Won’t her mom be surprised/confused

Got this in this week:

Hello John,

God bless you, and thank you so much for writing your book, UNFAIR: Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work. I’m right in the middle of it, and sometimes the testimonies in it bring me to tears.

I’m twenty-three years old Christian woman about to finish art school. I’ve recently discovered something about myself: I’m pansexual.

Right now I just began a very new relationship with a wonderful girl. She’s a beautiful soul, and I love everything about her. I know that God created her special and I love to treat her as such. I could go on for hours about how amazing and positive she is, but that’s not the point of my question.

My mother is very conservative, and heck, I was too, until a few months ago. It took a long time for me to realize that I just want to love someone, and what’s between their legs doesn’t matter to me.

My mom caught me reading UNFAIR on Christmas day, which erupted into a serious argument about what God really says about homosexuality. I ended the discussion with, “Mom, we can’t talk about this right now … you are getting too upset. But I love you.”

A few weeks later, she called me, wanting to once again tell me how wrong I am. This brings tears to my eyes to write … because I believe that God wants us to love people no matter what. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that God IS LOVE. God CREATED LOVE, and the feelings I share for my beautiful girl are not feelings of lust or anything. They are TRUE feelings of adoration and thankfulness that she’s here, that God created her, and that, my gosh, she actually loves me right back! It just seems so wrong that God would be angry at me for this.

I have been a Christian since I was four. I love Jesus. I want to tell the world about our relationship, but it hurts that I can’t tell the people who matter most in my life about how happy I am, about how I wake up every morning with a beautiful girl on my heart, and a thankful spirit that God brought her into my life. It’s so painful that I have to wait to share this beautiful new light in my life. I love my mother, but I just don’t think she’d understand or accept me after this.

Do you have any words of advice? If not, thank you so much for reading this and for writing your book. Its been a huge help for me as I deal with this.

In Christ,

X

Dear X,

I think you should just come right out and tell your mom you’re pansexual. She’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. She’ll think it means you’re attracted to cookware. Or that you have a thing for Peter Pan. But so what? Lots of people have a thing for Peter Pan. I mean, c’mon. The most famous Peter Pan ever was a woman: Mary Martin, in her tights and tantalizingly tiny top, flying o’er the heads of her gaping audience.

Seriously. You’re too young to know this, but Mary Martin as Peter Pan seriously tweaked a whole generation of Americans. Add to that steamy, confusing mix the hot fairy that was PP’s perky pal, Tinkerbell,

and you begin to understand why every year tens of millions of Americans frenziedly overeat at Disneyland.

[But seriously: for those readers not up on their emerging terminologies for sexual identification, pansexuality (according to the Wikipedia entry on the matter) refers to "the potential for sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction towards persons of all gender identities and biological sexes." It's distinguished from bisexuality, see, in a way that would ... make Sigmund Freud use his cigar to burn a hole right through his dictionary.]

And now if I might be even more serious.

It’s beyond sad, X, that you have to worry about your mother rejecting you simply because you love the person you do. And of course she might actually do that. Parents choose their God over their children every day. I hope your mom—for her sake as much as yours—proves better than that. (And she might: lots of parents don’t at first react well to their children loving same-sexually—but later, after they’ve had some time to reflect and adjust, change.)

From what I can tell you’ve got a few choices:

1. Don’t tell her. I don’t know if you live with your mom, or are seriously dependent upon her in some other material or even emotional way, but you could of course always not tell her. If I know someone’s crazy about a certain topic, I just don’t talk to them about that topic. There’s no shame in protecting yourself by not giving your mom reason to start telling you how evil and wrong you are. Your love is new; you’re allowed to keep it private and pure while it develops into whatever it will. That’s all your business, and no one else’s. You can tell your mom about how you love when, how, and even if you want to. There’s no rush.

2. You can engage with her about your sexuality via a modification of the way I once suggested a guy do with his family in a post called The Elephant in the Room: I Remain, Still, a Gay Christian.

3. Give her your copy of UNFAIR, and basically insist that she read it. Changing the minds of people like your mother is exactly why I wrote/edited that book. And I know it works very well for that.

