Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homosexuality and Tolerance

I normally try to steer clear of touchy subjects that require a solid decision, either for or against. They usually have me stuck somewhere in the middle of the issue and it’s difficult to choose a specific side. I’ve thought about this for a long time now, trying to understand the arguments on both sides and learning from friends, family and even my own personal experiences.
For as long as I can remember, I have believed that the institution of marriage was meant for a man and a woman. I have been taught this through religion and for a more obvious, biological reason: because men and women create babies. This is a very simplistic and straightforward piece of information and I have clung to it for as long as I have been consciously aware of the idea of marriage and family.
Of course, living in a black and white world is simple; it’s either one way or another. The problem with this is that we don’t live in a world of black and white; we live in a world of color and this alone, makes certain issues more difficult to tackle. However, I have found that a lot of people want to cling to that black and white version of the world. It’s not difficult to surmise why; it makes things much easier. You stick to the one side you’ve chosen and you don’t have to deal with any conflicting feelings because you’ve made your choice.
I’m always questioning my world and the things in it, trying to figure out how I feel and why about various issues in life. And then I asked myself the ultimate question: why can’t I keep my own beliefs, yet still be tolerant towards others who don’t share my beliefs? We all have different beliefs and come from diverse backgrounds. Most (if not all) religions teach tolerance, acceptance and love, yet very few put those teachings into practice. I have a big problem with this hypocrisy in religion, especially when there is not one Supreme Being on this Earth.
I have thought about the main arguments I have heard from heterosexuals regarding why they cannot tolerate homosexuals, especially with respect to marriage and the family unit. What I have found and seen to be the main issues, involve: the religious beliefs on what a family is comprised of and whom a marriage should be between, health issues surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, whether being gay is something that one chooses or that is biologically imprinted and simply the definition that is socially accepted with regards to family and marriage.
The religion argument has been the hardest one for me to overcome. My religion has always played a very important role in my life and I couldn’t simply disregard those thoughts and beliefs. I took a lot of time to think about how I feel about homosexuality and what has been taught to me through the church. Yes, I do know that in the Bible, God condemns homosexuality and it is considered sinful. However, having said that, there are a multitude of other sins that heterosexuals commit everyday that are just as sinful, yet somehow these can be overlooked as long as you’re not a homosexual. This idea doesn’t resonate well with me, especially when you’re also taught to be loving, accepting and tolerant of others. I am not God; everyone has to account for their own sins and I do not feel I have any right to judge, as I am a sinner just as everyone else. God loves us all, even when we sin, yet I know many “religious” people that believe homosexuals don’t deserve God’s love and only care about converting them to what they believe. This leads me to my next point. If all you care about is trying to convert people to think the way you do or believe what you believe, you are not being the loving person as it is dictated in the Bible. We are supposed to love and care for all others, regardless of their own beliefs. It is only through love that the message of religion can really be heard. As a religious person, I would be highly offended by someone trying to influence my beliefs to match that of their own; what makes me think that I have the right to do this to other people? If someone chooses to have a different belief system from my own, it is their choice to do so. I would rather God be proud of me for loving and accepting all of his creations as opposed to trying to tear someone else down. As I said before, we all have to account for the decisions we make in life and I do not feel that I am better or more exalted than anyone else as I am too, a sinner.
The second issue that seems to come up a lot is the idea that homosexuals are the cause for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. At the onset, one might be tempted to send the blame in that direction, but the group who spreads these diseases most rampantly is: heterosexual women! Yes, that’s right…heterosexual women. My thought behind this (and I’m not stating this as fact, but I guarantee there is some truth in it) is that there are men who are homosexual, but because of religious and social pressure, they remain in the closet yet they continue sleeping with their wives as well. It really is a shame that this happens because it’s really unfair to everyone involved. It isn’t fair to the woman because she believes that her husband loves her and is being faithful. It also isn’t fair to the man because, not only is he living a lie, but he doesn’t have much support to be open about these feelings. And it certainly isn’t fair to any offspring produced by the couple because they were brought into the world based on a lie. I would much rather live in a society where people feel they can be open about how they feel, to their partners and especially to themselves. If we had this kind of open forum in our society and in our communities, there wouldn’t be a need for the secrecy and we could better control the spread of these deadly diseases. However, as long as homosexuals feel they cannot openly express their true feelings, these diseases will continue moving through and killing people.
