O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Bullied for Being Gay: A Friend’s Story

posted by Jason Boyett

You’ve no doubt seen the rash of news reports about the recent uptick in teenage suicides related to sexual orientation. A recent study found that, in 2009, 9 out of 10 lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (LGBT) students experienced harassment at school, and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe due to their sexual orientation.

Homosexuality is, of course, a hugely controversial topic among Christians. But bullying shouldn’t be. There are so many obvious Christian reasons to stand alongside the LGBT community against bullying, including:

  • Basic human decency (other than self-defense, is one human attacking another human ever acceptable?)
  • Love for your neighbor (what part of the Good Samaritan story doesn’t apply here?)
  • Solidarity with the persecuted (we’re hardly a persecuted minority today, but Christians definitely have unjust persecution in our history. In this case, are LGBT students not “the least of these”?)
  • Concern for the outsider (Jesus regularly made waves by embracing the social outcasts of his day, from lepers to tax collectors)

So you’d think this would be a great opportunity for Christian groups to say, Yes, bullying is wrong. It’s wrong in all cases, but especially — right now, because it seems to be epidemic — it’s wrong in cases of sexual orientation.

And I’ve seen some excellent essays and blog posts along these lines, including this one by Friday’s Voices of Doubt contributor Matthew Paul Turner.

But other Christians aren’t being so compassionate. Instead of standing with children who are being bullied, Focus on the Family has chosen to critique the statistics of the report, because they’re worried all this focus on bullied LGBT kids is another arm of the vast conspiracy to indoctrinate kids into homosexuality.

Which, I’m sure, is exactly what Jesus would have done. When told someone was hurting, he would have disputed the numbers.

But I’m not going to rant against Focus on the Family or start yelling about protecting kids who get bullied, because it’s so obvious. OF COURSE we should protect bullied kids, and if you somehow think there’s something wrong with that then you don’t understand the message of the Gospel (if you’re a believer) or what it means to be a decent person (if you’re not a believer).

I wasn’t necessarily a cool kid in high school, but I wasn’t bullied. At least, not much more than most skinny, quiet kids I knew. (But I was called “gay” on several occasions, for what it’s worth.) Either way, I don’t have much to add to the discussion, but I certainly have friends who do. I’ve asked a few of them to share their stories.

We’ll start with this one, written by my friend Chad, who grew up in small-town Texas:

—————–

I don’t know if a group of guys stuffed and abandoned me in a locker in the 8th-grade boys locker room
because I was gay. I don’t know if four guys popped my scrawny body like a parachute because I was
gay. I don’t know if Eric held me down and scraped the peach fuzz off my cheek with his butterfly knife
because I was gay.

There really wasn’t any way for them to know that. I was a prepubescent middle-school kid: I didn’t
even know I was gay. But what they knew, and what made those two years truly a living hell, was that I
didn’t fit in. I was different. And to guys like those, different equaled gay, regardless of the facts. Most
of the other guys in my small-town middle school were jocks, or reasonable facsimiles thereof. I couldn’t
fake it. The most athletic thing I did in those years was play in two tennis tournaments — managing to
get smacked in the face by a tennis ball both times.

The flush of embarrassment mostly has seared the actual incidents in my head and burned away
everything else around them. Did a wandering eye, or even the suspicion of one, cause the locker-room
incidents? Did any of my peers try to step in, or report the incidents to someone in charge? Did I even
tell my parents about them? I don’t believe so. I certainly never talked to anyone about my fears about
what could be motivating my bullies, beyond my obvious outcast nature. It never occurred to me to tell
someone that I thought I was attracted to guys, much less that other guys might have intuited it and
used it as an excuse to harass me. There are things we just don’t discuss.

I was still going to church when the bullying was at its worst — even was an active member of the youth
group. One of the most confusing, horrifying incidents happened on a church trip that included a stop at
the mall. I was reading a comic book at Waldenbooks, and from out of nowhere, one of the guys shoved
an open issue of Playgirl in front of my comic — from Superman to a stark naked man. I can still feel
that insane rush of emotions — humiliation at being picked on in such a public place, fear that he knew
something I couldn’t verbalize, confusion at why part of me wanted to keep the magazine.

If I’d had any
kind of relationship with my youth minister, would I have talked to him about it? Doubtful. I knew the
position of the church (generally speaking; we were Methodists, but I’m not sure how liberal our church
was in the mid-80s), and I knew that I didn’t agree with it. I didn’t consider homosexuality a sin; it is a
fact of birth, though I was still realizing that’s how I was born.

