“But you CHOSE to come here…”

Last week, for the second year in a row, Campus Pride released their “Shame List,” calling out the “absolute worst college campuses for LGBTQ students in the nation.”

And for the second year in a row, my campus made the list.

As I’m sure many of my readers know, being gay at an Evangelical university is a WEIRD time. I attend a school that has repeatedly made the news for its anti-LGBT policies and controversies over the years. Our administration has successfully received an exemption from Title IX (which is meant to prevent gender discrimination) because of its Christian affiliation. I check a box on my housing application every year, promising that I will not engage in any kind of “homosexual activity” so that I can qualify for a dorm. I sit through sermons by chapel speakers who speak as if there could not possibly be any queer students in the room. I watch straight couples hold hands and fall in love while knowing that I could get expelled for having that same beautiful experience. I get nervous every time I write a new blog post because I’m not sure which professors or administrators are reading it. I am against the rules.

But when these kinds of frustrations are discussed in mixed company, one of the most common and most frustrating rebuttals queer students hear is, “Well, you did choose to come here.”

In other words, “All of the pain you have experienced here is actually your own fault.”

In other words, “It’s not really discrimination if we warn you about it first.”

In other words, “You already knew that we didn’t want you.”

Oh, classmates. Friends. There’s so much that could be said. There’s so much that I want you to understand…

I want you to understand that some of us did not choose to come here. Just like you, some of us were destined by parental pressure, financial aid, and youth group socialization to continue our educations in safe, Christian settings. For some, secular universities were never an option. And for some, they became even less of an option when our parents began to notice “dangerous” or “unholy” tendencies.

Some of us thought those tendencies would go away after freshman move-in day. Some of us came to our Evangelical colleges so we could turn ourselves straight. And some of us are still trying. Some of us are still being told by counselors and chaplains that trying is the right thing to do. Some of us will try harder tomorrow.

Some of us are just now starting to realize that we don’t fit in here like we thought we would. Some of us have yet to put words to our differences. We have yet to explain the heart-stopping panic that happens when a conversation turns to LGBT issues. Some of us have yet to verbalize that ineffable ache of realizing that that one friendship that might have been a little bit more than a friendship will never really be more than a friendship.

And many of us will not bother coming out until after commencement. Because many of us have no reason to believe that we are truly welcome in these institutions that we have tried so hard to call home.

Not all of us, though. Because to be fair, I did choose to come here. And throughout my coming out journey, despite dehumanization at the hands of the student handbook, I have chosen to stay. This has led to several instances of people (straight or otherwise) asking me, “Why don’t you just leave?” It’s a valid question, and it’s one that I have asked myself. But now, as a senior, I think I finally know how to answer it.

First and foremost, I don’t leave because I shouldn’t have to. My sexuality should not limit my educational opportunities. That’s Equality 101.

I don’t leave because I have made a family for myself here. I have people who make me feel like a person. I have friends who I would do anything for. “Fictive kin,” if you want to get sociological about it. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I don’t leave because, despite the brokenness of the institution as a whole, I have met incredible professors who have shown me what Jesus really looks like. I have mentors who inspire me to continually seek God, who have affirmed my calling to ministry, and who make me more deeply aware of my status as a Child of the Creator.

I don’t leave because I know that there are more queer students on campus who need to know that they are going to be ok. And the idea of them feeling scared or alone is enough to keep me right here, reaching out.

I don’t leave because, for some stupid reason, I love my school enough to want to make it better. 

So as I work towards graduation, I submit and I subvert. I check that box on my housing application. I write blog posts. I sit through chapel. I volunteer with LGBT organizations. Most importantly, I learn how to see beauty and growth in the midst of heartbreak and pain. I learn to bridge gaps, love enemies, and believe that people are truly Good. And although attending a conservative Evangelical university is not always easy, I have no doubt that it has made me a better person and a more committed follower of Christ.

Just maybe not in the ways that administration intended.

 

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Evangelicals, Stop Making Me Care

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood released The Nashville Statement today. It condemns—not just those who choose to live authentically as LGBTQ Christians—but also those who affirm their choice to do so. Evangelical leaders have decided, and put into writing, that this is not an issue that we can disagree on while still being part of the same faith. They have effectively declared entire Christian denominations to be sinful for daring to accept and include folks like me.

