Sunday, October 03, 2010

Trickle-down bullying

These last few weeks have been filled with pain and sorrow for many in the LGBT communities following a recent spate of teen suicides resulting from gay kids being relentlessly bullied (or kids that were just perceived to be gay). I wasn't sure what to write about it; it felt so overwhelming. And it's just a drop in the bucket of all the lesbian/gay/trans/bi/queer youth who have attempted or completed a suicide.

I'd just written my post about Focus on the Family's campaign against anti-bullying measures in schools and then all this came to light. So it felt particularly painful and heavy to me.

I was mulling this over when I read with great interest a blog post from Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas, where he tells his followers that they should "Step Up and Speak Out" against bullying.

Sounds great, right? I mean, Exodus encouraging people to stop bullying gay folks? What's not to like?

Randy writes this particularly touching paragraph: "We must come to the aid and defend life no matter where it is being exploited and dehumanized. We must speak out against bullying behavior. We must intentionally edify, bless and build up others to counteract the hurtful influences of this world."

It sounds beautiful, but unless it represents a true shift for Exodus, it is just PR. Sadly, the words mean nothing until I see a change in the continuing rhetoric.

These words are coming from the mind of someone who actively has worked to make it more difficult for LGBT people to live lives free from dehumanization, harassment, and yes, bullying. This comes from someone who oversees, according to the Exodus website, more than 170 "professional mental health and church-based member agencies across North America." Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, we have consistently heard from people who have had contact with many of these ministries that they have been harmed. There have been people who have consistently complained of dehumanization and abuses at several ministries and the claims have not been investigated, and the participants have not been listened to.

Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus, has on more than one occasion called gay love a "counterfeit" and also said the gay community is a "counterfeit" community and that being gay is an addiction and bondage. Alan and Randy both oppose hate crime legislation (which includes crimes against LGBT people based on orientation/gender identity). They regularly share their testimonies in an effort to influence legislation pertaining to LGBT issues. They talk about change in ambiguous language meant to mislead, and disregard the stories of those who nearly killed themselves trying to change their orientation, and who now live truthful, whole and authentic lives.

It causes me to recall a conversation I had with an ex-gay leader who asserted his wish that we would go back to time when gay people felt ashamed of being gay. When your wish is for people to feel shame about their lives, when you want them to live in fear and silence, that is dehumanization. When you want to roll the clock back and go back to a time when people suffered deeply and lived lives of desperation, humiliation and shame, you are being a bully.

Randy continues, "People, regardless of who they are or what they believe, need friends who bless and defend not expose and betray. We have to fight selfishness and exploitation with selflessness, respect and unconditional love. We must default to having a humble and high regard toward another person’s soul."

When people hear that our love and lives are "counterfeit" or a "delusion;" when they hear that we are broken, sick and damaged people; when they hear that gay people can change (without "change" being fully explained - i.e., a change in behavior, not orientation); when they hear that people "choose" to come out of homosexuality without understanding that being gay is not a choice; when they hear lies about the lifespans of gay individuals or hear that our lives are empty, yet full of drugs, disease, alcohol, addiction and rampant sexual encounters, it becomes easier for them to hate us.

It might not be the words "fag" or "dyke" or "queer" but it's the words "broken" and "emotionally dependent" and "bound up in sin" and "deadly lifestyle" and "bondage and addiction" and "counterfeit." It might not be an actual blow but it's a systematic tearing down of the worth of lesbian, transgender, bisexual and gay people. In short, it's bullying behavior. And don't tell me that it doesn't trickle down to our vulnerable youth with some very tragic consequences.

The artwork above is a piece of mine titled "Self Preservation." There are days that I feel the need for a way to insulate myself against the bullying words and actions of those around me. Most days I am strong enough to exist without that extra insulation, but there are some days....


  1. This is beautifully written. The last two paragraphs particularly hit home for me. Thanks!

  2. Stunning. Stumbled here through fb acquaintences--and so grateful for it.

  3. Thanks for speaking out about this, Christine. I am so angry about the Christian groups that say they believe in love and respect and care and then twist the concepts so grotesquely that they end up meaning the exact opposite. Then they go out and "stand up for Jesus". I know it's not only Christians who are anti-gay and that not all Christians are. I just expect more out of Christians. Where they get that Jesus acted like they do is beyond me. Justifying oppression and abuse in God's name sickens me.

  4. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  5. as a former ex-gay leader and friend of Christine's, i appreciate what she exposes in this post and do pray that others for whom it is applicable will have the humility and scales lifted from their eyes to see the words of truth in what she says. we can say all the clever and beautiful words we like in opposition to bullying - but it is our actions that will actually work to make the needed change in the climate, attitudes and language in our homes, faith communities, schools and neighbourhoods. i'm thankful for the many things i have learned from Christine and other friends who have helped me see things i'd been previously blind to .... and indeed, i am proof that change is possible. you can leave fear and pride behind and work to affirm the dignity of all people - in a manner that others can actually recognize and accept.
    thanks for your courage Christine - i know it is hard to write a post with such a heavy heart

  6. You are so right. Thank you, and bless you, from a religious person.

  7. Christine, well said, well reasoned. You expose the hypocrisy while giving Exodus direction on how they can be truly loving in breaking away from their own bullying.

  8. Some background on Exodus' anti-bullying policy: For nearly 30 years they didn't have one. In fact, Alan Chambers strongly resisted having Exodus adopt and post any official anti-bullying policy.

    In 2007, I bugged Alan about it for months. He was very stubborn about it. I asked how EXODUS could officially oppose the Day Of Silence (which aims to raise awareness of the bullying problem) -- and not officially oppose bullying itself.

    Alan Chambers had previously posted that Exodus is opposed to all hate crime laws and all anti-bullying progams -- because they view these as "tools to crush Christian evangelism". They don't want orientation even mentioned -- since they believe it doesn't exist.

    But it does exist and so does bullying of kids who are or are percieved as LGBT. I begged Alan to post something stating their official stance against bullying. I even suggested some language for it.

    This went on for months -- with stalling and excuses from Exodus. If they really cared abuout bullying, they should not have to have been pushed to officially oppose it. Alan and Exodus finally adopted the rather weak and qualified policy they now use -- way to little and 30 years too late.