I am truly grateful for the great feedback that I received from my last post. I’m still waiting, but as of the moment, I haven’t heard any negative comments. That being said, I have to say that I wish everyone in the LGBT community had it as easy as me. While at the Proclaim! retreat, I heard some pretty scary things that others experienced. My life has been great, and I realize that it is because of those who have come before me. There were others who were beaten, ridiculed, put down, what have you.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my experiences at the retreat and what I’ve learned/recognized since then. First things first,
- Marginalization is everywhere! -There are so many ways that people get marginalized in society, and many people don’t see it. Take the Wartburg Community, for instance. We’re a pretty tight group, and we do a lot to invite others into our personal circle of friends. But, even in my class, there are people who don’t always get included. Take facebook, for instance. Our class has a Facebook group that was set up for those of us that have facebook so we could get to know one another before coming to seminary. Since getting on campus, we have continued to use that group. It’s really easy to share the ups and downs of life, plan events, and learn about one another. The only problem with that is that not everyone in our class is on facebook. It’s really easy to post something on there and forget these individuals. The gay community isn’t the only marginalized group. In fact, during our retreat we spoke quite a bit about other marginialized groups an what we could do. Bishop Gene Robinson and others at the retreat emphasized the fact that the reason ethnic minorities weren’t attending “gay” events is that we aren’t attending theirs and helping their causes.
- Stereotypes abound! -I am amazed at how many people, including those who are totally cool with the LGBT community, believe all or some of the stereotypes associated with being LGBT. I think of my neighbor from back home, who is a very sweet, christian, hard-working woman. I think she first heard me talking about being gay at work at Festival. She didn’t believe me then, and she still refuses to believe it. One day I just came out an asked her why she would believe that I was gay. I totally wasn’t expecting what came next. She ticked off more than twenty reasons for why I couldn’t be gay: I didn’t have a lisp, I didn’t sing all the time, I wasn’t in theatre, I wasn’t an artist, I didn’t do drugs, I was christian, I was fat (that one hurt), I was in college, I had a steady job, I didn’t wear pink, I didn’t dye my hair funky colors, I didn’t talk with my hands all the time, I didn’t flip my wrist, I didn’t use phrases like “oh honey,” I wasn’t promiscuous, I was nice to my family… The list kept going on… Now, I realize that most people aren’t that close-minded, but I’ve heard some comments from people that have surprised me. In fact my mother, who I’ve always considered to be a pretty down to earth person, confessed to me shortly after I came out to her (for the second time) that she was just afraid that I would get AIDS and die. Bless her heart, I realize that every parent probably worries about their children dying from a multitude of different reasons, but there’s still the stereotype that everyone with HIV/AIDS is gay and vice-versa.
- Hiding who I am was preventing me from being/doing more -Whenever the pastors asked me to share my call story, I felt an internal cringe. being gay has influenced my relationship with God more than anyone could know. For one, I told everyone that I fell away from the church, but I never shared why. I can still remember it to this day. I had been invited to be a part of a bible study group at the church. An Adult Bible Study. The first couple of groups were great. But then during one day a member made the comment that “gay people are living lives of sin, and if we permit them to continue living such sinful lives, we are taking that sin upon ourselves.” There were a lot of head nods and affirming comments. I disagreed with her and used the old “some of my friends are gay and say…” way to express my feelings. It felt like my comments were immediately dismissed. I looked at my parents (who knew my orientation) and they looked back at me, looked at one another, and then looked away. I felt completely alone in that moment. So I left. I left the church, my faith, and my belief in a God that would love me no matter what. It took me a long time to come to terms with who I was. I realized that God wouldn’t have made me this way just to torment me. There must be a reason behind it. I knew in my heart God still loved me and always had. It wasn’t God, but some people who rejected me. And they didn’t even realize it. Being able to tell that story to others has helped me to strengthen my faith as well as help others. After the retreat, I felt more comfortable sharing that story with others, or even just sharing the fact that I’m gay. And you know what? People that spoke to me were so happy! They thought it was amazing that there were gay pastors, seminarians and others in different ministerial roles. Even more so, they were overjoyed at the fact that we were able to be honest about who we were.
- People from all walks of life need to hear the Gospel Message -This fits in well with the previous point. I think all too often the message is given in such a way that it either does one of two extremes. Either it is portrayed as so specific that only a few people qualify to be included, or it’s generalized so much that it loses it’s ability to hold any major influence in our lives. I have heard it both ways. The first makes it seem like a special society–and either I’m not invited, or my friends, family, co-workers, etc. would be excluded. The latter view ends up seeming like Christianity is a sort of hobby. Something you do when it suits you, that you can put on and take off. The truth is, God isn’t a necklace. It’s finding that place in the middle that is difficult. Making people realize that Jesus died for them and for others is much harder, but essential.
I’m sure there are a million other things that I could add here, but I really need to get back to that Sermon due Monday and Systematics paper that’s due Tuesday. I hope you all have a great weekend, and don’t be afraid to comment. I don’t bite!