Being gay has certainly contributed to my personal doubts about religion, though not because of any
incidents personally. I have seen the damage misguided religious teachings can cause, but what advice
can a nonbeliever offer a believer? Little, I’m sure, but I fall back on the basics: Love thy neighbor, “to
the least of these,” etc. I just wish I could see more of that in action.

—————–

Thank you, Chad.

Christians: love your neighbor, even if he or she is gay. Tell your children that the most Christ-like thing to do is to stand up with and watch out for any fellow students who are being bullied because they’re gay or otherwise don’t fit in.

And if someone says that terrible things are happening to American teenagers because of their sexuality, don’t argue with them about the extent of the epidemic. Don’t turn it into a statistical or political debate. It’s not a numerical issue and it’s not an indoctrination problem. It’s a problem involving people, and showing compassion to people — especially people who are different from you — is a pretty big part of what it means to follow Jesus.



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Kiro

posted October 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm


It’s really simple.
Every single person deserves certain rights.
Either this is true or it’s not.
When this stops being a “gay problem”, maybe you could include groups like “Bash Back!” on your list of “bad people”.
Except, of course, that “the existence of conservative Christians” is being scapegoated as the “cause” of bullying.
The argument goes like this. Gay kids are being bullied, therefore:
(a) we should grant gay people everything they want, without them having to go through the usual political processes, because if you don’t you hate gays and are therefore the reason why people are getting hurt; or
(b) we should therefore bully Christians instead of gays.
Meanwhile, the little bitty newspapers will continue to report stories about burning Book of Mormon left on doorsteps, vandalism, strings of church arsons….and the media will ignore it, because bullying is a “gay problem”, and gays own victimhood, and anyway prop. 8 justifies hatred toward THOSE PEOPLE.
Either human rights are sacred or they aren’t.
Those who want to suck the brains out of a baby, just because that child is inconvenient, then want to turn around and cry about tolerance and respect and how precious our children are.
The same groups of people who defend showing perverted images of Jesus, deliberately rendered in obscene ways, and calling it “art”, are the ones crying loudest about tolerance and respect.



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Jason Boyett

posted October 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm


@Kiro:
I don’t get it. Who said anything about having a list of bad people? Who is saying “the existence of conservative Christians” is the cause for bullying?
I think the cause of bullying is that some people are just mean or insecure, and as a result they don’t like people who are different. Sometimes these people doing the bullying are Christians. Sometimes they’re not. Just like some people who commit domestic violence are Christians, and some are not.
It doesn’t mean Christians are the cause of the bullying.



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Ray Hollenbach

posted October 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm


Thanks for your post, Jason. The Evangelical church in North America has failed gays and lesbians for years. We have vilified, condemned, and marginalized homosexuals while straight Christians have continued to commit any number of sexual sins. We look the other way when straight Christians engage in premarital sex, or adultery, or (I say this with great horror) sexually abuse others. Rarely–very rarely–are these sins called out from the pulpit.
We have failed gays and lesbians by making their identity almost exclusively about their sexuality while we allow straight people to define themselves by other markers in their lives. We have done these things and more. The standard Evangelical response, “hate the sin, love the sinner” is wholly inadequate precisely because we rarely exhibit hatred for any other sin. If we actively condemned greed and materialism in our churches while assuring greedy materialists that we still love them how many Christians trapped in those vices would feel comfortable enough to stick around?
One day there will be a great feast. People will come from the east and west, and I think we will all be surprised at who dines at His table and who is left outside. In the meantime the very least we can do is play nice with each other and love our neighbors.



