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love the sin and other words of advice for straight allies

February 14, 2007

We can’t help it if we’re gay. God made us this way. We were born this way.

I have to admit that most of my friends who say this say it in jest. It’s the most apologetic argument in the book for “tolerance” of gay people. If the most I can ask of you is to tolerate me or my sexual orientation because I was condemned to it at birth so you can’t really blame me for it, I have more work to do – and so do you.

An earnest straight Christian man (so says the article!) is heading on a tour of 32 homophobic colleges called the Soulforce Equality Ride, harkening back to the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s, to try out on homophobia a tactic utilized to combat racism in the 60’s. This year will be Soulforce’s second year. I generally find parallels between the civil rights movement and the LGBT movement to be overly simplistic. However, I know many others can speak far more intelligently than I on that topic so I will stick to what I know.

What I know is that I am alarmed when an activist in this gay “freedom ride” claims that the issue has nothing at all to do with being gay! Nope, nossir.

“This is a justice issue, a Christian issue, a human issue,” Wispelwey, a straight Christian man, said. “It’s not a gay issue. We’re allies in this movement. The time for radical change is long overdue.”

“We’re mainly focused on reconciliation and discussion,” Wispelwey said. “We seek to limit the negative effects of homophobia.”

Hhmm. So let me get this, er, straight. This is not a gay issue, but you strive to limit the effects of homophobia through discussion and reconciliation (but leaving out all the gross gay stuff). I also enjoy the fact that while Wispelwey claims it’s not a gay issue, the author still thinks it’s important for readers to know Wispelwey’s sexual orientation. Lest we think this is all about sex, of course.

Onward. So the parallels between this and the 60’s are so obvious. Like all the dangers!

While nonviolent resistance attempts to effect peaceful policy change, the risks are real. Last year, Soulforce Equality Riders contended with hate messages and verbal abuse. There is also the possibility of arrest.

Sounds just like the risks taken by the brave civil rights activists of the 60’s.

And the kicker, for me:

“I realized homosexuality wasn’t a choice, as I had been taught in school,” Wispelwey said. “Later, once I came to the belief that this was not a sin, I could not just stand by as a Christian. To be silent is, to some degree, to be complicit.”

In all seriousness, I commend religious folks who really grapple with these issues and think about them in complicated ways. What I can’t handle is the patronizing tone used to talk down to gay people, as if we don’t have our own voice in this matter, like we are these poor victims of our own DNA, condemned from birth to a life of pain and derision. All we need is some straight man leading the fight against homophobia – and then trying to say that this issue isn’t a gay issue!

I don’t need a straight man standing up and pointing his finger at other straight men who have yet to “see the light.” I’d prefer a man who will take the piece about not being silent to another level – one where he can see his own part in the perpetuation of stringent gender roles that oppress gay people (not to mention women of all sexual orientations, transpeople, and straight men themselves). This man might ask, what part do I play in enforcing oppressive excessive masculinity? How does it affect the women with whom I come in contact? What can I do to change it?

Love the sinner, I say. Love the sinner, and the sin, and the fact that it’s really none of your damn business whether I was born with it or I chose it. It’s mine, and it’s not going anywhere. And a word of advice to straight allies: best if you ask those you are claiming to represent what they actually want from you.

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One comment

  1. […] help it! It’s inborn! Therefore I must force myself to deal!” way. (remember this guy?) 2. As many people as there are in the world, that’s how many different expressions of […]



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