Welcome to The Novel Approach. I’m so glad you’ve made us a stop on your tour of HAHBAT participating blogs this year. If you’ve followed TNA for any amount of time at all, you’ll know I don’t blog much (if ever). While I do have opinions on far too many things, I also understand that sometimes it’s just as well to keep those opinions to myself. The site isn’t set up to be my personal platform, nor is it a forum to court controversy, but, as Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” And that’s why The Novel Approach participates each year in the Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia—because to be silent in the face of discrimination is akin to condoning it.
Before I begin, please let me start by saying that what I’ve written this year has no small amount of anger and frustration behind it—not only from the standpoint of a parent but from that of a human being as well. And while I’m going to talk religion, this article has nothing at all to do with the broad-brush disparagement of anyone’s faith. I was born, baptized, and raised a churched child, and though I stopped participating in an organized religion many years ago, that doesn’t mean I ceased to be my own brand of spiritual person. There are still certain tenets I learned as a child and believe in wholeheartedly, none of them having to do with following any one God, per se, but simply having to do with making every effort to be a decent person. And while I happily acknowledge there are churches that have become more inclusive and forward-thinking in recent years, it can’t be denied there is still a great deal of difficulty for some individuals in delineating the difference between living biblically and living only the certain parts of the Bible it’s convenient to obey, and only when the idea suits, while ignoring the rest. And that’s my issue, the one I’m discussing today—not religion but the ways in which some people choose to practice it while claiming the mantle of righteousness.
As I aged out of my parental-influenced mindset of allegiance to and belief in a single, omnipotent, omnipresent God, and began to examine and question the conflicting messages within biblical doctrine, as well as discovering a disappointing hypocrisy between The Word and my reality, it altered the way I view the world and the way I’m raising my children. There was an op/ed published not long ago in the LA Times titled “How Secular Family Values Stack Up” (See also: “Americans Becoming More Secular”). In brief, these articles introduce the emergence of a growing segment of the American population, the Nones, the name that’s been assigned to those of us who don’t believe in or practice any one organized faith. They are people like my husband and I, perhaps you too, who believe it’s possible to live a moral and grounded life based on, among other things, the ethic of reciprocity—treating others the way you wish to be treated. In Christianity it’s called the Golden Rule, though that term wasn’t coined until the 1670s, and is a maxim found in almost every known religion, in one form or another. The words may be different, but the meaning of them is the same—respect in others the sense of Self you want others to respect in you.
Again, let me reiterate that I am not opening this up as a forum to condemn anyone’s faith, nor to belittle those who believe. Even we Nones can credit the foundation of our children’s moral teachings to some form of theology—thou shalt not kill, steal; judge not lest ye be judged; let he who is without sin cast the first stone—those are valuable points on every moral compass, are lessons I learned myself as a churched child, and though my own children aren’t learning those lessons in a Sunday school classroom or in a church pew, they are still being taught them because these things are imperative to a positive and productive life. Where we Nones are diverging from the path of organized religion, however, is that rather than believing in these ideals because it’s what we’re taught we must believe and obey in order to fit into the definition of any given religion, we’re independently incorporating these principles into a framework of ideals which includes humanism: def. – a system of values and beliefs that is based on the idea that people are basically good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion. – Source: Merriam-Webster.
As my own family grew, and my children grew older, I became more attuned to the inherent failing in the mindset of the blindly faithful: there is a danger that exists in the practice of parents who raise their children in an environment that diminishes and dismisses other’s beliefs and ideals and individuality, where parents allow what they’ve been taught to believe on blind faith to supersede compassion and decency and common sense. The sad truth is that as long as there is a single throwaway child, as long as there is a single Leelah Alcorn who is taught they are an abomination because it’s been preached from the pulpit without rational or tangible supporting evidence to uphold it, we, as parents and as a society, have failed on a scale that cannot be excused or overlooked. As adults, as parents, and as human beings, it is our single greatest offense—the failure to champion our children in the face of hatred—and is inexcusable to me that these same parents will fight for the rights of the unborn but not for the life of a child, their own child, who has been brought into the world and so desperately needs wisdom, courage, strength, and understanding. When we become parents, we don’t do so under certain conditions. There is no template that guarantees our children will be a perfect amalgamation of our DNA which dictates they will look, act, behave, think, or become a clone of us. It is, however, a perfect amalgamation of ignorance and dogmatic acceptance of learned prejudice which will continue to overwhelm the reality that children are not taught gender or sexuality by their parents, society, or religion. And it is this ignorance on the part of parents which will continue to foster the belief in too many children that the only way they can be heard is to silence their own voices. Because what speaks louder to our own parental narcissism than an LGBT child who would rather take his or her own life than to live with parents whose love and acceptance comes with conditions?
