender. Likewise, what proof is there that cishet relationships are better than any other?
N.B. Not all non-LGBTQ+ folks are this bigoted, however. Some cisgender, heterosexual folks are supportive allies.
On hetero relationships, Ray mentioned a passage in the Bible where Jesus blesses a marriage between a husband and wife, turning their water into wine. However, just because Jesus blessed a heterosexual couple, doesn’t mean He is against gay marriage, especially as gay marriage didn’t even exist back then, so there would be no way for Jesus to bless a married gay couple even if he wanted to.
Moreover, there is the story of the Centurion and his servant, where Jesus grants the Centurion’s request to heal the servant. Some scholars suggest that the servant, whom the Centurion treasures greatly, might have been his male lover. Others argue that just because Jesus cured someone who might have been in a gay relationship, doesn’t mean that Jesus condones same-sex relationships. In a similar disagreement, some say that Jonathan and David were lovers, while some say they were simply close as brothers.
As seen in the above, there truly are different ways in which you can interpret the Bible. How would you know who to believe? On these scriptural readings, I pointed out to Ray and some other conservative Christians that the Bible teaches some strange things, like forbidding the consumption of sea creatures with no scales, yet condoning bigamy, cruelty to animals, and in some cases, even incest.
But Ray and those other conservative Christians would just reply that I need to take the historical context into account. Animals sacrifices were only a temporary solution until Christ gave himself as a sacrifice. Sea creatures without scales were forbidden because people didn’t know how to cook them without the risk of being poisoned. Bigamy was seen as a necessary evil, e.g. Hagar had to bear children for Abraham until Sarah was later blessed with a child, and Jacob had originally wanted Rachel but was conned into marrying Leah. As for incest, there are many more arguments, also referring to the historical circumstances, on why the Bible does not actually condone it.
Aside from these passages, I would note the parts in the New Testament that appear misogynistic; for example, “women, submit to your husbands.” Once again, Ray and others would talk about the linguistic and historical background, saying that St Paul doesn’t actually advocate sexism.
Suppose they are right to read the parts on incest, bigamy, and misogyny within a historical lens rather than on a literal, surface level. Then why do they not consider the passages on homosexuality within a historical point-of-view too? Why take those seemingly anti-gay parts at face value, and insist that they are “clearly” against homosexuality? To reiterate what I said above, for the historical context of the apparently anti-gay passages, St Paul witnessed the rape of slave boys by their masters, and thus condemned sexual assault, pedophilia, and temple prostitution rather than homosexuality in general. Another instance was that in Sodom and Gomorrah, God was actually punishing them for gang rape, violence, pride, and inhospitality, not for same-sex relations.
I can imagine that, sometime in the past, many would say that the Bible “clearly” views women as inferior to men, and that wives must obey their husbands in all things. It looks like people just interpret the Bible however they want, in order to justify their social circle’s current belief.
As there are different possible readings of the Bible, it is important to use our own logical reasoning for what God would want, rather than to blindly believe somebody else’s interpretation of the scripture. I am in favor of using historical context plus our own good judgment in discerning God’s will. Would God really advocate discrimination against women, seeing them as an inferior gender? Of course not. That would be completely against the idea of love and compassion that Jesus Christ stands for. In a similar fashion, would God advocate the discrimination and deprecation of LGBTQ+ people? Again, no, of course he wouldn’t.
People like Ray would argue that God loves everyone, that everybody sins, so they are not finger-pointing at LGBTQ+ people in particular. However, Christians like Ray still believe that same-sex relations are wrong, and in doing so, they imply that queer people are inferior to straight people. Ray may believe that you can separate behavior from the person, but in this case, you can’t.
Ray told me of a gay minister they all loved, where the minister “knew” that homosexuality was “wrong,” so he never acted on his desires. Ray extended the argument to me, pronouncing that it’s okay for me to be gay, as long as I don’t act on my attraction towards the same gender; and in resisting my gay attractions, I would be a valid Christian.
