Words Do Matter; Bullying Does Matter

In September of 2010 I interviewed Charles Robbins, then executive director of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

Before getting to the interview, though, here’s a bit of data pertinent to it:

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and accounts for 12.2% of the deaths every year in that age group. (2009, CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group – United States, 2009”)

LGB youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers. (2011, CDC, “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance”)

Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. (2011, CDC, “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance”)

Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt. (2007, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviors, Grossman, D’Augelli, “Transgender Youth and Life-Threatening Behaviors”)

LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. (2009, Family Acceptance Project™ “Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults”)

1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. (2011, CDC, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2011”)

Suicide attempts are nearly two times higher among Black and Hispanic youth than White youth. (2011, CDC, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2011”)

Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average. (2010, American Journal of Public Health, “Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths”)

Me: Charles, how long have you been with The Trevor Project?

Charles: This is my fourth year.

Me: It must be such emotionally grueling work.

Charles: You know, it’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s heartbreaking that the need for Trevor Project’s services is so apparent. The volume of calls we get, the number of letters and emails we get every day from young people desperately reaching out for help, the number of completed suicides we hear about … all of that is terribly heartbreaking. But what’s heartwarming about what we do here is how much support there is out there from people who want to help these kids. So many people really do care, really do want to reach out to these deeply disenfranchised young people. So many people are coming to understand that the fact that LGBTQ are four times as likely as their heterosexual peers to complete suicide isn’t just a problem. It’s an epidemic.

Me: Four times. That’s so awful.

Charles: It is. And it’s not just because being gay means you have, organic to your nature, an increased desire to self-destruct. Being gay doesn’t mean you just show up with an inherent tendency to complete suicide.

Me: Wait—explain why you say “complete suicide,” rather than the more common “commit suicide.”

Charles: Yes, thank you. We encourage people to say that someone completed suicide, because in this context the word “commit” sounds too much like crime-talk: it encourages us to think of the person who takes his or her own life as a perpetrator of a crime, rather than what they are, which is a victim. It’s just an outdated use of language that we’re trying to help change.

Me: Beautiful. Thanks for the explanation. You were saying that being gay doesn’t equal being suicidal.

Charles: Exactly. It doesn’t. And yet that’s what so many people imply. They take data that conclusively shows the much higher prevalence of completed suicides amongst LBGTQ kids compared to heterosexual kids, and try to use it to “prove” that a predilection toward suicide is a quality of being gay. And that’s just absurd.

Me: Why do so many teenagers who self-identify as gay attempt or complete suicide?

Charles: Because the protective factors in their life just aren’t there. They don’t have in their lives so much of what keeps young people—any person—feeling affirmed and worthwhile. A loving family. Supportive friends. A school environment where bullying isn’t tolerated. A network of supportive, caring adults. These are the sort of vital protective factors that have been removed from the lives of so many LGBTQ teens. They’re alone; they’re ostracized; they’re maligned; their very being is constantly getting negated. Of course they’re susceptible to taking the terrible, final step. Being gay doesn’t make you suicidal. Being picked on, victimized, and constantly devalued makes you suicidal.

Me: The teen years are difficult enough without the extra burden of being different from everyone else.

Charles: Exactly. For so many LGBTQ kids, high school is just an unendurable hell.

Me: What’s the one thing you’d most like people to know about LGBTQ teens?

Charles: That words and behaviors matter, that they have real consequences that affect real people. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is the worst adage ever. It’s completely wrong. Words do matter. Bullying does matter. Maybe not once or twice—everybody gets bullied sometimes. But LGBTQ kids get bullied all the time. It’s a way of life for them. It makes their life unlivable. And so many decide, ultimately, that unlivable is exactly what their life is. So they see no choice but to end it. It’s tragic. Trying to prevent them from feeling that way, from taking that irrevocable final step, is what we do here at The Trevor Project.

Me: Is there anything in particular that you’d like to say to my Christian readers?

Charles: I think that the fact that so many young people are so tormented—so ostracized by their family, peers, school, and society in general—that rather than engage and participate in life, they choose to end their life, says a lot about the Christian values that everywhere inform our culture. I think each and every one of us needs to look inside of ourselves, and examine those values for both the good and the harm they’re doing. What I would also very much like Christians to know is that being gay isn’t a choice that anyone makes. It’s not a switch you can turn off and on. Gay people were born into creation just like anyone else, and to devalue who they are by insisting God didn’t really make them as they are is to deny them the right to a rich and loving relationship with God—and that’s a terrible, terrible thing to deny anybody. No one should ever use scripture to justify removing another person from the spiritual process. If you’re a Christian—as I am—you should look to Christ for how to live and act toward others. And what does the Great Commandment of Jesus say, but that we’re all supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? I wish more Christians would remember what Jesus himself told them to do.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Kara

    God, John. This breaks my heart. Thank you for this.

  • JAy.

    Thanks for posting this series, John. I think that all Christians need to hear those last four sentences again, because it applies not only to the rejected LGBTQ teens, but to all people. In fact, I think it needs to be said again so much that I am going to do just that:

    "No one should ever use scripture to justify removing another person from the spiritual process. If you’re a Christian—as I am—you should look to Christ for how to live and act toward others. And what does the Great Commandment of Jesus say, but that we’re all supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? I wish more Christians would remember what Jesus himself told them to do. "

    • http://www.facebook.com/narnar Natalie

      I wish that too JAy. <3

    • Christie

      I'm sharing this on my FB wall with those 4 sentences as my status. Thank you for the idea of reposting those words and thank you John for taking on the subject in a deep and accurate way. Like Mindy said below, you just committed real journalism!

  • mimic

    John, Thank you so much for this insightful blog. I've posted it for my friends to read and I hope they will hear the plea for help and compassion you've extended to all of us. God bless you.

  • Derek

    God Bless You John. Many Thanks for this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/narnar Natalie

    "They take data that conclusively shows the much higher prevalence of completed suicides amongst LBGTQ kids compared to heterosexual kids, and try to use it to “prove” that a predilection toward suicide is a quality of being gay. And that’s just absurd."

    How can anyone say that suicide is a "quality" of being gay? He's right – that's just absurd.

    Great interview, John. Thank you for taking the time to do some research on the subject. LGBTQ young people suffer enough from their peers, and sometimes their parents, and society as a whole for just being who they are, and trying to live life like the rest of us. One thing that bothers me so much about homophobia is how easy it is to just dismiss LGBTQ's as people. LGBTQ young people are continuously dehumanized, demonized, threatened and denied the rights that all Americans have.

    We cannot have a strong country, we cannot evolve as humans, until we start treating our neighbors equally, and until we start on the path from hatred to tolerance to acceptance. Fear, in so many ways, has torn this country apart. There's enough in this world to be afraid of, so why are we so afraid of enforcing the rights of our LGBTQ peers?

    • Ace

      "How can anyone say that suicide is a “quality” of being gay?"

      Because somebody is going to have to tattoo "CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION" in huge letters on every single human forhead on this planet before it's going to sink in, sadly.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        That's a really good idea, Ace. What about backwards so that it can be read every time we look in the mirror?

      • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

        Oh wow. My psych professor says CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION at least once a week. Such an applicable statement.

        It is interesting that it is topics just like this that have me questioning how I define my faith. I still am a Christian, but I find myself further distancing myself from conservative and a lot of mainstream Christianity. There is too much craziness and distortion, and just out and out bad information, and I find it very discouraging. It is hard to align myself with a group that chooses to keep people of value and worth out of that group, based on tenuous reasoning.

        That is why John's work is so refreshing.

        • Mindy

          I am convinced that too many Christian churches cloister themselves away from any dreaded "others," Sylvie.

          I mentioned on another post a suburban mega-church I visited for a concert, and was amazed to find that it had its own workout facility, coffeehouse and cafe, bookstore . . . etc. etc. They had signs up for activities to keep every age group busy, auditoriums for movie nights, more than one youth band performing Christian Music Only – and on and on. And 24-hour security guards, which I just found odd.

          The people of the congregation appeared to be all white. Everyone there, except one AA couple, who sat alone off to the side. Don't know if they were members or were there like my friend and me, for the guitar. But no one interacted with them, or with us – while it seemed like most everybody knew everyone else.

