Crying in Pain to a Former Friend
On LGBTQ rejection — written with tears in my eyes
What do you do when you belong to a class of people routinely despised and held to be inferior and infected with shame? How do you handle the fact that beloved, esteemed institutions teach people that you are broken and immoral? Some of us grow a hard shell and learn to keep friends at an arms length. Some of us …
Once upon a time, I made a friend. She delighted me. Her origins in a culture different from mine engaged my curiosity and passion to learn. Her sweet disposition charmed and warmed me. Her brilliance as a scientist and professional thrilled me. I basked in her loving comity and collaboration.
My friend shared my passion for equality and justice. Or so I thought. She shared it right up until the moment that I called out her Church for homophobic theologies and policies.
Then she dropped me. She chose an institution over a friend — an institution that intentionally hurts people like me every day.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I thought she was different. I didn’t think she’d value a nebulous organization over a flesh-and-blood human. But she did. She made it clear that her Church was more important to her than her friend. I should have turned my back and gritted my teeth like I always do.
I should have applied one more hard coat of shellac to my soul and blotted out her memory, like I’ve forgotten so many temporary friends. Instead, grief temporarily overwhelming me, I wrote her a letter.
This is what I said —
Dear Dr. (name withheld),
You accuse me.
Out of the blue, you insult me and tell me I’m spreading hate, that I’m indulging in name calling.
You tell me that my writing is too “controversial” for you to any longer endorse. You won’t support my writing, because you don’t want to be publicly tied to my positions.
Let me tell you that I am angry — angry through tears of grief and despair.
I’m angry not just with you, but with every supposedly progressive, LGBTQ-supporting person who insists that we must not confront homophobic bigotry where and when we find it.
Observing that a person is a homophobic bigot is not and must not be an unacceptable insult. It is not and must not be considered name calling.
Would any of us ever choose to overlook racist bigotry?
Of course not.
That’s why I’m so angry with you, my former friend.
I know you would confront racist bigotry. I know that from the depths of my heart. So, when you tell me to be silent, when you tell me not to make waves, when you urge me to be less “controversial,” you’re telling me that homophobic bigotry is less important to you than racist bigotry.
Your slap stings my cheek and summons my tears.
I know from the depths of my heart that prejudice against us LGBTQ people is less important to you than prejudice against people of color.
If it really, truly mattered to you, you would support me and others who denounce homophobic bigotry and the philosophies and theologies that enable that bigotry.
I’m tired of being second rate.
I’m sick and tired of being told to be quiet. I’m sick in my soul to know that people like you refuse to stand up and say no to homophobia.
I know for a clear and certain fact that if everyone who says that they support us queer people stood up and denounced bigotry, that the bigots would suffer a crushing defeat.
But you won’t do it. You don’t care enough. Your Roman Catholic Church teaches children every day in their schools across the United States that we queer people are depraved, disordered, and ordered toward great moral evil. Those are the exact words they print in catechisms that vulnerable middle school school students have to study.
Why do they get away with such vile insults against us every day? Because you tolerate it. You personally. You refuse to stand up and denounce the evil bigotry at the heart of your Church’s doctrines. You’d rather get along with your priest and your congregation.
Shame on you!
People like you insist that we don’t rock the boat.
People like you tell us to just go along with it.
Well, I refuse.
I won’t accept that evil. I won’t be quiet about it.
I will proclaim what I know to be true. People who teach children in school that we queer folk are depraved are disgusting bigots.
They are evil. They are directly responsible for enormous harm done to people just like me. I won’t accept their evil. I will denounce it. I will denounce them for their own moral depravity.
It’s personal. You don’t have to care, but I can’t stop caring. I’m the one your Church is condemning. I’m the one your Church says is depraved.
If you think I’m wrong to denounce, then I know that for a certain fact that something is morally wrong with you, and not with me.
Oh, I understand that you have the luxury to sweep it all under the rug. You’re straight and cis. So are your loved ones. Well, I don’t have your luxury or your privilege. To you, this is all just theory. To me, it’s visceral and gut wrenching.
All it takes for evil to prevail is for a few good people to do nothing.
I categorically refuse to be one of those few people. I categorically refuse to be silent. I will never moderate my public voice. Not for you or for anyone, not for any reason.
If that means we can’t be friends, then that’s a price I’ll pay, though it gives me no pleasure to say that.
I weep to know you won’t stand with us. I thought you cared.
I wrote that letter more than a year ago —
Funny thing is, reading it again right now and lightly editing for clarity and emphasis, tears spring fresh to my eyes. I feel the pain of abandonment all over again. Why am I making the letter public?
I don’t know. The first thing that springs to mind is that I’m a writer, and that’s what writers do. We bare our souls.
But I don’t think that’s the real reason. I think what I really want is for straight people to taste stigma for a moment. I want you to read this and FEEL, even if only briefly, what it’s like to know your friends will abandon you because of who you are — unless you shuck, jive, and grin as you swallow their poison.
I’d like you to think about what it means to really and truly be an ally to oppressed people.