Yes, You’re a Homophobe by John Erickson


John Erickson, sports, coming out.

To be able to walk down the street holding the hand of the one you love is a great feeling and an action that some of us aren’t able to perform without fear.

A line has been drawn in the sand between those who support gay rights and those who do not.  While some call it being on the “right side of history,” I simply now refer to it as not sounding and looking like a bigot in the halls of history and in the various books, Facebook posts, and Tweets that our children will one day read.

phil robertson

I’ve spent a lot of my activist life attempting to educate, or save for lack of a better term, individuals who say hateful things similar to Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. In a recent GQ profile, the patriarch of the A&E series called being gay a “sin” and compared the sexual action between same sex individuals to bestiality.  Robertson said:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man –would be more desirable than a man’s anus.  That’s just me.  I’m just thinking: There’s more there!  She’s got more to offer…But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man.  It’s just not logical…Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.  Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

While this may seem like a run of the mill statement coming from someone with this man’s views and beliefs, his statement has created quite the controversy as he has been placed on permanent suspension from the show, his family refuses to film without him (something that is economically harmful to A&E since the show has broken many broadcast ratings records pertaining to reality shows and is a proverbial cash cow for the network and their investors) and, the craziest point of all, the people defending him are stating that his statement isn’t homophobic but rather an expression of his deeply held religious beliefs.

While I would usually just brush off the man’s statements as the actions of another delusional homophobe, I can no longer sit idly by when statements like his not only influence my personal life but also the way in which my human rights are restricted by a man who influences millions of people who tune into watch him on a weekly basis and buy his family’s countless products.

Does being against gay people make you a homophobe?  Yes.  Does being against gay marriage make someone anti-gay? Yes.  It is that simple.  We live in a country and exist in an academy where we can’t make value statements against those individuals standing on the wrong side of history and totally taking advantage and profiting from the homophobia they produce and I have a problem with that.

god hates fagsPeople are forming a metaphorical human shield around Robertson and the rest of his Duck Dynasty clan and I’m here to say that those individuals, defending him and toting the declaration that homosexuality is a sin are on the wrong side of history and people will not forget who stood on what side of that proverbial line in the sand when this is all over.

I no longer feel the need to save people who feel the same way as Robertson.  I no longer feel the need to educate them about how I am just like them but I just happen to like boys.  I no longer feel the need to explain, over and over again, that although Pope Francis stated: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” it doesn’t make the Catholic Church, or any other similar fundamentalist or conservative faith-based tradition, any less homophobic than they have been or erase the violent and hateful history to those groups who didn’t fit their definition of normal.

Is Pope Francis’ statement groundbreaking?  Yes.  Has Pope Francis, being the leader of the Catholic Church with major social, political, and cultural influence, changed any of the church dogma pertaining to homosexuality?  No – and that’s the problem.  People and groups in power need to create the change that we all need to see in the world and until they and their cohorts are willing to do that, I will not sit idly by and feel bad for calling someone or something a homophobe and leaving it at that.  The time has come for activists from all walks of life, who no longer are willing to sit by and watch as their rights are taken away from them, to take up the reins and finish the hard work that our brothers and sisters not only fought for but also died for.

Lately, this problem has become all too personal.  From Facebook status’ that declare Robertson and his clan have the right to say whatever they want because the Bible told them so, to individuals who are openly upset (as they should be) about his statements, I know now that we no longer can live in a society where people can walk the line of the homosexuality argument, examine both sides, and come to the conclusion that it is wrong based on scripture – when you’re against homosexuality and you base your reasoning on your faith that God condemns it or that you’re simply following the teaching of Jesus, you’re wrong.  Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and Jesus, a man who hung out with the poor and downtrodden, wouldn’t be hanging out with Robertson who openly preaches hate.  Jesus loved sinners and Jesus would rather be dancing with me in West Hollywood on a Friday night than lugging through a swamp luring ducks into a trap with a duck caller made by a clan who thinks that my sexual actions are similar to that of an individual having sex with an animal.

Duck Dynasty

Call me simplistic or call me a reductionist, but whether or not you call someone a faggot to their face or behind their back doesn’t make you any less homophobic.  Using hegemonic biblical texts that no longer define or reflect the views of many individuals from all walks of life fighting for gay and lesbian rights and emphasizing the correct usage of genitalia that deduce a minority class of citizens down to nothing more than whom they decide to love is homophobia plain and simple.  

