Words can be powerful weapons.
Right-wing, anti-gay Christians have known this for a very long time and have gotten quite good at using words to inflict major damage to a person or group of persons they dislike or want to villainize.
How have they done it? By taking advantage of our willingness to let them set the foundation upon which the rest of the discussion is based. And in fact they have even provided the vocabulary with which we have these conversations. They pick those words and phrases very carefully and use them over and over again until they finally start seeping beyond the church walls and into everyday discussions by ordinary people.
These words and phrases sound innocent enough to the lay ear, but have subliminal messages that titilate the die-hard believers while duping the unsuspecting.
How did this happen?? Well it happened because we have dropped the ball. We underestimated the power of words. And we certainly have not done a good job of stopping people in their tracks when they use those words and educating them to the damage those 2 words inflict.
So the other day when I saw those 2 words used in a letter to the editor, written by someone who actually had good intentions and was making a point in favor of the glbt community, I knew I needed to speak up. And I did. Here is my letter in response to his, which did get published:
When reading “Gay rights in U.S. ultimately about freedom” (Opinions, Wednesday), I couldn’t help but cringe when I got to the phrase “moral legitimacy of the gay lifestyle.”
I believe the writer had good intentions, but by using that phrase, he also exposes why so many “conscientious Christians” fight to deny rights and dignity to gay people.
The phrase “gay lifestyle” perpetuates the myth that gay people choose to be gay, thereby providing moral cover for those who want to deny gay people equality under the guise of religious freedom.
But for anyone who believes sexual orientation is as immutable as eye color, denying gays the same rights straight people enjoy comes off as discriminatory and mean-spirited, which is why so many of these churches work so hard to keep this myth alive.
As a mother of a gay son and a PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) facilitator, I can tell you I do not believe our sexual orientation is a choice; I certainly have no memory of consciously choosing to be straight.
And having watched someone I love so dearly agonize over the realization that he is gay and cannot change it makes that phrase, “gay lifestyle,” all the more ugly and hurtful.