Being part of the LGBT community means that you are frequently bombarded with bigoted incorrect assumptions about what being LGBT is; what it means in terms of rights, and what it means in terms of self.
These conversations can be difficult to deal with. At times, I know, some of us wonder if we should even bother. There seems, at times, to just be those people who don’t understand, who don’t want to understand, who refuse to understand…. They are an insurmountable wall of prejudice or religious dogma.
This is true in some cases to be sure, but let me tell you a story. and then, let me give you some tools to fight back.
I have a family member who is a very devout Christian. I, on the other hand, am more what you would call an agnostic pagan skeptic. Despite our colossal differences in opinion as to faith, we struggle to maintain a relationship. Her words and over simplifications, her judgments and condescension are hurtful and at times left me on the verge of giving up on the relationship altogether. Many, many, times I bit my tounge and let her all but preach to me, leaving the conversation as gracefully as possible without asserting myself or arguing with her.
My reasons for not pushing it are twofold, not wanting to damage the relationship but also, and in some ways much larger, my belief that nothing I say can or will change her mind.
A while back though, I decided to take a chance. We were on the phone talking about earthquakes an the subject of Haiti came up. We began to talk about where we were sending aid. She referenced that she had donated or was going to donate to Pat Robertson
Because I was aware of the above clip, my response to such a declaration was shock. “But… wait…” I said, aware that I was beginning to tread on very dangerous ground, “You might want to rethink that donation. He said some pretty severe things today.”
Her response was, in essence, was that he wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. That it was/is true. That the people in the country, none of them Christian, deserve it… That when a country turns its back on God, this is what happens.
Dismayed (and trembling a bit, VERY aware of the dangerous ground I was barreling into) I debated her.
Gently. It was hard to stay gentle, I wanted to talk in big loud sentences, to force her to see things my way… but I didn’t. Even I know better than that.
What resulted was a very long drawn out and draining conversation that half of the public transportation system got to listen in to as I took a bus, walked to CVS, bought chips and dip, walked home, etc.
We talked about the history of Haiti, about God: about the existence, the temperament, the fairness of God. We talked about death. We talked about the Bible as authority (or not).
Eventually we had to agree to disagree. I knew I was breaking her heart. My honesty in what I believe had never, up until this point, been stated so clearly, so obviously, so unequivocally. We agreed that we loved each other. We agreed that harsh hurtful statements such as the ones Mr. Robertson made can sometimes do more harm than good to the Christian cause. Again we agreed that we loved each other and that is what really matters.
It was awkward.
We got off the phone… she off to Bible study, me off to a book club meeting. Again I wondered if I had done the right thing in actually discussing. I was worried that I had hurt our relationship by my honesty. I spent the next day going back and forth. Was this the right time/issue to throw my cap into the ring? In the whole “chose your battles wisely” theme, had I done that?
She called me the next day to say that she had given it more thought. That she had realized that she had been judging the people of Haiti. That the country didn’t deserve what had happened to them. That natural disasters are simply natural disasters and not God’s punishment. That there are Christians living in Haiti. That Mr. Robertson was mistaken.
I was blown away, filled with love, filled with hope, and just… overcome. I am not sure, had the roles had been reversed, if I could have had the guts to call up and apologize. We had a lovely talk… we talked about the issue at hand but then we chatted about a variety of other topics as well. This time when it was time to click off, there was no weirdness, no fear that that would be the last conversation.
Now, I would still caution that knowing WHEN to push back is almost as important as knowing HOW to push back.
Unfortunately, that is a personal call. I can’t help you with the WHEN… but I can, I hope, help you with the HOW.
Almost all of the conversations that I have with those who wish to continue to deny equal rights to the LGBT community fall back on one of two premises.
The Bible says gays are wrong. And/Or Gays chose to be gay.
The first is a religious argument that ultimately stems from a not shared placed of morality (at least for me). Sadly, I have yet to find a way to break down that barrier of blind faith and dogged resistance.
However, the other fall back, the “gays chose this as a lifestyle and thus don’t deserve special rights” nonsense can be proved to be just that, nonsense. And here are some great tools to do just that.
And here are some evidence of genetic elements: Link One Link Two Link Three Link Four Link Five (problematic sample gathering in this one, but the same result is born out in some of the better studies as well) Link Six
This list of helpful links was put together by my partner in crime who is currently embarked on such a debate with an acquaintance of his own. Will they have any affect? I don’t know. I do know that this person’s willingness to even bother to question his own assumptions might be the first step in reaching a different conclusion.
In any case, I hope this helps. Again, many times it might not be worth it to push back, to point out the fallacy, to question, to jeopardize the relationship.
But sometimes it is. You never know unless you try.