4. Show her this letter you wrote to me. It’s beautiful. From it beams proof positive that you have no more wandered from the bright and empowering love of Jesus than the sun has wandered from the sky.

[UPDATE: If no one's being hurt, God's okay with your sexuality.]

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gaychristian Gay Christian via Facebook

    You could go “Hi mum I’m pansexual”, “oh that’s nice dear, would you like a cup of tea?”

  • Brena

    If we value relationship and love above only sex and genitals then we would all define ourselves as pansexual. I have never fallen in love with a woman and I have with men, but if that same love ever manifested itself in my heart toward a woman then I would hope to have enough grace to value love and relationship more than genitals.

    • T

      @Brena, you are an amazing woman! I wish everyone had your mature and open minded point of view. I wish parents would realize that they are destroying their children’s happiness for their own selfishness. Jesus said the greatest commandment of all is LOVE.

      • Brena

        As I read somewhere, the genitals are often the last thing we encounter on our journey to intimacy. First we love their stance or choices or communication. Then we love their thoughts and reactions and our mutual energy/synergy. Really, after you have gotten that far, and if it is truly lovely, then how much do you want what is in their pants to change your heart?

    • HJ

      I think that is what I was thinking reading this. Only, I couldn’t put it in words (and I come from the other perspective.) Thanks for explaining it so well and bluntly! :)

    • LSS

      There is a theory that humans in general are evolving towards that. You make that idea feel so much more sensible than it might otherwise at first glance.

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    thirty bucks your mom won’t know what it means.

  • Jessica

    You are a very wise person, John. It’s a lesson that took me a while to learn, but sometimes you cannot change people’s minds, and your time and energy will be better spent finding other people who WILL love and accept you for who you are, then trying to change a single person. That’s admittedly a very difficult thing to do when that person is a family member, especially one you care about. And probably she will find out eventually, but better to know you have love and support elsewhere when they happens. And as you said, John, people do change over time.

    I find a lot of hope in the stories at When I Came Out, which is a collection of user-submitted coming out stories. Many people found those they came out to were more loving and supportive than they expected, and there are also a lot of stories of people (especially family members) who made 180-degree attitude changes over time.

  • Lyn

    I think there’s also something to be said for introducing your mom to your girlfriend without telling her she’s your girlfriend (make sure the GF is okay with this first, obviously). Let your mom get to know her as the good woman she is. That works for some folks, but not others. It depends on how your mom would react if she noticed that shining look of love in your eyes whenever you looked at your girlfriend. If she’d freak and make a scene, then involving your girlfriend in potential ugliness isn’t a good idea, but if she’d keep her peace and, perhaps, spend time in thought and prayer on what she’d seen, it might work.

    Keep in mind that if your mom gets emotionally distraught with homo/bi/pansexuality, it may be because she has some personal experience she’s kept to herself, that she’s never worked through. A lot of vehemently anti-gay people are that way because of some secret shame they’re carrying around– feelings or experiences. You need to envelope her in a lot of love and prayer because if she got that upset about you reading a different perspective, that may imply some very deep-seated issues.

  • Don Whitt via Facebook

    She’ll be relieved it’s pan and not pot.

  • Rebecca Smith via Facebook

    That’s why pans shouldn’t adopt. *sarcasm font*

  • Brian Davis via Facebook

    When asked these sorts of Qs I answer with the question “well, do YOU really want to know anything about HER sex life? Didn’t think so!”

  • Heather Leigh via Facebook

    Why does mom need to know?

    • Otter

      applause appplause!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.oleary Amanda Equality O’Leary via Facebook

    as a pansexual that hasn’t had the conversation with her own parents… it’s hard to share your daily life with your parents when you can’t tell them who you love.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lynette-Cowper/100000495679777 Lynette Cowper via Facebook

    @Brian Davis Pansexuality, like homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality is about more than sex. Are you interested in your parents’ romantic life? I mean, if my mom were widowed or divorced, I would be delighted to know she’s found a new beau. I’m also interested in my (pansexual) daughter’s romantic life. I want to know about the things that are happening in her life. So, your question doesn’t help. It just implies that sexuality is only about sex.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Thanks for the clarification on “pansexual” – I seriously was under the impression that it meant “attracted to *everything*” and that cookware wouldn’t be off the table! So, it’s a human attraction to all gender types… makes more sense now. Sorry for being stupid, it really isn’t a common term!

