“I don’t care what you do in bed” is not actually a kind response to being come out to

When someone comes out as other-than-heterosexual to a religious fundamentalist (or someone who for whatever reason has an anti-gay ideology as part of their identity), the conversation often goes this way:

  • Sue: I know you’re really religious and… I think you should know… I’m gay.
  • Fred: No big deal. I don’t care what you do in bed. Hey, it’s not like I tell you what I get up to with my wife, right?

In this scenario, Fred probably thinks that what he’s saying is liberal, kind, generous, and accepting. It isn’t. This is actually a nasty thing to say, even if you mean well.

If someone comes out to you, they are telling you something important about themself; something that was probably hard to say. They are telling you that they have the capacity to love, and that their capacity for love is stigmatized. If they know that you have an anti-gay ideology, they are telling you it is important for you to know about their capacity for love, even though they expect you to disapprove.

Saying something along the lines of “I don’t need to know what you do in bed” in response to that is unkind. It’s implying that you think they just told you something smutty or inappropriate. They didn’t. They told you something appropriate and important.

The capacity of straight men to love women is socially celebrated. The capacity of straight women to love men is also socially celebrated. It’s not treated as something dirty or smutty that needs to be hidden. Even the assumed sexuality of opposite-sex relationships is socially celebrated.

There’s nothing obscene about knowing someone’s sexual orientation or marital status. It’s an important fact about who someone is and how they are in the world.

If someone knows that a man and a woman are married (or often even if they are dating), they will assume that they have sex together. Parts of marriage ceremonies celebrate sexuality (eg: “you may now kiss the bride”). People talk about marriages being consummated, and assume that newly married couples will have a particular kind of sex on their wedding night.

And despite all of this implicit sexuality: If a straight man told someone he was married, and the response was: “I don’t need to know what you do in bed”, he would probably be very offended. He would expect you to respect his relationship and capacity for love more than that, and not to reduce them to something lewd.

It’s important to offer people who aren’t straight the same respect. Even if you disapprove of their relationships, acknowledge them as relationships. Even if you disapprove of their love, acknowledge it as love. Don’t pretend that you’re tolerating something unseemly and unimportant.

The value of preaching to the choir

The choir has spiritual needs and oftens spiritual commitments. That is why they show up every week.

They need a sermon. They need to keep learning and growing.

Preaching isn’t just about telling people to care. It’s also about telling them how. And reminding people who already care that their efforts matter and are appreciated, and that they still have room to grow.

No group can be outreach-oriented all the time. Not religious groups, not activist groups, not social groups – everything has to, at times, focus on the needs of committed members.

Preaching to the choir isn’t enough. But it’s not something you should neglect, either.

Some things I think I know about cultural appropriation

Some things that are not necessarily appropriation, depending on how they’re done (but can get into really dangerous territory really quickly):

  • Learning from another culture
  • Admiring another culture
  • Seeing things in another culture that are better than in yours, and trying to figure out how make what you do more like that
  • Learning values from another culture that are better than yours, and trying to incorporate what you’ve learned into your culture
  • Learning musical or artistic styles from another culture
  • Learning how to make food associated with another culture

Pretending that what you’re doing is literally the same thing people in a culture you admire do is always obnoxious appropriation, though. Here are some examples:

  • Claiming to be a member of a culture you’ve only read about because of how strongly what you’ve read resonates with you
  • Using religious ceremonies lifted from other religions completely out of their context (eg: Christians who are really into seeing Jesus as a Jew often do this with modern Jewish rituals; white environmentalists often do this with Native ceremonies)
  • Saying that you must have some distant relatives from the culture you’re interested in, or that you must have been a member of that group in another life, and acting as though this makes you yourself in this life a member of that group 
  • Reading a book written by an anthropologist describing their perspective on the childrearing practices of a group they spent a few months with, then claiming that you’re raising your kids just like that culture does

More on good therapy

A good therapist will be honest about their qualifications, and respect your expertise.

For instance:

  • A good therapist will not claim to be an expert in gay issues just because they are a good person and don’t hate same sex couples
  • A good therapist will believe you about religious conflicts, and won’t attempt to dictate to you how to resolve them (eg: If you can’t eat certain things, or need to wear certain clothing around members of the opposite sex, or can’t do certain things on certain days).
  • A good therapist will be honest about which conditions they do and don’t have experience treating

Denigrating “The Old Testament God” can be antisemitic

In Christian culture and secular-ish culture in English-speaking majority-Christian countries, it’s popular to talk about how awful the “Old Testament God” is.

This can amount to casual antisemitism, even if it’s not intended. Because this kind of talk is often a coded way of claiming that Christianity is loving and good, but Judaism is backward and violent.

What Christians call the “Old Testament” is what Jews call “The Bible”. So “The Old Testament God” is the God that Jews believe in. It’s not so cool to claim that Christians believe in a loving God but that Jews believe in a violent and vengeful God. It’s not accurate, and it’s a claim that has been used to justify a lot of horrific violence.

The Old Testament God, according to both Jews and Christians, created the world and gave humanity the Ten Commandments. Christians base a lot of their theology on things found in the OT. Christians do not really reject everything done by the Old Testament God. Denigrating the “Old Testament God”, more often than not, is an implied rejection of Jews.

It’s true that the OT depicts God doing some fairly troubling and violent things. But that’s also true of the Gospels. For instance, the Gospels depict a lake of fire in which certain types of sinners are tortured forever. That doesn’t mean that Christians believe in a bad God who likes torturing people. It means that ancient religious texts are complicated and that it’s up to religious people to interpret them in a way compatible with human dignity and human rights.

Christians who believe that the New Testament is a new revelation are entirely capable of doing this. So are Jews who do not believe this. Members of both faiths can be religious in a respectful and good way.

Most people who invoke these claims about the Old Testament God don’t mean any harm, but it is part of an antisemitic tradition that hurts people. There are other ways of opposing the brutality done in the name of religion. It’s counterproductive to invoke the antisemitic trope of denigrating the Old Testament God.

It’s important to care whether you and others are ok

In some groups, people are taught to follow rules. And told that, if they follow the rules, things will be good. And that following the rules is the only way things can be good.

And then… the consequences of the rules aren’t actually what people say they should be. People get hurt. And then, people who get hurt are pressured to think that nothing is wrong. And that’s bad.

Because you matter. Everyone matters. And if the rules are hurting people, there’s a problem with the rules. Magical thinking won’t make the rules work better, but it will prevent people from fixing them.

Some examples:


  • If you’re in a religious group that has rules and,
  • Following the rules as your community requires is causing you serious problems, and…
  • …everyone tells you that if you just keep following all the rules, pray harder, and have more faith, everything will be ok…
  • …something is seriously wrong.
  • (Common examples: gay men being told to pray harder and date women, women being told to pray harder and accept that they shouldn’t have as much power as men because God gave them a different role)

In social justice space:

  • If you don’t feel safe in a Safe Space
  • Or you have reason to *think* you’re not safe in a Safe Space
  • And everyone is telling you that the space is definitely safe and that you’re just imagining the problem…
  • …something is seriously wrong, and you’re allowed to care that it’s wrong and seek to fix the problem (whether within the space or by finding somewhere else to be)