Weeks ago I had lunch with a classmate. We had never been alone together before, and after pleasant small talk and mouthfuls of fried chicken, it seemed like she had mustered enough courage to ask me about the pink elephant in the room. I knew it was bound to happen: She is a devout Christian girl and I am a homosexual.
She sheepishly asked how I first came to know. This was a pretty standard question, which I’ve had plenty of practice answering since I came out of the closet. I decided to give her the abridged version.
The first time I became aware of being physically attracted to another boy was probably as early as Grade 6, but accepting this reality was not easy. Since this first crush, I’d lived in a world of confusion, denial, self-hatred, and fear. After years of this excruciating inner turmoil, I felt that the only way I could go on living my life was to be honest about who I really am. I decided to stop running from myself, and I came out to my friends and family.
Her follow-up questions were also quite expected. Was I completely sure of my sexual orientation? Was there hope for me yet?
I joked that after living through a decade of knowing that I was physically and romantically attracted to people of my sex, I was pretty sure it wasn’t just a phase (as so many insist), and told her that I was sorry but there was no longer any “hope” for me.
I asked her about what she thought, although after a life of Catholic education, I was prepared for what her answers would likely be: To God, the homosexual act is intrinsically disordered, and active homosexuals are sinners to be condemned. As though she were appeasing me, she explained that she didn’t consider it to be as bad as other sins, such as murder or rape. She had gay friends, whom she tolerated, but would still never “encourage.” She believed that there was, somehow, still hope for me to “see the light,” and that it was possible to pray the gay away.
Our conversation was sufficiently cheerful, and I even remember chuckling and smiling at all the right times. But I left our lunch feeling vaguely disturbed, which surprised me. By then, I thought I’d be prepared for this kind of a conversation. My theology classes in college had made me well aware of the Church’s opinions of someone such as me. I wasn’t well versed in Christian doctrine, although I knew that it was similar. All of it was nothing I hadn’t heard before.
The nagging feeling made me realize that it still affected me, and maybe it would always affect me somehow, to know that some people are certain that I am going to hell. The idea that their adult minds have a pretty concrete concept of what hell will be—endless lava and fire, grotesque horned devils flying around with pitchforks and other torture devices, basically a world of perpetual pain and suffering—and that they are absolutely sure that this would be my fate as a homosexual, is unsettling, to say the least. To them, I even deserve it.
I find this disturbing not because I’m particularly fearful of hell and of God’s wrath for being a theoretical sodomite. At the very least, I’m past the point of thinking that my unique brand of love is a sin. It unsettles me because people seem to be perfectly capable of consigning me to an ultimate fate based on a single facet of my personhood, which I think is not enough to determine my moral worth. My sexual orientation is a central part of who I am, but it shouldn’t be enough to damn my entire being for eternity.
It disturbs me that something as fundamental to my humanity as the act of loving is seen as morally depraved by those who claim to preach love and acceptance. I have realized it is infinitely more hurtful when these people turn out to be people you know, and who, despite knowing you, staunchly hold on to their beliefs.
I am also aware of the less than warm sentiments of other religious groups toward the homosexual community. The Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas in the United States religiously pickets funerals of fallen soldiers, carrying signs that say “God hates fags,” proclaiming that these deaths are God’s way of punishing America for its growing support for LGBT rights. In Uganda, members of Congress are pushing for the enactment of a religiously motivated bill that will allow the state to impose the death penalty for the “crime” of homosexuality. In the sacred eyes of Bishop Teodoro Bacani, love that happens to fall outside the category of heterosexuality is “kadiri.”
It is easy to discount judgment by those whose views I’ve written off as coming from a place of ignorance, fear, or hatred. But hearing a close acquaintance preach to me about my “sinfulness” is entirely different. For some reason, judgment is harder to brush aside when it comes from a person who seems to genuinely care about my welfare and want the best for me. I’ve learned to develop a spiked shell for those who systematically spew bile in order to hurt or alienate, but I am not equipped to deal with prejudice that comes from a place of sincere personal concern, maybe even a place of love. To me, this is a jarring experience, a sort of moral Trojan horse.
Contrary to those who are vocal about their hatred and disgust for and condemnation of homosexuals, those who claim to have the best intentions whenever they speak of praying the gay away or of God illuminating the straight path to salvation seem to be unaware of their own deeply held prejudice and the significant harm and hurt they cause others. They may have the utmost sincerity in their benevolent concerns, but these are still grounded on the same injurious premise that their homosexual brothers and sisters are sinners deserving of contempt and condemnation, fundamentally deficient human beings that are inherently disordered and incomplete. Anything less than awareness and acceptance of this fact, I believe, is unforgivable moral callousness and pure arrogance. People should be free to espouse their own religious morality, but the detrimental consequences of their choices to others should be candidly considered in the calculus of their consciences.
Recently, Miriam Quiambao made statements on a TV show and unleashed a series of tweets that would make Bishop Bacani proud. This provoked a barrage of angry responses from the LGBT community. Speaking from her faith, she declared that active homosexuality was immorality, and that homosexuals needed to hear the painful truth to be healed and to attain salvation. She said she “loved” LGBTs, which was the principal reason she felt compelled to rebuke us.
But her “love” seems to contain an awful lot of prejudice and intolerance. I’d even go so far as to say that I consider her “love” for me more sinful than my very gay love for another man.
Dave Oliver P. Anastacio, 22, is a communication graduate of Ateneo de Manila University and an incoming sophomore at the University of the Philippines College of Law.