This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

saltimages

The title of this post is a bit misleading – it actually should read more along the lines of “This is why we cannot have meaningful relationships and conversations.”

Earlier this week, singer Kim Burrell in a video, predicted that homosexuality and those “who play with it in God’s house will die in 2017.” She also spoke about “the perverted homosexual spirit” in her sermon. (She has since stated that her comments were taken out of the context of her message, and that she holds no hatred for gays or lesbians.) The comments made in her original video came to the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who cancelled Kim Burrell’s upcoming scheduled appearance on her show.

And I don’t blame her (DeGeneres) for taking that step.

Once again, someone who is a follower of Christ was found to take homosexuality out of the greater context of Scripture and twist it into a something unrecognizable. Predicting the death of anyone in this or any other year is beyond the pay grade of any disciple of Jesus.

I believe that there are several reasons behind this type of thinking:

  1. Bad teaching.
  2. Resentment
  3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church

Let’s take a closer look at these…

1. Bad Teaching

At this point in the history of the church, there really is no excuse for this. There are more resources available than there have ever been. (You can find a list of some of them under the “Resources” tab of this blog.) For Kim Burrell to have said these things, it seems that she has spent little time in understanding how homosexuality is addressed in Scripture, and how God works in the lives of those who have experienced same-sex attractions, or any other sin for that matter.

Singer and songwriter Keith Green once said, “This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!” We have a responsibility to learn about the issues our culture is concerned with today in order to reach the souls of those around us with the Gospel.

2. Resentment

Sometimes it seems as though Christians speak out recklessly in regards to homosexuality in particular because of a resentment of the wider cultural acceptance of those who identify as gay or lesbian. It is as if lashing out with words you would never hear applied to any other sin is done in a terribly misguided effort to take back ground in some way.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I’m thankful that people are able to be more open about their same-sex attractions in our culture – I don’t want to go back to where we were. It is good for people to be able to walk down the street without being afraid of getting beat up. It’s good for people to be able to go about their days at work or running errands on eating meals with friends without harassment. It was not a good thing to treat homosexuality as a cultural taboo.

Christians always walk in two worlds – we live here on earth as citizens of another Kingdom. It makes no sense to waste time railing against our status as expatriates. This world is not our home, and we have the privilege of showing those around us what it is like to live a life of freedom and love in Christ. When others see His love in us, they will want to join in the call to know and glorify God.

3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6

Kim Burrell lost her opportunity to meet Ellen DeGeneres, to appear on her show, and to have any kind of conversation or build any kind of relationship with her because she chose to pick out homosexuality as a sin deserving some kind of special punishment from God. Her theology was wrong, and it will take some time and effort to ever have that kind of opportunity come her way again (if ever.)

Without discussions about sexuality – whether about homosexuality or heterosexuality – within the church, room is created for bad teaching and resentment to build, instead of wisdom and contentment in Christ. Too often people are afraid to bring up the subject in a Sunday School class or Bible study, and their conversations end up being seasoned with flamethrowers instead of salt.

Salt is known to be one of the basic human tastes. (The others are sweet, bitter, sour and savory.) According to Wikipedia:

“As taste senses both harmful and beneficial things, all basic tastes are classified as either aversive or appetitive, depending upon the effect the things they sense have on our bodies. Sweetness helps to identify energy-rich foods, while bitterness serves as a warning sign of poisons.

According to Lindemann, both salt and sour taste mechanisms detect, in different ways, the presence of sodium chloride (salt) in the mouth, however, acids are also detected and perceived as sour.

The detection of salt is important to many organisms, but specifically mammals, as it serves a critical role in ion and water homeostasis in the body. Because of this, salt elicits a pleasant taste in most humans.

Sour and salt tastes can be pleasant in small quantities, but in larger quantities become more and more unpleasant to taste.”*

I’ve made the mistake of adding too much salt in recipes, and the results were inedible. When we fail to use wisdom and discernment in our conversations, we make relationships with people who don’t know Jesus unpalatable. (Now, of course, we know that some people may find the message of the Gospel hard to digest – but that is not what is happening in this example with Kim Burrell.) We need to spend time learning within our fellowship groups how to address questions surrounding sexuality in a Biblically sound and compassionate way. I believe that Kim’s words would have been different if she had spoken to other mature Christians first.

Here are some suggestions:

Invest some time in learning more about what the Lord has to say about our sexuality in general, as well as about homosexuality. (Again some excellent resources are listed on the Resources tab of this blog.)

Spend some time listening to those who have experienced same-sex attractions. Ask questions just to gain insight into the perspective of other people.

Find other Christians who are interested in learning more about how to reach out to people around them who are involved in the LGBT community, and talk about your concerns and questions. Invite someone to come speak to your small group on the topic, and ask your church staff for more teaching to be made available so you can ask your questions within the Body of Christ.

