I’m Timothy Bidon and I’m one of those “fags” that you hate so much. If I had passed before you, I’m sure you would’ve loved the chance to picket my funeral. After all, we stand at opposite ends of the political spectrum on most things.
When I received news of your death, my knee-jerk reaction was to celebrate. For years you’ve been feeding hate and misinformation about the LGBT community. Your church has picketed countless funerals, invading the private lives of families and causing even more pain to those who have experienced loss. You were, by no means, a good man.
Mr. Phelps, you were one of the people who made me question my faith. I don’t think you’ll ever understand the difficulty of growing up openly gay in a Christian environment, you’ll never understand the confused looks I get when I tell people I’m gay and a Christian. It’s people like you who make it seem like there’s such a divide between religion and LGBT issues that can never be crossed.
I’ve met people like you before. It was before my first year in college and I was in Minneapolis for the Presbyterian General Assembly. I was away from home, without my parents and, quite frankly, scared shitless to confront the more conservative sects of my church. One day, when I was walking through the convention hall, adorned in a rainbow scarf to let everyone know I was unashamed of my homosexuality, a woman walked up to me.
“Honey, you can be saved,” she said as she touched my shoulder. The smile on her face should have made me feel welcomed, but I already knew all too well where this was going to turn. “I was a lesbian for 30 years before I found God’s healing power,” she continued. “I know you think you have no choice in the matter right now, but if you believe hard enough God can change you too. Don’t you want to be forgiven and let into the kingdom?”
In that moment, I wish I could have been more of a warrior than I was. I wish I could have told her that my God tells me I should be proud of who I am. My God tells me I’m going to be loved regardless, and, that most of all, my God tells me I should show others respect even in the face of disagreement. Instead, I cried and ran away.
Locked in a bathroom stall sobbing in downtown Minneapolis, I cursed my God, I cursed the church and I cursed everyone in my faith community who had sent me to this place. I wanted nothing to do with the community anymore, especially if there were people like that.
You see Mr. Phelps, at that point I knew of you, but you were just a distant crazy. In my sheltered liberal home, my sheltered liberal high school and my sheltered liberal church I had grown to believe that people like you were a minority. It wasn’t until I found myself sobbing in a public restroom that I realized the plague of your hateful thinking spreads much further. And now, here it was, slapping me across the face.
But, Mr. Phelps, I wasn’t going to let you win. The goal you and others like you have is to make LGBT people like myself feel like they don’t belong; that something needs to change in order for all of us to find acceptance. Perhaps you were hoping that I would cry in that bathroom until I emerged a new straight, Christian, whitebread Republican man.
But it didn’t happen, because somewhere in that bathroom stall I rediscovered my faith. I had the realization that I can actually do more to undermine your hateful arguments by participating in my religious circle and showing that I can be perfectly comfortable in my homosexuality and my Christianity, and that by doing so, I am completely undermining everything you stand for.
Mr. Phelps, where you see scriptures preaching hate, punishment and a God we should live in fear of, I see a scripture that promotes acceptance, friendship, understanding and caring for those less fortunate than yourself. Now, I don’t know why you chose to pursue the route you did with your faith, but I’m glad I chose to follow the loving God.
It’s this loving God that allows me to find peace with myself, and even forgiveness in my heart for you. I’m sorry, Mr. Phelps, that so many people are going to celebrate your passing, because no one deserves that. It’s my faith that dictates that you will find understanding and forgiveness in your passing. I sincerely hope you find that happiness.
Mr.Phelps, I’m also sorry you held so much hate for your entire life. Surely it’s not a burden that was easy to handle, nor did it give you much of an opportunity to actually stop and enjoy life for what it is. I’m sorry you were never able to change your mode of thinking and actually experience humanity for the diverse, beautiful environment it can create.
May you rest in peace, so that the weight of hatred is removed from your shoulders and you can know love and acceptance. They’re beautiful things.
Timothy Bidon is a senior journalism major and can be emailed at tbidon1[at]ithaca.edu.