By Mark Reed | @mark_reed88


“As a devout Roman Catholic I know I’m committing a mortal sin which must be confessed. It’s difficult to square that with the concept that God made me who I am, what I am, have a divine purpose, and more importantly, isn’t answering my prayers to be free from this sexual self or give this former husband and father a more acceptable outlet.” - Randy, USA via FS porn survey 2016

Last year, the National Aids Trust released a report highlighting the inefficiency of SRE or Sex and Relationships Education in schools.

At the same time, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Williams, weighed in with her thoughts: “For many years, sex and relationships education has not provided a godly stance on sexuality or sexual relationships. Instead, it reflects our society’s increasingly liberal sexual norms”.

Obviously, this is not a reflection of the thoughts and beliefs of all Christians. Still, we must remember that this isn’t about over-sexualising young people, it’s about giving them the tools they need to navigate the confusing world of sex and relationships. It’s important that young gay people are educated about these issues. They need to feel that there is nothing wrong with their sexuality, and that they are perfect the way they are. Having a good sex education isn’t only teaching you about the birds and the bees, it’s about creating mature, responsible, informed individuals who can make positive decisions about their sexual and romantic lives. It’s important for everyone, regardless of your sexuality.

Back in 2014, Pornhub did a survey of its users and the statistics were very surprising, or maybe not so surprising at all. It turned out that the majority of its viewers hail from the Bible Belt in the deep South. In the top spot, we have Mississippi where it also just so happens that anal sex is still illegal. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? Alanis Morissette agrees with me. This is also the state where they recently signed legislature allowing churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender. It seems the more you repress sex and sexuality, the more people find solace in front of their laptops.

And there’s a reason that these southerners are watching the back catalogue of Captain Americock volumes one though five (plus the reboot). They have been told that their lifestyles are essentially wrong, so they delve further into this world of porn because what other options do they have? It’s hard to be loud and proud (or quiet and content) when you live in a place where intolerance is part of your daily life. These states would do well to remember that preaching narrow-mindedness doesn’t effect change, it only fosters depression and self-loathing.

Conservative religious groups are the powering force behind these discriminatory bills and at the forefront of arguments condemning LGBT inclusive SRE. They rely on scaremongering and misinformation to spread their message, suggesting that inclusive SRE means we will be teaching young children how to put a condom on.

Of course, when you lack an actual informed argument, the second best option is theatrics – ‘gay marriage causes hurricanes’, ‘gay men will eat your children’, ‘should children be exposed to the sounds of sodomy?’ And as it happens, that last one actually appeared in the anti-gay marriage campaign in Ireland.

Obviously, the impact of extreme religious beliefs is often limited to certain sections of society, and many of us have had the good fortune to avoid it. But, we are the lucky ones. Many are left damaged by extremist anti-gay views. And even though religion doesn’t seem to have as much importance in people’s lives as previous generations, it still can be hugely influential in forming communities’ opinions and values.

At times, this can be a very good thing. Religious communities can provide a safe haven and give people guidance when they feel lost. A close friend of mine remained in the closet until 30 years of age, and it was the priest at his university that finally convinced him to come out of the closet. Until that age, he had repressed his sexuality, but his priest gave him the confidence to come out and affirmed in him the belief that God thought he was perfect the way he is.

That’s organised religion at its very best – empowering and fostering our wellbeing, rather than judging our differences. And recently, there have been some amazing advances in countries that have traditionally been seen as conservative and strongly religious, showing us that the two are not always inextricably linked.

Ireland, and the rest of the world, held its breath on the morning of the 22 May, 2015, as ballot boxes were ripped open across the country. Social media was ablaze in a mood of frenzied expectation. Will it pass? Will the bigots win? Messages of support and the #hometovote crammed our usually banal twitter feeds. And then, after what seemed like eternity, word got out: an overwhelming majority. It truly was a wonderful day. Ireland, a Catholic country, passed an equal marriage bill with a 62% majority.

Of course, organised religion at its very worst is a different story. The tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn last year gave us all pause for thought. The words of her post on her Tumblr blog are haunting: “My death needs to mean something... Fix society. Please.” Alcorn had reported struggles with conversion therapy that caused her depression, and is thought to have led to her eventual suicide.

The thing is that gay people already have shame. You just end up carrying it around with you. I think everyone, even the most well-adjusted of us, has a little bit of it. We had to lie. We had to pretend. And, of course, that makes you question your self-worth. So, when you start trying to change people – people who are already incredibly vulnerable – you are playing with fire. You are loading shame on fragile individuals who are struggling with their identity. The messages that we give to young gay people today will be etched on their brains for years to come. Unfortunately, it seems that for some, the affirmation that is so desperately needed at this point, never comes. Instead, they are subtly – or overtly – told that there is something wrong with them and they need to change.

But we can’t be forced to change. You can’t piss on a flower and expect it to grow. You can’t make people deny who they are, then expect them to become happy well-adjusted members of society. Religion has a part to play in society, of that I’m sure. But the relationship between religion and the LGBT community needs to be examined.

If we want the next generation of gay people growing up to be free of the baggage and bullshit of previous generations, we need religious interests to stop taking precedence over their health and wellbeing. We need them to stop having a say when it comes to matters that affect our lives, but strangely have no consequences on their own. Former Irish president, Mary McAleese, said it best when she spoke out against opposition to equal marriage: ‘’A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything.”


THIS ARTICLE IS FROM ISSUE #154. TO READ MORE FROM THIS ISSUE, CLICK HERE OR ON THE BANNER BELOW


DIGITAL VERSION