Monday, February 22, 2016

How Kurt Changed My Life

There is one single person who changed my life more dramatically than anyone I know.

His name is Kurt Hummel.

Yes, you read that right. A fictitious TV personality. You see, growing up Mormon I was taught some pretty vicious lies about homosexuality. One of these was that our country would fall if we ever legalized gay marriage. Another was that being gay was a choice. And yet another, that it was inherently sinful to act on gay *temptations* (including actions, thoughts, and support).

And I firmly believed all of these things. My outlook on the world was heterocentric and bigoted.  Until one day, I saw a coworker post on Facebook about a live concert she had gone to called Glee. And wouldn't you know? Glee was a show on Hulu! And irony of ironies, the very first episode I saw was called "Born This Way".

For those of you unfamiliar, "Born This Way" is a song by Lady Gaga, and it celebrates the differences of humanity. The episode features several cast members coming to terms with the way they were born, and not being ashamed of it. One of these characters, Kurt, wears his shirt "Likes Boys" proudly after returning to his high school. He had been bullied by another student, and endured enormous amounts of violence, including death threats, and so his parents sacrificed to send him to a private school. His bully, a closeted gay, later faces his own demons, but does not fair as well and attempts to commit suicide.
Every time Kurt was shoved into a locker, every time he cowered in fear, every time I could feel right along with him the pain and the shame and the terror I couldn't help but wonder if what I had been taught was wrong. Here was a boy, a teenage boy with hopes, dreams, aspirations, talents, likes, dislikes, hobbies, friends, and family just like me. Only, he was gay. Didn't that mean he was a bad person?

So how did this sweet, adorable teen steal my heart? Well, at first my response was, Lady Gaga you are wrong. We don't embrace the natural man, we try to rise above it. Everyone has trials to face in this life, for some it is rising above their biology to be like god.

And as we watched more episodes and Santana turned out to be a lesbian, my husband concluded that the subject matter wasn't appropriate for a Latter-Day-Saint family, and I was forbidden to watch it. Ha, like that would stop me. Of course, I agreed at first. How dare I fill my mind with these horrible things. It was the dog poop in the chocolate chip cookie. Sure, Kurt was a sweet kid, but he was gay. Dog poop.

But eventually, I couldn't stay away. It became my guilty pleasure. Thank god my husband ended up in a bishopric so between school and church callings, I had enough time to watch my newest favorite show without him knowing. Yes, I know, horrible ;)

While I still maintained a belief in the LDS god, my feelings about their teachings on so called "same-sex attracted" people changed. It even came to the point that in a temple recommend interview, I admitted to supporting an organization in direct violation of church teachings. This was when gay marriage was about to be legalized nationwide, and I happily supported it. Who was I to say they couldn't marry? My stake president fudged it over and gave me the recommend anyways, but I knew he shouldn't have. By this time my husband no longer believed, embraced Glee as I had, and so the stake president used it as a last stitch effort to keep me strong in the gospel. Didn't last very long. My belief dwindled as I discovered other things about the church I had loved for so long, but there was one event that sent me over the edge.

The leadership of the LDS church came out with a policy labeling same-sex marriage as apostasy, and the children of these unions were not eligible for baptism. And that was the last straw. I had my name removed.

So much hate. I couldn't stand it.
I kept replying the episode in my head where Karofsky, Kurt's bully, is outed. His social media blows up with threats of violence, hateful slander, mocking and jeering. He couldn't take it. And in a powerful montage, where Blaine sings "Cough Syrup", Karofsky makes the choice to end his life. I watched in horror, realizing this wasn't fake. It was real. Children, adults, teens, all feeling the hate and not knowing how to live with it chose to end their lives every day. Hate and bigotry drive many homosexuals to harm themselves. And when Karofsky's dad finds him, and is screaming for help, shivers went up and down my spine.

Yes, it was a fake story. Yes he was a fictional character. But it is real. The struggle these people face is real. The hate they have to endure is awful. The ridicule, the shame, the comments "have you tried not being gay?"

So in short, I just wanted to thank Kurt Hummel for helping me to see what I had been conditionally blinded from before. That our heteronormative world view is wrong, and it is hurting people. That LGBTQ are human. They are human as much as me. It sounds so terrible that I have to say that, but they really were dehumanized to me. They were sinful creatures, choosing to partake in Sodomous acts. When in all actuality, they are just as much slaves to their biology as I am to mine. I couldn't be gay if I wanted to be. I am 100% straight. And no one is forcing me to be gay. Likewise, no one should be forcing anyone who is gay to be straight. Its so awful I can't even bear to think about it. The LDS church used to have camps and programs to "cure the gay". Not many participants survived it, one man recounted that out of his group, only two didn't commit suicide (source I Am An Ex-Mormon).

It makes me sad to think I was ever one of those judgmental people. Especially when so many of my friends from growing up are gay or lesbian. And I would have hated them, just for being themselves. Kurt helped me to see just how much of bully I was; I may not have been voicing my thoughts, but I was thinking them. It wasn't my fault, it was something I was conditioned to feel. I think it's time we stopped this conditioning and teach children to accept and love everyone for who they are. No one should be meant to feel ashamed for something the cannon control. Asking a homosexual person to not be homosexual would be like asking a person with down syndrome to not give in to their disability. Its mean, its insensitive, and it's impossible.

If you haven't, I recommend watching Glee. It will open your eyes and help you to see and understand your own ignorance.

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