BY ANNA SAUBER KUNTZ
Take a moment and think of one of your favorite pro-lifers. Maybe it's an internationally recognized leader in the movement; maybe it's your friend or relative. Maybe this person saved you from abortion, or saved your child from abortion, or provided an example of strength at a time when you desperately needed one. Think of someone whose influence on your life has been positive and lasting. Think of someone whose very existence makes you thankful or inspired.
Now imagine that this person has something to tell you. Maybe you're being told personally, or maybe you're reading it on the Internet along with thousands of others. Maybe this news will be a shock, or maybe it will be something you've wondered about for a long time. Either way, this person -- this influential pro-lifer who has changed your life for the better -- has something to say.
She's a lesbian.
This revelation could make you overjoyed and eager to offer congratulations on coming out. Or it could make you sad, devastated, upset, or even angry. People have different views and beliefs about sexuality and gender. Whatever you would feel about the news, however, one thing would not change: it would not undo the help, strength, and inspiration that this person gave you.
He still talked you out of getting an abortion, and your child is still a four-year-old drinking juice at the kitchen table.
She still told your birth mother she would adopt you, and you're still alive.
He is still the person who told you that you could find healing and forgiveness after your abortions and the reason why you have gone three years without thinking about how to kill yourself.
She still showed you, when you were a teenager, that it was possible to be a kind, funny, compassionate, and "cool" pro-lifer, even though all your other friends told you pro-lifers were religious weirdoes who hated sex, hated women, and stopped caring about babies once they were born.
Every pro-life person who makes a positive difference in the world makes that difference, no matter who they are. So why are so many parts of the movement so hostile to GLBT pro-lifers?
Photo courtesy of PLAGAL.org.
I wish I didn't speak from personal experience about this topic, but I do. Although I was aware as a teenager that some of my fellow pro-lifers had moral objections to homosexuality, bisexuality, and sexual reassignment surgery, I knew that this difference between us didn't make them mean people or bad people. After all, I spent kindergarten through twelfth grade at a Catholic school, where we talked in religion class about the importance of human life and the computer lab had a poster about praying the rosary to end abortion. By and large, the pro-lifers who disagreed with me about GLBT issues were very nice people. They didn't stop speaking to me when I came out as bisexual -- in front of the entire class, no less -- and whenever they talked about how they didn't share my opinions, they were always respectful. You got the feeling that if they ever accidentally made someone feel unwanted or like a lesser human being, they would feel just horrible. And they would certainly never make someone feel that way on purpose.
I went to college at a GLBT-friendly school that turned out to be very unfriendly toward pro-lifers, so when I went to law school I chose to attend a Catholic one that had both a pro-life group and a GLBT group. I regret to say that I didn't spend very much time with either. Law school was hard, and I was afraid that if I spent much time around the other law students, they would find out just how hard it was for me and I would look like an idiot. I was bullied as a kid and I've had depression for over half my life, so I'm very sensitive to the risks of being vulnerable. I did want to get more involved in the pro-life movement, though, so I turned to the Internet. I wasn't out to be a visible bisexual pro-lifer, or convince anyone that there's nothing wrong with being bisexual. I was there to help save babies.
I got familiar with the popular sites and blogs and started reading them on a daily basis. It wasn't long, however, before I discovered that some of them had material that, as a lawyer might put it, was "beyond the scope." The stated purpose of these sites was to post pro-life news or discuss topics related to abortion. So why were people using them to denounce same-sex marriage, or voice objections to gay couples adopting, or say that being transgender was freakish? Weren't those subjects that belonged on a different site? What perhaps bothered me the most was how some sites and bloggers categorically stated, over and over again, that GLBT people were pro-choice and didn't respect life. I knew that wasn't true, so, without trying to change people's opinions, I added a comment saying that I was a bisexual pro-lifer.
Saying it once didn't stop people from making the untrue generalization. I had to keep doing it over and over again, every time another "GLBT = pro-choice" post appeared, before I had any evidence that someone was noticing my comments. All I could think of was some gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender kid looking to get into the pro-life movement, finding these posts, and concluding that they were unwanted. Some of the people who responded to my comments were respectful, like the people I knew back in high school. Others expressed doubts that I was really pro-life or started quoting Bible verses. One thing that really struck me was that a lot of people in the second group didn't know what "bisexual" meant, though they thought that they did. They would say things that made it clear they believed I was having sex with both men and women. This was not even close to the truth. I fell in love with a straight girl in high school, got over the heartbreak, and fell in love with my boyfriend; we've been crazy about each other ever since.
