“When You Say Nothing At All”

“Homosexuality is a belief! It’s not mandatory in that person. That person is not “Born That Way”, no matter what Lady Gaga says. That person is not born that way! It is a decision!”

Caiden Cowger

This is an infamous quote from Caiden Cowger’s viral, but hilarious train wreck of a video called “Obama Is Making Kids Gay.” Immediately following those first four sentences, Cowger goes on this rant about President Obama and that he is encouraging young teenagers to “become gay.” He even had the audacity to bring up his former friends from elementary and middle school and claim they were “not homosexual” when he knew them. To no surprise, his video received a plethora of criticism from LGBT advocates around the world. The Huffington Post even joined the party and wrote an article about him.

I am willing to admit that his comments did make me angry. This video was made two years ago, and I was still new to “the gay scene.” I still am trying to figure out what my sexuality means to me. Part of the long process is figuring out what to do about those annoying homophobes we encounter on the internet and in our everyday lives. Caiden Cowger is the type of homophobe who knows that his comments are bound to anger the LGBT community and our straight allies. He not only wants the attention because he profits from it. He wants the attention because it (supposedly) validates his hateful and divisive views about people who he does not find appealing. Lastly, we should not forget the delusion that his mindset is the exact opposite of genuine love and concern for your fellow man.

Personally, I did not feel the need to respond to Caiden Cowger. After all, many users have done so already. I honestly believe that he deserves the heated criticism for making such remarks about a “lifestyle” that he is still too immature to understand. This brings up one important question when I encounter people who spew rhetoric just like he does. How should I react to such a person if I should encounter them?

It was a warm and humid Wednesday morning. I was volunteering at a local church for Meals on Wheels. Chicken salad sandwiches were on the menu for those who wanted cold brown bag meal. It was my job to scoop the mixture onto two slices of bread and place them in plastic bags. Simple enough job, right? It is common for the workers to engage in small talk while we are preparing a meal. Sometimes, the conversation can turn political or religious. Just the other day, Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality was declared unconstitutional. I was ecstatic when I heard the news. The entire Northeastern United States has finally embraced marriage equality! However, my enthusiasm was not shared by everyone. The man sitting across from me began to talk about the potential severe weather in the forecast. I did not expect the direction of which it was about to turn. We will call this man Mr. Taylor. (Notice these are fake names!) The conversation went something like this.

Mr. Smith: “I can’t believe all of this nasty weather in the forecast for today. (Brief pause.) I think God is trying to tell us something! He is clearly not happy! Did you hear about that same-sex marriage ruling for Pennsylvania? Some federal judge ruled the ban unconstitutional!  (An older woman was listening to the conversation. We will call her Mrs. White. She immediately chimed in.)

Mrs. White: “That’s terrible! God does not approve! They should have let the people decide! I thought the Bishop was opposed to gay marriage! Why didn’t he try to stop that?” 

(Mrs. White is apparently a Conservative Catholic. A brief pause follows.)

Mr. Smith: “He is against it! Mayor Peduto probably asked people in those gay bars to voice their opinion and fool us into thinking that we want this in Pennsylvania!

(short pause, then he continues)

 You know what’s more disgusting? Protestant churches are now calling homosexual pastors! The bible says that homosexuality is disgusting, immoral and wrong!  My denomination ordains gay pastors, but our parish did not agree to call one. We don’t want some gay pastor shoving his lifestyle choice down our throats!”

Mrs. White: “Well, they will have to answer to God someday. You never know what the government will demand us to accept next. Polygamy? Pedophilia? Sex with animals?” 

(Topic of conversation changes.)

I must admit that I wanted to respond to their blatant ignorance. “Sir, you happen to be talking to somebody who is out of the closet! Shame on you for being so ignorant!” However, I forced myself to say absolutely nothing. I just sat there and I continued to make the sandwiches. After all, they were not directly speaking to me. (I doubt they even know I am gay.) I have made a vow to myself. I will never live according to the standards of other people. It does not matter if they stem from religious indoctrination, general ignorance or even both. I can only hope that Caiden will wise up and learn to respect people for who they are. However, my prayers have yet to be answered. Some may disagree, but I think I did the right thing. I will remember this experience in the future and remind myself of one thing. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.

