Antonia D'orsay

Fundamentals: Stigma

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | March 30, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: anti-intellectualism, assimilation, Bisexual, cisgender people, DSM IV, DSM V, education policy, health care reform, homophobic behavior, horizontal oppression, improving relationships, Intersection, Lesbian, LGBT, Lookism, mental health, Oppression, Patriarchy, Privilege, Sexism, smoking, Stigma, substance abuse, Trans, transphobia

Fundamentals, in this case, are critical things to know in our movement. The are what give us the ability to counter some of our opponents' arguments, and they enable us to understand a great deal more about the things we have in common, over the things we have in difference.

I will be exploring a large number of them, and talking about concepts that are actually fairly well known within the women's communities with which our common problems (sexism, notably) are one they face.

Ever wonder why it is that "women are more accepting"? It's because many women are very familiar with a lot of the issues around sexism, and already have a point of reference. Trans folk are familiar with them to a great degree as well, and these are powerful, well established concepts that also form some of the underlying aspects of "queer theory."

The fundamentals I'm going to deal with in particular are the ones that are at the crossing point between the intellectual aspects of the abstract, and the all too often anti-intellectual aspects of lived experience.

In other words, it is where theory meets practicality.

And the first one is stigma, and it is reflected in our language, and so that's where we are going to go today.

Stigma as a concept has a very strong background in terms of understanding the ways in which groups of people interact. It is a fundamental concept that people sense, but often cannot describe, and it is important to note that what many of us who are LGBT+ are fighting is not merely the oppression of our lives by the society we are a part of, but more accurately the source of that oppression, which is the stigma that follows us for being LGBT+.

It is Everywhere.

One of the best somewhat recent works on Stigma is Heatherton, Kleck, Hebl & Hull, The Social Psychology of Stigma, The Guilford Press, 2000.

They provide a description of it that is germane to the column:

The stigmatized are ostracized, devalued, rejected, scorned and shunned. They experience discrimination, insults, attacks and are even murdered. Those who perceive themselves to be members of a stigmatized group, whether it is obvious to those around them or not, often experience psychological distress and many view themselves contemptuously.

Stigma is best described as an individual who has a characteristic that the society they are a part of feels is undesirable.

And that's pretty much most LGBT+ folks.

And the important part there is not that they are undesirable, but rather that they are part of the society themselves.

Anyone who is raised in a culture is steeped in it. It affects everything about them. The language they use, the way they talk, the way they think, the choices and decisions they make, the kinds of things they aspire to and the kinds of things they are ashamed of and try to avoid doing.

Stigma is a negative force within a social group. And all social groups have some form of stigma.

Those of you who live, work, breathe, eat, sleep, love, grew up, and were raised in the United States all have a particular culture. A unique commonality that's not a part of blood or choice.

You are, for better or worse, a part of the society. And, more importantly, the society is a part of you, personally. It is part of everything you think, everything you do, all your ideas and methods and structures -- and the same applies to others outside the US -- you are a part of your societies.

You cannot erase that, or get rid of -- no matter how many times you disavow it or even if you leave the country never to return -- it is as much a part of you as anything else.

And when you have a particular culture that deeply ingrained in you, you will use the language of that culture. The idioms of it will be understandable to you without explanation, for example. Idiom is critical to speedy communication and is one of the things people use to mark a boundary as "US" and "THEM."

Language & Labels

And having that language, means you have the labels of that language. Even when those labels aren't what you might consider "good."

Nouns are labels. Without nouns, we have no labels. Without labels we have no way of describing the differences between an apple and an orange, a man and a woman, and we will, generally, seek to find a way to identify that thing in order to communicate it.

There are some people who, in the name of helping to remove stigma, seek to obliterate labels. We have an entire cottage industry of people who go around saying that labels do not apply to them.

And the kicker is they may be correct -- there are somethings that our language has no label for. And without a label, you will run into difficulties describing it.

In current colloquial English, for example, there is no word for an adult cow or bull or steer that does not refer to them as a singular thing without noting their sex.

