An Open Letter to Our Oppressors

In light of the passage of Proposition 8 with the denial and removal of rights for gay and lesbian couples, and the other anti-gay ballot measures recently passed, the inclusion of Rick Warren in the upcoming US presidential inauguration festivities, and recent anti-gay comments by the Pope (along with may many other previous anti-gay statements), I wish to write an open letter to my oppressors, many of them fellow Christians.

Dear Oppressors,

Yes, I hear you. I am not deaf to your messages. To the Holy Father in Rome, Reverend Rick Warren in California, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,  the many supporters of Prop 8, Focus on the Family, Exodus International, and so many others who publicly speak out against LGBT people and our rights, I hear you loud and clear. No matter how you sugarcoat it and wrap it up with smiles and scripture and say that you are nothing like the extremist, Fred Phelps, I hear your message loud and clear telling me that I am inferior and unwanted in your world. These are not your words, but all the same this is the message you communicate.

I hear you insist time and time again in multiple ways that heterosexuals are superior to gays and lesbians. Your marriages, your homes, your “lifestyles” are normal, but mine? Not so much. I hear you declare that I am not capable of producing anything good or beneficial other than some window treatments or a decent hair style. In essence I hear you say that I am a worthless piece of shit and the cause of untold woes and problems, the harbinger of even worst things to come.

Some of your best friends may be gay, and you may profess that you really love the homosexual, but all the while your words and aggressively anti-gay activism consistently serve to dehumanize me–to present me and my kind as oversexed, deformed animals.

You remain steadfast in your opposition to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church. You oppose, limit and even remove rights in order to keep us unequal and legally inferior. You spend exorbitant amounts of money and time telling lies about us while expending so little energy actually getting to know us. You deal with theories, not reality. And  you are wrong, dead wrong.

You treat us as an inconvenient and unwanted Christmas gift that you desperately wish to exchange for something better. You belittle our love, our families, our faith, our morals, our very lives while all the time you claim to speak the truth in love. This is not love. This is fear. It is control and oppression, and it is the rejection of God’s gifts to the church, society and in some cases to your very families.

I know all about rejecting this gift. I did it for years as I repented daily of the same-sex attractions and gender differences I found inside me. I demonized my sexuality and believed no good could come of my gay orientation. I proceeded to return this gift as I bullied God for something else–I coveted my straight neighbor’s life believing the propaganda that his was the idealized norm to follow instead of trusting God for the life I had been given.

In the midst of all that I experienced grace and tenderness from God, extreme patience, kindness ultimately leading to a deeper repentance, one based in Light and reality, a repentance that recognizes that a gay orientation and gender differences came to me as an astonishing gift of power and beauty.

I confess I do not possess the same patience and understanding as God. Your words, your bully tactics, your unbridled and arrogant superiority sicken me. I struggle to love you or call you brother. Yet I remember the years that I persecuted myself and others, the dread of change that ruled my life and my narrow faith, and the need to contain everything in simple boxes with no unanswered questions or gray areas.

I may be a peace-loving Quaker and a Christian, but that doesn’t mean I am going to avoid confrontation or assume we can all just hold hands and overlook our differences. To do so would be to support your oppression and enable you to continue in it with my permission. I point out to you what you may be unwilling or unable to see. You stand as oppressors, bullies, abusers imposing your sexuality and religious views on others. Are your hearts evil and full of bad intentions? I cannot say. I do not speak of your hearts but of your actions and your words.

In spite of the opposition and the oppression, we will thrive. Transgender people, lesbians, bisexuals, and gays will have our families, our faith, our places in our communities. We will walk hand in hand with our partners without apology and without shame. We will enjoy our sexual lives as a expression of our love and as a conduit of pleasure–pure and simple. We will not go away or heed your flawed and uninformed message.

And perhaps one day you will come to your senses. Perhaps you will see with clearer eyes. Perhaps you too will repent of your bullying and the rejection of the gifts among you. Regardless, we will not back down, and we will continue to live our lives with dignity.

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This post has 27 Comments

  1. Maggie on December 24, 2008 at 4:07 pm Reply

    This is a very thoughtful piece. I have been feeling just terrible lately over the barrage of negative news for the LBGT community and your essay is a wonderful balanced response. It lifted my spirits when I really needed it.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas.