There are ways to speak about sexuality without alienating people – and those conversations are best when they are earned. We need to be involved in serving everyone around us, and being ready to give thoughtful (not bland), graceful answers when opportunities do arise. Here is one example that I thought was very good – you may recall that there was an article raising a controversy about Chip and Joanna Gaines late last year, where it was noted that they attend a church in which the pastor has addressed homosexuality as a sin. Just this week, Chip has posted the following response on his blog…it is well worth taking your time to read:

https://magnoliamarket.com/chips-new-years-revelation/

Instead of decrying the state of being attacked and misunderstood, Chip Gaines has asked us all to raise the level of the conversation. He asks us to be considerate of one another and give one another breathing room. It is possible to lovingly disagree and work alongside each other in a community. Let us look for opportunities to do that in this new year.

 

 

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste#Basic_tastes

Gender Identity, II

I’ve been working on this series of posts for months, but I’ve also been very hesitant to write about this topic. Primarily because, as I mentioned in the last post, it is so easy to look at a person and think that addressing things that can be seen on the outside will lead to changes on the inside. In reality, that is rarely the case. I don’t want to leave the impression that becoming more feminine would lead to experiencing changes in one’s sexual orientation. And I seriously do not wish my own explorations in gender identity to be misinterpreted as some type of definitive standard.

But earlier this week I read this, and it reinforced how important it is for me to at least try to write about this subject, even if I’m not able to be perfectly articulate about it:

http://www.wset.com/story/25061872/little-girl-taken-out-of-christian-school-after-told-shes-too-much-like-a-boy#.UzFYnqKZ3wI.facebook

This poor kid – this could easily be me. (Especially as she’s wearing a Steeler’s shirt – my favorite team!) She’s only eight years old, and doesn’t think of herself as being a boy, according to the interview recorded along with this article. I really can’t see a reason to make a fuss. And it comes across, once again, as though all Christians take a knee-jerk approach to these issues.

In my case, it wasn’t a Christian school that tried to change my appearance, it was my mom. She did not understand my tomboyishness and couldn’t identify with it at all. When she was growing up, she loved dresses and high-gloss shoes with buckles and wore lace gloves to church on Sunday mornings with enjoyment. Those things felt terrible on me. But any kind of boyishness in my appearance was a terrible embarrassment to my mother. I remember when she was introducing my brother and I to someone and said, “This is my son, R___, and my feminine daughter, Debra.” While saying this she stood behind me and had her hands on my shoulders, rather close to my neck, and shook me a bit for emphasis. I got the message.

I would much prefer to speak to people in person about gender identity, as I don’t want anyone else to feel that kind of pressure and discomfort and lack of acceptance that I grew up with. As you are reading, please don’t look for the key(s) to unlock every door that blocks the way for every person who identifies as gay/lesbian/ etc., or who is expressing their gender identity in non-conventional ways. Although I went through changes in my gender identity, I don’t see myself as someone who has achieved some kind of “feminine ideal.” I don’t think that there is one. And frankly, some of what passes for idealistically feminine in our culture today just isn’t healthy.

Instead, as you read I hope that you will be encouraged that this same God who showed His faithful love to me in specific ways through the years also knows and loves each of you and those you know very deeply and intimately. I pray that you will seek Jesus on your own and spend time with Him. He will help you to grow into the wonderful, unique aspect of Christ-likeness that you have been created to reflect.

What is Gender Identity?

Our gender identity is so very subjective. It is culturally dependent – differing due to what country / tribe you are a part of at the time. And it’s time-dependent – different ages hold different styles and ideals in vogue. What was considered really hot back in the day tends to look rather ridiculous now.

It took a long time for me to sort through the complex threads of my identity as a female. I didn’t want to conform to a cultural ideal – either of the secular world or the Christian sub-culture – just for the sake of blending in. I wanted to learn if the Lord wanted me to make any changes at all, or if He would be happy with me just as I was. And if there was a prodding to make changes, I wanted them to come from the inside out – to still feel like “me,” and not feel fake, as though I was dressing up in a costume.

And, as with my sexual orientation, sometimes the church and fellow believers were very helpful, other times not at all. And sometimes I just sabotaged the heck out of myself along the way. But I came to a place of contentment, (where I happen to still be quite tomboyish), with the sure foundation of what it meant to be “God’s woman.” Not forcing myself into current cultural or Christian sub-cultural trends, but an authentic expression of what it means to be a woman in God’s eyes.

For the follower of Christ, the bigger question is, “What does the Lord tell us about what it means to be a woman in His Word?” Let’s spend some time thinking about that…

Your Hair is Like a Flock of Goats

How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.

Song of Solomon 4 :1-2

Oh, how I love these verses! It seems as though this was a compliment, back in the day…which absolutely cracks me up. Several things in the Song of Solomon do translate well through the gaps of culture and time, but this isn’t one of them. I love animals, but the beauty of a flock of goats descending a mountain does not work as a flattering remark when I’m heading out for fun day.

So this passage reminds me to not shoot for the nanny goat look when styling my hair in the morning as some kind of benchmark of how the Lord wishes me to appear to the world at large. We need to remember to read the Scriptures as literature – taking the metaphors metaphorically, the literal parts literally, etc.

Holy Femininity

Seriously, then, what does the Lord have to say about what it means to be feminine in His eyes? (Which are the ones that count.)