Cows are female. Bulls and steers are male.

We tend, as a matter of general, very informal discourse, talk about Cows without meaning that there is any sex involved, but the simple fact still remains -- a cow is a female member of that heavily domesticated species.

Within the LGBT+ communities, we have similar issues. And when we encounter those issues, we create words for them -- we create labels to identify them. This is an important part of determining a personal and group sense of belonging and affinity. An example of this sort of word creation are things like top, bottom, versatile, twink, Cis, Genderqueer, and so on.

Stigma is often associated with labels, and when that stigma is institutionalized -- that is, when the stigma becomes widespread within the underlying culture it is found in -- it becomes extremely oppressive and is even used as a tool to further the oppression of those on whom the stigma falls.

Some labels can carry a deep and abiding stigma. The F word is one such label. The N word is another. "Tranny" is a third (and note that due to the abiding stigma associated with it, that it cannot be used as "the T word" since people won't understand what it is. The stigma is stronger against trans people than it is against gay people in this case).

There are some labels that we dislike, because those labels reflect the thing we are seeking to change the most -- which is the stigma associated by the culture we are a part of.

And, being products of that culture, and having great difficulty in escaping that, we tend to take with us things that are still stigmatizing from the culture we live in.

Wuss, Pansy, & Sissy are three words that carry a strong connotation, and the connotation they carry is extremely stigmatized. They are, as a result, perjoratives -- something one does not want to be in the culture. This is how stigma works to establish boundaries, and I use those examples to point out how that stigma is often not able to distinguish between particulars.

Those three epithets are all equally valid against a gay man or a trans woman. They do not make a distinction, and as they are often found in use among children more than adults, they are great for pointing out that Stigma is one of the things we learn very fast and very early.

Learning it at such a young age means that we make decisions and shape our thoughts around that stigma, and then those thoughts and decisions are later built on by other thoughts and decisions that depended on them, until we reach adulthood and these things are deeply and darkly ingrained within us.

Internalization

We talk about internalized oppression, and what we are referring to when we do that is the way that a stigma affects even how we view ourselves and the other members of the LGBT+ collective community.

And example here is the way I tend to chide other Trans folks about the concepts of things like "disclosure" and "passing," which both further the stigmatization of trans folk, as well as incorporate that very stigma into them -- in both cases they reinforce the idea of deception, because those concepts, those ideas are dependent on the idea that "we aren't really" what we are.

And when those things are used against us -- for example, someone saying "well, I think trans folks should always be upfront about being trans" what they are saying is that the trans person is being deceptive, and there is stigma associated with that deception, since to be able to form that very idea of telling someone, in and of itself, one must start from a mindset of the trans person not being whatever it is one is "passing" as (passing meaning to be taken as a member of the group without really being a member of that group) or having some element in one's past which changes the "way they are" in the present -- you only need to disclose something if you are not what it is that you claim to be.

This is why I take such flack from a large portion of the trans community -- I am speaking about things we take for granted, and I am talking about a set of stigmata that is part of the society in which we live and it has been incorporated into the social discussion and the very labels we use to describe things.

It is, in short, internalized stigma.

Discrimination

And, as was noted earlier, one of the effects of stigma is discrimination. So long as there is some sense within the society that we live in that a trans person is "really" X instead of Y, then the society is perpetrating the stigma, and the individuals, being part of that society, are enacting it.

A much more subtle version of this is the juxtaposition of "innate" versus "medical." Some folks speak of trans people as having a "medical problem" and use as the comparison -- as the drawing line and the point thereby of stigmatization -- the idea that their group is innate.

Intentionally or not, what they are saying tis that trans people are the product of a medical process, not people who are aided in their innate sense of self by such. And, as such, saying it that way is reinforcing the stigma.

It is an epithet -- a pejorative, that demonstrates at the least aversion, and when one notes that Aversion is one of the parts necessary for a phobic classification, one realizes that saying that trans people have a medical problem is, in the end, transphobia.