Wow, does he think that I need his seal of approval to be a valid Christian? Also, I’m not sure if he realizes how condescending this attitude is: “It’s okay if you’re gay. Just don’t have sex with people of the same gender.” Imagine if I said to Ray, “It’s okay if you’re straight. Just don’t have sex with people of the opposite gender.” This simple turn-around reveals the bigotry that folks like Ray have, even if they aren’t aware of their bigotry. For some reason, it’s acceptable for a heterosexual to act on their desires, but it’s unacceptable for a gay person to act on their desires. This sounds disturbingly like the oppression of black people by white folks during the Jim Crow era, where the group in power held all the privileges, while the group with less power were pressured to stay down and accept a lower social status; the oppressors even used a patronizing “separate but equal” rhetoric, which clearly didn’t give black people equal rights to their white counterparts. For us gay folks, being told to resist our natural feelings while straight people don’t have to do so, is essentially saying that gay people have a lower social status, thus, gay people’s feelings should be suppressed and controlled, while straight people’s feelings should be encouraged and celebrated. Homophobia is just as hideous as racism.
Some may say that the Jim Crow segregation period, was much worse than homophobia ever was. But I argue that it depends on which country and era you are talking about. As nasty as Jim Crow was, black folks were never arrested, thrown into jail, or executed just for being black. Being gay is still seen as a crime in many countries—not only do you have to fear discrimination; you also have to fear for your life. An Indian gay acquaintance told us that, until recently, homosexuality was a crime in India; gay men caught holding hands would be arrested immediately by police officers. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association used to see homosexuality as a mental illness. I understand that unless a gay person is outed, they could “pretend” to be cishet for their safety, whereas black folks and other racial minorities have no way of hiding. However, many queer people are also black or another minority race. I am a gay Asian myself.
The point is not to compare whether homophobia or Jim Crow racism was worse. In both cases, people suffered a great deal, due to the oppression of minority groups, while some people in privilege made “kind” claims of “equality” that were actually thinly-veiled condescension. Thankfully, just as there were white folks who were genuine allies to black people during the Jim Crow period, there are also cishet individuals who are truly allies. I believe that some cis straight Christians who are “against the behavior, not the person,” are not aware that they are being patronizing, however, which is a topic I will expand upon later.
So what logical reason is there for God to see gay relations as immoral, anyway? For something to be a “sin,” it must cause an actual social problem, for instance, theft and murder would clearly harm others. Many anti-gay Christians argue that gay folks can’t obey the “be fruitful and multiply” commandment, which would lead to social problems. Yet, we can interpret this commandment in a historical context. Back in those times, people died more easily from famine, droughts, diseases, and other causes. Nowadays, people have a much longer life expectancy, due to much better health knowledge, medical technology, and procedures for handling and delivering food and water. In addition, many manual labor jobs are done by machines and computers instead of by human beings.
Thus, we no longer have such a desperate need to keep the human race from dying out. Furthermore, gay people make up such a small percentage of the population, that it’s absurd to accuse gay people of leading us to extinction. Most people are still attracted to the opposite gender and desire to have at least one child.
In response to my argument, Ray protests that it is still important to be fruitful and multiply, because we have an aging population, so we need people to have more children to support the older folks who can’t work anymore. Ray doesn’t believe in overpopulation either, since he claims that, from the numbers he gathered from a university course, there is enough for us all to eat, but just an unequal distribution of food. He also claims that places like Hong Kong are overcrowded rather than overpopulated, as people are spread unevenly across the land.
First off, assuming that Ray’s statistics are even right, he is being idealistic. “If only” we can give food equally to everyone, “if only” we can evenly distribute people in crowded countries and cities. But we live in the real world, not in an ideal one, so we do have many problems of supply not meeting demand, including supplies of food, shelter, space, and other resources. I added that there is pollution in overpopulated cities like Hong Kong as well, but Ray did not respond to this point.
Second of all, I’m aware of the aging population problem, but I’m not sure that getting everyone to have babies is the solution. Regardless of whether Ray believes in overpopulation or not, we don’t want to create a situation where people are uncomfortable with the crowdedness of their country, that the government resolves to do something like China’s One Child Policy again. The consequence of the One Child Policy was that many families would get rid of their baby daughters, e.g. by giving them up to orphanages, and only keep their sons. We don’t want to see a similar tragedy happen again.
Thirdly, we return to the topic of having or not having children. If it is just about needing more people to have kids to counteract the aging population, then why do we need to perform this task through the traditional, cishet intercourse route? What’s wrong with artificial insemination or surrogacy? Or biological conception between a trans-cis gay couple?
