Saturday, June 30, 2007

What I wish straight Christians knew...

It's the very last day of what the gay community call Pride Month - recalling the Stonewall Riots of 1969, when gays and lesbians revolted rather than continue to be harrassed and persecuted by police and authorities. In Pride parades and celebrations around the country, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) individuals continue to make the statement that our community is part of "the greater community," and is not about to go away.

I am not one to wear rainbow-flag patches, or march in parades - I am not a gay activist by any means. In fact, I don't talk much about being gay here - primarily because I have another whole blog devoted to my fairly recent journey coming out as gay in late middle age. It will probably be a sign of healing and recovery when the two blogs merge (now there's an image - two becoming one...), but for now, I'm content with a mild case of split personality.

On this blog, however, I've spoken a great deal about my faith journey - and how many aspects of my life have affected that journey. So tonight, as the last minutes of Pride tick away, I've been thinking...

A couple months ago, Peterson Toscano (a new friend I met through the Gay Christian Network) asked the question of fellow GCN members: As GLBT Christians, what would you want straight Christians to know about your experience and your identity?

There are dozens upon dozens of answers - my fellow GCN'ers spilled a lot of bits-n-bytes on this topic. In responding to that question, I'm going use a lot of what I wrote, but also to steal some of their words - the ones that felt like "they were reading my mail," so to speak. In their voices, they were definitely "killing me softly with their song..."

I'd like straight Christians to know that I love God as much as I used to before I came out. In some circles, saying I'm gay is tantamount to saying that I'm an infidel - that I've turned my back on God. I'd want straight Christians to know that I've only made this choice because I believe that I can have both God and my sexual orientation.

Back when I believed that I had to choose, I chose God - which is why I spent so many years hiding in church closets. God is at the heart of my life and I knew that, as integral to my existence as my sexuality is, my relationship with God is even more central. It's only as I've studied the scriptures that I've become convinced.

I would like people to know that I am the same person I was when I was trying to live a hetero life. The fact that I came out of the closet does not change anything about me, except I am more honest. I didn't have to make the choice to either be gay or be a Christian. I am both and I have never felt closer to God than I do now living an authentic life.

I also am grateful that so far, none of my Christian friends have questioned my faith, nor have they rejected me for coming out. Compared to many, many gay Christians, I have had an extremely positive, affirming experience. I believe that this is because those people love me - whatever the hell I am - and knew my faith, regardless of my orientation. (That may very well end tomorrow, of course - but today, at least, I'm grateful for acceptance.)

I'm very grateful for the man who said I want it to be understood that I never quit taking my faith seriously. It's been a long and rough road to this point - but God is still very much on the throne, and many people have continued to affirm the call I heard a decade ago to "lay down your nets and and follow."

I would want straight Christians to know that I didn't choose this. The process to come to terms with my orientation has been agonizing and painful. I was never abused and I had a father who did his very best to have his son turn out right. It wasn't a choice...no matter what you've been told, or by whom. It's just not.

I would want Christians to know that the act of accepting gays isn't a moral breakdown or a failure of faith on their part. For gays there is a right and wrong way to live just as with straight people, and their is a striving for holiness, and there can be such thing as sexual purity and committed relationships.

I would love straight Christians to know how much I've tried to "straight-en out." How much I've prayed to God to make me love football and Baywatch babes. And I'd love them to know how desperately I wish that straight people didn't need those 5 stylish gay guys to make ugly straight men attractive....so they could come over HERE and work on making ME attractive! ('cuz honey, I need WORK done...)

I'd love the other advisors in my all-guys youth group to know that I don't desire their sons any more than they desire each others' daughters. I'd want them to know that advising their sons is as much an honor and a privilege for me as it is for them. And I'd want the church to know that there is a vast majority of gay men who are JUST as disgusted by child sexual abuse (regardless of the orientation of the perpetrator) as church folk are.

I'd love people at church to know that the one thing I'd love to see (almost as much as Jesus himself) is for the church to be as worried about Matthew 25 (the whole sheep-n-goats, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the prisoners thing) as they are about Leviticus. Now there would be a real miracle!

I'd love Brian McLaren to write a new book about gay Christian faith based on Acts 10, and call it A New Kind of Gentile. (But I want credit for the title...)

I'd like straight people to know that being gay is not like being a vampire or a werewolf. Not only is it not infectious, but besides - we don't bite. (In fact, like playful puppies, we only nibble where we know it would be welcome. But in an immense advantage over puppies, of course, we don't piddle on the rug....)

