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Overcoming hate: a response to SCOP

| Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This is in response to the Nov. 19 Viewpoint, “SCOP stands against hate,” written by Tiernan Kane and Tim Bradley.

As I write this, I am sitting at home, and by home, I do not mean my beautiful dorm in the basement of Sorin. I am in the state of Arizona at the house I grew up in, under the watchful eye of my parents.

I had to withdraw from the University for the rest of the year for mental health reasons, a decision that was probably the hardest of my life. That decision stands as an example of what SCOP really means, and in order to respond, let me tell you a little about myself.

I grew up in a small town in rural Arizona. As far as beliefs go, it’s about as conservative as you can get. Raised in a traditional Catholic family, I “knew” what was right and what was wrong. The idea of two guys together was revolting and caused God to shake his head, upset with His creation. Homosexual acts were obviously wrong, and I would debate to the death any person who dared say otherwise.

Then I went to a Steubenville conference in 2012. For those of you that don’t know, Steubenville hosts a Catholic retreat for high school students. It was on the second day during Adoration that I cried and accepted that God had said, “Let him be gay,” and so I was.

This didn’t really surprise me. I had started noticing I liked guys as far back as fourth grade. When puberty kicked in, I noticed that the guys I had grown up around suddenly didn’t want to be around me, nor I around them. I was different, and I could tell that difference wasn’t good. This internal struggle led me to four years without a friend. From seventh through 10th grades, I was alone in the world because I felt different, but I didn’t quite know how. Don’t get me wrong, I was a sociable kid, but there was a wall between me and the rest of the people in my life.

It is only now that I realize that it was my sexuality that separated me. I was gay, and as I had so often said, God was not OK with gay.

These years of loneliness caused an insecurity in me that I was unloved and unloveable. It didn’t matter the friends I made. No matter how great of a friend they were, I was still unloved.

When I came to Notre Dame this year, my insecurity manifested in the most horrible of ways. I became suicidal. For two months, I spent every day thinking I would be better off dead. I didn’t realize at the time, but these feelings were very closely linked to how I felt isolated because of my sexuality. On the worst day, the day of the UNC game, I left my room just so I could spend my last day outside. When the game was done, we went to SDH for the Candlelight Dinner. There was an incredible Reese’s cream pie, of which I had four slices. I thought, “Why not? This is the last thing I will ever eat.”

Thankfully, I was in just a good enough mood to tell a friend how I felt, and she sat with me for hours as I cried.

I would just like to note that turning suicide into a simple act of self-hate is both ignorant and hateful. For me, suicide was agreeing with society that who I am is backwards and worthless. I could never live a life as fully as others, and the world would be better off were I not there to waste space.

That’s the problem with SCOP’s viewpoint: We can use words to make our arguments appear better, but we sometimes get lost in them. In these arguments, we forget about the human consequences of these arguments when or if they are carried out. It’s the stigmatization of being gay — that gay means different and that difference can never be rightly acted upon — that has caused me so many years of angst. It made me lonely; it made me hate living. If that isn’t hate, then I don’t know what is.

It’s important to recognize hate, but it’s just as necessary to realize that hate is losing its battle.

I’ll end with this: 30 states now recognize gay marriage, and the tally is only getting higher. Countries around the world are grappling with this issue, and debates like this make the fight that much more relevant. It is my sincere belief that everyone at Our Lady’s University is trying to live the best life they can. Let’s not get lost with words, but embrace these diverse viewpoints, “lov[ing] one another and together [let’s] build a less imperfect community of love” (“Same-sex couples to receive benefits,” Oct. 16).

Tyrel London


Sorin Hall

Nov. 20

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

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  • Joey Doyle

    Wow, amazing viewpoint. Not just personal, but necessarily, correctly, and introspectively so. Such a vivid and difficult take on his own life experience really does create an argument, in many ways, more convincing than the most flawless logic ever could. I am so impressed and thankful to see this viewpoint. As Tyrel mentions — “We can use words to make our arguments appear better, but we sometimes get lost in then” — on a campus with such intelligent and academic students, sometimes what gets lost is just the basic human, emotional experience, for which a classroom doesn’t normally have a grade. I love that the simple but altogether challenging message of this viewpoint is for a person to pragmatically consider what her or his perspective actually entails — not based in objective debate or well-written essay but in what it’s gonna do to a person in the real world.

