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I came out to my friends and family at the age of 25.  Three years prior, one of my university professors had come out as a gay Christian. Before hearing her story, I had never heard the two terms used in cohesion with one another.

Growing up in a Pentecostal church, being gay was so far removed from my experience of ‘normal’ that it did not once cross my mind in a conscious way that I might be gay. It was only after hearing my professor’s story that I began to examine my own life, attractions and relationships.

That journey was painful. Coupled with my vulnerability to depression and having Borderline Personality Disorder (undiagnosed at that point in my life), trying to process that I was not who I always thought I was – and not who my family, church and friends expected I was – was like trying to swallow fistfuls of cement. Coming out to oneself is always the first and hardest step of accepting who you are. And that’s just the beginning. The idea of having to share this dark shame with another person paralyzed me. I was physically and emotionally sick for a long time before I started talking to people who were able to help me see the beauty in who I am as a gay Christian.

One of those people was Wendy Gritter, executive director of New Direction, an organization that actively seeks to “eliminate fear, division, and hostility at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality.” She had counselled a few other gay people I had spoken with, and on their recommendation I connected with her. I still remember her expression the first time we met, when she told me “there is no shame in being who you are.” The sincerity and determination in her voice pierced through my walls of internalized homophobia. This was the first time a straight person with a religious background was affirming my sexuality.

From there, my world of acceptance grew. As I found more safe people (and realized just how many of my friends and family were accepting and affirming), it became easier to overcome this internal shame and wrestle through the difficult theological questions that I faced as a Christian who had grown up believing homosexuality was sinful.

The result has been an incredibly loving relationship cultivated with Kathryn, sharing who I am more authentically with my friends and family, and the dismantling of a spirituality built on fear of punishment. In its place, I have found room to grow as a Christian that believes God is drawing all life toward Love, and that my role is to practice this love and learn to cultivate trust when fear is tempting.

I still sometimes revert to that internal homophobic fear that worries if gay is synonymous with broken, sick or sinful. What I return to again and again in these moments is this – I have to believe that a life modelled after Jesus must be motivated by love, and so as St. Teresa of Avila said, “the important thing is not to think much, but to love much, and so to do what ever best awakens you to love.” A life lived with love as the motivator, and in conscious opposition to fear, is the one I am after.

There’s a reason I am sharing this with you. Imagine having to wrestle through all this shame and fear without the support and acceptance of the people closest to you. Imagine if I had never met another queer Christian. Imagine being a child or a teenager who is a sexual or gender minority, fully aware of how different you are, and fully aware of the rejection you would face if anyone ever found out. I was incredibly lucky that most of my fear of rejection was unsubstantiated. I weep for those that do come out and are abandoned by family, barred from their churches, pushed toward damaging “reparative” therapies or simply ridiculed for being different.

Despite growing cultural acceptance of LGBTQ* identities, there are still kids in Canada growing up in churches and families that are not affirming, and at worse are abusive toward those that don’t fit expectations of ‘normal.’ All the fear and shame I wrestled through nearly killed me (literally). I can’t imagine the deep pain of those who have to experience this as adolescents in isolation.

This is why the work of New Direction is essential. The gay/queer community is not always fond of Christians, and vice versa, and you can imagine funding for an organization that exists in such a tense place can be scarce. This fall, New Direction made the heart-wrenching decision to lay off their Youth Coordinator due to funding. This is devastating. We must be doing MORE to reach kids and teens who fear the only way out of the closet is by death.

If you think the work of New Direction is essential, please consider making a donation (choose General Fund and indicate in the comment if you would like it to be specifically for youth outreach). To really make a difference, become a monthly sponsor. This is a tangible way you can stand up to the homophobia in our churches and society, and make a real difference in someone’s life. I’ve seen it happen in my own, and there are so many more hurting hearts to reach.