Here’s the thing. Personally, I could not care less about this statement. I think it’s absurd that this debate is still happening, and to be completely honest, I actually laughed out loud when I read the name, “Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.” The Nashville Statement won’t affect my life or how I live it. It won’t affect affirming denominations or their stances on scripture. It won’t affect the rest of society, and it will not change anyone’s mind.

Because between their responses to the World Vision debacle, Ferguson, the election, the continued support of Donald Trump, Charlottesville, and countless other crises, evangelicals have completely squandered whatever moral authority they once held. They have zero credibility in the eyes of those outside of their echo chamber. No non-evangelical is putting any stock into John Piper or Francis Chan’s signatures. Evangelical opinions about queer people hold no weight whatsoever to those who are committed to social progress.

However…

There are questioning and closeted queer kids sitting in those evangelical pews. Queer kids who are already four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. And they don’t know that there’s a world outside of the evangelical echo chamber. They’ve been told that the evangelical church is The Church. And those kids are going to read that statement. They’re going to see their pastor’s signature on that statement. They are going to feel terror, shame, and hopelessness, and they are going to believe that it’s from Jesus.

Because for some of these kids, evangelical Jesus is the only Jesus they know. No one has told them that the Body of Christ is queer. They don’t know that it’s queer and it’s black and it’s disabled and it’s undocumented and it’s sleeping on a park bench. They’re growing up in a church that tells them that their sole purpose is to share the Gospel, the Good News, with everyone they meet. But they don’t know that Jesus is good news for them, too. They don’t know that God is even better than some Christians are willing to believe.

I really don’t want to care about what evangelicals are saying anymore. They have no sway over me. They have no relevance. I’ve found a church home outside of evangelicalism, and I’m more in love with Jesus than ever before. In four months, I’ll graduate from my evangelical university, and my last tie to fundamentalism and conservative Christianity will be cut. I shouldn’t have to care about The Nashville Statement. It has nothing to do with my life.

But I can’t not care. Because when I graduate in four months, those kids will still be sitting in those pews. There will still be folks who are full of terror and shame because of the kinds of teachings that their leaders have signed off on. There will still be good Christian parents losing their kids to suicide because of this theology. And I care a lot about that, you guys. We all should.

So as long as evangelicals are promoting this kind of fruitless and exclusionary distortion of Jesus, and as long as they continue to drive Image Bearers away from the arms of Christ, as much as I don’t want to…I’m going to care about what they say. And I’m not going to shut up about it.

LGBTQ folks, 
You are loved by God.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. 
You are worthy of wholeness and happiness. 
You belong here. You are not a burden. 
I’m so glad you’re part of my family. 
 

How To Be Part of the Problem: An Instruction Manual for my Fellow White Queers

Alternatively titled: A Grassroots Guide to Making Sure that Nothing Gets Better and The LGBTQ Community Loses All Credibility as a Social Movement as Well as its Humanity


Witness a tragedy of white supremacy. Tweet a few times. Believe that you have done your part.

Ease your white guilt by reminding yourself that you are also oppressed! Do whatever mental gymnastics you have to do in order for that to somehow make you feel better.

Let go of all the standards you have for straight allies. If you don’t, you’ll have to hold yourself to those standards as well. Try to forget about what it was like after Orlando. Repress the pain of silent loved ones. Forget about the sickening rage you felt so deeply within yourself when politicians and pastors refused to utter the words “hate crime” or “homophobia.” Don’t think about how devastating it was when you realized that some people were completely unaffected by an event that left you sobbing on your bedroom floor and scared to face the world. Do not empathize.

Or, if you can’t make yourself forget, then focus that pain in a different direction. Assume that your trauma and your minority status mean that you understand the PoC experience perfectly. Draw every parallel you can and forgo nuance. You already get it. And if you already get it, then you have no reason to actually listen to people of color. Don’t bother listening.

