By Dr. Jeffrey Chernin
By now you have probably heard about the “Mel Gibson incident.” If you haven’t, he was allegedly speeding down the Pacific Coast Highway with an open bottle of tequila in his car. He was arrested and apparently started hurling sexist (sugar tits) and anti-Semitic (“Fucking Jews.” He allegedly asked “Are you a Jew?” to the arresting officer. In fact, the officer was Jewish.)
The focus of this column is not on his alleged sexism or anti-Semitism. So why does it belong in a column devoted to LGBT people? Good question! For those of you who have been reading Q Health on a regular basis know that I’m about to talk about how this incident pertains to us in the LGBT community.
There’s an old adage, namely “Those who can’t, teach.” The implication can be misconstrued to mean that we should denigrate teachers because they can’t make it in another field. Wrong. It means that it’s easier to instruct people on what to do than to do it yourself. The meaning of the adage becomes clearer when we change just one word: “Those who can’t, preach.” This is similarly not intended to denigrate the profession of ministers and rabbis and other forms of religious leaders around the world. Not at all.
Rather, what it is saying is that there seems to be that the more a person in power demands that others act certain “moral” ways, the further they miss the mark themselves.
Let’s continue to use Mel Gibson as an example. Suppose that everything that is being said in the media is true. Then this is what we have seen so far: Mel Gibson is a deeply religious man. He’s a part of Catholicism known as Opus Dei. Very strict, to the letter of the law of scripture. As a case in point, a good Catholic doesn’t practice birth control, as the presence of his seven children would seem to attest.
He makes a movie about Christ’s final days. Part of the point of making a movie like this is to show one’s love of the Lord. His part in making the movie shows us what a pious and righteous man Mel Gibson is. Furthermore, the teachings go, anything you do that is against God’s teachings will surely condemn you to hell. He’s here to help others to see the light.
Here are a few thoughts that most of the media hasn’t considered: If the story is true, where exactly was this religious husband and father of seven coming from at 2:30 a.m. with a bottle of tequila in his car? Why would he then fly into a rage when he was stopped for his alleged drunk driving (“The alcohol made me do it” doesn’t make sense. Alcohol only loosens the tongue: It doesn’t shape it.)
As it turns out, what you have here is a potent mix of one part rage, one part self-will run riot (as they appropriately say in 12-step programs), one part the enabling of not only his family but an adoring cadre of agents, producers and fans (who still won’t come forward, except for a brave few, to make a comment), and one part self-hatred.
Self-hatred? Yes, All hatred begins with self-hatred. You see? Already this situation has much to teach us.
Generalizing his teachings
How many people have done things to hurt you personally and our community in general? Countless. And they use quotes from the Bible as a weapon, which happens to be from the same place that they can’t live up to. Instead of focusing on their own faults and fabrications, they turn to others as the “problem” (they’re called scapegoats – the term is even in the Bible).
And instead of coming out of their closets of alcoholism, adultery, and yes, even homosexuality (Roy Cohn is a good example, a few prominent ex-gay leaders is another), they point fingers at others. They insist homosexuality is a choice (they can’t fathom that for most people it’s not, even when they are questioned about when and how they chose their heterosexuality), they demonize us for wanting to get married while condemning us for our promiscuity, and all the while they get to use their religious beliefs as a shield.
Whether it’s the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart picking up prostitutes, the Rev. Jim Baker fleecing his flock out of millions, or God-knows-what we’ll find out about Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh and all of the others, know this: The greater the power, the greater the hypocrisy. It’s no wonder that many people have guilty-pleasure feelings when they see the “mighty” fall.
So, here’s the greatest lesson of all of these people are really teaching you: There’s nothing wrong with you for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. In fact, your sexual nature should not only be accepted but celebrated. Shame only belongs on those who condemn us on the one hand while they damn themselves with the other.