What I wish straight Christians knew…

My friend Steve Flower posted the following piece yesterday over on Facebook. I asked if I could share it here, and he said yes. Thanks Steve.

What I wish straight Christians knew…

by Steve Flower

It’s National Coming Out Day – celebrated every October 11th, when gays and lesbians choose to share their orientation as an act of openness and presence in the community.  Around the country today gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) individuals will  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. However, I’ve spoken a great deal about my faith journey – and how many aspects of my life have affected that journey. So today, as National Coming-Out Day begins, I’ve been thinking about a blog post I wrote a while back…

A couple years ago, Peterson Toscano (a friend I met through the Gay Christian Network online community) 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 were 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 of this.

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 trying to be 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, relatively few of my Christian friends have questioned my faith, nor have many 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. But having acknowledged and accepting that this is how I am, I would not choose otherwise, either…

I would want straight 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 more attractive! (‘cuz boys, I need some WORK done…)

I’d love the other advisors in the all-guys youth group I advised for years 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 was 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 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, we don’t piddle on rugs….)

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 knows 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 himself 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 (and feel they have no choice about 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.

If someone comes out to you today, try to see it as an act of courage, of faith and trust in you as a friend. Because that’s what it is.

“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.”

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