Just like radical feminists in the 1970s who no longer stood by as patriarchal forces took away their personal, political, bodily, and social autonomy to the ways that African American refused to be silent about how they had (and have continued to be treated) by racists, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual men and women can no longer remain still in the face of targeted hateful attacks upon our communities. Until religion, politics, and society treat LGBTQIA people as equals no one is safe and until people are held accountable, both publicly and privately, for their actions and statements, this world will never change.

I recently tweeted that: “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck; and in this case, its most likely a family full of homophobes hiding behind a statement that lies near the condemnation of shellfish.”  I stand behind this statement and I stand behind the millions of LGBTQIA people who know more about G-d’s love than a man and family who claim to be deeply religious.

We're Sorry

Although I find it difficult to understand at times, I respect the position of those individuals and groups that frequently contribute to this blog who choose to remain in these types of traditions and fix the various problems equal rights activists must overcome from the inside.  I am clearly not from this camp and although I claim no religious identity, I do respect their call to action to make a difference in many of the conservative religious and faith-based communities I may and may not have mentioned above.  From the fight for women’s rights to the inclusion of LGBTQIA people in religious communities, the fight for equality, in my opinion, needs a flare of the radical.  Historically, I would call this the Alice Paul vs. Carrie Chapman Catt debacle – while some individuals choose to cozy up to those individuals in power and work for change from the inside out there are those who will literally starve themselves to death just for the ability to taste freedom.  Both are valid and worthy of respect but what one, at the end of the day, will achieve the equality we all so crave?

If the Duck Dynasty debacle has taught us anything, it isn’t that we live in a country where people like Phil Robertson (and many others) have the ability to say whatever they want by hiding behind the Bible, but rather the fact that there are millions of people who only wish to have the same inalienable rights as he does and which he takes for granted.  To be able to walk down the street holding the hand of the one you love is a great feeling and an action that some of us aren’t able to perform without fear.

John Erickson is a Doctoral Student in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests involve an interdisciplinary approach and are influenced by his time as working at a women’s center and active member in the LGBTQ and women’s rights movements. His work is inspired by the intersectionality of feminism, queer identity, religious, political and cultural rhetoric, and American Religious History. He is the author of several articles dealing with Feminism, Eco-Feminism, and Queer Theory and Identity. Alongside his academic interests John is also a published poet and can be followed on Twitter at @jerickson85.

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17 replies

  1. John, you’re correct: homophobia is disgusting, and so are those people who live in real swamps (like the Ducks) or metaphorical ones. Thanks for writing this.

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    • It is disgusting – and so are these people who state these horrible things! Are the entitled to their opinions, yes, but when they opinions infringe upon my rights of free speech and equal protection, they are not protected and the “legal” lines begin to get very blurry!

      Thanks for reading as usual!

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  2. “Although I find it difficult to understand at times, I respect the position of those individuals and groups that frequently contribute to this blog who choose to remain in these types of traditions and fix the various problems equal rights activists must overcome from the inside.”

    I have a tough time with this one too. Did you know that the Kiva organization is undergoing such a debate as well? For the past several months the GLBT forum there has been debating what to do. Kiva is clearly in bed with Opus Dei, a hugely anit-gay organization. The debate in the GLBT group has been whether to remain in Kiva and support loans that are not Opus Dei focused, or to leave the organization entirely. There are some who chose to remain in Kiva and focus their funds on non-Opus Dei projects. I, along with many others, have opted to leave Kiva entirely. What was once one of the top three funding groups in Kiva is now way down on the list. We spoke with our money. Sadly, as best I can tell, it has made no difference to Kiva whatsoever.

    While the GLBT group attempted to communicate its concerns to other groups in Kiva, we were not very successful. (I might add that the GLBT group was comprised of very intelligent, articulate individuals.) Our pleas essentially fell on deaf ears.

    And that is the situation in much of religious life as well. As much as the GLBT community talks and writes and prays, so much of what it gets back is pure pablum. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know if it is leaving, or staying, or conscientiously withholding funding. My inclination is to the latter. Religion is not one issue, even if that issue is discrimination, and I too do respect the decision of those who stay. I do pray that those who choose to stay look to their hearts for guidance.

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    • This is such a complex issue and I feel that when we start discussing “staying” or “leaving” a value judgement is placed on that choice – one that I am happy to make and I feel if more people were to actually “say” what they wanted to instead of being politically correct, we would actually create better dialogue around the issue.

