This post is by my friend, Rick James, who says this about himself:
I AM A CHRISTIAN AND A FORMER WORSHIP ARTS PASTOR (IN A FAIRLY CONSERVATIVE CHURCH) WHO HAPPENS TO BE GAY. AFTER MANY YEARS OF IGNORING, DENYING, HIDING, TRYING TO PRAY AWAY, LYING ABOUT, ATTEMPTING TO CHANGE OR TO BEAT MY SEXUAL ORIENTATION INTO SUBMISSION, I FINALLY LIVE WITH THE BLESSED PEACE THAT I’M “GAY AND OK.”
Since I was 5 years old I’ve loved Jesus. 38 long years later I can finally and enthusiastically say that I have joined my Creator and my Redeemer in loving and accepting myself for who I am. God does not create abominations, and He never intended for His gay children to live in closets.
IN GAY TERMS by Rick James
Terminology is always changing and evolving. Expressions come and go. Like fads of the past, these terms may appear to look good on us for while, but after a few years we look back and say, “Can you believe we used to…”. Definitions may suit our needs for a while, but then they are discarded as quickly as they were created.
Often these terms are replaced by others that seem to fit the current understanding of the issues at hand. But every once in a while we create terminology that can be destructive, and can hurt our understanding of these issues. At that point, it becomes necessary to abandon and rethink our verbiage once again.
Below are five such terms/phraseology – homosexual behavior, practicing homosexual, “the gay lifestyle,” gay relationships, and “love the sinner; hate the sin” – that are in need of reexamination, as many in the LGBT community find them rather offensive.
The reason for this is the fact that such terms reduce our lives, as gay people, to mere sexual acts. Listen with your heart and your mind as I attempt to articulate the rationale for such a re-evaluation.
Upon the foundation of Science
If you follow and agree with what the scientific/medical/psychological fields are saying about sexual orientation – both gay and straight – you will no doubt conclude that the findings are still sketchy and illusive at best. Yes, it is true! A “gay gene” has not been found. But guess what? Neither has a “straight” one. And yet virtually every straight person I know would swear on dear ol’ departed mother’s grave that they were born that way.
Although we know environment plays a role, in recent years far more weight has been given to the biological side of the coin. What science is able to tell us, with regard to any orientation – as they study genetic, neural, and biochemical (i.e. hormonal) influences – is that the number of legs that support the table of biological evidence is growing. This overwhelming evidence suggests that sexual orientation – straight and gay – is, in fact, innate, predisposed, fixed, and unchangeable.
With science, experience, and reason as our foundation, we now turn to those frequently used and disadvantageous terms.
I was born gay. I know this for many reasons, but the biggest of which is that I never made the decision to become gay; one day the feelings just showed up, uninvited. In fact, if I had been given the choice, I assure you – as life would have been so much easier – I would have chosen to be just like my straight brother or father. If you identify as straight, I’m confident that you don’t remember making a choice either. You just discovered that you were straight. Sexual orientation, of any brand, is not a choice.
NOTE: Those who have spent any amount of time trying to change know the truth of what is stated above. Even Allan Chambers of Exodus International, who admits to a daily struggle to deny the natural, knows beyond a shadow of doubt that orientation does not change. Therefore his “ministry” seeks only to change behavior.
Following the logic of the paragraphs above, one would be forced to agree that everything in life that my siblings and my parents were and did, because of their heterosexual sexual orientation, they did as straight children, straight youth, and straight adults. Likewise, because of my homosexual sexual orientation, everything in life that I have been or done, it has been experienced as a gay child, a gay youth, or a gay man.
When I was an infant, I learned to walk and became a gay toddler. When I was 4 years old I began my formal education in preschool, then advanced to elementary school as a gay child. When I was 5 years old, I attended Sunday School and became a young gay Christian. When I was 14 or 15, I dedicated my entire life to God’s service, and felt a call to church ministry as a gay youth. As an adult, following the preparation for that ministry at my conservative Christian college, I was ordained by the Church of the Nazarene as a gay pastor.
Strangely, the only thing I have not done with much frequency, as that gay boy/youth/man, is express myself sexually with someone of the same gender. So, by the definition often given to the term above, I was not, with any amount of regularity, behaving homosexually. Or was I?
The fact of the matter is, not having same-gender sexual relations does not make me any less gay. Neither does having sex with a same-gendered person make me gay. It is my predisposed, fixed, and unchangeable homosexual sexual orientation that accomplishes this.
