Truly loving LGBTQ people takes a lot of unlearning.
I spent most of my life as a homophobic gay person. I was taught that “loving the homosexuals” meant calling their identities sinful, calling their love a sinful lifestyle. Loving someone meant warning them that the consequence of their sin would land them in hell, right?
So coming to accept that I, myself, was gay, that took a lot of unlearning.
It was a long process of gradually letting go of all the untrue things I was taught my whole childhood.
No, being gay is not a mental illness. No, gay people aren’t pedophiles. No, trans people aren’t “confused.” And yes, you can be Christian and LGBTQ at the same time — just ask the United Methodist Church.
It takes a lot of unlearning for everyone, whether you’re gay or straight, transgender or cisgender, to let go of the harmful ideas taught to you about LGBTQ people and to see us for who we really are.
We’re not perversions of nature, we’re not sinners, we’re just typical. We go to SPU. Some of us minor in psych. Many of us are religious, many of us aren’t.
A lot of us really want to get married and adopt kids, which is okay, because as CNN reported, it turns out that children raised by same-gender parents end up well-adjusted just like kids raised by straight parents. What matters is the love with which you fill your home.
But if queer people really are all that normal, what makes it so hard for us to let go of our prejudice?
It’s a prejudice sustained when LGBTQ people are kept out of the conversation and the stereotypes and myths take over.
If you don’t know any queer people personally, then all you’ll know about queer culture is what you see on TV and what you’re taught in childhood.
In every medium, and on the pulpit, we are oversexualized.
Even the words that make up the acronym LGBTQ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning — often have a sexual connotation in mind, when in reality our orientations and gender identities are merely a part of our stories.
Rory O’Neill explains in his TedxDublin talk, “We are not [seen as] regular people with the same hopes and aspirations and ambitions and feelings as everyone else, we are simply walking sex acts.”
From childhood, we’re taught that familiar saying: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” It’s a well-crafted phrase.
People will call you out for making hateful remarks toward LGBTQ people, but when that happens, you can say, “I don’t hate homosexuals, I love homosexuals. It’s just that loving them means telling them the truth about their lifestyle.”
There; you’re not hateful, you’re compassionate.
You love us, you’re just repulsed by us.
Another saying: that we are “forcing our lifestyles” onto the cis-straight majority, just by demanding equality and not taking no for an answer.
Meanwhile, cis and straight people have been forcing their lifestyles onto us via everything from conversion therapy to threats of hell to corrective rape.
We are “the gays,” always spoken of in the third person, and always with our fabled “agenda,” as if we’re some group of supervillains. If a woman is trans and uses the women’s restroom, she can be labeled a “predator.”
Yet, as reported by NPR in “When A Transgender Person Uses A Public Bathroom, Who Is At Risk?” it’s trans women, not cis women, who have a 70 percent likelihood of experiencing harassment and even violence in a public restroom.
Those sayings just aren’t working anymore. More and more we see that our queer friends, family members and coworkers are not the oversexualized picture of perversion painted in our minds, they’re just our friends.
As a society, we realize that sayings like, “It’s not you, it’s your lifestyle” and “I’m just speaking the truth in love” are empty phrases.
Are you loving us by calling us sinners? By keeping us away from your kids? Are you loving your gay children by sending them to conversion therapists? Are you “loving” trans people by policing them out of public bathrooms? Is it love? Or is it fear?
Fear is just a reaction to the unfamiliar. That’s why the process of unlearning can’t take place in a vacuum.
You need to see your queer friends, siblings, family members, living their lives. When you find you truly love them, you will let go of that fear because perfect love drives out fear.
I can write and write all I want, but nothing I say will change your mind until you see how your queer loved ones live, face to face.
Calling for the acceptance of LGBTQ people is not some hypothetical point; it’s a matter of life or death.
People have avoided cognitive dissonance, telling queer kids including myself that they love us while simultaneously driving us to suicide and then citing the high suicide rights for LGBTQ people as evidence that it’s a “harmful lifestyle.”
We’re not seeking affirmation of our sex lives, we just want people to stop killing us.
Violence against LGBTQ people continues rampantly.
At least a fifth of reported hate crimes in the U.S. are committed because of the target’s sexual orientation or gender identity, while an untold number go unreported each year due to fear or police prejudice.
Last year’s massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, served only as a reminder of a larger trend. Transgender people are the most at risk of homicide, with trans women of color facing the most danger of all.
That is why we need allies to stand up for us.
You can’t love LGBTQ people by trying to fix us, because we’re not broken. So how can you love and support your queer friends, queer family members, queer siblings?
The only way is to allow us to live our lives, treat us like equals and speak up when you hear hatred spouted against us. It takes a lot of unlearning to let go of the stereotypes and see us equally, but we need all the allies we can get.
Brian is a sophomore molecular and cellular biology major.