Let people know that you are sad and angry about white supremacy. Be sad about Charlottesville. Be sad about Charleston. Be sad about Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Kendra James, Freddie Gray, Darnisha Harris, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Shereese Francis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson, Trayvon Martin, Malissa Williams, Alberta Spruill, Eric Harris, Alesia Thomas, Rumain Brisbon, Yvette Smith, Tarika Wilson, Darrien Hunt, Ezell Ford, Dontre Hamilton, Shelly Frey, Shantel Davis, Bernard Bailey, Miriam Carey, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Kathryn Johnston, Aura Rosser, and Sandra Bland.

However, remember to prioritize self-care! Tell yourself that you simply do not have time to worry about every single issue.

IMPORTANT: Pretend that white supremacy and LGBT oppression are two separate issues.

Pretend that the modern gay rights movement was not started by trans women of color. Pretend that our community would still exist if it weren’t for our black brothers and sisters. Pretend that “gay culture” is yours. Pretend that we were borne out of “unity” and “kindness” and a respect for “all sides,” and not out of bloody riots in rebellion against police brutality.

After you’ve decided that you don’t have time to care about racial justice, don’t let that stop you from using AAVE and borrowing black culture when you go to the club with your white friends. Have a great time.

Have such a great time and be so in love with the queer community that you can’t see any of its faults. Preach the gospel of queer inclusivity. Remember how welcomed and celebrated your fellow gays made you feel right after you came out. Assume that every gay person feels this way. Do not talk about racism. Do not make anyone uncomfortable. Do not entertain the idea that white supremacy still exists within the LGBT community.

Do not entertain the idea that white supremacy still exists within you.

Wait until there is a tragedy of white supremacy.

 

Let’s Talk About Lifestyles

Sometimes internet strangers tell me that they don’t support my “lifestyle.” This is always a bit confusing to me, because while I’ll admit that my lifestyle isn’t the most exciting one in the world, it seems pretty agreeable.

I usually wake up around six in the morning. I try to listen to a podcast before I go to work or class. If it’s a Saturday, I take a walk to the farmers market to buy ingredients to cook dinner. If it’s a Sunday, I go to church and then I take a nap on the couch when I get home.

I drink a latte every day with two extra espresso shots and a honey drizzle on top. I have a couple of tattoos and piercings. I dyed my hair purple one time and that was cool. I take a multivitamin. I don’t eat meat. My favorite La Croix is the orange one and I have a weakness for bagels. Sometimes I go on runs, but I prefer bike rides.

I’m a student, and during the school year I spend most of my spare time in the library. I study. I read. I write. I watch a lot of Netflix. I try to keep my evenings free so I can spend time with my friends. Sometimes we go out for food and drinks. We really like road trips. Sometimes we go dancing, but usually we just stay in and watch movies.

My lifestyle has some faults. I spend too much time on my phone and too much money on my clothes. I don’t eat as healthily as I’d like to. Sometimes I stay up later than I should and then I’m grumpy the next day. I care too much about my hair. Sometimes I let my dishes pile up and leave my dirty clothes on the floor.

But the people who tell me that they don’t support my lifestyle don’t know any of these things. They never email me about my caffeine habit or my nose piercing. They’re never calling me out for buying another pair of shoes that I don’t need or for forgetting to clean my room. They just know that I’m gay.

I think the word “lifestyle” makes a lot of folks within the LGBTQ community cringe. Whether or not there is ill-intent behind the use of the word, its connotations are incredibly objectifying, and it carries with it a whole host of frustrating assumptions. Because here’s the thing…if we’re being honest, “lifestyle” is really just a thinly veiled euphemism for gay sex. When I get a message from an internet stranger who is concerned about my lifestyle, what I hear is this:

“Hi. I see that you’re gay. I am assuming that you’re having tons of gay sex. Maybe even with a bunch of strangers, because I’ve heard that that’s what gay people do. I have put a lot of thought into your sex life, and I want you to know that I do not approve of all the gay sex I think you’re having.”

