Open letter to ‘Administrator’: Homophobia is not welcome here

Bisexual, Bullying, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, Opinion, Transgender

“Personally, I can’t think of anything more unchristian than taking it upon oneself to pass sweeping judgment on others, choosing exclusion and disrespect over understanding and kindness…talk of false prophets.”

Josef Church-Woods

Hmm...yeah, this seems perfectly sound, reasonable and fact-based.

Hmm…yeah, this seems perfectly sound, reasonable and fact-based.

A few weeks ago, we posted an opinion piece on here titled ‘Silence of the Gays’ by Joe Church-Woods, about famous, gay people and the fact that, sadly, they often choose to keep their public persona in the closet. The column referenced Jodie Foster, as it was her ‘coming out speech’ at the Golden Globe Awards that inspired it.

The blog entry earned us a lot of feedback – mostly good, although some readers questioned the premise of the column, offering alternative views on the complex issue of coming out and privacy. We’ve really enjoyed reading people’s responses, and as always, we welcome debate and constructive criticism.

However, as LGBT icons was set up by and for LGBT people, as well as supporters with an interest in LGBT issues, we feel strongly that this blog is not a suitable forum for those who are of the opinion that being (and living as) gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is wrong or sinful.

One reader’s contributions in the comment section of the blog stood out in particular. WordPress user ‘Administrator’ posted a couple of remarks, expressing a whole host of unfounded and homophobic views, some of which were dressed up (rather scantily) as facts.

We are very well aware that the world if full of fundamental Christians and other (religious as well as non-religious) people who are firmly planted in the anti-gay, anti-equality camp. We’re just not sure what their purpose would be in choosing to interact with us on LGBT icons, telling us we are abominations, other than to harass.

Subsequently, Joe has drafted an open letter to ‘Administrator’, in response to their offensive comments. You can read Joe’s letter below if you are interested, and we have also pasted in Administrator’s original comment and the subsequent exchange at the bottom, for context.

Open letter to ‘Administrator’:

The sentiment and attitudes expressed in your comments on the ‘Silence of the Gays’ opinion piece, published on this blog earlier this month, are exactly the kind of arrogant, irrational, narrow-minded and mean-spirited views that make it so difficult for many (gay and straight) people to take anti-gay, religious arguments seriously.

Firstly, being gay is not a choice.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to feel gay, or have ‘homosexual urges’ and experiences, but then ‘grown out of it’, or manage to find happiness and fulfillment in a straight relationship.

What I am saying is that any person going through that kind of sexual journey was never gay, in the purest meaning of the word, in first place. By definition, the ability to find both men and women sexually attractive would make them bisexual, or at least bi-curious. But perhaps you have some contradictory, personal experience in this matter that you can enlighten me with?

Really though, the question of whether or not some people can ‘choose to be straight’ is a sidebar and irrelevant, as far as I am concerned. Because I know for a fact that being gay was not something I chose, and I also know from first hand experience that not everyone can ‘pray the gay away’.

I tried for many years to ‘overcome’ my homosexuality and I spent a considerable amount of time begging God for help. Help which never came, by the way. At least not until I eventually, in my late teens and early 20′s, started to see that there was nothing wrong with me. If God does exists, I can only assume that this insight of mine must have been his will.

You and those like you call yourselves Christians, picking and choosing the bits of the bible that fit in with your subjective, hurtful views, while ignoring all the ones that don’t, including some of the most important and powerful messages to come out of that particular book – namely live and let live; love your fellow humans; and the importance of compassion and generosity of spirit.

Personally, I can’t think of anything more unchristian than taking it upon oneself to pass sweeping judgment on others, choosing exclusion and disrespect over understanding and kindness…talk of false prophets.

Because of people like you, and the ill-informed opinions and preconceptions that you bandy about, growing up as a young, gay person was pretty hellish for me. Why would anyone facing all that bullying, hate and discrimination choose to be gay?

As an adult, I figured out that the problem is not my attraction to other men, it’s the attitudes of homophobic people – even if I could force myself to be straight, I shouldn’t have to. As a scared, lonely teenager though, I wanted nothing more than to be ‘like everyone else’. But I couldn’t help who I was and I couldn’t change it – with or without God. My only choice, I eventually realised, was to accept my situation and try to overcome the fear of being myself.

Every single LGBT person I can think of, who I have every spoken to (a very substantial number over the years), has reported similar experiences growing up, so I know that my struggle is the norm, rather than an exception to the rule.

Thankfully, things are slowly getting better for LGBT people. The general consensus is slowly but surely changing and most people these days (including many decision makers) know that being gay is not a ‘chosen lifestyle’,  a perversion or an illness, just like we all now know that planet Earth isn’t flat, or the centre of the universe.