          I'm fairly certain the book store would carefully screen what kind of books it sells, and while I understand the appeal of gathering with like-minded folk to socialize, they'd taken it so far that the congregants had little need to mix with the outside world, except for those jobs and schools they must attend. Personally, I like the coffee shop in my neighborhood, in which the clientele is speaking at least three different languages at any given moment. People are all colors and ages, and you can sit quietly or strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger with eye contact and a smile.

          I've also attended services at a local AME church, which has incredible music. I was one of three or four white people there, and we were embraced and welcomed by everyone, sort of folded into the group with great enthusiasm. What a difference.

          We will NEVER, as a culture, get over our fear of "the other" until we get to know that other, just like we know our same-minded friends. I hate to see Christianity lead the way to this sort of unofficial religious segregation.

          Disclaimer: Acknowledging that this is not necessarily the norm. I am merely sharing my own observations.

          • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

            Actually, your experience can be the norm. The church that I attend is multi-racial, but dis-proportionally so. In my experience of the culture, it is more lets congregate together so that we can support each other, being all on the same page.

            I have never quite fit in, even though I once served as worship leader (that means choir director, pianist and chief soloist…yeah tiny church).

            I have always wondered, in the back of the mind, well what about those guys over there? Why don't we let them join us? But knew the question was best left unasked, especially in some groups.

            I work with people from a variety of walks of life. I love meeting some of the kids at my campus, and getting to know people in my community. I find common ground with people who don't necessarily go to my church.

            When it was found out I was going through a divorce, I felt a subtle nudge away from several I thought I was close to. I know divorce is messy and uncomfortable. I appreciated the prayers and support from afar, but it was my good, non-churched, gay friend and his partner who made me leave the house and go to breakfast those first few weeks. My co-workers and some friends were my support group, not necessarily the members of my church. I am disappointed, but sadly not surprised.

            The church I attend is more inclusive, but even so, they are still not the perfect fit for me. I realize that not every congregation is a good fit for every single person, but you would think there would be more diversity…oh wait, I live in a segment of the south, where progressive ideas like more openness for "non-traditional" worshipers is approaching heresy. You should see the craziness over prayers at county commissioner meetings, OY!

      • http://farfromthisshore.wordpress.com Don Whitt

        That correlation does not equal causality is true, but also platitudinous. Most reasoning relies on association of results with assumptions about causes. That isn't bad reasoning, but it can lead to incorrect conclusions. Tattooing it on your forehead is probably about as valid as inking "The absence of proof is not the proof of absence" there, too. Another platitude I'd pay to never hear again.

        John – thank goodness this resource is available to kids and thank you for promoting it.

        • Ace

          It may be a platitutde, but frankly it's something that bears repeating. Yes, you have to reason based on what is observable, but I think we could all benefit from more caution in making a foregone conclusion in our minds about something when it is not really nearly so black-and-white.

          The parable of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind. What is an "obvious" conclusion to one person may not be "obvious" to others, or even correct.

        • Ace

          (Basically what I am saying is that it's fine to have an idea about something, but people should not be so rigid in their judgement that they cannot accept that more than one solution is possible, even of other possiblities are not pleasant to their sensibilities)

  • Mindy

    John. You just committed real journalism.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Argy-bargy

      Ha! Well put. Indeed. Same from me, John.

    • http://spiritualmeanderings.wordpress.com/ Sentinel

      Nice one, Mindy. :)

      And yes – wonderful piece, John. Thank you so much for doing the work and sharing it with us.

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    Thank you for this John. It's heart breaking to read these statistics. And to know that the Church that I love contributes so much to this is absolutely appalling.

    Praying that this will help get the word out.

  • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

    Wow. There it is.

  • Susan

    Thank you, John.

  • A'isha

    John, Thank you so much. After reading all the comments from the earlier post on this topic, it speaks volumes to who you really are that you would take the time to interview this expert on the topic. My opinion of you has increased yet again. :) What's sad to me is that there's even a need for an expert or an organization such as the Trevor Project.

    I was just discussing with a friend the bullying that her son endures. He's a 5th grader and kids in his school and neighborhood bully him constantly regarding his sexuality. He's 10!! He doesn't know what his sexuality is! He's small for his age, has ADHD, and is literally brilliant. For those reasons kids target him. He's also already expressed his desire to die. At 10. It breaks my heart.

    Not too long ago in an article at christianitytoday.com (I could find it if anyone's interested) there was a statement made that "tolerance" and "bullying" are buzzwords for the "homosexual agenda." I wanted to puke! This is the reason the world, specifically the Christian community, needs blogs like yours, John. Thanks again.

    • Christie

      Please do post a link to that article. I'm trying to find it, but am not having any luck.

      I think my fiance went through similar bullying at a young age to you're friend's son. I wish I could say he is over it, has dealt with it and has healed, but no. He's got ADHD and is just different than other people. He has a skewed perception of the world based partially, I think, on what he endured as a bullied child. I pray your friend and her family can find the help and understanding among the community to get the boy back to health.

      • A'isha

        Here's the link I mentioned. The points I referred to are under the subheading "Religion on the Decline." Oh, and apparently they were referencing something called "CitizenLink" when they mentioned it. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/augustwe

        Thanks for your kind words, Christie. I'm sorry your husband went through this same thing. It's horrible to watch, even peripherally like I do. Last night at a soccer game (he's on the same team as my kids) the parents were even making remarks like "Get that boy some steroids!" No wonder kids say things when the parents act like that. I was sickened.

        • Christie

          Thanks for the link. I'll be checking that out shortly. :)

          I think I can understand how horrible it is to witness the comments and actions, especially those of the parents. Up to a certain age, I think kids are only mimicking their parents, so they don't always know what they're doing or how they're hurting others.

          I guess my conundrum is this:

          When we see or hear others doing/saying something hurtful, regardless of if they intend to hurt or not, what do we do?

          I tend to be shy and non-confrontational. The Internet is wonderful for people like me. I can say my piece and get out without facing the consequences (if I want to). By that I mean I can call someone on what they're doing and if I want to ignore their response, I can. In person it is much different and much more stressful for me.

          However, if I ignore a situation that is so clearly painful for someone else, then am I not just contributing to the problem? By my silence, I speak volumes.

          So I guess it comes down to courage. The courage to stand up for what's right.

          Since love is right, how can we always be love, show love, and speak love?

          Okay, I think I'm done now. I am curious though about what do we do as people not directly involved in a given situation where hurtful things are occurring?

          • Mindy

            Christie, you are right, it comes down to courage. And for people like you who feel too shy and non-confrontational to speak up, I suppose those moments can define you. Find the courage, sacrifice your comfort zone and do the right thing, or always wonder why you didn't.

            I get it – I've missed opportunities to right wrongs that way, too. I'm not shy, but am not one to jump in and intentionally piss people off, either – especially bullies.

            But as I've aged, I've gained a lot of courage. I've found it in myself more than once to speak up when someone was hurting someone else. Because I realized, in that moment, that I had no choice.

            My daughter's school does a great program about bullying. Each child self-identifies as one of the following: Are they a victim? bully? advocate? or bystander? Most of them rated themselves bystanders – and they then spent the school year learning how to be advocates instead. Speaking up, when they are needed.

            Some kids can jump into the fray and take a confrontation onto themselves. They are the visibly strong, the charismatic leaders. Some work their way into the fray more quietly, taking a victim by the hand and removing him, letting the victim know, by their soft-spoken actions, that they have his back.

            One of the most powerful tools is steady eye contact. With either the victim, to encourage extricating himself, or with the bully, daring him to continue. Not fighting him (or her), but steadying the situation with a calm, resolute gaze.

            I'm exhausted so am rambling, but it is possible for any personality type to advocate. You just have to find the strength of what is right inside – and you can do anything.

  • Ace

    "That words and behaviors matter, that they have real consequences that effect real people. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is the worst adage ever. It’s completely wrong. Words do matter. Bullying does matter. Maybe not once or twice—everybody gets bullied sometimes. But LGBTQ kids get bullied all the time. It’s a way of life for them."

    Thanks for posting this John.

    I'm not gay but I spent the entirety of my childhood as a favored target for bullies, from preschool through university, and I wish people would understand this better. Not just in the context of children who aren't cis-gendered and heterosexual, but for *all* children, how important it is not to have to go through your entire upbringing feeling like a cornered animal.

