The “Homosexual Agenda”

I was (probably unwisely) perusing the conservative Catholic blogosphere, and it has started to get to me. I’ve read numerous blogs talking about the “homosexual agenda” that is taking over the country and oppressing everyone else. I remember being taught this growing up, to the exact minutia. Reading about it now, though, it makes me angry.

You know what the “homosexual agenda” is? Gay people want to be able to live their lives without threat, hold jobs without fear of being fired for their sexual orientation, and be legally allowed marry people they love. Right now, they can’t do that. The “homosexual agenda” is not about “oppressing” Christians, it’s about letting gay people be full human beings. It’s not about giving gay people more rights than everyone else, it’s about giving them the same rights as anyone else.

I think the reason reading about the evils of the coming “homosexual agenda” has been bothering me is that I have numerous gay friends. They’re great friends who are always ready to help me in a pinch, they have their own dreams and ambitions, and they have crushes and relationships just like anyone else. And so when I hear about the “homosexual agenda” and then think of my friends, I get mad. Mad, because those who speak with fear of the “homosexual agenda” want to deprive my friends of the right to hold a job without fear of being fired for who they are and the right to marry who they love. I feel mad because in some parts of this country my friends might still find their lives under threat, simply because they are sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own sex

I remember believing the whole “homosexual agenda” thing. Back then, I was afraid of gay people. They were different and scary. They were pedophiles who should not be trusted around children. I wonder if that’s how the people writing the blogs I was reading feel when they talk about the “homosexual agenda” – fear of something different, scary, and “unnatural.” But that fear does not excuse the actions anti-gay activists take, actions that seek to deprive my friends of their basic rights and to relegate them to second class citizens.

I was willing to change my views when confronted with actual gay people, and in response to additional information (for example, the fact that gay people are statistically less likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual people). I rather suspect, though, that the individuals whose blogs I read probably aren’t ready to change their views when confronted with contrary evidence.

When reading predictions of the takeover of the “homosexual agenda,” the common theme seems to boil down to “gay people want to force us to accept them as normal.” Well yes, yes they do. Because they are. But in actuality, the actions gay activists tend to take are directed not so much at personal beliefs as at physical actions that harm them.

Remember when I said that “religious freedom is not a get out of jail free card“? Well that’s what’s going on here too. Your religious freedom is violated if someone forces you to believe that gay marriage is okay or forces your church to perform gay marriages, but it’s not violated if gay people are allowed to get married. Your religious freedom is violated if someone tells you what you have to believe about God’s view of gay people, but it’s not violated if teachers are required to stop students from bullying gay kids and to explain as school employees that being gay is not considered a disorder by the scientific community, or if people are not allowed to fire someone just for being gay just as they are required not to fire someone just for being black. What’s at stake here is people’s actions, actions that do real harm to gay people, not their beliefs. You are free to believe as you like, but if your actions will do actual harm to others, you are not allowed to act as you would like.

Now sure, I’d really like to change people’s beliefs too. I don’t like beliefs that see some people as lesser than others, especially when these beliefs are based not on any evidence but simply on specific interpretations of a stone age text. I seek to oppose misogyny and homophobia both through fighting actual discrimination and through working to change people’s minds. Wanting to change people’s minds, however, is not the same as legislating what people are allowed to think or putting people in jail for their views, though those decrying the “homosexual agenda” don’t seem to realize that.

I’ve decided not to browse the conservative Catholic blogosphere. It’s not good for my blood pressure. But I will continue to fight for LGBTQ rights and I will continue to work on countering homophobia by changing people’s minds.

Andrée Seu Peterson's Appalling Column on Bisexuality
The Real Travesty of the "Hero Mom" Story
A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
Christian Reconstructionist Gary DeMar Compares the Gay Rights Movement to ISIS
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Rookie Atheist

    Hi Libby,
    Another great post. I had a debate about this with my devout Catholic mother recently and I basically replied with similar logic and arguments to those you put forward above. One thing my mother threw back at me was what she referred to as the increasing prevalence of homosexuality in mass media (tv, movies, etc) and how she was being “forced” to accept it. This was something which I wasn’t well equipped to reply to as I am simply unaware of any decent statistics on the issue. Of course, my mother has no problem asserting this increasing prevalence without statistics.
    So it got me wondering, is there a surplus of “token homosexuals” on tv and in the movies, and if there is, is it really a problem? I haven’t really thought too much about it, so I’m going to take the lazy route and ask you or your readers what they think?

