I am always anxious when I consider writing anything about religion. Maybe that’s due to my fairly religious upbringing, where belief is simply something to be had but never, ever questioned. Of course, it’s okay to question the beliefs of others, especially if they belong to a denomination which is different from your own. Bonus points the further they stray from fundamentalist Protestantism–who understands those Catholics, anyway?
We don’t even talk about that godless other 66% of the world population which is not Christian at all, so don’t ask.
Regardless of this, the more “out” I become, the more of a target I become for those who think that I live a sinful “lifestyle,” and the more sinful I am seen as being, the more I have to forego my natal culture’s ban on “not talking about it.”
So here I am, talking about it.
“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” –Deuteronomy 22:5, NIV
The above was recently cited against me, and as best I can tell, it is one of the passages most frequently brought up as an attack on transfolk by the religious right. Nevermind that the passages to either side of it are “if you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, you must not ignore it; you must help him lift it up” and “if you come across a bird’s nest with chicks or eggs, either in a tree or on the ground along the road, and the mother is sitting on the chicks or eggs, you must not take the mother along with the young.” Or the fact that the same book has regulations against wearing linen and wool together, as well as ordinances which force women to marry their rapists and wartime captors. Or…or!
Wait. It now being okay for women to wear pants isn’t really the point. Though I can hold my own, I don’t claim to be a theologian, and I’m not really interested in having any sort of liturgical debate with anyone (including myself). The point isn’t to have a post full of out-of-context Bible verses from the Old Testament.
The point is simply the question in the title: if the Christian right could have their way, what would they do with us? What would they do with me? With my friends and siblings-in-arms?
It was probably a lot easier back when it was socially/culturally/religiously acceptable to burn people who were different from you. My heart goes out to all those who can’t broad-stroke their way past this issue: who wouldn’t rather see the world in black-and-white, where right’s right and wrong’s wrong? Like back in the good ole days, when the men were men and the women were glad for it.
The problem is, things get way harder when they’re grey, and (un)fortunately, they’ve actually always worn that shade.
But (some of) humanity evolving to the point where summary execution of culturally/spiritually/physically/ethnically/sexually different peoples is no longer acceptable hasn’t stopped a good chunk of people from continuing to seek the simplest solutions. So what’s next best to just killing the “others”?
Shrugging them off as mentally ill, rebels, makers of bad choices, or members of a secret conspiracy to overthrow Western/Judeo-Christian/”family” values. Degenerates, insurgents, and wicked malcontents, the whole lot of them.
This is what has made conversion therapy popular for so long (and if you think its gone away now, or that its completely lost its appeal, I have some bad news): it legitimizes the belief that gender and sexual “deviance” are mental illnesses; it preserves an understanding of the Bible that excludes LGBTQ+ people from anything but eternal damnation; it pays lip-service to otherwise almost universally-accepted science that states that gender dysphoria and homosexual preference are real; and it allows the faithful to feel as though they can “fix” their loved ones with their love.
But what if conversion therapy doesn’t “stick” (and according to the American Psychological Association, it doesn’t)? What if it is illegal in your state, or financially unobtainable? What if public opinion of it slowly turns enough that it’s simply no longer an option?
Well, that’s kind of where we are now: a nebulous “otherworld” where people know they hate the gays, but where the science more-or-less supports the notion that gender and sexual identity are not choices.
So what do they want from us? What would be the ideal solution for people like me, within our current cultural climate?
I’ve had celibacy thrown around as an option to me before. After all, Jesus spoke on how a chaste life spent worshiping (wow, really? that only has one “p”?) the Lord is one of the most noble choices an individual can make. And it’s not like belief in the “sin” of queerness has gone anywhere (thin though the justification may be).
Chastity thus provides the most palatable option for those looking for the salvation of cognitive dissonance by allowing them to acknowledge that some people really are queer at birth while also condemning such queerness to hell. The goalposts have just moved: being gay is not a choice, but acting on it is. And this means that gay people who choose never to love another human being are good, but gay people who find love are evil. And evangelicals can continue to see themselves as the good guys, because they can still love the sinner but hate the sin.
That might work for aces, but for gay folk who are not also asexual, it means willingly giving up what many people consider to be a vital part of the human experience. Its a belief that can only be seen as good by people whose sexuality never had to be questioned, because theirs is the biological majority.
It gets even muddier when we shift the conversation to transgender folk. Because really…
What the hell do they want?
As best I can tell, the answer is to “just deal with it,” which more or less translates to “don’t transition” and “seek psychotherapy to help you deal with not transitioning.” Just be happy with your assigned gender because, well…do you really want to be a tranny?
Sure, I was suicidal for years, and sure, that went away almost the moment I started HRT, but that’s false happiness. It can’t be real, because society…
Wait, you honestly believe society pressured me into this? (See also)
Do you really think that a truer happiness would be for me to conform to what society thinks I should be, just because it makes you more comfortable?
Obviously, the very notion of that is ludicrous, but that’s just it…homo- and transphobes don’t really care about finding a real solution, so long as they don’t have to look at it or think about it, and so long as they aren’t made to feel bad about their hate. If you can’t burn the queers at the stake, you can at least try to destroy who they are (psychological ramifications of such treatment be damned).
What do they want?
To still feel like the good guys.
To hate who they want to hate.
And chiefly, to never have to question anything.
2 Replies to “On Religion, pt. 2: What Do They Want?”
I feel this a lot. I grew up and went to college in the south, and have only been in the northeast for a couple of years. The omnipresent culture of judgment and hate in the Bible Belt can make you feel like you’re imprisoned in your own community. Stay strong, and keep writing. I like to hear queer voices from down South, since most of the stuff out there is by people from the coasts.
Yeah, it literally pervades every aspect of the culture/society/etc.–it’s hard to convey the extent of that truth to people who have never experienced it. I will say, I’ve also been pleasantly at the goodness of the majority of those I’ve come out to/been around since I’ve been transitioning. I’m happy to hear from another who grew up in similar circumstances who found their way “out.” I’ll keep my voice up so long as you do the same!