“Are you gay?” he asked me.
It’s always strange when people ask me that. I guess, in their minds, they can’t seem to accept or comprehend the idea of a straight, African, Christian male being okay with the LGBT community, let alone being supportive and vocal about it. Clearly, in their minds, I must be gay too.
“Should it matter if I’m gay?” I replied. “I’m a strong advocate for women’s rights; does that make me a woman? I’m a strong supporter of immigration reform, and I am opposed to scapegoating Mexican immigrants; does that make me Mexican? I am opposed to people’s obsession with vilifying the Muslim faith and using the evil actions of a few to stereotype a whole race and religion; does that make me a Muslim?”
A sincere look at our recent and distant past as a nation and world will make the unbiased observer acknowledge there are many examples of people who took up causes they didn’t have to, causes they could have easily and conveniently ignored, but due their respect for human dignity, civil liberty, and everyone’s right to happiness, they fought for the greater good of others. From white slave abolitionists to nations opening their borders to Syrian refugees, history is filled with many examples of individuals, communities, and nations doing the right thing, even when looking away would have been easier.
As our conversation progressed and meandered its way to the same-sex marriage debate, he called it an abomination. He quoted a few scriptures from Leviticus, but conveniently skipped over the ones that shone a light on his own flaws and frailties: it’s funny how many of us use the bible to camouflage our own biases. He said men marrying men and women marrying women would ruin the sanctity of marriage, as if it wasn’t already ruined by adulterous heterosexual politicians, celebrities, and pastors—it’s safe to say the sanctity marriage was ruined long before the gay community asked for it. And besides, us Christians did not invent the practice of marriage, so who are we to define and dictate its terms and conditions?
I understand that some of us have a hard time accepting the idea of same-sex marriage. In some ways, although I disagree with them, I have to respect their arguments because, sometimes, their opposition is not a product of hate, but merely an expression of religious conviction and belief. There was a time when I thought almost the same way. But it’s that same faith that opened up my eyes to a different way of thinking and taught me tolerance, compassion, fairness, non-judgment, and love. And in a country that believes in the separation of Church and State, one cannot deny the gay community their civil liberties and constitutional right to be treated equally, without fear of prejudice and discrimination.
Feeling frustrated, he then said, “Well, if we allow gay people to marry, what stops people from wanting to marry animals or children next?”
Now, I’m not one to call people stupid, but that argument seemed one any person with an ounce of common sense would have never uttered. Its premise was entirely flawed and lacking in intellectual honesty. When we’re talking about gay marriage we’re discussing two consenting adults and their right to marry. Legally and logically, an animal or a child is not considered consenting adults. An animal doesn’t have choice and therefore could not enter a relationship with a human being of its own free will, nor could a child. Children are minors; therefore, they are not considered adults.
We continued to spar for a while. We debated Uganda and its draconian anti-LGBT laws and then discussed the plight of the transgender community and the senseless murders committed against them. We discussed hypermasculinity and transphobia in the black community, and my firm belief in how people should be allowed to be whomever they feel they are in terms of gender or sexuality. We debated workplace and housing discrimination against those in the LGBT community and then discussed religion and what separates those churches that accept the LGBT community and those that do not.
As our conversation touched on many themes related to LGBT rights, I couldn’t help but feel as if we, as a society, are a contradiction. We are quick to profess our belief in individual freedoms and civil liberties, yet we deny others those same inalienable rights because we do not like who or what we think they are. Denied the dignity of being fully embraced and accepted for who they are, they cower under the long shadows cast by a hypocritical, discriminatory, and oppressive society. One quick glance at society today, and you soon accept that we have fallen short of the legacy those who came before us left behind. If we don’t stand up for each other, if we don’t fight the fights worth fighting, and if we don’t fight for those worth fighting for, we are a waste of space and good air, because we are not striving and living for the greater good of not only ourselves, but of others.
The injustice woven into the fabric of our nation and world’s history as Christians, Native Americans, Mexicans, African Americans, Women, and other marginalized groups echoes through passing time. Religious persecution, race based discrimination, ethnocentric clashes, xenophobic mindsets, and gender inequality forced destinies to collide as those that came before us struggled to break down the many barriers that held them back. Many sacrificed their lives for something they felt was greater than them, adopting a morally binding understanding and commitment to the fundamental belief we are all created equal. Be it immigration or gay rights, the justice system or women’s rights, we, as a society, have tripped over ourselves again and have set an uneasy precedent, an Animal Farm mentality that implies we are created equal, but some of us are more equal than others.
Sincerely, Kwapi Vengesayi
From my latest book, Men Cheat More, Women Cheat Better: Stories and Conversations About Love, Life and Everything in Between (2017) Available on Amazon