May 5, 2013

The Next Step

In my advocacy for equal rights and respect for people who are LGBT, I've done a lot of reading and studying, especially at the intersection of faith and sexuality. I have determined that anti-gay sentiment that is promulgated by religious conservatives (of ALL Abrahamic faiths) does not, in fact, come from the Bible/Koran/Torah. The roots go much deeper and further back to a cultural bias of misogyny.

What led me to this conclusion is the ongoing debate about the meaning of those biblical passages that may (or may not) be addressing homosexuality. There are about five different ways of looking at these passages, Old Testament and New. And honestly, it comes down to which meaning appeals most to the reader. Since some choose to find "homosexual acts" a sin—specifically men having sex with men—and some do not, what makes them choose that opinion? And why do they take that passage literally when there are dozens if not hundreds of other directives in the Holiness Code—out of 613—that they ignore? This inconsistency drives unbelievers crazy. Yet it persists. What's the deal?

I have determined that all people of faith take literally those directives that they agree with; all else are either metaphor, allegory, or taken in context of the time it was written. I do it, too. I find my view of acceptance consistent with my view of the nature of God. So this leaves us with the question: why do some choose to take literally a passage against homosexuality while ignoring other (and less convenient) passages?

One word: misogyny. And it began before a single word was written in the Bible. Look at the Ten Commandments: the tenth commandment warns against desiring things that don't belong to you: your neighbor's house, wife, male & female servant, donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. That is a list of property, and it's written in descending order of value. Until only 150 years ago, a wife was a means of transferring power and property, by marriage and by childbirth. In biblical times it was customary for conquering soldiers to rape their enemies, thereby in effect turning them into women—that is, property. Even today, minority cultures consider the dominant partner in male sex to be heterosexual. Only the recipient partner in the submissive "female" role is considered gay.

All of this is to say that any act or behavior that is considered feminine is "less than" masculine. It remains an insult to say you did something "like a girl/woman." That concept carries over especially to men who have feminine characteristics. Even men in the gay community deride feminine behavior among themselves; and when they do they participate in their own discrimination. This also explains the disparity in treatment of lesbians, who simply seem invisible by comparison.

I did not reach this decision lightly or quickly. I have never been what I consider to be a feminist activist, although any person with half a brain has to recognize the imbalance in treatment and respect between men and women. I confess that I had my Angry Young Woman period when I entered the working world and was hit in the face with the disparities. I learned to prevail in spite of it.

Having come to this conclusion about anti-gay sentiment over the years, it troubles me that now it appears to be "my" issue. I have never wanted my advocacy to be about me. In effect, it actually diminishes the value of my argument because I have something to gain. In truth, I've always had something to gain—justice for my gay brothers and sisters—but with this new insight it looks like it's all about me.  How can I explain what I've learned without getting shut down as a feminist wannabe?

Yesterday I was faced with exactly this issue and I don't know where to go with it. A terrific movie called "Inlaws and Outlaws" was screened at a nearby Episcopal church. I invited all of my pastoral colleagues to join me, but no one did. However, a gay colleague from another department who is becoming a good friend did join me. In guided discussion after the movie, I tried to explain what I learned to a table of six. I was cut off as soon as I said "misogyny." The two gay men at the table—including my friend—literally sat back in their chairs and started making jokes about just saying "yes" so I'd shut up.

I was stunned. It was disrespectful and frankly proved my point, but I didn't know how to say that without bringing conversation to a halt. I needed to think about how to present my view without getting shut down. Arguing is not the way to bring about a change of heart.

So I bring it to you: The problem remains that gay men and women will not get the equality they seek and deserve until I also get mine. How do I broach this idea so that minds don't shut down?

Update: A heavily edited (and much better) version of this post appears today on


Java said...

Wow. I have recently run into a similar mess. I fear becoming an angry feminist. But wait, there is some genuine disparity that should not be here!

I don't know how to answer your question. I only know that I'm coming up against the same question these days in my life.

Thanks for once again expressing yourself so well.

Ur-spo said...

you are a brave woman to do this.
No easy advice to give you -

I sometimes say (when I see a reaction like you did)

"It Won't Stop Until We Talk"

pause and see if they will dialogue or not.

Blobby said...

I think bringing the conversation to a halt by saying, "thank you for proving my point" and leaving would get them thinking.

Of course, they might just think you irrational, but HOPEFULLY, something would dawn on them.

Anonymous said...

Blobby is right.
I saw something yesterday that said "When a girl is strong, people say she is bossy. When a boy is strong, they say he has good leadership skills."
I don't know the answers, but all you can do is speak your truth. Holding back, although probably more diplomatic, might not help affect change.