[CN: HOMOPHOBIA, TRANSPHOBIA, VIOLENCE]
Last week at the 2015 American Atheists convention, Ayaan Hirsi Ali gave a keynote address about the dangers of radical Islam. I haven’t seen the entire video, but from all accounts it was a powerful speech about the threat Islamic extremists pose on the world.
Except when she came to this part:
If you are gay, today in the United States of America, the worst the Christian community can do to gay people is not serve them cake… I tweeted Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, whom I think is very brave by going out there and describing what it is that the LGBT community faces in predominantly homophobic communities. The discrimination is subtle, and it lurks in the shadows. But I just want you to think about being Muslim and gay today. In the worst case scenario, you’ve seen it on television, on YouTube… if you’re accused of being gay, you are marched to the tallest building in town and bullies throw you off that building and there’s a crowd of people waiting there…
Of course, I should point out that Ali does voice her support of LGBTQ rights all over the world, including America. And I agree with her on the dangers of radical Islam, so I don’t want to make it sound like I have it worse here in America than LGBTQ people being thrown off of buildings in the Middle East. However, Ali is flat out wrong when she says the worst Christians can do to us here in America is not make wedding cakes for us. Honestly, it strikes me as the logical fallacy of relative privation.
Here in Christian America (meaning that Christianity is the most practiced religion in America, not that we live under a Christian theocracy . . . although some politicians are trying to change that), 40% of homeless youth are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Out of this 40%, 46% say they ran away because their parents could not accept them, and 43% say they were kicked out. Also, as I mentioned in my last blog post, 75% of reported hate crimes committed in America in 2013 were against transgender women, and 90% of the victims were transgender women of color.
As a bisexual genderqueer/gender nonconforming person living in a small town, I anticipate the day someone harasses me or physically harms me because of how I look. Using public bathrooms is a dilemma because I don’t look like a woman, but if I go to the men’s room, I’m worried that someone will see my painted nails and harass me. So far I’ve been lucky, but there was one time when I thought someone was going to hurt me.
I was kissing my then-boyfriend in my car in the parking lot outside Denny’s when I saw a man in a pick-up truck a few parking spaces over look in my direction. I didn’t let my boyfriend on that someone was watching us–or at least that someone was looking in our direction–but I kept looking to see if the man was about to get out of his truck. Fortunately the man eventually drove off, but for five or ten long uncomfortable minutes, I thought the worst. That was the first time I realized how, despite all our progress, the threat was still real.
Hemant Mehta thinks Ali’s quote was simply a rhetorical device, but it was a bad rhetorical device. As a queer person living in Christian America, not getting wedding cake is the last thing on my mind. This isn’t to say Islamic extremism isn’t an equal or greater threat to LGBTQ people, but that religious dogma is a threat to the safety and well-being of all LGBTQ people around the world.