I don’t rage often, but this… this makes me want to rage for the loss and abandonment of every one of those children because, if we want to get down to the hair-splitting truth, it breaks one of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal. When a child is robbed of his or her chance at a future, when a child’s identity is stolen from them without regard for that child as an individual, when a child’s dignity is stripped from them simply because of their biological design, we have not only robbed that child of their humanity but have robbed the world of the positive impact they might have made one day. It places greater value on the rhetoric than it does on the life of that child, and it is an utter betrayal of what we accept as our duty when we create and bring a life into being—not to forsake that child. We cannot bring children into this world and then punish them for being who they were born to be. This isn’t religion. It’s not spirituality. It’s not morality. This is the soul-withering defeat of common sense. Sexuality is biology, it’s not ideology, and it is one of the most indefensible moral failures a parent can commit: to choose the dogma over their own flesh and blood. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how allowing a child to die because they don’t fit into the religious definition of normal or acceptable can be called faith. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the greatest sins any human being can perpetuate—the sin of bringing a child into the world, then abandoning that child when all they need is to be loved and accepted and understood.
Herein lies the problem and why I personally could no longer place my own faith in any one God—the faith that only one Faith is the right one, which leaves little room for hearts and minds to be open to other possibilities. So, as Dr. King said, we who want to spread a message of tolerance and understanding should never be silent. The Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia, while it is, perhaps, a bit of preaching to the choir, it is also important. LGBT friendly blogs and authors and readers are the vast majority of the participants and audience, but if even one –phobe sees a post during this tour, they will know we won’t be silent in our support of love and equality. Even if we don’t change a heart that says it knows Jesus but practices nothing in the way of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” we still must speak. I was taught, in all my years of Sunday schooling and churching, that Jesus Is Love, but sadly, that message has been lost in translation by some who show a stunning penchant for hate and intolerance. This is the reason I left the church all those years ago—because the message began to conflict with my own understanding of the world I wanted to live in.
Call me a godless liberal, call me a bleeding heart. I’m an adult and can take it. But don’t believe for a moment that my children, who are being raised by Nones, will ever fear they are unwanted, unloved, or unheard, and never because of who they happen to fall in love with some day. There is no religious designation—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or any other spiritual practice—that should supersede our commitment to our children. Leelah Alcorn’s voice has been silenced, but her message is still being heard loud and clear around the world. I only wish she were here to see there are plenty of parents who’d have loved and accepted her for who she was.
There is an outcry today that there’s a war on Christianity in this country. Trust me, I’m from Indiana, I know all about the hue and cry. My counterargument to these accusations is simply this: a resounding no, the war in this country is not on religion, the war is on intolerance and discrimination. If a religion permits or encourages its followers to be intolerant bigots, then yes, welcome to the trenches, my friend, there may be tough times ahead. But one need look no further than the ballot initiative in California that calls for murdering homosexuals, or the lawsuit filed in Nebraska against homosexuals on behalf of God and His son Jesus Christ, or the RFRA bill so recently signed into law here in Indiana, giving businesses the right to discriminate indiscriminately, to conclude the real war being waged these days isn’t against religion, it’s against common sense and compassion and simple human decency.
To mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, and to celebrate its message of acceptance and inclusion, I want to give one of you the chance to win a book that brings my message home: the message of acceptance and inclusion.
David Levithan’s singular novel Boy Meets Boy was published in 2003, but its message is timeless. The story takes place in a town and at a school where Paul, the story’s narrator, and every other LGBT kid knows it’s okay to be exactly who they are. It may sound like a fantasy, but I believe it’s a message that needs to be heard by everyone, adults and kids alike, and is a reality every child deserves. Not to mention the fact it’s an utterly charming and disarming novel.
To one entrant, I’m offering the chance to win an e-copy of Boy Meets Boy but because I also want you to listen to the absolutely stellar audio performance of the book by Nicholas Robideau and the Full Cast Family, I’m offering a 3 month Audible gift membership (a $45 value) to one winner.**
Just click on the Rafflecopter widget to enter.