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Race

Last weekend I was at a retreat. A spoken-word poet named Jenna Tenn-Yuk shared a piece entitled “Everyone loves a Jamasian girl” about her experience having Jamaican cultural roots but a predominately asian appearance. Later, the leader of the retreat was introducing a keynote speaker, who was also Jamaican, and said “Jenna may be a Jamasian girl but he’s the real mccoy.”

The next day, Wendy stood before the 100+ attendees and acknowledged the root of racism in her remark. By attempting to make a clever segue into the keynote presentation, she had diminished Jenna’s experience, mere moments after Jenna shared about the way these different aspects of her identity have made her a minority in both Jamaican and asian circles.

With humility and regret Wendy acknowledged her mistake and sought reconciliation with Jenna. As Jenna shared how she experiences these subtle forms of racism all the time, I realized just how blind I am to all the ways our words and our systems oppress people of colour. I left understanding the deep need for us to listen closely to the ways we talk to and about one another.

Mental Illness

At this same retreat, I was a participant in a group workshop on shame. The facilitator, Steven, shared some stories from his own experience. Among many others, one of the things he mentioned was not knowing how to respond when he meets someone who has had a suicide in their family.

I felt myself cringe as I heard this phrase. When we refer to someone as ‘a suicide,’ we are boiling that person’s entire life story down to their death, as if nothing else about them ever existed. I knew this was not Steven’s intention in the comment he made, and yet it represented a lack of awareness in our society about how to talk about mental illness.

Overcoming my own hesitation, I approached Steven after the workshop and shared my thoughts. I told him I was not being judgmental or critical of his presentation, only that I sought to share some of my own understanding around mental illness and how we speak about those who have died because of it. Steven was receptive and even grateful that I initiated the conversation, and I left feeling empowered for speaking up.

Sexuality

One of my family members is in the hospital and I’ve been spending as much time as I can visiting. She has very limited movement currently, and when I offered to adjust her gown for her, my mom jokingly said “be careful, she’s gay,” implying that I might try to somehow take advantage of her vulnerable state.

My heart sank. Personal care for other people is something I do everyday in my job. While it’s true that I am attracted to females, my heart belongs solely to my wife, and I make every effort to avert my eyes in places where other women are temporarily exposed (hockey changing rooms, for example).

My mom knows this about me, and when I expressed my feelings about her joke, she quickly recognized my pain and apologized. She could have been defensive, offered an excuse, or told me to “lighten up,” but instead she took my concern seriously and made a commitment to consider the impact of these types of jokes in the future.

Gender

My dear friend Maxx, who is trans, recently posted about wanting to be able to grow facial hair. In response, I jokingly commented, “I could draw it on with a marker for you, if that helps.” I thought I was being funny.

He messaged me shortly after to say that he had been hurt by my comment. He knew I meant it as a joke, but it only reminded him that unlike so many cisgender people he knows, he is not yet able to fully express his masculinity in his body the way he desires. I instantly felt deep regret. Hurting my friend with my ignorance was furthest from my mind in that moment.

I offered an apology, immediately removed my comment, and wished I could do more to show Maxx that I want to be a fierce ally for the trans community. He told me he had hoped I would be receptive to his feelings, and that he is learning to stand up for himself when someone diminishes him for his gender identity.

Ubuntu

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, “my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” In other words, “if I diminish you, I diminish myself.” To all the people mentioned in these stories, thank you for showing me that we can acknowledge our mistakes, hope for reconciliation and forgive one another with love. You have reminded me to consider the weight of my words carefully, and to listen before I speak, especially when the conversation involves those whose experiences of minority differ from my own. We are better for having had these moments together.

Sometimes Kathryn and I forget that we’re snuggled in soft cushions. Our world is full of love and acceptance and light.

We forget the world is still harsh and cold in many places, to many faces.

And then someone comes along and ‘lovingly’ slaps us with their version of ‘truth.’

Someone who once cared for me, babysat me when my dad was in the hospital, someone I considered an extra parent when my parents were overcome by my brother’s illness.