  • Alicia

    I just want to say thank you. I'm not Christian. I was ostracized and tormented in school for not being Christian, but despite that, I always try to keep an open heart towards people of all religions, but when you so often encounter people who claim to follow Christ and then twist words that I think he intended for love to be used in hateful ways, it's hard to remember there are more good, beautiful, true Christians than there are nasty, hateful ones. Your blog, your post and your readers have given me hope that we can all live, regardless of religion, race or orientation, peacefully together.

    Also, this gives me great proof of beauty in Christianity when my other non-Christian friends try to bash believers, churches and the Bible. It feels good to know that I'm defending good people who care.

    • Mindy

      Beautiful, Alicia. I echo your sentiments entirely. :)

  • Susan

    Thank you, John, for taking the time to interview Mr. Robbins and for providing concrete information as well as new resources for those of us who want additional information or have a particular passion for this cause.

    For those of you who are interested, The Trevor Project is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheTrevorProject as is the We Give a Damn Campaign: http://www.facebook.com/wegiveadamn?v=wall

    The We Give A Damn Campaign (website: http://www.wegiveadamn.org) is explained as follows from the organization’s website:

    “The Give a Damn Campaign is for everybody who cares about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.

    But, it’s especially for all you straight people out there! Whether you’re already an active supporter, want to show your support for the first time, or hadn’t given equality a lot of thought before and now want to learn more, we are here to help you get informed about the issues and get involved, at a pace that works for you.

    You’ll find a lot of useful information throughout this site—information that’ll engage you, surprise you and move you. You will also find a bunch of ways to get involved and show your support and encourage your straight peers to show theirs as well.

    For all you gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks—we need and want you here, too! Because this site is also for you. Not only will you learn new things that might surprise and interest you, you’ll also find a lot of useful tools and resources that will help you encourage the straight people in your life to give a damn.

    Like we said, the Give a Damn Campaign is for everyone. Because the only way we can truly achieve equality for all is if we all get informed and get involved. So join us today and let us know you give a damn.”

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, thanks for your very kind and encouraging comments here. I know they mean a lot to people who might read them, and take heart.

    I greatly enjoyed talking with Mr. Robbins; he's a good man. (And, on a MUCH more prosaic note, I also enjoyed going back to the journalism-type work I did for so many years before turning to books. I miss learning about what people do, and interviewing them.)

    Please do repost/email/FB share/Twitter, etc. this piece. I'd of course like it to get into as many hands as possible, because we never know who might know someone who could especially benefit from Mr. Robbins' words and work. Thanks.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    What a wonderful interview, Charles Robbins is as eloquent and kind and expressive with his words as you are, John. The statistics are really heartbreaking when you look at them boiled down like they are here. I know its really a cliche' at this point, but once again I'm horrified at the things people do and say to one another in the name of Christ. We are all the creation of a loving God, regardless, and would do well to remember that and treat one another accordingly.

  • Robert Meek

    I remember it. 1976 is when I graduated. That was my senior year.

    It was in my freshman year that I realized – totally – what I had been fighting and denying.

    And yes, I was terrified, and alone. The 1970s we didn't have these kind of resources. I knew what I felt. (Gay.) I knew what I'd been taught. (Hellfire and brimstone.) I knew what I was. (Terrified.)

    And I knew there was no one I could go to about it.

    I was in a "private Christian school" that would have no mercy on me at any level.

    Things did happen. Things I have told no one, at all, even to this day.

    Suffice it to say that my hidden crushes resulting in unrequited love, was not as hidden as I had thought, and I was eventually confronted, by the school's guidance counselor.

    It was not a pleasant experience in his office, at all. The hostility and hateful disapproval were massive. The following icy cold hatred from said instructor that followed, after he figured it out, did nothing but make me want to curl up and yes, die.

    The only reason I didn't was I was either too smart, or too cowardly, to actually do anything about it.

    But I used to pray, beg, God to let my car go over a bridge as I'd drive over one, or let someone run a red light and kill me in the next intersection, crying as I'd drive down the road.

    That was my teenage years.

    Alone.

    Totally alone.

    How well I remember, even though I am now 53.

    • A'isha

      Oh Robert, I'm so sad imagining what you went through. It makes me want to do anything I can to make sure no kids have to suffer through that again. You'd think that 30 years would make a difference, but it sure hasn't.

    • Mindy

      {{{{{{{Robert}}}}}}}

      I don't know what else to say. Except thank you.

    • http://none Don Rappe

      I feel that the sharing of these experiences is useful.

    • Tony

      Stories like this break my heart.

    • Christie

      I pray you can feel the love from these comments.

      My heart and prayers go out to you.

      Much love,

      Christie

  • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

    I'm reading a book right now called The Narcissism Epidemic – Living in the Age of Entitlement. And I think it would be hugely beneficial to those of us who are Christian to read.

    What we don't realize is how much privilege we enjoy living in this "Christian nation" of ours and how our edge – the edge that comes from being marginalized – has been eradicated. The very edge that Jesus lived upon and spoke from and died for. The very edge that these kids are dying on and we've no clue about what is happening because we don't live on it anymore. We've manufactured an edge that's based on victimization of people not liking us – have we considered that they don't like us because we don't have a clue of what's going on outside our own borders that isn't spoon fed to us by our pastors or the latest version of The Shack?

    Are our communities so insular that our conversation simply reflects what we want to keep believing about ourselves and the world around us? Has our "reasoning together" become regurgitated niceties, has our going after the devastation in our Church become divining who is the bad christian to ensure we're not one of them and everyone knows it?

    While we ponder these questions from the safety of our own privilege, these kids are dying and no one gives a shI# about what we think because at minimum, they are trying to take us out of the equasion so we don't make it WORSE. They are dying, we are in part responsible for actively sending the message that they are intrinsically evil. And we're also passive when we invest our energy pointing at those who are actively sending this message and making sure everyone knows "I love the gays. I support marriage. I'm not one of the bad ones.

    I'm realizing how narcissistic I am for being the latter when I'm not giving either time, money or energy in shutting down the part of my Christian tent who is contributing to this. I need to figure that out. It's awfully easy to be the schoolmarm on the Internet. What do I do when I go home? That's the real question.

    • Mindy

      Powerful stuff, DR. And you are so right. As one outside the Christian church, what can someone like me do? I write about it, here and elsewhere. I teach my kids to embrace and cherish diversity, to learn about as many "others" as they can, and treasure the wealth of cultural and human knowledge they gain that way, as well as treasure the relationships with wonderful people they wouldn't know if they didn't explore the world. But how do I take on the segment of the Christian tent that discriminates without Christian-bashing altogether – because I don't want to do that. I love me too many Christians to ever engage in blanket bashing!

      But I hear you loud and clear. What can we sacrifice in order to see these kids – and their adult counterparts – be treated fairly, with their dignity in tact? Since the problem is systemic in many ways, where do we start?

      • Christie

        "But I hear you loud and clear. What can we sacrifice in order to see these kids – and their adult counterparts – be treated fairly, with their dignity in tact? Since the problem is systemic in many ways, where do we start?"

        This! This! This!

        Where do we start? I wish I knew exactly, but I feel that teaching others is a big step in the right direction.

        If we are to change anything, I think we need to come from a place of non-judgment, compassion, understanding, respect, and LOVE. This applies to the ones who are being hurt and also the ones who are spreading the hurt.

        There are people who are so close-minded that they would not even consider a discussion. That may just be the way it is. Let's reach out to those who will consider and participate in discussion. Let's show them what is going on and teach them they can help prevent the hurt.

        Thank you for asking the question. It inspired my reply here and much more goings-on in my head.

      • Susan

        @ Mindy,

        I posted some FB pages and a website a few hours ago that offer additional websites, events, etc. but it hasn't published b/c a note indicates it is awaiting moderation?

        Anyway, I think a way to start is by keeping up to date with various websites and Facebook pages, knowing the stats/info and working it into conersations naturally.

        Just as people here don't like to be preached at by Christians, I'm sure Christians / churches aren't any more responsive than to it either. Rather than approach it as a "conserative christian issue" I tend to broach the topic as teen suicide in general, and then allow the other info come from thaht place.

