"GOD HATES FAGS."
That phrase, written on placards and shamelessly held aloft near the funerals of a few well-known gay men, is forever indelibly etched on the brains of queer folk everywhere. It is a constant reminder of what we (at the worst of times) must face in our battle for acceptance.
That statement, and others of its kind, such as "AIDS KILLS FAGS," are lines that immediately turn one's stomach, for all the obvious reasons. That anyone could proudly stand before mourners at a time of such personal grieving, especially as so-called "people of God" who profess to speak of love and compassion, and be filled with so much hate and rage toward those they don't even know? Well, it simply defies reason.
The LGTBQ community is subjected to a constant barrage of news stories showcasing the latest hate, vitriol, and boycotts directed toward us by those who hide behind the Christian or family-values banner. There are anti-gay groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, Abiding Truth Ministries, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM); in fact, a Google search brought up a quick list of 18 such organizations, whose sole purpose, it seems, is to rid the Earth of the "scourge of homosexuality," through lies and misinformation.
And then there are their websites. Some of the allegations against homosexuality on these sites border on the comical. They tout everything from gay men having short lifespans (NOM) and homosexuality leads to "a shortage of employable, stable people" (Coral Ridge Ministries) to my own personal favorite: "Homosexuals were three times more likely to admit to having made an obscene phone call" or to report a traffic violation" and "a third more apt to report a traffic ticket or traffic accident in the past 5 years (Paul Cameron).
It is no wonder that there are those within the LGTBQ community who often cringe in anticipation when the word "Christian" prefaces a piece about us in the news.
But this chapter has a happy ending, because every once in a while, a story comes to light that showcases that as abhorrent as these organizations or their members can be at the worst of times, common sense, love, and compassion can pop their head up like stubborn weeds through a paved Christian road.
Our community has long stated that we are not all "limp-wristed nellies" or "plaid-wearing diesel dykes" (not that there's anything wrong with that), and by that same reasoning, not all people of faith should be painted as anti-gay homophobes. But when a self-professed Christian homophobic tiger changes its stripes, and in such a public and heartfelt manner? Well, that is worth commenting on.
This week I received a blog post written earlier this year that was sent to me after I tweeted yet another anti-gay story I had read in the news.
This is the story of Nathan and Tristan. Nathan is that self-professed former "Bible-banging homophobe" who (along with some other like-minded, reformed individuals) decided to attend a local gay pride parade to apologize for the way the church has treated homosexuals. Yes, you read me right.
And it is the story of Tristan, a newly proud gay man who one day found himself celebrating his community dancing atop a float in Chicago's gay pride parade when he happened to notice Nathan and his group in the crowd.
Nathan and crew had decided to attend the parade wearing T-shirts that read "I'm Sorry" and brandishing posters stating "I'm Sorry For How The Church Has Treated You." They placed themselves front and center amongst those who, at one point, had been their mortal enemies. They did so to apologize, show support, and make amends.
Tristan, shaking his moneymaker atop a float, clad only in white briefs, noticed them as he went by. He had to look a few times to comprehend that he was reading it all right. He jumped down off his float, went over to the group, and gave one of them a huge hug. The picture that came of that moment is, in its own little way, as powerful as the famous black-and-white World War II photo from LIFE magazine depicting the kiss between a sailor and a random woman on V-Day.
The ensuing twist of fate that came of that short, serendipitous moment is one that gives reason for hope. I write this sidebar to introduce you to their story, the story of Nathan and Tristan. It's a tale of peace, love, and understanding that shows that for every bitter, nasty declaration of homophobia, there can also be one of acceptance, transformation, and tolerance. It's a story that shows that not all Christians are alike, or, at the very least, like their Bible-thumping, homophobic brethren.
Read this blog post, and I dare you not to shed a tear of appreciation toward a small group of people who finally "got it," took responsibility for their past sentiments, and had the courage to admit their mistake in the most public of ways.
Kudos to Nathan and his friends for feeling so strongly about needing to atone for past actions that they would brave a large crowd of people at an event whose sole purpose that day was to celebrate everything they had previously detested. And kudos to Tristan for looking beyond the mistrust and ill will to find forgiveness and reach out amongst that same sea of people to extend one of the most basic of all human interactions: a heartfelt and sincere hug, a gesture of appeasement and a mending of bridges that hopefully one day will create a domino effect.
Reconciliation is a beautiful thing and a good start. There are people (such as Nathan and the Marin Foundation) who are taking small steps in the right direction toward healing wounds and preaching love and acceptance.
Here's hoping that others within their midst will take note and follow suit.
Read the original story here.
Read Nathan's blog post on the day in question here.
Learn more about the Marin Foundation here.