Some Queer Ally You Are, Jesus

Alex Gabriel makes a convincing case against Jesus as an LGBTQ ally, and for keeping supportive spaces secular. Here is a lengthy excerpt: there’s far more at the link, and you should definitely read the whole thing, so that you can be prepared to reply to all of those folks who blabber about how wonderful it is to have gay-friendly Jesus all up in everybody’s business.

It’s hard not to note the case for Jesus as a queer ally requires an absurd degree of generosity, applying uniquely low standards of allyship.

  • It is absurdly generous to call someone a queer ally whose name we only know because they spurred a movement that overwhelmingly harmed us for thousands of years.
  • It is absurdly generous to call someone a queer ally because they never said a word about us, particularly to a violently homophobic audience.
  • It is absurdly generous to call someone a queer ally for preaching nonspecific love and kindness. That never stopped anyone, let alone preachers, persecuting us.

I don’t just bash this theology for fun. Its claims are so preposterous it seems strategically contrived, less a good-faith belief than a desperate pragmatic attempt to reconcile queerness and Christianity. Who could be taken in by such bad arguments apart from willfully?

There was a time believing in a god who loved me got me through the night – I’ve no desire to take any queer person a private belief they need to get by, nor am I cavalier about it, but private belief and public theology are different things, the latter always having been a political choice. The list of encounters atop this post should illustrate that queer religiosity is a less and less private thing. I worry about its effects.

My fear is that my community’s response to religious persecution is increasingly to try and prove itself godly, ignoring that religious respectability is a double-edged sword – and that as a result, a steady religionisation of queer spaces is afoot.

I worry they’re becoming places liberal clergy come to deliver sermons, where believers explain God’s love to others even when not invited to; where God and Jesus in particular feature heavily in activists’ rhetoric, where we’re exhorted to pray and told what our creator meant for us.

It worries me when meetings are moved so as not to clash with church, LGBT groups advertise services in their newsletters, giving out religious flyers at their own meetings, and reservations about this are called ‘hate’, declared a form of bigotry as real as queerphobia. It worries me that when I hear queer theology’s contentions reeled off, it’s usually to deny and dismiss realities of Christian homophobia, both current and historical.

Religious voices being broadcast throughout my community may not declare me an abomination, but this doesn’t put my mind at ease. Religionised environments, even superficially ‘progressive’ ones, are themselves marginalising and exclusionary for many: not everyone can join the circle and sing kumbayah.

Sure, it’s awesome that some Christians have decided to reinterpret their faith and make it a lot less hateful and evil. I’m glad that some Christians are actively working to make their religion less harmful. But that doesn’t mean they need to drag that religion out of their churches and into every single gathering. Alex is right. It’s exclusionary and it’s wrong.

It’s also not so kind as religious folk think. You know, I do get it. When I was briefly Christian, I wanted everybody to know the great news. I wanted to share my religion with everyone, because Jesus was so great and I was convinced people needed him. Fortunately, that impulse to vomit my faith all over everyone’s shoes didn’t last more than a few weeks, and I was able to refrain from regurgitating in most environments. I realized that God doesn’t need to be brought up in every context. There are times, and there are places. Mixed gatherings of people uniting around purposes not related to discussing religious philosophy ain’t them. Put a sock in it.

And sweet, progressive, wanna-be-ally Christians? This is what you need to do when one of your fellow but less enlightened Christians does something stupid or horrible to LGBTQ people:

If you’re a Christian and you want to be an ally, here is what you can say:

‘I’m sorry my religion inspires behaviour like this so often. Victimising LGBT people is totally contrary to my own interpretation, which I hope becomes more influential.’

That’s it. Don’t make excuses for your fellow believers. Don’t pretend they’re not really-real Christians. Don’t puff out your chest and proclaim How Very Different and Enlightened you are. Don’t deny that for the past several thousand years, it’s your very own holy books that have been used to justify heinous treatment. Just apologize, and clean your own damned house of faith. Preach to the homophobic believers, not your non-Christian queer friends.

Keeping non-religious gatherings secular and safe is in the best interests of everyone.