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I’m not sure what else they would be so concerned about. The sex is the supposedly “sinful” part, right? I mean, a lot of us grew up hearing that that we could still be fully accepted by the Church and by God as long as we stay celibate. Some of us have been taught that it’s not a sin to be attracted to people of the same gender, it’s only a sin to act on it. But a lot of Christians who teach that kind of theology do not treat LGBTQ people as if they actually believe it. The reality is that if you are a person who cannot pass for straight, or if you decide to be openly queer, there will always be Christians who automatically assume that you are living in sin. We are so often told that we need to stop identifying ourselves by our sexuality, but straight Christians seem to be the ones who make the conversation all about sex.

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What y’all think my gay lifestyle is vs. what it actually is


Here’s where the miscommunication happens, and also what straight people really need to understand: A person’s queer identity is in no way dependent upon their actions. In the same way that a straight person is straight even when they are single or celibate, a gay person is gay even if they’ve never so much as kissed another person. This is not to say that physicality doesn’t matter. But identity runs so much deeper.

Reducing the LGBTQ community to what we do or do not do in the bedroom is not only gross and dehumanizing, it erases all the beautiful and fascinating facets of queer culture that have made the world a better place. It ignores the empathy, sensitivity to injustice, and heightened compassion so many queer folks have. It ignores our abilities to overcome hardship and to love in the face of opposition. It ignores all the creative ways in which we surpass binaries and challenge the status quo. It looks past our contributions to art, music, fashion, theater, and literature. It overlooks our rich history of civil rights activism. The word “lifestyle” does to gay people exactly what it accuses gay people of doing: objectifying and oversexualizing human beings made in the Image of God.

Straight friends, for the sake of intelligent, effective, and dignifying conversation, let’s go ahead and remove “lifestyle” from this particular lexicon. And let’s all agree to stop putting so much thought into strangers’ sex lives. Because, like… gross, you guys. Come on.

Queer Joy, Saint Francis, and Skipping Church

I want to write about joy. I want it to be profound and eloquent and make us all feel better.

I also wanted to skip church yesterday, but apparently I can’t figure out how to do either.

I wanted to skip church because I was tired and frustrated and angry. I’ve been angry for the past couple weeks. I’ve been angry at homophobic blog comments. I’ve been angry at the dude who rolled down his car window as he drove by just to call me a dyke. I’ve been angry at myself for letting that Eugene Peterson interview make me feel better. I’ve been angry at myself for being surprised and hurt when he took it all back. I’ve been angry about all the chances I’ve given Evangelicals, all the grace I’ve shown, and all the bitterness I’ve still managed to feel. I’ve been angry at myself for being angry.

So I thought that one Sunday off might do me some good. Because, guys…I don’t want to be angry at anyone anymore. I want to sleep in and I want to write about joy. But I don’t know how…

It has become a running joke among some of my friends to justify ridiculous life choices with the phrase “Queer joy is resistance.” It doesn’t matter if I’m getting Chipotle for the third time in one week, sticking birthday candles in my pancakes, drinking a La Croix in the shower, or ditching class for a Tuesday road trip to Chicago. The personal is political. Queer joy is resistance. Let me live.

Although I’m usually just making fun of misguided activism and my own propensity for hi-jinks, I’ve been using this phrase a little more earnestly as of late. Joy hasn’t felt natural. Joy has been an active and difficult series of decisions. And in a society where queer people are still expected to hate themselves, there’s something to the idea that being publicly, unapologetically gay and happy is kind of a radical thing to do. So last week I took lots of walks. I bought myself flowers. I went to a drag show. I took more selfies than usual. I danced to Beyoncé in my apartment. I ate a really good donut. Because queer joy is resistance. It really probably is, I think.

But damn. Is joy supposed to be this exhausting? Because as much as I love the idea of resisting, I’m getting a little tired of my “joy” being a giant middle finger. I don’t want to be joyful just because society tells me not to be. I don’t want to baptize my rage in glitter and call it happiness. But sometimes that’s what we do. Sometimes queer anger and queer joy look a lot alike. Sometimes we burn our anger like gasoline and then dance around the fire. It’s good and it’s important and it’s beautiful. But I don’t think I can do it forever.