Not to mention it's readily proven false, since not all trans people have medical attention needs, and the majority are that way.

Stigma is extremely potent, and yet all too often we discuss it too little among ourselves -- the people for whom stigma is a lived experience.

Stigma can be ranked -- it's one of the few things I will talk about in the upcoming few weeks that is possible to be ranked.

Felt and Enacted

Felt stigma is when something happens and you are reminded of the cultural stigma attached to you. A good example of this is when some says that man who wears pastel shirts and talks with a lisp is gay. That is a form of negative reinforcement of a cultural norm (the norm, in this case, being that men do not wear pastel shirts or talk with a lisp).

Enacted stigma is much more direct. Eviction, being fired, being spit on are all much more direct examples of this, but it can take much more subtle forms, such as the F word and so forth.

Allies

By now I hope you can see that stigma is at the heart of what we are fighting, and there are lot of other people who fight stigma as well.

Women who have exercised their freedom of privacy and had an abortion are afflicted with a stigma by the opponents of abortion.

There are two issues that today are great examples of serious stigma. One I won't mention because it is used intentionally in order to increase the stigma that LGBT people face, and in particular trans women and gay men.

The other one, however, is mental illness.

People who are mentally ill are affected by stigma both felt and enacted on a regular basis. They cannot, in fact, escape that stigma. Casual conversations are littered with the use of words like "crazy", "insane", "nuts", "looney."

People resist stigma -- look at the fight the trans community is having about getting the diagnosis removed from the DSM. Not wanting to be called crazy is the excuse that is most often used, and yet the very doing of that is an example of stigma that is enacted and felt.

We are allies to a great part because of the social stigma we all face -- it is not a force that is differentiated. There are other things I will write on later that are differentiated, and the ways that they impact how we interrelate and the ways in which they hold us back and slow us down.

Stigma is extremely dangerous.

Stigma does kill -- people commit suicide in all our communities because of stigma, and there are people who take it on themselves (often due to what may or may not be a form of mental illness) to kill people for whom there is a strong sense of stigma.

It is damaging to people with mental illness,and many, many LGBT are afflicted with mental illness that has been developed as a result of things they do in order to live in a world that has stigmatized them, creating a vicious circle that is very hard to break from. There are direct parallels between felt and enacted stigma and depression, bipolar, stress related disorders, and suicidal tendencies.

The APA points this out in their briefs that they submit to courts when large trials are being decided. They also note some of the other effects of stigma are a much, much higher risk of substance abuse (both legal and illegal) and domestic violence -- things which are extremely widespread within our community.

How many smokers do you know? How many people who "drink too much"? How many people who have or are using illegal drugs (even if it's to "improve sex")? How many people abuse prescriptions?

Stigma creates emotional and stress based difficulties which have very real and very active physical costs. Extreme emotions such as anger can shorten a person's life, and Anger is something that many of us feel when we encounter stigma.

Great stress that doesn't stop also can shorten a person's life -- and we cannot escape this particular thing because we carry it with us -- it is burdened on us from our childhoods, and even if we root it out, we can never get rid of the particular habitual and social aspects of it that surround us.

Stigma will come up in the future columns as I go forward. I will expand on it and show how it interrelates and works with the other aspects I'll be discussing.

In closing, let me note that stigma can be found in nearly every single post on this blog -- be it an article or a comment. And if we are going to change the world in which we live -- the society in which we exist -- then we do, in fact, need to start with ourselves.


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The sigma of "Homosexuality" came directly from Religion. it is part of their belief systems and they continue to teach that to our children.

It continues to be promoted by most religions.

I was surprised you actually wrote about stigma for the LGBT Community and left out the source: religion.

If it were a simplicity of Religion, I would have.

However, the stigma does not, in and of itself, arise from religion, and certainly not solely.

Indeed, it is some people who are religious that are the issue, and they use their religion as a "shield" of sorts for cover for their bigotry.

What other institution has as part of their beliefs "homosexuality is wrong?"

