Archive for August 2011
While certainly it gets less attention in the press than in previous years, HIV continues to be a hovering presence in the GLBT community. And while no one wants to get an HIV-positive diagnosis, it is not the death sentence that many assume it is. Through medical management, HIV-positive men and women can live active, and full lives. HIV is now more on par with diabetes in terms of affecting one’s day-to-day life.
This does not mean that an HIV-positive diagnosis is not a shock. We hear from numerous callers when they discover their positive status, and many question the probability of attracting loving and sexual partners. It can be reassuring to learn that there is an active HIV-positive community, and that for many people who are informed and educated about HIV and how it is transmitted, a positive status is not a deterrent for love or sex.
If you were recently diagnosed with HIV, please give us a call. We’re hear to talk whenever you need to.
On August 4, the American Psychological Association unanimously approved a resolution in support of full marriage equality. It confirms what we at the hotline already know: “emerging evidence suggests that statewide campaigns to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage are a significant source of stress to the lesbian, gay and bisexual residents of those states and may have negative effects on their psychological well-being.”
While a majority of our callers are primarily concerned with coming to terms with their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity, they have been greatly affected by media attention and public discourse on marriage equality discussions.
We at the GLBT National Help Center firmly believe that marriage equality is a must for the GLBT community as a whole, and understand that this topic often sows the seeds of misinformation and misleading statements. And even though homophobic arguments may be completely untrue, they can still hurt, and our callers feel it every time a public figure says that it is not natural to be gay or that same-sex marriage is the equivalent of bestiality.
GLBT individuals who desire to marry are just as worthy of friendship, love, families, and lasting relationships as those who are not queer-identified. Our thanks to the APA for this recognition.
Religion is a hot topic on our hotlines and chat line. When callers are expressing hesitations about coming out or relaying stories of coming out, they often want to discuss the negative reactions of those who are, in the callers’ words, “Very religious,” “Conservative Christian,” “Catholic,” or just plain “Really into the Bible.” (To be fair, we also hear references to other religions and texts, but Christianity plays the biggest role in what we hear.)
While a few of our volunteers have independent in-depth knowledge of religious texts, we have found that getting into long debates about specific passages or religious tenets is generally not helpful to someone who is struggling with potential or real rejection because of his/her sexual orientation. But what we can do that is tremendously helpful is let a caller know that there is a diversity of viewpoints among people of all religious denominations. And even when the “official church” may be anti-gay, there are more and more individuals and even congregations that are LGBT-welcoming and affirming. Often, our callers have never heard of that possibility before.
Talking with us can, on occasion, also give someone an opportunity to vent about outdated religious laws or texts, but regardless of how silly the belief that “being gay is a sin” may be, the fear that a religious friend or family member will react strongly and badly to a core trait can be paralyzing to our callers.
But telling someone that religion “says” they shouldn’t be gay or trans any longer ignores two basic facts. One, there is absolutely nothing wrong with someone being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, and there are many religious people who know that. And two, it isn’t something you can change. An analogy that can be helpful to a caller is it would be like someone telling them that their interpretation of the Bible says that they shouldn’t be tall because it’s a sin, and they need to change that and stop being so darn tall. From now on, you need to be shorter.
This example can seem silly on the surface, but the comparison is reasonably apt. For all intents and purposes, sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic, just like eye or hair color or height. Unlike height however, sexual orientation is also tied into who we romantically love, and where our sexual attractions lie. Sexual orientation is a significantly bigger part of our makeup.
It all boils down to this: When a gay or bisexual individual is told that such a major aspect of herself is wrong or sinful, it can be devastating. And sadly, this is the exact opposite of what religion was meant to be. Religion should be embracing, non-judgmental and loving. Here at the Help Center, we long for the day when a caller is asked if they feel safe coming out to their parents, and they reply, “Oh sure. My parents are very religious, so they don’t judge anyone.”