After my last post, in which I shared my changed beliefs on the affirmation of same-sex relationships, an important question emerges:
How exactly does one undertake the task of challenging a well established Christian doctrine fraught with aggressive stances and powerful emotions wrapped in a shroud of rampant misinformation?
Very, very carefully.
While I appreciate the situational humor, I speak quite seriously when I say that this is not an endeavor for the light of heart.
People have challenged me to consider that in taking an affirming stance on same-sex marriage, I am standing in the face of thousands of years of history, theologians, and tradition. They remind me that a presumption of that magnitude is not something to take lightly.
And you know what? They’re right.
So let me explain why I have the audacity to do just that.
So this post has been a very long time in the making.
Since I came out publicly around a year ago, I have questioned a lot, learned a lot, and then questioned even more. During this time, I have shifted in my stance on key issues surrounding sexual orientation within Christianity during this process.
As I posted my beliefs publicly a year ago, I feel that I should update them publicly as well.
Let me explain how this all started.
It was important for me to come out publicly. The Christian domain is so devoid of individuals who are willing to talk openly, honestly, and loudly about the many sexuality discussions that are occurring throughout the rest of the world—and this lead to childhoods like mine where I was deprived of needed information and resources, wildly confused and depressed, and utterly lacking in self-identity. I knew from the very beginning that I would do my part to ensure that never happened to another generation of Christian children. That’s why I write this blog. I want to share what I have experienced, studied, and learned for people that desire to be more fully informed about LGBTQ topics.
In fact, you could probably amass quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.
This presents a challenge for me. I’m already inclined to let my pride overshadow my words. Add to that a list of personal grievances I’ve amassed in response to ways I’ve been treated and things that have been said to me, and you get a recipe for major potential resentment and pride.
However, I learned early on in my journey as a gay man that pride doesn’t get you very far in a theological conversation about sexuality. The broader Christian community is interested—sometimes surprisingly so—in changing, growing, and increasing love. But can I really blame them for not wanting to do so while simultaneously feeling targeted, attacked, or berated?
The funny thing is, I definitely have a right to my feelings of resentment. I grew up in a culture that made me ashamed of many aspects of my being. I’ve been mocked for what I do, how I sound, and what I think. Those words hurt me. And I have the right to hold on to each and every one of them.
Sure, I knew I had the biological traits of a male. But does that really mean anything?
As a young child this took the form of gender dysphoria—that is—I wasn’t comfortable with what I was told was my gender. I was known to say, “When I go to heaven, I want to be a woman.” Something about being female felt more right than being male.
I remember those years in elementary school when everybody played sports. I participated because I wanted to see my friends, and I wanted to do what you were supposed to do. But I hated sports. I truly hated everything about them. I hated being outside on the hottest days of the year. I hated being shoved into other sweaty guys. I hated exerting so much effort to move a stupid ball 100 feet to the other side of the field. All of it.
I liked chatting while sitting down inside. I liked music. I liked helping my mom bake cookies.
And yet sports was manly. Baking was not. So for years and years, sports it was. I still sang and baked, but those were just nice distractions. Real manhood was defined by skill at sports. And I was terrible at sports.
It’s been over six months since I publicly came out as gay.
I was terrified to push that “post” button. My finger just hovered over the mouse, knowing that the following moments could lead to a lifetime of isolation, hurt, and abandonment from those dear to me.
However, those subsequent moments were instead filled with love, support, and community more than I possibly could have hoped. I have not regretted my decision to speak publicly on this for one second since that day.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, I thought I would share some of the reasons why I think it’s both beneficial and important for LGBTQ Christians to come out publicly.
For those not regularly engaging with LGBTQ community, keeping up with terminology and associated implications of that terminology can difficult and even, at times, feel overwhelming. I recently wrote on some of the specific nuances of LGBTQ terminology in the Church and a followup with more general principles.
In this post I would like to draw special attention to a very important nuance of the LGBTQ acronym itself.
The L, G, and B in the acronym refer to “lesbian,” “gay,” and “bisexual”which mean a female whose attractions are towards females, someone who is attracted to their same-sex (often male), and someone who is attracted to both sexes, respectively. All of these terms describe someone’s sexual orientation—that is—someone’s enduring attractions to members of the same and/or opposite sex.
The T in the acronym refers to “transgender” which is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
While a part of the same acronym, transgender is distinctly different than lesbian, gay, or bi, because it refers to someone’s gender identity.
Sexual orientation refers to one’s attractions to someone else. Gender identity, on the other hand, refers to the gender with which someone associates themselves. (The Q in the acronym refers to “queer” [or sometimes “questioning”], and it is a more generic term that can be referring to any of the LGBT letters and more generally any sexual or gender minority.)
Why do I bring all of this up?
I bring it up because sexual orientations and gender identities are sometimes unfairly lumped together as one topic. This is partially the result of the LGBTQ movement’s emphasis on including all marginalized groups of sexual and identity minorities under their wing. However it is more of a result of society’s historic unwillingness to accept the existence of non-heterosexual and non-cisgender (cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity and/or expression is the same as what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth) individuals.
I feel like a followup to my last post might be useful. I’ve heard from some readers that it was easy to feel like the take away from that post was, “You can’t talk about this issue at all or you’ll end up offending someone.”
Given the sheer quantity of issues I covered, I can definitely understand that impression. However, that was not at all the impression I want you to have. So let me emphasize some of the ways you can talk about all things LGBTQ.