This past Saturday, I was sitting at a local crawfish restaurant enjoying a large, steaming tray of spicy crawfish and watching the NFL draft results when the announcement of Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams came through on ESPN. As the video of his celebration played, a couple of older guys to my left were absolutely horrified and disgusted that a TV station, especially ESPN, would show two men kissing. For a moment, I thought a full-fledged emotional meltdown was going to occur as my friend and I considered if we should pretend to be gay in order to infuriate them further.
Whether it is Michael Sam being drafted or gay marriage bans being ruled unconstitutional in some Southern states, the old guard of bigotry and discrimination is on the ropes right now and the angry missives of how they’re “being persecuted” are flying left and right. As a straight man who was bullied for being presumed gay in my younger years, let me tell the so-called Christians that you are not being “persecuted.” Can you name one child in America that was bullied to suicide for being straight like Justin Aaberg? Can you tell me of one person who was tormented relentlessly in school for wearing a crucifix or having a Bible in their backpack like Grayson Bruce was for liking My Little Pony? Or how about a Christian being beaten, tied to a fence and left to die as in the case of Matthew Shepard?
The false narrative of persecution is something which has been used successfully by the religious right for many years now as they scream about having their First Amendment rights violated every time someone counters their hatred. In the world of the religious bully, all of their hatred and venom is justified because of the way they personally interpret the Bible to put themselves above others. In fact, many of these people fit the profile of what is known as the “serial bully” as they try to counter the criticism of their behavior by blaming the victim. You’ll commonly hear such statements as “I’m not a homophobe, I just think they should keep it to themselves” or “I have nothing against gay people but I don’t see why they get special rights” and other false arguments like these. During the Civil Rights era, the same excuses were made for discrimination. All you have to do is replace gay people with persons of color and almost every single one of these intolerant statements are just the same old hatred of everyone else who isn’t a member of the white, conservative, heterosexual Christian entitlement club.
You see, these aren’t people who believe in equal rights, not by a long shot. In fact, they believe that because of their lucky place in the white, conservative, heterosexual Christian entitlement club that they deserve superior rights. They believe they are entitled to not be offended while being able to offend anyone else, because you know… white, conservative, heterosexual Christian privilege trumps everyone else. Across the South, as well as the rest of the country, there are still people who think based solely off the color of their skin or the religion that they practice that they were automatically handed a VIP card to carry through life – and out of all of the people in the world, God loves them the most.
I’ll admit, it gave me a great deal of amusement, Schadenfreude even, to watch how uncomfortable the sight of an interracial, gay couple passionately kissing each other made the two guys at the next table. I would say they probably weren’t quite old enough to be able to remember the days of segregation and whites only drinking fountains, but if this had been 50+ years ago, they would have been equally infuriated to see a black man and a white woman seated at a table near them or kissing on television.
These people will eventually follow their bigoted parents and grandparents into the darker pages of American history where our children and grandchildren will look back, perhaps with a small degree of embarrassment or disbelief while wondering what the big deal was. Just as generations before used religion to justify slavery and segregation, now these people are using religion to infringe upon the constitutional rights of the LGBT community. History will judge them harshly.