Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
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Talking with us can, on occasion, also give someone an opportunity to vent about outdated religious laws or texts, but regardless of how silly the belief that “being gay is a sin” may be, the fear that a religious friend or family member will react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.”
MTV recently aired an episode of the documentary series “True Life” called “I’m Trying to be Straight.” The episode follows two people, Kevin and Melanie, as they attempt to ignore their homosexual orientations and live as heterosexual people. The premise of the episode, as indicated by the title, is that Melanie and Kevin attempt to live a “straight lifestyle” with different degrees of success. Melanie dates a few men but ultimately realizes that she wants to follow her natural inclination despite her mother’s resistance; Kevin turns to religion and religious friends to help him disregard his attractions to men.
The episode is rife with themes that we often encounter from callers at the hotline. Both Kevin and Melanie deal with strong oppositions from their families (Melanie’s mom stabbed her!) when they were living the “gay lifestyle.” Both are scared to tell others of their sexual orientations for fear of rejection. Each struggles with the balance of being true to him/herself versus what he/she perceives is acceptable to others.
What is striking is that neither Melanie nor Kevin denies where her/his attractions lie. Something we often tell callers is that a bisexual or homosexual orientation is just as natural as being heterosexual, and the stories of these two further confirms that orientation is not something anyone chooses.
Heartbreakingly, Kevin describe the “gay lifestyle” as filled with drugs and cheating and bad relationships. Kevin sees no lasting happiness for himself if he lives as a gay man because of his experiences. It is a common misconception for many of our callers that gay men and women cannot have long-term relationships or families or other life facets they identify as only being available to those who are straight. It is often revelatory to the callers that gay people can find lasting love and happiness with someone of the same sex.