    I really don’t have much to say as far as advice here, it’s just that I wonder how many parents who would potentially disown their children over sexuality issues would disown them over other things, things that are objectively “bad.” That is, would Mom and Dad reject you over comitting a felony? Having a problem with drug addiction? Maybe having a mental illness? (Not that it’s morally bad, but trust me, having experience with it, many people treat it like it is). If a parent would totally support you in one, but reject you for another, I’d say it’s a parental love fail there, or hypocricy.

    Many people *say* they’d love their children no matter what – some actually do.

    • Diana A.

      “I really don’t have much to say as far as advice here, it’s just that I wonder how many parents who would potentially disown their children over sexuality issues would disown them over other things, things that are objectively ‘bad.’ That is, would Mom and Dad reject you over comitting a felony? Having a problem with drug addiction? Maybe having a mental illness? (Not that it’s morally bad, but trust me, having experience with it, many people treat it like it is). If a parent would totally support you in one, but reject you for another, I’d say it’s a parental love fail there, or hypocricy.”

      What you wrote brought to mind something I read in the book “I Thought It Was Just Me” by Brene Brown (a book I highly recommend, incidentally):

      “If you or your family members have NEVER experienced any one of the following issues, you should just skip the remainder of this chapter:”

      (she then goes on to list a bunch of things which I will summarize–addiction, MH diagnosis, stigmatized illnesses, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, suicide, violent death, criminal activity, incarceration, debt/bankruptcy/poverty, abortion, nonmainstream religious beliefs, low educational attainment, divorce)

      (continuing) “OK, statistically, everyone should still be reading. This is the list of “otherness,” and like it or not, we are on the list–some of us multiple times. You may read this list and think ‘She’s got to be kidding. Just because I’m divorced doesn’t mean people think of me like they think of someone who’s gone to jail or someone who’s on drugs?’ Not true. For some people, divorcing may be worse than drug addiction. In fact, I interviewed a woman in her early sixties who told me that she often felt ashamed of her kids. Specifically, the most shame she felt was about her daughter. Her son-in-law caught the daughter having an affair and divorced her. This same woman had a son who spent several months in jail after getting his second DUI at college. She compared the two by saying ‘Boys will be boys. I can live with that. But, having a trashy daughter is something I’ll never get over.”

      Anyway, I just thought I’d share that.

      • LSS

        Wow, me by myself i only made 4 out of that list, and that’s if our shrink pulls through LOL

        Now in my family, i could hit 12 items easily. And that’s just from your abbreviated list and without going too far out the branches of the family tree.

        Also to note in response to Shadsie, there are even parents who will reject kids for stuff they themselves the PARENTS have done. We’ve heard it in an extremely terrible version from somaticstrenth, i’ve heard similar equally terrible and not-so-terrible versions from friends galore, unfortunately. It’s slightly happened to me, though not nearly as bad as most.

  • poster

    X:

    You’ve come to the right place to hear whatever your ‘itching ears’ want to hear. You will be affirmed here by most in your unbiblical views. ‘But God’s word says we are to love each other’, you say? Yes, you should love others. That doesn’t mean, however, God wants you to cross the line into having sex with them. That’s another matter altogether. Falls under the category of sexual lust. That the Bible says to ‘flee’ from. Sex – that’s reserved for the marriage relationship. A relationship God created in Genesis Ch. 2 between a man and woman — if you want to be biblical about it, which I see you don’t or you wouldn’t be coming here begging John Shore of cheerlead for you.

    • Lyn

      Hey, it’s the poster child for the eisegesis of scripture to justify bigotry! That didn’t take long.

      • poster

        Genesis 2:20-

        “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

        23 The man said,

        “This is now bone of my bones

        and flesh of my flesh;

        she shall be called ‘woman,’

        for she was taken out of man.”