She doesn’t know how much this slap stings. She posted something on my mother’s facebook, something she thought my mother needed to hear, because “it is the truth of the Word of God.”

Her version of truth, that my mom needs to hear, because my mom is openly supportive of her gay daughter.

Me – in all my gayness – she loves.

Kathryn – in all her gay-itude – she loves.

Us – in all our queer-marriage-homo-loving-rainbow-coloured-PRIDE – my mother loves and accepts and celebrates and supports.

Do you see the difference between ‘loving’ someone and loving someone?

My mother, with her fierce love to protect and nourish, wildly embraces what is best for me – the union of my heart and soul with the one who brings light into my world, this woman next to me.

Our gender is irrelevant – to us, to our parents, to God.

But the slap stings still, because my heart aches for all the gay kids (young and old) that don’t have the soft cushions to protect them from these hurts. My heart breaks for the ones who believe they are not enough. The ones who have been told their love is not pure, not sacred.

My love for Kathryn is sacred.

How could anyone suggest otherwise?

And the slap stings because I still get scared. Because I too, as much as you, am vulnerable to fear and shame. And whether those voices rage or whisper, their message is the same. Gay is not okay. Or, the thinly veiled version “gay is okay, but straight is better.”

So where should I turn when the world slaps me for who I love?

The small voice inside me, the one that still sings,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

I’m not an American.

Same sex marriage has been legal, nationwide, in my country for close to ten years.

My wife and I have been married for nearly three years, and are surrounded by friends and family that love and support us.

But today’s landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court fills me with joy and hope and even tears.

(Why am I not in a crowded pub celebrating right now? Oh right, it’s not even 11am.)

How do I tell you about the hope and fear that swirled within me as I awaited news of this historic day?

How do I show you the surge of gratitude I feel, knowing I celebrate my marriage every day even though I did not fight for it?

How do I explain to you the pounding in my chest when the words “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex” first appeared on my screen?

How do I describe the restlessness that rushes through me as I sit alone in my living room, unable to share this elation with anyone?

A few months ago, Kathryn and I stumbled across a pro-gay wedding celebration card in Home Outfitters, with two grooms on the front. We smiled, then our eyes watered, then she kissed my hand. We celebrated because we live somewhere where being gay doesn’t have to be a secret. And we lamented for those who do not.

Today represents a shift that has been long and slow and built on the back of suffering caused by hatred and fear and ignorance. Today represents the swell of people – families and religious leaders and friends and politicians – who are telling their gay loved ones “you are no different.” There is no reason to feel shame, to feel secretive. Companies were tripping over each other to show their support on social media as the news of the Supreme Court’s decision rolled out. Because of today, it won’t be so surprising to find a pro-gay wedding card amidst a sea of brides with their grooms.

Today I watched a promotional video in which a man who is about to marry his spouse said through tears “I remember [thinking] why me? What will I do? Will anyone love me? I’ll never get married.”  The video brought me to tears because I once felt this too. Before I met Kathryn, I remember thinking “Okay, so I’m gay. I guess that means I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.” I didn’t know anyone who had married a same sex partner, I had barely seen gay relationships portrayed in the media. Now, for a kid who is ten or twenty or even fifty years old, coming to realize he or she is gay, there is a torrential river of media that says “Yes, you can find love. Yes, you can get married. Yes, you can have a family.”

I can’t just sit here and do nothing as this moment passes. I feel an inner pulling to mark this moment, to set a ceremonial cairn in this place, to light a candle.

Yes, I will light a candle, “to tell everyone,” as the poet Ben Okri wrote, “that history, though unjust, can yield wiser outcomes, and out of bloodiness can come love, that the future is yet unmade.”

Yes, I will light a candle.

I will remember the pain of all the people, whose names I will never know, who stood up for love at great cost so that it would be easier for me to stand here today.