  • Tiernan Kane

    Tyrel, as a fellow believer in God, I thank Him for you, your heroic friend, and your loving parents. Although I do not know you, I can be certain that, as a human being, you possess immeasurable dignity–that you are irreplaceable, upon the whole face of the earth. And please know that SCOP holds nothing to the contrary! We wrote in our piece, “[e]very single person has dignity that we harm by hating,” and we mean it. And we mean it about you. We used “hating” in a very careful sense, and by calling suicide an act of self-hate, we affirmed that the life lost is good–so very good. We argued that comprehensive sexual union is another good, open to all persons who choose it, but participation in which is not necessary in order for any human being to possess complete human dignity. As you say, sometimes we humans get lost in our words, but if we believe that justice and charity are at stake, we must do the best we can and hope for a charitable reading. I believe that is why you wrote, and that is why we wrote. In addition to common human dignity, then, Tyrel, you and I share a strong interest in truth and justice. This suggests to me that, beyond being a fellow Domer, you would be a good friend if I had the privilege of knowing you.

    • no

      …so you read all that and you’re still going to show him your “love” by telling him that he must remain celibate his whole life?

      • Michael Bradley

        “We argued that comprehensive sexual union is another good, open to all persons who choose it, but participation in which is not necessary in order for any human being to possess complete human dignity.”

        I’m not quite following your logic here, “no.” Where did Tiernan inform Tyrel that he “must remain celibate his whole life?”

        • no

          So, he doesn’t have to be celibate? Or are you implying he can have comprehensive sexual union with a woman?

    • Scott Opperman

      This is what was written in your Viewpoint submission, Mr. Kane:

      (1) “One could will the deprivation of comprehensive sexual union (what has long been known as marriage) by choosing to thwart or otherwise undermine true marital union as such [i.e., on woman and one man only].”

      (2) “On this view, what is hateful is to choose an action deliberately aimed at depriving oneself or another of living out the comprehensive sexual union of male and female.”

      Hence, you are saying that one who “deliberately [deprives oneself] of living out the comprehensive sexual union of male and females” is hateful (the non-married, including priests, are saved, according to your argument).

      Therefore, you are saying that if Tyrel, et al. “deliberately” “[deprive]” themselves of marrying straight persons (i.e., they marry same-sex persons), they are hateful.

      There are many routes you could have taken, Mr. Kane, with which, regardless, I would have disagreed. This one, however, is just fallacious (in so many ways: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies).

      • Tiernan Kane

        Thank you for your critique, Mr. Opperman, but I don’t see how you move from our discussion of acts to claiming that I’m saying that persons are hateful. I cannot read the hearts and minds of others–that power is beyond human beings, I think–and so I can’t say whether people who commit acts of hating (as we understand it) are hateful persons. Your argument seems to stop short at the end (probably due to word limit), but would I be right to suppose we agree that we should avoid calling other people hateful?

        • Scott Opperman

          You said “to choose an action deliberately aimed at depriving oneself or another of living out the comprehensive sexual union of male and female” is hateful; hence, you ARE saying that those who deliberately choose this are hateful.

          When you say that you cannot read into the hearts and minds of others, you mean, I think, that you can’t know their intentions and the circumstances of their actions. I take it that you show a bit of mercy because you believe that LGBT persons are inclined to “disordered acts” (we just can’t help ourselves, God love us).

          Should we avoid calling other persons hateful, Mr. Kane? That question is still in y0ur court.

