What Do We Do When Love Doesn’t Win?

By Lavender August 20, 2015

Categories: Faith, Featured - Home Page, Our Lives

By Thomas Ehnert

I’m trying to absorb all that’s happened since June.

First, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage the law of the land. I read the responses of my GLBT family with joy. I also read with great sadness the responses of religious denominations and politicians seeking the evangelical vote.

Second, I watched a documentary about Larry Kramer. It took me back to the kitchen table where I first heard the word “AIDS” in the 1980s. People like me were dying. I didn’t understand why. Our pastor in parochial school said those people (my people) were “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Romans 1 said so, according to him.

Finally, I learned about “Religious Trauma Syndrome.” That’s a name being given to common symptoms people display who leave an authoritarian religious body. These are religions that indoctrinate people to be afraid of a god and afraid of “the world” outside the religious body.

In pondering all this, I am shocked at how far society has come in my lifetime in recognizing the natural rights of GLBT people. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come in loving myself.

My celebration however is quickly tempered by another realization.

Our society does not recognize and protect the natural rights of GLBT human beings at the urging of most religious institutions. Our society has made this progress despite most religious bodies, despite the venom spewed by mainly religious people, contrary to “deeply held religious beliefs” of my former co-religionists. Humanity is on the brink of a cure for HIV/AIDS despite the smug glee of some religious people that we were, and still are, dying. Among gay African American youth, bisexual men, and transgender women, the rates of HIV infection have never been higher.

Are there exceptions to this progress our society has made in recognizing us as human beings, against the dictates of religious authorities? Definitely. There are believers of every stripe numbered among our greatest allies. They take their morals very literally as they seek to love us GLBT people as their neighbor, and as themselves.

But our religious allies are our allies despite what their religious authorities teach them, in most cases. They have rejected their indoctrination in this matter. Why? Because they now actually know and love people who identify openly as GLBT. That’s why it is so important to come out. As more and more of us come out, people are less and less likely to hate the “concept” of GLBT. Now our lovable, beautiful, human faces are attached to the words: “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “transgender.” Your friends and family, unless coerced by indoctrinated hate, cannot hate you. They will celebrate you and love you, because you are you. It is not natural not to love. It is unnatural to hate. Hate must be taught. And let’s be honest. It is religion that teaches it, in most cases. Who first taught anti-Semitism? Who defended the proposition that women are to be obedient to men, and in most cases still keeps them out of the pulpit and away from the altar? From what book were slaves taught to be obedient to their masters? Who first taught that mixing of races was immoral? Who taught that GLBT people are an abomination?

This leaves me troubled.

Shouldn’t religion be the “horse” in fostering justice, peace, and love? It claims to be. Shouldn’t society be the “cart?” Yet why is it, in every case in western civilization, that the cart dragged the horse toward recognizing the humanity of Jews, women, other races, and now GLBT people?

Why is it “flaunting” one’s sexuality if a GLBT church-worker comes out, while a straight couple wears a big white dress and a tux to church, but that’s not flaunting their sexuality?

Why would I apologize for hiding my sexual orientation from religious indoctrinators? Would we expect a Jewish person to apologize for hiding from Nazis?

Why do most of what we consider GLBT-friendly denominations have a “conscience clause” for their clergy so that, if a clergyperson’s conscience says it is wrong to marry us, they can refuse to marry us? Why is the outward unity of a denomination more important than the GLBT human being?

Why are taxpayer dollars given as vouchers, so that religious schools can indoctrinate children that other children are evil?

Why are we OK with this? Why does religion get a pass to teach people to hate us?

Those are questions with which I am sitting. I am not at peace with this. I am angry about this. I am working through the hatred that religious indoctrination instilled in me, against me. What religious indoctrination did to me was it made me suicidal, anorexic, bulimic, depressed, a heavy smoker, and a heavy drinker — all to comfort myself over the “comfort” of religion. Since I have come out — both out of the closet and out of religion — all those behaviors have literally disappeared for me.

My spirituality, when I can handle calling it that, is gratitude. I am grateful I survived religion.

Family of the GLBT community: members of our family are suffering. Be honest. We must be honest, or more of us will be beat up, be bullied, turn to drugs and alcohol for relief, commit suicide, and be killed. Our people, our children, are suffering and dying at the hands of religiously indoctrinated hate.

