So you say you don’t hate gay people, Part III

I thought I was just going to post twice on this subject – first pointing out that whether or not you hate gay people is irrelevant when you’re causing them objective harm by opposing their rights, and second examining whether one could oppose gay rights without “hating” gay people – but I’ve decided to write two more posts, each responding to a constant meme used by anti-gay rights Christians.

In this post I will examine the argument that just like someone can love his drug addicted child while hating the addiction, a person can love a gay child while hating homosexuality. Yes I dealt with this question a bit yesterday, but I think there’s a bit more to be said. 

I want to start by saying that what follows is simply my personal thoughts on this argument. I’m not completely up to date on the scientific studies regarding what “causes” people to be gay, and I’m not especially well read on gay theory on the issue either. If you are knowledgeable on either, feel free to add your thoughts.

I heard over and over again growing up that being gay was just like any other sin – premarital sex, drug addiction, alcoholism, theft, murder, etc. If a child grew up to indulge in any sin, that was a terribly sad thing, and all the parents could do was pray for their wayward child – whether that child had erred by becoming a mass murderer or a drug addict or by being gay.

I cringe every time I hear this argument, for three reasons. First, being gay is not something someone’ chooses; second, being gay doesn’t cause harm; and third, being gay is a part of one’s identity, not simply something someone chooses to do.

Choice

Growing up, I was taught that people become gay because of unbalanced relationships with their parents. The son is more artistic and his father is upset that he’s not the jock son he wanted, so the son looks for the male affirmation he never got from his father in, well, other men, and that’s what makes him gay. Etc. The problems with this are numerous, not the least being that we’re talking about sexual attraction here, not simply the desire for emotional affirmation. But there’s also the reality that, for most gay people, this story does not fit.

When I entered college I met and got to know gay people for the first time. And I heard their stories. The man who knew there was something different about him when, at age nine, the playboy magazine one of his friends had gotten his hands on did not do for him what it was clearly doing for his friends. The man who was extremely involved in his evangelical church in his teens, holding inwardly his religion-induced loathing of the same sex sexual attraction he could not seem to stop, eventually almost succeeding in killing himself to put an end to it all. The woman who, though biologically male, knew from elementary school that she was different, and went through puberty loathing her developing male body.

None of these individuals had mommy/daddy issues – and  none of them “chose” their sexuality. After all, if they could have, they would almost certainly have chosen differently given that all three grew up in religious homes where they learned that being gay or transgender was a sin and an abomination. For each of them, being queer was something they just were, not something they chose.

Christians who oppose gay marriage will say until they are blue in the face that being gay is a choice, a “lifestyle,” and that gay people can become straight, but that does not make it so. It’s not like straight people decide one day to be attracted to people of the opposite sex. They just are. Same with gay people.

All of this is one reason why I cringe anytime someone compares being gay to being a drug addict or a murderer. People are not born drug addicts or murderers. Those are the results of choices they make. In contrast, being gay is not.

Harm

But, even if being gay were solely a choice, it still could not be classed in with, say, robbery or murder because unlike those crimes, being gay does not hurt anyone. If one of my children grew up to murder, or create a ponzi scheme and take people’s money, etc, I would feel especially saddened because my child had caused others harm. I cannot even imagine how it must feel to be the parent of a mass murderer like the Aurora shooter. But being gay? That doesn’t hurt anyone! And that’s a big difference!

Of course, that still leaves the comparison with drug addiction. After all, Christians who oppose gay marriage because they see homosexuality as disordered would argue that leading a “gay lifestyle” is harmful to the individual him or herself, even if to no one else – and the same could be said of being a drug addict. Honestly, it’s this comparison I understand best, because it would be difficult for me to watch one of my children harming him or herself through drug addiction just as it is difficult for conservative Christians to watch a gay child (presumably) harming him or herself by being gay.

