It is midnight, and I just finished reading a book titled, It Looks Like This, by Rafi Mittlefehldt. This book is written in the perspective of a high school freshman named Mike. He just moved into a new town with his parents, sister, and dog. At his new school, he meets a dude named Sean. Long and beautiful story short, they fall in love.
Sean’s father find Mike and Sean making out on the beach, punches Sean, and takes him home. A school bully filmed the entire thing and posted it on youtube. Mike gets sent off to a camp (conversion therapy) by his loving, Christian parents. While away and unplugged from the world, Sean dies in a car accident due to his situation. When Mike runs away from conversion therapy, he finds this out. Mike and his parents don’t get along at all once he’s home, and they seem to be trying their best (his mom at least). Needless to say, Mike is now living in a household where his parents are confused and unsupportive. The book ends with Mike finally becoming okay in the unstableness, but he’s starting to get to a good place mentally and emotionally.
Mike’s reality is reality for many LGBT teens across the United States.
If you have read my story I posted a couple months ago, you know that this is not my reality. I am so thankful for the understanding, support, and love my parents have given me. Their grace has propelled me to want to help other LGBT people who have not had it so easy.
In a report released by the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, in January 2018, approximately 689,000 adults (18-59 years old) in the United States have received some sort of conversion therapy. Out of that, 350,000 received such therapy as an adolescent. Conversion therapy is defined as treatment grounded in the belief that being LGBTQ+ is abnormal, and it is intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBTQ+ people. Such therapy can be extremely dangerous. In 2009, the American Psychology Association released a report in which they said “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.”
This was not my reality growing up, but it is reality for numerous other LGBTQ+ people. The main push for such harm: religion.
Recently, I was publicly shamed on Facebook by people near to me. Some of you may have watched it go down. These people used the words of the Bible to justify a hatred far worse than any I had experienced during middle school. Phrases like “the Bible says..” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” scattered the Facebook post and in justification in a very narrow and harmful theological ethic. The pain was not from the words themselves but from the tongues speaking and fingers typing these words. Using the guise of this “religious truth,” a line was drawn in the stand separating me from them. A line that now is a large gap that may never be repaired.
Some people, I think, take that the whole armor of God thing a little too literally and believe that it is their job to crusade into this forsaken world and fight all of the evil in this world — evils like homosexuality, abortion, divorce, porn, illegal immigration, welfare, universal healthcare, (etc.). While I believe there may be some evil in this world, I do not think God calls us to only focus on these perceived negatives. (I do not agree that these are all negatives by the way.) I think God calls us to acknowledge these perceived negatives and address them in a loving way.
In the book, Sean’s mom says, “Do you know what I would if Sean were still here? .. I’d love him.”
If y’all really means all, then we are called to love God and Neighbor. How can we do that by condemning our neighbor or our brother or our sister or our friend to hell over Facebook? How can we do that by sending the “same sex attracted” to therapy that is more harmful than helpful? How can we do that by hating the very people God calls us to love? Jesus hung out with the outcasts, the sinners, the lowest of the low, and he loved them furiously and unconditionally. He changed their lives by loving them. Christians are called to change lives through love not judgement, damnation, or throwing out-of-context bible verse at people.
We are called to be radical. Radically differently. Love in a radical way. Do radical things. Make waves. Ruffle feathers. Speak up for the voiceless. Empower the powerless. Lift up those who can’t stand by themselves. Lower the lame into the house to have access to something greater.
Sometimes I get asked about how it makes me feel to know that some of those closest to me think so negatively of my life and my outlook when it comes to ‘judgement day’, and I kind of chuckle which surprises them. I just smile and say, “I simply can’t wait to see their jaws drop when they see me walking up looking fabulous and extra flamboyant.”
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