Friday, May 17, 2013

LGBTQ Rights Are Human Rights

Each year on May 17th across the globe, thousands gather for or take time to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia & Transphobia. The occasion was created  in 2003 in Quebec to commemorate removal of 'homosexuality' as a mental disorder by the World Health Organization in 1990. Transphobia was included in 2009 “to give a specific dimension, and fight against the invisibility of the trans issue”.

Today I recognize this occasion as an ally of the gay community, having also served as LGBTQ Representative for Kitchener Centre's New Democratic Party last year. 

I still have to pinch myself sometimes for being both.

You see, it wasn't always this way. I grew up as a conservative evangelical Christian, and homosexuality was  pretty much THE worst sin imaginable. To throngs of people it still is.  I remember as a teenager, writing to my small-town newspaper against same-sex marriage, and they printed it with the title "It's Just Plain Sin." And then something happened. Near the end of my high-school years I started to hang around classmates who weren't Christians - something new to me - and in spending time with them and having discussions with them I began to realize something: These weren't bad people. Just because they didn't believe the same things that I did did not mean they were in danger of Hell. I say I began to realize it because it would take several more years for me to fully embrace it. Something else that was very significant happened as well. Near the end of high school my best friend sat me down and told me that he was in fact gay. A few years earlier I might have jumped out of my chair, bewildered and disgusted. Instead, I sat calmly, and I felt that this was something that could bring us closer together, not farther apart. He is still my best friend to this day; I don't know what I would do without him. ♥  It wasn't until my third year of Bible college, however, that I gave up several key Christian beliefs for me, including the sinfulness of homosexuality. From then on out, I have increasingly become more outspoken on behalf of LGBTQ rights. To me, this fight is exactly the same as the one Martin Luther King Jr. fought on behalf of African-Americans. LGBTQ rights are human rights.

One question that I would do well in asking someone who is arguing the sinfulness of homosexuality to me is this: Do you actually know someone - a family member, a friend, a co-worker - who is gay? I don't just mean knowing them in passing, but interacting with them on a close level.  Many people have this belief about gay people that has been handed down to them by their families or churches, but have not taken the time to get to know any of them. When I finally "came out" of my shell and got to know more and more gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, I realized something: These are some of the most loving and accepting people I have ever met. Maybe it's because they know what it's like to be marginalized or treated like crap, and they wouldn't want to treat anyone else that way.

For many others, like it was for me until my early 20's, it is religion that made me judge gay people. Because of 4 or 5 verses in the entire Bible, many (not all) Christians marginalize those in the LGBTQ community. However, these people do not live out many other things in the Bible, like slavery or killing women and children in battle. I could argue about this for awhile; all I'll say now is that I came to realize that the Bible is not God's word about us (and therefore infallible); rather it is our words about God. What gives a person the right to take something that an opinionated man wrote hundreds of years ago and decide that a whole group of people are incapable and unworthy of loving and being loved, just because of who they are attracted to?

Today I recognize International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia, & Transphobia.

For all the gay youth who are being bullied or afraid of coming out.

For all those who want their love recognized just as any other couple is recognized.

For those who are killed each year just for being who they are.

Mark Andrew Nouwen