This is not a comprehensive synopsis, but I found these truths to be very helpful when I was looking at what it meant to be feminine from the Lord’s perspective:

  1. Taking a Spiritual / Kingdom View of People
  2. We are Created Either Male or Female
  3. We are Known
  4. Beauty’s Source

Kingdom / Spiritual View

I do this all the time – look at myself and others as though we’re just people, when really we’re not. We are eternal souls walking around in temporary housing. What we can see is not all there is to life. Three points come to mind about this when we look at the Scriptures:

  1. The eternal overrides the temporary.

Consequently, from now on we estimate and regard no one from a [purely] human point of view [in terms of natural standards of value]. [No] even though we once did estimate Christ from a human viewpoint and as a man, yet now [we have such knowledge of Him that] we know Him no longer [in terms of the flesh]. Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

II Cor. 5:16-17, Amplified Bible

As believers in Christ – this is such great news! We don’t have to get caught up in the “purely human / natural standards point of view.” There is more to us than what we can see, and we are called to look at everyone past when is visible on the surface. It’s also sobering news, as C.S. Lewis expands upon this train of thought in the closing paragraph of his amazing essay, “The Weight of Glory:”

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat — the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

~ C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” (British spelling)

  1. We will all get new bodies anyway.

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.[a] While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

II Cor. 5:1-5, Amplified Bible

More good news – you’re not satisfied with the body you’ve got now – when you have put your faith in Christ, you’ll get a new one! According to II Cor. 5:4, our discomfort with our bodies isn’t completely about falling short of the celebrities and models and bodybuilders we see celebrated in our culture. There is a spiritual restlessness that is there because what we’re living in now is just a makeshift stand-in for the eternal bodies we will one day have.

On the flip side – finding complete contentment with ourselves and our surroundings here on earth isn’t necessarily the goal – finding contentment in Christ regardless of where we are is.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. II Cor. 5:6-10, New Living Translation

There is such a thing as a holy tension – confidently living here, although we’d rather be home with Jesus face to face. But whether we are here or in heaven, our goal is to live out the calling to holiness that God has given each one of us.

  1. No one will be married or get married in heaven.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[b]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

Matthew 22:23-33

This might be taken as either good news or bad news. Marriage is not the be-all or end-all of life. When we take our marriage vows, we often commit to one another, “…till death do us part.” Well, according to Jesus, death will part us. Marriage is an earthly institution, but not a heavenly one, when it comes to us as couples. (There is another sense in which the Church is called the “Bride of Christ….” Rev. 19:7-10, but that is another kind of marriage than what we’re talking about here.)

So if you had dreams of being united with your spouse throughout all eternity – that’s not what Jesus says is going to happen. I realize that this is getting a bit off the track of gender identity – however, it was important to me to think this through as the church can tend to worship marriage as though it was an eternal institution. I was single for a long, long time, and that wore thin on me as I was trying to find my footing in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity. I think it’s important for us as believers to keep an eternal perspective.

Created – Male and Female

We were made different from the get-go, with only two options – we exist as a binary species. I understand that there are movements of people promoting a third or a number of other genders, but I find those are man-made constructs, and create confusion more than bringing clarity.

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:19-25

 

This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

When God created mankind, He made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them.

Genesis 5:1

And of course we’re familiar with the Scriptures that repeat that male and female are united in marriage, without other options being given:

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,’”

Mark 10:7

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Ephesians 5:31

When I read these passages I found them to be pretty basic – there isn’t any instruction on how one can be more masculine or feminine within them. But I knew that I wasn’t a eunuch,* and I had been created female.

We Are Known

I found more comfort in knowing that exactly where I was right then, and each day until now, I was known – even beyond my own ability to comprehend myself.

  For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Psalm 139:13-15

In this passage we read that none of us just appear by happenstance. Each of us has been put together in a “fearful and wonderful” way. And as a health care professional, I’ve gotten a bit more of a glimpse into that great truth than the average person. The way our joints are put together, how our heart muscle works constantly throughout our lives without rest – and the mysteries we don’t understand – how cartilage is nourished, how the nervous system could be repaired after it’s severed, etc. It’s all fascinating – we still have so much to learn about digestion, our brains, ageing….on and on.

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:26-31

Then, just as I’m about to get dizzy with the details of our biology, I come across this passage that really blows me away. The God who put me together in such a fantastic way, cares about me. He takes that intimate knowledge and watches out for me – even counting the number of hairs on my head. And they come and go, and I don’t even feel it! (We lose about 100 hairs each day, on average.)

 

Beauty’s Source

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

1 Peter 3:3-4

There was a great sense of relief when I read the words in this passage. For there I found what I’d suspected was true all along – when it comes to beauty, God cares more about the inside than the outside. It brought echoes of the words Jesus had about “whitewashed tombs” with the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Matthew 23:27-28

The Lord isn’t impressed by those who look sharp outwardly, yet on the inside are steeped in evil inwardly. Neither of these passages state that we shouldn’t make an effort to look good on the outside, but rather that we shouldn’t lean on outward appearances to carry the day. The work that goes into the “inward self” the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…” is what is God treasures. Now, let’s check what how that verse (4) reads in the Amplified version of the Bible:

But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.

