This is a response to the opinion piece titled “We have come too far.”
I have now been a student at the University of Portland for almost four years. Throughout this time, I have gotten to know both the “Catholic” and the “university” sides of UP quite intimately. I felt that there could be a fair reconciliation between the two, which is the image the school has been attempting to maintain.
However, reading the words “We have come too far” made me think that maybe this was a naïve and optimistic way of viewing things. The fact that such hateful rhetoric can be presented under the guise of religion is baffling to me.
As someone in the process of cutting ties with my Muslim family because of similar beliefs, this kind of narrative is extremely harmful, more so than the perceived harm of being “too” progressive. Not even a paragraph into the article, I relived my experience of last Monday, when my own father tried to make a similar point — in my case, that being Muslim and being gay are incompatible. However true this may or may not be, I believe that it is high time to put an end to using the word of God to make others feel unsafe, unloved and unworthy to live as they are.
It is bewildering to me that in this day in age, when there are so many different ways that a person could identify, when there are increasingly novel things we are discovering as a society about human identity, that the first instinct is to put limits on what is deemed morally acceptable. An identity is a person’s own business. It does not serve to harm anyone. It is not chosen. It merely exists. To decide what is acceptable or not based on the interpretations of a relatively small, limited demographic of people in a time like ours simply doesn’t make sense.
There are much larger issues to be addressed in the world. We’re still in this pandemic, for instance. Would it not be more representative of God’s will to help address these issues and make people’s lives better, rather than limit the number of people you deem worthy to live a fulfilling life? Would it not make sense to foster more feelings of community and belonging, rather than telling people with a different lifestyle than yours that they don’t even deserve to exert some basic human rights? Why are these Catholic ideals not mentioned when it comes to providing help, but instead used to further divide a community in a country that already has its fair share of division?
It’s absurd how blatantly people on this campus (and in this case, who have been on this campus) can still manage to not even find a shred of humanity to spare for people who are in this kind of situation and other similar situations because of the fact that people love someone they’re not socially expected to, or decide that they do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
Religion, like identity, is a personal matter. Many responses to the concerns of LGBTQ+ students on a campus like this one are that identity is personal and should not be such a big deal or receive as much attention as it does. But in a place where people feel comfortable subjecting others to their personal religious tenets, it’s a necessity to be loud about identity. It’s not even a choice to be loud anymore, it’s necessary so that others understand that they don’t have to suffer alone — there are still people out there who will love them just as they are.
There can’t be a way to come too far, because there will always be further to go. Progress isn’t some race with a set finish line that we’ll get to or have run past long ago. The finish line keeps moving, largely in part because of the kind of rhetoric presented in this article. There will never be a perfect reconciliation between traditional and progressive ideals.
But I think we do all know how to be decent human beings. Personally, all I ask for is that people relearn how to treat each other. That people understand that yes, sometimes people are different. Sometimes they believe differently. Sometimes they live their lives differently. But that is by no means an excuse to make them feel unwelcome. By virtue of being human beings, they have earned their right to a decent life as much as anyone else has, and consequently, no one has the right to make them feel that they don’t even deserve that much.
Hera Malik is a senior at UP. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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