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Timm

posted October 11, 2010 at 5:04 pm


@Kiro,
I don’t follow your logic.
“The argument goes like this. Gay kids are being bullied, therefore:
(a) we should grant gay people everything they want, without them having to go through the usual political processes, because if you don’t you hate gays and are therefore the reason why people are getting hurt; or
(b) we should therefore bully Christians instead of gays.”
I honestly understand your frustration with the conservative Christian agenda v. the gay agenda; however, I think you’re drawing the wrong conclusions. For one, this “bullying” problem is not specific to any certain group of people, but gay youth and teens are definitely a good example as they are affected by this bullying from child to adulthood.
The problem our culture is facing is the problem with teaching hate instead of tolerance. It is an unfortunate moral conundrum because the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, yet as Christians we are being asked to tolerate it… Why? For the sake of our children and the children of others, that’s why.
To illustrate, think of a time when you were in church and the pastor preached something specifically related to a sin you recently committed. You felt singled out. Your palms were sweaty. You felt guilty. Unfortunately, gay men and women get to feel and be reminded of that guilt every day. They get to wear their sin on their sleeve in a sense.
It’s not just Christian philosophy that teaches against homosexuality, but Christianity is the most popular religion in the U.S., which is why Christians are often identified as the culprits of hate. The highly publicized far right is often the group getting the most media attention. Their oftentimes “uninformed” speech usually gives a negative impression of Christianity as a whole to believers and non-believers.
That being said, I don’t think any group is trying to bully Christians, but I do think that Christians need to understand their power and use it wisely. My grandmother used to always say, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” This is the case with homosexuals or any other groups that are often the targets of bullies.
Moreover, you talk about homosexuals using the necessary political processes to gain their rights, but sometimes the rights that many of us take for granted are not easily attained by others. Haven’t you heard of the majority v. the minority? Imagine being a small, frail child and being pushed, punched, and kicked by a group of 9 or 10 much larger boys. This example is not unlike the conservative Christian agenda v. the gay agenda. There is a majority who does not necessarily agree with the minority. The bully in this case is the Christians, and the minority in this case is the homosexuals.
So should people start bullying Christians? No. But I think Christians are the ones who should be paying the most attention as they have a lot more at stake than non-believers. What kind of example are we as Christians trying to set for our children? Are we preaching intolerance and hate or tolerance and love? What kind of example are we setting for non-believers? Are we preaching the love of Jesus Christ or the pettiness of Satan?
I could go on and on, but I believe a majority of what our children learn is learned through us, their parents. Every word, every action, every good or bad deed is forever branded in our children’s moral fiber. Thus, if our children are bullying others for being fat, skinny, gay, different… what are they learning from us?



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted October 11, 2010 at 10:16 pm


wow @ Focus on the family…. guess its all about walking a thin line so the donors stay happy



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Frank

posted October 12, 2010 at 12:21 am


You should also ask yourselves what are you as adult Christians teaching the kid who gets bulllied.
If you tell him you love the sinner but hate the sin, you’re handing him a scarlet letter to wear for the rest of his life because you’re showing him his guilt will always be presumed in his family, in school, in working life, in church, in military service, until the day ge dies. No
matter what his character, his work ethic, his achievements are, he can’t be seen as someone worthy of respect.
When he finds that respect in the secular world and sees how much
of his life he’s wasted pursuing the approval of religious people, he’ll turn his back on you forever. Even if you’re his father
or emulation because he is gay



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mouseytalons

posted October 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm


Hi Jason & All,
I am bisexual, and pagan. I was raised christian.
Even before I knew that I was bi or pagan, I was the victim of bullies. I was bullied from 5 years old all through my life. I only (within the last year) came out of closet about being bi, and out of the “broom closet” about being pagan. I got the most prosteletizing from my mother. My boyfriend (the 1st person I came out to) was more accepting.
My boyfriend and I have agreed to RESPECT eachother’s beliefs, and we have a mutual respect of eachother’s sexual choices (he is straight).
My mother still preaches against both homosexuality and paganism regularly. I just tune out the sermons. My father has always been much more accepting, like my boyfriend. My father initially told me he doesn’t agree with my being bi, but he still loves me. My father also says of my being pagan, “religion is a man-made thing, spirituality is what matters, it doesn’t matter what name you call god by, as long as you worship someone or something stronger than you.”
My point: Been there. I have always taught my children that if you ignore a bully, usually he/she will quit. Sometimes you just need to ignore the unaccepting message just to survive.
Blessings All.



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Rob the Rev

posted October 13, 2010 at 10:56 am


It’s time to retire the outdated term Bullying and replace it with a more appropriate term like Hate Crime.
“Bullying is a flaccid, outdated, Archies comic-era term. It’s so quaint and toothless. The word dates back to 1693. It’s had a good run. It’s time to replace it. Call it peer abuse, unamerican persecution, criminal harassment. Call it anything that makes people take it seriously, but stop calling it bullying.” John Fugelsang
See the Grit TV Free Speech TV statement of John Fugelsant at:
http://www.grittv.org/2010/10/08/john-fugelsang-bullying-suicide-lgbt-gay/



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customartist

posted October 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Christians confuse the issues of Their Beliefs, with the issue of gay youths being bullied.
How in the world can Tony Perkin, Focus on the Family, and others be against legislation against bullying children, including those who either are gay or who are Perceived as being gay?
THIS is un-Christianly.