Are children born from traditional conception methods “better” than children born from other methods? Or is this just an arrogant insistence that the conventional, heterosexual way is superior to all others? And how about straight couples who use artificial methods, for example, because the husband has erectile dysfunction? Should straight couples who use artificial ways to get children be punished, because they didn’t rely on the traditional method of procreation? If they are excused because they are medically unable to conceive, then why do anti-gay Christians not extend the same understanding to gay people? Must you force yourself to have sex with someone you don’t like, just to comply with a rule that you imagine God to have?
No. I believe in a kind and benevolent God. He wouldn’t want anyone to have sex against their will, even if it’s to satisfy their families or their church. God is not cruel. There are gay folks who willingly sleep with people of the opposite gender for the sake of having children, but here I am talking about gay people who do so because of family or social pressure, not because of their own free will.
If people like Ray argue that these gay folks can simply not have sex at all, this goes back to the question of what is inherently wrong with gay sexual relations. Straight couples can also engage in sex that lead to no children, such as oral or anal, and they can use birth control too. So saying that gay relations are wrong because they are barren, is a faulty argument, because straight relations can also be barren. And surely, for a straight couple where one or both partners are sterile, we wouldn’t forbid them from having sex with each other. So why forbid it for gay couples?
Another very important point, is that people don’t have a social obligation to have children. Not everyone is suited to be a parent, and not everyone wants kids, whether because of limited money, space, time, resources, or another reason. If we accept straight couples who have sex but don’t want children, why can’t we accept gay couples who have sex and can’t have children the traditional way? Clearly there is nothing intrinsically wrong with gay sexual relations, non-procreative sex, not wanting children, having children using artificial means, or biological conception for a cis-trans gay couple. Don’t even get me started on the prejudice against pregnant trans men. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating to see such ignorance and discrimination.
Ray attempts to justify this prejudice against gay sexual relations, by saying that we cannot see the long-term consequences for some things, so we must take God’s word for it. Again, Ray is implying that only the conservative, anti-gay churches’ reading of the scripture is right, as he sees it as a given that God must be against homosexuality, despite there being other churches and Christians who interpret the Bible as gay-affirmative.
On being unable to foresee the long-term consequences, just imagine if someone read the Bible on a completely literal level; they don’t understand why women are commanded to submit to their husbands, but they believe that this must be right somehow. So, for the sake of the “long-term consequences,” they will take the Bible’s word for it, and see wives as submissive, lower beings than their husbands, and inferior to men in general. Do you see how problematic and harmful such an attitude is? How dangerous it is to put blind faith in your reading of the Bible, without using your own common sense and good judgment! I believe that God wants us to be intelligent sheep who can think for ourselves, rather than mindless sheep who follow apparent “rules” without ever questioning them.
We have not had a long discussion on gender transitioning as we did on homosexuality. Ray’s personal stance is ambivalent, as he says that he is fine with trans people going through medical transitioning, and even liked my Facebook post where I announced the arrival of my legal name change certificate; however, he has misgivings towards trans-surgeries.
Ray mentions the dangers of being able to “play God” and change people’s bodies, as he believes that this will lead to eugenics. I rebutted his argument, by responding that with any new technology, there will be risks as well as people who will use it for nefarious purposes. The solution is not to stop technological progress, if that is even possible, but to adapt and find strategies to protect ourselves against such exploiters. For instance, we may install anti-virus programs against cyber-attacks. Plus, technology doesn’t just make life easier for us; in some cases, it can even help to preserve our environment. Just think about electric cars, energy-saving lightbulbs, solar panels, and e-readers. E-readers have no backlight, so they are comfortable for our eyes, and they save countless trees.
On technology specific to physical or genetic modification, it would be inhumane to have the technology to treat or prevent a suffering, e.g. a serious disease like Parkinson’s, and refuse to give this treatment to patients. It would be like if researchers discover how to cure cancer once and for all, and you deny this treatment to cancer patients, simply because you “don’t want to play God.”
On the topic of “playing God,” some Christians believe that we are disrespecting His creations if we allow gender-affirming surgeries, insisting that we should accept what God gave us. Yet, what about those who were born blind? If we have the medical means to help them see, we probably wouldn’t say, “Too bad! We won’t change what God gave you. Just deal with your blind eyes all your life.” Wouldn’t it be infuriating if somebody said that? Similarly, for people born with missing limbs, would we refuse to give them artificial legs or arms, in the name of “respecting what God created”? Absolutely not. Once again, God is kind, not cruel.
Some Christians even disbelieve doctors, and would rather pray their illness away than to seek professional help. But have they ever considered that God might heal them through the hands of doctors? Likewise, God can deliver healing through surgeries, as well as other medical interventions.
