I just got off the phone with a friend who was violently gay bashed this weekend. It hurt and scared me to hear some of the details, but the short story is that he was hanging out with some friends, having a quiet conversation at a bar. Apparently they mentioned being gay in the course of their conversation, and three men starting yelling that they were fags. The men got thrown out, but when my friend went outside the door a bit later, he was attacked.
He was on the ground, being kicked in the sides, while one of the men had their boot on his head, which was pressed into the sidewalk. Thankfully it appears they just wanted to scare him (into what? being straight? not leaving his house? butching up?) and weren't seeking seriously bodily injury. At least, this is what the police said when he reported the hate crime.
I wrote in a recent post: "When people think that we can choose our orientation, or we can "overcome" it and be healed (as in, made straight), they are less likely to be tolerant and loving and much more likely to be lacking in both respect and grace. Some even seem to be more likely to resort to violence. In their mind, if you don't like abuse, then you should just change."
This is the danger that I see in Exodus and others not being clear about what "change" really means. This is why I think Dr. Dobson's rhetoric about gays is so harmful, even beyond the obvious of how we hurt when we hear some of his words.
I've never been gay-bashed, thankfully, but I have experienced some mild discrimination and verbal abuse. It's ranged from being totally ignored at restaurants (to the point that other patrons notice it and sometimes say something), to outright harrassment.
I've had the stares and rude comments, and while in Santa Cruz I'd been yelled at by people driving past me (the word "dyke" was used, so I don't think they were taking issue with my driving). I spent a tense evening in a restaurant one night where my friend and I were under close observation by a table of young men. Apparently we were the subject of a lot of conversation and hilarity, but also some threatening looks. I remember trembling as I left the restaurant and ran to my truck, locking the door almost before it was closed. Another night, a friend and I were walking hand in hand downtown in Denver. We were surprised by a group of thuggish-looking young men who had suddenly turned the corner. They gave us hostile, silent looks as they split apart so we could walk between them. I think it took a while for my heart rate to return to normal. Of course, we dropped hands immediately and walked briskly to a secure location.
When I was ex-gay, I remember driving home from a counseling session one night. I flipped on the radio to the Christian station, and heard Dr. Dobson's daily radio address. He was on with John Paulk (who was still in good graces) and he was discussing gay issues (or rather, railing against homosexual activists who were trying to twist the law to get special rights). Dobson started a rant about hate crime legislation not being needed, but being part of a larger gay agenda that was trying to push our lifestyle on the general public. He said gay activists (wow, guess that would be me now?) made more of it than was really there, and in fact, during some period of time (this was 8 years ago, so I don't quite recollect) there had only been three deaths because of gay bashing.
I was thankful to hear John Paulk finally step in and say something like, "of course, three deaths is three too many." To which Dobson responded by mumbling, "oh, um, of course" and continuing on. Listening (in mounting anger) to this program, I got the distinct impression that John Paulk was being cowed into silence and was there merely to lend some legitimacy to the issue. I don't know if this is true, but it's what I remember thinking at the time. On the other hand, I had a bit of a love affair with the Paulks then, since their book and story were so important to me, so who knows.
Even though I was ex-gay in identity (not in orientation), I was so incensed at that radio show and at Dr. Dobson. Even though I was actively working to change my orientation, I still felt gay and looked gay, and I knew I could be discriminated against just as easily as someone who was not ex-gay. Even though I knew no one in my church would agree with me, I thought that sexual orientation should be included in hate crime legislation. Especially since it is not chosen, whereas even religion is something one can choose. I had come from Santa Cruz where we had anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing, and had moved to Colorado where I could be fired for being gay (and in fact, this was a concern for me in the truck parts place I worked. I did everything I could to be seen as straight there, short of running around singing, "I'm straight! I'm straight! Straight is what I am! Yippeeeee!")
Back to my friend.
The physical damage is scrapes and bruises, but the emotional and psychological damage is usually worse than anything that can happen to our bodies. Even for me, I felt horror when hearing his story, and a sense of terror that still lingers. I have been fighting off tears for him. He's someone I care about deeply. Someone I connected with in Orlando during a conference and have seen several times since, even though we live in different states. He's someone who cared enough about me and the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference to make the trek to the conference although he is not a survivor of any formal kind of ex-gay experiences.
A hate crime bill is going to be voted on soon by the Senate. Although there are differences of opinion about it even in gay circles, I am inclined to think it is needed. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin has put together a lot more information about hate crime legislation. If you are opposed to such legislation, will you do me a favor and at least read his post? If you are ex-gay, I want you to know it is really OK for you to support hate crime legislation, even if you are in the minority in your circles. At least give a thought to your former (or current) friends who still identify as gay. I talked to an ex-gay friend a while back who said that he faces discrimination all the time because he comes across as gay. Nobody checks your identity card when they bash ("oh, you're ex-gay? Well, never mind then!")
A little-known fact: hate crime legislation does not just cover gays, or other minority groups. The FBI’s own hate crime statistics count 935 anti-White, 58 anti-Protestant, and 23 anti-heterosexual hate crime incidents in 2005 (thanks to Jim Burroway for those stats). Those are hate crimes just as much as what happened to my friend this weekend.
I am not sure what else to say. I'm so full of emotion right now. Please keep my friend in your thoughts and prayers (he also lost his job on Monday, although not because he was gay, and then yesterday a member of his furry family died - is it true that trouble comes in threes?)
Just hold him in your heart if you can. Thanks.
P.S. FYI I asked him if I could post about this, without giving his identity. I don't want to turn people in poster children for any cause, but I really wanted to blog about this because it affected me so deeply this evening. He gave me his permission.