religion and sexuality

I’ve been struggling this past week with the need to write about the events in Orlando.  Especially, since it’s come out that he was a frequent visitor of the club where he murdered so many.  Some are claiming that he was just casing the joint, however I’m convinced that he was suffering from internalized homophobia multiplied by sexual shame brought on by his culture and  his religion.

Islam is not inherently sex negative and neither is Christianity. In  fact, there was a time when the Islamic world was in the forefront of education, art, sexuality and science.  Between the rise of the Bedouins and the Crusades, that sadly changed.  And Christianity also had it’s sexy times.  Both religions have extremists and fundamentalists who take a rigid, sex negative view of their world, and the Orlando shooter was part of that extremism.

My father and his family were for the most part, fundamentalist Assembly of God Holy Rollers and a good chunk of my upbringing was within this church.  I even saw Oral Roberts heal the sick (although he wasn’t able to heal my cousin’s deafness) and went to several tent revivals before I was 11 years old.  I remember my cousins attempts at shaming me as a teenager simply because I wore mini-skirts (it was the late 60’s for Gods sake).  One cousin said to my aunt “Allena can’t be a Christian, her skirts are too short”.   This was my world, and if I’d had a different personality I may have become self-loathing and hate-filled as I grew into my sexuality.

When I was 18 I went to my first Pride event in Portland in 1971.  I was in awe and overjoyed to have met a bunch of people who I seemed to resonate with.  (I’d not quite come out to myself as bisexual and that was the summer I discovered myself).  As I was leaving the festival there was a man standing with a Bible and another two guys with a banner of people burning in flames.  “Queer” he yelled at me as I walked down the steps.  “Homosexual!”  I stopped.  “Do you know me?” I asked.  He yelled “Queer” at me again.  I started quoting the Bible at him (the judge not stuff and do unto others, etc. etc.  my biblical learning came in handy).  He spit and sputtered and yelled and turned red in the face and never answered any of my questions.  After 15 minutes or so, I looked around and a crowd had gathered and they applauded as I finished and I felt so good. (this is probably where I first got the urge to speak in public).  And there was even a quiet and thoughtful young minister praying quietly near me who appeared to be part of the festival.   I realized then that not all religion hated me or those like me.   Since then, much to my joy, I’ve  discovered there are sex positive religious organizations like  An amazing Seattle based organization dealing with the shame that comes with religion.

A few years later I had my first (but not last) relationship with a Moslem.  Abrar was a young man from Pakistan and beautiful and sexy AND very religious.  When I’d go to his place he wouldn’t let me near his Koran as I was “unclean” and yet, he liked to fuck.  He would tell me “I could have been a holy man if it wasn’t for you American women.  You have ruined me” and yet, he liked to fuck.  I was young and not savvy enough to walk away when he said such things (plus sex was very, very good, even if it was just missionary style.  Did I mention he liked to fuck?).  Then there was this one day.  I was going down on him, since he like that before we fucked, and instead of stopping when he started to get close to cumming I kept at it, and of course, he came in my mouth.  He pulled out horrified.  “How could you let me do that?” he cried.  “Do what?” I asked.  “How could you let me do that?” he repeated.  “That was disgusting”.  Needless to say, that was the last time I saw him.

I mention this because it’s not changed.  People still allow their culture and religion to fill them with shame and when you fill someone with enough shame it overflows into anger, hatred and rage.  And then we have incidents like Orlando.

While I’m sad, heartbroken and angry about what happened I can’t bring myself to hate the young man who committed these atrocities.   While he was 100% responsible for what he did, he was a victim of his upbringing and culture, like many of us are and he never found a way to escape.  I can only pray (I know, I’m saying pray and I’m an atheist, but pray is the right word) that we find ways to reach out and deal with the sexual shame that is created by region and culture before something like this happens again.




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