Truth and Meaning: Rationalizing Hate and Discrimination
“I don’t hate anyone.” I must have heard that sentence at least six times last Tuesday night as opponents to a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance addressed Bay County commissioners. The proposed ordinance would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for all direct employment and services provided by Bay County, including services provided by any county contractors.
“But …” and then would follow the flood of uninformed and irrelevant venom directed at gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender folk. “I don’t believe in discriminating against anyone …” would immediately precede reasons why Bay County should not protect LGBT people from discrimination.
Well, I have news for you. LGBT people face discrimination every day. They can be fired from their jobs because they are gay. They can be evicted from their homes because they are gay. They can be denied contracts and services because they are gay. And they didn’t choose to be gay anymore than you chose to be straight.
And here is some more news for you. Being gay is not a choice; it is not a “lifestyle.” No one “decides to become a woman one morning” (at least two people trotted that one out in their testimony). Gay people are not pedophiles lurking in public restrooms to molest your grandchildren — the fear mongering about bathrooms came up many times from opponents, despite the fact that the vast majority of pedophiles are heterosexuals.
You don’t get to decide whether you hate LGBT people. If you believe that government should not protect these vulnerable citizens from discrimination — protections you take for granted because of your straight privilege — then you are showing hatred toward the LGBT community. When you trivialize gays, and make stereotyped inferences about their character and morality, then you are showing hatred. When you dismiss the bullying and beating, the harassment and hurt experienced by LGBT folk every day because you don’t choose to see it happening, then you are showing hatred toward them.
And here is some more news. You do not get to twist the life and words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to support your hate. In his convoluted and mostly irrelevant testimony, Gary Glenn painted King as opposing nondiscrimination against LGBT people based on one article taken out of context and the opinion of one of King’s children. In fact, King would have been a champion of gay rights today because of his long-time and close friendship with a gay activist and because of his view of Christianity, says Michael Long, author of, “I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters.” “Dr. King never publicly welcomed gays at the front gate of his beloved community. But he did leave behind a key for them — his belief that each person is sacred, free and equal,” says Long, also author of the upcoming “Keeping It Straight? Martin Luther King Jr., Homosexuality, and Gay Rights.” And despite the views of his daughter, her mother Coretta Scott King, was a vocal supporter of gay rights. One of her closest aides was gay. She also invoked her husband’s dream.
So, to Gary Glenn and the rest of the homophobes who opposed this ordinance, here is some last news. Though King was a Christian minister, he didn’t embrace a literal reading of the Bible that some use to condemn homosexuality. King’s vision of the Beloved Community — his biblical-rooted vision of humanity transcending its racial and religious differences — did not restrict people’s rights, but expanded them. Jesus preached a new covenant — one that rejected the old legacies of division and hated. He preached of a world of love and acceptance, a world that protected the weak and oppressed. Jesus never, ever taught you to hate anyone or to judge them because they are different. Jesus never, ever limited the definition of committed loving relationships to only heterosexuals.
So stop rationalizing your hate because you deny the overwhelming scientific evidence. Stop justifying your discrimination because you need to defend your straight privilege. And stop putting your words of hate and discrimination into the mouths of our greatest champions of love and justice.