This website has a lot of my story on it–but this is the less than ten minute version of my story with the church. The Queer Story Archives came up to Whitehorse–Lulu from OnMyPlanet.ca–in July 2013, recording stories of Yukon Queers, and we recorded this right before I was to leave for Dayton, Ohio. I think it’s turning into a positive story so I’m sharing it. Ultimately I’m suggesting that including gay people can save a rapidly diminishing Church population. To do that, I tell my story. Some of you have heard it–either through the Yukon News, or through DNTO. Both sources were good but heavily edited. It feels better in my own words, complete.
We grow from hard times in our lives and this was a good growth for me. Eventually, I’ve come to retain and re-establish many friendships from the first church. I hope my story still helps others. Thanks to LULU and onmyplanet.ca
Over on Huffington Post, Gay Voices, is a tragic story of Christian parents who tried very hard to love their gay son. They prayed, though, that they would not have a gay son….and that prayer came true, in the worst possible way.
I’ve reprinted here only the beginning of this piece—but it is powerful–and the link will take you over to Huff Post for the full column.
For me, this is the tragedy of good Christian parents who aren’t ready to allow their kids to make up their minds about their sexuality. They learn that accepting your sexuality is accepting yourself–and when you aren’t allowed to accept your sexuality, you aren’t allowed to accept who you are—and that can have awful ramifications. They do understand though—but too late to help their own son.
Read one family’s story:
FOR THE WHOLE ESSAY, Just Because He Breathes, CLICK HERE.
From Linda Robertson:
On the night of Nov. 20, 2001, a conversation held over Instant Messenger changed our lives forever. Our 12-year-old son messaged me in my office from the computer in his bedroom.
Ryan says: can i tell u something
Mom says: Yes I am listening
Ryan says: well i don’t know how to say this really but, well……, i can’t keep lying to you about myself. I have been hiding this for too long and i sorta have to tell u now. By now u probably have an idea of what i am about to say.
Ryan says: I am gay
Ryan says: i can’t believe i just told you
Mom says: Are you joking?
Ryan says: no
Ryan says: i thought you would understand because of uncle don
Mom says: of course I would
Mom says: but what makes you think you are?
Ryan says: i know i am
Ryan says: i don’t like hannah
Ryan says: it’s just a cover-up
Mom says: but that doesn’t make you gay…
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: but u don’t understand
Ryan says: i am gay
Mom says: tell me more
Ryan says: it’s just the way i am and it’s something i know
Ryan says: u r not a lesbian and u know that. it is the same thing
Mom says: what do you mean?
Ryan says: i am just gay
Ryan says: i am that
Mom says: I love you no matter what
Ryan says: i am white not black
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: i am a boy not a girl
Ryan says: i am attracted to boys not girls
Ryan says: u know that about yourself and i know this
Mom says: what about what God thinks about acting on these desires?
Ryan says: i know
Mom says: thank you for telling me
Ryan says: and i am very confused about that right now
Mom says: I love you more for being honest
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: thanx
We were completely shocked. Not that we didn’t know and love gay people; my only brother had come out to us several years before, and we adored him. But Ryan? He was unafraid of anything, tough as nails and all boy. We had not seen this coming, and the emotion that overwhelmed us, kept us awake at night and, sadly, influenced all our reactions over the next six years was fear.
We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible, the Word of God, should say:
We love you. We will always love you. And this is hard. Really hard. But we know what God says about this, so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.
We love you. We couldn’t love you more. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books; you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.
We love you. We are so glad you are our son. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you are gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay; it is that you are a child of God.
We love you. Nothing will change that. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is not an option.
We thought we understood the magnitude of the sacrifice that we — and God — were asking for. And this sacrifice, we knew, would lead to an abundant life, perfect peace and eternal rewards. Ryan had always felt intensely drawn to spiritual things; He desired to please God above all else. So, for the first six years, he tried to choose Jesus. Like so many others before him, he pleaded with God to help him be attracted to girls. He memorized Scripture, met with his youth pastor weekly, enthusiastically participated in all the church youth group events and Bible Studies and got baptized. He read all the books that claimed to know where his gay feelings came from, dove into counseling to further discover the whys of his unwanted attraction to other guys, worked through painful conflict resolution with my husband and me and built strong friendships with other guys — straight guys — just like the reparative therapy experts advised. He even came out to his entire youth group, giving his testimony of how God had rescued him from the traps of the enemy, and sharing, by memory, verse after verse that God had used to draw Ryan to Him.
For the rest of the essay, please follow this link.
Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.
I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.
But they remembered my pitch. And they sought me out. Which is humbling, and cool. We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes. I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told. I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”. But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost? I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change. We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light. This splits familes. My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore. I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it. Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people. Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink. As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women. And divorce. Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore. Christianity and Faith are not the problem. Interpretation is.
