Ed note: I’m somewhat fearful about hitting publish on this post. I hope that if you disagree with what I have to say here, that you will respond thoughtfully and afford me the respect that I promise in return. I know this is a touchy subject, but it is also one about which I feel passionate. None is free until all are free.
I have something to say. While it’s been brewing for a while, I haven’t been entirely sure that this was the appropriate forum in which to say it. I’ve since decided that it is precisely the place that it should be said. Because at its core, it’s a message about tolerance. About compassion. About allowing ourselves to look past what we think we see and to find out what really is. It’s a message about difference. And about moving past fear into understanding. It’s a message about the world that we are creating for our children.
I’ve been somewhat obsessed with our nation’s politics in recent months. I watched the presidential candidates foam at the mouth as they’ve worked crowds into a frenzy. I’ve watched them draw battle lines, each time somehow legitimizing an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. I’ve heard them call to slash so-called entitlement programs. Do you know what ‘entitlement’ programs are? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans’ Administration programs. I’ve heard the cheers go up in the crowd without a thought for kids like ours – who in some cases have no choice but to rely on these programs simply to live.
But more than anything, it’s the broad message of intolerance that strikes the fear of God in me. This ‘us and them’ or more accurately ‘us vs them’ mentality. This war on that which is other – that which is different – leads us nowhere but backward.
What message does it send when one of the leading candidates for the highest office in our land has described homosexuality as ‘part of Satan’? What are we saying to the gay teenager who is struggling with self-loathing, desperately afraid to come out to his family, to simply allow himself to BE who he IS, when he hears that the gay ‘lifestyle’ is ‘personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement’. How does he possibly reconcile that with who he is?
What confounds me the most is that it so often happens in the name of religion. We see it all the time. As far as I’m concerned, intolerance in the name of Christianity is so far perverted from the teachings of Jesus that it would be wholly unrecognizable to Him. For the life of me, I simply don’t get it.
I truly believe – from the bottom of my heart – that the only thing that can be perverse about love between two consenting adults is someone outside of it having the audacity to stand in judgement of it. That to me is perverse.
By publishing this here, in a place largely dedicated to autism advocacy, I mean in no way, shape nor form to imply that homosexuality is a disorder. Anything but. And yet, I believe that the parallels are in some ways undeniable.
We are asking people to look beyond difference. To move past the fear of that which they don’t understand. To reach the hallowed place where they are able to SEE people and celebrate the majestic glory of God’s creation from one end of its spectrum to the other.
But that won’t – can’t – ever happen if we continue to live in and propagate fear. If we continue to legitimize, even institutionalize discrimination and hate.
Please, tell the politicians to tone down the rhetoric. For God’s sake, we’ve got an example to set for our children.
When we’re free to love anyone we choose
When this world’s big enough for all different views
When we all can worship from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free
And when money talks for the very last time
And nobody walks a step behind
When there’s only one race and that’s mankind
Then we shall be free
~ Garth Brooks, We Shall Be Free
Amended to add –
I originally posted the following in the comments below. I feel that it is important to highlight it here as well.
I am quite simply overwhelmed with the response thus far to this post. Your (mostly) supportive comments have buoyed my spirit and in so many ways restored my faith in our collective desire to make everyone in this world feel loved, valued and celebrated.
A couple of thoughts in response to those who shared their belief that the bible states clearly that homosexuality is a sin ..
Not what you expected?
I don’t deny that in many places (six, if I’m not mistaken) the Scriptures tell us that homosexuality (at least male homosexuality) is an abomination.
So we agree.
My problem is that the scriptures also tell us that eating shellfish is an abomination and that beating our slaves is fine as long as we don’t kill them.
If we choose to interpret the bible literally, then we must put to death those who work on the Sabbath (according to Exodus), those who curse their father or mother (as in Leviticus) and any woman who is found upon her wedding day to be anything other than a virgin (as prescribed by Deuteronomy).
So while I can’t dispute that the Scriptures call homosexuality a sin, I can make a pretty good argument for the need to read and understand them contextually. I believe that to parse out the passages that we want for a particular argument and assert that they are meant to be read literally – all while calling the others contextually dependent is hypocritical at best.
One commenter said, “So we speak truth to gay people, and we defend their dignity by persuing (sic) legislation that protects them from incurring the wrath of God by purposefully propogating (sic) and legitimizing their sin.”
I am hard pressed to follow the logic that pursuing legislation to outlaw homosexuality in any way defends the dignity of homosexual people, but more saliently, the concept of legislating religious beliefs runs contrary to the separation of church and state – the very foundation upon which this nation was built.
For those who believe that homosexuality is a choice (and a sinful one at that), I beseech you to take the time to get to know people. To see inside their world. To do exactly what we, as autism advocates ask people to do for us, for our kids. To begin to demystify the differences. To hear personal stories. To meet loving couples like my friend Randy and his husband, Mark who have been together for 34 years. To find that there is far more commonality in our experiences than difference. To find that your life will be richer for having opened your heart and your mind. To create a world where no teen thinks suicide is a better choice than telling his mom who he is.
Thank you all for reading and for contributing to the conversation with love and respect.