On 6th January 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that, after a seven-year battle between Gareth Lee and a Belfast bakery, over a case of homophobic discrimination, this case was “inadmissible”.
This all started in 2014, when ‘Ashers’ bakery — run by evangelical Christians — refused to make Lee a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage”. Two years later, in 2016, Lee won his case, in a Belfast county court as well as a court of appeal. Then, two years after this, however, the bakery reached out the the UK Supreme Court, in order to overturn these two rulings, which the ECHR then confirmed that they would back, and that they would not involve themselves in the case, as they claimed that Lee was relying only on a domestic law, rather than focussing on how this act impacted his rights, under the laws of this particular court.
They also used the pompous and ignorant argument that the bakery’s refusal was not made in a display of prejudice against Lee on account of his sexuality, but rather the “refusal to supply a cake was because of the [bakery owners’, Daniel and Amy McArthur’s] religious objection to gay marriage”.
In other words, the owners refused to make the cake, not because they are against gay people, but because their religion is against gay people having rights.
You have every right to be confused. This “love the sinner, hate the sin” mindset is entirely nonsensical.
In case you haven’t heard that phrase, it essentially relates to the religious ideas of loving and respecting everyone, regardless of how they may have “sinned” before. Except, the truth is that, in the bible, homosexuality is never actually labelled as a sin.
Throughout countless anti-gay marches and demonstrations, ever-growing numbers of people love to quote some specific verses of the bible, as an instrument in their propaganda. However, the words “gay” or “homosexual” were never actually in the bible until 1946, when an American bible company mistranslated a few ancient Greek words, an act which became the foundation of much of the anti-LGBTQ+ culture that still exists and circulates today. In the original text, the ancient Greek words “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi” were used, which, according to most researchers, translates to “sexual pervert”; later, in 1534, the German monk Martin Luther translated the ancient Greek into the German word “knabenschander”, which actually means “pedophile” — a word that feels especially ironic when it is preached by the catholic church, which has had over 6,700 clergy members accused of sexual assault, most of which were carried out against minors.
But, in 1946, the Revised Standard Version (RSV) bible committee voted that the words should be translated as “homosexual”, thus igniting the bigoted movement among American conservative Christians, which then trickled down to religious communities all across the world.
Even though, following an investigation prompted by the letter of a young gay theology student, sent in 1959, Dr. Luther Weigle, the dean of Yale Divinity School and the head of the RVS translation committee, admitted to this mistake, and ensured that the correct revisions were made; the word “homosexual” was removed in 1971, but the damage done 25 years earlier had already spread, and countless other publishers of bibles across the world had changed their translations, and were unwilling to revoke their alterations.
As a result, even today, more than 45,000 churches preach that homosexuality is a sin to their congregations, who then fear that gay relatives and relations will tear their families and lives apart. Furthermore, this then leads to the widespread heteronormativity that exists in our society; this belief is that heterosexuality is the default, preferred and “normal” mode of sexual orientation, and the assumption that there are only two distinct, opposite genders and that sexual and marital relations are only fitting when between a man and a woman.
If you think you don’t know anyone like this, they’re the kind of people who tell others that they’re too young and inexperienced to know for sure that they are queer (even though they would never question the sexuality of their heterosexual counterparts), or the kind of people who use the fact that they are part of a different generation as a valid excuse for their supposedly-intrinsic homophobia, or the kind of people that tell others to stop making their sexuality part of their personality, as it should only be limited to what happens in their bedrooms.
Essentially, these people feel so uncomfortable when in conversation, or even merely close proximity, with someone who is not of their sexuality, because they have been indoctrinated to believe that their lifestyle is the only “normal” option. Because of this, many families force their relatives or friends into conversion therapy (a practise that is still legal in most countries across the world), and try to “protect” their children from any media or ideas that intend to normalise different sexualities or self-exploration in terms of sexuality.
However, some people are less outright with their discrimination, and try to hide it under a thin veil of intrigue and questioning: people may ask what age someone realised that they weren’t straight, whether they thought it was inappropriate of them to have these feelings, whether they’re sure (especially if they still have not had sex), if they’re just seeking attention, or even if they can just change the subject already.
This is all not the mention the queer fetishisation by, particularly, straight men — to clarify, these (statistically) white, cisgender, heterosexual men are watching lesbian pornography, more than any other category, and then have the audacity to tell these same people in the real world that they’re living sinful lives, which are only allowed to belong in these men’s fantasies. Moreover, these people often seem to confuse the simple acts of fetishising someone’s queerness with respecting and accepting them.
Why is it that these people think that the only thing that queer people want, in terms of wider media representation, is to have that one cisgender gay male best friend who submits to every single stereotype, or struggles to live with their identity, or whose storyline ends in tragedy? This is not what has been asked for, and it’s not helping anyone, queer or not. It’s what the producers, directors and writers think is “PC” enough for queer people to be interested while still maintaining the “palatable” qualities, so as not to lose any straight viewers.
Straight people often argue that if their personalities don’t revolve around being straight, then queer people’s personalities shouldn’t revolve around being queer. Except…their whole world revolves around the heterosexual, cisgender experience, with music, art, entertainment, jobs, religion, marriage and even language itself being catered to straight people.
And yet it’s the queer people out in the world that are offered the patronising micro-aggressions like, “I don’t care that you’re gay, just don’t force your agenda on us!” — this said by the same people who have forced their religious agendas onto everyone for hundreds of years.
Asking for safety and respect is not “forcing an agenda”. Asking for your sexuality to not be considered a mental illness or faze is not “forcing an agenda”. Asking for people to address you in the way you feel is accurate, using correct names and pronouns is not “forcing an agenda”. Existing is not “forcing an agenda”.
Ultimately, having beliefs and following religion is a choice — sexuality is not. And if your religion preaches that you should hate someone based solely on who they love, it may be time to asses what you choose to believe.
By Sarah Clif, student