I wanted to skip church yesterday. I wanted to once again sarcastically claim my queer joy by sleeping in and eating waffles. But I couldn’t sleep in, and I ran out of waffles, and yeah, ok God,  I also really needed to go to church.

During liturgy, I sat next to a stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi, and I remembered his prayer that I prayed every day last summer as a closeted evangelical camp counselor…

Lord, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

I prayed the prayer again. I thought about some of my blog comments. I thought about the guy who yelled at me from his car. I thought about Eugene Peterson and the people who share his “biblical views of everything.” I thought about queer joy and wondered where on earth it was supposed to come from. I repented of the belief that it comes from people like Eugene Peterson.

Sure, queer joy is resistance. But I don’t know if it can exist without queer love, queer peace, queer patience, queer kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

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15 LGBT Christians on What Being Queer Has Taught Them About Faith

I recently started reading an excellent book by the Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman, who is an Episcopal priest, political strategist, and super awesome lesbian. The book, titled “Queer Virtue,” goes beyond the question of whether or not homosexuality is Biblically permissible, and celebrates the inherent queerness of spirituality and Christian ethics. She argues that a queer identity is not only “ok,” but can enrich one’s understanding of the Divine and should be acknowledged as a unique expression of God’s love and creativity. Y’all. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve been snapping and amen-ing throughout the whole thing. Like, the other people in this coffee shop are starting to stare.

It’s so easy (and so understandable) to get caught up in the hardship of being an LGBT person of faith. There’s plenty to be angry about and plenty to mourn. The Church has a lot of work to do, the progress is slow, and none of it is easy. But WOW, GUYS, there is so much beauty!  This book has been an awesome reminder of just how beautiful faith can be, and how being a member of the LGBT community can serve as an incredible lens though which one experiences God.

In an effort to process the ways that my own faith and queerness interact, I decided to ask a bunch of my #faithfullyLGBT friends what being queer has taught them about their walk with Christ. These are their responses, and they’ve got me feeling some type of way…


“Being queer has taught me that the image of God is in everything and everyone if you have eyes to see it. I’ve learned that God is beyond gender and yet still encompassing of gender, beyond race and yet encompassing all race… Basically that God is much more of a mystery than I ever thought.” –Kevin Garcia (@theKevinGarcia)


“Being out and Christian has taught me the beauty of love and grace. I have learned true and unconditional acceptance. Not works based, but love based.” –@IAmCindyT1 


“One of the first things that coming out as gay has taught me is how I define my faith, and what I believe is the basis of our faith that Christ laid out for us. I run into so many people who don’t understand how you could be a practicing gay and a Christian, as they see it as contradictory. I’ve learned quite a bit about my view of God when trying to lay out for others and myself how I believe I can be both. I’ve basically had to remind myself that the basis of my faith is that God is love. I temporarily dismissed all my jumbled thoughts about Christianity and started over again at that foundation.” -Ilsabet Fouch


“The process of figuring out my queerness has required me to give myself a lot of grace, and I’m learning to do the same thing in regards to faith. Being patient with myself has been super important in my journey as a Christian queer person.” -Anonymous


“Being gay and coming out is an act of radical love. Love that is stronger than the demands of society or social stigma. Love that would rather be with its beloved than receive approval from family or culture or religion. Love that will literally turn its back on everyone and everything else. I like to think God loves me at least this much. That the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus was God’s coming out. An act of radical love that said he would rather be with us than anything else.” –Kyle Tyson 


“[Being bisexual] has taught me that showing love truly is the most important aspect of living out my faith. Essentially redefined love to a more unconditional, honest, and accepting love. Learning to practice that love on others has been extremely difficult, but so so rewarding.” -Anonymous


“Even if I’m ‘wrong,’ I’d always rather err on the side of Love. And according to Jesus (and Paul), when I do that- it’s never ‘wrong.'” –Laura Jean Truman (@LauraJeanTruman)


