I often hear “Love the sinner, hate the sin” by seemingly well-meaning individuals who want to express empathy for the “plight” of the LGBT person but can’t get past the “sinful” aspect of that life. I don’t doubt that the people who say this really are well-meaning. Their hearts are probably in the right place. But this term is problematic and probably does more harm than good.
When you say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” what you are doing is telling the LGBT person that at the end of the day, they’re still a sinner to you. You are still making that call from a lofty place of judgment. You are still implying that you are lily white while they have some sort of stain marring them a “sinner.” You are still making them the “other.”
At the end of the day, saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” pretty much equals saying, “you’re a good person who does REALLY bad things.” I don’t know about you but I’m not naive enough to suppose that all good people who do REALLY bad things are actually good people. So you can say that you “love the sinner” all you want but you’re still casting the person aside and saying that they are beyond the pale. At best this phrase continues to marginalize LGBT people unintentionally. At worst, it is a discriminatory phrase disguised by self righteousness.
Even more than the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” I dislike when people criticize things and then don’t offer viable solutions to those problems. So I’m going to try to articulate how you can say what I THINK you’re trying to say when you say “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I think what you’re trying to say is, “I feel strongly about halacha but I care about you as well” or “I am unsure how to reconcile the Torah with your being gay but I want you to know that I value you as a person.” Neither of these phrases is making the statement that you approve of homosexuality on a halachic level. But they’re also not saying that the person you are talking about is a sinner.
This is especially important when speaking about the concept of someone just being/identifying (as) gay or lesbian.. No one that I know- gay or straight, appreciates when people make assumptions about what goes on in their bedroom. It is crude and immodest. Yet there are plenty of people who assume that coming out as gay or lesbian automatically means that one is broadcasting their sexual proclivities. I’m not going to get into what is or isn’t considered a “sin” halachically but I think that the world has to stop making assumptions when one comes out. It is a different time, and maybe you’ll say that political correctness has become so en vogue that people feel they NEED to come out instead of keeping their sexuality to themselves. But I am going to go out on a limb and say that there are a lot more emotionally healthy LGBT people in the world nowadays because they ARE able to come out and live their lives authentically. So judge all you want, it IS ok for LGBT people to come out and say who they really are. But that doesn’t mean that they feel the need to announce what exactly is going on in their bedrooms, so calling them “sinners” (who you love, we get it) is quite possibly wholly inaccurate.
I think when dealing with this issue the most important thing one can do is exhibit humility. You can’t assume to know everything about everyone. Including and especially LGBT people. Contrary to popular belief, based on what I’ve seen, when people come out they’re not always looking for complete acceptance of their lifestyle (I hate that word) and especially not from people who may have a hard time reconciling homosexuality with religion. But what they are looking for is empathy, tolerance and actual love. I’ve heard LGBT people say that a reaction of “I honestly don’t know how to reconcile homosexuality with the Torah, but I wish I did because I value you as a person and I value your life” can be very appreciated. Nothing in that statement says that the person endorses what the Torah clearly prohibits. But it also shows real empathy without labeling someone as a sinner. Just something to think about…