I’ve not commented on the issue of the legalization of gay marriage here on Facebook, for several reasons. But lately I’ve been nagged by the thought that if I don’t share my perspective, no one else will do it for me.
In a World…
There is a film (currently released on a small scale) set in the behind-the-scenes sphere of movie trailer voice-overs. That title, and the familiar opening line, started me thinking about the various worlds I’ve lived in during my rather brief spin around the Milky Way. If there was a trailer of my life, you’d see that I’ve gone from a world of feeling like an outcast, at least in this one area of sexuality, to a different world that has made some great strides, yet has still left me with a sense of being written off as a non-entity in our culture.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with stories of people with same-sex attractions feeling isolated, afraid, and confused as they were growing up, and my life has not been an exception. I was guarded in the public school system, not wanting anyone to know for fear of ridicule or worse. I had friends who asked me a hinted question from time to time, but I quickly dove into the sea of denial that was my main refuge. With my mom, I was afraid that if she found out she’d take me to a psychologist who would have me stare at inkblots, force me to answer questions I was not comfortable with, or worse –I’d heard the rumors about electric shock “therapy” that just seemed macabre. (Dad lived elsewhere, and I was confident in my ability to hide this part of my life from him.) And in the church – well, they never mentioned the subject at all, which was better than the abusiveness I’ve since learned was often heard by others. Yet not hearing anything from the pulpit about homosexuality left me wondering if my faith was genuine, or if I was somehow disqualified from following Christ, because this issue seemed to be completely off the table.
That world of fright, with the efforts and energy it took to hide, is not one I would wish on anyone else. And I got off easy. I know that, and I’m thankful.
But this is a different world– one in which you hear homosexuality spoken of all the time. One in which there is great effort being put into teaching kids not to bully someone who is different than the masses, in which people celebrate celebrities who speak out about their same-sex attractions, and anticipate the day when the next active athlete in one of the premier sports will do the same. It is a safer world than the one I grew up in, and I’m very glad about that. Of course there is quite a way to go, but there is a tremendous difference in the atmosphere compared to even a few years ago – not to mention the decades since my youth.
And, although I am thankful for the ability to speak openly about same-sex attraction, and the increased sensitivity regarding safety, it’s still not a world in which I’m quite at home.* I wonder what it would be like to grow up in this environment – trading the fear of being “outed” in school, for the pressure to conform to a new normative ideal that still continues to conflict against my faith. Are the kids who are like me still making huge efforts to hide? Are they having to wrestle not only with deeply personal questions of their faith and sexuality, but also having to fight against a well-meaning culture that fears that the concept of seeking change in one’s orientation is a dangerous undertaking?
As I’ve mentioned before,** I am very fortunate to have found a safe and sane place to talk about my attractions and to think through questions about what I wanted to do with those feelings and what it all meant in light of the pursuit of a deeper relationship with Jesus, at Harvest USA in Philadelphia. Harvest USA is about to celebrate their 30th anniversary next month. I’m very grateful for their approach, the fact that they didn’t charge me a dime while I was there (I couldn’t have afforded a charge at the time anyway), their consistency and commitment to excellence in the work they do.
I am compelled – with a sense of responsibility, if you will – to do what I can to provide the opportunity for others who are like me to have a place to go, people to talk to, a chance to work things through, to learn and to grow. Of course, some people will choose to walk away in a different direction. (There were those who did that to Jesus in person, how much more so when we’re following a God we cannot see?) Yet some people will choose to walk in much the same direction I’ve been heading. It’s not impossible, it’s not always easy, but it’s always been worth it.
(More to come in parts 2 & 3.)
*Part of that is because ultimately, it’s not. There is another place – another home where we all have the opportunity to spend a lot more time in after our brief lives here, and this world will never live up to that.
** See prior post.