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~steveT

posted October 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm


chad~
having experienced alot of what you went through when you were younger, my heart breaks for you and my gut aches for those around us who think they’re on the right religious track and yet have gone horribly wrong.
there is no way around misunderstanding Jesus’ message: we are to love. unconditionally. relentlessly. turning cheeks. even the enemy. forgiving seven times seventy. He doesn’t go soft on this message. even with those that claim to have a corner on righteousness and THE Interpretation which allows them to behave exclusively and even, at times, vindictively.
we have an amazing truth on our side. we know we didn’t choose to be attracted to men. that changes the game for both of us. it should give us confidence that we’re not mistakes or forgotten.
a wise friend has said: “love is an orientation.” and THAT is something we must choose. whether we are being treated poorly or being mean to someone. He calls us to follow Him and love. all of us. there is NO exception.
like you, my being gay has caused me to rethink my religious beliefs, but, in the long run, it has done nothing but draw me closer to a Jesus that I know would stand between me and any stones people want to throw. one by one, it seems that more of His straight-born followers are beginning to stand between us and those that are so quick to accuse. for them, I am grateful. not only does it block some of the sting, it gives me confidence Jesus is alive in those that will really follow Him — even if it means giving up safe, but bad religion.
it’s with that kind of Jesus I place my trust. it’s in that kind of kingdom i place my hope.



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Jim

posted October 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm


I graduated from a rural high school over 20 years ago. Overall, I had a good experience in school, but I can certainly relate to those who have experienced harassment for being gay. I hope the situation has since changed, as we have made strides toward inclusion and acceptance, but seeing all of the bullying cases on television, I am not optimistic.
For me, being gay constituted a completely different routine from that of my straight contemporaries. To begin with, I always arrived at school early so that I could be in homeroom as soon as students were allowed in the hallways. To be wandering the halls when few or no teachers were present was just an invitation to be harassed even if I was minding my own business. Secondly, I never used the restroom between classes. I learned quickly that to do so incited other boys to ask why I was in the boys’ restroom rather than the girls’, or I would be flashed, picked on, or even urinated on. I waited until class was in session and then asked to go to the bathroom. Gym was the worst. I sat in the corner away from other boys, and I never raised my head. The ceiling could have crashed on me, and I would have kept my head down. Looking up meant that I was supposedly watching other boys undress. Gym class was also a prime opportunity to be flashed. I returned to the locker room one day and found that my gym bag had been thrown in the shower; so I had to wear wet clothes the rest of the day.
My school was in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and what was so sad is that so many teachers saw and heard what was happening, but most of them, especially male coaches, became blind and deaf to the bullying because of their own religious convictions. Saddest of all was that the harassment really prevented any kind of bonding with fellow gay students. Doing so ran the risk of rumours being spread that the 2 of you were dating or had been caught kissing or worse. I hate to admit, but when other gay students were being harassed, it was a relief in that I was not the target at that moment. If one gay student defended another gay person, that was an automatic confession of being gay. Somehow, there seemed to be an unwritten, unspoken code of anti-fraternalism between gays to avoid unwanted consequences. How sad that we were so insecure we couldn’t bond for support, or that the uncontrollable situation prevented us from doing so.
I look back on those years and wonder how many of my fellow students grew up, matured, and perhaps became more accepting of others who are different. I also wonder if any of them had gay children, and if so, how they treat them, or how they respond to their gay children being bullied, knowing how they bullied gay students when they were in school.
I haven’t been in a high school since I graduated, but I sincerely hope the situation has changed.



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TinaC

posted October 14, 2010 at 4:33 pm


1st- Thanks, Chad, for sharing such a painful time.
Bullying takes what is precious and valued by our family and loved ones -our very essence- and tells us that it’s worthless. It’s a knife in the very best of who we are.
2nd- it’s so good to see Christians responding to the pain & injustice that GLBTs have been suffering (mostly) quietly for years. ..and, mostly justified by the Church.
3rd- Focus on the Family’s perpetual distortion of the facts and the Faith on this “issue” drove a wedge btwn my mother and me.
We are still recovering.
They told us I could change. They told her it was bad parenting. They told her to tell me to NEVER accept me for all that I am.
They tore at the very fabric of our family & faith, and my identity. They told me love was sin. They are bullies.
Watch the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So.” FOTF would not even meet or hear out families who’ve been devestated by their message.
Un-Christian.



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Esther

posted October 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm


Jason,
I really believe you have again misunderstood and misrepresented Focus on the Family.
Our opening talking point has always been that all children, no matter how they identify, should be protected from bullying.
You may reference Jim Daly’s recent blog for CNN on this issue. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/21/my-take-christianity-not-to-blame-for-anti-gay-bullying/
Also, for the future, Focus has a great PR department should you like copies of our actual statements. Talking with the source, firsthand, is also “exactly what Jesus would have done”.
Thanks,
Esther



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camping hammock

posted October 4, 2013 at 10:13 am


Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I
was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha
plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one?
Thanks a lot!



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