Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: La’Porsha Renae’s comments exemplify passive queer/transphobia

Although I haven’t watched “American Idol” consistently since Fantasia Barrino won, I knew who La’Porsha Renae was. “Idol” just wrapped up its last season and by now you know she was runner-up to winner Trent Harmon, a disappointment to millions of people across the country. The rising diva with the powerful voice sang her way into hearts across the country, including LGBTQ hearts…y’all know how much we love a diva, honey. Well, that came to a screeching halt when Renae made the following comment when asked about the anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom bill” recently signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in her native Mississippi:

“I am one of the people who don’t really agree with that lifestyle. I wasn’t brought up that way. It wasn’t how I was raised. But I do have a lot of friends and a lot of people that I love dearly who are gay and homosexual and they’re such sweet, nice people. We should just respect each other’s differences and opinions and move on.”

Girl, bye.

Sadly, several straight people have made similar comments in what I think is supposed to be some form of an olive branch. They tell me they love me even though they disagree with my ‘lifestyle.’ They say even though I’m ‘like that’ I deserve respect. They might as well have called me a dyke because it still stings. If you put a pretty bow on a turd, it will still be a turd. Throwing in a line about respect and coexisting doesn’t excuse the fact that she came out as a homophobe.

When a loved one tells me they love me or respect me in spite of my sexuality, it hurts because whom I love and lay with is a major facet of my life. Those comments, regardless of the qualifiers, tell me I’m a disappointment.

Additionally, using religion as justification adds another layer to the same. While I am decidedly agnostic, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t influenced by southern Black Christian culture as a native Georgia Peach. Despite not having a clue who or what sits in the clouds, there are times where I still feel ashamed. I am more than comfortable with my sexuality, but internalized Christianity tells me I’m a deviant and not worthy of blessings from a God that is supposed to love unconditionally. It’s confusing, hurtful and I’m sick of it.

To straight people, these comments don’t mean much. For LGBTQ folks, they’re a matter of life and death. It’s easy for Renae to say we should move on after straight people express their so-called opinion, because in the long run, her straightness shields her to an extent. She doesn’t have to worry about being kicked out of an establishment or having scalding water poured over her body because she showed affection to her beloved.

My LGBTQ siblings, we have to continue to call straight people out when they do or say something that insults our very existence. Renae might not have meant any harm but harm was done and now she must face the music.