Another issue that seems to arise from the argument of homosexuality is whether it is something that is biologically imprinted or if it’s a conscious choice that people make for themselves. I think it’s easy for someone who isn’t homosexual to say that it’s a choice made by the person. I personally do not believe that it’s a choice made by an individual. Think back to all of the people in your life that you’ve been attracted to. Once you’ve done this, think about the forces that were at work when you realized your attraction. I’ll bet you probably had sweaty palms, your pulse running wild. Maybe your heart rate got faster or your mouth suddenly became dry. These are all physiological responses that are facilitated by the brain, which is attributed (in part) to a biological response. Now, think about those same responses and imagine that someone told you to simply “turn off” the attraction. Could you do it? Was there ever a person that you felt something for that couldn’t be explained by any rational thought? I know I have and there was no way that I could simply stop being attracted to that person just because someone told me so. If this is true for heterosexuals, why can it not be true for homosexuals? I do not believe that you have control over who you’re attracted to, even beyond all rational thought. If this is true and agreeable, one would have to admit that biology plays a role in homosexuality. Aside from this obvious observation, why would any person purposefully choose to be outcast, discriminated against, bullied or worse? I don’t know many people who would choose such a journey in life, one where they don’t feel that they can be themselves or have to hide from the world. In fact, there are some homosexuals who go to great lengths to rid themselves of the thoughts and feelings that undoubtedly (yet needlessly) plague their hearts and souls, especially those under societal and religious pressure. I guarantee you that even the “best” methods for trying to change one’s lifestyle by attempting to alter who they’re attracted to won’t work one bit. They will still continue to have those same thoughts and feelings. This, on top of everything else, will just lead to worse guilt that they cannot change something that isn’t truly meant for them to change in the first place. As a heterosexual, there isn’t any way that someone else could “convince” me through “reasoning” to change the gender I am attracted to and want to be in a relationship with. Again, if this is true of heterosexuals, then it must be true of homosexuals and that has to mean that there is a biological aspect at work.
Probably the most difficult issue that exists on this subject is simply how society views homosexuality and the accepted definition of marriage and the family unit. Historically, people who have been deemed by society as “different” have also been unfairly regarded as “bad” or “evil” people who don’t deserve to occupy space on this Earth, unless they have the ability to change. These unfounded, yet fast-held notions are the direct cause and result of slavery, racism, prejudice discrimination and the like. Is there a quick fix for these feelings?; absolutely not. If there was, these problems wouldn’t have existed for years, decades or even centuries. We are often times afraid and wary of changes and differences. Fear can lead people to have irrational thoughts, emotions and even actions. The thing we have to remember is this: we were all created differently; there is a reason why we all look, act, and do things differently. However, we all share common emotions that bind us together as humans. If we focus our energy into finding the common threads among us, we’d spend less time worrying about how people are different from us. What it all comes down to is this: there is not one person on this Earth who can claim perfection. We all do things while we are here that are despicable, wrong and sometimes, downright evil. How can any of us say that we are better than anyone else or that we somehow deserve to be here more than someone else? We cannot. Show me a perfect person and I’ll show you a liar.
My purpose here is not to try and change you to think or believe that homosexuality is “right” or “wrong.” I’m not here to influence what you believe about the issue. All I want to do is express a sense of tolerance and acceptance. I have a big problem with what lessons we are teaching our children. We are certainly not being very clear in those lessons. On one hand, we try and teach our children about loving and accepting others, yet we often practice something very different. What they end up seeing is that you are supposed to love and accept people, but only if they believe what you believe. I cannot equate treating someone who is unlike me with any less respect or tolerance as someone who is similar to me, in any aspect. Just because someone looks, acts or thinks differently doesn’t make them a bad person. If we don’t change these perceptions, we will end up being the cause of our own demise. If anything, just look back in history; the Holocaust, slavery, 9/11, etc…these events happened because we cannot allow ourselves to tolerate what makes us unique from each other. I believe that we can all co-exist without having to alter what we believe. Let me leave you with a quote:
“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” –JFK

If you don’t take anything else from what I’ve said, please remember to pass on the message of tolerance, especially to our children. Too many innocent people have died from sheer ignorance and lack of acceptance from our fellow man. When you strip us all down to the core, our labels vanish and we are inherently the same. When the Earth passes away, none of these things will matter anymore. Why do we insist on spending what little time we have hating one another? We cannot alter the past at this point, but the future is in our control and we can make change that we will be proud of once we cease to exist.