“I don’t have a problem with who you like, but I still believe you are going to hell.”
These are the words of a self-proclaimed ally who happens to be one of my friends. Little does he know what immense damage these words can do to a person’s state of mind, especially someone such as myself who has had a difficult time accepting themselves due to their faith. Sometimes even friends who consider themselves allies of the LGBT+ community make discriminatory remarks, which has always bewildered me.
Even before coming to terms with my own identity, I never believed the caring and merciful God I was raised to know would send a kindhearted and gentle soul to eternal damnation for something as seemingly trivial as the gender of the person they love, especially when compared to other sinful actions as described in Romans 1:21-32. Maybe that makes me a bad Christian in some people’s eyes, but to me, it’s just the only way I have learned to know the Lord.
One of the few verses of the King James Bible that mentions homosexuality, and which has given rise to hundreds of years of abhorrence and violence, is Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
According to Christians, the Bible is the word of God, a gift given to mankind so we can achieve salvation and spread His words of truth and love. In today’s world, however, there seems to be more contradictions than ever about which parts of the Bible churches deem to be important.
For example, Leviticus 19:19 says wearing a garment made of wool and linen is sinful, as is eating pork according to Leviticus 11:7-8. Of course, if you walk into a church today wearing a mixed fabric shirt, no one is going to tell you off and let you know you’re going to hell. And it isn’t a rarity at some churches for there to be BBQs after service where pork is served to frequent churchgoers. All three of these statements are found in Leviticus, so why is it more socially acceptable today for someone to believe I’m going to hell for liking girls when I don’t even eat meat, compared to a straight person who believes the mass slaughter of animals for human consumption is okay?
Hurtful interpretations of verse
For many people who identify as LGBT+, growing up in a religious household can be the root cause for intense self-loathing and confusion that can sometimes even lead to depression and/or suicidal thoughts. According to the CDC, 34 percent of LGBT+ students surveyed in 2015 said they were bullied on school property, 28 percent were bullied electronically, and 10 percent reported to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. How many of these aggressions were fueled by the reinforcement of the Christian belief that loving someone of the same gender is disgraceful? How many of those aggressions turned into the 29 percent of LGBT+ youth who had attempted suicide at some point during that previous year?
As a queer girl attending public school, I have heard countless repugnant remarks about my and a number of my friends’ sexualities, despite the fact that I am still very much in the closet. When people assume you’re straight, they get a lot more comfortable with being openly homophobic.
I was in a classroom of eight people last year when, for some reason, the conversation of sexuality came up. Somebody said they didn’t understand how people are attracted to others of the same sex, which is totally fine; there’s nothing wrong with trying to have a dialogue about something they want to learn more about. Another individual, however, quickly turned this opportunity of open and non-judgemental conversation into a more toxic environment by rattling off how any form of homosexuality is unnatural and somewhat repulsive. This created a feel for the room where others jumped at the opportunity to share their detestable opinions as well.
In the beginning, it seemed that I still had a chance to try to influence the conversation back to the open exchange I had hoped for, but I was blatantly outnumbered by the opinions of those around me. Those who may have agreed with me felt safer to remain silent, as I later decided it was.
This wasn’t the last time I found myself in these types of situations, and every time I become increasingly dejected. When the discriminatory conversation is reinforced by my peers, it feels the worst. Our generation is supposed to be the most progressive and accepting when it comes to topics like sexuality, religion, and other aspects of our individual personalities, and if we don’t stand together, our future will turn out to be the divided and hateful time period it seems like we as humans can never escape.
The stress of hiding who you love
I denied who I am for years, convincing myself that if I really did like other girls then God would be so disappointed in me, and if I let down God then I would also be letting down my parents, my extended family, and everyone close to me who belong to the Christian faith. Over time I was able to become more honest with myself and slowly started to learn to accept who I am. One of the people who helped me most — even without knowing it — is one of my best friends of 10 years who came out to me in eighth grade that she was a lesbian.
The rest of our immediate friend group and I were, of course, supportive, and since we already had a pretty good number of kids in our group who are a part of the LGBT+ community, my friend’s sexuality wasn’t made out to be that big of a deal. Our friend group is very different from the majority of the world today.
My friend was also raised in a Christian household, one that is much less open-minded than my own, and because of that fact she still isn’t out to her parents. We both think her mother suspects my friend is hiding her sexuality. Time and time again, her mother questions her, and the one time my friend’s answer wasn’t insisting she was straight, her mother made sure to drive home the fact that, “that isn’t God’s way.” Neither of us know what would happen if her mom did find out, so we try to delay that realization for as long as possible.
It isn’t a super rare occasion for me to get an email from my buddy saying she needs me to log into all her social medias and delete her conversations/memories that might leave a hint, and for a while that worked out pretty well. But I will never forget the day I didn’t get her request until a few hours later: eight unread emails from my best friend begging me to delete everything as fast as possible. My body filled with dread and guilt as I called another pal to help me as fast as possible, going through her usernames and passwords, and contacting people to unsave messages on Snapchat.
After we finished I emailed her back to let her know I finished the job. I called her girlfriend at the time to see if she had heard from my friend at all. She hadn’t, which means I really was the first one to see her pleas. I waited for what seemed like forever to get an email response back (which in reality wasn’t that long but it sure felt like it). Somehow she had stalled long enough so that her mom hadn’t looked through anything of substance by the time I logged in, but who knows what could have happened to her if her mom did find something.
How the church became oppressive
Overall, the selectivity of the parts of the Bible that the Church decides are important today can have negative repercussions for millions of people, whether that be through internalized homophobia or overt discrimination. The Church as a whole was developed with the purpose of spreading the word of God and promoting charity throughout the world. How is it that something that started with such pure intentions could lead to such extreme cases of systematic oppression, to the point where children of God have started to kill each other or themselves over who a person loves.
The way I see things, it’s simply because the Church and the way the Church conducts itself is all run by mankind, which is inevitably flawed. I still believe in God. I believe He is kind and accepting of all people. I was raised in a household that has led me to strongly believe that if you are a good person you can make it to heaven regardless of sexual orientation, sins you have repented for, or even differing religious beliefs or affiliations. For such a long time I let the Bible’s words rooted in my faith poison my self-worth, but today I try to remember that the Bible was written thousands of years ago and is full of contradictions that can’t be changed, and because of this I choose to focus on the positives the Bible has also provided me:
- 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
- Proverbs 19:8 “He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.”
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
The author, 16, is a queer teen who hopes to see the world evolve to a point where people can learn to embrace others for who they are regardless of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender identity, or sexual orientation.