Sunday, June 12, 2016

Being A Good Parent--And A Good Person--Means Being Pro-LGBTQ

In the early hours of this morning, a man with an assault rifle walked into a gay night club and opened fire. After a several hour standoff with police, it ended in his death, as well as the deaths of at least 49 LGBTQ people who were partying in a place where they thought they were safe. Over 50 people were rushed to hospital, meaning the total death toll is likely to rise.

Over the coming hours and days, news outlets will be rife with speculation, as the investigation continues and new facts emerge. Already there’s lots of talk about it being an act of “Islamic terrorism,” with none of the news outlets seemingly capable of focusing on anything else. I know that, regardless of what the shooter’s religion was, I won’t be blaming Muslims, or people of any other religion, as the impetus behind this horrific massacre. The shooting occurred at a gay night club, during Pride Month, in the early hours of the US celebration of Pride Day. This was a hate crime, targeting a minority that, despite the progress made in the last decades, continues to face incredibly high rates of violence, especially the most vulnerable among the LGBTQ community (queer people of colour, trans women and especially trans women of colour). It’s not surprising to me that the largest mass shooting in the US since 1890 targeted LGBTQ people.

(Source)


The blame might not lie with any religion, and I fear greatly for the repercussions Muslims, including LGBTQ Muslims, will face in the coming weeks, as once again a huge population is blamed for the actions of a single person. But the blame does lie with more than just the single shooter: it lies with a culture of homophobia and transphobia, and with every single non-LGBTQ person who with their words and actions contributes to a culture of violence against myself, and everyone else in my community of LGBTQ people.

I live in a country (Canada) and a province (Quebec) where it’s better for LGBTQ people than plenty of other parts of North America. Better, but not good. Trans people have to run a bureaucratic gamut to change their legal markers, and face a tremendous amount of transphobia from a frequently ignorant or even hostile medical establishment. All LGBTQ people still face homophobia from society at large, in popular media, in schools, in homeschooling groups, in almost every group not specifically designed for LGBTQ people (and sometimes even in those groups) that you can find. In times when I presented in a more gender-bending way, I had people on the street yell at me about my sexual orientation. LGBTQ friends have all been harassed in greater or lesser ways.

Violence always exists on a spectrum. At the extreme, it manifests as the largest mass shooting in the last 100 years of American history. But leading up to that exists a wide range of acts that nurtured that shooter. I blame everyone who’s ever sneered the words “faggot” or “dyke” or “tranny.” I blame every person who ever talked primly of “those people” with their “unnatural lifestyles.” I blame every parent who ever told their children that gays were “sinners.”

Because it all starts with parents. The choices you make, the attitudes you model, the words you say, they shape the future. Your words can be the difference between a child who knows they are loved unconditionally, and a child who hates an essential part of who they are with such horror and disgust that they kill themselves. Your attitudes can be the difference between raising a child who embraces their friend when they come out, and raising one who buys a semi-automatic weapon and opens fire in a crowded room filled with strangers they genuinely believe deserve to die.

Or maybe it won’t be that extreme. Maybe they’ll simply be the kid who sends me a message online telling me I’m going to hell. The one who calls my friend and his boyfriend faggots.

Parents don’t have all the power. Our culture is homophobic, our culture is transphobic. We will be affected by this, every single one of us. A young queer person with the most loving and supportive of parents can still feel that there’s something wrong with them because of their sexual orientation. The straight teenager raised by parents who always spoke positively about LGBTQ people can still learn it’s okay to use the word “gay” as an insult.

You don’t have all the power. But you do have such an important role to play in helping create a more just and loving world.

When I read the news earlier today, I sat and cried. Those people who were murdered early this morning, almost 1,500 miles away, were a distant part of my adopted family. I haven’t been able to get this imaginary image out of my head all day, an image of a dark bar, dozens of bodies scattered across the floor, screaming and crying and a bone deep terror I pray I never get to feel. I’m heartbroken.

And I’m begging you, please, no matter what religion you follow, to stop contributing to this violence. You might think your words are so far removed from this horrific act as to be entirely disconnected, but you would be wrong. Your words build on the words of others, your actions pool with those of your neighbors, your family, your friends. Isolated ideas gather strength as they join with others, building momentum until they are laws allowing health care practitioners to turn away a gay man having a heart attack so he can die on the streets; they become pastors preaching damnation; they become a transgender girl shunned by every age mate she knows for the way she dresses and the name she asks to be called; and they lead to the death of at least 50 innocent LGBTQ people who just wanted to celebrate Pride.

Please, be a voice not just for tolerance, but acceptance, and support. Speak up, stand up, raise up powerful LGBTQ voices, and work to end every tragedy, big and small, perpetrated every day against our community.

I want everyone to do better. Because I never want something like what happened in Orlando, Florida, to ever happen again.

11 comments:

  1. I agree with the main sentiment of your post, but I feel the need to prod a bit regarding your refusal to acknowledge the role of religion. While I understand the need to be wary of prejudice (ex. all Muslims hate gays), this goes well beyond that. Anti-homosexual (and LGBTQ) beliefs are a concrete part of Islam (as well as other religions, including Christianity). Some of the religious texts are very clear, and in some Muslim countries homosexual behavior is still punishable by death (note: The US government sells billions of dollars in weapons to at least two of these countries every year).

    So, while we can't say that all Muslims are anti-homosexual, and certainly not violent -- because that clearly is not the case -- it is important to acknowledge the impetus behind the cultural tendency of anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

    In other words: The Orlando shooter and many others acted violently based on their religious beliefs. Some might argue that he interpreted it incorrectly, but the texts are pretty clear.

