Religion has always been forced on me. As a kid, I was forced to go to Sunday school, Sunday services, summer Vacation Bible School, and teen youth group meetings when I got older. My mother had converted from Catholicism to Protestant Christianity around the time she married my father and was a proud born again Christian. Jesus was everything. And our small town church was equivalent to the doctor, the bank, the grocery, and the therapist.
The belief was that prayer would cure all ailments and provide all of the essential needs in life. But I eventually started to see religion as a tool people used to avoid accountability. All of the glory was given to God and Jesus. All of our faults and all of the negative in the world were because of Satan. When I saw members praying for money or forgiveness, I would often think, Maybe you should just work harder at not being an asshole.
Ultimately, the people who seemed to need Jesus the most were the ones who did the least for themselves. And if you didn’t like the message being preached, then you didn’t love Jesus. My adolescence was filled with being told Jesus loves everyone; he even loves the sinner while hating the sin. And one of those sins was being gay.
Every Sunday, I was literally a queer kid sweating the fear of hell’s flames. The congregation around me, the ones who claimed to hold me in their hearts, were loving and kind as long as they didn’t know I was gay. Then all bets were off, because Jesus. Religion suddenly became a cover for bigotry and Jesus was the fall guy.
Now, not that I should have to say this, but I will: I respect a person’s right to practice and find faith in whatever religion they feel comfortable embracing. I let go of religion when I left for college, but over the last several years, I have found spirituality. I understand the importance to finding a higher power or meaningful spiritual connection. I agree that religion and spirituality can be moral compasses to do the right and hard things in life. But I believe we have a say in what we do and do not do according to religion’s teachings. We should not blindly follow anyone or any scripture.
Nor should we use religion and its deities as reasons to deny someone’s existence, specifically mine.
As a queer adult and LGBTQ educator and advocate, I get a lot of nastygrams. While not all Christians are bigots, almost all of the bigots who I deal with also claim Christianity. Religion is once again being forced on me in very loud and threatening ways.
This person’s belief in Jesus has allowed them to assume being gay is a religion in and of itself, that I should shut up because I don’t like how Christianity can discriminate against me, and that I am a rapist and pedophile based on my identity. This person doesn’t know or care that I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse for nearly 10 years. My abuser LOVED Jesus, and often they would pray for forgiveness in the pew next to me and then later that night ask me, a child, for oral sex.
If we are going to assume a profile of an abuser, it is often a straight, cisgender man. 88% of child molesters are men, and the younger the victim, the greater the chances they are being abused by a family member. Child Lures Prevention reports 49% of victims under the age of 6 are sexually abused by a family member; 42% victims ages 7-11 have a family member as their abuser. My abuser was a family member.
I am not foolish enough to think there are no cases where someone who identifies as LGBTQ has hurt a child. But identifying as LGBTQ does not equal pedophile. More likely than not, a child molester is NOT gay or transgender.
People also force God on me in the name of science.
Despite my experiences, the proof of other transgender and nonbinary people’s existence, and actual scientific data supporting me and other human beings who know we are not the gender we were assigned based on sex, many people think that I just need some Jesus. Conversion therapy is still being practiced, but thankfully is being banned in more places and was most recently outlawed in New York.
And when I banned some people on my public Facebook page for telling me I was a pedophile and groomer, they decided to send me these personal messages:
I am not aware of any specific “LGBTQ religion.” And for the businesses being forced to not discriminate, well…don’t be in business if you don’t want money from everyone. It really doesn’t make much business sense to deny products and services to those willing to give you money. Your “religious freedom” should not take away my rights.
Notice that I have not claimed all religion or all Christians? I know better. I know this just isn’t the case. While I used to lump all Christians together, I have met many people who hold their faith and their love of Christ very tightly. But they also are open-minded, kind, and willing to learn. And I have learned from them.
I am still very disenchanted with organized religion, but I won’t assume all Christians hate me. So, if so many Christians and Jesus-lovers can affirm and accept me, why do others want me dead?
Why do some Christians send me hate mail? Accuse me of child rape? Want to deny my rights to an equal and equitable life? Because hate has little to do with Jesus. It’s about bigoted and misinformed people who are afraid to confront fear, their biases, their privilege, and their homo and transphobia.
Religion is capable of preaching intolerance. It is also capable of teaching kindness and acceptance.
The choice to hate and lead a live of bigotry is up to each individual. And I am pretty sure during those Bible lessons I learned that God asked people to let him do the judging. If I ultimately have to answer to God, why do people feel they need to police me on Earth? LET ME MEET MY MAKER, PEOPLE.
Stop using religion as an excuse for your vile words and ignorant beliefs. Hold yourself accountable and stop allowing Jesus to take the fall for your ignorant, hateful views.