Now, if you’re a progressive Christian, go tell a fundie what Jesus really hated.

Image is a painting of Jesus face-palming. Caption says, "OMFG you guys, I said I hated FIGS."

Oh, Sochi, No!

Good job, Russia. Arresting the first openly trans* legislator in Europe for waving a “Gay is OK” flag is fantastic PR. I’m sure all the people in the world who love to persecute LGBTQ people are salivating over you right now. Those of us who are actually decent human beings, on the other hand, aren’t at all impressed.

But, actually, thank you for showing your true colors. I’d prefer you actually treat LGBTQ people like people, with the right to live and love and share this planet with us without fear, but if you’re going to be bigoted assholes, own it. Do it by arresting a trans woman for waving an innocuous flag. Not just any trans woman, mind you, but go for broke and arrest a famous one. Make sure the world sits up and takes notice.

Photograph of Vladi in profile, holding a rainbow umbrella.

Vladi Luxuria. Photo by Stefano Bolognini via Wikimedia Commons.

But I have to ask: Doesn’t it just seem a little foolish to strut your bigoted stuff in front of an audience of millions?

But then, Sochi’s been rather foolish from the beginning. Every Olympics has its problems – it’s not easy to build what basically amounts to a city in a few years, and get it right. There’s so much involved that mistakes are inevitable. But Sochi’s something special.

RQ, who knows a lot more about modern Russia than I do, had this to say about the buildings and tracks: “They probably look good on paper, but the Russian reality is even worse than the Latvian one (purposely missed rivets, cheaper materials, etc., because when you take so much for yourself, you just can’t afford all the fancy-pants materials in their proper amounts!).” Which is rather terrifying, when you think of all the building codes meant for fire, seismic and other sorts of safeties that were probably roundly ignored. Here’s hoping there’s no major disasters in the closing days of the Olympics. But considering Russia’s record on human rights and their current enthusiasm for persecuting homosexual folk, I’m rooting for an endless stream of the following mostly-minor mishaps. I do love some egg on totalitarian face.

Speaking of, if you haven’t seen them already, do check out these posts on the disastrous state of unreadiness that greeted people arriving for the Olympics. Toxic facewater and missing floors and absent elevators attempting to swallow athletes whole, oh, my.

You know, I like the geology around Sochi quite a lot. But I wouldn’t give you a pint of piss for a trip to Russia.

No. I Won’t Give Churchgoers Cookies For Doing the Minimally Decent Thing.

A friend pointed me toward this story by telling me a Methodist church got a new pastor, who promptly ran the gay choir director out, and guess how many in the congregation left the church over it? I knew what she was fishing for. She wanted me to feel the warm fuzzies that a bunch of religious folk had protested the treatment of one of their own.

No.

“Eighty percent!” she said, as if the number would change my mind.

Nope. Not impressed.

The conversation stalled shortly after as I refused to debate further whether or not one should encourage such basic human decency by praising it, lest the people involved give up trying to be good due to lack of kudos. I don’t like to have these conversations over chat to begin with, and when it’s chat at my job and I’m trying to work, I like it even less. It takes more time than I have to hammer the point home that I’m not going to give them cookies for doing the minimally decent thing.

Image is an irritated dark gray cat, with the caption "No cookie for you."

Kitty courtesy Isabel Bloedwater via Flickr.

So let me unsling my Smack-o-Matic™ now:

I’m not going to give them unstinting praise for doing what tens of thousands of other Christians have done when they had a quibble with their church, and splitting, thus leading to the wide variety of Christian denominations who plague our world today. I’ve seen 80% of a church schism over whether or not they should go doorknocking after church on Sunday afternoons. I’m supposed to be impressed when 80% walk over basic human rights? Puh-leeze.

Plenty of other people will be happy to give them bakeries full of cookies. It’s my job as a nasty Gnu Atheist™ to point out that this is sheer and utter bullshit. Not say, “Oh, congratulations! You’re finally beginning to realize your religion is full of horrid shit that treats good people like pariahs for no defensible reason. I’m so proud of you, pookie!” Fuck that noise.