When a child is taught that "homosexuals are wrong" as the word of God, under the threat of Hell, explain how they are simply using "religion as a shield?" (your words)

Those beliefs are hard to change. I would suggest they are "bigoted beliefs" that are taught. Therefore, those beliefs come from the teacher - religion, as an institution.

Some Christians are trying to redefine or change some of their beliefs - but, as we've seen on Bilerico, Father Tony, as a Catholic For Equality, won't officially part with bigoted Catholic Doctrine by declaring that "homosexuals are not wrong, sinful, disordered or deviant."

The stigma of homosexuality won't end until religions stop teaching it is wrong. They started it, they have to end it, too.

That's a good question, really, Andrew. But based on the foundational stuff you provide, I think a few things color your ability to see something.

Before I address them, however, I will point you down the comments list a bit, to where a particular poster proceeds to engage is a series of personal attacks against me.

Those attacks, though veiled, are all based in the stigma attached to a woman having violent tendencies. That stigma comes from several interrelated institutions: sexism, gender conformity norms (conventional thoughts regarding masculinity and femininity), patriarchal social structures, and the most powerful institution of all:

Majority experience.

TO the issue of Religion being so, I should point out that not all religions are negative regarding sexual orientations other than heterosexual. My own religious belief, for example, has absolutely no problem with it whatsoever, and it traces back to something like 3000 BCE at the least.

Furthermore, the idea within religion that homosexuality is sinful as a result of that sin in the modern sense of the concept is, well, a modern invention. And it's subject to cultural variations, as well.

That first example of yours is based in the child being taught that by which religion? Christianity? There are children raised in Christianity who don't believe that. There are Christians who are gay, even (such as Peterson Toscano).

What you have to look at is why -- and most often that's based not in the religious texts (where applicable) but rather in a cultural or personal prejudice of the person doing the teaching, interpreting the religious ideals through that lens.

That lens is what I talk about when I say they use it as a shield. By filtering heir prejudices through their religion, they are able to avoid the stigma of being prejudiced in the society as a whole -- it gives them a "false flag" that they can use to rally people, a mask they can hide behind to provide themselves with a veneer of righteousness that is not, itself, derived from the Religion.

In the case of Christianity, Jesus provided, in the end, only two commandments. THose are the basis around which much of the religion's beliefs were supposed to be determined.

It is not the fault of the Religion, itself, it is the fault of the fallible human beings that take it up and use it to cover - to shield -- their own actions.

Was it Religion that led to the slaughter and eradication of entire people's? No, and saying such is disingenuous, because it actually gives them that cover to operate.

I do agree that so long as it is taught by people in conjunction with religion, that the stigma will continue.

But that isn't the fault of the Religion -- that's the fault of the people teaching it.

Sadly the more "true" primary cause is simply the minority aspect: there just aren't a lot of us as LGBT people.

And cultural institutions are determined by the will and force of the majority -- one of the more important reasons for the use of a republican system for the creation of laws balanced by the idea of "unalienable rights" was so that the laws would not reflect the social contract's tendency to be far too democratic and punishing of differences.

BUt the law, while a critical component of society as a whole, does not in and of itself have an immediate effect on the social norms of a given culture when it changes -- so it is simply the sheer number of people who are different from us but more like each other (in this case, those who are cis and heterosexual) that determine social norms.

That is, after all, the force that we as a society combat when we pass things like civil rights legislation (such as ENDA, DADT, Marriage, etc).

Does that help, or do I need to go into more depth and try a different tack?

"It is not the fault of the Religion, itself, it is the fault of the fallible human beings that take it up and use it to cover - to shield -- their own actions."

Religion is introduced to infants and they have no choice in the matter. They are told the belief is directly "from God." Their innocent minds are given this belief under the authority of parents, priests, friends, teachers during a time when they are learning. Nothing about that is a "shield" nor does it provide them an opportunity to see it simply as a "cover" for bigotry. They are taught bigoted beliefs.

These religious teachings are the root of ALL homosexual stigma. When Matthew Shephard was murdered it was a Mormon that tied him to a fence and a Baptist that beat him to death. They didn't choose to believe "homosexuals were wrong," they were TAUGHT that.

