Maine is consistently ranked one of the least religious states in America, and I’ve always been grateful for that. Which is weird, because I come from a fairly religious family. We’re Episcopalian, and growing up, I went to church every Sunday, until I went off to college and could sleep in on the weekends (sorry, Mom). And I went to Catholic school for 13 years.

So why am I grateful that Maine isn’t very religious? Because I’m bisexual. I’ve liked women since I was 11 years old (as for men, I’ve been interested in them only since I was 23, but that’s another story). Maine’s lack of fervent religiosity and those weird Jesus billboards have helped keep the amount of homophobia I’ve personally experienced low. I’ve dealt with some, of course. It’s impossible to grow up LGBTQ in America without accruing some psychological scars. I’m just lucky to only have a few of them. And I’m incredibly lucky that none of them came from my family or our church.

I’ve been thinking about this because Franklin Graham is coming to Maine. Specifically, the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, on May 19 (the day this column is published), in the evening. He’s the evangelical pastor with a net worth in the tens of millions of dollars (not sure how he squares that one with Jesus saying, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”), who says that “homosexuality” is “something to be repentant of.”

Does that mean I only have to be half as repentant of bisexuality?

There are definitely things I’ve done that I need to be repentant of. Being attracted to women isn’t one of them.

I don’t know where I stand on the issues of life after death, big cosmic beings, etc., etc. (the fun existential questions of religion), but I do know a few things about Jesus, having spent a childhood reading about him flipping tables, turning water into wine and healing the sick. I am 100 percent sure that if he had a cellphone, he would use a lot of emojis while texting. (I cannot prove this – I just have a strong feeling that it is true, which I believe is the very definition of “faith.”) And I think he would care a lot more about what I’m doing to help the homeless and the hungry and the suffering than about who I swipe right on Tinder for.

There are people all over the country – and, unfortunately, even in Maine – who think that there is something wrong with being queer. I don’t care about that when it comes to myself.  Their opinions don’t matter to me. It’s the kids I worry about. It just kills me to think that in the crowds who will surely flock to see Graham perform will be parents of queer kids; that they will think something is wrong with their children if they are anything other than solidly and traditionally heterosexual. It pisses me off to know that there are kids out there who are receiving something other than unconditional love and acceptance from their parents. It’s what I’ve always gotten from mine and it’s what every child deserves.

For the record: If God made you gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or generally amorphously queer, and your parents have a problem with that, then I will be your parent now. Do your homework, clean your room, bedtime is 9:30.

The phenomenon of spiritual leaders using Scripture as a bludgeon and trading moral authority for access to power isn’t new. Hypocrisy, self-enrichment, bargains with politicians: I know a Pharisee when I see one.

Franklin Graham’s tour brochures says he is praying for “the lost.” Presumably, I would be considered one of the lost, on account of all the gay stuff  – not to mention the birth control, and living with a man out of wedlock, and taking the Lord’s name in vain (usually when I stub my toe). But I’m not lost.

I know exactly where I am, and where I am is Maine. As a fan of freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, and freedom of the press (really, of the Constitution in general – I keep a copy in my purse), I know that Franklin Graham has every right to come to my state and preach his poison. But I also have every right to show up with a posterboard sign to make a counterpoint.

No hate. No fear. There’s nothing wrong with being queer.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

 

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