Dear Representative Lankford,
Wow. I am one of your constituents in the 5th District. I’m a twenty-something law student with a bordering on unhealthy Grey’s Anatomy obsession and a passion for helping my community. I’m also queer. Representative, I want to believe that if I’m brutally honest about my life–if I can just find the perfect words to help you understand–there’s no way you’d advocate to end programs aimed at better meeting the needs of queer folks.
When Oklahoma House Representative Sally Kern asked if you knew about A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Individuals, you said “Wow.” What about Kern’s question surprised you? Is it that queer folks exist? Is it that we sometimes need substance abuse treatment? Is it that the federal government is helping counselors better fill that need?
When the Gayly pressed you on your comments, you said you are advocating to rid government materials of “obvious bias”–that you want the government to “provide balance.” I assume the bias you refer to is the position that queerness and trans-ness are normal, enduring aspects of human variety. This is the position of the American Psychological Association and all other major national mental health organizations. I am all too familiar with the opposing position–that being queer or being trans are perversions, sins, a “choice.” I am also all too familiar with the devastating effects of that position.
Though I experience many advantages from being white, cisgender, and middle class (and I can’t imagine what hardships transgender Oklahomans face because of attitudes like yours), growing up, no adult told me homosexuality was okay. My parents steeped me in evangelical Christian teachings. Family members, teachers, and other authority figures lumped lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people into an amorphous category of deeply unhappy perverts, pedophiles, and sinners. The implicit and explicit messages I got concerning queer folks contributed to the self-hatred and internalized homophobia I still experience today.
Becoming conscious of my sexual orientation felt like finally being able to translate the world into a language I could comprehend. That all-consuming, fulfilling type of romantic love people described suddenly felt real to me in a way it hadn’t before. As it is for many people–gay, straight, or bisexual–my sexual orientation is the result of a complex interaction of nature and nurture. Being queer isn’t something I can just decide not to do, nor is it something I want to change.
Your intolerance of the LGBTQ community will not result in less queer people; it’s going to increase the mental and physical suffering of queer people. Navigating the world as members of stigmatized groups means we suffer unique harms. As Jen pointed out, we suffer from mental illness, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and addiction at disproportionately higher rates than cishetero people. We need programs designed to and counselors trained to address the harms we face as a result of our sexual orientations, gender identities, race, and other characteristics. If you succeed in undermining the mental health and substance abuse program Kern mentioned, you’ll do direct harm to Oklahoma’s queer community, and–as I hope I’ve made clear to you–that community includes some of your constituents.
Folks like you and Sally Kern are right about one thing: the “homosexual agenda” is big and will change the world. Of course, I can only speak for myself. I do want you and State Representative Kern to retain the freedom to say things like “gays are a bigger threat to this country than terrorists,” but I also want those very notions–that homosexuality is perverse, that transgender people are in need of correction–to become as ridiculous as the belief that the world is flat. My homosexual agenda will result in more openly queer folks–not because it will encourage more people to “turn gay,” but because it will allow all people the space and resources to make personal decisions about their lives. Ultimately, I want to live in an Oklahoma where a multiplicity of identities, experiences, and religions are accepted and celebrated.
Mallory, like Jen, watches Doctor Who. Her fantasy involves the 11th Doctor telling the Atraxi/James Lankford to leave the Earth/queer people alone via asking “is this (queer) world a threat to you?”
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