    Maggie

  2. Clint Trout on December 24, 2008 at 4:18 pm Reply

    This is excellent: non-violence. Merry Christmas.

  3. Joe G. on December 24, 2008 at 4:32 pm Reply

    Excellent post – you’re only writing the actualities here.

    Of course, the religionists that hold these views start wailing that they are being mistreated and persecuted when accused of being oppressive. Poor babies.

    Just in the past few weeks here in the States, one Latino immigrant man was knifed to death on the streets due to being an immigrant and appearing to be gay, three black gay men (one of whom might have been transgenderedj) were shot to death in New Orleans, and a transwoman was literally thrown out to the streets to die by a Salvation Army homeless shelter because they refused her access to the women’s section in Austin. Read or heard of any similar stories of fundamentalist Christians in the U.S.? Oh, wait, some older woman’s styrofoam cross was destroyed when she provocatively entered an angry crowd of glbt people proclaiming that they were sinners and must repent!

    BTW, Rick Warren is just the “good cop” to Falwell’s “bad cop” approach. But, essentially they are two sides of the same coin.

    Merry holidays, you peace loving Quaker queer boy!

  4. Daniel on December 24, 2008 at 4:34 pm Reply

    Very well put. And I could not agree with you more.
    I think this letter exhibits such compassion and strength. It expresses the pain or aching so many of us have.
    Thank you for that.

  5. Joe G. on December 24, 2008 at 4:40 pm Reply

    Oh, just read about this story: a lesbian woman was taunted for being gay by a group of men and then gang-raped.

    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2008/12/lesbian-gang-raped-in-bay-area.html

    Just another month for lgbt people here in the U.S.

    Once again – your post hits in on the mark, baby!

  6. Michelle on December 24, 2008 at 6:26 pm Reply

    Beautiful and powerful, Peterson. Yours is a much-needed voice in our world.

    Happy Holidays.

  7. kimberly on December 24, 2008 at 7:28 pm Reply

    Well said Peterson. Thanks for taking the time, effort, and thought to write what needs to be said.

    Enjoy South Africa!

  8. Mallory on December 24, 2008 at 9:09 pm Reply

    Well said! I am speechless as to the recent events (all of the aforementioned). It is sickening how people can mask hatred behind love. Words are cheap, they need to prove that they care about the glbt community, they cannot say they love them and then turn their backs and strip them of their rights. This is about so much more than marriage. It is about equality in every realm. A vote for prop 8 was a vote for another teenager to kill themselves, or another glbt person to become hooked on drugs or alcohol. Over the last few months I’ve definitely seen the type of drug abuse by those who have been rejected and had to learn how to love themselves. This is very real and for some reason so many of the people who voted yes on 8 and say these homophobic things shelter themselves into their little bubbles of perfection and when anything deviates from their perception of reality they become scared. It is sick.

  9. tonya on December 24, 2008 at 10:06 pm Reply

    merry christmas!

  10. Darlene Bogle on December 24, 2008 at 11:33 pm Reply

    Peterson. I concur with the above comments. You have given us all a voice. You are a special Christmas gift under our virtual tree! Becky and I pray for you, and wish you God’s best in 2009. Keep speaking out. We will stand with you!
    Darlene

  11. Mark on December 25, 2008 at 12:51 am Reply

    Hi Peterson ,

    Thanks for the article – Your not alone and our little community in Belfast is happy to stand with you. Come back and see us anytime – Have a great Christmas ….and lets keep kicking the darkness in 2009 till it bleeds daylight.

    Blessings

    Mark

  12. p2son on December 25, 2008 at 9:56 am Reply

    Thanks all. Interestingly I cross-posted my open letter over at GCN-the Gay Christian Network and received criticism of it that it was an angry and ineffectual tool in addressing those who attack us. I explain in a little more detail why I wrote what I did and who I hope will read it and be moved by it.

    Post from GCN:
    A bit jarring isn’t it? Hearing the unfiltered message behind all the words. I do not pretend to believe that those who stand against us will actually read and take in what I say in my letter. I have other avenues for having discussions with those who are willing to have genuine conversation and dialogue.

    With the letter I posted here I meant more for us as a means to pull back the curtain for a moment–to call things what they are lest we get confused by the smiles and twisted logic woven into the messages.