“Quiet” then means “peaceful” rather than silent. And there is something appealing about women who are peaceful – who aren’t caught up in anxiety – that is relaxingly beautiful in nature.

So this was my summary – no recommended hairdos, clothing, or perfumes – no makeup instructions or guides to the best hat style to wear at this year’s Easter service. When women speak and teach confidently that this is the fashion or that look should be avoided – they aren’t getting it from Scripture.

Instead,  I tried to take to heart these truths from God’s Word. Looking at myself and others from a spiritual perspective, remembering that I’ve been created as a woman, in an amazing way, by a God who knows me better than I know myself. And the beauty that is important to God is about my character, not my outward appearance. Keeping these things in mind and in practice helped me to sort through everything I was seeing and hearing from the well-meaning voices around me about what it means to be feminine. And also acted as a filter to protect me from the controlling or selfish marketing voices eager to get me to try whatever they were pushing or selling. It’s still quite helpful today.

 

 

*What about eunuchs? They are mentioned throughout the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, but as this particular situation did not pertain to me, and as I’m not aiming at writing a comprehensive summary of everyone’s situation, I’m not going into that subject here. This series of posts is about my own journey regarding gender identity.

A Secular Switch, Part II

This is the second part of a series on articles written by Jackie Clune, an author and comedian who shares about her experience of change in her sexual orientation from a secular perspective.  In this post we’ll take a closer look at what she had written in an article published in the Daily Mail in June of 2010, entitled “How I went from committed lesbian to a happily married mother of four.”  (You’ll find the link at the end of this post.)

As in the previous article, Jackie Clune is rather plain spoken about making a choice in her sexual orientation:

I realize that many gay people will think it sounds absurd that I ‘chose’ lesbianism. For them, their sexuality is so innate and undeniable that the issue of ‘choice’ doesn’t come into it.

But perhaps that’s not the case for all women. For I can honestly say that I never felt the need to ‘come out’ as gay or straight – I simply decided to fall in love with women.

A few paragraphs before these words, she writes about dating men, and how she found that satisfying at the time.  But there came a point when she changed her mind…

It’s not that I stopped liking men, just that I felt a relationship with a woman would be a richer experience. After all, given the choice I would choose a woman over a man for a really great chat, an inspiring conversation or to share emotional problems with. A physical relationship with a woman seemed a logical progression.
Perhaps the best analogy is that I had come to see men in terms of ‘black and white’ whereas I saw women in colour. So I dumped my lovely boyfriend of five years. I didn’t tell him the truth at first but when I finally admitted that I had fallen for another woman, he was relieved. It seemed to take away the jealousy.

There is controversy over the wording she uses – some people will twist what Jackie Clune is saying into justification for abusing people who identify as gay or lesbian.  And that is a terrible error.  I’ve read some of what the leaders of Uganda have said about their new laws bent on criminalizing homosexuality in their country, and the issue of choice plays a part.  I don’t mean to speak for Jackie Clune, but from reading several articles she’s written, I believe it’s pretty clear that she would stand adamantly against such injustice.  As do I.  It is wrong to seek to make homosexuality a crime – regardless of the potential for / existence of choice, or the capacity for fluidity in one’s sexual orientation.  I wish to make this absolutely clear.

From what I have read about the situation in Uganda, there is a great lack of understanding, to say the least.  And it seems there is a concerted effort to turn those in the homosexual community into scapegoats – almost as a means to distract from the corruption and other major issues that need to be dealt with in that country.  The involvement of so-called “Christian” leadership in creating this new legal disaster has wrongfully devalued the name of Christ.  I am looking for meaningful ways to support those in Uganda in getting rid of this law and restoring justice to those there.

On the contrary, people should be able to talk about the variety of ways one might experience their sexual orientation throughout their lives without fear of repercussions.  Silence leads to continued misunderstanding and holds us all back.

Getting back to Jackie Clune’s article, she describes some of the “turbulent” relationships she had with women:

The sheer amount of talking and analysing that went on was exhausting. The women I went out with were by and large more inclined to be insecure and to need reassurance and I found myself in the male role of endlessly reassuring my girlfriends. The subtle mood changes of everyday life would be picked over inexhaustibly.

My straight female friends thought my deeply intense relationships sounded fantastic. They envied me the empathy I felt with my girlfriend. Why couldn’t they feel as close to their husbands and boyfriends?

Unlike most men, women, of course, offer each other endless support and there’s hardly ever any lack of communication.

But – bizarre as it may seem – I found myself longing for exactly the opposite. I wanted a bit more difference, a little less talking and a bit more edge and my relationships often paid the price.

As I pieced over the failings, I took a second look at my history. Was I picking the wrong women or was I simply not cut out to be a lesbian?