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    1. Hi Sally. Thanks for starting this conversation. I'm a Muslim so thought I would chime in. You're right. Islam does not accept homosexual relationships. The only valid sexual relationship is between a husband and wife. However, there is no judgement in Islam on orientation. This means a person can feel or express themselves in any way, but the problem is with sexual behavior and viewing and showing private parts to those other than husband/wife. Homosexual encounters fall into the same legal category as other extra marital sexual encounters since a homosexual marriage cannot be valid under Islamic law. Additionally, according to Sharia law a judgement can only be made, first of all by an actual judge not a vigilante, and second with statements from four different witnesses of the actual sexual behavior. This, you can imagine, would be pretty difficult to prove. Now this is the case for any extra marital sexual encounter, not just homosexual encounters. I need to do more research because I'm not sure if female sexual relationships fall under this same category since women do not have a penetrating organ. This may fall under more of an "indecent exposure" type category since women should not view each other's private parts. But again, I'm not sure on this part.
      So, yes, as a Muslim I don't accept the sexual aspect of homosexuality, just like I don't accept any sex outside valid marriage, just like I don't accept gambling or drinking alcohol or eating pork. However, I definitely don't have the right to go around forcing my beliefs or exacting my judgment on others. On the contrary, I am commanded to be kind, just, and merciful to my fellow humans regardless of how they feel about themselves in terms of sexual orientation, or otherwise.

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    2. Hi Sally. Thanks for starting this conversation. I'm a Muslim so thought I would chime in. You're right. Islam does not accept homosexual relationships. The only valid sexual relationship is between a husband and wife. However, there is no judgement in Islam on orientation. This means a person can feel or express themselves in any way, but the problem is with sexual behavior and viewing and showing private parts to those other than husband/wife. Homosexual encounters fall into the same legal category as other extra marital sexual encounters since a homosexual marriage cannot be valid under Islamic law. Additionally, according to Sharia law a judgement can only be made, first of all by an actual judge not a vigilante, and second with statements from four different witnesses of the actual sexual behavior. This, you can imagine, would be pretty difficult to prove. Now this is the case for any extra marital sexual encounter, not just homosexual encounters. I need to do more research because I'm not sure if female sexual relationships fall under this same category since women do not have a penetrating organ. This may fall under more of an "indecent exposure" type category since women should not view each other's private parts. But again, I'm not sure on this part.
      So, yes, as a Muslim I don't accept the sexual aspect of homosexuality, just like I don't accept any sex outside valid marriage, just like I don't accept gambling or drinking alcohol or eating pork. However, I definitely don't have the right to go around forcing my beliefs or exacting my judgment on others. On the contrary, I am commanded to be kind, just, and merciful to my fellow humans regardless of how they feel about themselves in terms of sexual orientation, or otherwise.

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  2. Invalidating a relationship/marriage through the law, based on religious beliefs (or any other belief) is 100% forcing ones beliefs on others. It is not kind, it is not understanding, it is most certainly not merciful, it is not just, it is not how reasonable humans treat others.

    Imagine if there were laws against Muslim behavior. You are free to believe what you want but the problem is when you display this in public. How would that be tolerant or kind?

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  3. Hi Sally. I wanted to explain how Islamic law views homosexuality (again, by this, I'm talking really about the act of sodomy, not at all about orientation or feelings). But, my point too was that Islamic law only pertains to Muslims.I'm not calling for any changes in laws. As a Muslim I have no right to force my law on you, I'm only responsible for how I conduct myself. And even how you act in public has nothing to do with me as a Muslim because I have no right, again, to rule you. Additionally, there are no lands in this day that practice true Islamic law, some of them pull from it, but none of them embrace it fully. So this whole discussion is hypothetical in terms of legal rulings.
    I understand what Idzie is saying in the article and I feel for her and your community during this difficult time. I do my best to go as far as Idzie is asking, but there is a place where I personally have to draw a line, and that line is at sodomy. Idzie is saying tolerance is not enough, that acceptance is the only option, but for me, sodomy is something I cannot accept. But this does not mean I will teach my kids to hate or act out against those who practice it. Indeed I tell my kids that we as humans all have things we are dealing with and we all have free will to choose our behaviors and we shouldn't worry about what others are doing and focus on ourselves and our communities. I teach them to see people as complex and try not to put others in a box and judge them based on one characteristic.

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  4. If sodomy is something you cannot accept then don't engage in it, and by all means, don't associate with people who do. But unless you denounce laws that punish adults who engage in consensual acts (regardless of how often it is implemented), then you are supporting the use of force against those who have opposing views.

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  5. But Sally I can reject sodomy and accept the person at the same time. That's my point about not judging someone based on one of their characteristics. I can associate with someone even if I don't agree with or accept everything they do. And again, I'm not calling for any sodomy laws.

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  6. But Sally I can reject sodomy and accept the person at the same time. That's my point about not judging someone based on one of their characteristics. I can associate with someone even if I don't agree with or accept everything they do. And again, I'm not calling for any sodomy laws.

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  7. So you are denouncing this aspect of Islamic Law?

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  8. No. I'm saying it doesn't apply because there is no Islamic government or court to uphold it. Under Islamic law on a personal level, it is a sin and something I don't accept. However, I'm not asking you to denounce your acceptance of sodomy for my benefit. So this is exactly what I'm trying to get at--can't we accept each other on a human level even if we don't agree with all aspects of each others lives?

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