Today’s post is penned by Trevor Watkin, my youngest brother. Trevor’s words are welcome today, as we emotionally unearth from the horrifying tragedy in Orlando. Trevor, a gay man, began my journey of learning to love. Through Trevor’s “coming out”, I have experienced the power of setting aside doctrine and rules, as a friend and sister to one of my favorite people. I hope everyone has this same opportunity in their lives. I asked Trevor to write about what it means to be an ally – a nuanced term as we seek to support those grieving around us. His words are potent, entertaining, always layered with meaning. Thank you for reading today.
What a gift to arch-conservative Christian ministers to see a “suspected Islamic militant” mow down a room full of fags. Several have already oozed their way into the spotlight to use this chaotic outpouring of hatred and violence to further prop up their beloved themes of divine retribution and our godless nation’s quickening march to the grave. But what a tremendous opportunity for Christians and Muslims to feel a deep sense of kinship as the identities of their respective faiths are continually hijacked by demagogues who have abandoned the call for human rights in favor of fear and aggression. Indeed, to celebrate the violent deaths of the innocent is unalloyed psychopathy, but when this sentiment is expressed under the cowardly banner of religious faith it is dismissed as fundamentalism. I make no distinction between these two terms.
So we look for the helpers. Mr. Rogers’ mother told us that. We look for our allies because there is strength—and indeed peace—in numbers.
Now, I greet the term “ally” — as I do most everything in my life — with a sloppy ladle of cynicism. Just as social media betrays our inherent need to appear to be living our best life rather than putting such strenuous energy into actually living it, the term is in danger of becoming self-satisfied and ultimately meaningless if careful consideration isn’t given to what it actually means.
An ally is not necessarily someone who is merely accepting (or that unctuous word “tolerant”) of queer people. To be accepting of others as they are, while laudable, is in my slightly-less-than-humble opinion a fundamental prerequisite of being an ethical person. Overcoming bias is a struggle universal to the human condition that does not disappear simply by ignoring it. And I don’t for one minute mean to insinuate that the need for allies is not a universal one – I speak from a queer context because it is the only one in which I can speak with any authority.
Instead, allies go to battle alongside one other, and we recognize the other because the scars resemble our own. Thus, to call oneself an ally is to acknowledge the shared fight in which all of us stand to lose or gain. In this context, the enemy in question is anti-intellectualism, which is by definition an active rejection of critical thinking, of our innate powers of logic and reason. This may appear to be problematic in a Christian context because faith by nature is irrational, predicated on the acceptance as fact, that for which there is no evidence. But just as faith and critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, faith is no impediment to recognizing one another as equals. Jesus certainly thought so, anyway. All of that “there is no Jew or Greek” mumbo-jumbo.
So there’s a delightfully perverse kind of solidarity that develops the moment one realizes that we’re all a hot mess. We’re afraid, we’re lonely, we have doubts, but we all want to do the right thing. And no one—neither the secular nor the faithful—is completely immune to the self-destructive patterns of behavior we engage in to escape these distractions. For example, I once ordered pizza three times in the space of 24 hours and had the same delivery guy each time. I figure this fact will make you feel better about yourself in one way or the other, and I am grateful for that. Perhaps it’s my atheist version of witnessing.
Also, I’ll take this opportunity to beg forgiveness for using that awful word in my first sentence. To be a “fag” is to be regarded as sub-human, unworthy of basic human dignity, and this word—once a weapon against me—illustrates this very plainly. In fact, to see the world as equals is an act of revolution that transcends all religious differences, destroys hate, and is antithetical to fear. This is the closest thing we have to the Truth, and unlike doctrine, does not require faith.