Loath thought they may be to admit it, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims share something in common*: a boundary problem. People who are doing them no harm and who are doing no harm to others come under their radar because they do not love, conform to gender stereotypes, or worship in ways that they approve. I have never lived in a place dominated by fundamentalist Muslims, but I have and currently live in one dominated by fundamentalist Christians. And it is oppressive. It feels hateful. And on Sunday, groups that have been raised to fear fundamentalism had a painful reminder that they were right to.
I am not a member of the LGBT community, but I feel a lot of solidarity. As an atheist, I know what it’s like to have people think I am a good person until they learn one thing about me, and then decide I am the embodiment of evil. I know what it is like to be harassed. I know what it is like to be scared to trust that people will accept me for who I am. And I have learned the value of safe spaces.
When I was a teenager a Freethought group started in my area. I was really the only teenager there, but it was nice to talk to a group of people and not have to worry about them turning on me when they found I believed in one less god than everyone else. It was nice to let off steam about how stressful it is to be surrounded by Christians all the time with people who wouldn’t be offended and understood.
Yet it also made us a target for fundamentalists, who would come to our community to interrupt our services and debate with us.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, Christians, NOTHING you are telling us aren’t things we haven’t heard a million times before. We heard your message. We didn’t agree, and we had valid reasons for not agreeing.
So, because they felt that somehow living in the Bible Belt we had missed the message, they decided to invade our safe space to preach to us. And this was not an isolated incidence. My atheist group in college was infiltrated by a Christian who put the name and contact info of members on his webpage and asked people to preach to us.
I was really hurt by the latter incident. I wanted to meet other atheists to have a safe space, and that someone would target my group and put my contact information out there to encourage people to harass and preach to me, essentially the same song and dance I’ve had all my life, was a betrayal.
Similarly, people in the LGBT community know fundamentalists do not approve of their life style. They are harassed, bullied, kicked out of their homes, and assaulted for being who they are. They have heard all of the religious arguments against them and have rejected them. NOTHING a fundamentalist tells them isn’t anything they haven’t heard a million times before.
Last week, I noticed a note on a closed Facebook group I had joined. I live in Texas, where people who are transgendered using the bathrooms has become a big issue. One of the local school districts in my area, though not the one I’m in, came out in support of transgendered students using the bathroom that conforms to their gender. The backlash against this has been swift and ugly. I joined a group in support of the district. And considering how contentious the issue is and how ugly the rhetoric is from the other side, I was impressed with how kind, courteous, positive and supportive the group was.
Well, one woman went on a rant about how the group was filled with toxic “vitriol” and as bad as the opposing group. My first thought was that someone had snapped after a low blow dealt by the anti-LGBT people and posted something unfortunate that I had missed, because her experience of the page was so different from mine. And I reminded her that people who are LGBT and those who support them are living in a pressure cooker situation, are being harassed and bullied and scapegoated, and sometimes they just snap, and this is a safe space to do it. And since it is a closed group, it shouldn’t matter how we look to others.
I know people often get on atheists for being down on Christians in our safe spaces. The thing is, we live in a society that is down on atheists. Politicians say horrible things about us. I have had people say horrible things about atheists to me without realizing that I am one. I have had people treat me appallingly when I am honest about being an atheist and I live in fear of being attacked. I am ostracized from the society I live in.
In what universe do people expect us to be polite about the people who are ostracizing us? Or to always say kind things about them? Especially in our safe spaces, the only place we can let off steam about living in this toxic society we’ve found ourselves in.
I know it is the same for people who are LGBT, and I was furious that someone who came out as straight and moderate would lecture the group about it.
But then I scrolled through the page to try to find what had offended her and found NOTHING. I found post after post of people discussing school board meetings, what they planned to say to the board, and people giving them pats on the back and encouragement and thanks for standing up. I saw that the woman who posted had gotten into a disagreement with another member about whether or not it is a teacher’s duty to notify a parent that a child has come to them saying they are LGBT, but the disagreement was respectful and involved no name calling or hate filled rhetoric.
The only instance of name calling I found was from a post four days before the woman ranted about a pastor who had said that transgendered individuals were a worse threat than ISIS, and there was some borderline name calling of the pastor in the comments. But surprisingly no cussing and considering what I’ve seen in other places, very mild.
I then responded to the woman who ranted that I could find no evidence that the rhetoric was filled with vitriol or hate filled and asked her to provide examples. I then reminded her that members of the LGBT community were being scapegoated, and her post accusing the page of being hate and vitriol filled, was furthering the scapegoating. And I was even more furious.
She responded one time and backpedaled a little bit and said she might have gotten confused with another place and that she didn’t like someone’s tone. I asked her again to cite what had offended her and asked her if she could see how she was furthering the damage and she never responded.
So, even in safe spaces that are courteous and respectful and extremely positive, I learned last week that members of the LGBT community would be slandered for not being courteous, respectful and positive ENOUGH.
Sunday the shootings in Orlando happened.
I’ve been so depressed since the transgendered bathroom issue started that at times I wondered if I was exaggerating just how much hate filled the rhetoric is now, if I was making mountains out of molehills. Sadly, I was not. This society has truly become hate filled, and people who are different are in danger.
Fundamentalists have a boundary problem.
Groups of people who are oppressed by them who are not hurting them are gathering together in safe spaces. But that does not stop them from harassing them in those safe spaces, policing their tone, doxxing them, and coming in and shooting them.
Fundamentalists fear that gay people will get married. Gay people fear that fundamentalists will kill them.
*I know Christians might say, “but it was a Muslim who did this!” I refer you here. I do not see this as a problem confined to one religion. I see this as a problem that crosses fundamentalism, toxic masculinity, and too easy access to guns.