This traditional Christian belief is still taught by all Christian religions. The only noticeable progress has been that some faiths "accept" and/or tolerate homosexuals - none have formally said (as I have asked Father Tony and Catholics For Equality) to declare that we're not wrong.

In order to end the stigma of homosexuality, religion must stop teaching it, not just hanging a rainbow flag in the rafters and welcoming gays and lesbians.

To suggest otherwise is to put religious belief before LGBT equality (SEE Father Tony).

My neighbors have two small children in Catechism (Catholic Sunday School)where they have been taught that homosexuality is wrong. Their parents are trying to erase that idea. Now, these impressionable kids have to choose to believe either their parents, or "God." Even if the parents are successful, they'll still have that thought - put in their tiny heads as "God's word." God trumps parents in most cases.

People are free to choose whatever they want to believe, but please don't suggest that religion is NOT the primary problem when it comes to the idea that we are wrong or defective. Religion did that. Religion is still doing that.

Andrew, all of your examples are of *people* teaching bigotry to other people and using their interpretation of something to act as a defense, in the manner I described.

ALl of them.

That Traditional belief is, as I noted, relatively new. It's not even 150 years old.

I'm not putting religious belief before LGBT equality in saying that, either. 'm putting them both equal -- in part because the bigotry against the religious is just as bad as the bigotry of the religious.

Neither is a positive thing. Prejudice is prejudice -- and it is not religion that is the key, and the more people focus on it as such, the more impact it will have.

Religion is not prejudice -- even in Islam, it's a matter of interpretive stance -- something a person finds based on a belief unrelated to the particular texts.

Those kids that wee taught sch -- even as infants -- are still being taught prejudice, and that prejudice would be taught to them with or without religion. There are athiests who are just as fervently anti-gay as anyone else, just as one example.

It doesn't help that a lot of us grow up with that message passed to us through the medium of religion. We hear that message and we internalize it at a young age, and it affects how we see ourselves -- if we overcome that messaging, we can see religion without it's influence, and that's when one realizes that religion itself is not the problem.

I will sit and think on a different way to present the information to you.

PS -- Deena's an interesting one :D

Please do think about it.

Homosexuality was made "wrong" by Pythagoras (Philosopher and the L. Ron Hubbard of his time), at the same time it was mentioned in Leviticus - around 500 B.C. In 325 AD Emperor Constantine made Christianity the spiritual law of the Roman Empire and punished homosexuals. It has been taught by every Christian denomination since then. That's about 1,700 years ago, not 150 years.

Other readers of Bilerico can provide more substance, but historically homosexuals have been "made wrong" for 1,700 years and religion did that. Since then, not a single Christian denomination has renounced that belief.

I know some atheists and they not only don't make homosexuality wrong, they don't care. They certainly don't teach it Sunday mornings.

There may be some attempts in Christian denominations to be gay-friendlier, but doing so without rejecting the traditional Christian belief that we are wrong doesn't really help. I agree that many Christians no longer believe we are wrong, but they haven't ended the teaching. When we find a "whites only" country club we demand that they change their bylaws. But, oddly enough, Churches can continue to teach we're wrong, as long as they fly the rainbow flag and have a good music department.

If anything else made homosexuality wrong in an organized manner - please share.

Exceptt hat Leiticus wasn't taken in the sens you are talking about until 150 years ago or so. It was never cited prior to that as the justification.

That's the interpretive part.

I'm not arguing that the persecution of us -- because lest you forget, Andrew, I'm included in that persecution, and I'm not gay -- hasn't gone on for that long (and longer).

I'm saying that religion isn't the source of it. Yes, it is used as a cudgel -- but it isn't the source.

And I know some athiests who would like to string us up by our balls. ANd others who would such to them. That wasn't the point -- I wasn't talking about people we know persoally, I was talking about athiests who are anti-gay.

THe ones we know are not the sum total of all athiests.