If you’ve ever heard of emotional dependency, you’ll find echoes of it in Jackie’s description of her relationships with women.  If you’re wondering what the term means, or want to learn more, I’d recommend an excellent booklet written by Lori Rentzel called “Emotional Dependency.”  It’s available on Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Dependency-Single-Pack-Rentzel/dp/0877840849.  As I mentioned in the first post in this series, an argument can be made that Jackie Clune was picking the wrong women, or that it was possible for her to work on emotional dependency issues within a same-gender relationship.  But, after she took a look at her own life, she decided to take a different path:

This may sound totally coldhearted, but I made a calculated decision to try men again. I can honestly say that, although I was 34, this had nothing to do with my biological clock. I had always rather casually thought that, if I wanted children, I would use a sperm donor. So my decision was not in any way connected to a desire for a baby.

And, while I had male friends, I had not even had the faintest flicker of interest in any man for years. But I suspect the simple truth is that I no longer felt I needed to be defined by my sexuality. I had outgrown lesbianism.

It can be hard to read, “I had outgrown lesbianism,” and not take that as a backhanded insult.  But in context, finding that defining yourself by your sexuality is limiting is a benchmark of growth.  Jenell Williams Paris has written a book called, “The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are.”  (Also on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/End-Sexual-Identity-Important-Define/dp/0830838368/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394726892&sr=1-1&keywords=sexual+identity)  Paris is a cultural anthropologist who looks at the recent historical and cultural constructs of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” as being inadequate in light of the complex reality of who we are.  You might want to pick up a copy and see if it helps you to look at things in a new way.

Jackie Clune goes on to contrast the difference she experienced between her relationships with women and those with men.

I don’t want to undermine my relationships – they meant a great deal to me at the time and I look back on them with great affection – and I am well aware that many people will find it shocking, if not downright offensive, when I say that I chose a different path.

I repeat, I know many people are totally convinced that they are born gay and have absolutely no choice over their sexual orientation.

All I can say is that I believe not every gay person is gay for life.

For me, finally shutting the door on lesbianism was rocky. It had been 12 years since I had been out with a man and I was terribly nervous about how to relate to men as anything other than platonic mates. I felt like a teenager again. I would flirt and then back off in alarm like a frightened schoolgirl.

Then in 2001 I met Richard, a 35-year-old actor. We started dating and for a long while it was quite casual, but something about his quiet kindness and his lack of neediness started to appeal to me.

I felt we were walking alongside each other rather than spending life locked in face-to-face intimacy or combat. It felt natural and not at all scary. He was sanguine about my past and never suffered the insecurities I had come to expect.

It was a breath of fresh air. I’ve always been fiercely independent and felt I could be myself with him. Within a year I found myself pregnant. Our daughter was born and 11 months later I was even more shocked when I discovered I was pregnant again – with triplets, conceived without any form of fertility treatment. We married in 2008 and our life is hectic, to say the least.

Let’s jump forward into the third article I read (also published in the Daily Mail, with the sensationalist headline: “Think being married to a man is hard? One writer who’s done both says: ‘Well try waking up next to a woman!’” – which I’m pretty darn sure she didn’t pick – in March of 2013…link may be found at the end of this post), by Jackie Clune.  She writes a bit more on this same topic:

Being with a woman can be just as frustrating — or dull — as being with a man, just in different ways.  The problem with relationships with two women is that the similarities which seem so appealing at first are what tend to eventually undo you as a couple.

But the pluses of living with a man are huge, and I now relish the otherness of men.

I love that I have my close female friends for laughs, talks, drinks and secrets, and my husband for the more intimate stuff. Our marriage is very strong and very happy, mostly because neither of us believes it is the be-all and end-all of our lives.

There’s none of that emotional game-playing you can get with women. If there’s a protracted silence and you ask a man ‘What are you thinking?’, he will normally reply: ‘Nothing’ and he’ll be telling the truth.

You don’t have to enter into a mind-bending discussion about what so-and-so meant by such-and-such a remark, or why you failed to notice that your partner had bought your favourite houmous. [British spellings.]

It frees up so much time. Since being married to a man I’ve written two books, learned the piano and ukulele, travelled the world on tour, taken up running, mastered knitting patterns, helped out at the school and started speaking French, at the same time as working constantly as an actress and jointly raising four children — a nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old triplets.

Now I know there are many high-achieving lesbians out there …but they must have very understanding wives because it’s just not possible to spend a lesbian amount of time on your relationship and still manage to have a life outside it.

I understand why this intensity happens. It’s not always easy being in a same-sex relationship in a largely homophobic world, so the impulse to turn inwards to your partner and your close community is only natural. But it can be stifling.

How I rejoiced when, after going back to men, I discovered what sulky babies they can be, providing me with carte blanche to ignore them and get on with things until they are over themselves — and with no guilt because they were behaving stupidly and deserved to be ignored.

Back in the days of Exodus conferences you’d often hear the words “opposite sex” replaced with “complimentary gender” – and what Jackie Clune writes here reminds me of that concept.  I can recall several times when I did or said something in front of my husband and I just cringed, waiting for the eggshells to break.  I started coming up with a mental list of apologies…yet to him, it was nothing.  At first it was alarming, as I was so used to girlfriends making a big deal of similar things, but then I realized that this was a gift.  I didn’t have to carry that tension around in my relationship with him.  I was and am much more free to laugh and let go and be myself.

