I have felt the need for a long time now to get something off my chest that I have been to afraid to be open about. It simultaneously seems silly to me that I feel that way, but nevertheless it is true. I have seen the way others who speak their hearts on this matter are treated, and it is not exactly something I want to sign up for. And yet I also cannot remain silent. So it’s about time I admitted it, fully, openly, and publicly.
Though I am a straight woman myself, I am an LGBT ally. I am 100% LGBT-affirming.
It feels a bit like coming out, though I by no means want to equate it to the experiences LGBT people have in actually coming out. Mine is merely a stance; theirs is their whole being.
I have kept my stance on this issue relatively internal, opening up only to those closest to me and those I know are also affirming. To those who disagree, I have hidden this part of myself (though perhaps not as successfully as I think). I instinctively hate conflict, and even more, I dread being a disappointment to anyone who may think less of me for my views. But this is why I felt the need for this admittedly lengthy post.
It doesn’t feel like something that I should have to make a formal statement on, and yet I want there to be explanation and discussion behind it, so that it is not immediately dismissed by anyone. It is not a flippant stance, and it is one behind which was put years of thought and listening and learning. And it is purely BECAUSE of my faith that I have come to where I am, and not due to a lack of it.
I was raised in a conservative, evangelical Christian church household. We went to church every Sunday, were involved in music, Bible studies, youth group, and many other activities. I “accepted Jesus” when I was 4, and was baptized when I was 13. Our faith was very personal and very integral in our lives. There was an enormous amount of importance placed upon it in the way we were raised, and I am thankful to my parents and grandparents for that. As just one part of this faith, we were taught that homosexuality was a sin, as it goes against God’s design for humanity and against what is written in the Bible. I accepted this, but honestly never even gave it much serious thought. Virtually the only people I knew were gay up until high school were celebrities. Even in high school, I really only knew of a couple of gay people, but didn’t know them personally, and actually didn’t really know if they were even out – it just seemed obvious to everyone.
So it wasn’t until college that I even really began to give the topic much thought. Contrary to stereotypes, it was not my “liberal” classes or any of my actual collegiate studies that had any impact on these more serious topics for me. It was actually church. And the interactions with the friends I made there.
Although, even before much of the conversations with those friends started to be about the LGBT issue, the gay rights cause began to pick up steam in the media. This was around the time that the debate began to be a hot button issue in our legal and political systems. The fight was specifically about whether or not to legalize gay marriage – both federally and at the state level. Like I said, I was just beginning to start thinking about this topic, so this was really the first aspect of the issue that I was faced with.
I heard both sides of the argument – pro-gay rights activists, who were made up of both LGBT people and straight allies, and anti-gay rights activists, who frankly, were largely made up of Christians. I understood where the Christians were coming from, believing due to their faith that it was wrong. This is what I had always been taught.
I didn’t understand from a legal standpoint how it made any sense to prohibit gay marriage. There’s a thing called Separation of Church and State, right? We can’t expect non-Christians to abide by a morality that is solely based on the Christian faith. If it is to be a law, there must be some other practical reason as well, that could easily make sense to ALL reasonably moral people, not just those of a certain faith. For example, murder. All reasonable people recognize murder should be punishable by law. Theft. Assault. Rape. Basically every law in the books has something in common – the offense is punishable because it harms someone else. Whether it is their physical person, their possessions, or their human dignity, it is harmful to someone else. Who does being gay harm? I asked myself this question and I didn’t have an answer. It simply involves a loving relationship between two human beings, who want to live in harmony and make each other better. Can there be corrupt relationships that are harmful? Of course. But we see plenty of those already in straight relationships, and we don’t ban heterosexual marriage. The majority of gay people simply want exactly what the majority of straight people want – the right to be fully themselves, love another person who accepts their true selves, and spend their life with them. And that harms absolutely no one. You could try to argue that it harms any potential children they might have, as they need a father and a mother, but the evidence has proven that that is not true. Children with loving, nurturing gay parents grow up just fine. Different parents can fill different roles without having to be a certain gender – that goes for straight parents too!
So I came to the conclusion that gay relationships by nature hurt no one, and do not hurt society. Therefore there is no logical reason the law needs to prohibit them. I still wasn’t sure where I stood morally on the issue, but I became politically okay with the idea of gay marriage.
From there I began to read and discuss. I read many stories, between blogs and books and other sources – both firsthand accounts and secondhand. One of the best books I read and one of the most formative for me was ‘Torn’, written by Justin Lee. He grew up in a very strong Christian household, where church and faith were extremely important and he was heavily involved. He actually became known as ‘God boy’ at school because he took evangelism so seriously and was passionate about sharing his faith. He was the model Christian kid.