        24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

        25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

        ************************************************************************

        The ‘suitable’ helper God made for man, was wahta? A horse, a penguin, a man???–NO it was a WOMAN. Notice how in verse 24 it says a MAN will leave his father and mother and be united to his WIFE and the wife is a WOMAN!

        S O O B V I O U S. (But at this website you have to spell it out).

        God decided a female was the proper lifelong mate for a male. He made a female for the male, he confirmed that marriage – the relationship he created and presided over here, is between a MAN and WIFE – the man being an actual MALE and the wife being an actual FEMALE.

        Really sad and sorry state of affairs when you have to spell the obvious out.

        Try submitting yourself to the truth instead of twisting it around to suit your procilivities.

        • Nicole

          Actually, God decided that EVE was a proper lifelong mate for ADAM. And nowhere in the Bible does it say they were married. It’s clear to me that they were made for each other, but not that they were married.

          • andie

            Wow, that is almost exactly what I was about to write but I think you said it better than I would’ve! Well done.

        • Brena

          Adam means human, and in non-scripture ancient scrolls (think census) it was used for strictly females (think adams who are pregnant.) So, that little tidbit kinda makes your one man one woman take a little too literal for a story that is so very symbolic. And where did the wives for the sons come from, Oh Wise One? Teach us what is to be literal and what it to be symbolic and what is to be outgrown (slavery), for we did not receive the manual. Thank you.

        • LVZ

          As far as “submitting yourself to the truth instead of twisting it around” goes…

          Many Bible scholars agree that the book of Genesis contains two or three distinct documents, written by authors with different writing styles. In the first creation story (Genesis 1:1 through 2:2), the word translated as “God” is the ancient Hebrew word “Elohim” (meaning “God.”) In this story God creates men and women simultaneously, as equals, on the sixth day of creation.

          The ancient Hebrews who believed in in the second creation story (starting at Genesis 2:3) thought it was blasphemous to say God’s name (YHWH, usually rendered in English as “Jehovah”). So, they referred to God as “Adonai,” meaning “The Lord.” This is usually translated as “Lord God.” In this second Genesis story the Lord God creates Adam first, then creates Eve later.

          There were different tribes of ancient Hebrews living in the ancient Middle East. Some tribes believed in the first story, and other tribes believed in the second one. Years later, these two creation stories were both written down and eventually included in the Bible.

          Ever since, people have been trying to reconcile these two contradicting stories. These attempts at reconciliation have ranged from the simple “Oh, God created Adam on the sixth day and then created Eve later that day” to the more inventive story of Lilith.

          According to this particular legend, God created Adam and Lilith together, as equals, on the sixth day. Lilith eventually got fed up with Adam because he wouldn’t treat her as an equal, and left him. God was then obliged to create a new wife for Adam, and conjured up Eve out of Adam’s rib.

          So: we have two stories about how people were created — by different groups of ancient Hebrews who believed different things about God and even referred to God by different names. (“Sad and sorry state of affairs when you have to spell the obvious out,” eh?) The story of God creating men and woman as equals is just as valid and canonical as the story of Adam and Eve.

          Regardless of which story has more truth in it, the important thing is this. Jesus said that the great commandment — the whole point of the law and the prophets — was to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t say to love men, but not women, because women are supposed to be helpers. He didn’t say to love white people as your neighbor but not people of color. He didn’t say to love straight people but not gay people. He didn’t say to love Christians, but not Jews or Muslims or Buddhists. He said to love everyone.

          • andie

            Excellent. Very very well-said.

        • Will

          So Poster, you read something in a book so its gotta be true. Right?

          This book is very special to you.

          It wasn’t written by men, except it was written by many men.

          It is a perfect historical document, except it isn’t.

          It hasn’t changed since God said, ” Take a memo.” Except it has changed.

          Everything in the Bible is perfectly clear, except that there are thousands of Christian denominations who have been violently disagreeing for thousands of years as to what it says and what it means.

          The Bible is God’s way of showing us morality, except the parts where God favors murderers, adulterers, rapists, child beaters, baby killers, cheaters, liars , and all other types of wicked people.