No, here’s my response to them:

You lot did the minimally decent thing. You stood by a man who was wronged, and that is good. But what I want to know is this: why did you leave your church in the hands of the bigot who forced him out? Eighty percent of you could have ensured that asshole didn’t have a job. You could have found a more enlightened minister, and then rehired your choir director, and taught the bigots a lasting lesson. That would have been praiseworthy. Think of that the next time you encounter this situation – which you will, because nothing’s changed.

Please note this tidbit from the above referenced article:

United Methodist Church law allows LGBT people to attend church services but says “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve.”

And what did you do? You didn’t protest that law. You didn’t demand it be changed. No, you quibbled over the spirit and letter of it. Of course it’s fine to discriminate against gays when it comes to the ministry – God forbid we should have one of those homosexuals behind the pulpit – but we can totes have one as choir director! you said by your actions. I’m supposed to be happy you rage-quit over your choir director being forced out for being gay, and one of the people trying to defend him (by getting all legalistic about the language forbidding homosexuals from serving) being relieved of duty, but I’m supposed to overlook the fact you left discrimination perfectly intact in church law?

No.

You don’t get a bloody cookie. I will give you a pat on the head and send you back to work figuring out what it means to be a just, decent, moral human being who cares about equality and works to ensure equality happens. I’m very sorry your religion makes it so difficult to see why discrimination is wrong, period, full stop. I’m sorry your church is stuck in the past and hasn’t gotten hip to the fact we shouldn’t fuck people over for fucking people with similar genitals. I’m glad you’ve achieved the awareness necessary to understand that a gay choir director is a-okay in the church. But you can do better.

And I don’t think you’re a bunch of tiny toddlers who need plenty of positive reinforcement lest they give up. You’re all adults who are supposedly mature enough to understand that even if you don’t get a cookie, you should still strive to treat your fellow human beings better. And children understand why they’re not getting an A+ for C- work. They know they’re not going to get an A for Effort when they’ve put forth the minimum effort necessary. I think you’re mature enough to get it. And I think you’re decent enough to keep trying to do the decent thing even without people handing you cookies for every tiny increment of progress towards equality you make.

I think I actually think more of you than my pantheist friend. I certainly expect more, and expect, based on your behavior to date, that you’re eminently capable of meeting my expectations.

So get to it. Take the church back from that 20% of bigoted assholes. Run the pastor out on a rail and install one who not only appreciates gay choir directors, but who wouldn’t mind seeing someone who’s LGBTQ (not to mention W) step up to the pulpit when he retires. Get your church’s laws changed. Make a real and lasting difference.

Then I’ll give you a cookie.

And I’ll have an even tastier one waiting for the day you realize all this god stuff’s a bunch of b.s.

Ding Dong the Wicked DOMA’s Dead!

Now seems like a good time to let my LGBTQ friends know that they can call upon me should they need a writer’s services in crafting wedding-related stationery items. Despite the fact that our Supreme Court is full of conservative shitheels like Scalia who like to stomp all over important rights, most of DOMA is dead. Prop 8 is pretty much perished. The non-bigoted portions of the wedding industrial complex are screaming for joy, while the Jesus-cries-angry-tears-at-gay-weddings crowd is wailing and gnashing their teeth. Same-sex couples, those who may become such couples, and those who support them in their quest for equal rights are cheering. Sweet sounds all.

Marriage = Love. Image courtesy Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.

Marriage = Love. Image courtesy Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.

It’s over. The religious right has lost. There will be a few scattered skirmishes in places where bigoted assclowns good Christians outnumber kind people, but I’m betting on a full defeat of the anti-equality forces within my lifetime. Probably before I’m eligible for AARP membership. And that ain’t that many years away.

About bleeding time same-sex marriage rights were recognized. Long past time, actually, and there are still far too many states that still refuse same-sex couples the right to marry. Let’s get crack-a-lackin on this marriage equality thing. There’s absolutely no reason why consenting adults of the same sex shouldn’t get married, aside from bullshit religious ones. Fuck religion. None of these delusional anti-equality shitlords have a hotline to God (or Allah). Until Jesus shows up in person on daytime talk shows saying Daddy don’t want no gays getting hitched, I’m gonna say that any ratfuckers saying that God hates gay weddings are functionally full of shit and should be shuffled off into a corner to rant to themselves. The rest of us have cake to eat and rice to throw.

