Processing Orlando…

NOTICE: I am writing mostly out of a need to process my thoughts.  A lot of the information is fluid in this situation and so is my train of thought.  I may change my opinion over coming days, and I may not fully stand by everything written in this post when I circle back on it.  Please only read into it what is actually there…and if we need to talk, let’s talk.

I’ve spent a lot of my day getting very angry, in light of the Orlando shooting.  Angry at posts I’m reading on Facebook.  Angry at tweets I’m reading from the Republican presidential candidate–posts that are exactly the kind of thing that clinched the nomination for him to begin with.  Angry at the prejudice that exists.  Angry that I don’t know what if anything I can do about it.

Last year, someone I knew and spent real time with killed himself in part because he was tired of getting beaten up and verbally/spiritually abused by Christians for being gay.  (I’m not over-simplifying it.  He was a bible college student and other students assaulted him for what I then thought were just rumors about his sexuality.  The college, brave Christian Solders, did NOTHING and the bullies even had people leaving them notes on their white-boards telling them THEY were being prayed for…years later, he actually came out.  And now he’s dead.)  I have opted not to state his name publicly–and I’m angry about that too…but it’s not my story to tell in the first place, and also I don’t think anyone’s suicide should be the first others hear about them, so I’ve maintained his anonymity–it’s not because he was gay, it’s because he deserved to keep living.

This year, I don’t know anyone who was shot in Orlando…but I mourn for my friends who are gay and continue to be afraid…because this isn’t the first time they’ve been afraid.  It won’t be the last.  Most of them were terrified to just tell their PARENTS.  Now they’re terrified to go to nightclubs, too…but I’m not sure that’s new either, in some neighborhoods.  I definitely know gay people who feel like they have to justify who they ARE any time it comes up.  I even had a gay man apologize to me not too long ago for asking if I was also gay…why should he have had to apologize?  All he did was ask me a question.

That’s actually a good story, and I haven’t written it here before.  I won’t get into specifics, but the guy walked up to me and said, “I hope you don’t mind if I ask, but are you gay?”  My reply was, “No, I’m just really tired today.”  After we both chuckled, I realized he was serious and I clarified that I’m not, but out of curiosity, why was he asking?  “Oh, it’s just that I heard you mention a Jeremy (my then-roommate) and I was wondering…”  “Oh, no.  We’re just roommates.”  “Oh okay.  It’s just that I’m gay, so I was curious.  Sorry.  I hope I haven’t offended you.”  “No…there’s no reason to apologize, man.  You just asked me a question.  Why should you have to apologize for knowing who you are and asking me if I’m the same?”  At no point did I feel threatened.  At no point did I feel grossed out or upset.  If anything, I just felt bad for the guy.  Why SHOULD he have to worry about asking a simple question that only needs a simple answer?

It’s religion, isn’t it?  Religion and religious fear is what drives this bullshit.  I mean, I can’t really speak for other faiths, but this country pretends to be founded on Christian principles when it suits them, right?  So it must’ve come from somewhere…and it seems pretty systemic…  The handful of Bible verses that point toward homosexuality being a sin are the ones that caused the murders and the suicide that I can’t get out of my head today.  Those same scriptures made a man almost flinch when I calmly replied that, “No, I’m not gay, but out of curiosity…”  Those same scriptures…that are in the same Bible that declares that you shouldn’t have a bathroom in your church (Deuteronomy 23:12-14) and that women should go into exile during their menstrual cycle (Leviticus 15:19-33)…those same scriptures are foundational in this ugliness, aren’t they?  (As a sidebar, I encourage you who think everything in the Bible should be literally practiced to see what kind of push-back you get if you remove your women’s bathroom sometime.)

But it isn’t JUST religion, either, is it?  There are atheists who think that homosexuality is “just gross” too, aren’t there?  Or are there?  It doesn’t seem like I hear as much from them, but statistically they must be out there, right?  I mean, we all know there are rapists in prisons that lay no claim to the Bible, but would kick your ass if you asked them if they were into men.  There’s a weird macho-status that gets wrapped up in the conversation too, isn’t there?  But where did that come from?  It must’ve been that somewhere along the way, those same guys were taught that being gay was “wrong,” right?  (Although I’ve noticed that for some reason if you show those same gay-bashing tough guys two women making out…that’s fine for some reason…)

And what about Islam?  I can’t speak for the religion.  I can’t speak for the people who live in Islamic countries.  I can’t even claim to know all that much about ISIL…  But I do know that ISIL was everybody’s FIRST thought, even in the midst of hearing it was a gay club that was targeted.  And I know that the dickless prick who killed 50 people called 911 and CLAIMED allegiance to ISIL when he was going in.  But I also know that investigating authorities have said they don’t think it’s a coordinated attack.  Claiming allegiance isn’t the same thing as being a field agent.  I claim alliance to Pete Townshend, but he didn’t call me to play bass when Entwistle died.  The fucker.

Yet…every Republican I’ve ever met is saying we have to do something about ISIL.  And, yeah, we do…but it’s not like we’re alone, or even in the majority of having that belief.  Muslims hate ISIL more than we white, Christian suburbanites do.  Muslims are the ones who ISIL is making look bad.  ISIL is systematically working to unfold the Muslim faith and the people groups most commonly associated with it.  They’re looking to spread chaos.  They’re looking to spread fear and hate.  And it’s working…because we report that a security guard turned gay-killing bastard was connected to ISIL, despite the near total lack of evidence.  (NOTE: Should this be proven otherwise in the coming days, I will gladly redact this statement.)  Hate sells…and you don’t even have to be a terrorist to sell it, do you Trump-voters?  God, there are a lot of you…and most of you don’t even have the courage to admit it.

An upsettingly large portion of my day has been spent reading the posts of people I went to bible college with trying to sound like they’re not ACTUALLY on the side of–GASP!–gay people.  It’s a shame to reveal oneself as a bigot while trying to say something nice.  I’ve seen a lot of posts that boil down to “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  (That isn’t in the Bible, by the way.)  It would be impossible for me to do that on this one.  I’m just going to say it…  I don’t think being gay is a sin.  I just don’t.  Not anymore…not for a long time.  I wish I’d said that clearly from the pulpit in my days as an active minister.  We need people to do that…  Even if it WERE sinful, I still have a problem with “hate the sin, love the sinner…”  Because I have trouble reconciling the love of Christ with hating anything.  The love of Christ DRIVES OUT hate. If you have experienced otherwise, then you have not experienced His love.  I’m sorry…but you haven’t. 

On this day, the only person I will call a sinner is the shooter…and as has become my policy in these situations, I will not ever intentionally learn his name.  He is nameless evil to me, and he can stay that way.  But I will make an effort to remember at least one victim, once more is out about them.  The only sin I see is the sin of hate.  And hate seems to be the only thing worth hating.

…and I guess that’s where I am as of now.

To my friends in the LGBTQ community, I pray for a day where you are no longer called “brave” for just being who you are.  I am so, so sorry this happened.  I’m here if you need me.