One of my straight Christian blogging friends asked the question: Sometimes, I get the feeling that "being gay" is the most important thing in a gay person's life. Is it really that important?

I replied to him that it's like the red thread in a Tartan-plaid fabric - if it wasn't there, you'd still have fabric, but it wouldn't be Tartan-plaid. And, to quote Brendan Fraser's character from the movie Twilight of the Golds, "Every human being is a tapestry - if you pull one thread, or one undesirable color, then the whole thing falls apart and you end up staring at the walls."

I think it's important for straight folks to see is that for homosexuals, the revelation that we are gay puts us at odds with a significant portion of society - friends, family, church, and social structures. In that way, it's not the most important thing to us, but it can become "a" defining thing, if not "the" defining thing to those we care about.

I guess one thing that I really, really wish I could ask straight people of every flavor is this: when I tell you I'm gay, please don't automatically assume you know what that means. When I say I'm gay, it does NOT mean I am some flamboyant, club-hopping, drug-taking, promiscuous queen (though God DOES know that some or all of those things have sounded like a good idea, at various times). Please remember that you are still talking to a human being - not a stereotype.

Once I tell you I'm gay, all that is different about me is that you understand my same-sex attraction. Nothing else has changed. And I'm not telling anyone in order to further some mythical "gay agenda" - I'm telling you so I can be more honest about who I am with you. Being "out," in many ways, is about "not bearing false witness," which God seemed to think was a good thing.

A final thought: I wish Christians could realize some of the cause-and-effect of why some gay people live the lives they do. Christians look at the drug use, gay bars, and promiscuity and then think that being gay can never be holy - but in reality, the Christian church has to take some responsibility for that. The Church has told the world that God does not love someone if they are gay, and would not want a relationship with them "just as they are." Because they have been told they must choose between God and being gay, homosexuals are often led to lives of desperation and depression.

I'm grateful to my fellow GCN'ers for putting into words some of the ideas I've expressed here. And I'm grateful to be able to think about these things in context of a loving, caring, accepting God.

"We are your sons, your daughters, your mothers, your fathers, your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends. We are here to love - and we are here to stay."
  • (Note: The image of the cross surrounded by the rainbow is the logo from Affirm United, a GLBT-welcoming ministry within the United Church of Canada. Thanks to Poor Mad Peter for the hat-tip!)

11 comments:

Poor Mad Peter said...

Most welcome, Steve man. Happy and peaceful 4th of July, while we're at it (pre-emptive post).

Jane Ellen+ said...

"...Christians look at the drug use, gay bars, and promiscuity and then think that being gay can never be holy..."

Honestly, I think that assumption is often based on the fact that many straight folks are not personally acquainted with/aware of "normal" gay people, who have jobs and families and do their best to lead everyday lives; so they fall into the assumption that this sort of behavior is what "gay" is. The underbelly of our society does not reflect so much on us as straight people because we are surrounded by the majority of our friends and neighbors who do not choose to live that way.

It seems to me that Christians also could take a good long look at the drug use, promiscuity and bar scenes that are also present in the "straight culture," and ask if that means anything different.

God's blessings on this bright Sunday morning!

Steve F. said...

...many straight folks are not personally acquainted with/aware of "normal" gay people, who have jobs and families and do their best to lead everyday lives...

This is probably the biggest reason for GLBT folks to "come out" - not to rub our sexuality in others' faces, but to say, "We're here - you already know us, and in many cases love us. We are not the bogeymen you might think."

I appreciate your comment.

wilsonian said...

It's interesting being a straight, middle-aged, single woman with gay friends. Well, I did have a large group of gay friends a few years ago, before all our lives moved in different directions/locations as often happens with people.

Anyway, they often asked why I hung out with them, and I would attempt to explain the Jesus-y love I had for them, and that they were frankly fun to hang out with. They never believed me. Because of my age and single status, they were all convinced that I was a closeted lesbian. I think some of them are still waiting for me to come out.

I know this situation is not the norm... but it does sometimes work both ways.

It's good to know you, Steve. :) Thanks for taking me as I am.

Tom Scharbach said...

"I would like people to know that I am the same person I was when I was trying to live a hetero life. The fact that I came out of the closet does not change anything about me, except I am more honest."

I don't know about this, Steve. I think you've changed a lot in the last several years. As you note, you've stopped lying to yourself and everyone else, but the other changes are more telling, from my perspective:

You are less afraid of yourself and others. You've made progress toward becoming a more integrated person. You've thought through your faith from the perspective of a gay Christian. You don't seem to be ashamed in the way you were back then. You speak from yourself more now, and less from a construct of what you think you should be. You've taken steps down from "I'm the teacher ..." pedestal and you now put more of yourself in many of your posts than you once did, which reflects the integration in your life. And on and on.