          The Bible is a Christian book, except for the half that was written by the Jews.

          I realize that you will immediately discount everything I say because you believe that if I don’t hold the Bible as the inerrent Word of God then I must not be a Christian.

          But you are wrong again.

          I am a Christian because I actually try to live my life using the words and actions of Jesus guide me.

          You are NOT a Christian because you will use that book you thump to condemn others just as Jesus was condemned to die because the Pharisees thumped their Bible, the Torah, and Jesus didn’t live by their silly rules from their silly rulebook.

          Poster, I shall respond to you with a quote another “sacred” text,

          “Oh rubbish. You have no power here. Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you too”

          (Glinda, the Good Witch to the Wicked Witch of the West)

          (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Very well done, Will. (All you guys rocked this.)

          • Gordon

            Awesome. Will. I hope you don’t mind if I copy, paste and send these words around. Truly inspired. Thank you.

          • andie

            Beautifully said.

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          1) You obviously have no idea about me and my sexuality. I have no need to twist scripture to suit my proclivities which are quite socially acceptable.

          2) Which is why when I approached the question, over a quarter of a century ago, having no one of my acquaintance who was gay (that I knew of), I went purely by what was in the original languages rather than inserting my own bigotry or need for justification into scripture.

          3) And I found that anti-gay bigotry and the insertion of anti-gay translation of the text is a relatively recent development– a reaction to the political power of natural-born eunuchs (aka gay men).

          4) Your arguments from your own eisegesis of the text are not respectful to the text. I do not accept such anti-scriptural arguments.

          5) Christians are called to study to show themselves acceptable. Almost everyone who makes these base accusations against the regulars at John Shore’s blog show themselves to have not put a great deal of study into their position, but they somehow expect to come here and vomit out a few out-of-context verses and expect us all to go “Oh, I did not know that! I shall henceforth go forward with this new and wondrous teaching and change my ways.” We’ve heard these arguments, hon. We’ve read those verses. They do not mean what you think they mean. Go and study first. There are plenty of resources out there dealing with what the texts mean when approached with respect.

        • cat rennolds

          Genesis 2:25 – So you’re wearing no clothing? It’s in the Book, innit? I should think you’d be ashamed to go out in public with any clothes on, if Adam and Eve before the Fall are the only acceptable role models.

        • Lymis

          Show me the Biblical references that prove that Adam and Eve weren’t bisexual. Even if you believe that you can use the Bible to prove that they were a monogamous couple who never had sex with anyone else (although you’ll have trouble explaining where the grandchildren came from), just because they were attracted to each other in no way proves that they weren’t created with the ability to be attracted to someone else as well, and that that affectional flexibility didn’t pass on to their kids.

          Besides, the point isn’t and can’t ever be that Adam and Eve represented all the possibilities of humanity. Even if you take the Bible literally, they lived hundreds of years and populated the entire Earth with their offspring. We only have even mention of three sons (and we know how that worked out) and some unspecified number of daughters.

          For all we know, some percentage of their kids were exclusively homosexual, or any number of them were bisexual or pansexual.

          If you believe that God only ever directly created two people to populate the world, of course the first two would be a breeding pair. Duh.

          What color was their skin? Their hair? Their eyes? Really, there’s no possibility in diversity among their descendants? Who’s ignoring the truth now?

    • Gordon

      And “Poster,” you’ve come to the right place to receive a verbal slap to the back of the head for being a snarky scold. Stop it.

    • Gary

      Biblical…poster???

      Please…take your gross perversions of the gospel someplace else. there are plenty of ACTUAL biblical scholars here who can and regularly do rip your smug, condescending, arrogant, and all around unloving eisegesis (suggest you look this word up) to shreds.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Oh, good. The crazy train’s pulled in …

    • Valerie

      Poster, why is there always at least one of you waiting in the wings to belittle and hurt? Why is it ok for you to hear what you think you want to hear but not everyone else? Do you think you would continue to attend your church if the preacher did not preach what you thought he should? I don’t beg anyone to cheer lead for me, I prefer to do it myself and because of people like you I never felt comfortable doing that until recently. Why can’t you people be happy in your religion and sexuality and let others do the same?