There is a balance between having female friends to connect with in healthy friendships and the intimate relationship I have with my husband.  And the freedom that comes with the “otherness of men” does mean a lot less emotional stress and time open to pursue other interests.  It’s also a huge blessing to be married to a sensible grown-up, who knows that relationships do take work, and who is committed to improving himself and our marriage.  I see my husband taking steps in this direction consistently, and it draws me deeper in love with him.  And ever-more grateful for the Lord putting us together and working in each of our lives.

Looking back at the second article, again, Jackie Clune writes about the surprise this change in her life has been to her, and more about the backlash she’s experienced from some in the gay and lesbian community:

I could never in a million years have imagined, in the full throes of my lesbian life, that I would one day live such a conventional straight lifestyle.

In fact, I would have thrown up my hands in horror at the very idea. And perhaps it was no surprise that most of my lesbian friends were outraged that I had taken up with men.

It seemed a betrayal of all they and I had stood for. Diva magazine, the biggest lesbian publication in the UK, voted me Most Disappointing Lesbian Of The Year. And the criticism still continues.

There was (briefly) a Facebook group saying People Like Jackie Clune Should Be Taken Outside And Shot. Although the criticism is hurtful, I understand where it’s coming from – I’ve confused everybody.

I’m glad that Facebook group wasn’t around for very long – and it’s sad that it ever existed in the first place.  Confusion isn’t an excuse for that kind of hatred, although I appreciate Jackie’s grace in her response to the criticism she’s received.

I’ll conclude this overview of her article with this last quote:

In the gay world some people hate the way many of us believe sexuality can be fluid. The idea of bisexuality is anathema to them. They see it as a mark of indecision or even self-delusion.

Actually I have never thought of myself as bisexual. And I certainly don’t now that I am married. That would be tantamount to admitting that I am thinking of being unfaithful with a woman, which has never been the case.

But then this is an issue that provokes so much misunderstanding and downright anger. For many in the gay community, changing one’s sexuality is seen as a heinous act of betrayal. Straight people, for their part, always want to know why I switched sexuality (often with the offensive implication that I was somehow behaving strangely when I was a lesbian but I’m ‘all right’ now).

I agree with her take on bisexuality and the implications that label has for those in committed relationships with the complimentary gender.  And I’ve seen, and continue to see, the dogmatic insistency that some in the gay and lesbian community put on the concept of sexuality being innate and unchangeable.  The problems that narrow-mindedness causes when they come across individuals who have experienced a fluidity in their orientation continue.  The world will be a better place when the reality of change is embraced and we can invest more in learning to live alongside one another in peace.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1289652/How-I-went-committed-lesbian-happily-married-mother-four.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2292950/Is-harder-lesbian-couple-According-writer-waking-woman-definitely-tougher.html

 

A Secular Switch

A Woman Chooses to Change Her Sexual Orientation – Part 1 in a Series

I remember hearing years ago about a “British comedian” who had experienced a change in her sexual orientation, and who was rather adamantly distancing herself from the Christian “ex-gay movement” as having anything to do with her experience.  Recently I came across an article written by this woman, whose name is Jackie Clune.  It led me to backtrack and read over several things she has written about her life.

Of course, this is the perspective of one person, and I caution anyone reading this not to over-simplify in assuming that the life experience of Jackie Clune applies to every woman who is dealing with SSA.  However, I found that she raises good questions, thought-provoking insights, and it was also interesting to see how her thoughts on this topic developed over a period of years.  I found three articles, which were written in 2003, 2010, and 2013, all published in the British press, with British word spellings used throughout.  (You’ll find the referenced links below.)

First we’ll look at what Jackie Clune wrote In “My Crime Against the Lesbian State.”* published in June of 2003, in The Guardian.

In February 1988, I decided to become a lesbian. For the next 12 years I had relationships with women exclusively. Then, in October 2000, I decided to “go back in” and went straight. The reasons for both these decisions have by turns appalled, fascinated and challenged almost everyone in my life, from my parents, friends and enemies to the loyal lesbian fan base I had built up during my career as a cabaret artist and comedian.

Right off the bat, Jackie Clune describes her orientation as something she consciously “decided” to do, and then chose to un-do.  This is something that is currently foreign to the mainstream of American thought on the topic.  Even suggesting that change in one’s sexual orientation is possible is ridiculed as bigoted and unrealistic.  As we’ll see, Ms. Clune found her wording and actions questioned in England in 2003 as well…

Since jumping back over the fence, I have been asked many times, “How come you felt able to swap so easily? Do you think you’re in denial? Maybe you were never really a lesbian? Is it that you just couldn’t hack it? So what are you, then, bisexual? Or straight? Do you think you’ll ever go back to women? Is your boyfriend scared about that?”

Despite turning over these questions in my own mind again and again over the past two years, I find even I don’t really know the answers. Am I just contrary? Am I cowardly? Am I, as some would have it, a “traitor” to the gay “cause”? What was I doing all of those years if this is who I truly am now? Is there such a thing as what one “truly” is?