        Am aoubt to fall asleep.

        Let me know if any of this info helps or if you hae any info, please share it.

        Many thanks.

        Susan

  • Christine

    John: thank you. This post really hit home and it breaks my heart for the teenagers who feel so alone and helpless, and it makes me sad that the church has so missed the mark of what Jesus did preach. There is a lot of restitution that has to be made.

  • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

    How odd. Someone just sent me this link! It's from the Trevor project. It's a video called "It Gets Better". What a lovely group of people.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      This is actually Dan Savage's project ….

      • John O.

        John, thank you for all your blogging, and this piece in particular — you give me hope for a lot of things on a lot of levels.

        The "It Gets Better" project has just recently been "discovered" by some of those Christians whom you've done a wonderful job taking to task on these issues (and if you don't care for "taking to task" how about "given them something to think about.")

        It grieves me to see some of the hate spewed out by people who claim to be Christian against such a deeply needed, sweet and well intentioned project.

        You've addressed this often and from a number of angles already, for which I am grateful, but if you can stomach it, please watch some of those hateful messages, because I would love you to respond to some of them, if you are so moved.

        One sample is on the blog Joe My God — a salty, gay political blog which is definitely not for everyone — but it was there I first learned of the "It Gets Better" Project and now, sadly, of this latest turn of events.

        (Apologies for the lengthy comment — long time lurker, first time commenter).

        • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

          I watched. And that guy is exactly what I'm talking about. He's Christians' problem, he is our mess to clean up. And we let other people do it for the most part. I need to find a way of actively stopping him, apologies and expressions of "Oh wow that is so terrible, but you know we're not perfect, just forgiven. I can't stop the bad Christians" are not enough from Christians anymore, not enough from me anymore.

          • Argy-bargy

            Luke 17:3 (NIV): "So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him."

            Matthew 18:5 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            The Gentiles and the tax collectors are better than this guy. Which is the problem.

          • Argy-bargy

            Haha, true. Maybe the tax collectors should…oh say, do a little audit?

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            What's deeply depressed me as I reflect back on these conversations is the continued energy of those of us who have just focused on debating the Scripture, back and forth, like a ping pong match. While in the last 72 hours, another gay kid killed himself.

            I'm just over it. I'm over Christians, I'm over all of us. The focus will always be on "What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?" instead of "What actions can we take together RIGHT NOW so today another gay kid doesn't kill himself or get kicked out of his house by someone I go to church with?"

            I'm done. I've decided to take all of the money that I give to Christian organizations that focus on kids and put it toward the Trevor Project that's actually practically addressing the issue. I'm sick of all the talk and no action. The debate around Biblical interpretation will rage on long after I'm dead. How many kids are going to kill themselves as we invest energy there?

            This entire debate – watching how much energy is invested in "I am right!" "I am wrong and here is why!" is exhausting to me. More and more I'm realizing that Christianity just isn't the place where Jesus is.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Being an individual rather than Benign Dictator Of The World (I've got dibs on that job, Missy!) means that we can only do so much. And yes, that's frustrating, and yes, it is cause to feel insignificant.

            But you know what, DR? You are part of the solution, and that's no small thing when you consider that just recognizing the toxic role religion plays in this ongoing problem is a significant achievement.

            That you speak out so eloquently is no small thing, either, and it seems to me that you are doing everything any one can do as an individual to affect the eventual and positive outcome that can't help but arrive because it is just and right and good. In the meantime, there will still be victims and each one will be another nail in the coffin of bigotry.

            In other words, you are doing your part as well as anyone can. And I probably speak on behalf of many when I thank you for your contribution to what you know in your heart as well as your head is worth it.

          • Mindy

            DR, I'm with tildeb. You ARE doing your part. And I would add one thing to your plan – if you regularly donate to Christian organizations, TELL THEM why you are going to move your money to Trevor's Project instead. Send a letter to their boards or their executive directors and explain your reasoning. Whether the amount is a little or a lot, the REASON needs to be made clear. And if you tell them as eloquently as you've written here, even if just one of them gets the message, it will have been worth it.

            I will follow your lead in my support of Trevor's Project – what I can give, I will, and it will go to them.

          • Jeanine

            This is a forum where ideas are discussed. One on one ministry is usually a face to face, person to person kind of thing.

            To suggest that people who have a different point of view about how to reach these teens are in effect 'not doing anything' about them is simply not true.

            You have no idea what commentors on this site do with their time and finances.

            There are ministries in the conservative church that CARE every bit as much about this issue as you do. Many conservative Christians donate their time and money to helping them.

            The problem is that you just may not like their message or their method of helping. I think the love they are trying to show is not temporal but eternal. And I think they are getting great results.

            Here is good one if anyone is interested.
            http://joedallas.com/

            I'm sure most people here hate this guy, but there may be one or two who need this.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ Jeanine:

            Jeanine, after watching that guy on the video suggest that *being gay* was the reason he committed suicide? That it was his fault? Instead of bawling his head off at this CHILD killing himself? I could honestly give a crap about what any christian thinks or believes or states about the Bible, about homosexuality, or about what you think about my comments. Seriously. I'm sure you're a lovely person but even talking about this with you or with anyone does nothing.

            What actually id something are the Dan Savages of the world who will remind these kids that it gets better, that they can survive the hell they are going through and become an adult. That we as Christians weren't the very FIRST people to create that video as a result of who we knew Jesus is? That's the reason why no one listens. Nor should they. And as he links to John's blog, the one comment from someone who came here shot me straight through the eyes: "Sure, John is great but look at all the comments about the theology and the Bible. How depressing. That's what most Christians spend their time on, just fighting each other." and that person is absolutely right.

            Today I am simply exhausted and demoralized by Christians, including me. And I'm ashamed of my part that I've played even in debating you – you're not going to change your views on homosexuality being sinful. You're just not. And that message going to keep getting to kids, translated into *them* being evil, just like this guy in this video confirmed. And I'll keep fighting with you that is also taking time and energy away from kids killing themselves which also gets translated into "Christians can't help me here, all they seem to want to do is fight one another." That is the reality.

            Our intent, our theology means absolutely nothing. The debate about gays and Jesus has been going on for centuries and the rate of kids killing themselves just increases. It will never stop, I'm just walking away from it. I've had enough.

            That I give money to a Church that focuses on bringing christian kids to their christian sunday school where we as adults haven't spent one second as a body of Christ figuring out how we *together* solve this? I'm not giving money to that anymore and in the spirit of ManimalX? I have a lot of money to give. And now it's going to go to the Atheists who are actually being creative and proactive, filming things like this that provide tangible encouragement and save haven to kids who are gay.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @ Jeanine

            Re: Joe Dallas

            Love the sinner, hate this message.

            I wonder if he is associated in any way with Exodus International, the organization whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality.” This is the group that funded Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member to go to Uganda and present 'education' at a conference about what Stephen Langa, the organizer of the conference, called "the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals pose to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

            From the NY Times:

            For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

            Ain't education grand? Are we feeling the love yet?

            One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.

            Donor countries, including the United States, are demanding that Uganda’s government drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights, though Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity (who previously tried to ban miniskirts) recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

            Nothing says love the sinner, hate the sin like forgetting about human rights. They can be such a nuisance.

            Is this the kind of christianity in action that you're talking about, DR? Because these are the kind of missionaries who get their funding to spread this odious and noxious bigotry by many good christians here at home and are proud to do this kind of outreach program. Teaching the heathens, so to speak.

            Revolting, isn't it?

          • Argy-bargy

            @Jeanine:

            Ministering to kids, no matter how well-intentioned, is not loving if that message includes that they are sinners because they're gay. Period. I fear you are fooling yourself if you think that this sort of mixed message is really helping them. If there is no mention or attempt to point out the "sin" in the sinner that they're loving, then yes, they are doing good if they are ministering otherwise to their spiritual and other needs.

            But it simply isn't, in my mind, loving if they suggest that the person is a sinner or that their life would be better if, as the Joe Dallas's of the world, let them "cure" their homosexuality.

            Absolute hogwash.

