When religious conservatives go on the attack, the Queer community often responds defensively, and why not? When being pelted with vilifying insults, one naturally enough tries to quench the fiery darts coming one’s way.
Another response is to avoid the religious attackers as much as possible. We often simply ignore those who cloak their fears, hatreds, and prejudices in the language of piety, values, and religious dictates.
I can’t really find fault with either approach. When our dignity is assaulted, we have every right to challenge the unkind and unwarranted assumptions being made about us; and, if we are certain that various communities will be unkind toward us, of course we may not want to engage them. Why walk intentionally into a raging storm? But I do sometimes wonder if there isn’t another approach worth considering as well.
In addition to correcting hate speech when it is hurled at us and/or ignoring some of the hateful rhetoric that some religious types use against LBGT people, we can also simply tell our stories. When we share our perspective, it doesn’t necessarily need to be in response to negative comments made to or about us, or least, it need not be only in response to such comments. We can, to borrow from religious parlance, “bear witness” to our own sacred encounters, our own experiences of the Holy, our own deeply treasured values, our own true love, our own hopes, gifts, and dreams for the world.
Let’s be very clear: a lot of the homophobia and transphobia that people are so disturbingly comfortable voicing these days are responses to marriage equality and other civil rights gains made by the LBGT community. What might change some hearts and minds, however, is for more people to see us as we are, to get a glimpse into our hearts, to hear our lived experiences and personal stories, to discover that we are fully human, our love is life-sustaining, and our lives have sacred value.
Those who fear difference, who marginalize those they don’t understand, who can only seem to find personal validation by contrasting themselves to an “Other” have learned in many cases to feel comfortable with that pathology by claiming their fears and hatreds amount to righteous compliance with divine demands. They aren’t hateful, they insist; they are merely following divine dictates of a loving deity who somehow can’t love people who don’t fit into constructed heteronormative binary power dynamics. They can feel good about their hate as long as they can blame their hate on religion and even dare to call it love.
Such dysfunctional views of love and faith will not be defeated by arguments or apathy, but by our living out loud for the world to see that we are not a subject for debate, we are human-beings. We are not an issue; we are people. We are not a sin; we are part of the beautiful complexity and diversity of life.
The opinions, views, and angry rants of the religious far right have been heard. Now, let’s let our voices, our lives, our truth be heard – not as an argument or an apology or a defense, but as simply the affirmation of our truth by the people who know it best: ourselves.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the senior minister of the Sunshine Cathedral, “a different kind of church.”