Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Battling Homophobia

So, recently I bought "The Unlikely Disciple" by Kevin Roose. It's a memoir about Roose's time at Liberty University (I'm sure those who go or have gone to Liberty have heard about it). Roose was a Brown University student who decided that he wanted to learn more about his evangelical peers, and he took a semester to attend Liberty. Although not a Christian himself, Roose was very open-minded and balanced about his fellow Liberty classmates. In fact, I could relate to a lot of the book. Even though I was a Christian, when I came to college and saw kids who were much more skilled at evangelical culture, I experienced similar kinds of culture shock.

One of the most difficult things Roose deals with on Liberty's campus is the homophobia that exists amongst his male classmates and roommates. He attributes this to their Christian upbringing, though I think that if you observed any group of secular state college guys, you'd find similar usage of words like "queer," "faggot" and "gaywad." Unfortunately, you'd also see that kind of thing among the Christian guys, too.

One particular line from Roose's roommate (who he admits is more extreme than the Liberty norm) was really awful. After a conversation about how weird it would be to be flirted on by a gay man, his roommate said, "I hate faggots. If something like that happened to me, I would do something about it. I would snap somebody's neck."

Now, I've never experienced homophobia like that, but I've experienced plenty of the so called "innocent" slurs used by lots of guys nowadays. One thing that I've been thinking about recently is that--as a guy who struggles with SSA, what can I do to speak out against this kind of stuff? In a perfect world, whenever I'd hear something homophobic from a guy--especially a Christian guy, who should know better--I'd speak up, explain my experience, and explain why words and phrases and attitudes like that are harmful.

Obviously, that's easier said than done. Like any person I can be very afraid of backlash, and that can sometimes keep me from doing what is right. Even though I'm very open about my SSA--most of my friends know about both my orientation and my religious beliefs about it--it's hard to speak up when they say something hurtful. I don't want to be seen as "over-sensitive" or a buzzkill. And yet, something needs to be done. These kinds of comments and attitudes can't be allowed to continue, especially among Christians.

Gay men and women know the hypocrisy when Christians say that they love them but turn around and make homophobic comments. I think guys like us, who struggle with SSA, can be some of the best people to bridge the gap and stop the hatred, but we first have to be open about our stories, and we have to be brave enough to speak out. I'm not so good at either, all the time, but I'm learning.

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