Furthermore, we are talking about stigma -- and you are bringing in the question of organizastion now.

Stigma isn't typically an organized thing. It's perpetuation is organized (and in fact, there's an ongoing issue surrounding it right now, lol), but the Stigma itself is sourced primarily in the observed differences of a culture.

Culture *is* rganized, and you are missing that piece in your argument. Religion does not exist in a vacuum, it is a part of cuoture, not the be all and end all for it.

What in my earlier responses did you not understand? Was it the whole thing or some particular part of it?

I realize that I've ofended you, as you pretty obviously have some strong issues with Religion i general, but I want to see where you didn't quite get what I was saying so I can explain it to you better.

Religion is a *tool* for perpetuatin of stigma, not the source of it.

Look to the cultural norms prior to the rise of Christianity. And look tomore than just the greco-roman world in doing so. Persia, long before the coming of Islam, was harsh on it, and it was not due to religion, but the social forces.

If it were due to religion, Andrew, then *all* of its' sources would be religious, and there would be no athiests who oppose it and there would have been no variance.

I am not offended - I don't subscribe to religion and I am not an atheist, either.

But, as for our struggle, religion is a very important conversation. Our problem is that we have been "made wrong" for centuries. Just 30 years ago two-thirds of Americans believed we were "morally wrong." They got that belief from religion.

Those beliefs have been taught by religion for centuries. They haven't been taught by any other group. Defining a certain group of people as "morally wrong" defined the cultural conversation - and in numbers that have been difficult for us to overcome. Because of the way religion teaches our children (until the last few decades when it has become increasingly unimportant) people didn't really have any choice but to believe we were wrong. They were taught with authority - moral and parental.

Our culture is a reflection of the various institutions that form our beliefs. Only religion has contributed anything negative about homosexuality. It is a question of morality and that comes solely from religion. Thankfully, the cultural conversation is moving away from religion, at least in the literal interpretation sense and embracing more of a personal spirituality.

To suggest that this has only been "organized" for 150 years doesn't explain why Alexander stayed in the closet. For centuries homosexuality has been taboo primarily because religion made it so.

The other tragedy you overlook in forgiving religion is the fact that hundreds of gay teenagers have taken their own lives because religion made them wrong or defective. The "cultural conversation" or society didn't do that - the bigoted belief that was burned into their innocent heads by parents and priests did it. They believed they were wrong or defective.

Again, if you can provide some other "source" for making homosexuality wrong, please provide it. Science doesn't. Art doesn't. Before you say "laws" remember who insisted on those laws - from Constantine to Jerry Falwell to Ugandan priests - all Christians.

I suggest that if "homosexuality wasn't taught" and it "wasn't a fundamental religious belief" we would NOT have suffered for 1,700 years. The founding heroes of Athens were a gay couple. There wasn't anything wrong with being gay in ancient Greece. The only way to get back there, is to unwrong us.

I *did* provide it, Andrew.

Which is why I'm trying to figure out what part you didn't understand.

Because thus far you haven't discussed it.

SarasNavel | March 31, 2010 3:33 AM

Regarding, 'The sigma of "Homosexuality" came directly from Religion'.

I assume that by 'religion' you primarily mean Xians, since there are & have been many religions that are not anti-gay. While it's true that the Judeo-Christian tradition has made great use of the stigma of "Homosexuality" and built it up to an irrational level as a propaganda tool, like with everything else, they merely borrowed from others. It's sometimes hard to see it through the haze of a male point of view in our society, but the stigma of "Homosexuality" (& the reason gays and lesbians are regarded differently and why trans folk are at the bottom of the barrel, stigma-wise) is based on the socio-political need for a strict gender binary in order to subjugate women. Violate that binary and you have broken the rules used to keep order and power. It goes back to the label of all LGBT+ being 'trans'; that in some way we all break the rules of the assumed male-centric gender binary. That is why we have the same external attackers and that is why we need to recognize our similarities, not hide them out of stigma.

And Antonia?

