What is REALLY Going On in the Minds and Hearts of Anti-Gay Business Owners?

by Patricia Davis

As the mother of a gay son, I’d like to know. I really would.

I’d like to understand why people who claim to love the Lord, or to believe in God, think that it is their responsibility to judge other people—thoroughly and harshly. Having judged, they then treat those they condemn with disrespect and derision. They seem to believe this is what God wants them to do. I wonder why they believe in such a God.

I’d like to understand. I really would.

Certain religious individuals who have opened businesses to the public now want to sub-divide that public into two categories: those they will serve, and those they will not. It appears that the only people they will not serve are gay people. They are basing their criteria on sin. They say homosexuality is a sin, and they will not serve people they believe are sinners in their place of business.

I’d like to understand why they are picking on gay people. Those who believe that homosexuality is sinful are surely aware there are other behaviors they would deem to be sinful. How about heterosexual couples who enter their establishment? Are the owners questioning them about their bedroom practices? Many heterosexual couples practice so-called sodomy. Some married couples swing (consensual adultery), or cheat behind their spouses back. What about pedophiles? You cannot tell by looking at a person that he is molesting children. If one of these monsters comes into your store with a ring on his finger and an acceptable female spouse at his side, you don’t have a problem waiting on him? I wonder why not.

Equally frustrating are people who have accepted government positions—becoming public servants—who now want to claim the same right to discriminate against certain members of that public. We have seen clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after the Supreme Court decision; some are getting support from lawmakers. Why do these public servants think they have the right to decide whom they will serve? Imagine the number of people marriage license clerks have served over the years who have committed sins far more damaging than loving someone of the same sex. If lawmakers and public officials are elected or appointed to represent everyone in their districts, why discriminate against gay people?

I’m trying to understand, I really am.

I have a personal stake in mitigating this perplexing and frustrating issue of selective discrimination. I am the mother of a son who is smart, funny, hard-working, kind, loving, and who happens to be gay. I did not bring him into this world to be humiliated by people who are uncomfortable with the idea that some people are wired to be romantically attracted to people of their same sex.

I like to figure things out, so here are a few theories.

(1) Part of the discomfort (and I prefer to think of it that way, as opposed to outright hatred) may be that we are not used to seeing gay couples out of the closet. They remained hidden for many years, and all we ever saw were straight couples. Sometimes, change brings its own discomfort.

(2) Perhaps our religious fellows are a little too focused on sex. Gay couples do not wish to be out in order to stimulate mental images of people having sex. They just want to be honest about who they are, and not pretend they’re straight when they are not. They want to feel as free as heterosexual couples to walk around holding hands, or to exchange a quick kiss, and not act as though the person they are in love with is a good buddy.

(3) Many people seem to be uncomfortable with mature, adult conversations about sexuality. We see sex everywhere, of course; but trying to have an adult conversation about sexual matters—not personal details, just things like how to talk with your kids about sex, or whether it is more meaningful to be monogamous than promiscuous—is sure to elicit giggles and discomfort. So I wonder if that is another aspect of uneasiness with homo-sexuality: the word itself contains the letters s-e-x.

My theories point to reasons why marriage equality and legal protections for the entire LGBT community may be threatening to more conservative religious believers. The reality is, however, that this minority population does need extra protections. Until gay, lesbian, and transgender people are free to walk around unaccosted, we need voices united in a demand for respectful treatment and equal rights for all of our citizens.

I accept that it may be challenging for conservative religious believers to overcome their internal obstacles to acceptance and support of the LGBT community. Because this issue is so important to me, however, I humbly propose a few suggestions that may help to alleviate this discomfort.

(1) Try to relax into our changing society. You may not be used to seeing two men or two women holding hands, but ask yourself if they are harming anyone. Instead of reacting negatively, perhaps you could handle your encounters with a gay couple the same way you would a straight couple. Remember that they are just trying to live their lives like everyone else. Be kind.

(2) When you see a gay couple, don’t allow yourself to start imagining what they might do in their bedroom. Instead, focus on your job. Sell your goods; carry out your duties as a public servant. You could even take things a step further, and look into their eyes. Consider that you have no idea what hardships these people have endured. Can you imagine the courage it has taken for them to move through a world that can be judgmental and hostile? Think about how they will feel when they walk away from you. Do you want them to feel ashamed and humiliated? Because if that is truly your goal, something bad has happened to your heart. You may be the person who needs the most prayer and healing.

(3) Just being around gay people need not instigate conversations about sexuality; in fact, it should not. Yet the fact that LGBT people are coming out into the open, being true to who and how they are in the world, challenges everyone else. Instead of dissolving into fear and discomfort, however, we could view this as an opportunity to take a look at our attitudes toward sexuality and gender. We might become a healthier society if we have some mature, adult conversations about these issues.

I hope that this essay might motivate you, as religious business owners and public servants, to consider more deeply the impact of your behaviors on gay people, and on the people who love them. I fully support your right to live the way you feel is correct and true to God’s will. But I would also ask you to cultivate some humility around your religious belief system. I can’t help but wonder why you are so sure you know God’s will. But even if you do—let’s just say you’re right, everything a person would want to know about God’s will can be found in the Bible—not all of us believe that. If you are right, I suppose the rest of us are in trouble; but that is not your concern. Perhaps you could let us use our God-given intelligence to make our own decisions. Pray for us, if you wish, but have enough humility to admit that our perspective is as valid as yours. You may feel uncomfortable around gay people, but your discomfort does not justify being rude or cruel. Maybe with prayer, God can help you figure out a way to be more kind, accepting, and loving in the world.

And consider that, perhaps, God created gay people to help us all move in that direction.

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