The Supreme Court didn’t go far enough, but they opened the door to the clerk’s office. Up to us to ensure all of our same-sex couples get to walk through it.

Happy weddings!

On Tides, Visibility, and Quiet Revolutionary Acts

There was a time, back when I first began seriously aiming at a life as an author, that I thought I’d have to select a pseudonym. Well, I knew I’d have to – writing under my birth name would lead to far too much potential violence, and it is never good PR for a writer to thump readers over the head with their latest bestseller during signings. Any of you who have last names that inspire tired old jokes repeated as if they were a comedy revolution will know exactly what I mean.

But that wasn’t the main reason why I planned to change my name. Nor was it the fact one of my characters had filched my first name and refused to give it back.

I’m a woman. This is why I felt I had to use a pseudonym.

And it wasn’t a mere matter of safety. Yes, I considered the problem of stalkers. I thought about identity theft. Both of those could happen even if I didn’t achieve fame and fortune. But the main consideration for quite some time was the fact that women don’t get taken as seriously as men. An author with an obviously female name had a harder path to publication, and if published, had a fight getting her work recognized, because, y’know, girl. I don’t remember where I picked up that knowledge. But outside of the romance section, the vast majority of authors were men. The vast majority of awards went to men. A dismissive attitude toward female authors prevailed in most circles I traveled in. And gawds forbid a woman should ever write SF about women’s issues. Strong female characters, great! Strong female authors, not so much, although a few were waved around as if to ward off charges of sexism.

And lest you think these are ridiculous concerns, I invite you to peruse these pie charts. You’ll note that for the majority of book reviews, the pie is overwhelmingly male. In 2011.

So, I thought, it would be best to write under initials. I went through a lot of two-initials-plus-cool-last-name combos. I’d be all secretive, I thought, like George Elliot. I’d not have author photos. My book would rise or stand on its own merits, and by the time people figured out I was a girl (eww!), I’d have already won ‘em over with my deathless prose, so it would be all right.

Over time, though, this began to seem like an idiotic thing to do. I ended up reading some books by obvious women and liked them. My friends liked them. Hell, Connie Willis won Hugos and Nebulas left and right, and she made no effort to hide the fact she was female. By then, I’d chosen my pen name (the name which you know me by, dear readers), but I’d still been determined to keep some things on the QT. No author photos, no trumpeting the fact I’m female. After encountering astonishingly good women writing SF, like Connie Willis and Octavia E. Butler and Patricia A. McKillip, I started feeling a little feisty about it. Gods damn it, why shouldn’t I be proud to be a woman? How the fuck were women going to get any respect as authors if they kept hiding behind ambiguous (or downright masculine) ‘nyms and avoiding anything that so much as hinted at their gender? Fuck ambiguity. I’d plaster my picture all over the back cover and come out roaring, “I am woman! See me kick SF arse!”

Now, plastering my picture all over the back covers of my books will have to wait for, y’know, actually finishing and publishing some, but you may have noticed that I don’t hide my gender round here. I am a woman, damn it. I may not always enjoy it (once per month, on average). But I’m no longer worried about it. I’m no longer eager to hide it. I am even proud to be a woman.

Actually, let me walk that back: I feel silly being proud of an accident of birth. It’s like being proud I’ve got toes.

I’m proud to be the kind of woman who has decided it’s no longer worth hiding behind plausible deniability, who has instead decided to give the old boys’ club either the finger or the two-fingered salute, depending on how Anglophile I’m feeling at the moment. I’m proud to be among the women who are writing as women, who are taking the broader culture by the collar, giving it a gentle but insistent shake, and saying, “Pay attention. No, my eyes are up here. And if you dismiss this excellent tome for the mere fact it was written by a female, I will be sorely tempted to thump you over the head with it.”