Moreover, in admonishing trans people from medical transitioning, anti-LGBTQ+ Christians are contradicting themselves. On the one hand, they oppose trans-affirmative surgeries to modify our bodies; on the other hand, they are completely on board with using conversion therapy to change gay people’s sexual orientation! Not that it even works. It may change outward behavior, but not inward feelings. Even the American Psychological Association found conversion therapy to be ineffective, not to mention unethical.
Clearly, these groups of anti-LGBTQ+ Christians just want to twist the narrative to support what they want: a society where everyone is just like them, cisgender and heterosexual. It’s a case of people rejecting what they don’t understand, hating and fearing what they don’t know, and discriminating against those who are different from them. There’s nothing Godly about such narrow-mindedness and total refusal to understand minority groups, especially as these minority groups are not hurting anyone by dating people of the same gender, or by going through gender transitioning.
Some conservative Christians believe that trans people are deluded, or that we’re trying to look cool and get attention. This is a ridiculous belief, because there are numerous far easier and less painful ways to “look cool and get attention.” Why would anyone want to go through all the social stigma, as well as the financial, emotional, and physical struggles of gender transitioning, just to look special and striking to other people?
For those who think trans people are deluded or “mentally ill,” again, these judgmental folks are just naturalizing what they feel, and pathologizing the feelings of those who differ from them. Just because you do feel and identify as the gender you were assigned to at birth, doesn’t mean that people who do not feel or identify as their birth-assigned gender are delusional. Even if you don’t understand how someone can feel a different gender from the one assigned to them at birth, or why they would want to change their bodies, at the very least, you can see the person’s distress. If you can use medical means, whether it’s surgery, hormones, or both to relieve that distress, why wouldn’t you?
N.B. Not all trans folks experience discomfort with their bodies or want to change them, but many of us do want to transition physically.
There are people, even some trans-friendly folks, who worry about the irreversibility of surgery. However, only a very small number of people regret their surgery. Moreover, doctors and other healthcare providers have to go through an interview with the person, to confirm that they do have gender dysphoria, that is, discomfort with their body and a genuine desire to change it.
Ultimately, it’s about understanding that others have different experiences from you, and respecting their experiences even if you can’t relate. For instance, a cis woman may not understand why one would want to get rid of their breasts, but I, as a transmasculine person, do not understand why one would want to keep them. Not all transmasc folks want to have a flat chest, but many, if not most, do.
The important thing is to not automatically pathologize, or even demonize, somebody else’s experiences just because you don’t have them yourself. And just because only a minority of people don’t feel the gender they were assigned to at birth, doesn’t mean that our feelings are wrong and invalid.
Why Do Some Anti-LGBTQ+ Christians Cling to Homophobic and Transphobic Beliefs, Even When There are No Logical Reasons to Support Them?
Before I answer this question, I want to clarify that by “logical reason,” I don’t mean “my church says the Bible is against it, and all churches that interpret the Bible differently from us are wrong.” This is such a kindergarten attitude, honestly. By “logical reason,” I mean a real argument that uses your own inferences and sound reasoning.
As I said before, for something to be a sin, it has to cause actual problems and hurt people, which is why stealing and killing would be sins. Are there any problems with same-sex relations? As I have discussed at length on the “be fruitful and multiply” commandment, no. Some may blame gay men for spreading HIV, but from basic sex education, HIV is a sexually-transmitted disease, not a gay-sex-transmitted disease. Heterosexuals can contract and spread HIV too. So this is an invalid reason for believing that gay sexual relations are wrong.
In a similar vein, if someone thinks it’s wrong to change your body through surgery or hormones to align with your inner gender identity, then what are the reasons? You can’t just say something is wrong without providing solid evidence to back up your claim. Are trans people hurting others when they transition? Some might say yes, they are hurting their families by becoming infertile (e.g. if they do bottom surgery, though there is the option to freeze and preserve your eggs or sperm before you transition); or by becoming unrecognizable in their physical appearance.
For the infertility issue, it is the person’s own choice whether they want to reproduce through sexual intercourse or not, and whether they even want children in the first place. Arguing otherwise would be like saying you shouldn’t marry someone you love if your parents disapprove of them, because you would hurt your family’s feelings. But what about your own feelings?
