For those of you who clicked on this link wondering if this writer was herself coming out as a same gender loving individual, I am sorry to disappoint you. You’re here now, so hopefully you’ll keep reading.
LGBTQ folks are not the only ones who “come out.” Coming out has a variety of implications and applications for those who have been silent regarding societal issues, subjects, and beliefs. Fear of negative reactions and rejection from friends stands in the way of honesty and transparency. Conversations with individuals who are now unashamed to speak boldly and courageously regarding their sexual identities has informed me of one reality – “coming out” is not easy!
Yet there comes a moment when we must decide to live by our personal convictions rather than be guided or controlled by other people’s opinions of us.
Over the last year or so I have felt compelled to “come out.” No, I did not come out as a lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender individual. Rather, I needed to “come out” as an ally and voice for a segment of society and even of the Christian Church that is often ostracized, treated as less than valuable, and excluded from participation in the life of local churches. I had to come out regardless of what people would think; I had to come out of a place of silence and begin to speak up and speak out in love for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have been hurt by the Church. We’ve done some serious damage to individuals and inflicted emotional pain that will not be healed by inflicting more pain – it will be healed by unconditional and radical love. We can and must do better, and I “come out” as a voice that says that we must do a better job of loving all people in the name of a Savior who shows us how to do that well.
I do not know the experience of being a same gender loving person, but I have been in far too many situations where I felt as though I needed to beg for acceptance and space, whether it was because I am a woman or because of my race. I’ve been there, done that, and don’t want to do it anymore. However, because of my familiarity with what it feels like to be an “outsider” – as a woman, and as an African American, it makes me more sensitive to the needs of others who are yet being ousted and shunned by the “majority.”
Recently I had the privilege of taking a seminary class on the topic of Sexuality and Spirituality with instructor Bishop Yvette Flunder. For some, it is problematic that I even allowed myself to be instructed by an openly same gender loving Christian leader (as though she has nothing of value that she can teach us).
It is imperative that each of us, regardless of where we stand on the topic of sexual identity, be willing to listen to one another and even learn from one another – whether they are individuals whose views are similar or different from the ones we hold. Willingness to take the course was a form of “coming out” for me.
This course was relevant in that it provided much needed dialogue among people of faith. I walked away with many insights and what was most impressed upon me was the need for transparency. In many communities of faith a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” regarding sexual identity is real. Cultures of shame and secrecy abound and thus fosters environments where people find it more safe to live life on the down low.
- Who does this help?
- Has closeted living really helped anyone?
- When individuals do come out, do our negative reactions help or do they fuel hostility and push folks back into the closet and further encourage a culture of secrecy?
Perhaps it is time for all of us to “come out” and honestly discuss what we believe and why we believe it. Maybe it’s time for each of us to “come out” and come clean regarding bigotry, hatred and an unwillingness to listen and learn. Maybe it is even time to “come out” and question long held assumptions.