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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 5, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 45
Ask Michael: Fear fuels hatred
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Ask Michael: Fear fuels hatred

by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

Hatred - not being Gay - is the sickness!

Weekly, we are still hearing about the suicides of young GLBTQ men and women who are being bullied so badly that they are choosing to die because they are feeling hopeless and unsupported. There is a new movement afoot: the 'It Gets Better' project, which is reaching out and providing hope and saving lives through the stories of people who have been bullied and are now glad they made it through. The message is sound! The support for these adolescents is strong!

The hope has to be paired with addressing the core issue: the hatred that is being fueled by fear. If we don't address these two things together, then we will still lose valuable young men and women. Fear is such a primal, powerful emotion that it usually overrides logic and hope, and it has to be faced head-on.

What is fear? Fear is an intense emotion that comes from the very primitive parts of our brains. Once fear kicks in, it takes over the higher-functioning cognitive processes that are associated with reason and logic. People who are under the influence of fear are unable to use their reason and think clearly. We know this because of many examples of people exhibiting very extreme behaviors when they are afraid - behaviors that they do not usually exhibit.

Most of the fear and resulting hatred that certain people have towards GLBTQ men, women, and adolescents originates in ignorance and the perpetuation of myths about what it means to be GLBTQ. They make what we do the sickness, justifying it by saying 'Love the sinner, hate the sin,' and 'You have sex with men.' They attempt to reduce being GLBTQ to a sexual act, which it is not! From that, they attempt to equate Gay with sexual perversion and crimes like pedophilia. Hateful people say that there is a movement to convert other young adults into the ranks of being Gay (not possible!).

For some, the worst fear that is perpetuated is that of eternal damnation. A young Gay adolescent who gets these messages is going to experience fear about him/herself - who wants to be a pervert or burn in hell for eternity? They become afraid that there is something wrong with them. They have tremendous fear of the targeting they are experiencing and that it will never get better. In that amount of fear, they are hopeless and ashamed and not in touch with logic, reason, or hope. Their peers and other adults also become fearful (based on the same misunderstandings and lies) and turn those fears into rage and bullying, all because they don't understand what GLBTQ is. All because a few skilled leaders (some political and some religious) know how to tap into the fear of certain people who are easily affected by their fear and use it as a motivator.

Being GLBTQ isn't a choice. It isn't a sickness or perversion. It doesn't lead to pedophilia. It is an emotional identity - an emotional orientation. Men and women who are Gay fall in love with other like-oriented men and women. Romantic love - another powerful emotion! I'm Gay because I experience romantic love towards another man. I was born this way. I have zero doubt about that! Straight men experience romantic love towards straight women. Physical intimacy is an extension of romantic love and is universally accepted as such. Sex is healthy and normal in consenting adult relationships. Being Gay cannot be reduced to the act of sex. Every sociologist, theologian, anthropologist, psychologist, doctor, and teacher knows that no individual can be reduced to any act. Human identity, actions, and emotions are complex and multi-faceted.

In my opinion, the message has to be 'It gets better' and 'Being GLBTQ is a healthy, normal way of being.' There has to be focus and emphasis on how the vast majority of those of us who are GLBTQ men and women are loving, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who have friends, family, relationships, and rewarding careers. We contribute to the larger society in positive ways. This message is important for GLBTQ adolescents and their peers. These adolescents need support from their peers. Their peers need to understand the reality of what being Gay is so they can support their friends. Any adolescent or adult who puts their fears aside temporarily and looks at the facts with logic and reason will see that the myths that fuel the fear have no basis.

Movements that support GLBTQ rights need to put pressure on individuals and organizations that condone reparative therapy approaches to 'convert' GLBTQ men and women. There is nothing about this process that is right or healthy or can be supported by the principle of 'do no harm.' These therapists and approaches do harm! These perspectives operate from a premise that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ. The focus of these therapies is about not acting out sexually (again, attempting to reduce being Gay to an act of sex).

Most people feel - and this was recently supported in a CNN poll - that the hatred and fear towards GLBTQ people comes from certain extreme religious individuals and their organizations. Some of these people will never come out of their fear. For others, I invite you to willingly suspend your fear and get to know me, my friends, family, and other GLBTQ people, and then make a decision based on facts and real experiences. See if my reality matches the myths you've been hearing about.

A minute number of references in religious documents are used to fuel intense fear and justify extreme hatred. Most theologians attest to the fact that every religious document is a living document. It reflects the period of time it is in while timelessly maintaining the basic principles of love, respect, acceptance, and tolerance. When more religious leaders who are stuck in their fear recognize this process and face the pathology of their hatred, they might be able to transform their fear and trigger changes in themselves and others that promote happiness and life rather than the tragic opposites.

Finally, we've got to help young GLBTQ men and women address their fears that fuel their self-hatred. The only way to do this is by giving them an accurate perspective about what being GLBTQ is - a full definition which includes the emotional orientation. We have to support them in the present while giving them hope for the future.

Parents, teachers, friends, and clergy of young GLBTQ men and women, you, too, have to do your own personal work about your fears and misperceptions about GLBTQ people so that you are not giving these young men and women the wrong messages about themselves and taking away their hope and desire to live. I can't image most of you would feel good knowing you've directly contributed to the suicide of a young adult because you couldn't face your own fears and tackle your own misperceptions.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to die. I thought of suicide a lot. I'm glad I didn't. I love being Gay. I'm loved by friends and family. I'm not sick, nor am I a pervert, and I'm not going to burn in hell! Gay isn't the sickness; fear and hatred are!

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. He writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.

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