I almost threw up tonight, not to gross you out.
I’m having a hard time typing, because my fingers are shaking and I can’t make them stop. I’m used to rejection. I’m used to people looking at me funny because I’m gay. I’m used to knowing that lots of judgmental people think I’m immoral and broken because I’m gay.
I’ve learned not to care. Much. I don’t have much choice if I want to remain sane.
Ken Wilson, an LGBTQ Christian minister and author, often points out how toxic and damaging Christianity can be to LGBTQ people. Specifically, he writes that liberal and progressive Christians who aren’t truly LGBTQ affirming are more toxic than conservative Christians.
I’ve never had any trouble understanding or agreeing with his premise. Intellectually. I thought I got it. I thought I was “all in.”
Wow, was I wrong.
I didn’t understand the half of it. I never expected to live it. I never expected to come close to losing my dinner over it. I never expected to feel my fingers tremble and not be able to make them stop.
I wrote an article about Christian conversion therapy —
I wrote an article that starts with a presentation of new and powerful data about how conversion therapy is killing LGBTQ kids in startlingly high numbers. I wrote that even though the American public are enthusiastically getting behind state-level bans and that the bans are being rapidly implemented, they aren’t having any measurable effect.
Because the laws generally apply only to licensed health care providers, and because they usually exempt religious groups, just about as many kids as ever are actually experiencing conversion therapy. The bans aren’t working, because Christians are claiming religious freedom.
Kids are dying.
Many who survive suffer such pervasive psychological harm that their mental health is devastated. Some eventually recover and regain the ability to form healthy, loving, intimate relationships. Others are crippled for life.
Ken shared my article with progressive Christian colleagues.
I was pretty excited the other day when he posted it on Facebook. I’d hoped he would notice my story and share it with people who needed to see it — with Christians who are in a position to do something to succor the suffering and protect the persecuted.
I expected, quite naively as it turned out, that the data and arguments I presented would move some hearts and grow the sum total of human love in the world. I waited anxiously for the first comment, thrilled that I might be able to reach people who could genuinely HELP with a crisis of youth suffering.
The actual responses shocked and sickened me.
A flood of progressive Christian homophobic waffling spewed from underneath Ken’s post. Christians pounced, not to defend suffering youth, but to deflect and attack. Instead of the outpouring of genuine Christ-centered love I had so eagerly awaited, I experienced equal measures of icy apathy and horrifying hate.
Almost nobody had anything to say about the terrible harm being done to innocent teenagers in the name of Christianity. I can’t find the words to explain the horror I feel.
I can’t find the necessary vocabulary to describe what the hate SMELLS like up close. My fingers are shaking because I learned so powerfully and so intimately what utter pariahs we LGBTQ people really are — even to Christians who describe themselves as liberal and affirming.
The realization shocked and profoundly revolted me.
I told Ken that I don’t generally think of myself as naive. But I suppose I am in some ways. I’m actually an optimist. I expect love to win out most of the time. I believe that deep inside, people are good — needing only understanding and empathy to be moved to compassion and generosity.
I looked genuine evil in the eye tonight, and I’m badly wounded.
I feel like Frodo in the presence of a Nazgûl, or Harry Potter weakened and sickened by proximity to a Dementor. I feel all the capacity for love sucked out of me and replaced with icy void.
I ask myself how a religion that nominally celebrates love as an ideal can produce such craven, love-deficient people. I don’t understand, and I don’t think I care to understand.
What I do understand so terribly is how much so many Christians hate me and people like me — to the point that youth suicide leaves them cold, empty, apathetic, and even scornful.
I just dumped half a fifth of craft bourbon down the sink…
… because if it was here, I’d down it in several gulps and regret it enormously. I’m going to take an anxiety pill and go to bed early, trying to forget how much it hurts to be a member of a minority so despised that people don’t even care if we die.
I finally understand Ken all the way. I feel in my bones why liberal Christian rejection is so much more toxic than rejection by people like Franklin Graham or other hardcore evangelicals.
When the people you thought were mostly on your side demonstrate how they really feel, it rips your heart out.
James Finn is a long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Act Up NYC, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to email@example.com.