Disclaimer, I am cis female. What this means is that I was born with girly bits, identify as being a girl and am heterosexual.
I have married into a family which is very religious (when I am not). And some members of that family have very strong anti-LGBTQ sentiments. I want to be a stronger ally but I think I need to rehearse my conversation ahead of time. As I know a lot of what I want to say - but I also know that I won't be able to say everything I'd like to say without interruption and other voices. All I've done in the past is to step out of the room where I was a guest in when opinions I strongly disagree with start to be voiced.
I know that what I've done was really cowardly and I'd like to do better. I'd like to BE better.
So, I'm going to take a little time to tell a little story ... here... where I can practice, where I can edit, where I can voice some thoughts that I feel might speak to someone who doesn't understand yet.
I started off not being sure of who I was or how I felt about gay men, about lesbians... being part of a very rural, very conservative family - raised on the farm in the middle of nowhere in the middle of flyover country. ... at that time I knew there were such things, didn't really know there was more than just these two labels. I'm going to tell my story using these two labels, not because they are the only ones I'm speaking to. But because that's all I even was aware of at the time this occurred to me, back in the 80's. I didn't even know there was more to sexuality than hetersexual and gay and lesbian. But, interestingly enough... this story speaks a truth about all forms of sexuality and why I've opened my mind to acceptance.
(well, except rapist, child predators... you are still needing to control yourselves or marry a willing partner who has a willingness and interest in violance and/or semi-eternally youthful appearance because, sexuality needs to stay within the bounds of consent ... and children have no ability to consent).
Back to my story. In the 80's is also the first time I heard people say that gay and lesbians had a choice to 'conform' or to 'be out of the closet'. And to conform means that they 'could' choose to lead 'a normal life' and 'be' heterosexual. I didn't really know any better at first. I wasn't a lesbian. How could I 'know' what choices they have or what decisions they are making? How could I know what spoke to their inner most hearts?
But it still kind of puzzled me. If they risk the prejudice they could face, why would they 'choose' to be a lesbian? It just didn't make sense to 'be out of the closet' and face all of the negativity. People who make choices usually make 'smarter' decisions when they are given a choice. So, I questioned it.
Personally? I didn't wake up one day and 'decide' to be attracted to men. As my sexual awareness grew, I knew what types of men attracted me, what body parts and shapes would draw my eye and my interest. This wasn't a decision that I could make, it simply 'was'.
Well, duh?! Of course men and women don't 'choose' to be gay or lesbian? If you are heterosexual and you take any time at all to think about your own teenage years and how your interest in the opposite sex just 'was'... now think about it really well. Did you look at members of your own sex in the same way? Then choose to 'not be attracted' to that sex? no, of course you didn't.
And so it is with all forms of sexuality. You can't 'choose' who your attracted to. You can only choose your actions that you make after you are attracted. Whether you approach the person you are attracted to, or be shy. Whether you are aggressive about pursuing a relationship (of any form)... or not.
Conversion therapy only SHAMES someone for who they are. And since it's usually done on young men and women, those who want to make their parents proud... it can 'seem' like it works. Only because they are too ashamed to admit it doesn't work and they 'choose' to deny their true selves, their souls, and live a life that is filled with lies.
Conversion therapy wouldn't make me attracted to women, but if you shocked me enough, shamed me enough for who "I am" and if I wanted to please the authorities, I would start lying - because by lying they can stop the torture.
At one time, I said something that was part of my thoughts before, but now I realize that even it isn't true either. What I used to state was that if there was an authority figure telling you that being gay is a choice and you can choose to be straight or gay. I said, that if someone truly believed that, that person must be latent bisexuals - because only bisexuals can choose to be straight or gay. Well, that's not really true is it? It's more they can only choose to try to 'ignore the truth' - because if you are born with the ability to be attracted to both men and women - choosing a life where you try to 'ignore' the attraction you feel towards one sex does not change who or what you are... it's just the choice of the actions you choose to take based on that attraction.
So, in the end... we never get to choose what trips our interest... and that's why this goes beyond just gay or straight or bi - because you can't choose to only be attracted to smart people or only attracted to those that you have a close, committed relationship with. Sexuality is something that just 'is'.
And in the end, if people just 'are' a certain way - just like being born with blond hair, or blue eyes, or brown skin - then it's up to EVERYONE ELSE to learn to choose acceptance and stop trying to throw bible versus at them. And that is a far more critical lesson in the end. It's to learn first, that if you are born heterosexual and nothing could change what it is that you are attracted to? Then everyone who is not heterosexual ALSO were born that way and nothing can change that. So, in the end, it's a matter of just learning how to accept that's who and what they are.
One of the 'tirades' that made me leave the room was against same sex marriage. I don't understand why so many people are against it. It's not like there are only so many marriages allowed in a year and if Bob and Tony get married, someone else can't. And I don't see how it's any business of anyone else's as to what two grown consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home.
I've heard support for bakers who don't want to bake cakes for same sex couples, "but it's against their religious beliefs"... ok, fine. Freedom of religion is something we are very proud of within the United States, but some people don't seem to grasp what it's extent is.
Let's be clear. - YOUR religion should dictate only YOUR behavior and should NOT be used to apply DISDAIN to someone who doesn't have the same beliefs as you... especially when it comes to running a BUSINESS, not a CHURCH.
In english - this means that if you are straight and you are a member of a church that preaches against same sex marriage - don't marry someone of the same sex. If someone else marries someone of the same sex, it's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. If they have hired you to bake them a cake, WHY DOES IT MATTER WHAT THEY ARE CELEBRATING? It's not like baking the cake is going to 'encite' their passions into having sex with you. They are just two people in love celebrating and they don't need your OWN PERSONAL beliefs interfering with a business transaction. Do you bake cakes for heterosexual couples who have sex before marriage when your church preaches that sex outside of marriage is a sin? If so, then why is this an issue?
I'm sorry, but when it comes down to it - trying to refuse service to a same sex couple is equivalent of trying to apply your religious beliefs on them. And that is NOT religious freedom, that's prejeduce and when pushed further (like MO laws that allow a woman using birth control to get fired???) - that's religious persecution.
OK, got at least one version of this speech out. Now if only I could be brave enough to share this with family.