    • plch

      Actually, nobody is forcing your mother to do anything: she’s not forced to approve of anything, she’s not even forced to watch tv. If she doesn’t like it, she can watch some ‘happy days’ dvd or read her bible or something.
      I understand your feelings but I think it’s important that your mother, as many others, understands she’s not forced to accept anything, things are as they are and she’s free to chose to watch what she likes.
      It’s not that because she doesn’t like something, that thing cannot be on tv, that would be your mother forcing her views on the rest of the world, not the other way around.
      >>sorry, I don’t know if I expressed myself clearly

    • kagerato

      It’s safe to say that gays and lesbians are not over-represented in the media compared to their actual prevalence in society. If anything, the existence of “token” homosexuals in some works is sufficient evidence that they are actually underrepresented and taken as being some kind of fringe movement or group.

      As to the other part, I have no idea what it even means to be “forced to accept” someone. Forced to accept that they exist? Is there a right to be delusional? Practicing your religion should not require denying reality, and if it does, that might be a good opportunity to consider the full implications of how your views of the world are being forcefully warped.

      Think about how offensive the situation would be if we replace gays and lesbians with other groups. The appearance of black people on TV forces me to accept the existence of blacks? Huh? What sense does this make, considering I sound like an idiot just forming the question? Repeat the experiment with hispanics, women, atheists, the religious, politicians, and so forth.

      Essentially the problem here is that your mother sees gays and lesbians as second-class citizens. It’s easy to assert that someone less than a full person shouldn’t have rights. Defending the premise is not so easy, and brings the bigotry out in full force.

      • Leni

        I think you are exactly right, kagerato. “Forced to accept” means “forced to acknowledge the existence of.”

        Still, she can change the channel. I don’t know if she has cable, but there are so many religious channels on mine that I ultimately made a favorite channel list that excludes them so I don’t have to see them. She can certainly do the same.

    • Butchkitties

      She’s no more oppressed by Will and Grace or Glee than I am oppressed by the Left Behind movies or the entire section at the bookstore that is devoted to Christian fiction.

      Christians are so used to being in a position of privilege in America that they’re prone to mistaking loss of privilege for oppression.

  • Muzakbox

    I think we see gay people more on television then we did before. But I don’t think they are token. I don’t see more gay people on television than I do in my real life. The couple from Modern Family is a lot like my friend Jamie and his husband (I live in CT so they are married, yay!). I do a lot of theater and theater does have a lot gay people so Smash is a pretty good representation of that world. Lots of urban 20 somethings have gay friends so Happy Endings seems like a good example of those dynamics. The thing is that gay people are everywhere and because they aren’t as closeted anymore people are indeed “forced” to admit they exist and they are part of every day life for many, many Americans. TV shows used to also put minorities of every type into minor service or stereotype roles also. You could watch TV all day long once and never see any other face but a white one. Was putting black, asian, and latino actors in more roles forcing people to acknowledge they were also human and part of society? Even people who didn’t want to accept that because of their belief systems? Maybe. But so what. They are fully human and part of our society just like gay people.

  • Amin

    Actually way more recent than that, the earliest texts were written during Iron Age II in the Ancient Near East (1000 BCE – 539 BCE), with many – if not most – of the texts in the Old Testament written or at the very least altered after the end of the Babylonian Exile (~ 587 BCE – 539 BCE).
    Paul’s epistles are dated to 50-56/57 CE.

    • Amin

      Failed at blockquoting, sorry.
      Meant to cite “especially when these beliefs are based not on any evidence but simply on specific interpretations of a stone age text” and answer to that.

  • Muzakbox

    I said something above that struck me as racist when I re-read it. “They are fully human and part of our society just like gay people.” I apologize if I said that in a way that indicated that American society was a whites only construct . I’m a terrible writer and a clumsy sometimes.

  • Joy

    Gay activism should certainly attempt to change minds and society as well as work for equal rights under the law. This is a legitimate function of advocacy, and in fact it is difficult if not impossible to accomplish the latter without the former. Civil rights movements may start before a critical mass of favorable public opinion but it’s rare for them to get lasting reform enacted without it (note the fates of the attempts at racial equality in the 1860-70s vs the 1950-60s).