Bovine. As in, "I'm gonna see if I can push over that there sleeping Bovine and hope zie won't smoosh me on hir way down".

G'night y'all.

Which Christian denominations no longer teach "homosexuality is wrong?" Let's make a list.

United Church of Christ; Unitarian Universalists (though not exclusively Christian, they do count Christians among their members); Disciples of Christ; half of the Episcopalian church. That's just a few. :-D

UCC has some churches that are "open and affirming" but they have not formally rejected the teaching that homosexuals are wrong. UUs are not really a religion, but rather a gathering of "spiritual people" and you can believe whatever you want.

Episcopalians are split simply over "ordaining gay clergy," they haven't formally changed their beliefs - they are just being more accepting. We do not need to be accepted - there is nothing wrong with us.

Bovine, though means any member of several creatures, not merely cows and bulls. Aurochs, for example, are Bovines. So are Bison.

So what kind of Bovine are you talking about?

Sarasnavel | April 1, 2010 3:00 AM

Oooooh, you are of course correct & the point goes to Antonia! Heck I just discovered that not even 'cattle' refers specifically to cows, bulls and steers but also oxen. Thanks, I learned something new.

Wow, Antonia you seem to draw interesting attacks. I have to agree with some of your retorts. To Andrew I would like him to know that I am a Pentecostal and have no problem with homosexuality. I remind fellow church members that Jesus did not put an "exception clause" after the commandment to love others. Then I suggest that they are blessed with the free will to choose to follow Christ or to follow Paul and the theologians who seize on misinterpretations of Paul and other biblical statements to sow hatred. Some choose one way while others choose another. My reaction to both is to continue to live my life and I am under no illusion that my opinions will suddenly cause them to accept Jesus and their Lord and Savior.

To Seth I would like to say that I can't criticize you Seth or remove the speck from your eye until I get the grit out of my own eyes. I hope you will be patient because I am far from perfect and every time I think I see clearly some real life incident tosses more muck into my sight.

And Antonia your dissertation was an enjoyable if lengthy read but surely you do not think stigma's will ever vanish except to be replaced by more of the same. I liked your point that much of the effect is within a person's own perceptions. I am such a Ditz that I am either generally oblivious to being stigmatized or when I do recognize it I just slough it off as irrelevant to my life. Perhaps I am just too stupid to comprehend how another person's angst and animosity towards me should wreck my day. I kinda figure that if I give someone heartburn because of how they view life then they can either suffer or go find some psychological Rolaids.

Thanks for caring. I do value your efforts to get people thinking.

As a Pentecostal, have you denounced the Old Testament belief that homosexuality is wrong - or does Jesus (and the New Testament) cancel the Old Testament?

Some Christians have accepted homosexuals or in your words "have no problem with homosexuals," but Pentecostals still teach it is wrong.

I'm confused - why are you still part of a group that continues to contribute to our being stigmatized?

You ask nice questions Andrew. Let's see. Perhaps I should begin by letting you know that I also have no problem with heterosexuals.

No, I have denounced nothing in either the new testament nor the old testament. My understanding of the Bible is quite different from even my Pastor's. You ask why I continue to be a member? Oh, that is very simple. I was told directly by Jesus to attend that particular church and I will leave when either he tells me to or they crucify me. I'm sure you will not believe me in the least when I tell you that.

I do hope you do not think me a fruitcake but should you do so I'm too much of a Ditz to be bothered by it. If you have any more questions I'll be glad to answer them.

We're all "fruitcakes" in one way or another, but I am intrigued with your direct communication with Jesus. Next time you converse will you ask HIM to have his followers stop teaching that homosexuality is wrong? Even I would tithe 10% of my wealth if he'll do that.

Make that deal. Get back to us.

Sure Andrew I'll pass along your request. But you know what? He already did that. You can't blame Jesus if professed 'Christians' choose to not do as he instructed. As to tithes, keep your money or use it in your own way to help others. It is the love in your heart, soul and mind that is your real treasure or poverty.