In the long run, both you and your family will get hurt if you did something you hated, even if it was to please your parents. You would feel bitter, resentful, or at least sorrowful that you picked a path you didn’t want. Unless your parents don’t care about you, or are sadists, they will also see how miserable and angry you are, which would lead to your parents feeling sad and remorseful as well. If your parents truly love and care about you, shouldn’t they care about your feelings and happiness too?
As for the point on “becoming unrecognizable,” actually, though we can change many things with hormones and surgery, our basic facial features will stay the same. Human beings also naturally change in their physical appearance as they grow older. You don’t really expect your kids to look the same forever, right?
If someone argues that changing our physical appearance hurts our romantic partner or children, I would use the same counter-arguments as the above. It is sad if your partner or children can’t accept you after you come out, or after you transition, but there is nothing inherently wrong with being transgender or going through gender transitioning. They can’t force you to pretend to be a gender you are not. Again, if they sincerely care about you, they wouldn’t want you to suffer.
If you can think of any other arguments that an anti-LGBTQ+ person may throw out, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
Without further ado, let’s brainstorm why an anti-gay, anti-trans Christian might persist in these discriminatory beliefs, even though there are no valid arguments for how same-sex relations or gender transitioning would hurt anybody.
As someone in the field of psychology and psychotherapy, I am aware that people are rarely swayed by logic alone. If they cling onto a belief even in the absence of evidence, this is because there are emotional reasons that maintain their hold on these beliefs. In the case of the anti-LGBTQ+ Christians, I can think of a number of reasons for their persistence. First and foremost, they may fear being ostracized by family, friends, and their church if they suddenly become supportive of queer and trans people.
Depending on the hostility of their social circle towards queer people, a person may fear getting attacked or even killed if they start to support gay and trans rights.
In fact, I am willing to bet that some people who appear to disapprove of the LGBTQ+ community, may actually be closeted allies. They are secretly on our side, but are terrified to express their true opinion, in case they get targeted, injured, or exiled from their friend, family, and church groups. But such people might show their support in subtle ways, such as calling a trans person by the right pronouns, gender labels, and names; or treating a gay person’s same-gender partner with warmth and generosity.
Another emotional reason I can think of for one to hold onto anti-queer beliefs, is that the person doesn’t want to think that they were wrong all along, or to discover that because of their anti-gay and anti-trans beliefs, they have hurt some of their loved ones. It would be a wounding experience to find out that you contributed to a close friend or relative’s pain and misery.
To these folks, I would say: Think of the apostle Paul. St Paul made grave errors in the past when he was Saul, but God forgave him, and Paul has since completely reformed. Even King David was forgiven for his transgression with Bathsheba, where he had killed Bathsheba’s husband so that he could sleep with her. It’s never too late to admit that you were wrong. As human beings, we all make mistakes.
Some may not believe they are wrong, however, because they have faith in their pastor and church, and feel that whatever they say must be right. To add to this, some people were brought up with beliefs that being gay is wrong, and had never questioned this, perhaps because they had never met a gay person who was both close and out to them. Often, but not always, when someone discovers that a good friend or family member is LGBTQ+, they will re-evaluate the beliefs that they were taught in church.
Some people may love their church and the people they befriended there. Admitting that the pastor’s anti-gay teachings are wrong, would imply that this is a bad church and these are bad people. This would be a case of black-and-white thinking, however. I used to go to conservative churches with my mom and friends, back before I knew I was gay and trans, where I would just blow them off whenever they preached their homophobic beliefs. Now I feel that attending a conservative church as a gay trans person, would be like throwing a lamb to the wolves, no offense. But despite my avoidance of conservative churches now, I thought that the pastors and other Christians I met there, were generally warm and friendly people.
Even good people can be homophobic, just as bad people can be gay friendly. “Good” and “bad” people are also a black-and-white, all-or-nothing way of categorizing humanity; but I only meant a general “goodness” or “badness” in someone’s character, which depends on the viewer’s perspective as well. Related to this, I have met people I like, even love, who are anti-gay; and I have met folks I dislike who are actually supportive of my identity. I can almost say that a person’s personality has no relation to their attitude towards LGBTQ+ people.
Thus, I want to emphasize that just because your pastor was wrong about queer and trans people, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a nasty person. Sometimes, even good people can be misguided.