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At the Festival of Faith and Writing today, two intrepid authors/speakers, John Estes and Amy Frykholm, offered a seminar called The Word Needs Flesh: Sex and Faith in Contemporary Writing. As you can imagine at a Christian conference, the room was packed. People stood along the walls; they sat on the floor.
How we Talk (badly) about Sex
Amy started by saying, “There’s a misunderstanding about sexuality in the church. As Christians, we’re really bad at having this conversation. So, we’re going to step out now and try–though we’re going to make some mistakes. But if we don’t start a conversation, we leave it to the Mark Driscolls.” This received long sighs and laughs of approval, with a tinge of fear. If we were ever going to hijack the conversation, it best be right here, right now.
Many of us in the room were still giggling at double entendres before the session began, but all were rapt at listening to Amy and John have the dialogue the church should be having. I won’t spoil anything by telling you the last thing anyone said in the room. An older woman, in her “seventh decade” so she felt a freedom to speak her mind. “I learn more outside the church than I ever have in it,” referring to all that she had heard today in this seminar. We found ourselves agreeing. How do we get this conversation in the church?
“Why are we so bad at this?” Amy started. We didn’t know. “Sex is part of our core being.” Still we had problems discussing sex unless it was to talk about it as the glorious bond of marriage or the ever present temptation that could destroy that marriage. We avoided it, perhaps, because it made us more like the animals than we wanted to be. Still, it was not a topic in churches very often–and we weren’t really talking about the joy of our sexuality. We acted like it was a weapon against us till the wedding bells rang.
John’s phrasing sometimes caught me off guard as he tried to find the words for it. “Our sex is a problem without a solution. The solutions offered by the church are wanting.” Here he referred to sex only inside marriage–but also something wider–the inability, even the avoidance of talking about sexuality positively. Though I didn’t like him referring to sex as a problem, I understood which perspective he was taking. The church’s position was that sex seemed to be treated as something OUTSIDE us, a separate thing.
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“Welcoming and not affirming” is a murky idea. As an English teacher, it’s hard to read it and really understand what it means. We all know what “welcome” is and how to welcome, but it seems “not affirming” is an odd way to express a verb. It seems important to figure out what “affirming” is and then what “not” doing that would look like. According to the dictionary, affirming is defined as:
State as a fact; assert strongly and publicly
he affirmed the country’s commitment to peace
he affirmed that she was, indeed, a good editor
“Pessimism,” she affirmed, “is the most rational view.”
Declare one’s support for; uphold or defend
Accept or confirm the validity of (a judgment or agreement); ratify
Make a formal declaration rather than taking an oath (e.g., to testify truthfully)
(of a court) Uphold (a decision) on appeal
Offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement
Antonyms include: negate, reject, deny, nullify, renounce, refuse, decline
So, “welcoming and not affirming” could just as easily be said as “welcoming and denying ” or “welcoming and rejecting.” We can probably see that no one wants to have a billboard say that they are both “welcoming and rejecting”…. but in a sense that’s what welcoming and not affirming means.
The other problem with this phrase is that for most evangelicals the adjectives don’t modify the same noun. What are we “Welcoming” –all people, we might say. What are we “not affirming”–a sinful lifestyle. But without the nouns to make a difference, the phrase gets confusing—and we end up saying we are “Welcoming, but not affirming” actual people. Because we’re not saying we’re “welcoming and not affirming” a lifestyle…. You’re not welcoming a lifestyle into your church are you?
But perhaps there is another definition that we need to consider.
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Jesus met up with lots of sins he couldn’t affirm–especially lifestyle sins. But we only use the phrase “welcoming but not affirming” when we talk about gays and lesbians, not when we talk about sinners in general. We’ve already seen that the phrase itself is murky, at best. Surely, there must be a Biblical precedent for how to welcome but not affirm gays and lesbians. The church can’t possibly be using a method that Jesus himself would not endorse, and practice. Since there are no visible gays and lesbians in the Bible, we’re going to have to expand to those other sins that Jesus encountered. What did He do when He met up with greedy tax collectors, two adulteresses, a prostitute, the Pharisees as a group and as an individual, and rambunctious, argumentative disciples?
Jesus must be against greed. It’s a sin. Now Zaccheus was a greedy little man, but Jesus went over to his house. He eats there, accepts his food and family. He makes a public show of his acceptance to the whole crowd both outside and inside the house. He doesn’t say anything against Zaccheus, neither privately or publically that we can find. In fact, it is Zaccheus who repents because of this outpouring of acceptance. So Jesus never affirmed greed, but he also never displayed any disgust, any judgment, any reprimand, any opinion against greed. How do we know he didn’t affirm it? We know Jesus. Oh, wait, he did have a tax collector as his disciple, Matthew. We don’t know if Jesus ever publically rebuked Matthew. But the words we know he said to this sinner, of whose sin he didn’t approve or affirm, “come follow me.”
Jesus can’t have approved of sexual sin. But he does meet up with an adulterous woman, a promiscuous woman, and a prostitute.
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