A contrast will perhaps shed a bit more light on the matter.
My dad, as a divorced man, has not been sexually intimate with a woman for over 20 years. He does not look at porn on the internet, nor does he make the time or effort to go out and date eligible women. Does this mean, by the same definition used in homosexual behavior, that my dad is not behaving heterosexually? ABSOLUTELY NOT! He is as straight as he was when he was married. He doesn’t have to be having sex to display heterosexual behavior. Everything he does, he does as a straight man.
If one were to ask their elderly mom and dad, “Mom, Dad, when was the last time you behaved heterosexually?” do you not think they would be completely perplexed by the question? The truth is, everything mom and dad did, they did as straight people.
Homosexual behavior is how a gay man or woman comports themselves on a regular, daily basis, regardless of whether sexual acts enter the equation.
I’m being a bit facetious here, but I’m also being honest when I say that the first thing that enters my mind when someone asks me if I am a practicing homosexual is, “Well, I went to choir practice on Wednesday night.”
A friend of mine once made a humorous statement about this term as well. Everette said of the term: “Oh, honey, I don’t have to practice …I’ve got it down pat.”
This term, practicing homosexual, except that it strikes me as one of the most discriminatory expressions used today, is really no different than the term that preceded it. Unfortunately, its common use is to denote having sex with a member of the same gender.
Personally, I think I’ll stick to my definition …maybe Everette’s. They are far more entertaining …and accurate.
The “Gay Lifestyle” (a personal favorite of mine – grrr!)
The notion many people have that there is one gay lifestyle in which all gay people partake is just staggering to a thinking mind. Furthermore, the negative elements of that perceived lifestyle – lust, promiscuity, and STD’s, just to name a few – are all present in a rather large constituency of heterosexual sexual relationships. These destructive qualities are not exclusive to any sexual orientation.
I belong to the online facebook networking community as do a great many of my family and friends. On my profile it is spelled out pretty clearly that I am gay. I have done this not because I wish to throw the gay issue into peoples’ faces in an attempt to make them confront something they really don’t want to bother with, but because for such a long time I suppressed the nature of who I am – so much so, that the crisis event that brought about my outing did great damage to me and a great many family members and people in my life at the time. I have since decided that I will hide it no more.
Quite a few months ago now, a childhood friend, whom, for the purposes of this writing I will call “Ben,” and with whom, I have not had contact for about 30 years, requested that I add him as one of my facebook contacts. I’m always a bit anxious at how my friends, of whom a majority is very conservative Christian, will react to the news that I am gay, Christian …and open about BOTH. I therefore tend to issue a gentle warning or perhaps an explanation. I guess I don’t want the issue to be swept under the rug. I’d rather make known that it is a safe topic to discuss if questions should arise.
In accepting Ben’s friend request, true to my form, I wrote to him, saying: In looking briefly at your profile, and in your viewing of mine, I fear that there may be some things that divide. I sincerely hope this is not the case among Christian brothers and long-time friends. But no matter what, I want you to know 2 things. First, I am as committed and passionate about loving and following Jesus as I ever was as a pastor… second, I am honored and privileged to call you my FRIEND despite any differences we might have.
Although, by in large my childhood friend’s response was warm and reassuring, Ben felt compelled to say: “We will ALWAYS be friends, never doubt!! [But] I can’t say that I accept your lifestyle…”
<< DEEP SIGH >>
Because I did not desire to drive away, or to “pick a fight” with, my friend, I did not do as I was tempted. I, of course, wanted to say to him: “Ben, we’ve not been in touch for some 30 years now. Would you please describe to me my ‘lifestyle’?”
At the time, Ben knew precisely as much about my lifestyle as I knew of his – namely, that we both appeared to enjoy making contact with old friends on facebook. Somehow, I do not think it is to THAT that he was making reference. Ben was making an assumption about the sexual activity that may, or may not be, commonplace among gay people. And somehow people like Ben continue to overlook the ridiculousness of their thinking.
Being gay is simply WHO I AM, not what I do ….the manner in which I live my life.
And – just like my straight brothers and sisters – it’s not any more of a chosen way of life than is my personality type. It’s something that emerges from within. None of us (gay or straight) chooses those to whom we’re attracted, or the desire to whom we express that fundamental, God-given need for human intimacy. It just IS (always has BEEN, always will BE).
