This week I was lucky enough to get to attend a brief poetry reading by Richard Blanco. One of his readings was about his grandmother and how she would say mean and hurtful things to him when he was a kid. This piece really stuck with me and it reminded me a lot of the things I was stuck listening to in my youth.
You see, I was raised in a strict, conservative, Baptist household. My grandfather was the preacher of our church and we were raised to be a certain way and believe in certain things. I can remember going to children’s church on Sundays and singing the oh-so-age-appropriate “One, two, three. The devil’s after me.” This is where the teaching of fear begins. As you get older, these songs become sermons of fire and brimstone.
Adolescence is a very troubling time for all teenagers. It is tough to understand what is going on with your body and why you have funny feelings and urges all the time. It is even harder on an LGBT youth. Having to change in the locker room, knowing you are different. Having your crush sit across from you at the lunch table, but knowing you cannot act on your emotions. When children are raised in loving, understanding, and open-minded these issues may prove a bit easier but for the majority of us…we aren’t so lucky.
When we are told things when we are younger by the adults in our lives that “God hates gays,” “Gay people don’t go to Heaven,” or even just a mere “That’s disgusting” we are permeating people to evolve into haters and bigots. The Church programs these ideas into people and the hate just spreads like wildfire. You can’t blame the people themselves. They were indoctrinated at a young age to have these feelings and thoughts. But it is this indoctrination that creates our current problems as an intolerable society.
1) Anti-gay crime is on the rise all across this country. With hate comes actions. Sometimes in the form of words and slurs. Sometimes in the form of fists and guns. LGBT citizens are treated as “lesser-thans” undeserving of equality because that is what a certain group of people is taught to believe.
2) 40% of all homeless youth is LGBT. Kids do not make rational choices. If they are punished or shunned or harassed for being different, they will find a way to escape. 26% leave home by their own volition. What is even more sad, is that family rejection remains the number one cause of this issue. These parents, who are supposed to love and take care of their child, kicks them out. How can they stop loving their child? Because the Church has taught them that they are disgusting humans in the eyes of God and deserve this kind of treatment.
3) LGBT youth still remain twice as likely to commit suicide as heterosexuals. If the majority of your peers reject you, your family rejects you, and ultimately your God rejects you, what does one have to live for? It leaves a huge void in one’s heart, and you feel as if you have no where else to turn to. For many in this position, they feel that there just is no other way. They just want the hurting to stop.
I know that this is an issue that is not easy to discuss for many. I am grateful that there are people working hard to get anti-bullying legislation passed to help out young people in America. But what we really need to focus on is also correcting misconceptions from the beginning and end the hate speech from the pulpit. Religion should be more concentrated on teaching the stories of Jesus’ love rather than the ‘cardinal sins’ of the Bible.
For those of you that have or are going through a trying time because of your sexuality, what I can tell you is this: “It gets better.” You can have your own beliefs in whatever you choose. If you believe in God, I can tell you that God does love you. Never doubt that. And if you don’t and are in need of a support system, you need to know that you are not alone. There are plenty of people and resources to help you and guide you. We as a community are here for you.
Let us continue to work hard towards equality, but let us also continue to fight against the hate that gets spread from the soapbox of a preacher. We are all equal in His eyes and should be seen that way, and through the eyes of all people.