(Fortunately for them, my moral code doesn’t allow me to do that any other way than metaphorically, but from the way some people howl when you mention that it would be awfully nice if people treated women more like people, you’d think I’d literally just dropped J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter novel on their noggins. In hardcover.)

The point of this rant, which is rather longer than I intended it, is to say this: that women doing nothing more than being visibly female whilst also being awesome shook me out of a culturally-induced distaste for my own gender. That’s it. That’s all it took. Before I was ready to listen to the feminists, before I’d learned the first fucking thing about activism and social justice, these visible women made me realize being a woman was actually okay, and that challenging an inherently unfair system was a damned good idea. They made me realize I didn’t have to go to any great lengths to do it, either: being out and awesome is part of the battle. Being unapologetic about who and what you are can be a revolutionary act.

I bring this up because one of my favorite people in the universe, Ryan Brown, wrote a post called On Being a Gay Scientist and Finding a Sense of Community, in which he discusses being at an event for a GLBT organization and having one of those moments where you realize that you’re maybe not as involved in the cause as you feel you should be.

Part of me feels a sense of responsibility to speak up and make it clear that there are GLBT within the ranks of science and academia. After all, it was someone else’s speaking up that made my life as a gay male easier. Do I not have a responsibility to pay the same debt forward for the future generation? And how do I approach that without labeling myself in terms of my sexuality?

That’s the same dilemma many of us who are members of disadvantaged groups face. We don’t want to be labeled as a woman/atheist/LGBTQ/black/[insert other minority here] scientist or writer or what have you. But hiding, denying what we are, does no one any good. Do we have to become enormously outspoken? Become activists? When we don’t necessarily feel drawn to a cause, but know that cause has helped us, what do we do to further it?

Ryan’s hit on one way: don’t hide. Be visible. You don’t have to shout, “HEY EVERYBODY, I’M A [insert minority here] SCIENTIST [or other profession]!!!” but simply be visible. I’m a writer and a woman. Ryan’s a scientist and gay. We’re here, we exist, we’re part of a group of people who are doing outstanding work and are [insert minority here]. We may engage in some activism here and there. We will sometimes talk about what it’s like to be this and that. But our work is not solely defined by our respective genders and sexualities. And as more people become visible, being gay and a scientist, or a woman and a writer, will be no longer seem so exotic.

By not hiding, by unequivocally being what we are and what we do, we’re creating a climate in which other people can imagine themselves achieving their dreams, without having to hide a fundamental aspect of themselves.

Anderson Cooper has realized that. As he said in advising the world at large that he is, in fact, gay,

It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.

I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

I love that. And he’s right.

As more of us stand up apologetically and say that the fact is, we are x, and we are proud of it, we change society. We provide role models for those folks who are x and afraid that means they will never be able to follow their dreams while remaining true to themselves. We get society used to the fact that x exists, and can be all sorts of things, and be successful, respected, and happy doing them. Eventually, x may even become as unexceptional as saying, “I am a scientist, and I also run 10k races.”

But we will never get there by staying silent. Some of us will engage in a fair amount of shouting, because society can be a little hard of hearing. But those people who stand up and say in perfectly ordinary voices, “I’m x, by the way,” before wandering off to follow their passions are also helping make our voices heard.

You want to pay it forward and help the tide advance? There are many ways*. One is to be who you are, visible and proud.

Moi and Ryan in downtown Seattle, with Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains behind us. Revolutionaries! Note the bow tie. Bow ties are cool. Image courtesy Robert.

 

*I don’t mean this post to condemn those who have good reasons for keeping to the shadows. If you have to keep your head down for reasons of safety or family or what have you, there are still ways you can support those who are fighting for you. Vote. Donate. Find other means of being a quiet revolutionary until you can emerge. Small actions add up.

Correct an Injustice

CeCe McDonald, who will be thrown in prison for defending her life. Image Credit: Support CeCe McDonald.

CeCe McDonald didn’t ask to be attacked, but she was. Some vicious assholes decided a transsexual woman of color was fair game for abuse. They assaulted her, they harmed her, and chased her down when she tried to flee. She had a pair of scissors in her purse. She took them out to ward off her attackers. One of them impaled himself on them, and died, and apparently self-defense and stand your ground don’t apply to transsexual women, because she’s now facing prison time for daring to live.