I would also like to point out that you are wrong when you say that “Homosexuality has always been historically seen as a symptom of the downgrading of any society.” There are lots of examples throughout history, and in communities all around the world, where homosexuality was – and is – considered a normal, functional part of society.

Homosexuality is a naturally occurring, normal variation of sexuality in a huge range of species, including humans. Homophobia, on the other hand, only exists among humans and, like the bible, it is a relatively recent invention in the context of human evolution as a whole.

Not only is homosexuality a natural variation in human beings; numerous scientific studies have also shown that it is not in itself a source of negative psychological effects. By contrast, prejudice and discrimination against gay and bisexual people have been shown to cause psychological harm.

Naturally, I can’t speak for all the gay and bisexual people in the world. However, I can assure you that personally, I am not looking for any ‘special privileges’, and neither are any of the LGBT people I have ever met and spoken to. I’m not sure which gay people and groups you have taken the time to meet and hear, but from your comments, I’m guessing not that many, if any.

We simply want the same rights, privileges and protections afforded everyone else in the society we live in. That, and the right to be who we are without fear of exclusion, discrimination, persecution and violence.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask of the mostly heterosexual and Christian (or otherwise religious) families that brought us into the world.

You may disagree, but if you seriously think that such a request could reasonably explain and justify sociopolitical upheaval, as well as the breakdown of the family unit, then you really need to rethink your world view, or at the very least try to understand someone else’s circumstances.

Please don’t bother visiting the LGBT icons blog again, or responding to this, unless you have something significantly more rational and less offensive to say.

Thanks,
Joe

Administrator’s comments on the Silence of the Gays blog post, with responses:

Administrator, January 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm

It used to be that people who ascribed to an alternate lifestyle wanted to have rights and be recognized. Now these same people want to take away the rights of everyone who disagrees with them. How much lower can we get before the bottom drops out?

Reply:

Tapman, January 28, 2013 at 3:35 am

I think maybe you have been listening to some conspiracy theories? What rights do they actually want to take away from us?

Josef Church-Woods, January 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Administrator – your comment illustrates perfectly the position of many conservative, religious and ‘anti-equality’ individuals in the UK. As you can imagine, I have a huge problem with the notion that encouraging an inclusive and anti-discriminatory environment – and introducing measures to give everyone in our society equal rights, privileges and protections – would somehow be unfair and mean towards people who feel homosexuality is wrong. It’s the equivalent of a racist shop owner arguing it’s unfair that they have to serve black people, or a misogynist complaining that letting ladies vote is infringing on his right to male superiority. They can think that if they want, but in this day and age, I’d like to think they’ll understand and accept that that the law, the government and the majority of the rest of the population won’t back them up. Some people may feel affronted and upset that not everyone wants to adhere to their belief system, but the fact is that they are still very much free to stick with it themselves. Take the issue of same sex marriage for example; no one is proposing to force religious organisations to marry gay or bisexual couples if they don’t want to, and those who do not believe in this type of union are under no obligation to be part of one in any way. Yet the mere idea that same sex couples could have a faith, and want to acknowledge that in their commitment to each other, seems to offend huge numbers of religious and anti-gay people no end. Like it’s somehow ruining religion for them. It’s got nothing to do with anyone other than the couple, their family and their church, so why would anyone else think that letting same-sex couples get married in church might take something away from them, or denigrate their own relationship? If their faith, or their marriage, is so fragile that its well-being is threatened by the lives of people they don’t even know, perhaps it’s time for them to reconsider their spiritual and emotional priorities? Bottom line is, we’re all free to our personal beliefs and opinions, but we still have to accept that other people have different beliefs. And provided they are law abiding citizens, they should have the same legal protection and recognition as everyone else in our society. As Jesus might have said: If LGBT equality is slapping you in the face, turn the other cheek.

Reply:

Administrator, January 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm

There is one thing that you fail to understand is that the homosexual choice cannot be put on the same level as gender or race. Placing choice of lifestyle on the same level those who did not choose their gender of race distracts from the real issue of what a homosexual is. The real issue is not that homosexuals should be a special class of persons who deserve to be protected, but that any society who truly seeks enlightenment and progress should learn from the past. Homosexuality has always been historically seen as a symptom of the downgrading of any society. The selfish nature and prideful position that the homosexual and homosexual groups have should serve to show us that our society, culture, and now the family unit is in deep deep trouble. Not only does the homosexual seek to gain special privileges, but they want to take away the common-sense and natural rights of those who ascribe to any universal absolute. Why do you think Isalm, Facism, and totalitarianism are growing trends in the west? People are frustrated that basic moral behavior is being lost and are will to turn to anything that would protect them… even if it’s been already proven to over-step other basic human freedoms. It’s time you re-thought impact of what you think you believe.

