Betty Greene Salwak

The Next Step for a Christian Ally

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | May 13, 2013 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Christian LGBT ally, Inlaws and Outlaws, misogyny, roots of homophobia

Recently a terrific movie called "Inlaws and Outlaws" was screened at a nearby Episcopal church. In this movie people tell their stories about being part of a couple, straight and gay. I highly recommend it. Thumbnail image for bigstock-Golden-Rule-23674010.jpg

After the movie the audience was asked to talk about anti-gay attitudes. At a round table, six of us leaned forward to earnestly share our views. I offered my opinion at my turn: perhaps too simply put, it's about role expectations and the idea that masculine roles are more valued than feminine. Gay men in particular are discriminated against because they are viewed by straight men as more feminine. It comes down to misogyny.

I was cut off as soon as I said the word "misogyny." The two gay men at the table literally sat back in their chairs and started making loud jokes about just saying "yes" to my idea so I'd shut up. Others at the table attempted to comment, but the moment was lost to the men's derisive laughter.

I let it pass.

In my advocacy for equal rights and respect for people who are LGBT, I've done a lot of studying and conversing, especially at the intersection of faith and sexuality. I have determined that anti-gay sentiment that is promulgated by religious conservatives of all Abrahamic faiths does not, in fact, originate in the Bible/Koran/Torah. The roots go much deeper and further back to a cultural bias of misogyny.

What led me to this conclusion is the ongoing debate about the meaning of those biblical passages that may (or may not) be addressing homosexuality. There are numerous ways of looking at these passages (Old Testament and New, in the Christian faith), all of which are backed by serious scholarship. Honestly, it comes down to which meaning appeals most to the reader. Since some choose to find "homosexual acts" a sin--specifically men having sex with men--and some do not, what makes them choose? And why might they take that passage literally when there are dozens if not hundreds of other directives in the Holiness Code--out of 613--that they ignore? This inconsistency drives unbelievers crazy. Yet it persists. What's the deal?

I have come to understand that all people of faith take literally those directives with which they agree; all else are either metaphor, allegory, or taken in context of the time it was written. Of course I do it, too. I find my view of acceptance consistent with my view of the nature of God. So this leaves us still with the question: why do some choose to take literally a passage against homosexuality while ignoring other (and often less convenient) passages? Misogyny.

It's obvious that feminine qualities are not celebrated on an equal plane as masculine attributes. It remains an insult to say you did something "like a girl/woman." That concept carries over especially to men who have feminine characteristics. Even men in the gay community disparage feminine behavior among themselves; and when they do they participate in their own discrimination. It is something to be ashamed of to have any feminine traits. Some minority cultures consider the dominant partner in male sex to be heterosexual. Only the receptive partner in the submissive "female" role is considered gay--and an object of scorn. Distilled, it means that mostly men have a problem with mostly men taking on a role that is "less than." This also explains the disparity in treatment of lesbians, who seem almost invisible by comparison--they're practically an afterthought in the whole equality movement. Individuals who are transgender are especially vulnerable to this bias, appearing to upend "traditional" roles.

I did not reach this conclusion lightly or quickly. I report what I see and I cannot unsee it, unexpected as it was. My hypothesis tests true again and again. A gay friend asserted that my supportive voice is worth 100 of his and a straight man's is worth 1000. He's right, and this is why.

I have never been what I consider to be a feminist activist, although any person with half a brain has to recognize the imbalance in treatment and respect between men and women. I confess that I had my Angry Young Woman period when I entered the working world and was hit in the face with the disparities. I learned to prevail for the most part. The anger I perceive in some of my transgender sisters is no surprise to me whatsoever. They have lost the privilege that simply being male brings to the table.

Having come to this conclusion about anti-gay sentiment over the years, it now appears to be "my" issue. I have never wanted my advocacy to be about me. In effect, it actually diminishes the value of my argument because I have something to gain. In truth, I've always had something to gain--justice for my gay and transgender brothers and sisters--but with this new insight it looks like it's all about me. This isn't about the unfairness of it all; it's about the fact that it explains how we might eliminate injustice.

The loud laughter of the two gay men at the movie discussion was disrespectful and frankly proved my point, but I wasn't prepared with a way to say that without bringing conversation to a halt. This was a learning moment for me: I need to think about how to present my view without getting shut down. Angry comebacks are not the way to have conversation that brings about a change of heart. Shouting is fine from the podium but not across the table. I am not interested in bringing down anyone's faith or lack of it; I want honest and respectful discussion that leaves people thinking.

The problem remains that gay and transgender men and women will not get the equality they seek and deserve until women and men are on an equal plane. "Misogyny" is apparently a hot-button term that shuts down communication. My next step is to find a way to broach this idea so that minds don't close--especially those among the community of faith.

Suggestions welcome.

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