In a historic move, Pope Francis said during an interview that the Church must apologize for marginalizing LGBTQ people. Despite this Catholic leader’s progressive stances in the past, a statement such as this is groundbreaking given his remaining opposition to same-sex marriage and consistency in believing that homosexuality is a sin.
The Bible and Christian teachings have long been used to condemn and oppress the LGBTQ community, so the hope is that Catholics would heed their leader’s words and turn their dislike for gay people into a more tolerant love for them in the same and more Christian inspiration.
If you are one of these Christians who have been touched by Pope Francis’ words and are at a loss as to how you can repair your damaged relationships with LGBTQ people, here are some things you can do to sincerely apologize to the gay community:
1) Be accountable for your actions
No matter how progressive and tolerant you think you are, you have wronged the community in your own way through your own biases. Own your offenses. Remember the times you may have laughed at a transgender woman or commented that a lesbian was no substitute for a man. Approach your LGBTQ friends and acquaintances and apologize sincerely. Don’t claim to be sinless or believe that only other people have wronged us. If you don’t know how you’ve offended us, ask. Say something as simple as, “Sorry if I ever hurt you intentionally or unintentionally. Please let me know when I offend you so I won’t hurt you again.”
2) Listen to us
Don’t disregard our complaints and reports of harassment or discrimination. Treat them as if they’re coming from your own son or daughter and express the same anger and disgust. Never say, “You’re already accepted in this country,” or “Mabuti pa nga dito, tanggap kayo (You’re better off here because at least, you’re accepted.” Understand that it is never your place to speak for a minority on whether they are oppressed or not. Listen to our sadness and fears. Don’t dismiss us and ask us to change in order to be treated better. If you really listen closely, you’ll recognize the legitimacy of our lives and relationships and you’ll know that it is highly offensive to ask us to not be “too gay” so we’ll be treated right.
3) Never quote the Bible to judge LGBT people
You would never approach someone who has pre-marital sex and tell them about your religious beliefs. You would never read Bible passages to liars, adulterers, or contraceptive users to make them feel bad. Treat LGBTQ people with the same respect that like you, they know how to reconcile their faith with their actions. Just like with everyone else, our lives are none of your business and it is not your place to tell anyone what they are doing wrong or right.
4) Admit your sins of inaction
Without your knowledge, we take note of the times we are insulted as well as whether you sat silently as we were being abused. Resolve to never stand around while an LGBTQ person is being harassed or being discriminated. Be more clear in defending your friends and relatives. Talk to parents who are being tough on their effeminate son. Talk to your boss if you know your coworker is being treated unfairly. Yes, there are those who directly hurt us. But there are more people who stand by and watch while we’re being hurt, forgetting that remaining silent during times of oppression means you are on the side of the oppressor.
5) Relearn the teachings of your religion
Instead of focusing on hating and judging people, live your life according to the primary teaching of Christianity which is to love one another as Christ loves you. Recognize the time you have wasted in finding reasons to not love others or try to change them. Instead, begin with a universal love for everyone regardless of their appearance, beliefs, or actions. That is definitely what Jesus would do.
6) Understand your LGBTQ brothers and sisters the way they’ve understood you
We have spent our entire lives rationalizing why we are treated poorly by our own families and friends, telling ourselves that it’s their religion that makes them behave badly towards us. Now that the leader of your religion has expressed his remorse in hurting us, you should in turn approach us with the same understanding and not take offense when your apology isn’t always welcomed or if a lifetime of hurts prevents us from quickly accepting Christians with open arms.
7) Do your share in influencing others
Don’t let children speak hatefully or repeat hurtful and bigoted lines. Don’t allow expressions of humor or disgust when faced with images of same-sex couples or transgender people. Make young people apologize when they say hurtful words to or about gender-nonconforming people. Most of our elders also remain in the dark and continue to spout hurtful statements about the LGBTQ community. Educate them and inform them when you can. Be a good example by being accepting of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Be the first to say that who they love and how they act has nothing to do with their morality, ethics, or values.
Queer people have as much of a right to exist in peace as anyone else. Don’t just say it. Believe and defend this principle. It is your responsibility to take part in correcting many years of hate towards the LGBT community, since you were also part of their suffering. Recognize your role in perpetuating it by remaining silent. Recognize what you can do to stop contributing to our oppression.
8) Examine your own biases.
Reflect on the times you’ve treated gay men as inferior to straight men just because they are effeminate or love another man. Examine your language and correct yourself when you say things like “real man (tunay na lalake)” or “real woman (tunay na babae)” when referring to heterosexuals. Recognize that LGBTQ people are as “real” as men or women can be. Sexual orientation or identity or expression has nothing to do with the legitimacy of one’s manhood or womanhood. Be conscious when you catch yourself treating others as “less than” or different just because they do not conform to your ideas of masculinity or femininity. Remember that your right to your own feelings and opinions should not affect the feelings, opinions, and welfare of others.
9) Treat all hate speech as a precedent to violence
The largest massacre of LGBTQ people just occurred a few weeks ago by a person who was allowed to believe and spew hateful things about our community. Recognize that hearing and repeating hateful speech contributes to the assault and murder of LGBTQ people. When a local politician says that LGBTQ people should die, or are worse than animals, not opposing these statements means you are fine with your brothers and sisters being treated as lower-class citizens, or worse – beaten or killed.
10) Really, sincerely, honestly, and meaningfully say, “I’m sorry”
With every sincere apology comes an admission of all of your offenses. It is a genuine inquiry on what you have done knowingly or unknowingly to hurt your LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It is a firm promise to try your best to not hurt us in these ways again, to educate others to treat us as equals, and to fight for our rights and welfare the way you would fight for your own. The stake in LGBTQ hearts is long, sharp, and splintered and it will take a long time to rebuild relationships and for us to trust that you truly have our best interest in mind.
An apology is an excellent start and the best example of what a Christian life is truly like. Truly loving your neighbor – all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression or identity – is the best way to show your love for your God. – Rappler.com
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