But he had always known he was different. Eventually he realized he was not attracted to girls in the ways the other boys always were, and that in fact he found himself attracted to boys. Having been raised a conservative Christian, he had been taught this was wrong. He hated himself for it, and fought with everything he had for years to make it go away. He tried ex-gay therapy and the whole nine yards. But nothing worked.
Long story short, he came to terms with it, after discovering his faith in a new way and realizing what God actually intended for his life. He is now openly gay and a Christian, and his story is extremely compelling.
Between this story and many others like it, and finally actually getting to know some gay people personally, the next thing I became convinced of was that being gay was not a choice. I still didn’t know if I agreed with it morally, but I firmly believed these people were not choosing to be gay. In fact, pretty much all of the stories I had heard were that these people wanted more than anything NOT to be gay. Life would be so much easier if they didn’t have to deal with that struggle! They wouldn’t have to worry about coming out, being bullied, harassed, perhaps even disowned by their own family. Who would choose that?!
Once I became convinced that being gay was not a choice is when I started to have a real problem with it being called a sin. Attractions are a very innate part of who each of us is. It is not just a physical, sexual thing. It is who we find attractive not only physically, but also emotionally, in terms of personality, and just a matter of who we want to spend life with. If a part of who you are – the very fabric of your being, not just an action that you take – is a sin that is an abomination in the eyes of God, what kind of God is that? What kind of creator creates something like that, only to decide it is no good and expect the creation to somehow try to change itself? I think, frankly, this realization was the most convincing of all to get me to the stance I now hold.
So if I was going to believe in this God that I claim as a good and loving God, He had to be bigger than this. In my studying and reading, of course I came across what are known as the “clobber verses” – because Christians like to use them to clobber the LGBT community over the head. In all reality, there are only seven – SEVEN – passages in the Bible that can be found for people to use as an argument against homosexuality. And only one of them contains anything spoken by Jesus.
Without going through each one individually (if you’d like to, I recommend Brandon Wallace’s book “Straight-Face”), the biggest key to them all is that they are wildly pulled out of context – not only in regards to the verses surrounding them, but also the history and culture of the time in which they were written. The bottom line is that what they condemn is actually rape and the use of sexuality as a means of power and degrading human dignity. As just one example, it was common practice of the day (actually this unfortunately isn’t just an ancient practice) for a conquering army to rape the men they had defeated. This was not an act of loving homosexual relationships – it was a means of demonstrating power and dominance. The writer who referenced this act was merely saying that as followers of God we are not going to act like that – he says nothing at all in regards to loving relationships.
Secondly, any passages referencing the “design” of marriage are not as they may seem. Marriages of the day were not built out of love the way we now experience them. They were business transactions. A man would pay a good price for a young woman to marry his son, and they would be able to continue the family line in this way. This was the sole purpose of marriages. She was merely property for the man, with a status only slightly above a slave. It was not uncommon for a man to have other, passionate love-driven relations outside of his marriage, which could be with other women or men. Alternatively, he could have this kind of relationship without a heterosexual marriage at all. All relationships in the day were commercial transactions, so if a man wanted a male companion, he could buy a “servant,” who in this context could be called a pais in ancient Greek. This word had a few nuances – it could be interpreted as simply “servant,” or it could also mean “his master’s male lover.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus heals the centurion’s servant in the Gospels, it is the word pais that is used, and it is also notable that the centurion even went to such lengths to ask Jesus to heal him, as not just any servant would be worthy of that. Many scholars believe the meaning of “male lover” is the one implied here, and so it is quite interesting that Jesus makes absolutely no remark to condemn this relationship, but rather tells the crowd that he has “not found such great faith even in Israel.” He not only doesn’t rebuke the men, but holds them up as an example of faith.
You can go into further depths on these passages, which I have done in reading and discussion with others, but they all boil down to this: the only clear things the writers are condemning in these passages are rape and sexual abuse of power, as well as breaking contracts. There is not a single word on loving, same-sex relationships, and there is an especially notable silence from Jesus on the topic. So while the Bible perhaps doesn’t explicitly spell out support, it equally spells out no condemnation. And in the silence, all I see are my friends who fought being gay for most of their lives only to realize it was a part of themselves that they couldn’t change. And I can’t live with a belief in a God who would want them to change or suppress an integral part of who they are as human beings, nor do I want them to be deprived of one of the most basic fulfillments and happinesses in life that we all seek.
And for that reason, I will no longer be silent in my support for their rights. Above all, we are all equally human beings and we all deserve the same respect and dignity, and for that I will never stop fighting.