    Changing people’s minds about these things is not necessarily viewing the “evidence” (data) but generally hinges on getting to know gay people as actual human beings, so they are not seen as “other.” Or as Jon Stewart put it, “I think it’s a debate about whether gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.”

  • Jessica A.

    Another note: If a church believes it’s ok for gay people to marry, isn’t it a violation of their religious freedom to mandate that they’re not allowed to do so? I had that thought a few weeks ago, and it’s bothered me every time the subject comes up, especially when someone argues that homosexual marriage shouldn’t be allowed because it’s a “religious ceremony.”

    • Nathaniel

      Those people’s religious beliefs don’t count.

      In a similar fashion that the Conservative Catholic bloggers on Patheos argue that people using their own money to pay for insurance that covers birth control violates their religious freedoms.

      • Jessica A.

        In other words, these people only believe in *their* religious freedom. The religious freedom of others might as well not exist. It’s theocratic nonsense at its finest.

  • Jeremy

    I think a lot of conservative Christians (though not all) confuse pluralism with discrimination. Making Christianity just one of many possible paths is not the same as discriminating against it!

    • charlesbartley

      I know Christians who have argued otherwise. As far as I can tell it is basically “Our religion says that we are the only true religion and that the others are evil. Therefore anything that puts our religion even at an equal footing with others is a direct attack against our supremacy.” Come to think of it, Santorum basically said that. I need to find that quote from his lips.

  • Emma

    I remember my mom telling me about a conversation she and my dad had with a gay couple they know. They got onto the subject of buying patio furniture, and after 20 minutes or so, one of the gay men chuckled and said, “Yes, this is the gay agenda: buying patio furniture.”

    On a similar note, there is a traveling show called “The Gay Agenda,” where a gay couple will set up their living room furniture in some public space, and do typical gay activities like “reading, checking email, cooking dinner, watching television and more” (source).

    Gay couples beware: your sinister plans have been revealed! :)

    • dj pomegranate

      I saw a sign (I think at the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally last year) that said, complete with checkboxes, “THE GAY AGENDA: jogging, brunch, obtain equality, yoga, grocery shopping, meet friends for dinner.”

    • MadGastronomer

      That’s done by Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of Oral Roberts, actually.

    • Butchkitties

      The gay agenda was shut down after Ronnie Dobbs outed Agent Ramrod.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      That reminds me of this old Mark Fiore cartoon (from way back in 2004!):

  • Taryn Fox

    I wouldn’t mind seeing you fight for or mention bisexual / transgender rights. >.>b

    • Libby Anne

      Sorry, you’re right, I should make sure I’m not buying into a gay/straight binary. I actually have a dear friend who was raised like I am and is now getting ready to transition male to female, and I’m planning to blog about that – since it’s such a moving story – when she comes out to her family.

      And I did write something about the discrimination transgender individuals face a few months ago…it’s under my LGBTQ category, I think.

      I don’t leave people out on purpose – thanks for the reminder!

  • Judy L

    There is a homosexual agenda, and it’s this: people asserting their civil rights and trying to make it illegal for others to discriminate against them. But it’s the underlying ‘agenda’ that makes the bigots quake: the increasing acceptance of the idea that gay people aren’t second class citizens, that their relationships and families are of the same value as straight people’s relationships and families, and that heteronormative sex and culture is not superior. Because these bigots see gay people and their relationships as inferior (and demonic), when we recognize gay people’s civil rights, it’s like we’re telling the bigots that they’re not special or superior, that they’re ‘no better than the gays’.

    Libby: I love the blog. Keep up the good work. I’d love to see your take on this horrifying trend in American culture and politics, this pushback from the religious and conservative right who are now insisting that any time we point out their bigotry and misogyny or tell them that they aren’t in fact allowed to do whatever they want, we’re infringing on their ‘religious liberty’.

  • vida

    Great blog! I’ve been lurking about for a while and finding the archives very interesting and more times than I like to admit, they make me tearful.
    I think with my relatives that their fear isn’t just gays being treated equally but that they present a way of living outside the strict patriarchal rules they have set for themselves. It’s harder to keep your children in those tight gender defined boxes when they know a female couple down the street who seem to do just fine without a ‘head of the household’ making all their decisions for them.
    The same panic strikes them about atheists, it’s the simple fact that they exist and are not miserable or frothing at the mouth that scared them.