“When it says we’re ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ it still applies to queerfolk. Took forever to finally accept that being queer wasn’t a mistake or punishment on God’s part, but it was intentional. My batch just got more glitter, hips, and sass. It also taught me a bit about the whole, ‘we have a great high priest who is able to empathize…’ I know the verse is about temptation and not sinning, but I think it also has something to say about empathy within the trinity. It taught me that the Holy Spirit gets us, she knows the feels we’re wrestling with and translates our groans and moans and sobs and cries into an ever beautiful narrative of hope and peace and strength. Finally, being queerfully and wonderfully made has taught me about welcoming the outsider, the stranger, and the alien among us. It wasn’t until I experienced rejection, condemnation, and hate that I was able to see how often and how easy it is to cast those judgments on others. But Jesus hung out with hookers and con artists and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a handful of LGBT+ hanging around him…and all the while he loved and accepted and ate with them! He said, ‘come and walk with me and let me hear your story.’ Jesus’ whole, ‘father forgive them for they know not what they do’ was so much stronger because he heard the stories of the guilty, the ostracized, the abused, and he took the time to walk alongside of them and then to walk in their shoes–became one of them. If Jesus took the time to walk along the outsider, what a challenge it is to me to take up that charge and walk with someone else.” -Hannah


“Being gay has taught me that there is beauty in suffering and persevering in the face of pain, but there is even more beauty in arriving to a place of peace and joy after the suffering.” -Anonymous


“Looking at my choice to embrace my sexuality from the viewpoint of younger ‘pray away the gay’ me, that choice represents embracing everything that I believed was sinful and perverse. It has not been easy to disengage with that habitual thinking. But it has brought me to a place of resting on the largeness of the grace of Jesus. It has brought me to a place of relying on believing that the grace of Jesus is large enough to encompass this turmoil that I feel and speak into it. When my mind is full of condemnation, the grace of Jesus is the voice that speaks stillness and assurance.” -Franklyn Harrison


“Being queer has taught me that human categories and concepts cannot do justice to the beautiful complexity and mystery of God’s creation.” –William Stell 


“It’s taught me how easily even the most sweet and well-intentioned people can turn you into a divisive issue instead of a person. Adhering to a biblical statement that most people barely understand the context or significance of and using the adherence to that rule as a status indicator of their faith instead of their relationship with God and with marginalized people is horrifically common…But it also taught me some nuances of God’s love and character that I hadn’t felt or looked at before. I was scared He would be disappointed in me, but I learned to listen to His voice about it and got reassurance that He still wanted me to do His work. It made me challenge norms of Christianity and gender roles in general, and brought me a bunch of awesome people devoted to doing the same.” -Tessa Diaz


“Being a queer person of faith has moved me to listen to and learn from the voices of other people who are marginalized in ways that I am not. I cannot claim that Jesus is in solidarity with me in my oppression, while standing idly by as others are oppressed in ways that I am privileged. Being queer has awakened me to Jesus’ heartbeat of justice.” –Rachel C. 


“Being queer has taught me that, God bless, the Gospel is good news for everyone. Growing up, I couldn’t understand why the Gospel was taught to be an exclusive form of grace that was only bestowed upon certain people. Realizing I was queer messed me up in terms of faith, but ultimately it has shown me that God’s love is big enough to include all of us. It has also taught me that Jesus has ultimate grace that allowed me to step away from my faith and sometimes still step away to breathe through the trauma of what I have had to unlearn. It’s taught me to let go of fear and fully embrace myself for who I am because I am able to embrace God as the creator who made me this way, and that’s enough to get me through the hard days.” -Anonymous


“I learned God isn’t the one shaming and rejecting those who don’t fit the mold. He’s the one loving and comforting those hurt by the Church.” –Matthew Parker


YAS. AMEN. GOD BLESS. GOOD NEWS, INDEED.

I can’t speak for every LGBT Christian, but for a lot of us, arriving at these truths has been a long and difficult process. There can be a lot of harmful teachings and internalized hatred to overcome before you can fully embrace God’s profound love and inclusion. And that’s ok. If you’re in the questioning or coming out process and these things are hard for you to believe right now…that’s ok. God’s love for you is not dependent on your level of faith or your ability to love yourself.

