Recently, as everyone knows by now, the Supreme Court of the United States followed the example of many European countries and Great Britain and legalized homosexual marriage across all fifty states. There was celebration all over the world, Pakistan included, that gay people finally won the right to have the option of legalizing their relationships in the same way heterosexual couples take for granted. For straight people it is something one has never really thought about: you meet someone, you like them, everyone applauds, if you’re lucky, you marry and live fairly happily ever after. Now imagine being gay. You like someone, you can’t help liking them the way you do, but it’s all skewed. First you have to admit it to yourself, then to the person, then to everyone close to you. If you don’t—and a lot of people can’t or choose not to for many similar reasons—you live a divided life, perpetually balancing the outside person you are presenting to the world and the real, inside you. Add to the mix guilt, confusion, often terror and disgust, because many people grow up with the narrative of homosexuality being an abomination. So you can’t help how you feel and respond to people the same way any heterosexual cannot, but you specifically are going to go to hell for feeling that way. What’s worse, you are a disgusting freak of nature.

Sound harsh? It is. And it’s the opinion I’ve been seeing on social media far too much for my own liking in the past two weeks. I have been at turns amused, annoyed and downright horrified at the massive degree of homophobia that exists among us educated English reading and writing internet savvy types. Sodom and Gomorrah has been liberally flung about, perfectly normal people have exploded into self-righteous flames at other people’s rainbowed profile photographs, their flames peppered with unpublishable words. People swear that there are no homosexuals in Pakistan, there are no gay people in Islam and if anyone feels like they are, it’s just a mental block they need to overcome. Because like depression and marital rape, it’s just in your head. Quite frankly, if I were gay and it was just a matter of going to therapy, I’d be there in three seconds because it sounds incredibly, heartbreakingly difficult to be gay. The prejudice, the nastiness, the stereotyping, the rejection—it’s something I doubt anyone willingly would opt into.

However, more to the point: the knee-jerk reaction of many has been to outright refuse to acknowledge that homosexuality exists in Pakistan. This reaction joins the list of things that just don’t happen here: sex before marriage, any kind of rape, domestic abuse, drug use and abuse, drinking, mental disorders, people who don’t fast in Ramzan because they don’t want to. Classic ostrich—bury your head in the sand; if you can’t see it then it doesn’t exist. It can be staring you in the face, but you refuse to look it in the eye, and it is the height of moral turpitude—nay, downright depravity—to be so deliberately obtuse. Of course there are homosexuals in Pakistan. Of course people are drinking and driving and either getting killed in the process or running someone else over. Of course people are doing drugs, not just at parties but outside your fancy inner-city restaurants and passing out on the green belts. Of course horrible relatives are molesting children in the family, maulvis in madrassas are doing the same unspeakable things to their students that our holier-than-thou peers have the cheek to say never happens here. Of course people have depression and rage issues and borderline personality disorders and all kinds of other psychological diseases that are routinely ignored because they aren’t outright schizophrenic or whatever ‘regular’ derangement is supposed to look like. Of course men are beating women, often to the point of death.

But we are such cowards, cringing and shrinking behind the false screens of our morality. If we were truly moral we would be brave enough to say look, I don’t personally agree with X or Y or Z behavior but I acknowledge that it exists, and that there are social consequences to it that I cannot ignore. If we were to, for once, admit that our teenagers are dating and many are having sex we could counsel them about being safe, about disease and defending themselves against assault. We could protect them from harm. If we acknowledged that people across class imbibe, we could raise awareness about drinking responsibly, about not getting behind the wheel or letting someone you know who is incapacitated to do so. If we could talk about abuse we could start making sure it stopped happening. If we could talk about homosexuality, so many people wouldn’t have to suffer, from all the closeted gay people who are married to straight people, the children of those unions, the unnecessary unhappiness generated by everyone turning their eyes away. It is not a great matter of pride to say you don’t believe in something, regardless of reality. It is a sign of the greatest moral decay to turn your back on people who need help simply because what is happening to them shocks or disgusts you. That doesn’t make it go away, it only helps it to fester and rot lives away. Don’t celebrate gay pride. But don’t celebrate straight marriage either when grown men are marrying six-year-old girls and raping them every day. You don’t have to approve of drug use to take your addict brother to rehab instead of letting your father throw him out of the house. You may never have hit your spouse, but don’t let your child hit theirs and pretend you don’t hear the screams from their room. Get out from behind your lily-livered computer screens and your haw-hai and ear-touching, sanctimonious taubah-taubah and put your money where your mouth is.