I was raised in a traditionalist Baptist home that held to good old-fashioned “family values”, one of the most important being that God established marriage to be the permanent union of a man and a woman. This idea was ingrained into me when I was very young, and I certainly did not know anyone who did not follow this pattern.
That all changed in ninth grade, when I went to public school for the first time.
I knew, and was friends with, two same-sex couples in high school, and I also knew another girl who was lesbian, though we were not particularly friends. My homophobia had been so deeply ingrained into me that, though I am ashamed to admit it, I viewed these relationships as a joke.
What do I mean by that? One friend of mine was in my English and Geometry class. He developed a relationship after some time with the principle’s son. They did not hide it, so when I asked, they acknowledged it. Though the memory is fuzzy, I remember chuckling. One of them asked, “What’s wrong, Thomas? You’re not a homophobe, are you?” I shook my head rapidly and said, “No, of course not.” Yet I was.
I don’t remember any further reactions from them, or how they or I responded in the future. But I do also remember another couple. I had two people I’d consider friends, one from P. E. and the other, a bit of a nerd, from Geometry and Physics. As with most people there, I was always separate from them; being around others was awkward. When they first informed me of their relationship, I also thought at first that it was a joke. And not in a demeaning, mocking way, per say – I had heterosexuality so firmly in my mentality, that any deviation could not possibly be serious, right?
Being friends with same-sex couples helped to broaden my perspective a very great deal. It’s easy to sit in your house and talk and learn about the “evils of homosexuality”, but these people are no different than anyone else. They come from all walks of life, compose all types of people, and make up a sizeable percentage of the population. None of them are evil, at least no more than the general population. Same-sex sexual preferences are in no way inferior to heterosexual preferences.
Numerous things led to me eventually abandoning my Christianity, but I came to the realization that I had been wrong about homosexuality, very wrong, and even though I didn’t know it then, I’d undoubtedly hurt people, people who did not deserve it. Of this, I stand truly ashamed. But it wasn’t just me. In fact, the Bible, with every reference to homosexuality being negative, and the infamous “contrary to nature” line, got it very wrong, and has been and still is responsible for much of the marginalization that same-sex oriented individuals may experience.
If the Bible got this so fundamentally wrong, what else did it get wrong? Don’t mistake me; there are many Christians who support same-sex marriage and relationships. But I would posit that this belief is inconsistent with the Bible, and that the Bible’s homophobia ought to be condemned, rather than ignored due to its status as a religious book.
One of my co-workers is openly gay, and I’m happy to say that I support him completely. I certainly don’t view his identification as wicked, nor as a joke, and I’m happy to have moved beyond that attitude.