It is ok to be uncomfortable. Admitting I am uncomfortable is the first step to identifying why. Sometimes it is easy, like when I feel unsafe or have intentionally challenged myself. Sometimes, it is more difficult and I have to question whether I am really unsafe or challenged, or if it is my depression telling me an otherwise fine situation is not ok.
Sometimes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the situation, and it is simply a new experience I am trying to adjust to - like with homosexuality.
Personally, I am bisexual. This means I am sexually attracted to both men and women. As a rugby playing New Zealand male growing up in a testosterone-filled household in West Auckland, this was not an easy realisation to come to. First of all, I thought rugby players/Westies/men were supposed to be tough, strong and entirely masculine. Somehow, being attracted to other men was the opposite of those things. Secondly, when I started to realise I was also attracted to men, I thought that made me some sort of “sexual deviant”. No one ever intentionally instilled these beliefs in me, it is just what I observed and absorbed growing up.
We as a society have arguably come a long way in respecting the LGBTQI+ community. Until 1986, it was ILLEGAL to be homosexual in New Zealand, and in 2013 a bill was passed that legalised same-sex marriage. On paper then, things seem to be changing. But bearing in mind New Zealand already has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world, consider the fact that LGBT youth have a 5x higher suicide rate than non-LGBT youth in New Zealand. That's both scary and appalling. To me, this means we are all happy to support the LGBT community on the surface, and even wave a rainbow flag at a Pride event, but are keeping our true feelings buried. I know growing up I have heard and have myself said some horrendous things to more open or “out” schoolmates. As someone who can hide my homosexual attractions behind a seemingly-heterosexual personality, I continue to hear even worse things said in private. The more courageous homophobes will publicly say things like “I have no problem with gay people, it’s just… (insert nonsensical justification for their discomfort here)”.
The truth is, they’re all just uncomfortable with what is a relatively new phenomena - openly gay people. When my best friend came out as gay to me, I was honoured he trusted me enough to do so. It changed nothing between us, and I love and respect him all the same. I admittedly flinched a little the first time I saw him kiss him boyfriend though. Not because I am against it in any way (obviously), but it was the first time I had witnessed someone I know engage in a “homosexual act”. I had to admit I was uncomfortable before I could identify the cause of my discomfort, which was simply the new experience of seeing it. I eventually became very comfortable with witnessing, and then engaging in, homosexuality.
I am not saying everyone has to think, feel or do the same as me. If you’re curious, try it. If it’s not for you, then you don’t have to do it again. It does not change who you are. You don’t have to turn in your manhood/womanhood membership to do so. If no part of you is curious, that is ok too. If you don’t like the idea of homosexuality, then don’t do it. Simple as that. Nobody has any jurisdiction on sexuality outside of their own sexuality. The fact that Australia has just had a 1980’s-esque referendum on same-sex marriage is mind boggling to me.
But this is because people have been allowed to hide their discomfort behind other fronts for so long. Some conservative religious types like to claim they are against homosexuality “for religious reasons”. But even Christians quoting the book of Leviticus (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”) can’t justify their bigotry. Leviticus also supports slavery (“You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners… You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance”). Obviously, most modern Christians have developed their beliefs beyond these barbaric verses. For those that have not, they either oppose homosexuality AND support slavery “for religious reasons”, or are applying their own personal judgement to exclude the obviously horrible act of slave trading, yet conveniently quoting a verse that supports their discomfort towards homosexuality.
It is important to respect everyone’s right to HAVE their beliefs, but I don’t believe I have to directly respect their beliefs. Not if they are causing a scarily high number of kids to take their own lives. I am happy to sit and talk about what makes you uncomfortable, but don’t you dare stand there and tell me you have the right to spread hate and stop people from living and loving however they want. Again, if you don’t like the idea of engaging in homosexuality, then don’t. But that is far as your opinion carries weight. Once you try to instill those beliefs in others, you are spreading hate, and in my opinion, have at least some of the blood of the LGBT youth committing suicide on your hands.
If this post has made you uncomfortable, good. There is nothing wrong with being uncomfortable, and that was my intention anyway. Uncomfortable conversations about mental health, sexuality, suicide, drug addiction and the like are the only way we can address these topics and move forward as a society. Let me know what you think about what I have written, and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can.