The problem is that being gay isn’t actually harmful to a person. In other words, it’s not actually like drug addiction. Of course, growing up I thought it was – I was told that if you’re gay the rates of getting an STD or AIDS go way up, that you’ll die early, that you’ll be suicidal and miserable, that you won’t have any scrap of happiness in your life, etc. The problem is that this is essentially all complete misinformation. I.e., it’s WRONG. Anyone has a chance of getting an STD or AIDS if they aren’t careful and don’t use protection. Suicide rates are higher among gay people because they face discrimination and are taught that they are abominations, not because they’re gay. Et cetera. It’s only the misinformation that leads to the idea that being gay is harmful to a person the way having a drug addiction is harmful to a person.

Of course, there’s also the idea that whether or not being gay is harmful to an individual in this life, it’s still harmful in that it will send that individual to hell after they die. I can’t respond to that, because it’s completely based on faith and not on any sort of objective reality. However, I would simply say that a God who would create some people with same sex attractions and yet not allow them to act on it or lead successful, fulfilled, loving lives without being sent to hell is, to say the least, a dick.

Based on all this, I want to make one more point. Even if being gay were a choice, would that really matter?

Let’s assume for a moment that sexual orientation is a choice (it’s not; I never chose to be straight). Does that actually make it different from the civil rights movement?

What if race were a choice? What if we had a pill that a black person could take in the evening that would make them wake up a white person? A pill that would change their skin color, their features, their hair, erase their memories of their parents’ culture and the experience of growing up black in America, and implant false memories of white culture and experience?

If such a pill were available, would that make it morally permissible to roll back the civil rights movement, reinstate Jim Crow laws, etc.? Is racial equality something white people condescend to extend to non-whites because, poor dears, they just can’t help being what they are? Or is it an inherent right of all people, because being a person of colour is an equally worthy way of being human as being white?

Anyway, leaving aside this interesting thought experiment, the fact that being gay doesn’t cause others – or even oneself – objective harm is a second reason I cringe when I hear having a gay child being compared with having a child who is a drug addict or a murderer.

Identity

Finally there is the identity issue I mentioned in yesterdays’ post.

A person’s sexuality is like their skin color or their sex. It’s an integral part of who they are, and it’s not something you can just separate out and reject without rejecting that person. You can’t say to a black person “I love you, but I hate your blackness” or to a woman “I love you, but I hate your womanness,” and in the same way you can’t say to a gay person “I love you, but I hate your queerness.”

In contrast, being a drug addict or a murderer is not part of one’s identity. It’s simply an action a person chooses to do.

When a person claims to hate gay people’s sexuality but love the gay people, I can’t help but shake my head. Unless you can hate the color of someone’s skin and yet love them, or hate a person’s sex and yet love the person – and I don’t think you can do either – you can’t hate homosexuality and yet love a gay person.

So when a parent claims that just as they could love a drug addicted child and yet hate the drug addiction, they can love their gay child and yet hate homosexuality, I take issue with that. But there’s another point you have to understand in order to understand this.

You see, sometimes when a parent claims to love his or her child what that parent is really loving is not the real child but rather a figment of their imagination. For example, my parents say they love me, but they don’t know me, the real me I am today. I stopped sharing that “me” with them a long time ago, back when I realized that sharing only resulted in pain. They love the me I was growing up, not the me I am now – they don’t even know the me I am now, and I’m not sure they want to. Or think, for example, of the parents who push and push and push their child in some sport or musical talent, to the point where the child feels that the parents’ love is contingent on them winning – because the child the parent loves is not really them, but rather this champion they imagine them to be.

Parents aren’t perfect, and love isn’t as simple as we often make it out to be, even parental love.

What I mean is this: I think that too often when a Christian parent claims to love his or her gay child yet hate homosexuality, that parent is loving something that is at least in part simply a figment of their imagination.

And that is the third reason I cringe when I hear Christian parents claim that they can love their gay child and yet hate homosexuality.

Conclusion

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and since you presumably read my blog for my thoughts, now you have them. I’d now like to open the floor. Do you have anything you would add to this? And don’t think your thoughts don’t mean anything – I have on many occasions read a comment and immediately responded with “oh! I never thought of that before!” And if your comments are useful to me, I’m sure they’re useful to my other readers as well. :-)

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.


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