          • Argy-bargy

            I can't believe I just used the word "hogwash." Oh, my.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ Tildeb:

            A quick Google search on Joe Dallas shows that he is on the Board of Exodus International (I'm assuming it's the same "ministry".

            http://www.exodusinternational.org/content/view/3

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            Is this the kind of christianity in action that you’re talking about, DR? >>>

            It is, tildeb. And fantastic news that Joe Dallas is on the board that allocates the Exodus International funding (via his wiki page).

            I posted that Ugandan legislation on a Christian board a few months ago and it was deleted. Then I was banned. I had no angry rhetoric, I just posted the link.

            If people have the guts to read what is happening there and still believe Christians supporting this kind of thing don't have any blood on our hands is morally bankrupt and/or mentally ill. Those are the only two reasonable options.

            But hey – let's just all pray about it. That will fix everything.

          • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore
          • Matthew Tweedell

            @DR

            “‘I am wrong and here is why!’”

            Perhaps part of the problem is actually that so *little* energy gets invested there. :-(

            @Tildeb

            Sometimes you astound me with your spiritual maturity! (And I mean that seriously.)

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ Mindy: wanted to thank you for this last comment. I did to remove funding out of an evangelical organization that my friend is in. I support her but told her in a few months, I can't renew the support but to your point I told her why. I was an awful conversation. But thank you for that suggestion.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            So I just read some of Joe Dallas's interpretations of Scripture. I also read where he believes that there is a literal agenda to destroy the "culture of marriage", ironically a culture that's been destroying itself just fine with a 57% divorce rate.

            I think after Joe Dallas wrote his book on the gay agenda, he also revealed this particular conspiracy as well, and that is because Joe Dallas is one crackerjack researcher:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3qFdbUEq5s&fe…!

          • Mindy

            Aw, DR, I'm sorry it was awful. I hope the friendship is not lost over this – but I am very proud of you!!! Unfortunately in this country, sometimes money talking is the only thing that gets through, Christian or not.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ Mindy:

            We love and trust one another, it's a 20-year friendship. We'll be good. :)

  • http://www.correntewire.com ChiDy

    i'm a gay atheist and i'd like to thank the author of this post and the many Christian commenters here for their kind words and deeds. i'm a militant atheist and one of my favorite arguments when i'm heh, converting people is that Christians don't speak out enough about Christian hatred and what it causes. it's so very refreshing and inspirational to know that some Christians are actually practicing Christianity and that mitigates my anger towards those among you who are hypocrites (Eddie Long, Ted Haggard, pedophiles in the catholic church). I beg you, most sincerely, to go out of the comfortable Christian communities where you are a majority, and into the dens of hatred. the megachurches where hateful bigotry spews out against all who do not conform to a rigid, backwards form of Christianity. you know better than i do where these places are, and i implore you in the spirit of true Christian courage to walk into these places and declare yours is a god of love, and not hate. the false Christians have cause so much damage, and only you can challenge them on their ground. please think about which temples and moneychangers Christ himself would be overturning if he were alive today. thank you again for the kind words and Christian spirit.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      If only I had the nerve, and the patience, to do such things. You're right that Christ would. But if not done right, it could just end up being a waste of time.

      But yeah, that antichrist spirit is definitely a problem! It's almost enough for me to want to say that I'm an atheist.

      And I wish there *were* some comfortable Christian community in modern America where my conservatively reasoned and progressively applied views would indeed be in the majority.

      Anyway, well, just please don’t shoot me, Ms. militant atheist, please.

      • Mindy

        "You’re right that Christ would. But if not done right, it could just end up being a waste of time."

        Just an excuse, Matthew. You have time to write at length here. Maybe it's time to progressively apply those energies where they are sorely needed, without worrying about whether or not the time will be wasted.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          Do you have any idea what you're talking about? Do you know what happens?

          That was no excuse; that was advising of what needs careful consideration. The excuse was about nerve and patience.

          I tire of your not understanding what I said yet approaching with an argumentative posture.

          Why don't *you* do it then? because you're not a Christian? Just an excuse, Mindy: If that's Christianity, neither am I! Yet you are more a Christian than I, having special knowledge of moral absolutes as they apply to others by which to suggest moral imperatives for me uninvited.

          • Mindy

            Matthew, what in the bloody hell are you talking about? You said you would do such things except for not having the nerve and the patience. I say – work on developing the nerve and the patience and get to work – *if* it is a cause that matters to you. Not having the nerve and the patience to do something is just an excuse. You can work up the nerve, develop the patience.

            If the cause isn't at the top of your list, never mind. I wasn't being argumentative, I was pointing out that every one of us can come up with a dozen reasons why we "can't" step out of our comfort zones to make a difference for these kids. If we want to. Nerve and patience, or the lack thereof, are not immovable barriers to your involvement in the solution. If you've found other ways to further the cause of acceptance, good for you. Say so, instead of lamenting what you think you can't do. If you prefer to invest in other causes, that's fine, too.

            You choosing to get all defensive about it is not my problem. I tire of you doing that each time someone calls you on something you've written that is unintelligible or off-topic or belligerent, now that you mention it. I speak more directly – or argumentatively, if you must – to you, because my short history interacting with you tells me that had I said what you said, you'd have jumped all over me, labeling me hypocritical, one who gives up too easily, etc. Maybe I felt compelled to serve you a dose in return? If so, it wasn't consciously, and certainly didn't warrant the cranky response you served in return.

            Since we were specifically discussing CHRISTIANS taking on the outmoded views of OTHER CHRISTIANS, I, by definition, cannot do that. Because I'm NOT a Christian. As we clearly witnessed with Mel, the "God said it, I believe it and that settles it" subculture within Christianity has no interest in hearing what a non-Christian has to say on the matter, because, DUH, if we'd just pull our heads out of our non-Christian butts and get ourselves saved, we'd agree with them! So why listen? My time and energy is better spent advocating in schools and working on anti-bullying efforts in a secular environment, where I will address the religious issue only tangentially, if a child were to use it as an excuse.

            I would address your last paragraph more fully, except for the life of me, I cannot figure out what you are talking about.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            "Not having the nerve and the patience to do something is just an excuse."

            I believe that's what I said it is, no?

            "Nerve and patience, or the lack thereof, are not immovable barriers…."

            I never said that they were. However, you don't seem particularly keen on helping remove them.

            "…each time someone calls you on something you’ve written that is unintelligible or off-topic or belligerent…."

            Wow. You might want to consider again who is going off-topic and belligerent.

            "…you’d have jumped all over me, labeling me hypocritical, one who gives up too easily, etc."

            No, not hardly. If you would like, perhaps I could instruct you on when and how to respond to what, but I'm afraid you wouldn't understand the why, and in any case I don't think this would be the appropriate forum for that.

          • Mindy

            How on earth am I supposed to remove YOUR barriers, or anyone's individual, personal barriers of not feeling like they have the nerve or patience to take action?

            I can do that for myself – which I have and continue to do. Why would you say that *I* am not particularly keen on removing your personal barriers?

            Um, and no, please do not "instruct me" on how to do anything. You are one of the single most difficult people with which to have a conversation that I have ever encountered online, and that bespeaks a long, rich history. Truly. I am not trying to be mean, I'm just telling you that there are communication problems at work here that you might want to consider addressing if written commentary is your preferred method of communicating.

            You vacillate between seeming intelligent and thoughtful to coming off just shy of obnoxious – on a regular basis. You've been called on it several times. I engaged in conversation with you today because you sounded sort of reasonable – and then . . . . . you weren't. If I'm really being unreasonable, which you call me out for regularly, I'd suspect you wouldn't be the only one doing the calling.

            Please, Matthew, stop reading all kinds of random, extraneous nonsense into what others write. You seem to really enjoy assigning that which is not there, then blowing up when called on it.

            If I'm wrong, will someone ELSE please point it out to me?? Because for whatever reason – mental block on my part? – I cannot make sense of what Matthew is ranting about.

          • Argy-bargy

            You're not wrong….Not saying..just saying.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            "Why would you say that *I* am not particularly keen on removing your personal barriers?"

            It means your comment is not helpful in that regard—perhaps even counter-productive.

            "I’d suspect you wouldn’t be the only one doing the calling."

            I'm not. Tildeb, for example, told you that your maintaining agnosticism is unreasonable. But I wouldn't say that as a rule you're unreasonable.

            "You seem to really enjoy assigning that which is not there, then blowing up when called on it."

