Today is the International Day against Homophobia, a day to raise awareness on heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia in order to have a constructive dialogue on what it is, how it is expressed, and how we can end it. Foundations Émergence – the organization behind this day of dialogue – defines homophobia as “All the negative attitudes that can lead to rejection and to direct or indirect discrimination towards gay men, lesbians, and bisexual, transsexual or transgender people or toward anyone whose physical appearance or behaviour does not fit masculine or feminine stereotypes.” Homophobia can be manifested in many ways, passive and active. It can be loud and blatant, or it can be quiet and subtle. Homophobia can be physically violent and emotionally destructive. People actively engage in homophobia, while others show passive displays of heterosexism without even realizing it. It pervades locker room conversation, YouTube comments, Bible studies, water cooler jokes, and even our body language. It’s everywhere, and it cripples LGBT people young and old. All of it is harmful; none of it belongs in the Body of Christ.
I am fortunate to say that I have never been a victim of aggressive or violent homophobia. Nobody has harmed my body on account of my sexuality, nor has anyone made any threats against my life or my property.
My classmates in middle school ostracized me for not being the typical athletic Texan boy. My more gender-neutral posture didn’t fit into the mold of masculinity that these alpha males were taught to have, so they excluded me from their circles.
It was a given in my neck of the woods that a gay boy was to remain silent about his sexuality, so for several years, I shut my mouth, no matter how painful it felt to hide in a closet. And when I finally came out, it was only to one person at a time.
When I came out to a few classmates in high school, they betrayed my trust by gossiping about me behind my back. I suddenly had few, if any, reliable and trustworthy friends.
In college, I lost a friendship because he didn’t feel comfortable around me, a gay man – his words.
I have had friends – near and dear friends – tell me that they do not like it when I call myself gay. They have told me that they wish I would stop identifying myself in that way.
When I wrote another version of this blog five years ago, the comments I so often received were full of homophobic hate. I was told that I was going to hell simply on account of being gay and asking questions. these people were anonymous strangers, yet their words hurt.
All of these incidents, small though they may seem, made one huge statement:
Jimmy, you’re different then the rest of us; you’re messed up. You need to change.
How could I change? What was I supposed to change? And what promise of inclusion did I have if I were somehow to change? It hurt like hell, especially when these comments came from my closets friends.
How do you solve the homophobia crisis? There are two simple answers that require much strength and courage: Have an open dialogue and don’t feed the hate.
I have had conversations would my friends who told me to not call myself gay. I know that they were acting on what they believed were their best interests for me, and I can appreciate it that. However, I have let them know in a loving, humble, and honest way that those statements hurt, and that being gay is an important part of my identity. Many people’s first image of a gay man is the sex-crazed, ecstasy popping, cosmo downing party boy who wears a rainbow jockstrap to pride; this is but a stereotype, and a wrong one at that. (Yes, these kind of boys exist; they don’t represent all of gay culture). Because of my honesty and openness, many of my friends have told me that they are no longer scared or bothered by LGBT culture.
As for don’t feed the hate, if you are the homophobic aggressor – whether passive or active – be aware of your comments, your language, and your non-verbal cues and tailor them as necessary. This is not about sensitivity or political correctness; I’m asking you to treat your LGBT neighbors as human beings made in God’s beautiful image. Ask for forgiveness – and if you were on the receiving end of discrimination, friends, you must be willing to give the grace.
Let’s end this culture of homophobia, and let’s love our neighbors like Christ has called us to love.
until next time,