From Homophobe to Straight Ally – Part 2
BY Hugh Hollowell
This is the second post in a four part series in which Hugh Hollowell shares his journey from homophobe to straight ally. We will publish one part of his story each week, so you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed so you don’t miss anything.
“What are you, a fagot or something”?
I was in the fifth grade. My new friend Kevin and I had just scored a touchdown (he threw, I ran) and in the excitement, I threw my arm around his shoulder and said “We showed them!”. Kevin suddenly pushed me away and I heard about homosexuality for the first time. In the innocence and shelter of my rural Mississippi childhood, I had managed to escape being exposed to even the concept until I was eleven years old, when my new friend Kevin filled me in.
“You know. Guys who kiss other guys. Gays. Queers. Fagots,” Kevin said. “Brother Steve (the pastor of the church my parents had just started attending, and where I had met Kevin) says they’re all going to hell. Plus, it’s just sick. Who in their right mind would want to kiss another guy?”
With this short introduction, my eyes were opened. And as wrong as Kevin was about everything else, he did have Brother Steve nailed.
“ ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible says it and I believe it and that’s it, period!”, said Brother Steve, and we bought it. After all, who were we to argue with the Bible? And didn’t Brother Steve go to Bible college after he felt “the call” when that career as an electrician didn’t work out?
The one thing we knew for sure was that we were washed in the blood of the lamb. We were saved. We were right there with Jesus, who had long hair, but that was OK, because that was how they wore it back then. If Jesus was around today, he would be clean-shaven and have short hair, so no one would think he was “one of those”, my Sunday School teacher assured me.
Over the next six to seven years I would hear how God had made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. How God would one day judge America for allowing sin to run wild and how this new thing called AIDS was surely God’s judgment on the Gays, who let their lusts and kinkiness run rampant. Heck, even the trinity – Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham – had said that AIDS was a judgment from God. What more did you need after that?
Now, none of us actually knew anyone who was gay, a fact for which we were thankful. After all, we had seen pictures and footage of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so we all knew how “they” were. Brother Johnson had even gone to New Orleans once for a business convention and seen two men walking down the street holding hands! He told that story with all the zeal of an African missionary describing the famine and we all nodded our heads knowingly, our worst fears confirmed.
Occasionally some enlightened sage would encourage us to “love the sinner and hate the sin”, however such love generally called for speaking loudly about the pit of hell that was waiting for gays unless they would repent.
When I left home and went out into the world, I carried with me all I had been taught. You see, I was not just taught that being gay was a sin – I had been taught that they were the reason God was judging America. I had been taught their sin was a sign Jesus was coming back soon. They were just evil and wrong, and that was all there was to it, and Jesus was pissed with us for not doing something about it.
What I am saying is that I was taught to hate gays and lesbians. Everyone I knew had been taught the same thing. I was told that God loved people like me and he hated people like them. I did not know any gay people, nor were any ever presented in any light other than bad. Looking back, I don’t see how I could have reached any conclusion other than the one I did: That being gay was wrong, and not just wrong, but evil. And if I ever doubted it, there were about six verses in the Bible that would be trotted out to show us how we were wrong and they (the powers that be) were right.
This was my truth, what I was taught. It shaped what I believed about God. And it would haunt me for years to come.
Hugh Hollowell is a writer, speaker and urban minister in Raleigh, NC. He is the founder of Love Wins Ministries, an organization that seeks to demonstrate the love of Jesus to all those society would leave behind.