      Do I respect those who stay? My first impulse is yes but then I have to step back and look at the bigger picture – if individuals and communities from various walks of life that were not traditionally accepted by conservative and fundamentalist religious and social traditions walked out one day and said they wouldn’t return until they were treated equally, do I think this would make more of a difference than staying in and practically, in my opinion, begging for equal treatment (a process which can take YEARS!) – well YES, I do!

      We have explored how women stay in traditions that treat them as second class citizens while “praising” them at the same time – what if all of these women left? What happens when they are sick of practically begging for theological and religious leftovers?

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      • I think the main reason women stay in religions that oppress them is that they are reluctant to leave the community – particularly the community of women. When the church has been central to one’s life for a long time, leaving it means leaving one’s friends and family. Sometimes, those connections are so important to women that they would rather put up with the repression and try to work for change within the institution, rather than losing the meaningful, close relationships. Also, I, for one, found it hard to leave the religion of my youth because of the wonderful MUSIC I experienced in it. Although I’m happier with the inclusiveness and liberalness of Unitarian Universalism, I just don’t find the same sort of inspiration from the UU music as I found in the Lutheran church, and sometimes I miss it.

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        • Katharine —

          The reason I joined my Unitarian Universalist church — without searching any further — was because of the amazing music program it has. They say that UUs can’t sing, because they’re looking ahead to see if they agree with the words. There’s some truth to that, but my congregation has 5 choirs (2 adult choirs, one teen choir, and 2 kids’ choirs), plus our director brings in wonderful instrumental musicians as well. Even if I don’t enjoy the sermon, I always love the music.

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  3. I’d like to quote another blogger on this site, Kelly Brown Douglas in her post ‘What does Jesus have to do with whiteness?: to be racist (or homophobic) is in fact being anti-christ. One has to keep on speaking out.

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  4. love it…very smart and right on.

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  5. John,
    I too am horrified when people use use the Bible to justify their homophobia and I left the protestant fundamentalist church of my childhood over this issue. I now belong to a denomination, the United Church of Christ, that fully embraces the LGBTQI community. In fact, the minister of my small Maine church is openly gay and has a partner. So, fortunately times and people are changing and not all Christians are narrow-minded homophobes. I agree with you that Jesus would fully embrace the LGBTQI community and I love the idea of him dancing with you in West Hollywood!

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  6. Right on, John. I’m bisexual, and if the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) were homophobic, I would feel the need to leave it. In fact, shortly after I joined my UU church, the General Assembly of the UUA (our national convention) voted on whether to accept a new source statement, i.e. that our living tradition is drawn from, among other sources, “Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.” I’m also a Wiccan, and if this amendment to our statement of sources hadn’t passed, I would have left the organization in protest (and I certainly wouldn’t have been the only one). I think that’s one of the levers that people on the inside of religious organizations have: our threat to leave, conscientiously withhold contributions, or otherwise disrupt life as usual. That being said, I love being a UU, because we are religious liberals, who spend a lot of time trying to make the world a better place, politically as well as with our tolerant religious views.

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    • Earth-centered traditions and new-age religions often get looked at the other way, when in reality they have offered more to the LGBTQIA community than many mainline religious traditions that dominant our world today. I know I don’t need to tell you but Wiccan and Radical Fairies were there for the gay community specifically when they were “doomed to die” as a result of the silencing force that was (and still is) the HIV/AIDS crisis! Thanks for your great comment and sorry it took me so long to get back to you!

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  7. I struggle with the question of whether I respect women who stay in traditional christian structures and the answer is yes I do. I respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I cannot however respect the decision to stay in those religious institutions which devalue women and LGBTQ persons. I have found great community in my Unitarian Universalist church. I disagree with the argument that staying is preferable because you have to give something up, ie music. You give up your dignity by participating in a system that constantly and deliberately tells you that you are less than someone else. There are many liberal churches to choose from that are doing important work for justice and equality. Giving your gifts, be they money or otherwise, to misogynistic institutions works directly against the women who have made the sacrifice of leaving the communities we grew up in to fight for our right to be equal in the eyes of whatever god we have chosen. I believe that as John said all we as women will ever get from those institutions is lip service as long as they can convince women to keep walking through the door on Sunday morning. Blessed be.

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