The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the 1964 Civil Right Act applies to LGBTQ people. The ruling undid an executive order that President Trump had signed just days before, explicitly allowing discrimination based on gender identity.
I’m intimately familiar with the sentiments behind actions such as President Trump’s attempt to legalize discrimination against trans people. My parents run a faith-based nonprofit, and my sister and her husband are missionaries overseas. I directed an award-winning ministry while attending a Baptist university. I also happen to be gay, and the head-on collision between my faith and my sexuality shattered my life.
When I came out, my mother told me that homosexuality was an evil spirit, able to be cast out if I but called on Jesus’ name. My father put a withered tree branch on the kitchen table and said that my soul would resemble it, chaff for the fire, if I continued on my path. One sister said I was selfish and then told her children that I was in love with my sin. The other sister told me through tears that she wished she could support me. I was exhausted and heartbroken when my mother pulled me aside to ask, “Do you repent?”
I can’t exaggerate the mental and emotional anguish that erupted when I refused; my family believed I was caught in the clutches of their spiritual enemy, a fate worse than death, and I lost the close relationships I had with every member of my immediate family.
Their fervent beliefs galvanized them into actions that they assumed on my behalf, praying, calling, beseeching me to come back to faith and back to God.
As I pieced myself back together, I was never more grateful for the separation of church and state, which allowed me to keep body and mind together even as my support systems vanished. My family doesn’t want me dead (at least not without salvation), but their fundamentalist beliefs, ratified as law, might inadvertently eradicate the problem whether they expressly will it or not.
More than anger, an inconsolable grief takes hold when I am vilified and legislated against by my state and country. Queer people are faced with discrimination, attacks and stigma on a daily basis, often giving up the people and places closest to them in a Faustian trade for freedom. Proposals such as the “bathroom bill” exiled us from our own soil, reiterating in a screaming voice what a faint whisper has already been repeating: “You aren’t wanted here.” Not your person, not your love, not your life.
Brutality tests itself on the proving grounds of minority populations, waiting to see what the morality of the majority will tolerate. True believers, the ones who actually read the Bible and cling to its word, should never support such discrimination, because it is the antithesis of the very character of Christ.
One of the concerns that my parents voiced on that first night was their fear of social backlash, the cultural pain and suffering that comes with being gay. They didn’t want anyone to hurt me, or be unkind. It is this dissonance, the inability to reconcile that the well-intentioned might also be the perpetrators, that gives birth to cruel laws and inhuman faith.