For those of you that have evolved in your thinking and those of you that accept the LGBTQ community for what it is, without judgement and without prejudice, you may find the actions I witnessed today unbelievable and ignorant.
I believe many of us naively thought once the supreme court of the United States confirmed that people who identify as LGBTQ deserved the same rights as any other American our fight was over. Sure there will always be people that don’t care for us…but they won’t be able to treat us as if we are not equal.
Silly us. Though we have made great strides and though we are now afforded many of the same rights as others, there are still plenty of people in our country that believe who we are and how we live is “sinful” and “wrong.” The same people will continue to fight against any advance we make socially, politically and religiously.
Today I was reminded of this.
I attended a conference for people that work with the senior population. Organized by Tarrant Area Gerontological Society. The majority of the event planners and attendees were social workers. When a group of social workers get together you know most of the conversations will be inclusive, progressive and tilt to the left. Our conferences tend to focus on ways to assure the people we serve are given the tools they need to function in the world.
Rarely do we find ourselves having to confront prejudice during a conference. Today that changed. Our conference was held at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Apparently they took issue with the fact that the Coalition for Aging LGBT paid to have a vender booth and would be presenting one of the educational sessions. The seminary refused to allow the organization to have a booth. They actually went to the board of directors of TAGS and told them the booth must be dismantled. It is my understanding that when the group attempted to challenge the seminary’s decision they were told if they put the booth back up they would not be provided a microphone for the presentation.
This really happened.
I am happy to say the TAGS board members were just as upset as the rest of us. I was told by several of the board members they would never rent this space again for any activity. The Coalition for Aging LGBT did dismantle the booth, but they maintained a presence at the conference throughout the day and other vender booths voluntarily displayed the Coalition’s educational material. The coalition also went through with their presentation with grace, class and dignity.
So many news stories and so many theories and so many questions. The hardest question and the one everyone seems to be trying to answer is…why?
I guess my answer is, “Does it matter why a terrible person chose to walk into a bar and take 49 lives…innocent lives?”
Does it matter if he was a terrorist? Does it matter if he was homophobic? No matter the answer, those young men and women are still dead and no matter the answer that reality is not going to change.
Now I do think there is one possible answer to the question (Why?) that would disturb me more than any other. If this disturbed man took the lives of vibrant members of the LGBTQ community because he feared his own feelings of homosexuality. This answer would cause me to be horribly disturbed.
The reality is self loathing homophobia is not unusual. Sadly many children have been raised by well intentioned parents to hate themselves. Parents that believe their hateful words towards the gay community will teach their children to avoid making the “choice” to “join” the LGBTQ community. When in fact what their words do is force their child to internalize hate.
When our preachers, rabbis and imams stand before their congregations and preach hatred toward LGBTQ people what they are teaching the gay boy or lesbian girl, sitting before them, is that God hates them.
Our society, our families and our churches teach young LGBTQ people they are not worthy of love. It wasn’t that long ago that we rallied around the young people in our community and told them not to kill themselves, it will get better. Now I hear news outlets questioning if this young man hated himself enough to kill total strangers.
A few years ago I got into a debate with a woman on Facebook. A woman I did not know. I felt a need to reason with her, explain to her why her homophobic words could be hurtful to her son and daughter. I tried to tell her if by some chance one of her children happened to be gay and all they heard throughout their childhood was hateful words about gays, then their immediate assumption will be that she hates them..even if she gave birth to them.
I do not mean to jump to conclusions about “why” the shooter took the lives of the innocent men and women at the Pulse nightclub. But earlier today, when news outlets started sharing information that indicated he might have visited more than one gay club and he may have used a gay app….it dawned on me how much of our society is truly to blame. If this is true then we not only get to blame the Muslims, we also get to blame the Christians that teach gays to hate themselves. I realize there are good parents that love their children whether they are gay or straight. I also realize there are many Muslims, Jews and Christians that love their LGBTQ neighbors. But those who do preach hatred and those that feel people in the LGBTQ community deserve death must step up and accept their role in this recent tragedy.
During our travels home from Canada last month we stopped in Charleston South Carolina for lunch.
Emanuel A.M.E. Church
It was humbling to have the opportunity to visit the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where 9 church members were murdered on June 17, 2015 by a racist gunman.
Visitors continue to leave memorials
Pleas for peace.
Words of hope
Signs of forgiveness
And an overwhelming sense of kindness.
The family members of the victims and the members of this church set such a fine example of what true humanity is….when they forgave the individual that perpetrated this crime.
Love must always win!