But please know, friends, that God does not love you despite your queerness. Rather, you are a beautiful expression of God’s endless creativity. You are made in God’s wonderfully queer image. You have a faith that you’ve had to fight for and a capacity to love that not everyone can comprehend. Your existence is bravery. Your love is radical. And until you can believe that for yourself, there is a community of folks who are more than happy to remind you of your worth, and there is a God who is proud to call you their child.

There is a seat for you at Christ’s table, my friend. And GUESS WHAT? We’re having brunch.

I Can’t Be Your Gay Friend

Dear Non-Affirming Christian,

I have reviewed your offer and the attached job description, and after careful consideration I regret to inform you that I will not be accepting the position of “Gay Friend.”

It was tempting at first, mostly because the alternatives seemed so lonely. And I’ll be honest, you almost won me over with the promise of paying for coffee when we sit down so you can “hear my story.” However, I have some concerns.

First of all, the job description states that you will be name-dropping me in all conversations pertaining to “the issue of homosexuality” from this point forward. I assume you’re referring to the conversations you have with your real friends, when you muse about the world and your faith and the ways the two interact. I’m sure these conversations sometimes turn into debates, especially since your non-affirming position is so quickly losing popularity. That’s where I come in, right? If you mention that you have a “gay friend,” then no one could possibly consider you a bigot. I’m the living proof that we can disagree on divisive issues and still get along, correct? As if the coffee we share could be listed among your credentials and our perceived friendship somehow makes you more qualified to condemn…

But here’s the problem, Non-Affirming Christian: you’re still thinking of me as a divisive issue. Can you understand why that hurts me? Can you understand that I do not want to be used as a mascot for your theology? Your theology puts kids on the street. Your theology tears families apart. Your theology killed Zack Harrington. It killed Leelah Alcorn. Your theology is a murderer, even when it’s wearing a smiling face and skinny jeans. You can try to justify it next time you and your friends get into one of these debates, but please…I beg of you, not in my name.

Forgive me for my bitterness. If I’m being honest, I’m actually a bit jealous that you can have such inconsequential debates. You can argue about homosexuality and then forget about the conversation 10 minutes later. You can arrive at any conclusion you’d like and it will have no effect on your life. I can’t do that. Every time I’m asked to speak on the subject I am making an appeal on behalf of my existence. When I share my opinion, I am sharing a sacred part of my identity that I know could be rejected. We are not having the same conversation. That’s not your fault, but I think you forget about it sometimes.

This job description you wrote also insists that we both “agree to love each other despite our disagreements.” God, that sounds great. It really does. And I am trying so hard to figure out how we might make it work. Non-Affirming Christian, I believe that you think you love me. And I know that I try to love you. But the problem is that one of us has a lot more to lose than the other.

And I’m so scared that you think it’s you.

I’m afraid that after we finish our coffee, you’re going to go home and pat yourself on the back for adequately loving the “least of these.” After all, Jesus also spent time with prostitutes and tax-collectors! Isn’t it somewhere in the Bible that we should love the sinner and hate the sin? And we all know that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

So, doctor, am I your friend? Or am I fulfilling your monthly leper quota?

If we’re going to make this friendship happen, Non-Affirming Christian, I have some work to do first. I’m going to have to pray for the grace to love someone who will never fully accept all of who I am. I am going to have to learn how to love unconditionally and without any expectation of support in return. I am going to have to forgive you for your unrepentant wielding of a belief system that has systematically oppressed my community for centuries. That is excruciating love. That is tremendous grace. For a gay person to love a non-affirming friend is astonishingly Christ-like.

I don’t know if I’m qualified for this position. I’m getting there. I feel closer to Jesus than I ever have before, and he’s teaching me a whole lot about grace and love. But listen, I am just so exhausted. And until I can learn how to give you grace, I need to be gentle with myself. I need to learn to love the person I was created to be before I can fully love a person who tells me otherwise.

Non-Affirming Christian, I don’t think you realize what you’re asking of me when you ask me to be your “Gay Friend.” But I’m trying to forgive you for that. In the meantime, I will walk alongside you and I will pray for you and I will ask God for the will to search for some kind of unity. And perhaps one day we can meet for coffee. I’ll pay this time. And maybe then we can renegotiate the offer.