I will remember the courage and honesty of four individuals, Kristen, Jay, Lorena, and Dan, whose own coming out stories directly influenced mine, and I will strive to live as courageously and honestly as I can.

I will envision a world where every beautiful person has the right to marry the one they love, and can share that love without fear.

And I will make room for love in my own heart where fear, ignorance, and even hatred, toward those who are different than me still lingers in dark corners.

“It gets better” has become an anthem against the oppression and marginalization of people based on their sexuality or gender identity. But it does not just get better. We make it better. We make it great.

There is a little more room for love in the world today.

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A friend of mine recently got involved in the kind of conversation that one sometimes stumbles across on the internet. The original post might be about anything, but at one point or another, the topic of religion is introduced and there are some commenters who are off to the races.

In this particular conversation, a few individuals wanted to claim that a definition of ‘christian’ is basically boiled down to one’s stance on homosexuality. My friend was frustrated with this narrow version of christianity and made a few statements, such as “for the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: love your neighbour as yourself,” and “if that makes me less of a Christian in some eyes, so be it – I’ll risk where my love of Jesus leads me,” before excusing himself from the conversation to “lament and have lunch.”

At times, it’s hard for me to avoid getting sucked in to reading these arguments, back and forth. I know they aren’t really good for my spirit, they wear me down and make me feel defeated. And while there are voices like my friend’s, calling for a more loving dialogue, they seem few and far between. And often rather ineffective.

Sometimes, if I’m not careful, these arguments can start to eat into me a little, and I start wondering who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong.’ The reality is that I still struggle sometimes wondering if I’m the one who is deluded. Would God reject me on the basis of my orientation?

I know that thought is based in fear. And when I think about my love for Kathryn, how we shape each other’s lives, it feels whole and hopeful. It is the same feeling I get standing in a rainstorm, or hugging my beautiful nieces, or having a chickadee land on my hand when we’re bird feeding, or celebrating life with friends by dancing and laughing and feeling belonging.

Those are the moments God is most with me, or I am most with God, or something. And they include laying in Kathryn’s arms at night, or laughing at her ridiculous sense of humour, or comforting her after a long day at work. Her gender (or mine) in those moments means nothing.

That is what I need to remember when a stranger’s comments on the internet start eating at my self-worth and security in God’s love.

I have a picture of my dad, one of the happiest and proudest moments ever captured of him. It hangs on my wall near my entrance, and shows him and I walking down an aisle towards the woman I am about to marry. My dad will forever be an example to me of the way relationship and love can heal division and fear. In a little less than two years, he went from having an opinion very similar to those commenters to the moment pictured, joy washing over his face and tears budding in his eyes. He and Kathryn sat side by side at my hockey games through a whole season, even though he was certain of his position on homosexuality, and through that slow building of relationship he discovered the love that was possible between two women, equal to the love my brothers share with their wives. (It really could be a Tim Horton’s commercial.)

Anne Lamott recently said, “the mystery of grace is that God loves Dick Cheney and me exactly as much as He or She loves your grandchild.” Which also means that God loves the gay couple down the street as much as God loves those commenters. I don’t have kids, or grandkids, but I love my two nieces with such intensity, a love very different than the emotions I feel for those commenters. It’s hard not to be emotionally effected when you come across opinions that question the goodness of your most intimate relationship.

But I’m learning that it’s also really okay to be emotionally effected. Hurt and anger are natural, and we do need to lament for the LGBTQ* individuals that aren’t being shown God’s love by those claiming to represent Christianity. God’s heart is probably breaking and might be getting angry too. God just somehow manages to also love those guys just like I love my nieces, and that’s the confounding part. To be broken and angry and also really, really loving. How challenging.

It’s unlikely that I will be able to have much influence on the kind of people who want to spread a version of God’s love that excludes some people. But I’m not writing this to try to change the opinions of those who would define Christianity by one’s view on homosexuality. And I’m not writing this to hear agreements from those who accept gay relationships as part of the diversity of God’s creation. I am lucky and so grateful to have family and friends who actively remind me (through words and actions) that God is love unbounded.