The journey you've made -- with the attendant changes in you -- is enormous, and the best evidence of the difference between who you are now and who you were then is a comparison of this post and your March 2005 coming out post, "Judge Tenderly of Me ..."

The man reflected in "Judge Tenderly" is in a very different place that the man who wrote this post.

Steve F. said...

Tom: you are, as usual, both right and on-the-mark. I recognize that there are light-years yet to go on my journey to acceptance - but I have already come a number of light-years to get where I am today. It's good for me to see it, but it's also good to know that others see it, too.

I try not to be quite the approval whore I once was - but hearing this from you is a pretty special treat. Thank you (and Michael) for walking with me on this journey. It means far, far more than you will know.

That's ONE of the reasons I try to stay active on GCN - to pass the same gift along to those who are just beginning their own journey. In the "language of the heart," I've been blessed, in order to be a blessing. Hopefully I'll be able to pass on the gift!

Erin, my sister-of-the-heart -
Though we have never met in person, still you have been the virtual hands and feet of Jesus to me. In each others' struggles and victories, we have seen hearts of love and feet of clay - treasures in jars of clay, it would seem. You, Penni, Rick, Bobbie, and so many others welcomed me twice - once when I saw myself as a damaged-goods preacher-woulda-been, and once as a newly-out gay man. And each time, you have welcomed me with love and encouragement. That means more than you will ever know.

I'm an extraordinarily rich man, because I have been blessed by God with friends like you.

Through my work on GCN, I have come into contact with dozens of truly hetero women who have had the same love-of-Christ for gay folk. Just like straight men who are gay-friendly are assumed to be gay themselves, so you get tarred with the same brush. It's sad, and I'm sorry for you.

But I know, beyond a doubt, that it never has been about what you are, but who you are, and Whose you are. That is the thread that binds us together!

And my dream is that someday this middle-aged man could meet up with you and have a delightful day together - with or without significant others. (My fantasy would be us double-dating at Niagara Falls - but I think that one's well out there, for now...)

You are, and will continue to be, a gift from God in my life.

Hugs and blessings to you both -
Steve

~m2~ said...

is for the church to be as worried about Matthew 25 (the whole sheep-n-goats, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the prisoners thing) as they are about Leviticus.

brilliant. freaking brilliant.

just when i thought i was taking a blogging break, i had to come in and say you are such a stand-up dude, i am proud to call you my brother. i am a little disappointed about the "not a flamboyant, promiscuous queen" thing - dang. you'd have been fun to party with if you were ;)

however, i am happy to accept you as you are. like erin, i appreciate your accepting me as i am. you totally rock.

BentonQuest said...

What keeps me surprised is how "uninteresting" most of the GLBT community is. I don't mean that to be assumed that the people in the GLBT community are uninteresting, just that we are people, pure and simple. Those who are flamboyant make good TV, those of us who just do our day-to-day things do not. But I think us "boring" folk are the rule.

wilsonian said...

Always gracious :)

Ripping around Niagara Falls would be fabulous! But I hope to see you before that. At the rate I'm going, the four of us would be taking turns helping each other with our walkers lol...

The Jesus Phreak said...

Steve,

I know it was only a remark in passing, but thank you for putting me onto "Twilight of the Golds." I got it from Netflix, and it was, literally, a "moving" picture.

It shook me. And that's a good thing.

The Jesus Phreak

Diana A. said...

"I'd love the other advisors in my all-guys youth group to know that I don't desire their sons any more than they desire each others' daughters."

And this may be the problem right here.

My understanding is that many straight guys do desire (on a physical level at least) girls the age of their teenaged daughters. They may be embarassed and even ashamed of themselves for feeling this way but they still feel it. So they may assume that a gay male would be the same way about teenaged boys. And yet, just like most straight guys control their urges when it comes to teenaged girls, I'd imagine most gay guys are both able and willing to control themselves even when they are attracted to someone inappropriately young.

"I replied to him that it's like the red thread in a Tartan-plaid fabric - if it wasn't there, you'd still have fabric, but it wouldn't be Tartan-plaid. And, to quote Brendan Fraser's character from the movie Twilight of the Golds, 'Every human being is a tapestry - if you pull one thread, or one undesirable color, then the whole thing falls apart and you end up staring at the walls.'" Exactly. This is how I see things too.

BTW: I linked to this from John Shore's blog. I want to thank you for this link.