    As Steve Biko, the South African activist who ultimately died at the hands of the anti-Black South African regime stated,

    The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

    Sadly the shaming words, theologies and logic has filled many of us with shame that soaks our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and other transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay people. One reaction of a stigmatized person is to recoil at our own when we believe they misbehave or act flamboyantly.

    I appreciate how Jesus called the Pharisees out pronouncing what lay behind the religious cover they wore.
    Jesus, who practiced love and mercy and bridge building also did not flinch when he saw oppression done in the name of God.

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

    I often wonder how the disciples felt when Jesus went off at the Pharisees, respected members of the community, people you wanted to have on your side. Did any of the Pharisees hear this message and repent? We know of at least one who came to Jesus secretly in the night and ultimately spoke up in the midst of the councils in defense of the followers of Jesus.

    But such outcries against injustice do not simply serve as a conversion tool to those practicing injustice. They have the higher purpose to help liberate our thinking from the sludge that dulls our senses and keeps us content with scraps when our Father wants us to enjoy the full spread at the table.

  13. Mark Russ on December 25, 2008 at 5:40 pm Reply

    Your letter comes as an excellent substitute for the Queen’s speech this Christmas.

    Every now and then I have a crisis about whether I still want to call myself a Christian, as there are so many out there who claim that title yet I don’t see it reflected in the way they live their lives. I’m reading C S Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’ and have to keep stopping, saying to myself ‘but that’s not how it is!’.

    Your words are very helpful to me at these times. I wanna stick with Jesus and his disfunctional family. Giles Fraser wrote an excellent response to the good ol’ pope in the guardian. It made me think of your ministry:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/24/pope-benedict-christmas-message

    Have a wonderful season-that-is-called-Christmas and a blessed 2009. Hope to see you in the UK some time soon.

    Mark (and Adrian)
    xxx

  14. Steve F on December 25, 2008 at 9:38 pm Reply

    Peterson, I am so amazed at your ability to put into words the anger and frustration my partner Chris and I feel at the religious world today. It has been painful, seeing Rick Warren’s “Christmas Message” on half-a-dozen channels, and knowing what he’s really spewing for me and mine.

    And I’m sorry that the folks on GCN still don’t get it, that any kind of “rapproachment” with the larger church is a long way from “at hand.” We can be so protective of everyone’s feelings that we never ever actually get ANGRY enough to do anything.

    Yours is a powerful voice in the wilderness – and I am honored to be one who hears you, and “gets” you.

    May the blessings of a universal Christmas – where “God with us” came for ALL of us – be yours this day, and always.

  15. John on December 25, 2008 at 11:25 pm Reply

    Peterson! This is excellent; you put into words so much what I feel. I struggle to maintain any desire to be grouped with others who self-describe as “Christians”. :-/ Thank you calling things for what they are.

    And Merry Christmas to you, Glen, and Jenna in S.A.!

    C and I are celebrating with his family in Iowa City. It’s frigid and beautiful here. All our love 🙂

  16. Valorie Zimmerman on December 27, 2008 at 8:23 am Reply

    I love you, Peterson. Thanks so much for listening and digesting and HEARING the subtext, and then not just telling that the way you hear it, but doing so in a positive and loving way. You have a gift for turning the worst into something useful to us.

    Even shit can become part of a nourishing diet IF it is properly composted and then applied to the growing vegetables. Thank you for taking the crap that is currently spewing and making it something we can USE to change the world for the better.

    {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

  17. Tom on December 28, 2008 at 2:14 am Reply

    Thank you Peterson for taking the time and putting forth the effort to speak up and out.
    We all need to do the same until equality is served.
    Lady justice is surely leaning to one side. Hopefully one day soon she will be able to stand tall and the scales will be balanced.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

  18. TwoHusbandsTogetherInLoveSince1976 on December 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm Reply

    Thank you for your eloquent letter!

    You beautifully illuminate the malady afflicting so many who rule the world’s institutions – the heterosexual-superiority complex.

    This human failing is a symptom of heterosexism, which is so well taught, so eagerly learned, and so difficult to unlearn (expecially for us not created heterosexual).

    Best wishes for a new year in which to continue to find new ways for the human race to recover from this particular “ism” that runs rampant.

