Fri | Dec 4, 2020

Michael Abrahams | Hugging up immorality

Published:Sunday | June 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Earlier this year I was visited by a patient I had not seen for a long time. She has trusted me to manage her gynaecological issues for decades and we have an excellent doctor-patient relationship.

She always greets me with open arms and a warm smile, but on this day, her energy was different. The perplexed look on her face betrayed her discomfort, and as she sat, before she became settled in her seat, she quickly voiced her concern.

The bee in her bonnet was my defence of members of the LBGT community who, in her opinion, are nasty sinners who are hell-bound. During our conversation, I explained that the community is heavily discriminated against and that I abhor bigotry and injustice. However, she rubbished my explanation and boldly declared that I “hug up immorality too much”.

And she is not alone. There are many who read my column and social-media posts and agree with my views and understand where I am coming from. But there are also many who deem me to be a little piece (or large chunk) of excrement destined to be flushed straight to the depths of Hell. There are people who are convinced that I am on a mission to promote all things bad and reject the good. But I beg to differ.

I believe that I owe it to those who read my articles to be open and honest about my intentions. From the days of my youth (yes, I can remember that far back), I have had a keen interest in religion and human sexuality. It just happens that these topics are complex and attract vigorous and often acrimonious debate. Had my main interests been cacti and cloud formations, we would not be having this discussion.

So, I do write a lot about LGBT issues and religion, but my intentions are often misunderstood. Some people believe that I am part of the 'gay agenda'. I am not. Some believe that I am gay and that is why I defend queer folk so much. But I am straight.

I have no dog in this fight. I love women and worship the vagina and its environs. I have never said this publicly, but regarding sexual activity, I must confess that anal sex does not appeal to me. I deliver babies, and when women push, I see and smell what departs from that orifice, and I must say that I am okay with sticking to the passage above that one. Just saying.

But life is not all about me and what I like. I am deeply driven by empathy. One of my favourite quotes, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, is "justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are". I live by this.

I see nothing wrong with defending people who are being discriminated against. I know many LGBT folks who are decent and beautiful. When I see people throwing words at them, condemning them and calling them derogatory names, how can I be silent? When I see people talk openly about refusing to employ them or rent properties to them, how can I just sit there and say nothing? How can I, a physician, a healer, know that they belong to a vulnerable community, and, being less vulnerable and more empowered, abandon them?

Another contentious issue is abortion. I know many women who had chosen to abort pregnancies because they honestly believed they would not be able to manage carrying them to term, and I understand. How can I see them being vilified and keep my lips sealed? How can I see people who do not know what they have been through judge and condemn them, yet run away and not defend them?

I have made it no secret that I am not a fan of religion. I have no use for it. But when I heard of a girl who I believe was being discriminated against at her school because she was perceived to be a Jehovah’s Witness, I vigorously defended her. Do I like the Jehovah’s Witness denomination? Hell, no! No disrespect to my Witness friends who I love and cherish dearly, but I think they and their congregants at Kingdom Hall are bat guano crazy. But I will not see them being treated unfairly and look the other way. They have a right to believe what they do. After all, many people think I am crazy, too.

In my opinion, I do not hug up immorality. What I do is hug up empathy, hold it tightly, and keep it close to my chest. Another of my favourite quotes is from German theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:

“First, they came for the communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a communist

Then they came for the socialists.

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists.

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews.

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me.

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.”

A little empathy goes a long way.

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.