            It would be a great point were there any example you could give.

            "I cannot make sense of what Matthew is ranting about."

            I'm not ranting about anything, Mindy. You need to calm down and look at the walls of text you’re posting against the careful specificity of what I have to say; when you stop trying to make sense of a ranting that doesn’t exist, then you can start making sense of what does (It’s a lot like with God in that regard).

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            You're not wrong. You've given examples. Many have.

            Matthew confirmed that he is not the one who is the source of the communication problem he has with a number of people despite the many consistent comments he's received to the contrary. Many of us don't engage him anymore – he does not see that as being his problem.

            He at this point doesn't seem to have any motivation to change, despite the impassioned pleas to do so. Even John mentioned some very specific ways he could contribute more effectively to the forum and he is continuing to ask for examples. He won't change. Perhaps he can't change.

            You are lovely and funny and wise and have much to contribute.

          • Mindy

            @ AB and DR – thank you. I start feeling like I might be going crazy.

            @Matthew – OK, I'm going to explain this, based on this response, once. Then I am done. As DR suggests, I will no longer engage with you – because I'm sure this serves absolutely no purpose. You don't want to hear what so many have said, and I'm sure the rest of those reading along couldn't care less.

            For the record, my pointing out that you were making excuses for not taking action was not intended as an effort to grant you more nerve and patience. I was making an observation about what we humans tend to do far too often. Just an observation, not an attempt at a solution, because this particular problem is internal for each of us. One of us cannot solve it for another, so if I was "counter-productive," that sounds to me like you are exercising that toddlerism attitude: "Whaa, you were mean to me so I'm not gonna even TRY to change!!"

            Your problem, not mine.

            As for providing an example of you reading something into a comment that was never there, well, gee, this whole exchange is a fine example. There are others, Matthew, plenty. Since they all revolve around YOUR posts, I'm thinking you know where to look. Since others have also pointed them out, you should have already seen them. The problem is, you don't want to, so you don't. So, again, this is pointless.

            As for my conversation with tildeb, do you not see any difference in how it went and how this went? I disagreed with him/her calling agnostics cowardly. Tildeb pointed out why it seemed cowardly, I explained why I thought it wasn't, and we had a reasonable exchange. We didn't change each other's minds, but we kept talking until we could at least see what the other one meant. There were no insults thrown, and neither of us put words in the other's mouth, so we could talk about what was actually there – not some concept one of us tried to say the other one said. Again, you don't see the difference, because apparently, you don't want to.

            As for me posting walls of text, yes, I do tend to ramble on. And that, Matthew is a case of the pot calling the kettle black if I've ever seen one. !! And then it seems, almost, as if you compared yourself to God. Weird.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @DR

            "he is not the one who is the source of the communication problem"

            In what way have I confirmed that? Indeed I can easily point to examples of just the opposite. But as for “reading all kinds of random, extraneous nonsense into what others write", it's little wonder, when I'm responding to the words as they're written, point-by-point, issue after issue, though asserting that examples abound, you fail to demonstrate a single case, DR.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ Mindy

            "I’m sure this serves absolutely no purpose."

            It may or may not – it may even serve a purpose for you. But energy is finite – know what I mean?

          • Mindy

            LOL – yes. The only purpose I can see it serving for me, at this point, is as an excuse to procrastinate, which is something I *don't* need, thankyouverymuch! So I shall conserve my energy for the words that actually pay my bills or for sharing actual thoughts rather than parsing through nonsense.

            And now, to watch mind-numbing TV whilst making jewelry. A much better use of my energy. – at least until one of you guys says some new brilliant thing I just must comment on!

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            Do you have an Etsy site? I love Etsy.

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      Those of us who have called ourselves "the good christians who aren't hateful toward gays" are responsible for not shutting down the segment of our culture more effectively that contributes to gay and lesbians in our country being treated like shit. I'm sorry. I've been one of them. It's narcissistic and lazy and I'm changing it.

      People arent going to agree with me here and I don't care. We're responsible as a Christian community for every single kid that has killed him or herself as a result of the message some a-hole has given them in the name of Jesus that they are evil, or bad and eternally "never holy enough for God or us" as a result of something they heard or experienced. We've been too passive and too ambivalent. We allow ourselves to get paralyzed the the clanging bells of the fundamentalists who are shouting "Gay is evil!" from the roof tops instead of just getting organized and shutting them down. We still give them money. We allow ourselves to be manipulated and focused on things that are just more comfortable.

      We've not done enough and we've left this problem for you to solve instead of cleaning up our own mess. I'm sorry, someone should at minimum, tell you that.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      I almost changed my mind about your shooting me, just to put Mindy out of her misery :P

      And yes, “Christian” (which used to be used almost as a synonym for “good” in reference to people) is now an insult by which to accuse people, with even me, an admitted Xian, using it as such. :cry:

      All this stuff is, well, as Tildeb put it, revolting. I would take responsibility like DR—and I do certainly feel sorry that the name of Christ has been abused in this way and has hurt so, so many—but I believe I’ve been careful NOT to have any responsibility in contributing to such, even to the extent of abandoning the label “Christian” where it might give quarter or comfort to such things; so rather I’m thinking maybe to join you, in my own small way, in solidarity: what do you guys think if I try dedicating this Saturday to being a gay militant atheist for a day? (Don’t worry, the wife’s down with it.)

      Of course, I’m *not* trying to suggest that sexuality is merely a choice that one can switch at will; however, some people are a little more flexible (or more rigid) than others, and anyone can at least try seeing the world from a different perspective and see how it feels for *them*: so of course nothing about how I would be would be anything other than how that would be for *me*, to reject my religious views, to embrace—at least as a mental exercise—the concept that religion needs to be opposed; to suppress temporarily sexual attraction towards females and encourage greater awareness and acceptance of homoerotic elements in the mind; to suppress to some degree my analytical side and embrace my artistic side, which I’ve definitely missed doing recently anyway. So… whaddaya think? perhaps we can look forward to some interesting blog comments and perspective that day?

      Now, on that guilt issue, I DO have one little thing I need to get off my chest. When was in a rendition of Annie Get Your Gun, between my sophomore and junior years of high school, about a month after turning 16, during rehearsal one time I was talking with this friend of mine who came out of the closet in the next school year, and I don’t remember how the topic came up (I think a group of us were discussing —or maybe this discussion actually followed from that one—the origin of the universe and all that and basically I was arguing against believing everything the Bible appears at first glance to say—like, I knew it didn’t all make sense like that but I didn’t have the understanding and the interpretive tools that I do now to explain it any other way), but I affirmed in rather uncertain terms that the bible says that to lie with a man as one lies with a woman is an abomination—though I definitely remember saying something like: “That’s what the Bible says—I’m not saying you have to believe it.”

      Anyhow, it appeared that I had hurt him. And that was when I pretty much realized he was gay (and, by the way, that he was evangelical), which I would have thought, except he’d denied it previously and had had a girlfriend (and I even had never had a girlfriend yet, and he was a year younger than I); I mean, yeah, he was sort of different, but so was I—in fact, I remember the time we both… well never mind about that, I don’t want to embarrass myself before I embrace it Saturday! But yeah, anyway: years later I found out about the struggle he’s gone through with the church over his sexuality, having felt called into Ministry and now having been forced to leave his family church—which I mean quite literally as a relative of his is the pastor who forced him out! BTW, that guy’s an awesome singer—no, seriously, I was Soooo jealous—so the Lord is totally missing some great talent now. :(

      Speaking of that, I remember in Middle School being somewhat bullied by a guy we found out in High School was gay. I ended up hitting him over the head with a book. (Sorry….) I realize now that he was probably bullied extensively too and as a result to advantage of the opportunity to shift the bullying onto someone else when I came along and joined the school mid-year, mid-way through Middle School. And I was a smaller guy and nerdy, but, as people probably can tell from how I am to this day, I didn’t take $#!t from nobody, so… yeah. I thought it was totally cool that my sophomore year of high school, he actually remembered that stuff and apologized for it!