    Earl and/or Tim
    Two American men who
    married in Canada, 2003

    “We are grateful that our awesome Canadian marriage
    is immune to unChristlike heterosexism in America”

  19. David on December 28, 2008 at 11:33 pm Reply

    Thank you, for reminding everyone that we are lovable and loved, and doing it with dignity.

  20. Larry B on December 30, 2008 at 12:50 am Reply

    I saw your letter on rmnblog.org.

    I read this blog often to attempt to find reason to change my views on the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    By definition, then, I’m one of those fearful, hateful, bullying oppressors that you call out in the letter. You point out that I am dealing in theories and then you deal in your own theories about me. As you present it, your view is the only right view to have. I think my view is the only right view. Where do we go?

    Eventually, one or the other view will probably win out. I think eventually your view will win. I will become marginalized and left behind. But I’m not going to change just because I’ll be left out. Can I still be a part of your church when you win out and make your positions the norm? If what you say in your letter is really how you feel, then no, I can’t. But what does that make you? A bully and an oppressor? I don’t really know, but we either have to split and go our own ways, or there really does have to be a middle ground.

  21. diane on January 1, 2009 at 7:22 am Reply

    Peterson, thanks for your words. I appreciate you so much. I pray that conservative christians will open thier thoughts to see that God does’nt make mistakes and he loves all of his children gay and straight. I hope that they ask the question, why would someone choose to live with discrimation, oppression, and hate. thanks diane

  22. Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com on January 10, 2009 at 8:28 am Reply

    Found your blog through my friend Adele – http://www.ExistentialPunk.com. Thanks for your words Peterson – well spoken. My wife and I are students at George Fox Seminary – a Quaker school still wrestling with its evangelical identity (and thus, its position on issues like homosexualit). I confess, I am still in the process of “emerging,” myself. My wife is way ahead of me. All I can say is – I’m so very sorry. I grew up in the church and the culture you speak of, and I continue to grieve for who I was, what I said and did, jokes I made… pamphlets I handed out.

    I’m inspired by your blog – AND your website (we were theatre majors). Will keep reading.

    Love, in Christ,
    Peter Walker

  23. Kay Olry on January 24, 2009 at 3:43 am Reply

    Very well said – thank you.

    Some resources for those who still struggle (all):

    Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? by Virginia Mollenkott and Retha (?)

    and

    The Children are Free by Jeff Miner

    Stranger at the Gate by Mel White

  24. eyesofhope on January 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm Reply

    I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry for the pain you have experienced, and to reaffirm your readers (gay, straight, and everything in-between) that God loves us ALL. We are His craftsmanship, created in Christ Jesus; we are special, each unique, for our Maker is hugely inventive and creative, and is Himself more beautiful than any of us can fully grasp. Look around at the beauty of creation, at the majesty of the place we call Earth. See the wonders of the vast array of creatures He fills the Earth with. Yet we, men and women, boys and girls, are the crowning glory of it all.
    He does not look upon this one or that one and lament, “these ones have a fault that is detestable to me, therefore I do not love them. It is unfortunate too, since they cannot change this aspect of themselves. I will not look upon these in love as I do the others.” Come on. Think about it.
    I am not about to debate whether or not it is a sin to be gay. I simply want to point out that it is a sin to be unloving, especially in the name of Jesus. We must not presume to tell gay people that they are not loved by God, that it is not possible to be gay and Christian at the same time. It is not our job to convict nor condemn. Since that job belongs to God alone, we have the awesome privilege of simply loving our neighbors! And what fun would it be if we could all fellowship as equals in the eyes of our Maker? Maybe then even sinners might come to see that God is a God of love and peace and joy, not hatred, exclusion and violence. Sinners. Any of those around here? I am one. And I don’t fear rejection by God because of it, although I do tend to fall at His feet because of it. We could go around and around theologizing all day over this one – but at the end of the day, have you been a sheep before the Lord where the GLBTQ community are concerned or a goat? When a lesbian was crying, did you offer her a tissue? When a gay man was lonely did you invite him to your Bar-B-Que? (This is in reference to a Scripture that talks about being “sheep” and feeding the poor, or being “goats” and ignoring the oppressed. I have just changed the terms to make a point.)

  25. eyesofhope on January 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm Reply

    I have a website that explores this issue as well.

    http://eyesofhope.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/jesus-loves-gay-people-too/

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