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Seeing Red

It’s difficult for me to understand why some believe it is ok to discriminate against an entire groups in society because they don’t like or agree with who they are. The Civil Marriage Equality issue is the place where this thought flows from. Baffling though it is to me that biases would get in the way of a society making space for all of its citizens to be regarded with dignity and respect, I had to also pause and think/consider how my and others silence impacts those who are being treated less than equal.

As a plethora of red images adorned facebook newsfeeds and my profile pic stayed as it was; as I listened to claims of some that we must fight this in the name of “the Bible says…,” my frustration with Proposition 8 contenders increased.

Credits: Human Rights Campaign

Then I moved to a place of wondering if I was courageous enough or vocal enough. This thought extended to a deeper place of wondering how silence “feels” to my LGBT friends and relatives. When they are getting beat up/jumped by Christian folks in the name of “the Bible says,” what goes through their minds as others stand by watching the fight rather than jumping in to protect them and stop the beating? For me, this is not about theological perspectives on homosexuality, this is about basic human dignity and fairness. This is about seeing all persons as valuable and worthy of respect. To be silent about these things is problematic – whether it is this issue or any other societal issue. Sure, a red equality profile pic may seem like a small gesture to some, but what is small to one may very well be big to another.

It can’t be denied – silence and stigma are powerful and at times even lethal. They produce shame and result in more harm than good – oppression in its ugliest form, creating internal turmoil for those who are subjected to it.

Apathy. Neutrality. Slothfulness. Ignorance. All of these are fairly easy approaches to adopt when the pain is not personal – when it’s somebody else’s struggle (side note – I’ve discovered that this is all too true in the area of race/racism and White privilege too – we must not ignore the impact of race even once the issue of marriage equality is settled, I fear that we will). Worrying about who will receive you or reject you based on your decision to be vocal is rather selfish when you really think about it – many LGBT folks go through worrying about the backlash/fall-out of self disclosure all the time, the difference is that it is more personal in that it involves not only being out as an ally, but full disclosure of who they are.

It perplexes me that many who oppose marriage equality do so on the basis of a sin argument – an argument that has proven ineffective at best. It doesn’t appear to even be about God and what pleases or doesn’t please God, the tone I hear from many is that it is about “us” and how repulsed we are by same gender loving relationships. Besides, trying to draw people to Jesus in this way is so futile.

It disturbs me that many who vocalize condemnation are not equally committed to walking with folks on a journey of growth. It is nonsensical that anyone would expect couples who are already married or who have been in committed partnerships for multiple years or have begun the process of gender transformation, to change their gender back to what they were before or abandon their partners [and children if there are any]. For kindness sake, let’s think this through rather than lazily relying on fundamentalist, surface dogma!

Also of concern is when Christians say things to fellow Christians that leave you with the impression that Christianity is a monolith; as though you are somehow not a Christian because you believe something different than what they believe about an issue. It is as if to say “shame on you, all Christians should think like this about that,”  because there is after all though only one perspective/understanding possible. Truthfully I am growing weary of the arguing. Surely we are all sensible enough to know that it is impossible for multifaceted people can arrive at one simplistic response or interpretation of issues and for that matter, scripture/the Bible.

Marriage equality is a social, political and economic issue that we must not ignore or be silent about. And beyond that we must never forget that is is not the only issue of equality that needs to be addressed in society and more specifically by the Human Rights Campaign. It is a big issue, an important issue, and an issue among many other issues.

*Photo Credits: Human Rights Campaign

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Coming Out!

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.