This is wrong on more levels than I can count.

Our society is tough enough on women lately. Misogynistic assclowns with barbaric notions of godly morality would like to see women reduced once again to the status of chattel, and are doing their level best to ensure that reproductive rights are taken away as a prelude to locking women away in their homes, where they can be kept as breeding stock for manly men of faith. And that’s bad enough. I certainly don’t want that life. But it looks like a cakewalk compared to what transsexual women face. Too many people, including those sworn to serve and protect and administer justice blindly, see them as disposable defects.

I want you to look at CeCe’s face. Look at her. There is a human being with hopes and dreams and love and laughter, who has been through plenty of tough times, and yet managed a brilliant smile. And because a group of men decided she was something less than human, and attacked her, and discovered they hadn’t chosen a completely helpless victim but one who fought for her life when cornered, she’s now being shipped off to prison. A men’s prison, mind you. How well do you think a transsexual woman will do there?

People who defend themselves from assault, who did their best to get away but couldn’t run far enough or fast enough and ended up cornered with no way out, people who chose not to become victims but to defend their lives, shouldn’t have to go to prison, where they’re going to be repeatedly assaulted and possibly killed, just because our justice system is horribly broken.

Sign the petition asking for her pardon. Write the governor who has it within his power to set her free. Support CeCe.

Let’s give back the life they tried to take.

Blaming the Victims (Yet Again)

This sickens me so much I’m at a loss for words:

Fifteen year-old Larry King (no relation to the CNN interviewer) was shot twice in the back of the head by his classmate Brandon McInerney while sitting in school in Oxnard, California. Now that McInerney is on trial, the boy’s legal team and the school administration are using the tried and true “he was asking for it” defense. This is totally disgusting.

According to a story in the L.A. Times today, “McInerney’s defense attorneys… acknowledge that the boy pulled the trigger but say that he was pushed to the breaking point by King’s taunts.” Yes, it’s the tried and true “gay panic defense” that preys on juries’ homophobia to get confessed killers cleared for murdering gay people. It was even used against Matthew Shepard, when one of his killers said he was driven to kill the gay college student because he hit on him.

It only gets worse from there.

I know that defense attorneys have very few avenues they can take with an obviously guilty client. But this tactic is beyond reprehensible. What they’re basically trying to argue is that, should you suffer an unwanted advance, it is perfectly right and fine to shoot a person in the head. You should be able to murder a human being and walk free just because you were briefly inconvenienced and made to feel a bit icky.

I don’t imagine they’d be arguing that women have that blanket right to murder men who come on to them. But, y’know, gays. Ew. Of course it’s all right for a straight guy to shoot a transsexual or a gay dude, because that’s a threat to manhood. Kinda like when your wife sleeps with some other dude. It’s okay to shoot ‘em in the heat of passion – why not be able to shoot queers, too?

One can only hope that the jury is not so morally bereft as to buy this argument. But we need to have a conversation, a very long and unflinching conversation, about the kind of society in which arguments of this sort can even be entertained. We’re supposedly a first-world nation, and yet there are not insubstantial numbers of people who don’t see much wrong with demonizing and victimizing gays, lesbians, and transsexuals. When a little girl gets raped, an entire town rallies round the rapists, because, y’know, she wore makeup and was obviously asking for it. How dare those sorts of people lure nice, upstanding young men into performing savage acts?

Some folks, otherwise decent, may claim that the defense attorneys are only doing their job. Sure, they have to blame the victim – how else can they defend their client? I don’t know the answer to that. I know this, though: that sort of tactic is devastating to victims, survivors, and the culture at large. There’s probably nothing we can do to prevent defense attorneys from using such tactics, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept them. We can speak out against them. We can tell our society that murdering a person because they made the mistake of flirting with a homophobic sociopath, that raping a girl because she wore makeup in the presence of men, is not justifiable. There are certain things you just do not do in a civilized society. There are some actions that cannot be excused on the grounds that the victim wasn’t a perfect, straight, chaste person.