Reply:

Tapman, January 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Dear Administrator, since when has homosexuality been a choice of lifestyle? I think you may have missed thirty years of scientific discovery. You seem also to have received some history classes that none of the rest have. If your a Christian, please stop, your embarrassing the rest of us.

Silence of the Gays – why celebrities should come out and speak up!

Celebrities, Coming out, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, Opinion, Role Models

“I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that gay celebrities have a social or moral duty to be open about their sexuality. But I am prepared to argue that by refusing to acknowledge that they are gay – or that once, not that long ago, they were scared to admit it in public – they’re perpetuating an inhibiting and heteronormative status quo.”

Josef Church-Woods

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster

In case you somehow managed to miss it, Jodie Foster used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, to plant her feet firmly outside of her admittedly already rather flimsy glass closet.

It was an emotional speech, in which she talked about a whole life lived in the public eye and the value of privacy, as well as her love for her female ex-partner, their joint children and her mother, among many others.

It wasn’t exactly a coming out speech, nor was it the first time she’s acknowledged her relationship with the co-parent of her children, but it was nonetheless a bit of a big deal, set in the unusual context of a major, Hollywood A-list event. So, good for you Jodie, and good for everybody else who believes in equality – we need all the positive, gay role models we can get, flying the flag for ‘modern families’ and the notion that love is love, regardless of sexuality.

However, watching the clip of Jodie on stage (see link below), I couldn’t help wondering why exactly, in the 21st century, such a successful, intelligent, supported and loved person would feel that talking freely about being a lesbian amounts to an invasion of her privacy.

I find it frustrating that so many people seem to confuse sexual orientation with their private selves. It’s perfectly possible to be open about your sexuality, without talking excessively to media outlets about your personal relationships, or sharing every aspect of your life with the world. Lots of people who are in the spotlight have mastered this balance. Even intensely private, straight celebrities do not hide or refuse to acknowledge the fact that they are sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex. Why would they? The fact that Paul Rudd likes women says virtually nothing about him as a person, how he lives his life or what kind of a family he has.

Obviously, coming out as gay is not quite the same thing as being openly straight. It’s not my intention to trivialise the struggle that many LGBT people face by likening a queer person’s experience of dealing with their sexuality to that of a straight person, who is automatically welcomed into the majority fold. Heterosexuality is the norm – the default setting – and homophobia is still a very real and tangible threat for most of us. For many it has devastating consequences, even in western countries with political leaders who candidly endorse LGBT equality.

And this is exactly why I think it’s so important that people who are considered role models speak out. It’s why it rubs me up the wrong way when someone like Jodie Foster stands in front of the whole world and half comes out, then swiftly makes it clear that the reason she still refuses to let the word ‘gay’ pass her lips, is because it’s a personal matter and sharing this side of her being with the public amounts to a violation of her privacy. There’s no need for a press conference or a reality TV show – but unless you think there is something wrong with being gay, why would you refuse to confirm something which is just as generic as the colour of your skin?

No offense Jodie; I know that you came out to your family and friends many years ago and I don’t mean to call into question your honesty or integrity. It’s just that I believe your long and somewhat ambiguous journey to that Golden Globe acceptance speech is symptomatic of an oppressive catch 22.

The reason famous, gay people keep their public persona in the closet is because they are worried about the reaction that their coming out might provoke, and the potential impact on their careers and families – not because they are ‘private people’. This is something I feel needs to be expressed, because when it’s brushed over, it sends a very clear ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ message. And even the US army has conceded that that particular approach to diversity is both unjust and harmful.

I do understand that there is a lot of extra pressure to handle when your every move is observed, recorded and generally regarded as public property. Fear of judgment, damage to career trajectory and potential loss of earnings are all valid enough reason to feel nervous about stepping out in public with your same-sex partner.

As such, I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that gay celebrities have a social or moral duty to be open about their sexuality. But I am prepared to argue that by refusing to acknowledge that they are gay – or that once, not that long ago, they were scared to admit it in public – they’re perpetuating an inhibiting and heteronormative status quo.

I hope, as we move forward, more famous men and women feel able to be open, not just about their sexuality, but also about the reasons why perhaps they hesitated within the familiar comfort of their closet walls.

Josef Church-Woods (@JosefCW)

Update:  Since the original publication of this blog entry, it has caused quite a stir.  Though most of the feedback has been very positive and it has encouraged debate, there have been some less than savoury comments regarding the subject matter.  Here, Josef Church-Woods responds to one such comment.