Call It What It Is–Abuse

Peterson outside of Love Won Out

Peterson outside of Love Won Out

Because of being public as a gay Christian, I get MANY e-mails from often well-meaning Christians (and not always well-meaning) who want to straighten me out, if not sexually than Biblically. Some of these come from folks who currently identify as ex-gay.

Recently we got such a message from someone who found Christine Bakke and me through Beyond Ex-Gay. The writer of the e-mail is a Christian and identifies as an ex-lesbian who has nothing to do with LGBT people except to try to steer them back into the fold.

Regardless of what I wrote her, each one of her long e-mails (five in total) served as mini anti-gay sermons with the same talking points I used years ago when I was ex-gay and tried to sort out anything queer in the world.

In her last e-mail she said she did not understand how I could accuse her of being “disrespectful and hateful” and invited me to re-read all of her e-mails and get back to her.

I imagine many of us have gotten these sorts of messages from family and ‘friends,’ and sometimes the temptation for me is to respond to each argument and point and get involved in a dialogue (ie debate) that goes nowhere fast. I have since learned that it is more important for me to point out exactly the nature of the correspondence, call it what it is. Below is my response.

Dear Xxxx, As I wrote to you before, if you are happy as an ex-lesbian and with your relationship with Christ, than I am happy for you. Sadly I do not believe you can extend the same happiness to me in regards to the peace I have found with Christ and my sexuality.

In my previous e-mail I said I found your words disrespectful and abusive. I never said ‘hateful.’ I have no doubt you feel love in your heart and believe you reach out in love. Although loving, you have taken the role of abuser. You stand over me in the position that your Christian walk and your choices about your sexuality are morally and spiritually superior to mine, and in the name of Jesus, you impose your sexuality on me. You do not recognize the happiness and peace I have. Instead your words seek to invalidate my faith in Jesus and the sincere journey I have been on. I will not allow myself to get drawn into an abusive relationship.

When you are ready to have a sensible adult conversation with someone you can respect as an equal, let me know.
Your brother in Christ,
Peterson

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This post has 13 Comments

  1. Stasa on October 27, 2008 at 4:59 pm Reply

    Yes. !

    Good for you. It’s so hard to label abuse what it is; it’s so understand we don’t have to tolerate it when people say things like what this person was saying; and it’s so hard to stand up to it in ways that are loving and that do not get drawn in.

    Thanks for the reminders that it’s possible, Peterson.

    Love,
    Stasa

  2. Peterson Toscano on October 27, 2008 at 6:46 pm Reply

    I did receive a response which I will not post in full because it is much of the same.

    She writes,

    “You have failed to answer my questions. You have failed to identify my abusive and disrespectful input as I have asked you to do.

    She then asks the same close-ended, back-you-in-a-corner questions she has been asking all along and ends with,

    “Unless you can sincerely try to answer the questions I have posed to you, you are indeed right that we cannot carry on an adult to adult conversation. So please let’s just stop e-mailing each other unless you wish to contact me again for having become willing to acknowledge truth according to God. For His truths are my truths; not the other way around.”

    I recognize that when I was ex-gay, I could not hear other people and what they had to say. Fear clouded my mind. I felt threatened by someone who said it was okay to be gay. If the person said that they were a gay Christian, I believed they were sent from Satan himself.

    Fear does strange things to our brains, so although I wrote clearly where the abuse and disrespect lie in what she wrote to me, she cannot yet see it or comprehend my words. To do so would possibly mean she has to accept that she has placed herself in an abusive church system. The ramifications for her may be too great to face right now.

    For my part I will not respond to her last e-mail and let the silence speak for me.

  3. Cheri on October 27, 2008 at 8:51 pm Reply

    Wow, I’m impressed by your peaceful response to her. I love how she says “let’s just stop e-mailing each other”–as if you actually initiated the conversation! Silence is definitely your best option.

  4. China on October 27, 2008 at 9:21 pm Reply

    A very heartfelt and sensible response. You’re an excellent example to any who find themselves caught up in what can easily become a debate where neither side will give. I think you have stated your position succinctly and as clearly as possible. It is up to her to discover her own peace of mind in the matter.

