Pride month is now finished and it just so happened that I celebrated it by being abused on social media. I'm not necessarily going to get into it, but I was likened to someone who you would not want children to be around. At first I was upset, but in all honesty, that went quite quickly and was replaced with anger and pity. These people need education. But then saying that, it would be like trying to educate an amoeba.
I say this, of course, with no disrespect to Kevin the amoeba, who has just graduated with an MBA, moved in with his partner Oskar and spends most of his evenings singing along to Paula Abdul and knitting tea cosies for the local charity shop.
Jesting aside, the levels of homophobia I've seen (not just homophobia, but lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia) on social media has certainly been ramped up over the last few months. Maybe this is what Johnson says about 'levelling up' the country. What else can we expect from our current PM?
Our government has failed the LGBTQ+ community.
The government's brand spanking new LGBT Action Plan was launched in 2018:
We will listen to the needs of LGBT people ... and establish an LGBT Advisory Panel to guide our work and hold us to account.
Yet, just three years later, this LGBT Advisory panel has been disbanded. So much for listening to LGBT people. A promise was made to end conversion therapy. This hasn't happened. Liz Truss, the current minister for women and equalities, is no friend of the LGBTQ+ community. She is also the secretary of state for trade - and what with the clusterfuck of Brexit, she's busy with that. Give the role of women and equalities minister to someone else. Crikey, make a minister for LGBTQ+. Given the current tirade of abuse directed at Stonewall, someone from government needs to step up - Mhairi Black, would be an excellent choice.
I can see that the issue of conversion therapy is still being debated in parliament. However, I'm a little concerned that some members do not take this topic seriously.
There was some debate as to which was the gayest Parliament in the world. I fear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that we may need to have a gay-off to find out which is the gayest Parliament. To be fair, it is rather a nice thing that the crown of the gayest Parliament rests with either the UK Parliament or the Scottish Parliament. The fact that it rests within these isles is a testament to the progress that we have made.
"A gay-off"? This is Mike Freer, Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green. Looking at his voting record, he's voted in favour of equal rights, so I hope this is just a quip. A misguided one, mind you.
Then we have Hungary and their anti-LGBT law. If you want to learn more about this travesty and how it affects people in Hungary, have a look at the Hatter Society, a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organisation.
A good friend of mine contacted me the other day on the subject of LGBTQ+ issues. I worked with Angie and her husband at an English school in York and I knew that religion was, or had been, important to them. One thing Angie said in her messages to me really struck me, and I thought that it would be good to get her opinions on LGBTQ+ issues and the church (Evangelical). She has given me permission to post her words here on my blog:
Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, inerrant, true for all time and infallible. So, what was written thousands of years ago stands as God's Word for today. The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and sin is at the core of everything evangelicals believe. It's not just that we commit 'sin' but that we have inherently sinful natures that need saving by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour. I believed this from the age of 12 until I was about 46-50. Gulp! So, re LGBT matters, the Bible was unequivocal. And here's where I need to quote the 2 most famous passages that are (still today) non-negotiable for evangelicals ...
1. Romans Ch.1 verses18-32. I suggest you read it all, in a modern version if possible to get just how bad this sounds. E.g. 'God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion'. Powerful stuff, huh?!
2.1 Corinthians Ch. 6 verses 9-10. 'Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders ... will inherit the kingdom of God.
And, one more important note from the Bible. James Ch. 5 verse 16 says, 'Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed'. So, if you put this verse together with the teaching that homosexuality is a terrible sin, then you've got Biblical justification for all kinds of counselling, gay conversion therapies, exorcism i.e. abuse, to be sanctioned in the name of the Lord.
OK, take a break here and let that sink in. I also sent some questions to Angie:
Did you find that LGBTQ+ were ever talked about - and if so, what was the general feeling towards people in the LGBTQ+ community?
Yes, LGBT issues were talked about (although the term didn't exist as such) but always in the context of praying for such people that they may be healed and brought 'to the Lord'. I remember Stonewall being founded and this was viewed as a dangerous attack on Christian values, probably of the devil, and should be prayed against. But back in those days everything was dominated by the AIDS pandemic. I remember preachers talking about AIDS as being a punishment from God against homosexual practice. WE believed this.. Looking back, it was pure homophobia. All of this was in the context that all sex, outside of marriage, was sinful.
The feeling towards gay people was that they needed saving and healing. And, yes, confession therapy groups existed although I didn't know anything about them. I have a feeling one was called 'Hope', but I've tried to google this and can't find any info. It's hard to understand now, but there wasn't an LGBTQ+ community. Such a thing didn't exist openly. It was a subject of shame generally and taboo in the evangelical churches.
You mentioned that you knew people who believed in exorcism - could you explain what these people believe? Do you think this is a widely-held belief? [CW: miscarriage]
Exorcism. Oh my God ... A belief that people could be possessed by demonic spirits existed right up until I left the Evangelicals in around 2008. I know they still believe in it today. It's the literal belief in Satan and that if you give him half a chance he will attack you. In extreme cases, this means the devil needs to be cast out. I shudder because I've got personal experience of this. Forgive a little detour here ... I had recurrent miscarriages before my son was born and the church leaders wondered if this was because of some unconfessed sin in my life or some demonic activity. They questioned me and, because my old Granny had dabbled with a Ouija board , they decided I might have a demonic influence in my life. I was prayed over with laying on of hands and speaking in tongues and phrases like 'In the name of Jesus we command you to leave so that she may be healed', shouted at quite a loud volume because, you know, God might be a little deaf! Now, these days I just think they were totally crazy, but I've never forgotten it. So, you can see how this soon could turn into abuse, power/control issues and damage vulnerable people. And, by definition, you are vulnerable to be in that position. It's a widely held belief and lurks under the surface of 'nice evangelicals'.
Do you believe that the Evangelical church is inherently homophobic? (& lesbophobic, biphobic, transphobic etc.) Did / do you know of any LGBTQ+ people in the church?
Finally, yes, from my experience the evangelical church is inherently homophobic. It can't be any other because of the literal belief in the Bible. It might be dressed up in modern language, couched in cosy phrases, but it's there alright. And, no, I didn't know of any gay people in that environment. Most of the gay Christians would belong to the high Anglican 'bells and smell' tradition which, for all its awfulness, is more tolerant of LGBTQ. I would never, ever go back, even if I did believe in God - which I no longer do - it would be a personal betrayal of my son. I left approx 15 years ago and it's taken all this time for me to come to terms with my past. I wrote my MA Creative Writing thesis as a creative nonfiction memoir describing my own journey out of evangelicalism.
A huge thanks to Angie for this. I knew that some churches were against the LGBTQ+ community, but I don't think I really understood how deeply it ran. And I find it deeply shocking. As a humanist, I'm disturbed that people believe this kind of thing and run their lives by it - to the letter.
These feelings in this post are the reason I'm committed to better representation in my industry. These feelings in this post are the reason I'm becoming more and more interested in activism. It's time to stand up.