There has been a lot in the news lately about LGBT rights and religious freedom, particularly about things going on in Mississippi and North Carolina. As someone who is LGBT and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), a woman, and a sexual abuse survivor, what has been going on in our country has been of significant interest to me, and I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts on these issues.
I believe that transgender people deserve to be able to use a restroom that feels safe and comfortable to them. But I also believe that women and children also deserve this, and they don’t deserve it any less than transgender persons. There is a real possibility that men who are not actually transgender may abuse a law allowing transgenders to use women’s restrooms by pretending to be transgender and then assaulting a woman or child in that restroom.
There needs to be another option. I know it may be costly, but maybe businesses need to add a transgender bathroom, or maybe public restrooms need to be reformatted or monitored in some better way. It will be just as costly to local economies if women, children, and survivors like myself (which is at least 1 in 6 women–thats a significant amount of consumers) can no longer go out in public to shop because no safe public restrooms are available and just do all their purchasing online.
Another issue is that of discrimination. Most LGBT people would agree it is not right to try to force them to give up who they are, to threaten them with punishment if they don’t stop being LGBT. But many are trying to legally force religious people to stop being who they are. A religious identity is just as personal and deep and essential to some people as an LGBT identity is to some people. We need to find common ground and compromise, where nobody’s efforts to be who they are and live their identity are threatened or prohibited.
Is it against anyone’s religion to be kind and serve others? Not that I know of. Every religion I know of teaches that kindness and service are God’s laws. Businesses shouldn’t refuse service to someone just because they are LGBT or just because they are not.
But for some religious adherents, marriage has God-given laws attached to it. For some religions, including the LDS/Mormon church, it is believed that God has commanded marriage to be only between a man and woman. So to force someone with these beliefs to perform a marriage ceremony for a gay or lesbian couple, is to force someone to break Gods laws in order to keep their country’s government’s laws.
How can any LGBT person be okay with forcing someone to do something that feels that wrong to them? That is like the government forcing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the opposite gender.
Now, I just mean religious leaders should not be forced to perform gay and lesbian marriage ceremonies. If there is a public employee working at the courthouse giving out marriage licenses, but their religious beliefs are that gay marriage is against God’s laws, they should not break the law and refuse to give a marriage license to a same-sex couple. I feel they should resign from their job and find a different career that doesn’t interfere with them living their religious beliefs.
The final thing I want to explain is that my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also sometimes called the LDS church or the Mormons), as well as most other religions I know of, does NOT hate LGBT people.
Of course who find hateful people everywhere, in every religion and among atheists as well. And among LGBT people too. But its never right to generalize and stereotype the whole group based on the few who are not living the beliefs of the whole. The vast majority of religious people I know, and the vast majority of the people I have met in my church, are not hateful and are some of the kindest people you could know.
There has been so much misunderstandings fueled by strong emotions, and I think everyone needs to step back and really listen to one another, ask questions, and really seek to understand one another.
When leaders and members of my church say that same-sex marriage is against God laws, we are NOT saying that we hate people who are gay or lesbian or who enter a same-sex marriage. We are just explaining our beliefs, with no intention of inciting any negative feelings or behaviors.
It is the same if one of us says that lying is against God’s commandments. Does that mean we hate anyone who lies? No, of course not. That would mean we hate ourselves and little children and every person on the earth, since I wouldn’t be surprised if every human being has not lied at least once.
When we say that stealing is a sin, we are not saying we hate little children who swipe candy near the checkstand at the grocery store or teen girls who slip lipstick into their purses at the pharmacy. We are just saying that God has laws against these things.
Just like Jesus Christ wasn’t being discriminatory or hateful when He said in Matthew 5 that it is against God’s laws to steal, kill, lie, or commit adultery. Just like He wasn’t being hateful when He said “Go and sin no more” to the woman taken in adultery.
I guess that being both LGBT and a member of the LDS church helps me to see and understand both sides a little more clearly, and I just want to share some of these insights with others to help diffuse the tension and anger and increase the understanding and willingness to listen and cooperate.
We can work this out, people! We don’t have to stomp on either group. We don’t have to limit the freedoms of anyone. It may take more effort or money, it definitely takes willingness to dialogue, but people are worth that. Lets work on creating a society with true equality and tolerance, not just one where the rights of one group—whether that is religious groups or LGBT groups–dominates the other. Lets stop having “us and them”, lets work together so that everyone is allowed to live true to themselves.
Note on the bathroom issue: after writing this, I came across this article and Kaeley said it so much better than me, check out her post: http://thefederalist.com/2015/11/23/a-rape-survivor-speaks-out-about-transgender-bathrooms/