When bigotry makes you sick to the stomach

  • Harmful and wrong: a Preserve Marriage demonstration held before the referendum on same-sex relationships (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Harmful and wrong: a Preserve Marriage demonstration held before the referendum on same-sex relationships (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

For years I have been a one of the few gay people to speak out about gay rights, probably because others were concerned about discrimination. And who can blame them? We live in a bigoted society.

Lately, however, I decided that my words were landing on deaf ears, so why bother. But if my message below can be heard by only a few, then it is with these slow steps that change will eventually come.

I am a woman who has been in a 22-year relationship with a woman. It seems to me that a large part of society judges my gay relationship less than a heterosexual relationship. I am tired of being a second-class citizen in my country.

Every time I see one of those hateful “No, No” bumper stickers on a car, it gives me a pain in my stomach. I have to wonder if the people happily driving around with these bumpers stickers realise the effect they have on gay people and their family and friends. Do they know that if I have a terrible accident and end up in the Intensive Care Unit, my partner is not allowed in to see me? My Dutch partner, who has been coming here for all these years, cannot inherit my house, cannot work here and has no legal rights at all as my partner. How can so many people find it fair to deny me a civil union relationship that gives me the same legal rights as them?

What I want to ask these “No, No” people is how my relationship affects them? Why deny me happiness? Homosexuality is not going to go away, and you can’t cure gay people — that has already been tried with no success.

As Christians, I would have thought it better to demonstrate love and compassion towards your fellow mankind, and follow the Pope’s recent suggestion to be more accepting of gays and lesbians.

The former Archbishop of Cape Town has campaigned in favour of gay rights and has backed same-sex marriage. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” he said at the 2013 launch of the Free and Equal campaign in Cape Town. “I would not worship a god who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

He added: “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

How can it be that Desmond Tutu’s God is so different to God’s message delivered by our religious leaders? I don’t see the same level of rancour directed against adulterers, thieves and physical abusers, all whose actions leave far more damage in the aftermath than my loving relationship. Perhaps it is time to direct energies towards a more harmful enemy and to get on the right side of history. Our children will look back on your gay prejudices and deem it harmful and wrong.

•Claire Smith is the retired former No 1 women’s tennis player in Bermuda

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Published Jul 26, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 26, 2016 at 7:35 am)

When bigotry makes you sick to the stomach

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