This dehumanizing bullshit may be a tactic defense attorneys feel comfortable using, but society at large never should. Victims have shouldered too much of the blame. Time to pass that blame to those who have earned it: the victimizers.

Equality is Beautiful

New York State is celebrating marriage equality, and it’s beautiful.

Niagara Falls by @LanceBass

Governor Cuomo wholeheartedly declared July 24 as a day to commemorate marriage equality, which gives us even more to celebrate aside from the marriages of a lot of very happy couples.  If you really want your heart warmed, click here to see Phyllis Siegal and Connie Kopelov right after they tied the knot.  The Salt Lake Tribune has a huge gallery.  And the Digital Cuttlefish has written a poem especially for the occasion: “My Marriage is Gay Today.”  At least one hetero marriage has been changed by all this gay marrying!

By the time I, like Phyllis and Connie, am a white-haired old lady, I hope that every state has allowed same-sex couples to suffer matrimony like the rest of us get married, and that the idea that the United States once was a place where people who loved each other couldn’t marry simply because of similar genitalia is as unbelievable to the youngsters as the idea of Jim Crow and bans on interracial marriages.

I think this calls for a song.

(And yes, I’ll have Los Links up later today. I’m horribly behind, but they’re coming.)

The Limits of Tolerance

Johann Hari asks a very good question: “Can we talk about Muslim homophobia now? (h/t)”

Here’s a few portents from the East End that we have chosen to ignore. In May 2008, a 15 year old Muslim girl tells her teacher she thinks she might be gay, and the Muslim teacher in a state-funded comprehensive tells her “there are no gays round here” and she will “burn in hell” if she ever acts on it. (I know because she emailed me, suicidal and begging for help). In September 2008, a young gay man called Oliver Hemsley, is walking home from the gay pub the George and Dragon when a gang of young Muslims stabs him eight times, in the back, in the lungs, and in his spinal column. In January 2010, when the thug who did it is convicted, a gang of thirty Muslims storms the George and Dragon in revenge and violently attacks everybody there. All through, it was normal to see young men handing out leaflets outside the Whitechapel Ideas Store saying gays are “evil.” Most people accept them politely. 

These are not isolated incidents.

Johann brings up the point that because Muslims are so frequently targets of bigotry, harassment and violence themselves, there’s an understandable reluctance to speak out against their less-admirable acts.  It’s easy to get yourself branded Islamophobic for pointing out that Islam isn’t necessarily a religion of peace, and that strict adherence to Islam leads to despicable acts.  But, as Johann says,

It’s patronizing – and authentically racist – to treat Muslims as if they are children, or animals, who can only react to their oppression by jeering at or attacking people who have done them no harm, and who they object to because of a book written in the sixth century. Muslims are human beings who can choose not to this. The vast majority, of course, do not attack anyone. But they should go further. They should choose instead to see us as equal human beings, who live and love just like them, and do not deserve scorn and prejudice.

Giving people a pass to be bigoted, damaging jerks just because they’re a member of a despised minority doesn’t do any sector of society any good.  It normalizes dangerous behavior.  It doesn’t confront the intolerance before it gets wildly out of control.  And it only feeds cycles of oppression.  No one – not even atheists – are saying Muslims have to give up their religion.  But we expect Christians and Jews and members of other faiths to respect gay folks, even if they do think gays are icky.  It’s ridiculous to give homophobia a pass out of some misguided sense of fairness.  It’s not fair.  It’s not fair to Muslim people who are lesbians or gays or bisexuals or transgendered.  It’s not fair to those Muslims who might discover that their religion can accommodate gays just fine.  And it’s not fair to the wider community, LGBT and allies, who are sick to death of seeing people get harassed, hurt and killed because of the way they love.

There are limits to tolerance.  We can tolerate people of other faiths.  We can’t tolerate actual harm they do for the greater glory of God. Let’s do talk about Muslim homophobia, just as we talk about homophobia in all its many disgusting forms.  Let’s not stay silent about issues that are so critically important.