  5. Glen on October 27, 2008 at 9:21 pm Reply

    Rigid dogmatism is just so ugly, isn’t it? Intellectual and emotional flexibility should have been listed as one of the fruits of the spirit. It allows openness to the world, to reality and truth. Peterson, your friend may wish to love, but by putting her Biblical theology above your truth, she is unable to love. I think this is what Paul meant when he said:

    Love never falls in ruins;
    but whether prophecies, they will be abolished; or
    tongues, they will cease; or
    knowledge, it will be superseded.

    For we know in part and we prophecy in part.

    But when the perfect comes, [i.e. love] the imperfect will be superseded.

    *It is time for these people’s partial prophecy and knowledge to be superseded by the perfection of love.

  6. Joe G. on October 27, 2008 at 9:42 pm Reply

    Must you be so closed-minded, Peterson?

    BTW, I saw you in the latest Advocate. I can’t get away from you…

  7. peterson toscano on October 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm Reply

    I adore you Joe even if you are a bitter old queen. The advocate again? Yawn.

  8. Iain on October 27, 2008 at 11:51 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    That’s a terrific response and a true inspiration. I tend to get into debates with some often aggressive fundamentalist Christians (usually over the evolution/creation debate), and I only wish I could be as graceful as you have been.

    I know that the peace that you have found is real, and that it hasn’t been an easy journey for you at all. I’m just glad that you’ve found it at last, to the extent that you can write what you did to that woman, in a manner considerably more charitable that I could muster.

    Your sentence “Although loving, you have taken the role of the abuser” really hit me, though in a different context. I get to talk to a lot of people who have suffered physical sexual abuse as children. In many cases here, the abusers also say that they did it out of love. That kind of love is sick and perverted, of course, but in a way the “love” practised by “ex-gays” trying to set you “straight” is also abusive as you point out, and in its own way just as abhorrent.

    Best wishes,
    In Christ,
    Iain

  9. Yuki Choe on October 28, 2008 at 12:56 pm Reply

    It still amazes me how people still stick up some abuses here and then to people like us in the guise of an absolute “truth”, as if we are weak beings incapable of discovering the real truth through our experiences with trial and error in knowing who we are and what we are made of in God’s diversed creations. And as if our own truthful lives are insignificant in the light of what they perceive and God’s “truth” for them.

    Many of Christians have forgotten the very foundation of being a believer in Christ starts with just a simple move, having a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. I am sure Our Saviour would not like to be paraded dangling around and have words put into his mouth by folks content in using Him as a tool of oppression. That is totally against His Will. His Will is for us to love. Why have these Christians forgotten that?

    They still seek to impose their version of “truth” upon others.

  10. lower case paul on October 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm Reply

    “identifies as an ex-lesbian who has nothing to do with LGBT people except to try to steer them back into the fold.”

    We’ll never ‘straighten’ out as long as people like this woman keep trying to “fold” us.

  11. Mark on October 28, 2008 at 8:03 pm Reply

    Wow — resonance writ large with what I was reading last night — the first chapter of Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together”. You so nailed it (Bonhoeffer would describe the kind of love your correspondent seems to be operating out of as “psychic” — usually translated “human” — love).

  12. Evan on October 31, 2008 at 5:00 am Reply

    Is that picture in front of that nasty Central Church in Collierville?

    Groan.

    Every time I drive by that place, I feel so icky.

    I saw Caedmon’s Call there some years back, though. My feet didn’t catch on fire.

    Haw haw.

  13. apostateangelica on January 26, 2011 at 11:41 am Reply

    Wow. First of all, I am so sorry that you have found people so unwilling to accept the peace and satisfaction you have with your own position, both sexually and spiritually. Secondly, I must commend you for your mature and measured response to such abuse. That is, indeed, precisely what it is.

    I find it incredibly difficult to be so considerate in my communications with Christians. While I am not gay, I left a fundamentalist Christian faith within the past 2 years or so, and now consider myself an agnostic atheist. I don’t *think* there is a God, but I don’t claim to know for certain either way. However, I respect those who choose to remain confident of God’s existence – unfortunately, I have rarely had that same courtesy extended to me in return. People seem to feel a tremendous need to defend their faith against perceived attack, even when that “attack” is simply an individual who believes differently. In my experience, these people are often the ones who are actually *least* secure in their stance. It’s a case of the Shakespearean adage “methinks the lady doth protest too much”.

    Well done, though. I wish you every happiness in life, and I sincerely hope that you can find people to extend every respect to you that you have endeavoured to extend to others.

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