"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pews every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."
--Rick Perry' political TV ad "Strong"
I am a "religious bigot," a self-avowed "religious bigot," and a proud one at that!
Actually, a supporter of presidential hopeful Rick Perry accused me of being "religiously prejudiced" when I shouted out questions to the candidate at a recent campaign stop in Ames, Iowa. Though Perry refused to entertain questions following his canned stump speech, I called out, "Why are you marginalizing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people?" and, "Why are you marginalizing non-Christians?"
Well, if I am "religiously prejudiced" to disallow Perry's use of our bodies as stepping stones for his own political ambitions, then I agree with his supporter's characterization of me. In fact, I would go further by claiming that "I am a proud religious bigot!"
I am a proud religious bigot by opposing the types of "values" Perry works hard to impose on us, because for me this is no simple disagreement over religious perspectives. For me, this is a fight against oppression, and a fight for social justice.
I am proud to be bigoted against any religious denomination's efforts to define me and members of my community as "sinners," to deny me and members of my community the rights of self-definition and self-determination, and to deny us our integrity and our humanity by attempting to prevent us from maintaining our subjectivity, our agency, and our voice.
I am a proud religious bigot against any denomination that attempts to deny me and members of my community the rights granted under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution to equal protection under the law, and in particular the right to marry the person of our choice, to serve our country openly in the military, to equal protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and to pursue happiness as we see fit. I am a proud religious bigot in fighting against any religious denomination's efforts to prevent me and my community from gaining our rightful place in our society.
This is, indeed, no simple disagreement over religious "values."
Fortunately, however, there exists no monolithic conceptualization, for other faith communities' "values" are progressively welcoming toward LGBT people, our sexuality and relationships, and our gender expression, and these communities are working tirelessly to abolish the yoke of oppression directed against us.
I believe that the prime factor keeping oppression toward LGBT people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society -- on the personal/interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels -- is the negative doctrines and judgments emanating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.
According to the United States Department of Justice, "Bullying encompasses a variety of negative acts carried out repeatedly over time. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are [perceived as] less powerful."
So I assert that the institutional bullying radiating from some religious denominations must stop!
When religious leaders preach their negative interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these aggressive actions.
When the religious/theocratic right declares that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are sinners and psychologically ill, and that they must not be allowed to promote their so-called "gay agenda," indeed, as the line between religion and government is increasingly blurred, and when we are taught to hate ourselves, each one of us is demeaned, which denies us all our freedoms, and we have a right, or rather an obligation, to speak up, to fight back with all the energy, with all the unity, and with all the love and passion of which we are capable.
From our vantage point at the margins, we have a special opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to serve as social commentators, as critics, exposing and highlighting the wide-scale inequities of all kinds that saturate and engulf our environment, and to challenge the culture to move forever forward and to grow.
Though certain religious denominations may continue in their attempts to define us, they will not succeed.
A central tenet of liberation is the right of people to self-define, to maintain their subjectivity and agency over the course of their lives. With our loving allies within progressive religious communities, in addition to those unaffiliated with religious denominations, we are taking back the discourse and demanding that religious institutions curb their offensive dogma and take their interpretations of scripture off our bodies.
We will accept no longer your detestable mantra that you "hate the sin but love the sinner." We will accept no longer your telling us why and how we have come to our same-sex attractions and our gender non-conformity, and that it is a "choice" that we can change. We will continue to fight against your efforts to legislate us into second-class citizenship and codify your so-called "values" into law. We will fight your attempts to restrict us from entering the social institutions of our choice.
Furthermore, we will not accept your framing of yourself as the victims of "religious bigotry" when we challenge your outmoded, hurtful, and, yes, oppressive interpretations of our lives, interpretations that act to perpetuate your domination and your control.
Your time for bullying has come to an end. We are no longer intimidated. We are standing up, joining together as allies, as upstanders, to put an end to your intolerance, your hatred, your violence, to once and for all end the deaths that have taken so many beautiful and gentle spirits.
I refuse to debate my existence on religious grounds ever again with anyone, since there is no "debate," for to quote René Descartes, "I think, therefore I am," period, the end.
In the final analysis, our challenge to you is in no way "religious intolerance" or "religious bigotry"; rather, it amounts to our standing up to correct a devastating social injustice. It is not "religious prejudice" to challenge your offensive, demeaning, degrading, marginalizing, persecution-resulting, violence-provoking, suicide-inducing characterizations. We challenge your oppressive words and actions, which you often justify by invoking the name of God, as you understand God.
For in the famous words of Bob Dylan:
"The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast.
The slow one now will later be fast,
As the present now will later be passed.
The order is rapidly fadin',
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'."