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Op-Ed: Anti-Gay Religious Abuse In The South

Religion is misused worldwide to suppress LGBTQ people and to rationalize the denial of human and civil rights. In the American South, it’s an especially pervasive weapon.

Guest author and LGBT activist James Robinson explains. * Originally published online at The New Civil Rights Movement

Religion is misused worldwide to suppress LGBTQ people and to rationalize the denial of human and civil rights. I am most familiar with the religious oppression and abuse of LGBTQ people in the South because I was born here and continue to live and work here as a human and civil rights activist.

While following the national dialogue after viewing the video of the domestic abuse of Daniel Ashley Pierce, I realized that our nation was missing an important opportunity to talk about the pervasive religious oppression and abuse of LGBTQ people in the South where Daniel lives. The national commentators did not seem to be aware that we are living with these problems because of generations of deeply rooted religious expectations and traditions or that these problems are a pervasive part of Southern culture.

When I witnessed the psychological and physical abuse inflicted upon Daniel by his family my own suppressed trauma overwhelmed me. Fortunately, I never faced the abuse that Daniel and many others have faced.  My trauma is a remnant of fear, oppression, and internalized homophobia. I am an example of someone who lives with the trauma caused by religious oppression and fear.

People who live in the South know that life here cannot easily be separated from religion and for most of our LGBTQ people from religious oppression and abuse. You cannot drive through Southern communities without finding multiple church buildings representing many denominations. One of the first questions local people will ask in an initial conversation is, “What church do you go to?”

It is assumed in the South that people are religious and attend a church. People who are not religious, or Christian, or simply do not attend a church are often not accepted as equally important members of our communities. Many atheists live in “closets” alongside LGBTQ people because the persecution and discrimination they fear is very real.

As the Human Rights Campaign implements Project One America and joins those of us already working on the front lines of the struggle for LGBTQ social justice and equality in the South we have an unprecedented opportunity. We have the opportunity to engage our nation in a conversation that will raise awareness of the damage being done to our people through the misuse of religion. We also have the opportunity to create and implement services to help the South make the transitions which will follow recognition of our human and civil rights.

These transitions will not come easily. There will be people who adamantly refuse to respect the equal status of LGBTQ people.  Many of our youth and adults will hear damaging messages from ministers who use their pulpits as platforms to threaten and intimidate LGBTQ people.

Social justice advocates and activists in the South must provide the public education and social services that are essential to the success of our efforts to secure long-lasting progressive social change. We need people across the nation to be aware of the progress we are making and the on-going struggles that we endure as LGBTQ people. We need your support and encouragement.