It’s tempting to dismiss the anti-LGBT comments of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson as unimportant, particularly for those who don’t watch the popular A&E reality show.
But, at least for one gay college student who lives in the same Louisiana town as the TV star, those widely reported remarks do have real-world consequences.
The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune columnist Bob Mann posted a letter on his blog Sunday by a University of Louisiana at Monroe student, who asked to remain anonymous because his parents had “shoved him back into the closet” after coming out to them.
The 21-year-old student said West Monroe, where he lives while attending college, is more progressive than his nearby hometown, but it’s also home to “the most famous anti-gay person in the world.”
“I’ve never met Phil. But I was raised by a Phil Robertson,” the student wrote.
“My Phil Robertson told me that I was an asshole for being so selfish to come out of the closet to my mother,” he wrote. “My Phil Robertson told me that my boyfriend will never be welcomed to his house, as if he were diseased. My Phil Robertson threatened my life because I had the audacity to be who I am.”
The student said he realized he was gay at age 13, but had already been attracted to other boys at least five years, and he recounts coming to terms with his sexuality in a hostile environment.
He “prayed to God to heal me of my sickness” after reading a Bible verse that declared homosexuality a sin, and his spiritual pain caused him to stop believing in God.
But the student said he eventually regained his faith and came to terms with his sexuality, and he’s considered becoming a minister.
“Gay people, more often than not, throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to religion,” he wrote. “But we have a good reason. We’ve been scarred. Religion has damaged us. And I try to share with them the light I have seen in the Episcopal Church. But every time I get close to a breakthrough, something happens that brings out the worst in people.”
“One year it was Chick-fil-a,” the student wrote. “This year it’s Phil Robertson.”
He said that the TV star’s comments has given his family, friends and neighbors a license to broadcast their own homophobic views.
“Thanks to Phil, I now know where everyone in my family stands on the issue of whether or not I’m a human being,” the student wrote. “I even saw a ‘friend’ of mine post something about how gay people can’t be Christians. Wow. Not only will they keep us from having equal rights, but they’ll keep us from equal salvation. We can’t just be second-class citizens. We have second-class souls.”
The student said Robertson’s comments, and the ensuing controversy over the cable network’s two-week decision to suspend the show’s star, had caused real harm to him and others.
“Phil claims to love everyone, and I have to believe that he has the best of intentions for saying what he said,” the student wrote. “But he must realize the damage that those words do to people like me.”
“He encouraged – hopefully unintentionally – a two-week-long ‘fag bashing’ in Monroe and around the world. He made me feel unsafe in my own home,” the student wrote. “I can’t count how many times I heard ‘faggot’ over the Christmas visit home.”
The student brushed off suggestions that Robertson had been persecuted for his views, recalling the hateful comments he’d absorbed as a child from church leaders and his loved ones who suggested he’d go to hell for liking boys.
“I try really hard to not get angry over this,” he wrote. “But it’s hard for me not to see red when I think about my grandparents, whom I love, who will never be able to be a part of my life because of their own ignorance. I doubt my parents come to my wedding one day. All because my love is different than their love.”
“But my love isn’t different. It isn’t unholy. It isn’t wrong because a man with a beard said so in a GQ article,” the student wrote. “My love is real. And it’s not going away.”