I’m writing this for the kid who is growing up in a church that tells him he is not enough, or the woman afraid of being imprisoned simply for falling in love. I’m writing this because there are gay individuals who don’t have a dad that will walk them down the aisle at their wedding, or a family that will accept their partner as an equal.

In the deluge of posts and comments against homosexuality, someone needs to stand up and say “God is love.” I was so grateful for the words my friend did post. It’s not really his ‘battle,’ he is not gay. But in a way, it’s also a battle that belongs to all of us. Because as much as the world has changed, there are still gay people surrounded by those who think along these very hard lines, even gay people themselves who think along these hard lines, and feel the weight of shame and rejection that comes with being told you are less than another.

I just can’t accept a God whose heart is full of wrath and vengeance. I have to believe that God’s love is unbounded.

This week is World Pride in Toronto, a time to celebrate diversity.  The weekend, which culminates in the Pride Parade, is known to be a spectacle of beauty, freedom and sexuality.  The first Pride parades, held in 1970 were protest marches commemorating the Stonewall Riots, the night in 1969 that gay people fought back against discrimination and intolerance.

As a married, gay, Christian, young woman, I owe a lot to the forerunners of the Gay Rights Movement.  And that’s why Pride is important to me.  It’s not the spectacle or the taboo that draws me in, it’s the chance to see two male police officers walking hand in hand, declaring their love without fear.  It’s the chance to see young people like me who never knew what it was like to be jailed for our orientation.  It’s the chance to see two moms, or two dads pushing the stroller of their small infant, showing me that what I once thought was impossible for myself is in fact happening all around me.  It’s a chance to honour those that fought for my safety, my freedom, my right to be who I am and love the girl who captured my heart.

I am one of the lucky few who live in an accepting society.  In many places around the world LGBTQ individuals still aren’t safe.  They risk harassment, sexual violence, imprisonment and even death because of LOVE.  Because of the most powerful, beautiful, life-changing force on the planet.  Because of who they love, and who they are, they are treated as other and not equal.  This breaks my heart.  And this is why Pride matters.  Someone fought for my freedom, now I must use my voice to demand the freedom of all people.

If you agree with me, if you believe Pride matters and is more than the spectacle created by media and corporate influence, please honour those who suffered for freedom by lighting a candle tonight.  Light the candle and know that it burns to remember the cost of freedom in all its forms.

And remember the candle burns too with hope.  Hope for the day when all people will feel safe to be who they are without fear of harassment or judgment. Reflect on the freedoms that you have that were fought for by others. Think also about freedoms that others around the globe are still fighting for.

For a moment, be present and aware of your freedom.   And for a moment, be present and aware of the pain of those who lack that freedom.

Kathryn and I wandered through the baby section of a local store today.  We were looking for a shower gift for a friend of ours.  It seems we’ve hit the stage of life where everyone we know is getting pregnant, about to have a baby, or has little ones in tow. It’s thrilling.

On Monday I met with an old friend from university and got to experience the sheer joy of snuggling a sleeping newborn, one that still has that newborn curl.  As he woke up, he kept nuzzling into my neck – a sign infants are getting hungry, I hear.  It was incredible to feel so trusted by this little one, to know I was able to offer him the safety and comfort he needed in those small moments.

New moms keep telling me I am a natural, that I will be a great mother some day. I do hope so.

Kathryn and I have started talking and planning and hoping for little ones.  The trouble is the two of us don’t possess the right combination of baby-making organs. Turns out men do serve some purpose in the world.

We have friends (both women) who have a beautiful little toddler and another growing bump in Mommy’s tummy.  It was actually the birth of this little toddler that finally solidified our plans to get engaged two winter ago.  To Kathryn and I, she represents all the hope and love and longing we have to share our lives with little ones.  She represents the possibility not just of parenthood, but of family.