As I said earlier in this post, I suspect that some people who advocate the “against the behavior, not the person” attitude, are simply unaware of the harm their stance is causing. It is better than outright mistreating a person because they are LGBTQ+; however, you cannot actually separate same-gender relationships from the gay identity, or gender-transitioning from the trans identity. Thus, being “against the behavior” would automatically make you against the identity, which in turn oppresses the person who has this identity. It’s like saying, “I have no issues with the Japanese ethnicity, but can you stop speaking in Japanese with other people? I hate your language.”
If we can see how racist and problematic this attitude is, surely we should see how problematic it is to think, “I’m okay with queer and trans people, as long as they don’t date people of the same gender or go through medical gender transitioning. I find those behaviors repulsive.”
As for the social and emotional damage that these anti-queer beliefs have inflicted, people are getting bullied, attacked, even arrested or killed just for being an LGBTQ+ person! Once again, saying, “only violent and mentally ill people would do that” to shooting incidents, is ignoring the issue that it is precisely because of the social stigma against LGBTQ+ people, that makes killers target us in the first place. Plus, what about those countries that outlaw queer and trans people? For example, arresting and incarcerating people if they are found to be in same-sex relationships? Surely you aren’t going to assume that an entire country of people, or even a country’s whole government, is “violent and mentally ill,” right?
Even if you don’t care about “isolated incidents” of violence or tragedies in other countries, don’t you think it’s a problem that kids could bully a child just because they are queer or transgender? And that some of these children would commit suicide because of the bullying? This isn’t just a matter of teaching children to be nice to each other. This is about homophobia and transphobia being woven into the fabric of our society, poisoning the attitudes of many people, whether children, adolescents, or adults. Don’t you think there’s something wrong about the “homosexuality is a sin” belief, when it leads to bullying, harassment, assaults, breaking up of families and friendships, hatred towards Christianity, separation from God, suicides, self-harm, and even murder? I am only writing such an appeal because I believe that most people who are anti-gay, are not cruel people with no empathy.
You may think that my suggested reasons for these persistent anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs, are too benevolent and forgiving, and that I’m too optimistic about people. Well, then, here is a less benevolent reason: Some Christians may cling to their homophobic, transphobic beliefs, just because they cannot relate and thus find us repulsive. They think it’s “abnormal” and “wrong” to like someone of the same gender in a romantic or sexual way; and they find it “unnatural and aberrant” to feel a different gender from the one assigned to you at birth, especially if you feel compelled to change your body to match your inner identity. There seems to be an inability, at least for some of these folks, to imagine that others can have different but equally valid experiences.
To end this post on a positive note, let’s talk about the numerous ways that queer and trans folks are a benefit and blessing to the society.
To begin with, since gay people don’t have such a straightforward route to having children as heterosexuals do, they are likely more motivated than straight couples are to adopt. Even trans-cis gay couples would have problems to worry about, for instance, needing to stop testosterone for several months for a safer pregnancy. Stopping testosterone can be a very unpleasant and undesirable experience. Alternatively, one may have to spend lots of money to freeze and preserve one’s eggs or sperm before transitioning.
This increased likelihood to adopt children is wonderful, because there are many orphans in the world who need a loving home.
Queer and trans folks also help our society to progress, by debunking the gender binary. No longer should we assume that there are only two genders; that gender can be determined by chromosomes and genitals; that boys and girls have to dress, act, and speak in certain ways; or that boys must be attracted to girls and girls must be attracted to boys. Thank God for LGBTQ+ people! Otherwise, our society would be much slower in seeing how rigid, constraining, and damaging these “social rules” of gender and sexuality are.
As well, LGBTQ+ people make the world more interesting. Can you imagine how monotonous and boring the world would be if everyone was either male or female, depending on their genitalia, and that everybody was attracted to the opposite gender? What a nightmare that would be! To clarify, I don’t hate cishet people, and almost all of my close friends happen to be cishet. But life would be so dull if it lacked variety. It’s like if everybody was white, or if everyone was neurotypical. No matter how much some people dislike those who are different from them, nature favors variety in all of its species. God made sure that there is enough diversity in the human race, so that we not only survive, but also thrive and live purposeful and fulfilling lives.
I want to clarify here that I don’t believe we need to exist for the sake of others, nor do we need to weigh ourselves in terms of benefit versus cost to the society. We can exist for ourselves. But I just wanted to list some ways that queer and trans people are a gift to humanity, to show us some concrete ideas of why it is not only okay, but also beautiful and wonderful, to be an LGBTQ+ person.
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