So we find a real person, honestly wrestling with deep questions about who she was and who she is now, and what all of that means in a world that has been trying to settle things into back-and-white categories of identity that don’t always fit everyone.  People are not comfortable with the concept of sexual orientation as a fluid entity, even when it is experienced by someone who isn’t seeking it as a matter of reconciling with their faith.

Jackie Clune had been open about her life as a lesbian, and faced a wave of backlash as a sense of betrayal came over the GLBT community in England.

As time wore on, and my stand-up material became more explicitly heterosexual, this friendly fire became openly hostile. According to a lesbian friend of mine, I was recently named “Most Disappointing Lesbian Of The Year” in a lesbian magazine. Some women stopped talking to me altogether. The gossip pieces have become more vindictive and accusing in tone.

There is an inverse phobia in many parts of the gay community which decrees same sex = good, mixed sex = bad. There are solid reasons for this heterophobia. Heterosexuals are everywhere, and their creeping omnipotence must be resisted, the heterophobes reason. Queer people, stuck in a ghetto, on the margins of society no matter how many soaps show gays kissing, are prone to caving in and joining the straight masses.

This must be guarded against at all times by constantly undermining everything that does not bend. One gay friend looked crestfallen before announcing that he felt as though a sheep were missing from the fold, and could not relax until it had returned. I felt irritated beyond measure – I was still me, I wasn’t “missing”, and as far as I was aware I wasn’t in a flock – but also vaguely guilty.

Although I’ve frequently seen this “inverse phobia,” I’ve rarely read it described in the media, and Clune’s take on it is interesting – as a constant pressure vs. the smaller percentage.  Personally I’ve seen it as a mark of insecurity, and as a means of shoring up one’s belief that their identity is hard-wired.  For, if you truly believe that you were born with SSA and it will never change, what difference does it make that someone else experiences a change in their attractions?  Why does everyone else have to fit into a immutable, narrow category in order for one to feel comfortable with themselves?  Undermining others in order to build oneself up is a poor foundation.

What Clune wrote about the hidden community of “hasbians” surprised me.

And I am not alone. There’s a quiet ex-lesbian minority of hasbians out there, having a gay old time with men after years of sapphistry. I know seven. Two are pregnant. Slowly we are seeking each other out; a quick nod here, a sly wink there. We know who we are. I have had hushed conversations in the corners of parties with fellow ex-dykes where we discuss how we have politically browbeaten our boyfriends on gay issues, and have made tearful phone calls to gay activist friends, promising we will still be on the barricades come the gay revolution.

I know that there is a quiet minority of ex-gays and ex-lesbians in Christian circles, and when we come across one another we often talk for hours about things that we have in common with few others.  I’d not thought about that group existing in the secular world at large.  And where would we gather?  There aren’t exactly cruise lines setting up excursions for “hasbians” – we’re the minority of a minority!  And it’s odd to be in a group organized around something one no longer feels to be a part of.

Back in the day, I spoke with a TV producer about the possibility of flying out to California to appear on their show.  She was frustrated about how difficult it was to find those of us who had experienced a change in our orientation.  She asked why this was so when she could see so many of us gathered in an ad that appeared in the Washington Post.  That photo was taken at an Exodus conference in Seattle, and I was in it.  I explained that we were scattered across the country – we didn’t gather together en mass on a regular basis.  We were, and still are, the ex-GLBT diaspora.

Since Exodus has closed, I’ve seen more individuals keeping in touch via social media, and other ministry groups forming.  It is nice to be able to talk to someone from time to time who shares your perspective, although once you’ve experienced a change in your orientation, you tend to move on into the heterosexual world at large.  Looking back can become a drag  (pardon the pun.)  I don’t find that there is any movement developing among us to gather just for the sake of comparing notes.  Mostly there is the desire to make opportunities available to others who want to seek change that were made available for us.  We might need to gather at some point to show that we indeed do exist, but at this time I only see that happening in small ways.

Back to the article.  Clune shares her own perspective on the fluidity of sexual orientation…a slide theory:

I find the many possibilities of human sexual expression infinitely fascinating, not least my own. If there is one woolly belief to which I know I subscribe, it is this: that one’s sexuality is on a continuum, the polarities being absolutely straight and absolutely gay. Most of us fit somewhere between the two poles, and depending on what and who we experience in our lives, we may slide about a bit.

I love talking about this theory, such as it is…..Some of my audience have been profoundly unhappy about this, but isn’t it a mark of political maturity that one can withstand contradiction and difference? I’ve been called a scab, a sellout, a mainstream wannabe. I have been found guilty of crimes against the lesbian state.

Again, it would be nice to be able to have discussions of such things without the name calling and labeling.

In the article, Clune goes on to describe the complex emotions and thoughts that led her into lesbianism, and that have haunted her since leaving that world behind.  She’s rather apologetic in tone:

We are still on your side, gay world. Don’t think of us as the enemy. Don’t hate us for having a life and not a gay lifestyle. For God’s sake don’t call us bisexual.

