I don’t typically do this. Talk about controversial stuff, I mean. I’ve always felt like no one really wants to hear my opinion, anyway. But I’ve been sitting on this for a while.
I wrote the rest of this post a couple days ago, before the shooting of the LGBT nightclub in Orlando. Hearing about such a devestating act of terror horrified me, and I considered not publishing this post. I knew many people would be speaking up, giving their two cents, and I felt too unqualified to do the same. I’m in high school, what do I know?
But I’ve decided to post it anyway. Maybe my perspective will change yours, or add to the LGBT conversation.
Homophobia, as defined on dictionary.com, means unreasoning fear or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.
Rick Riordan is one of my favorite authors. He wrote the Percy Jackson series which I began reading in fourth grade and haven’t put down eight years later. The characters he created, Percy, Annabeth, are like childhood friends to me. I know them, know their lives, know their stories, as if they are real people. Riordan’s books are what caused me to be an avid reader. I would spend a whole day reading one of his 600 page novels, then read it again next week. The jokes and humor in every book never got old, each read was as funny as the last. But it wasn’t until I wrote the first draft of the first novel I ever attempted that I realized how much Riordan’s work had influenced me. My characters made similar snappy comments, had similar comraderie, worked in similar trios. There was a shadow of his stories in mine, not enough to be obvious, but enough for me to appreciate his work more.
Riordan’s most recent book, The Trials of Apollo, came out early in May. I was estatic, as I always am, at the announcement of another Riordan book. Especially since this book was supposed to take place in the world of Percy Jackson, unlike the Magnus Chase series, which doesn’t. (Though that series is still good). I was on Amazon earlier today, planning to buy the book for myself now that it was summer and I had time, when I stopped to read the reviews.
Silly of me, I know. But there were some bad reviews there and I wanted to know what kind of ridiculous opinions people had of Riordan’s new masterpiece.
The reviews set me back a bit.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t buy the book yet. I don’t know if I will.
See, they said he sacrificed the plot for an alternate agenda. An agenda I don’t happen to agree with. They said the main character was gay/bisexual, which I already knew. They said there were other characters with gay/bisexual relationships that are brought up and praised. Okay. That wasn’t a problem.
I thought to myself, that’s not sacrificing the plot. There are gay and bisexual people in the world. Naturally they also inhabit the fictional world. I mean, it’s only logical. And sure, I might not agree with their lifestyle and they might not agree with mine, but this is America. Freedom of speech, freedom of belief. We both can live how we want.
That’s not the part that got me. The part that made me sit back and question myself, question I should purchase a book by one of my favorite authors, was that they said he sacrificed the plot to allow his main character to talk about the LGBT life, to allow his main character to give his two cents about it and about how people should appreciate them and not treat them like they do…
Why would you stop the plot for this, Mr. Riordan? Why would you turn your novel into a lecture on how to treat gay people? Why would you sacrifice your story to stuff your beliefs down someone’s throat?
It’s not the LGBT stuff that bothers me. It’s the inconsistancies.
I have been told, by my peers and by others, various things about religion. It should be private. It should be something you keep to yourself. “I don’t want God stuffed down my throat,” they say. “I don’t want you to force your beliefs onto me.”
And so I back off, I keep it to myself, for the sake of my friendships. But that same courtesy is not extended to me. I don’t believe in gay marriage or the gay lifestyle, but everywhere I turn there’s something about it. While we’re on the subject of controversy, maybe I think abortion is wrong, and sex before marriage, and atheism, but never once has anyone spouting those beliefs stopped out of fear I might be uncomfortable.
And yet they took prayer out of schools, replacing itsead with “a moment of silence.” My friend was asked to put her Bible away at school because it might make others uncomfortable. Posters inviting students to a youth group were taken off the walls because “separation of church and state”, even though that concerns the government and government jobs, not what kids do after school.
LGBT individuals want to be accepted, want to live life not afraid to say who they are. So do I. They expect everyone to extend them some sort of understanding, freedom to live the way they feel is right. All I ask is the same thing. The freedom to call myself a Christian and not be hated for it. The freedom to live the way I feel is right. I don’t want to be scorned at as I walk down the halls of my school, I don’t want to be labeled a homophobe. I’m sure LGBT students have felt similar fear, worried about the labels other students would give them if they knew who they really were.
I am not a homophobe. That implies fear, implies that I am afraid of people who choose to live differently than I do. What reason would I have to be afraid?
I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU. I just don’t agree with you. It’s different. Disagreements happen all the time, and yet people still live in harmony. My friend Maroon hates the cold. I hate the heat. She hates English and writing. I love it. These are more basic differences, yes, but it still illustrates how different people can become friends.
The LGBT community and I, our differences run a little deeper, create a wider chasm. But in many ways we are the same. The LGBT community wants (as wikipedia describes it, anyway) to celebrate diversity and individuality and (as it has been decribed to me) to allow everyone to love who they want to and be who they want to. Christians, real Christians, not the one who post angry comments on the internet, live by similar values: we want to celebrate the way God has made us all individually unique and are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). We both want love, we both want acceptance, we both want to celebrate diversity. Our one difference, though it is large, is that Christians believe marriage should be between a man and a woman and LGBT members believe that there is no need to conform to traditional values when it comes to sexuality.
Okay. I may be wrong, but I feel like I understand. I still disagree, but I understand. Can you understand me? Can you grant me the same compassion and empathy, and understanding? Do you know what it feels like to bite your tongue in a controversial discussion? Do you know what it feels like to be on the wrong side, to be hated for who you are?
Whenever I go on social media or take part in political discussion or keep up with the news I feel like an atheist in the Bible belt.
People go to such lengths to protect others from Christianity and religion, and yet they don’t hesitate from sharing and forcing their own beliefs onto others.
Maybe I will read Rick Riordan’s new book. Maybe it isn’t as saturated with his agenda as the reviews said.
But the thing is, I can see it. He’s been creating characters to challenge social norms, to hop onto bandwagons that others have started. Not that this is a bad thing. In the first Magnus Chase book one of the main characters was Muslim. She was pretty neat too, one of my favorite characters. And in his second Percy Jackson series one of the characters was revealed as gay. That one felt a little forced, like he was trying too hard. Like he had to have a gay character. I’m worried that this new book will be forced as well, like Riordan has sacrificed his plot and amazing characters to stick in a parade of LGBT people to explain how the world works now. I don’t want a parade. I want real people. If they’re gay, that’s fine, but don’t make that their defining quality. Don’t sacrifice your deep characters to serve your agenda. I don’t want your agenda. I don’t want your beliefs. I want to make my own.
It is true there is evil in the world, there are enemies of the LGBT community. I am not your enemy.
It is true there is hate in the world, hate beyond understanding. I don’t hate you.
Members of the LGBT community often clash with members of the Christian community, but you can’t eradicate hate with more hate. Perhaps I’m naive, or idealistic, but I think the best way to face situations like the mindless killing in Orlando is together. Because that’s where the real problems and the real evils lie.