Being dishonest about my sexuality, on the other hand, IS a lifestyle-choice that was mine for a very long time. I regret that choice very much. It was responsible – along with the fear and misinformation that propelled it – for hurting me and a great deal of people in my life. But God is faithful and is helping me, in my authenticity, to be the person he created me to be, and to heal the wounds.
There is no such thing as a monolithic gay (or straight) lifestyle.
Let it be known that there are as many gay lifestyles as there are gay people. Equally, there are as many straight lifestyles as there are straight people. When, as gay men, we pass by a “Topless XXX” club, we don’t think to ourselves, “Boy, I’m sure glad I’m not caught up in the ‘straight lifestyle!'” But I know many, many homophobic people who react on a daily basis towards gay people on this level. Unfortunately, it would seem that they have thought the issue through about as far as has Ben and the vast majority of the religious right.
Some people define gay relationships as those relationships that are forged between two members of the same sex, and who are having sexual relations. I would like to suggest to you that this, like the paragraphs above, again diminishes the gay person’s life to mere sexual encounters.
It seems to me that one’s homosexual orientation necessarily dictates that any gay person can only enter into gay relationship. Likewise, someone who identifies as a straight person is only capable of entering into straight relationship.
I believe this to be so, because of the way each person, with their specific orientation, relates to the world around them. As a gay man, I relate to my world homosexually. My brother, on the other hand, is a straight man. He relates to his world heterosexually. Any relationship Brian enters into is a straight relationship, regardless of the other party’s sexual orientation, because sexual acts need not be the sole, defining expression of his straight relationship to the other individual. If it were so, in order to have any straight relationship, Brian would have to be having sex with every straight person he met. Sex, although it can be a component of, does not define the straight relationship.
By the same token, every relationship into which I enter as a gay man – including the relationship with my brother – is to me of gay relationship, because that is how I relate to humanity. Sexual acts are not a factor.
Similarly, a fellow employee by the name of Joel is a gay friend of mine. Joel and I have never had any sort of sexual contact with one another at any time during our relationship, nor do we desire it. Nevertheless, he and I are in gay relationship. We perceive our world through our homosexual orientation. But as stated above, sex has not, does not, and never will define our gay relationship. We are just gay, plain and simple.
NOTE: Now, I feel compelled here to insert a statement of clarification. It was pointed out to me by a very good friend of mine upon reading this section that it appeared to him I was inadvertently communicating something rather to the opposite of the message I’m trying to get across. So, allow me to say that I would never suggest that heterosexuality or homosexuality is the only way one relates to ones world. There are so many ways in which we do this; culturally, experientially, circumstantially, environmentally, so on and so forth. To say that we experience our world only through our sexual orientation is just plain wrong.
This, in fact, is the whole point of my suggestion that we rethink these terms. Gay people, and straight people too, are so much more than our sexuality. In the passage above, I was specifically talking about the way in which we relate to one another as persons. Often our sexual orientation will have profound impact, but this still does not necessitate sexual expression or acts of sexuality, for gays or straights.
Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin
GAY PEOPLE ARE NOT THE EQUIVALENT OF SEXUAL ACTS. As mentioned above, what one does sexually with another does not determine one’s sexual orientation, no matter what it is (gay or straight). The fact that one may have sex with a person of the same gender no more makes one gay than having eyes makes that person a potato. In the same way, abstaining from sex with a member of the same gender does not keep one from being gay or behaving homosexually.
Our orientation goes to the very core of who we are as humans. It affects our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, desires, passions, affections, emotions, relationships, and everything we do. It is our very essence, our identity as persons. When a Christian says to a gay person in reference to homosexuality, “I love the sinner, but hate the sin.” that Christian has only sexual acts in mind. What the gay person hears when those words are uttered are: You are a sinner to the very core of your being. I judge, condemn, and hate you for WHO you are.
We cannot just take off our sexuality as if it were a fur coat. Gay people are gay through and through. Straight people are straight through and through. We should, as Christians – gay and non-gay – hate sin. Neither our sexual orientation nor its healthy expression – homo- or heterosexual – should be included in that word “sin”.
It is clear to me that the problem with the various expressions expounded upon above – as I have stated before – is that persons, invaluable and real, are reduced to acts. I suppose this is so because it’s much easier to condemn what people do rather than denounce who the person is. But we gay folk are much, much more than mere acts of sexuality.
Friends, put your thinking caps on with me …won’t you agree that it’s time to reconsider some things on gay terms?