Love-Based Activism

by Stephanie Mott

If my purpose is to create change, to help bring about the end of legalized discrimination against LGBT people, my actions should be such that they are effective at bringing about that change. If I want to help people understand what it is like to be transgender, I need to present a message that more effectively gives people that opportunity.

Over the last several years, I have come to understand that the most effective activism is activism based in love.

Love for myself, love for my community, love for all people who are marginalized and oppressed, and love for the people who are marginalizing and oppressing others. No exclusions. No exceptions. Unconditional love.

I live in the Topeka, Kansas, the same city as Westboro Baptist Church. When WBC founder Fred Phelps was dying, the media asked me how I felt about that. I said my heart goes out to the family. I know what losing my parents was like. How can I call myself a Christian if I don’t have empathy for someone’s pain? These people were losing their father. The kids were losing their grandfather. What kind of a heart would it be that wouldn’t go out to them?

I am not trying to tell anyone what they should believe. I‘m just sharing about what I believe, which is that God’s love is unconditional. Not that this should require explanation, but that means there are no conditions for receiving God’s love.

It isn’t right for other people to put conditions on God’s love for me. And it isn’t right for me to put conditions on God’s love for other people.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-5 makes this abundantly clear: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

I always thought that this passage contained the instructions for how we should love one another. I still believe this is true. This is the ideal. But what I didn’t understand was that this is more than instructions for me. It is a description of the love God has for me. It is also a description of the love God has for everyone.

Learning to accept the unconditional nature of God’s love for me was a difficult challenge. Maybe on some cerebral level I had some inkling of this truth, but in my heart was a different story. I turned off my heart a long time ago. Feeling was synonymous with pain. Better to feel nothing than to feel unacceptable in the eyes of my Creator. This internalized transphobia was my sad and mistaken place of understanding for many years.

Accepting God’s unconditional love seemed an impossible task, and for me, it was impossible.

In Matthew 19:26 says, Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And I began to understand unconditional love. I started praying to God to heal my heart, to help me know the depth of God’s love for me.

One day, I began to notice that my heart was healing. The pain didn’t have the same power as before. The anger began to lose its hold on my heart. I began to understand that I was perfect, exactly as I was created.

I learned to understand that God’s unconditional love was also intended for me, a transgender woman. I also began to see that God’s unconditional love was meant for those who persecute the LGBT community.

More times than not, I struggle with being able to feel that love for the people who cause great harm to God’s LGBT children. The good news is that God is here to help me get closer to the ideal.

With God’s help, I can begin to learn to love unconditionally. 

Eventually, I began to notice that I had become better at seeing these people who persecute us with my heart, as well as my eyes. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” It’s really not possible to hold out your hand when your fist is clenched.

So I have finally come to a place on my journey where I can ask myself what it is that I truly want to see happen and the answer is clear. I want to help drive out hate. The only way that can be accomplished is with love. The most effective means of change is love-based activism.

I am still not able to embody this type of love on a daily basis, but I know that I am on the right path. I am beginning to become part of the solution.

I am hopeful that we, as human beings, can help each other learn how to share freely from the unconditional love that we receive so freely.

I have become unexpectedly faithful in the idea that all things are possible, with God.

Image via flickr user LMKalinowski