Today is National Coming Out Day. It’s a rather bittersweet day this year, with a number of recent publicly announced suicides of teenage LGBT folks (and probably others we don’t know about). A few LGBTQ friends are coming out publicly this year, and numerous straight friends are coming out as allies.
I’ve been out about this for quite a long time. Over the past year my beliefs in this area have become more nuanced, but have not really changed. What has changed is the risk to me for making this statement. I’m now on the “becoming a minister” track in a denomination that doesn’t officially (or even clearly unofficially) support LGBTQ folks. So what you’ll read below is not new. It IS important for me to say, because while the risk to me is larger than it was a year ago, it’s tiny compared to what my LGBTQ friends risk in making their statements. I salute them for their courage and love them as their friend.
I’m old enough to have come of age (my teen years) in the late 70′s and early 80′s. Stereotypes about LGBTQ folks were rampant. And I didn’t know anyone who fit that label (at least not that was open to me) except for one cousin of my mother’s, who was different in other ways as well (most notably drug addiction). I was taught the stereotypes by my parents. In fact, I can remember being told by my parents very clearly that gays were dirty, promiscuous, and drug users. I remember it so clearly that I remember hearing it in the back of the station wagon, and even remember what intersection we were at.
Later I started getting involved in church work as a teen. I went to our denomination’s regional meetings, and to the every-three-years youth conference. At both I encountered Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC – the predecessor to More Light Presbyterians) at their exhibit booth. I quickly learned that gay folks were just like everybody else. This challenged and ultimately overturned my parents’ prejudices instilled in me. This would never have happened if it weren’t for LGBTQ folks who were already out of the closet publicly. At the same time, I was learning about how the church discriminated (and still discriminates) against them in ordination, marriage, and basic acceptance.
A few years later I had the opportunity to become the Presbynet (precursor to the Internet, roughly) Coordinator for PLGC. I served in that role as a straight supportive person for about 6 years. Unfortunately that relationship came to an end in tension. My beliefs survived unchanged, but I am no longer a part of an organization around these issues.
Many straight folks who are supportive are using the term “straight ally” today to describe themselves. A good friend has convinced me that the term “ally” is fraught with confusion and inaccuracy. An alliance is an agreement between parties for mutual support. Nobody can call themselves an ally unilaterally. The LGBTQQI2S community has no central structure that could possibly bestow “ally” status on me. So I use the term “supporter” instead. Inside my head it’s more or less the same thing – I know what I believe, I feel the call to fix the problems that this division and discrimination cause, and I see my straight privilege (well, I see the privilege better than most and better than I used to).
So here it is:
I am a straight white married man
I am an Inquirer in the PC(USA), and I’m currently applying for admission to seminaries
I believe in fully equal civil rights for the LGBTQ community, including the right to marry
I believe in fully equal ordination rights for LGBTQ people within the PC(USA)
I believe in fully equal marriage rights for LGBTQ people within the PC(USA), for those who choose marriage
I reject the different treatment of anyone based on who they choose to love, so long as they are in right relationship to their beloveds.
In particular, I want anyone (particularly young people) who feels that they need to end their life to alleviate the pain caused by bullying or other poor treatment based on their sexuality to know that I am there for you. Send me an e-mail. If you have my number, call me day or night. Or call 911 or the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline 1-888-THE-GLHN (1-888-843-4564). You are worthy of our time and love. Give us a chance to show you.
* I use the term LGBTQ because typing “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersexual, Queer, Questioning and Two Spirit” repeatedly is really hard on the fingers. Please assume the longer definition.