  • Stand Against Hate

    Michael and Tiernan, it is important to understand that while you individually may choose to be charitable toward LGBTQ students and may sincerely believe that you are defending the most complete path toward the good, the true, and the beautiful, the attitude and rhetoric of the organization which you represent represents in turn structural attitudes that undermine charity, justice, and true solidarity. You can individually advocate a good and be of good will, but still make life for people like Tyrel, who don’t easily fit into your one size fits all concept of personhood, miserable. I have many LGBTQ friends, and their nearly universal sentiment is that the positions and implicit attitudes of SCOP undermine their wellbeing and sense of inclusion and community. You represent structures and processes which fear change and the unknown and uncontrollable and are therefore less worthy of inclusion in a community that seeks to meet the needs of a Church and world that exist within the historical reality of change than those with a wealth of experiences that can be put to the service of the common good like Tyrel. Since you refuse even to tolerate the wholeness of the human person, it is difficult to imagine why others should have to tolerate the perceived unity of your incoherent and hateful arguments.

    • Michael Bradley


      With respect, if you wish to call any argument “incoherent,” you have to demonstrate its invalidity.

      If you wish to call any argument “hateful,” you have to know that it’s motivated by a “bare desire to harm” some person or persons — that it’s the fruit of the effort to intentionally deprive him or them of his or their enjoyment of goods; this was Tiernan and Tim’s original point in their article.

      Unfortunately, many people — including Justice Kennedy — simply assign (assert, not reason toward) these labels to other people and to their reasons and argument. That’s not only destructive of the civil dialogue that Fr. Jenkins, John Duffy, and other signatories and supporters of Notre Dame’s “Virtuous Discourse” pledge abhor; it’s not only poor reasoning itself (because wholly question-begging); it’s uncharitable.

      • Stand Against Hate

        1. The incoherence of your
        particular argument has already been made manifest across comment threads and
        Facebook feeds by the many community members who have demonstrated that several
        of your assumptions, which you deem to be universally valid, are merely
        circumstantially contingent and do not apply in the sense that you intend them
        to apply to the specific issue of same-sex marriage.

        2. Your letter does in
        fact express a desire to cause harm. The denial to others of the rights that
        one oneself enjoys constitutes a harm in one sense, while the avocation of the denial
        of loving homes to children is not only a harm, but a great, prejudicial, and
        mean-spirited evil. The avocation of such a denial is of a class of acts that
        by their very nature cannot avoid mean-spiritedness.

        There is, further, no intent in the gay rights movement to deny any one the right to comprehensive
        sexual union. Such an assertion simply makes no sense. If you have a banana and
        I go and buy a plantain, I didn’t make the world a worse place in which to purchase
        a banana. The two are ontologically different, although one at a distance one might
        claim that they are quite alike.

        3. No one is obliged to be
        charitable toward those who would impose upon others the commission of a harm.
        When 50 states inevitably come to recognize the full legal rights of LGBTQ
        individuals, and they are inevitably and invariably permitted to commit
        themselves to permanent legal union and the upbringing of virtuous and
        prosperous young people, you will have lost. The term “wrong side of history”
        is here applicable.

        • Michael Bradley


          I recommend re-reading Tiernan and Tim’s original article, and also the comments that they, and I, have left in response to the various viewpoints that it has provoked thus far. You seem to misunderstand the case against which you’re arguing. Perhaps pursuing their argument via forums other than Facebook and Observer comment threads will help in this regard.

  • Bryan Ricketts

    Thank you to Tyrel for sharing such a personal story with the ND community. To anyone reading this who feels like their story is similar, please know that there are people here who care about you. PrismND (find us online or on Facebook) and the University Counseling Center (visit in person at St. Liam’s Hall) are two good places to find resources and meet other people who share your experiences. We are here to support you!

  • Grace Loppnow

    Tyrel–beautiful piece. Honest, open, and exactly the kind of thing people need to hear. Thank you.

