Why words matter.
Tim Farron has finally explicitly said that he doesn’t think that being gay is a sin. This is following an excruciating interview with channel four in which the Lib Dem leader was asked repeatedly whether it was true that he believed that homosexuality was a sin. He evaded the question each time it was asked. In the meantime those of us who were outraged by his refusal (as a ‘liberal’) to acknowledge that homosexuality is not morally wrong were told we were overly sensitive or brainwashed by media bias. I was greeted with a similar reaction when I spoke out about Jeremy Corbyn’s assertion that being gay is a “choice”. Even if this was an oversight, he never apologised for the offense caused by the blunder and his PR team statement was patronising to those who complained. My pro-Corbyn friends ignored the situation or defended him. One of my friends referred to the situation as a ‘storm in a teacup’.
And why does it matter? Should we care what politicians say or imply? Or should we judge them purely on their voting record?
Here is why it matters to me:
Growing up, I attended a Catholic Church and a CofE school. Christianity was taught to me in equal measure to Maths, Science, and English. At a young age in order to learn, you must engage with and believe absolutely what is taught to you in school. Perhaps as an early teen you can engage in critical thinking but at primary level you need to accept what is taught to you before you can understand it. I was extremely studious, I loved learning, I loved reading and I wanted to be a good person. To me, being a good person was synonymous with being a good Christian. Jesus exudes values of love, peace, forgiveness, how could I not be obsessed with aspiring to his likeness?
And so onto secondary school I spent most lunchtimes at Christian Union, I started going to church on Saturday as well as Sunday and I wore my WWJD wristband with pride. When my school friends started dating and getting crushes on Leonardo DiCaprio I started to find myself feeling attracted to women. I was confused by these feelings, they were incongruent with my religion and besides, society told me that sexuality was a choice. I was not going to choose to be gay, especially if it wasn’t what god wanted. Even after I changed my faith it took a long time to pick apart what was morally right or wrong, or who I really am.
I write this, not as an attack on religion or begrudging my start in life, just to exemplify why words matter. I believe (hope) that society has moved on since the 90s, for instance we have legalized gay marriage. However, globally and nationally homophobia is still a huge problem and increasing in some areas. Chechnya have just opened concentration camps for homosexual men. I know that ‘gay’ is still used as a playground insult and I’d imagine kids today struggling through their early teens will be looking for role models.
If you are a political role model or a religious role model PLEASE think of the consequences of what you say. It takes a short amount of time to teach someone a homophobic message but if that person happens to be gay or bisexual it can take them years of confusion and struggle to recover from it.