As a gay couple, we have a few options available to us.  Adoption is one that we have considered, but for now, we both feel that conception and pregnancy is the right choice for us.  We could go through a fertility clinic and use anonymous donated sperm for one of us to conceive and carry a child.  But this too doesn’t feel quite right for us.

We could also seek a known sperm donor, a man (or a couple) willing to donate sperm to us for an at-home, DIY insemination. You know, the old turkey baster method.  We like this option.  We like being able to conceive our child together, in intimacy, rather than with one of us laying with our legs in stirrups and a doctor shining his light up you-know-where.

Using a known donor is akin to the model of open adoption, where the level of relationship is decided by the parties involved.  We believe in giving our child a sense of place and belonging in the world, which often involves knowing where you come from.  We like being able to know who has given us this remarkable gift, and the possibility that our child would also be able to know who he is.  This doesn’t mean we’re looking for a baby-daddy or “co-parents”, but it does mean we can say to our kid “this man helped us give you life.”

So this is the option we’ve decided to pursue.  But it turns out it’s not as easy as just walking up to a man and saying “sperm, please.”  The complexity of donorship takes time to navigate, and we recognize that many people just aren’t comfortable with giving away their DNA.

It can be hard waiting while we sort out the details.  I am sure this is true for so many women who begin to plan and long for motherhood.  We know we are not the only ones who feel ready in body and spirit, and in our relationship, and yet have to wait.  We know there are other women who ache as they pass the baby section of a store, or shed tears at the announcement of a friend’s pregnancy. The miracle of new life is complex, and doesn’t often deal well with being rushed.

And so we wait.  And in the meantime, we relish spontaneity, and sleeping in, and being able to control our bladders when we laugh (I hear pregnancy makes this tricky at times).  And we trust, that when all the details come together, when the timing is right, when it’s finally our turn, we’ll be terrified and awe-filled and ready to be new mothers. And we will love that little one fiercely.

I know I am one of the lucky few people who has found a career that fills my life with hope and meaning.  I can’t begin to describe how much my life has been shaped by the wisdom and grace of the men and women I support.  People often think that supporting adults with developmental disabilities must be challenging or requires a lot of patience, and yet they fail to see the depth of reward that comes from these relationships.  My friends from L’arche, and the clients I work with now, are constantly teaching me about grace, patience and identity.

A few months ago, a client saw my wedding ring and asked me about my husband. When I told him I married a woman, he reacted with surprise saying “Why would you do that?”  It was clear that the idea of same-gender marriage was not something he was familiar with encountering.

I responded by saying, “that’s just who I fell in love with.”

And without missing a beat, he raised his shoulders and said, “well, you gotta marry the one you love.”

I wish he could explain this to so many others who think the love that two men or two women share is somehow different than the love between a man and a woman.

Same love.

Sometimes, there are these small, yet powerful, moments that rush in unexpectedly and catch me by surprise.  Moments when someone finds their way behind this carefully crafted shield that I carry.  Most of the time I don’t even realize I carry this shield, but in these moments, I stand dumbfounded, wondering why I ever thought I needed this extra weight.

The hardest part about coming out was first allowing myself to accept being gay.  Saying “I am gay” to myself was by far harder than it has ever been telling someone else.  I am not alone in this.  I’ve heard these same words from so many other gay people.  For a lot of us, the internal struggle against homophobia surpasses any negative reaction one might endure in coming out.

Oh yes, I couldn’t be happier now.  I love Kathryn, and I am learning everyday to leave the ‘fear of difference’ behind as we journey further together in our love.  And we couldn’t be more grateful for the love and acceptance of our friends and family.  But the days of struggle that it took to arrive at this place have left their scars.