      Hey, while we’re holding confessional, why don’t I tell you about this girl he was friends with? My senior year of high school, during rehearsals for showchoir and Guys and Dolls, she would often be hanging out talking with him in the guys’ dressing room, where I would be doing my makeup and everything. We let her be in there because she was, well, as she would have us believe, basically one of the guys. (Plus with at least a couple of gay guys there anyway, it wasn’t like anyone could be squeamish about changing.) Yeah, right; in retrospect, I think maybe she just wanted to be near me. Anyway, her music… God… her piano music was enchanting, beautiful—just as she’s beautiful, awesome! And…

      I guess I’d better get going now. (But… honesty is good… right?)

      ha ha, you should have shot me when you had the chance, ChiDy :lol:

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    Thank you for sharing this, John. You are now one of my heroes.

  • Tonic

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. It is maddening to watch people bully gays, families disown their children – sometimes throwing them out onto the streets – , tell them they will fail at lasting relationships, and prevent them from marrying…and then point to higher rates of suicide, promiscuity and drug-use among gays. What would one expect?

  • Sayla

    This is beyond shameful.

    :(((

    Here are some Christian organizations and blogs that are addressing the needs of LBGT and are in need of our attention and support.

    The Gay Christian Network http://www.gaychristian.net/

    Bridging the Gap http://btgproject.blogspot.com/

    Sanctuary Collective http://www.sanctuarycollective.org/

  • Van in San Diego

    Hi John and Responders,

    I'm a Gay Atheist and I got here by following a link from Joe.My.God. I am impressed and I give you a capital C for Christian. I refer to the hate spewing folks as christians or xtians among others, which I am sure you can imagine.

    I followed the link over here because I have been horrified by the recent rash of suicides. It just breaks my heart to hear that these poor kids have been enduring non-stop bullying for years and have been literally driven to suicide, so I wanted to read the entire interview with Charles Robbins.

    Thank you John for a wonderful interview. I have looked at the titles of some of your other postings and I certainly wll be back to read them. They look very interesting. Also thank you for the heart-felt posts, Responders. It was very enlightening for me.

    Best wishes to all,

    Van in San Diego

  • Ace

    Oh lord, here's even more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-1144603

    (Group of idiots at college clandestinely films a male classmate having sex with another male, posts it online without permission, leading to said classmate's suicide.)

  • Mindy

    I saw that last night, Ace, and sat on my couch and cried. I don't know that his hiding his sexuality had anything *directly* to do with religion, but of course it does, in the big picture, because religion is the primary reason behind all of the cultural bias toward it.

    One friend of the roommate who was arrested said that it wasn't about him being gay, that this roommate would've recorded hetero sex just as eagerly – because apparently he's a major jackass??? – but I have my doubts, based on his online comments about the kid "being with a dude."

    Just sickened me. It's got to stop.

    • Ace

      I couldn'd care less about the room mate's motivation for doing what he did, it would be just as demeaning, sick and horrid to film someone in an intimate moment without their knowlege or consent, and then posting it publicly, if it had been a straight couple.

      The fact that this boy was gay and was so traumatized by this fact being revelealed to the public to end his own life just adds another layer of horrible to the whole thing, but either way that room mate should be in prison, as he clearly has no regard for other people at all.

      The commentary on the page sums it all up pretty well –

      Analysis

      Iain Mackenzie

      BBC News, Washington

      ——————————————————————————–

      The tragic death of Tyler Clementi brings together two contentious issues – gay rights and cyber bullying.

      Technology certainly seems to have been played a role in driving the teenager to kill himself. However, equality campaigners say the real problem is a culture where young homosexuals feel persecuted and marginalised.

      A recent study of gay students suggests one in four is regularly harassed because of their sexual orientation.

      For some, Tyler Clementi's suicide has put a human face to that statistic.

      The whole thing is just one giant, massive clusterfuck of fail, on both the room mate & co's part and society in general. This guy was at a prestigious school studying music, there is no reason he needed to die at all.

  • Mindy

    Yes, Ace, it most assuredly is. Which makes it that much more important that we continue to speak up and embrace the diversity that is humanity – without the judging of what is or is not sin. I am so sick of that particular word in this particular conversation that it nearly makes me physically ill to hear it.

    • Linda C

      I want to make sure I understand what you (John) are saying….that God created homosexuals?

      "What I would also very much like Christians to know is that being gay isn’t a choice that anyone makes. It’s not a switch you can turn off and on. Gay people were born into creation just like anyone else, and to devalue who they are by insisting God didn’t really make them as they are is to deny them the right to a rich and loving relationship with God–and that’s a terrible, terrible thing to deny anybody."

      God created people and wants a relationship with them; I agree with that; however, I don't believe God created homosexuality. Why would he create homosexuality and then condemn that behavior in the Bible? God loves homosexuals just like he loves everyone else but does not love the behavior. Acting out one's homosexual desires is a choice people make, much like having an extra-marital affair. Just because a married person is attracted to another individual doesn't mean the married person has to act upon that attraction or desire. I believe people choose to act upon their desires, and to say they cannot choose differently takes away their free will. I am sorry for Tyler's death and feel for his family. His choices and the choices of others lead to his death.

      • Mindy

        Linda, how DARE you say that Tyler's choice led to his death?? HOW DARE YOU? He was gay. That is not, in fact, a choice. You don't know much about it, that much is obvious by your post. You have little to no understanding of what being gay means.

        You just blamed an innocent young man for his own death. He was driven to suicide by the cruel idiocy of a young man and woman who weren't smart enough to think for one second how their actions might affect the person at whose expense they had their little fun.

        And you blame Tyler?

        Oh my God.

        • Linda C

          Mindy, what I wrote was 'his choices and the choices of others lead to his death'. I did not blame Tyler alone for his death; however, he chose to act upon his desires; the others chose to video the behavior and publicize it. He chose suicide. If he had been taped with a female, instead of a male, would the end result have been the same? Would they have even bothered to tape him if he had been with a female? Only they can answer that. We are all accountable for our actions. Some decisions are harmless; some are not. Some behaviors are more dangerous than others.

          • DR

            Dear Linda,

            I wonder if you'd say this if this was your own son. Are you a mother? I'm so shocked that a Christian woman would actually blame a child for a suicide that it makes me physically ill. I'm repelled. You are dangerous to my church and to the message of Jesus Christ. You harm the work He did on the Cross. God have mercy on you.

            One last thing:

            "Why would he create homosexuality and then condemn that behavior in the Bible? God loves homosexuals just like he loves everyone else but does not love the behavior."

            Why do you think that God would actually create a scenario where a 9-year old boy can't help but have a crush on someone and is told by his pastor that if he doesn't stop, he's going to hell? Why don't you think that Jesus would create an escape from the actual *impulse*? Is the God you serve that intrinsically cruel?

            You've held my church hostage with the belief that the God of the universe is so limited, that he can't heal His own people entirely in a way where they can experience intimacy with someone.

            Enjoy your window of time, because it's closing.

          • Mindy

            So his make-out session was "dangerous," because it was with another young man? Are you serious? Oh, my word.

            He is a college boy, who was, as the perpetrator tweeted, "making out with a dude." He wasn't even having sex. The fact that it was called a "sexual encounter" in the media was unfortunate – but it shouldn't matter. Whether they'd have filmed him with a girl – - – why on EARTH does that matter? They well might have – they seem to not have the common sense God gave a goose. But what they'd have done with that video would have been completely different. Regardless, they violated his privacy

            You are correct that he "chose" suicide – because he knew how people would react to his coming out. Because he knew his roommate would humiliate him. Because he'd heard all his life how "bad" being gay is, and reacted accordingly. No doubt, he felt worthless, he felt that he'd shamed his family – all the things these kids always feel – because religion has told them that. YOUR religion.

            But you, you blame the victim. Nice.

  • Linda C

    DR, what is 'your church'? Does 'your church' teach homosexuality is a sin?

    As for Jesus creating escapes for those 'impulses'…..sometimes he does, sometimes not. What about the incidents of child molesting, rape, abuse….he doesn't always provide escapes for those either. What you seem to be missing in your scenerios is the presence of Satan. He is alive and relishing in sinful behaviors.

    So who is to blame for a suicide?

    • DR

      I am so sad for you. What kind of misery are you loving within to lead you to thinking that gay kids kill themselves bc of embarrassment. And people can heal from a crime, Linda. That you compare the two is astonishing.

    • DR

      And to answer your question? In he case of many gay kids from Christian homes? You are responsible.

