A Lesbian Comedian and Tammy Faye's Son Want to Loosen the Bible Belt
Readers of this site might remember a post I wrote about the state of LGBT rights in Louisiana a while ago. I was raised in Louisiana and I miss it, but I can’t live somewhere that doesn’t afford me basic human rights. The right to be myself and live, work, play as I choose, unbeknownst to me, was the beginning of my new part time career as an activist.
“To the Louisiana I Know” led to an invite to testify on behalf of a nondiscrimination bill. The bill that didn’t make it out of committee, but it was a victory getting it sponsored. I did some shows in Louisiana, donated some money, tried to use my loud mouth as best I could to raise awareness.
But now I live in Provincetown, where I am whole in the eyes of the law. But my friends down South still are not.
To be clear, I love the South. I love the South so much that I’m sick of letting a vocal minority paint everyone in the South as bigots. People take advantage of an antiquated status quo and work hard to pass bigotry down like a genetic defect.
If you don’t know the South, I have to tell you, churches are second only to hair in the ways of “things they do bigger.” Generally, this is a good thing; there is nothing wrong with people getting together to find solace however they so choose. Unfortunately, the leaders of many religious organizations know there is money in fear and hatred, and they use anti-LGBT rhetoric to destroy families.
Remember what Ani DiFranco taught us? Religion is a tool, but “every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” Right now hateful people are turning tools into weapons at record pace.
While I know the LGBTQ perspective, even though I was educated in a Catholic school, I am ill-prepared to debate the Bible. And this is where my story gets good.
Enter Jay Bakker, son of Tammy Faye. Young readers who don’t know Tammy Faye should. You can say what you will about the scandals, money, or crying Jim Bakker, but don’t forget this: Tammy Faye interviewed a gay man living with AIDS in 1985. She held firm to her belief that Christianity was about love and she offered a kind, compassionate voice to the sick. That love lives on in her son.
Last year Jay agreed to get into a van with me, fellow comedian Samantha Ruddy, and singer-songwriter SarahRose Marie to hit the road for three weeks for the first-ever Loosen the Bible Belt Tour. Seriously, four virtual strangers in a van for three weeks? That has to be some sort of mission from God, right?
We asked audiences from Texas to Alabama to trust themselves and each other. The only thing they knew was that there would be comedy, music, and preaching. The result was better than we could have imagined, and it opened my eyes to how many people were being hurt by their church. Straight people came to find comfort because their church leaders scolded a mother for loving her gay son. A married couple told us that they hadn’t come out to their religious family as atheists, for fear of rejection. I can’t speak for everyone, but it was life changing for me.
We don’t just call for the religious to accept LGBTQ people; we also call on LGBTQ people to practice love and acceptance toward their religious neighbors. It is a two-way street. Removing the hatred from the message many “preachers” are spewing opens communities up to radical love and acceptance.
This year we’re back and bigger than ever.
While I might not have “Jesus” these days, when a guy named Gabriel calls to tell you his band the Heavenly Chillbillies has a veggie oil–powered tour bus and wants to partner up on your tour, you give divinity a second thought.
What was once a simple idea has become a team of badass radicals. We also have filmmakers jumping onboard to give you a firsthand look at the adventure and to help us spread the message far and wide.
We’re running a Kickstarter, because the tricky part about oppression when it comes to housing, employment, and public accommodations is that speaking up for yourself can cost you your house/job. It’s hard for businesses to sponsor something that promotes acceptance if their local church will then make that business a target.
Help us make a difference. This year, in addition to the already-mentioned crew, SaraRose Marie is returning from New Orleans, and Las Vegas-based comedian Dwayne Duke is hopping on board. We are gay, straight, atheist, Christian, agnostic, white, black, and everything in between. We will shine a light for the sane, moderate humans to flock to, and provide love and compassion as well as donations back to local organizations doing good work.
Good people, both religious and not religious, are getting their teeth kicked in by a hate-fueled minority.
We have eight cities confirmed and are looking for venues in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Mississippi for this tour, but let us know if you think we should hit your area in the future.
Not everyone has money, and that is OK — help spread the word and put your energy into whatever you can if it's something you believe in.
KRISTEN BECKER is a stand-up comedian and founder of the Dykes of Hazard Comedy Tour.
KRISTEN BECKER is a Provincetown-based comedian who has been producing and touring shows across the United States and Canada for over 10 years.