And so I find myself carrying this shield.  Most of the time, I don’t even realize it’s there.  But I notice it when I feel the need to glance around the room before taking my wife’s hand, for fear of who we might offend.  I notice it when a conversation with a new coworker presents the opportunity to either hide or reveal this part of myself.  Do I choose to say “wife” or “partner”? It might seem insignificant to some, and it’s often a split-second decision, but it filters through this shield, afraid that someone may point to the question that fuels my inner fear: is gay less?

Recently, a former theology professor of mine named Peter Fitch published a book, Learning to Interpret Toward Love.  In it, he discusses his own journey in trying to reconcile his desire to be faithful to scripture while treating people of different orientations with love.  I am honoured to be part of his journey, along with other students and friends.  When Pete asked for permission to share a small part of my story in his book, I was thrilled.  His book is a testament to the real struggle and grace that can come from building relationships with those who think differently than us.

After sharing part of my story, and how my coming out impacted him and the church he pastors, Peter shares thoughts from a few other theologians on sexuality and faith, and then says this, “[They both] seem to favour celibacy but allow for union as the best moral option “if celibacy is not possible”… I don’t see it this way… I endorse gay marriage because I believe that it is the only safe way to lift and protect the rights of people with different sexuality” (103, 105).

I was surprised and honestly a little teary-eyed to hear Peter come out and say that he feels that no less than equality in marriage is important for same gender couples.  I knew Pete was happy for me and Kathryn, I knew he loved us and accepted us, but I didn’t know he felt that marriage was God’s best for us.  I didn’t know that he didn’t quietly think, “yes, its good for them that they are married, but it would be better if they weren’t gay.”

I say I was surprised, not because of who Peter is, or what I have come to expect from him, but because I am so used to feeling the need to defend myself and protect myself from those who might think my relationship with Kathryn is in some way less.  Even recognizing and celebrating the legality of our marriage is different than feeling it is God’s best for us.  There is a huge difference between tolerance, such as legislating gay marriage; and acceptance, or believing same gender relationships are equal in love, and for gay Christians – equal in faithfulness, to heterosexual relationships.

My sister-in-law, Anna, summed this up in the best way.  One day, when we happened to be wearing matching bracelets, I took mine off and joked that I wouldn’t want people to assume she is gay.  Her response resonated in my chest, such clear acceptance and equality were in her words, “I wouldn’t care if someone thought I was gay.”  To her, gay is no less than straight.

These small moments have taught me something.  It’s true, there will likely always be one or two people in our lives who quietly or loudly proclaim the ‘less’ of our relationship.  But for each one of them, there are dozens more who love and accept us, and truly believe that our love is equal.  And by sharing our love with others, even those who disagree with it, we open the door a little wider for those who have yet to find places free from fear.

We move towards grace.

At times the progress is sufferingly slow.  Yet, even in our most painful moments, we stumble forward.

When I came out over two years ago, my world was different than it is today.  The changes in my life (and the lives of those around me) are part of a greater process. We both influence and are influenced by this process.

When I came out, my dad struggled to accept what he called “a life-changing choice.”  He was hurt and angry.  In our first conversation about my orientation, I came to see the root of fear in homophobia.

When my wife came out to her extended family, it sparked conflict that, while the foundations have existed for decades, suddenly centred on her orientation and her choice to share the love she and I had found together with her relatives.

When my dear friend came out, his family believed reparative therapy (or ex-gay ministry) was the only choice he had.

Today, I look at the picture of my father walking me down the aisle to marry my bride, I see the look of sheer joy and pride in his eyes, and I am filled with gratitude for the grace in our lives.

Today, I hopefully anticipate the first family gathering Kathryn and I will attend together, knowing many of her extended relatives feel as broken by the family conflict as we do.

Today, I celebrate as Exodus International, the largest ex-gay ministry in North America, announces its closure and the head of the organization issues a heart-felt apology to those who have been hurt by its existence.

If you don’t already know, being gay is not a choice.  The only choice we have is how we live our lives.  We choose to live towards grace.

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