By Burk Ohbayashi

In the wake of the Orlando tragedy I have found myself in some difficult conversations.

I am a native of Orlando, one of the victims was a graduate of my high school and many of my friends were directly or indirectly affected by the tragedy. Everyone in my hometown is reeling with the emotions of having something so horrible happen so close. I have given them my prayers and my ears, but here is the rub: I am a conservative Catholic who believes homosexual partnerships are wrong.

Right there, with that statement, my ethos has probably flown right out the window for many readers. Who the hell am I to offer my condolences when I spend my time hating the very people who were targeted in this attack? My friends have asked similar questions, and they are absolutely legitimate. If it is true that I hate the LGBTQ community and I spend my time trying to undermine and destroy their rights, then my kind words aren’t just insincere, they are cruel.

So what’s wrong with me? Well, a lot. But in this case I believe I don’t hate anyone in the LGBTQ community, despite my disagreement with their lifestyle choices. I may not convince many, but I want to try to explain my position to those trying to fathom it.

Let’s start with what I mean by “I think homosexual partnerships are wrong.” This is where a lot of the real hurt comes from, because so often conservative Christians are either genuinely hateful when they say this or so vague and thoughtless that it comes across that they are condemning homosexual couples to hell. I try to say it rarely, and when I do I always pair it with an explanation.

What I mean when I say this is that from my perspective (which I own is totally influenced by my religion) the act of homosexual intercourse is spiritually unhealthy. What I mean by “unhealthy” is that it literally damages the soul of the participants. The “why” to this is long and difficult, and I won’t be getting into it in this particular essay. The point is that it is my perspective.

I know that many disagree with me and I respect that disagreement. I am not here to convince you.

I don’t expect or demand any homosexual to feel sorry and I certainly don’t spend my time going around telling gay men and women that they need to change their ways and repent or whatever. That’s not my place. They aren’t mine to condemn.

And that’s kind of the point, even though I believe this, in my eyes it doesn’t make a homosexual man any more sinful or broken than I am. He is a guy like any other guy. I may not agree that everything he does is the best decision for him, but is it my place to tell him that? I’m sure with very little scrutiny he could turn up a dozen things in my life that are as unhealthy from his perspective, and his perspective would probably be absolutely right.

Like Pope Francis says, I am in no place to judge.

So where does that place me at the moment I hear what happened at The Pulse in Orlando? In the same place as everyone else. Numb, broken, and crying my fucking eyes out because I just can’t process it. Those were beautiful people. Happy people full of life and love. They deserved to live.

So as the LGBTQ community recovers, I stand with them. As we work to prevent this kind of horror from being repeated, I will lend what power my voice has in union with men and women, straight and queer. No one deserves to live in fear that they will be targeted for such violence.

Right now, that’s all that matters.

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