The subject of today’s post is something that’s been on my mind on and off for a couple of years now.
Individual identity is an odd thing. To an extent, we don’t choose our identities. I don’t choose to be female. I don’t choose to have white skin. I don’t choose to be attracted to men. And yet, I am all of those things. On the other hand, I choose to be a runner. I choose to be a writer. I choose to be an editor. I choose to be a Christian. So as a result, I am all of these things too.
When I was still living in Oklahoma, I became very good friends with a gay male. In the ensuing weeks and months, he and I had lots and lots of long discussions about his life and struggles as a gay Christian. Many of these interactions shaped the foundation of my current beliefs about homosexuality. One thing this friend said to me more than once, in defiance toward those who tried to put him in a box, was, “I’m gay, yes. But that’s not who I am. That’s not what defines me.” I always nodded sympathetically when he said this, but back then, I didn’t really understand what he meant by it.
Sometimes I even wanted to argue, “But that is who you are. How can you say it’s not? You. are. gay. Simple as that.” I’m glad I had the sense to hold my tongue at these times because he needed and wanted support, not a debate. He needed someone to be on his side. And I’m proud to say I faithfully was, even though I didn’t understand all the ins and outs at that point.
It’s been a couple of years since those conversations, and I think I finally understand the message my friend was trying to get across. Being gay is most assuredly part of what defines him. But it is not the sole definition. And what’s more, the basic sexual mechanics of what being gay entails isn’t even the sole definition of what it means to be gay. It just happens to be the part that Christians choose to get hung up on. What I’ve come to realize is that none of us is a sole definition. I get irritated when people try to shove me inside some boundary outlining who I’m supposed to be. I’m a Christian, yes. That doesn’t mean I’m a nutcase. The people I appreciate most in my life are the ones who give me room to live into my definitions of self (whether chosen by me or imposed upon me) without forcing me to be confined or restrained by them.
I’m a writer, an editor. Yet sometimes (not often, mind you), I purposely use bad grammar.
I’m a runner. But I hate running, and I’m not going to sign up for tons of races around the city each year.
I love literature, but I hate poetry.
I’ve read a lot of books, but I haven’t read every book, and I haven’t enjoyed all the ones I have read, even the so-called classics.
I often get upset when people try to infringe characteristics upon me that aren’t me just because of their minimal acquaintance with or awareness of some part of my personality. When it comes to personalities, a may equal b, but b does not necessarily equal a. I am complex. I am capable of change. I am not static. I am not one dimensional. Please do not presume to know what I may or may not be like. Give me the courtesy of acceptance, just as I hope you feel I do for you.
I would be absolutely enraged if someone came to presumptuous conclusions about me based only on my sexual preference or orientation. What an extremely private portion of my life for you to think you have the right to delve into. If you found out that I am attracted to men and immediately began asking questions (in public or private) about my sexual lifestyle with men, I’d probably slap you. So why do so many think it’s okay to do that with gay people? Something all Christians would do well to remember: Homosexuality is not synonymous with sexual promiscuity.
There are definitely stereotypes, and some people easily and without question fulfill and perpetuate these stereotypes. But underneath that gay shell that many are so quick to condemn is a human being who loves and feels and hurts just as deeply as you or I. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for those of my gay friends (and especially those who have chosen to remain Christians) who endure criticism and open ridicule from people who are supposed to be fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow members of their communities, fellow humans on this earth. If you want a living example of grace and unconditional acceptance, spend some time in a gay community. I’m betting it won’t take you long to feel humbled by the amount of generosity and tenderness you find there. All are welcome. Know why? Because they know what it’s like to be pushed aside, ignored, condemned, and ridiculed.
It’s so interesting to me that we all know the Golden Rule but so few of us succeed in keeping it. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” does not mean that you get to think up hypothetical situations by which to justify your judgments of others. You don’t get to sit on a throne and say, If I *were* participating in this particular activity, I hope someone would rebuke me; therefore, I’m going to rebuke everyone *I* see doing it. Rather, you are required to say, Here is a person, just as I am a person. Jesus died for that person, just as Jesus died for me. And that’s really all you get to say.
After all, “Do unto others…” isn’t all that different a command from, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”