I don't generally discuss specific spiritual understandings because that tends to irritate other people. But let me just state that God loves diversity. If that is not apparent to you try finding 2 snowflakes that are identical.

I wish you the best in life.

Spirituality is important and these types of discussions shouldn't be taboo - they're important.

If God loves diversity (as you've said) that's great, but we need God to support equality, too.

We also need "gay Christians" to strive for more than "acceptance," within their faiths, we need them to help stop denominations from continuing to teach bigoted beliefs - like homosexuality is wrong. "Turning the other cheek" didn't mean looking away. We can all take valuable stands against the stigma we've endured for too long. Stopping the teaching will do the most to end the cycle.

Thank-you for your sincere and generous comment.

Perhaps you are correct. I think however the founding fathers said it best when they stated "equal in the sight of God". They were wise enough to understand that few are or ever will be equal in the sight of mankind.

There are many ways to take a stand in any organization. Were I to try to change minds in my church by railing against those who level charges of 'abomination' or if I would stomp out in protest little would be accomplished. Instead I invite friends to church, gay friends. Let those who would accuse look someone who is gay in the eyes and issue a reprisal of condemnation. I also pass along regrets to my pastor when one of my friends politely declines to either attend or to continue attendance. I know I have rattled some cages. In fact I also know some past members who left because over this very issue. I pray for them. I hope they land in a congregation where the pastor refuses gays at the door which is not what my pastor has ever done. And then, maybe then they will reflect on how Jesus preached against hatred and condemnation. They must learn the true lessons through experiences and not through hollow words.

The fear of social stigma is my greatest hurdle in accepting myself and being able to move forward in transition.

"And if we are going to change the world in which we live -- the society in which we exist -- then we do, in fact, need to start with ourselves."

I agree. I would start by not engaging in domestic violence and then chatting about it on my personal blog. Also, I wouldn't openly fantasize about breaking a lesbian's nose and then joke about it. Also, I wouldn't advocate burning a filmmaker on a pyre. Those are just a few of the things I would do.

Here's hoping for a successful beginning in your effort to change the world in which we live - as opposed to the one in which we don't live.

Interesting that you would make those changes yourself.

All of them are changes to you, personally. I was sorta looking forward to something more in line with the context of the article as opposed to a veiled personal attack on the author.

But hey -- if you have a problem with yourself doing those things, who am I to stand in your way?

Incidentally, I did not advocate such. I said I would not mind.

But I'm sure little things like that are not a part of your particular concerns, since the goal was to attack me.

Please, keep them coming. At the very least, it's entertaining. And better yet -- it gives me something to write about.

"Please, keep them coming."

Ask and ye shall receive. Here's some more entertainment for you:

If I were going to make this world in which we live (as opposed to the one in which we don't live) a better place, I would:

- Not physically assault and batter my best friend and then make light of it on my blog

- Not "come close" to physically assaulting my son

- Not say that physical violence comes "readily, easily and simply to me" and "feels good"

- Not proudly launch a verbal attack on a gay man using homophobic language, with the express purpose of making him feel as badly about himself as possible

- Not see or describe myself as "not safe", i.e., dangerous

- Not see or describe myself as a loner in need of anger management, filled with rage that is barely controlled

Finally, if I were to do or say any of these things, I would take a hard look at my life and start observing and listening to others with an open heart and an open mind in order to better myself. I wouldn't spend my days and nights posting lectures purporting to instruct other people - people who haven't beaten up their mothers - on right and wrong.

Well good for you!

Truly, I am happy that you've come to these particular revelations about your personal actions.

Bully for you.

But at least now when I respond to a question above I have an actual example of how it is that Stigma can be attached to someone by something other than religion.

Unfortunately for you, however, it's not the way you would like it to be.

Now see -- you made my task simpler.

Let me make yours easier for you:

The messenger's personal issues from the past do not negate the message of the present.

Your personal attacks on me are not germane to the article -- try to stay on track.

It is rather interesting how you demonstrate a remarkable lack of comprehension, though. I fully expect you to provide me with further examples of why the fundamentals are so important.