Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coming Out is Still Not Always Easy

There is no doubt in my mind that things have gotten better for the LGBT community as a whole.  The opinion polls done since the last Presidential election, the one which featured the devastating side-bar election story of states revoking marriage equality or instituting constitutional bans on same-sex couples tying the knot or adopting kids, shows a move toward more acceptance of gay and lesbian people.  These changes in the culture are happening not just among the people who are non-religious, but among those families of faith as well. 

Still, churches tend to be among the least hospitable places for the LGBT people.  Witness the fact that a bunch of preachers felt the need to get into the pulpit last weekend and preach political endorsements, not just politics, in an effort to challenge the IRS. No doubt, some of those messages were aimed at the President who has supported marriage equality and supported an end to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of his Democratic predecessor.  Parents of LGBT children sit in the pews of these churches, internalizing the messages of meanness and the gospel of hate. They are taught to believe the Bible rejects gay relationships (this is the evolution from what used to be said that the Bible rejects gay people).  It's those parents who are more likely to send their gay kids packing, and cutting them off from financial support because they can not reconcile their faith with the facts of their family member.

Here enter an ad put together by a group called Faith in America, an advocacy group for accepting LGBT people as children of God.  The Faith and Equality project is designed to reach out to parents and other family members and get them to see more clearly their gay loved ones.  The group attempted to get an ad run in the popular religious magazine, Christianity Today.   But the magazine's editors rejected the ad.  Apparently, the editors are not aware that in Christianity today, there are lots of LGBT people of faith who have families.  In Christianity today, eight out of ten members of a faith community reporting knowing someone who is LGBT or having a family member who is LGBT.  In Christianity today, there are many more voices speaking up for inclusion and allowing gay people to be the fully baptized members in the Body of Christ they were always meant to be.

Now there is a petition to get the publication to run the ad.  It is an interesting juxtaposition to have this controversy getting shared on Facebook at a time when we are celebrating the 24th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.  It shows that even as we make tremendous strides toward equality in this country, there are still those pockets where the gay community finds itself embroiled in bitter debates over basic freedoms guaranteed to all other Americans.  Frank Schubert, the bankroller and campaign strategist for many an anti-marriage cause, is busy working to pass a constitutional amendment in Minnesota while defeating marriage equality in Maryland, Maine and Washington State.  According to the New York Times, Schubert specializes in making people feel OK about denying marriage equality to their fellow citizens.  One TV ad's pitch line in Minnesota says, "Everyone has a right to love who they choose, but nobody has the right to redefine marriage."  Such an easy message for the ones on the fence to absorb.  Not so easy to internalize if a person has to look into the eyes of the couple they will be harming with their homophobic vote.

With this as the back drop to National Coming Out Day, is it any wonder that some people, be they children or adults, still shudder and shrink in fear of revealing their sexual orientation?  This doesn't include those who fear for their lives, in some cases, if they share that they believe they are transgender.  The more we, as a society, continue to use LGBT people as the boogeymen and women who we must defend ourselves against, the more we will have to mark National Coming Out Day to celebrate the ones brave enough to stand up for themselves in the face of such hostility.  My hope is that I will live to see the day that NCOD won't be needed because "coming out" will not carry personal baggage or political weight. 

Yes, things are better, but we're still far from the promised land.

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