In the end, I had to stop visiting some of these sites. A lot of the people there were great, but there were too many who were outwardly hostile. It wasn't enough for them to agree to disagree and get back to helping babies; they wanted to keep stating things that I knew were false, such as that GLBT people were out to defy God or were incapable of committed relationships. Many of them were rude, defamatory, insulting, and unkind. The entire experience taught me something very important that I want other pro-lifers to realize: when pro-life groups criticize GLBT people, GLBT people don't want to associate with them. And seeing as human lives are at stake, I really don't think the pro-life movement can afford to alienate people.
While so many pro-lifers have been defining the movement as categorically anti-GLBT, pro-choicers have been defining their movement as categorically pro-GLBT. They're being friendly and welcoming towards GLBT people, especially young people, and advocating the idea that they're the ones who really care. If you're a junior in high school, who are you going to want to associate with: the pro-choicers who smile at you or the pro-lifers who scowl at you? Who are you going to believe?
I believe that pro-lifers should be able to object to various sexual orientations. Their objections should be personal opinions that belong to another movement, however, rather than opinions incorporated into the pro-life movement. The fact that a pro-lifer thinks homosexuality is a sin should be as separate from the pro-life movement as the fact that this same pro-lifer thinks cats make better pets than dogs. People are pro-life for various reasons. Not everyone who opposes abortion does so because of Judeo-Christian teachings, and characterizing the pro-life movement as a movement that also believes homosexuality is a sin is an immense disservice to the diversity of pro-life opinion.
Polls show that American society as a whole is becoming both more secular and more pro-life. The best thing the pro-life movement has going for it is the scientific fact that a new, unique human life is created at conception. This is true whether you believe the Angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith, the Angel Gabriel visited Mohammed, or no angel visited anybody because you believe angels are a total fiction. I have a feeling that over time there will be more and more non-religious pro-lifers, as well as more religious ones who belong to denominations that don't view GLBT people as having inherently sinful orientations. Trying to cram pro-lifers into one mold is a waste of time, and alienating different types of pro-lifers is harmful not only to the movement, but to the children we're trying to save. People may not get along and remain pro-life, but they won't remain united as a movement. Over the last few years, I've run across several people saying that if GLBT pro-lifers really cared about saving babies, they would work through mainstream pro-life organizations and just learn to deal with being characterized as sinners, deviants, perverts, and corrupters of youth. This is absurd. Being part of the pro-life movement should be a welcoming experience, not some sort of extended hazing ritual.
Photo by Parker Michael Knight; some rights reserved.
What has really astounded me is the level of dehumanization I've seen some pro-lifers show towards GLBT people. They seem to be approaching the subject as a purely ideological one instead of something that involves real people, real feelings, real love, and real pain. Indeed, as we've seen too many times over the last couple of years, a lack of compassion towards GLBT people too often leads to real suicide. Why do some people find it acceptable to rejoice in the life of a baby, only to call that baby a pervert, a freak, or worse when he grows up to be gay? The established, religious part of the pro-life movement has been noticeably quiet about the suicides of GLBT teenagers, and many GLBT people have noticed. I can't count the number of times I've run across some variation of the comment, "If pro-lifers are so pro-life, where is the outcry over gay kids killing themselves?"
Silence sends a message. By not acknowledging the deaths of GLBT children and the bullying that drove them to despair, pro-lifers, even those who have never said an unkind word to anyone, are sending the message that these deaths are just not quite as important as others. There is a pro-life graphic online that shows a picture of an unborn baby and says, "Pretend I'm a tree and save me." Maybe we need one that shows a teenager in a rainbow-striped t-shirt that says, "Pretend I'm a fetus and save me." In light of all the cruelty and mean-spiritedness I've seen from alleged Christians, we could do with one that shows the same teenager and says, "Pretend Jesus is here and welcome me."
For Christians, Jesus is always here, in every human being. It's past time some of them started acting on this belief. This isn't about asking anyone to change his or her beliefs on sexuality; it's about embracing every pro-lifer who fights for the cause, acknowledging that the movement doesn't have a universal opinion about sexuality, and setting aside differences to save lives. If you want to work against same-sex marriage or GLBT rights, do it through an organization that exists for that purpose. If you want to save babies, come sit by me and let's get back to work.
Anna Sauber Kuntz is a lifelong Minnesotan who loves reading, kitty cats, knitting, and making miniatures. Between studying for the bar exam, planning her June 2012 wedding, writing a novel, and working on her goal to make and send twenty baby hats each to a crisis pregnancy center in every state, she is mastering the art of being both overworked and unemployed.