“Hi! My name’s Mike Strickland, and I’m an asshole!”
What Would Jesus Do? I mean really, if Jesus found out a few weeks before Christmas that, say, a gay soccer coach and her partner had just discovered they were going to have a child, and that they were really excited about it and, naturally, talked about it with friends and colleagues, what would Jesus do?
Apparently, he’d get holier-than-thou, fire her from her job, unceremoniously slam the door in her face, and then lie to everyone from Joe Blow to God about the truth of what really happened. Obviously this is what Belmont University, a self-proclaimed “Christian environment” school, thinks Jesus would do, because that’s exactly what they did yesterday.
Belmont University is a private school. And since there are no federal or state guidelines which identify homosexuals as a “protected class” for the purposes of discrimination (such as gender, race, age, disability), the university has a legal right to do whatever they want to create what they feel are ideal work requirements. That said, discrimination, whether legal or not, really REALLY sucks.
And it still sucks in 29 states (twenty-nine!!), where gay people still have no legal recourse when some balding Oh-look-I-still-have-puffs-of-hair-on-the-sides-of-my-arrogant-homophobic-head! jackass, like the Poindexter pictured above, tells someone they’re fired because they’re gay. Granted, most states, even with their antiquated lack of anti-discrimination language, rarely fire people for being gay anymore. As with the growing pains of any minority gaining equal rights, there’s that lag between the law and what people know is right. Unfortunately, Belmont and Blowhole Strickland are clearly lagging waaaaay behind.
I grew up gay in the Deep South in the 70s and 80s, and I’m here to tell you that there were times when it was no picnic whatsoever. Not so much because I ever got picked on or bullied. Most people never had a clue that I was gay because I hid it so well. Meanwhile, I was ashamed, embarrassed, afraid, bottled-up, neurotic, and fake. I spent a lot of my teen years believing everyone would hate me if they really knew me, and that’s no way to be when you’re 16. It’s no surprise to me that I started running, a LOT, when I was 17. I don’t care if it sounds dramatic: running freaking saved my life.
Anyway, things did get better, and society has changed tremendously since 1977. But it’s been a slow (to me, anyway) change, and it’s only been within the past 10 years or so that I finally feel pretty much okay with being who I am and with not hiding or covering up for fear of the repercussions.
I guess that’s what has upset me so much about the Belmont bullshit. Not only was someone fired for not adhering to the university’s moronic “don’t ask, don’t tell, and for the pure and Christian love of God, pretend to be someone you’re not!” policy, but it also sends a crystal clear message to the many gay students at Belmont who may be struggling like I was years ago: If you’re gay and you don’t hide it, you deserve to be punished.
One more thing that pisses me off. Belmont is apparently more than happy to take monstrous amounts of tuition money from openly gay and Jewish students, while turning right around and announcing that it’s against their “Christian” policy to accept gay or Jewish professors and coaches. WTF? WWJD? OMG!!
And here’s the kicker. Back in 2003 I decided to get an M.A. in English so that I could (I hoped) work as a writer. I ended up at a school where the professors were excellent, open-minded, and diverse. They encouraged progressive and even radical thinking and writing. They were thrilled to death when I wrote about my youthful homo experiences. They were nearly incapacitated with joy when I spoke openly about being a lesbo. A’s for days!
Not long after graduation, I did, in fact, get a job writing for a truly wonderful publisher. I’ve written any number of things for Townsend Press, but I’m particularly happy with an essay I wrote about growing up gay in the South. It’s included in one of their recent textbooks for young people in hopes of encouraging gay kids and enlightening kids who may need just a tad of enlightening. I remember, after it was published, feeling a lot of gratitude for the great professors I’d had in graduate school at…that’s right!….Belmont University.
HA HA HA Belmont! Kiss my ass! I get the last laugh, you myopic, insufferable, arrogantly pious, discriminatory alma mater!
Anyway, I’m going for a run now. I don’t claim to speak for him, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would do too.