    LGBTQ people are everywhere and we are all kinds of people. We believe in many different things and have diverse experiences. People lose sight of that and lump us into a nameless, faceless group so that they can feel more comfortable placing us in a lesser position. Sharing your story brings a personal touch to the issues at hand, which can mean a lot to people on both sides of the argument.You are a wonderful, unique individual who deserves all the rights, freedoms, and opportunities for happiness that everyone else has.

    But please know that you are also not alone. You have the support of many, even though at times it may seem quieter than the opposition of few. Take it from a recent grad–the ND bubble can feel safe, familiar, but also stifling. Even though most students are supportive, there’s still an underlying current of exclusion and discomfort when it comes to LGBTQ people. But once you leave the nest (or decide to puncture a few air holes in the bubble) you’ll find things really can get better, as cliched as that sounds. SCOP doesn’t represent all of ND, and ND doesn’t represent all of the world. You’ll find yourself missing some things about the ND culture and not missing others. You’ll continue to grow and society will continue to mature. It’s kind of an exciting time to be LGBTQ, really, because things ARE changing and usually for the better! It might be scary, going forward from things that were so familiar and stable, but you can do it. Look at me–I hate change and I’m widely regarded as a pessimist but here I am telling you that things change for the better. It must be true! I hope your journey to healing, loving who you are, and finding happiness goes well. Take care.

  • Scott Opperman

    Thank you, Tyrel, for your honesty and courage. Your Viewpoint submission will encourage/help many, and the sharing of your lived experience may raise others’ consciousness, as Joey Doyle eloquently pointed out.

    On October 14, 1996, The Observer published my one and only Viewpoint submission in which I responded to Charles Rice’s “University position on GLND/SMC a ‘non-starter.'” Rice compared homosexuality to “disorders” such as alcoholism, bulimia, and compulsive shoplifting, and he stated that “homosexual culture undermines the family and is harmful to the common good.”

    It’s been 18 years but some still fear that LGBT persons “undermine the family and [are] harmful to the common good.” The rhetoric is more nuanced and positive-sounding (e.g., “Child-Oriented Policy”) but they’re essentially beating the same drum. What’s different, as you note, is that “hate is losing its battle.”

    Let’s hope that the goal of ND, as stated by Fr. Jenkins, which is that we “learn better how to love one another and together build a less imperfect community of love,” comes to fruition for ND and the world.

    Thanks for speaking-up, Tyrel! Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We await your return to ND/Sorin.

    Peace & Love,

  • Katie

    Thank you, Tyrel, for this courageous piece. I hope that others will read it with an open mind and heart. I wish you the best.

  • ND Senior

    Wow Tyrel, thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this. I hope you are able to find inner peace and come to accept and love yourself, sexual orientation and all. Know that there are lots of students here who will love you and support you unconditionally.

    SCOP’s publications always talk about sexual orientation in terms of theory and religion, but they have a blatant disregard for the ramifications of their statements and how they will hurt others. Your article will help to highlight the sickening effects of anti-gay movements, even if they hide under the guise of “children’s best interests.” Know that SCOP members are a radical minority here and that the rest of us love you as you are.

  • Thank you Tyrel. Your generation’s courage is slowly changing attitudes in our society. As one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit which fought for marriage equality here in Arizona, I know how hard the struggle can be. My partner was raised Catholic and myself Lutheran, but we have not straight from our faith. There are wonderful Church out there which are welcoming and supportive.. we’ve found an incredible Church here at University Lutheran Church here in Tempe, Arizona, near the ASU campus. The hundreds of students that worship with us just want this issue to be over with and to move on to more important issues that affect our society. Keep your courage knowing that your faith will continue to grow as you hear from others with similar struggles.

  • NDaniels

    Never underestimate the value of a Loving friendship

    • Alum

      thanks for steering him towards religion, as you did so in the other article calling for love and inclusion of LGBT students, which you argued was inconsistent with valuing human dignity. i’ll be sure to pray for you tonight, because I believe you certainly need it.

  • L. Matthew Blancett

    I wrote a very similar letter in 1997 when I was a freshman at ND. IT GETS BETTER!! trite as that sounds 😉