I, like most others, woke up to tragic news on June 12th, 2016. The first thing I saw when I went online was an article about the mass shooting that occurred at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida the night before. I learned that the shooter had previously been enraged by the sight of a same-sex couple kissing. I learned that 50 people were dead and even more were injured. I was informed by many that the shooter was a Muslim, but his religion had absolutely nothing to do with his actions. I got a call from my dad who lives in Nigeria. He asked if I had heard what happened. He told me to avoid “places like that.”
Still reeling from everything I’d just read, I got up and went to LA Pride like I had been planning to do. While waiting for the parade to start, I checked Facebook and learned that a man who had intended to go to LA Pride with guns and explosives had been arrested.
There were several Christians at Pride who held signs that said things like “HOMO SEX IS SIN” and “You’re Going to Hell.” They yelled at pride goers and let us know that we were disgusting, we should feel ashamed, and that our “lifestyles” aren’t what “Jesus would want.”
When tragedies like the one in Orlando occur or when anti-gay religious groups come to Pride to harass gay people, many are quick to say “Not all Christians/ Muslims are like that” or “His actions were definitely not motivated by his religion.” They always make the distinction between the “radicals” who are bad but in the minority, and the good, hardworking, non-homophobic majority.This seems to me like an unwillingness to examine the hateful parts of their religions as well as a way to significantly downplay the levels of homophobic violence that are directly fueled by said religions.
I was raised in a Christian household. As a kid, I went to church almost every other day. The most homophobic people I have ever encountered in my life have been religious. These religious homophobes have told me every variation of “god made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve,” “The bible says man shalt not lie with man,” and “I love the sinner but hate the sin.”
I understand that many feel very strongly about their religious beliefs, but this ongoing trend of people shutting down critiques of religion and making it seem as if the homophobia within their specific faith is so minute that it isn’t worth talking about needs to stop. How can we address the problem of homophobia within religious groups if we’re not allowed to talk about it? When will we stop to acknowledge the very real pain that has been inflicted on thousands of LGBT people in the name of some religion?