Hate Expires at second annual LGBTQ conference

The second annual LGBT conference at SU focused on important issues like bullying, HIV and providing support to the LGBT community but what it did crucially well was demonstrate the separation of church and hate.

There were just a handful of people at the second annual Life Gets Better Together Conference this weekend at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, which is telling about the polar attitudes towards LGBT issues in the country.

“For so much of the church’s history, the terms gay and Christian have been mutually exclusive.”
T.J. Geiger, a PhD candidate in composition and rhetoric

Currently only 9 out of the 52 states within North America have authorized same sex marriage and the last two weeks saw the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition Eight being hotly contested in California courts.

Last week, Uruguay became the 2nd country in Latin America, as well as the second largest Roman Catholic state to legalize gay marriage. Religion and LGBT, if spoken of in the same breath, are done so to demonstrate diametrically opposite views. The most critical thing that SU’s LGBTQ conference did at its very onset was to establish the converse.

T.J. Geiger, a PhD candidate in composition and rhetoric, conveyed a most somber and poignant lecture, “The Separation of Church and Hate: Religious Support for the LGBTQ Community” to commence the day-long conference and workshops.

“For so much of the church’s history, the terms gay and Christian have been mutually exclusive,” spoke Geiger. It does not have to be, he insisted, citing the example of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in all of Christianity and others who are increasingly coming out and are being accepted into the fold of priesthood.  

The Pew Research Center also documents that the percentage of Catholics that favor same sex marriage has risen from 40 in 2001 to 54 percent in 2011, an indication of seismic shift in perspectives.

Geiger, a committed Christian who was baptized 2 years ago, refers to himself as a ‘recent convert’ and an ‘ally’ of the LGBTQ. He finds the proof of the peaceful coexistence of faith and LGBTQ in the story and personhood of Jesus, he said. “You side with love and people who have been marginalized and oppressed and side with justice,” said Geiger. “In the case of LGBT struggles, love and justice are meeting.”

And it’s not just Christianity, asserts Geiger, it is all faiths, even those perceived to be conservative like Judaism and Islam, that have members within working for equality. Documentary films such as “Trembling before G-d” and “The Jihad for Love” bring added perspective to this ongoing debate by showcasing those voices that are trying to reduce the binaries of religion and LGBTQ.

Maddie Flavin, a sophomore at SU, attending the conference said that she was raised Catholic but feels embarrassed of saying so because the Catholic community has pulled the name of religion down. She spoke of her own conservative and pedantic upbringing and how her mother finds it disgusting when she and her sister swoon over gay celebrities. “I’d rather you kiss a shoe or an animal than him,” said Flavin’s mother of her ‘love’ for Neil Patrick Harris.  

The media has historically portrayed members of the LGBT community as abnormal and peculiar from society’s accepted understandings of gender and sexuality. “I was watching ‘Married with Children’ the other day where they show a gay man and the way the camera shot him with a dramatic close up made him look so sinister, you know,” said Jessica L. Peptis, a high school English teacher attending the conference. “I had two of my students come out in class and I want to be the best support that I can to them,”

While the media has certainly come a long way from family shows like ‘Married with Children’ averse to homosexuality to those that celebrate it like ‘Modern Family’, the news landscape is adapting slowly to the trend in entertainment and the media.

“The story of the church and LGBTQ is changing but not how the media reports it,” laments Geiger. He is however grateful to the LGBTQ community for inciting debate about equality and authenticity of person that he feels are challenging our belief systems. “When beliefs create a culture of death, they must die,” he said. 

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