  • Linda C

    If your lifestyle choices embarrass you, and you are ashamed of them enough to consider suicide, then the answer is to change your lifestyle.

    • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

      Your going to stick to the 'homosexuality-is-a-lifestyle-choice', aren't you? It's so… comfy.

      I don't know how often this has been much more eloquently expressed by various gays on this thread, but the let me raise the same question to you, Linda C: why would about 10% of the population 'choose' to be gay? For the ridicule? For the feeling of having something wrong with them at their core? So that one can enjoy being entertained by notions of suicide to make others happier?

      What you are writing is so incredibly (fill in the appropriate adjective here) that it reveals a failure of your critical faculties. Why haven't you chosen to be gay – to live the gay lifestyle? Do you honestly think that gays ask this same question of themselves…but come to a different conclusion?

      Oh, wait… I forgot to ask: what colour is the sky in your world? That answer may explain a lot.

    • DR

      Conservative Christians,

      The lindas of the world who believe this and would say this to her 13 year old son are kicking him out of her home. She is driving him to kill himself.

      Solve the oproblem before you stand in front of the most high God. Shut her down.

  • Mindy

    Linda? Are you for real? I mean, I'm sorry – but after about three weeks of in-depth conversation with people of all stripes here about this issue (on this post and others), you are the first I've encountered who actually has the gall to blame the victim and stick to that story.

    A child is only embarrassed by something if those who matter to him tell him it's bad, or laugh at him, or belittle him in some way. His parents, his family, and, if his family is active in a church, that community becomes important, and what they say matters. He grows into his sexuality and realizes that he is gay – but he's been told his whole life that it is bad, wrong. It isn't, but he doesn't know that. It is simply who he is – so he believes he is bad. To the very core. And that message is reinforced throughout his life by his Christian community. God made you, but you're screwed up.

    You don't understand one thing about being gay, do you? You think that gay people have exactly the same feelings as you or I, until it comes to sex? Well, they DO have the same feelings, the same crushes, the same affections and love for another as they grow older – they just have ALL of those feelings for someone of the same sex. It is not wrong. It is not bad. It is just one of the many different versions of being human. But a kid raised in a conservative Christian home has no idea that the entire world doesn't feel the same way as his family, and his self-image, when he acknowledges that very real part of himself, is crap.

    The only reason a boy like this would feel shame is because someone forced shame upon him. He should never, ever have to feel shame for who he is, and for, at age 21, wanting to have a relationship.

    People like you scare me. You really, really do.

  • Linda C

    Why do I scare you? Why does what I believe make you uncomfortable? It's ok for you to be pro-gay, but let someone like me who opposes homosexuality speak her mind and all of a sudden I'm the bad one. You preach tolerance but don't want to tolerate others' voices. There is no difference in me saying 'homosexuality is wrong' and you say 'homosexuality is ok'…both are what we believe.

    We all make choices in our lives. If we think before we act, most of our choices come out ok. Sometimes we make choices that don't end well.

    • Mindy

      Linda, you scare me because it horrifies me that people are out there, openly practicing bigotry against people I care about.

      I tolerate lots of other voices – but I don't tolerate bigotry, and I don't tolerate people who "oppose" homosexuality any more than I tolerate people who "oppose" those who have brown skin. Because you can't oppose a state of being. You are still acting as though it is a choice, and it clearly is not. Scientists and psychologists are in general agreement that homosexuality is not a choice. They have not yet defined what causes it, but they know something does.

      You are wrong about it, but resolutely stubborn in your wrong-ness, hiding behind your bible as if that magically changes reality. If it was something that was subject to opinion, you could oppose it. It is not.

      You've got it wrong. And I hope one day you admit that, before a child from your church or your family is done irreparable harm.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      "You preach tolerance but don’t want to tolerate others’ voices."

      The one thing for which we must never have tolerance is intolerance. It just wouldn't be just, not to mention that thus began WWII.

      "There is no difference in me saying ‘homosexuality is wrong’ and you say ‘homosexuality is ok’…both are what we believe."

      Sure: no reason to have any objective criteria—no meaningful difference between the two propositions.

    • DR

      Linda, I don’t tolerate child abusers, even though they might come from an abusive home themselves. I don’t tolerate racists, even if they were raised that way. And I don’t tolerate Christians who harm children, even when they are clinging to a theology and are too scared to let go of it because they might be on the wrong side of Their fellow Christians who are just as confused, miserable an scared as they are. You are, rather.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=637854091 Tracy Gibson

      “Pro-gay”? Are you pro-blue eyed? Pro-blonde hair? Pro-left handed or pro-right handed? To say someone is “pro-gay” is absolutely ridiculous and proves you haven’t the slightest clue what we are talking about. If you purport to be Christian then all you need to know is that God made ALL MANKIND in his image and we are ORDERED by Jesus to love everyone as we love ourselves. The fact that you do not understand this tells me you need to seriously sit down with your bible and reflect on the fact that you fail in both of these.

  • Linda C

    Mindy, where did you get the idea that I hate anyone? You said I need "someone to hate'. In any of my postings did I say I hate gays? Just because I believe homosexuality is wrong doesn't mean I hate them. I can care about people and still not condone what they do.

    • DR

      Anyone who would place her theology – her need to be "right" – in front of children who are killing themselves as a result of that theology is a hateful person. Go and re-read Jesus and what He did – how He fed his disciples on the Sabbath. Ask yourself which side of the equation you're on.

    • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

      Linda C writes I can care about people and still not condone what they do. This is true. But the problem Linda isn’t about condoning what they do: you don’t condone who they are.

  • Linda C

    DR, are you saying gay teens kill themselves because of Christianity? Is that what you meant by 'killing themselves as a result of that theology'? What is the Jewish stance on homosexuality? How do Muslems handle it? What about Mormons? Do most religions frown upon homosexuality?

    Could there be a reason for that?

    • DR

      Linda,

      Your theology – what you are expressing here today on this blog – is part of a message that gay kids receive that drives them into despair and results in them killing themselves. After working with homeless kids for years and their Christian parents who kicked them out of their loving Christian homes for being gay? Almost verbatim, quoting the exact same thing that you have quoted here? Yes, those of you who are offering this message to gay children – regardless of how much you love them or are horrified that they die – are responsible.

      You can play the "look over there" game in terms of other religions all you want to, but as Christians we claim that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Do the math and take responsibility for your choice to be right instead of love the little ones that God loves.

      • DR

        I should be more precise and say *some* of the responsibility. Any at all is horrifying, and to play semantics is a tragedy but I'm being proactive given I've heard this song on my dance card before. Going with this theme, only *some* Muslims kill their gay children outright. Again, goes without saying etc. but these discrepancies are used as straw men so let's take them off the table.

    • DR

      And Muslims kill their children outright. We just do it passively. Did you have any other questions?

    • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

      Yes, Linda, there could indeed be a reason for that: a bad reason, to be sure, but a reason nevertheless. It’s called religious bigotry where scripture is used to justify inequity. In the same way that mormons had to come to terms with supporting bigotry against blacks and discard the notion because it was based on a bad reason, so too must all religions comes to terms with supporting bigotry against gays and discard the notion because it is based on a bad reason.

      Supporting inequity to honour one’s belief in god is morally immature and ethically bankrupt.

  • Linda C

    I am not confused, miserable, or scared. I believe homosexuality is wrong. Period!

    • DR

      And you are contributing to gay kids killing themselves because your need to be right is more important to you then them. Period. God have mercy on you. I mean that.

    • Mindy

      Ah yes, the ol' "God said it, I believe it and that settles it" argument. Period.

      You are confused. You are misinformed. And usually, people who really need someone to hate have a lot of self-loathing going on inside.

      Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxfWl1vA1u4

      Listen to this: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?stor

      You really need to educate yourself before you speak so publicly on something like this.

      • Linda C

        Mindy, I watched both pieces.

        • Mindy

          Well, the second one was a “listen,” not a “watch,” – but I’m glad. And you feel . . . nothing?

          • DR

            You "watched" the second? It's an audio file, I'm confused.

  • Linda

    It will never be appropriate for 'men to lie with men' or 'women to lie with women'. It is perverse.

    • Mindy

      And that, Linda, is your personal opinion. Nothing more.


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