07/01/2014 12:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

An Open Letter to an Anti-Gay Reverend

Nasir Fleming

To whom this may concern,

God is love. God is not a platform for someone to spread disapproval, disgust or hate.

Though I am no longer a religious person, I do consider myself to be spiritual. From my years of intense studying I have learned that God's message is to spread love, not hate. Never once have I read that God condone those who take action in their hands to punish the guilty; therefore, verbal harassment, in the name of whomever, is unacceptable. To all of the people who use religion as an excuse for brutality: it needs to stop. I don't intend for this statement to be targeted at every religious person -- just those who excuse their abusive behavior by using the word of God.

Religion is beautiful, and has the ability to promote a bonding experience between many people. However, it is upsetting that there are parts of the population who feel the need to enforce their beliefs to the point of hurting other people, especially those outside of their communities. With that in mind, this is a piece that applies to all types of people, religious and nonreligious alike.

I am prompted to write this because I recently had an uncomfortable, aggressive experience with a "man of God" by the name of Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson. In our interview, he stated that homosexuality is only focused on sex, insinuating that non­straight people cannot have committed relationships, are unhappy and need enlightenment. He also claimed that women should not hold power in our government, because all feminists are masculine, "want to be men," and are spreading homosexuality through our government and our country.

When I opened up about my acceptance of the "Prom Queen" title to take a stance against transphobia, he referred to being transgender as "crap." He then poorly defended himself and discussed how he cannot be an oppressor because he's Black and "Black people don't have power." After this, he went on to claim homosexuals are oppressing heterosexuals, completely disregarding the fact that heterosexuals run a majority of the American government. The people with the real power -- the predominantly heterosexual members of the government -- are the oppressors, not homosexuals. Lastly, he made personal attacks on me and my family throughout the interview, before urging that parents ought to "take their kids out of public schools" before they end up contorted.

Rev. Peterson's verbal attacks are extremely upsetting. What's even more frustrating is that he managed to insult so many distinct groups of people -- all within the matter of 10 minutes! On behalf of the groups who have been insulted, and myself: it is not okay to tyrannize. I am an opinionated person who also enjoys hearing the opinions of others, but not when their opinions serve to diminish the value of human life. No one is perfect, and I know that I am definitely not. Still, it's amusing to me that Rev. Peterson pointed out, on air, how my "gay lifestyle" is a sin, yet couldn't recognize that judging me and blatantly speaking on God's behalf is a sin in the eyes of God.

The issue is not simply with Rev. Peterson stating his biased opinion, but also with how the youth who will listen to this interview may think that it is acceptable for them, like this man, to verbally and theologically bully other people. As youth, we learn from our elders; and if our elders are bigoted, anti­-women, anti-­LGBTQ, anti­-immigrant, anti-anything equality ­based, brutes who harass others with their religiosity, they'll only send messages to the youth that bigotry is tolerable. And it isn't!

Though bullying is unfortunate, as long as we have people in power who practice it, the youth will continue to bully. We must take action and encourage people to begin spreading love, and not hate. I love the United States because we citizens have the opportunity to express our ideas and opinions; nonetheless, opinions that preach hatred and bigotry need to be thought about critically before they're delivered. It is perfectly acceptable to have an opinion, but once it turns into a hurtful action or an attack, that opinion is unacceptable.

Women, LGBTQ folk, immigrants and other underrepresented groups are not destroying the Land of the Free. It is people like Rev. Peterson, with his inability to love and respect those who are different than him, who are dismantling the freedom of others. Every person has free will, so allow people to do as they please as long as no harm is being caused to other people.

And Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson: practice what you preach.

Best wishes,

Nasir Fleming

nasir fleming

Me at this year's gay pride parade in New York City.

nasir fleming

Me at my high school prom.