She shares quite a bit, and it’s worth the time to read.  I’m going to quote one more section of this particular article here, though, where she outlines the exhausting pattern she found herself in while dating and living with women:

My relationships had all taken the same pattern – idyllic start, passionate intensity, massive conflict, slow merging of identities, rebellion, more conflict, couple therapy in hideous lesbian cushion-rooms with salt-and-pepper-haired dykes who nodded too much in phoney displays of empathy, tears, splitting up, dividing of friends and kd lang CDs, huge separation anxiety dramas in pubs, clubs, on the street, in cars, in supermarket car parks, hours on the phone, guilt, abusive letters, slurs and lies, silence.

In many ways, this is all standard-issue break-up stuff, straight or gay; but I couldn’t help feeling my answer lay back on the other side. I longed for my mind back, my own personal head space and the blissful state of basic incomprehension between man and woman which means you don’t have to waste years talking about your bloody feelings.

I wanted gadget-free sex, friends that were my own, something different to get my teeth into. There was something so exhausting about being a lesbian, and maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the hard work. I spent an asexual summer working myself up to crossing back over.

Now I know that this is not the pattern that all women experience – and Clune herself states that “In many ways, this is all standard-issue break-up stuff, straight or gay…”  It could just be that she had intensity issues, and I believe that it is possible to work on this within the confines of a same-sex relationship.  I did think it was mature of her to take some time off from relationships to sort out her own feelings.  (Too often I’ve seen people go from one relationship to another without having the presence of mind to live life on their own for a bit.)  What jumped out at me, though, was her description of the different kind of freedom that she experienced in relationships with men, because men are different.  “I longed for my mind back, my own personal head space and the blissful state of basic incomprehension between man and woman…”

That difference between the genders is common comic fodder – there are constant examples of mis-communication and divergent ways of seeing the world to trip over just about daily in my own relationship with my husband.  But there is a blessing in that – it is a less claustrophobic way to live life.  I really appreciated Clune’s bringing this to light, and she went on to write more about this in the years to come.  We’ll look more at that and other topics in upcoming posts.

 

Quotes taken from Jackie Clune’s article that can be found here:  http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2003/jun/14/comedy.artsfeatures

Why I Really Think You Shouldn’t Use Sexual Orientation to Bully or Insult Others

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First posted on Facebook, October 17, 2010 at 9:52am

To be blunt, I don’t think that you should use gay / lesbian slurs because it really is personally painful to me.  I’ve struggled with lesbianism since kindergarten, and hidden that struggle for the majority of my life.  Fear of being ridiculed, misunderstood, and ostracized meant that I kept a tight reign on anything that could possibly “give me away.” For the most part, I’ve been successful in avoiding anything close to what so many others have experienced – insults, actually being beaten or thrown out of their homes.

It wasn’t until I was half-way through college that I found a safe place to open up about what I had been feeling and thinking, how confusing it was, and was able to work through sorting out my struggles with my faith.  Having that opportunity was very freeing.  I should have been able to have that opportunity in church.  (Through the years since then I have found a few churches where conversations on that level came to pass.)

Homosexuality is such a polarizing issue in our culture, and it’s easy to lose track of the fact that there are people beyond the headlines and political heat – people that you may do business with, work out with, joke around with, etc.  Everyone deserves the chance to live his or her life in peace.  And it’s during our school years that most start to ask themselves questions about their sexuality – that’s a tough time for big questions.

It takes effort to create an atmosphere where people of any age can ask questions without fear of retribution.  It takes maturity, self-confidence and courage in order to listen and to show compassion.  But as these recent sad losses of kids to suicide show, it’s a rare thing to experience.  I wish that those kids had the chance to find the kind of place that I had, with kind, levelheaded, considerate people who took the time to allow me to unfasten the knots and the clear up the mystery around what I was struggling with.

If you’re ever in a place where people are being bullied, I would like to encourage you to seek to stand up for those who are being put down around you.  It’s not OK to laugh along.  Each one of us can make choices to make the world a better place every day.  Make the decision to eliminate gay slurs from your vocabulary.

And I realize that if you’re in a peer group or family where that kind of jeering is common practice, it can be hard to be the one person who speaks up and says, “Guys, really – that’s just not cool.”  Right away you’re setting yourself up for someone to spin around and accuse you of being homosexual, and you’ll get slammed with all the same slurs.  Well, that’s where the call to be courageous comes in.  Think this situation through now and be ready with a solid answer beforehand.

Maybe you’re really grossed out by the thought of homosexuality.  Well, you probably do or think of things that would gross out a lot of other people yourself.  I’m sure you appreciate not being ridiculed or beaten up about it.  In a sense, it might just take you greater courage to stand up for those you just don’t understand.  Do it anyway.  Imagine that you were the one being insulted for whatever reason – how would that make you feel?

That’s what the Golden Rule Pledge is about – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

If you have questions about how to go about taking a stand against bullying, check out the Golden Rule Pledge website for more information and resources.

http://goldenrulepledge.com/