My letter to Steve Grand

(click above)



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Being Openly Gay During The Holidays

The tree is lit up and beautifully decorated! Presents have been intricately wrapped! Christmas has returned for another year of festivities! So, why are people so mean and unhappy during this season that is really supposed to be about comfort and joy? Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that can either bring the best or the worst out of many family relationships. Many of our LGBT brothers and sisters who live with deeply religious parents are no stranger to that fact. If the relationship turns to the worst, it can really take a toll on them during the holidays. Whether you have a supportive family or not, we must remember one thing.

 “Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color any situation!”

I remember my elementary school teachers used to display this quote on their classroom walls. These two sentences are important for us all to remember. I suppose we can say that Murphy’s Law of being openly LGBT is that you are bound to experience people who just don’t get it. Attitude can reveal our true colors. I am glad that I have gotten over the whole “coming out” phase. I can remember feeling outraged when YouTube right-wing “prodigy” Caiden Cowger made a viral video called “Obama is making kids gay.”

“Homosexuality… It is a belief. It’s not mandatory in that person! That person is not born that way, no matter what Lady Gaga says. That person is not born that way! It is a decision! You see, it is getting worse where I’m at. I see younger people that is turning to be out to be homosexuals.  Its equal boy and girl both. All of them are turning into homosexuals. We’ve got about thirty, I’d say thirty teenagers in this county that I am at that are homosexuals and it is sickening! It sickens me!” Caiden Cowger “Obama is Making Kids Gay”

It’s obvious that his parents are raising him to believe such ignorance. I remember the plethora of video responses and blogs following this video. Many of them were from the LGBTQUIA community. Others came from political commentators like Bill Maher. The internet is certainly a place where one can spread their own ignorance and find people who agree with them. Let’s face it! We are all guilty of saying ignorant things. This ignorance can not only come from strangers on the internet. It can come face to face with those who supposedly “know” and “love” us.

This begs the question. Should I discuss my sexuality or not? Well, sexuality is a taboo subject for a lot of people. Some people cannot fathom two consenting men or two consenting women “doing what they do” (if you know what I am talking about.) I am certainly convinced that a lot (but not all) of it is overly based upon religious convictions and general ignorance. When it comes to people I interact with on a daily basis, opinions range from Liberal to Conservative. The holidays are not the time for debates about divisive issues. That means that anyone who wishes to proclaim their homophobia must keep one thing in mind. I refuse to conform to people’s perceptions of what is “icky.”  It’s best to make that crystal clear as soon as they start hurling anti gay (or “pro family”) epithets. They are fully convinced their religious deity believes it is an abomination, among the many negative connotations used by the religious right.

We’ve all been forced to resist the temptation to give that judgmental zealot a bloody punch in the face. However, people like Caiden Cowger should remind us of one thing. A bloody punch in the face (or a terroristic threat in the comment section) is the reaction they want. They want to use us to their own advantage. They want to see us get into trouble so they can gloat about it in the end. They want us to feel like failures. (Caiden makes that abundantly clear in his last video complete with an overly dramatic introduction.) The best thing to do about people like this is to walk away and pretend it did not happen. You have to rise above their arrogance. Tell yourself that you are worth more than any person who ever tries to deny that fact! It took me a very long time to tell myself that.

Homophobia from outside the LGBT community often forces us to do one thing that can be very damaging during the holidays. Internalizing our anger and imposing it on innocent people is an unfortunate and under recognized problem. I am a “high functioning” Autistic male who managed to come to terms with my sexuality. There are a lot of things I still have to learn about living in this world as a double minority. I have already learned that my uniqueness does not warrant disrespect towards anyone. I should remind you that disrespect is not always intentional. We’ve all failed to do things we should have done. We have all done things we should not have done. I was that high school kid who always felt left out no matter where I went. People noticed that and they would occasionally take advantage of it. I don’t feel the necessity to elaborate on those experiences now, mainly because it was in the past. However, I urge all LGBT people to include those who may be going through those feelings now. I am asking you to help in lessening the division that exists within our own community. I cannot do this on my own, but I am willing to do it if you are!

Thank you for reading and happy holidays!

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