What will I do to stop this?

2 Responses to What Do We Do When Love Doesn’t Win?

  1. Thomas, thank you for your excellent article and raising the questions we all should be asking. You are raising awareness and that is the critical part of what needs to happen. Allowing anyone to disrepect or abuse us, (Gay, Lesbian, Transgender or Bi-Sexual peopleor people of color) is wrong. We stood together in the early days of AIDS/HIV and we need to continue to stand together for change. Allowing people to hide their hate behind the veil of religion can not be. The system is flawed and we must fight to change the system every step of the way. What we do as individuals and collectively will make the difference. I too get fustrated with organized religions that have great power and money and are able to overpower just because. We as gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual people or people of color need to withhold our financial support from these organizations that hide behind religious freedom. God put no qualifiers on loving one another.

  2. JJ Lewis says:

    It’s especially devastating when one has been watching the news about advancements of gay rights, only to come out and made to feel so unwelcome that you consider, or succeed at taking your own life. Because without a sense of community, there is no life. Many gay people who took a chance and not only were rejected by non-gay bigots but worse, by the very community they had expected to guide them – aren’t here to tell their story. And magazines like Lavender look more like an affluent suburban housewife lifestyle magazine that caters to those who can afford very high-end luxuries. Never once have I seen anything about what it’s like to be gay and homeless or gay and addicted or resources for gay men living on the streets. Nobody wants to talk about that and nobody cares.

    It’s a great time to be gay – if you have money, graduate degrees, have a perfect body, are under 30 and live in a highly populated gay city. But that’s a single digit percentage of gay men who get to have that luxury. The rest of us – marriage?! – yeah right! Most of us haven’t even MET anyone in over ten years. What urban folks call progress the rest of us call going back to hiding in our basements with our devices, desperately trying to meet somoene that we haven’t seen over and over and over again since it’s always the same 10 people and thanks to location based technology you can’t jump over to another city and try your luck in a different chat room. Not to mention most of us can’t afford to leave the towns we are in, or we are obligated to care for our aging parents. It’s not as easy to ‘pick up and move’ as you think.

    The root cause of this is a feeling of being ripped off. We came out under the guise of ‘no more lies; living my truth and surrounding myself with like minded people’. This sounds great in theory, but once you arrive to the big gay city without the money, $1000 suits, half a million dollar lofts, brand new cars, etc – you might as well not even exist. These guys won’t even look in your direction unless YOU have something for them. This is very painful for gay men who gave up a lot to come out: many have lost their families over this; their friends have abandoned them and returning to their hometowns is no longer an option. When they arrive to the big city and are treated even worse by this community called gay men, despair sets in. I personally don’t give a crap about gay marriage. I’ve yet to see a substantial number of gay relationships that last longer than 6-18 months. I care about gay men who are alone and on the brink of homelessness, or addicts, or who are very, very lost and angry. My guess is this man, despite how evil his actions were, was one of these men. We are gay – but we are still men – that hot button that is rejection shows up as sheer pain in our eyes and on our faces. It’s humiliating and it’s the reason why our community is drowning in alcohol and (at an epidemic level) opiate addiction. A couple weekends ago at my ER we had SIX overdoses in one hour. There were 20 that weekend. But talking about that doesn’t generate money, and it takes away from the ‘nonstop party’. Again, nobody cares. Gay men don’t care unless it affects them personally.

    So nobody at these fancy gay magazines wants to talk about gay men living on the streets or stealing to get their next oxycontin, Percocet or fentanyl patch from the streets. And with this new generation of young gay men who weren’t even born before digital devices and internet chat, it’s going to get much worse because we will soon have a whole society that can’t even keep up a conversation with another person because they’ve never had to develop any social skills. And the bottom line is…most gay men don’t care if other gay men live or die. There is NO community in 2015. It’s every man for himself.

    I came out at in 1990 at 14 – I had no choice. Someone else said it and when confronted, I didn’t deny it. Either way, I was out very early. And the result I’m seeing in 2015 is not what I signed up for: alone, never had a boyfriend, struggling with substance abuse issues because of this rejection and loneliness and just a deep sadness that other gay men never cared or stuck around long enough – in my life – to see if I was okay. I no longer have pride in saying that I am a gay man. If this is what the gay community has become I want no part in it.

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