In Another Time
I am making a confession here. When I was growing up, I have some opinions on things that are not reflective of my views today. In high school and well into my early twenties, I believed in the perversion of homosexuality.
What I mean by that is, I believed homosexuality was a perversion of “good and natural sexuality”. I believed this because the Bible seemed so clear on the issues. A man shall not lie with a man and all that…it was a simple fact of life that God found it abhorrent. How could I dispute it? My God had declared it, I had to believe it.
Understand, I did not hate gay people. I saw it as a sin, but I did not think they should be beat up or hurt. I did not like people using “gay” as a catchall negative to say “that thing sucks.” I hated the slur “fag”. I did not think they were a unique evil. It is just what God said. So, what could I do right?
In high school (and post college), I worked in a movie theater. One of my co-workers was a guy named Matt. I actually figured out he was gay several years before he pointedly said to me that he was. I appreciate more than he could know the strength and courage it had to take to tell me. I was a very talkative Christian. I talked about God and Church a lot. I was not tremendously gracious about it, rather I was being “bold” and “assertive” for Christ. After all, we all know how Christians were persecuted in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this always translated to making bold statements about stuff like homosexuality being an immoral lifestyle.
And yet, Matt was patient and told me anyways. See, the thing about Matt is that he was kind and generous. He was intensely gentle in his attempts to challenge opinions. He was firm but patient. He was, without question, intensely gracious. Matt was easily one of the best people I have had the pleasure of knowing. And somehow, he was able to look past the fact that I saw him as choosing a lifestyle that was immoral and evil.
I think of Matt from time to time. I think of the fun times we had talking. I think of how he responded to and treated me. I think of his kindness. His goodness. His patience. His willingness to be friends in spite of my harsh view of his life experiences. Reflecting on Matt, it was his behavior that began to chip away at my notions. Years passed and I was unable to reconcile why Matt would have chosen that lifestyle. And maybe it is because, well, he had not chosen a lifestyle.
Matt was gay. He was since his earliest memories. He did have a choice, of course…he could keep it internalized and work to impress us as a heterosexual, or acknowledge that part of who he was and not live a lie. And he made the choice that doesn’t drive you mad. I have not seen Matt in over fifteen years. But he made a powerful impact that put me on a path of questioning things I just presumed were true, because I read it in a book. I started to listen and read about the experiences of gay people. I started to listen to the variety of opinions on the issues of human sexuality.
Where I stand today is very different from where I was all those years ago. Early in my thirties, I realized my old views could not withstand the information in front of me. It was not a good thing to stand for keeping people from access to things I could access simply because I was attracted to the women side of the human scale.
This is my apology, to the GLBT people I know. The ones I don’t. It is my apology to say I am sorry I was not willing to hear your voices earlier, that I let what others told me I should believe shape my reaction to your lives. I am sorry and want you to know that I am glad you are here. I am glad I could learn and grow. And to others, I hope this can show that this can give hope that people can change.
Posted in: Gender, Life, Religion, Social Issues
Thom, I found your post thanks to Roger. It takes a strong person to put forth this type of apology.
I was raised knowing what “gay” was from the age of five (I asked my mom about why two of my “uncles” never brought girlfriends; she said they loved each other and sometimes men don’t fancy women, but other men. Made sense to me, and I accepted Aunt Beadie and Aunt Thelma as the same.)
So I’m a Christian and a “lifer ally.” Not a Biblical literalist; in fact, I question many of the miracles and floods and retributions of the Bible. But I do follow Jesus, and Jesus said LOVE everyone, especially his “little ones,” those persecuted by society.
Again, there are not many folks out there who will elucidate their personal evolution on this subject. The president is one. BRAVO for saying your piece,without rancor. You were never mean about it, and that’s too rare in our society.
With admiration, Amy Barlow Liberatore, AKA Sharp Little Pencil
Like Amy, I came here through Roger. And like her, I admire your strength. As an out and proud gay man, I absolutely believe that people can change, because I’ve seen it.
I think that our greatest challenge is simply to relate as human beings, to unite despite the things that divide us, using the things that unite us. A bit like you and your friend Matt.
I don’t think that agreeing on everything matters, and we don’t have to like everything about each other’s lives. But if we can build bridges, if we can focus on the things that unite us—as you have done—well, the rest will take care of itself.
Obviously I can’t and wouldn’t presume to speak for all GLBT people, but for what it’s worth, your words mattered to me.
Thanks for postingg this