      Get thee behind me, Satan.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        God bless you, Valerie.

  • Gordon

    Maybe I should change my posting name to “Grumpy Old Gay Guy” for this one. Pansexual? I’m old enough to remember the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco every June. Now it’s Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Questioning (LGTBQ) Parade. I remember going to the parade the first year they included “Transgender” in the title and a friend of a certain age said, “Trans? Who let them in?” “Queer” was also a controversial word in the early 90′s when “Queer Nation” was up to all of its tricks to raise awareness about AIDS. (Or, in their case, claiming that AIDS didn’t exist but that HIV drugs were killing people.) I guess I’m just a little frustrated that young people keep struggling with their sexuality by inventing new words to define it. Anyway, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you call it. But, having been raised on the concept that “perception is reality” when it comes this seemingly endless civil rights struggle, I have to say that the constant addition of new names and classifications of our sexual identity embarrasses me with respect to public relations. But, kids will be kids and they just love to drive us oldsters crazy with their new and innovative ways of self-identity. The little dears. Regardless of my curmudgeonliness, I wish this young woman all the best as she explores the pansexual side of her nature. (See? I can make up words with the best of them!) And her mother needs to just get used to it!

    • Lyn

      My daughter is gender queer. She doesn’t identify as being exclusively male or exclusively female. She’s attracted to men, women, and gender variant people. What exactly do you call that except pansexual? Bisexual assumes that there are only two genders, but that’s a distinctly modern and Western notion. The assumption that “gay” covers every non-straight, non-cisgendered person is rather insulting to a large range of people.

      • Gordon

        Like I said, at the end of the day it probably doesn’t really matter what you call it. And you have added some new words to the lexicon:

        Gender Queer

        Gender Variant

        Non-cisgendered

        I surrender.

        • Nicole

          Non-cisgendered???

          • Gordon

            I know. Maybe a typo. (I sort of hope so.)

          • Hannah

            Cisgendered refers to anyone who was fortunate enough to be born with sexual organs that are congruent with their gender, or in other words, most people, boys born with male organs, and girls born with female organs. A lot of people don’t realize gender is not in fact defined by the sexual organs you happen to have. A lot of people don’t even realize you can be born with both sets of organs. Gender is in your head, not in your pants. Non-cisgendered refers to everyone else.

            There’s a little graphic going around that explains things in a simple and clear way. Though it doesn’t include pansexual or asexual, which is unfortunate. You can check it out here: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/1600-Genderbread-Person.jpg

          • Diana A.

            Cool! I’m reposting your link to my Facebook page.

            So let’s see–I think of myself as being a woman. I express myself someplace between androgynous and feminine (I’m kind of a tomboy). I think I’m biologically female. And I’m way more attracted to men than to women, so I’m probably mostly hetero.

            Cool! Thanks for sharing!

    • Valerie

      Gordon on the cisgendered thing I found this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender

      • Gordon

        Thanks, Valerie. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t take the time to dig into that myself. So, not a typo! Good to know. And an interesting take on gender identity. I learn a lot by hanging out on John Shore’s blog. With any luck I will become less and less curmudgeonly. ☺

    • Ina, the Ambisexual

      so- if you’re old enough to remember Gay Pride, Act Up, and Stonewall… you’re old enough to have read Heinlein, who openly wrote about the concept of sexuality and gender at a time when people were still wearing more underwear than most modern people wear clothing. He recognized a range of sexuality from A- (not interested) through three shades of hetero, three of homo, all the way to Ambi (gender is not a relevant criteria) and treated the whole thing like it was no big deal.

      and if you didn’t – maybe you should. he was fighting for your rights as a human and a citizen probably before you were.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Ina: be nice. There’s real perspective and wisdom in what Gordon wrote, and he wasn’t banging on anybody.

      • Gordon

        I’m sure there are millions of brilliant people who have written on this subject. I have not, in fact, ever heard of Heinlein. Now I have and I thank you for sharing this. Blessings to you, Ina.

        • Lyn

          If you’re not a science fiction fan (or are only a fan of movies or tv shows rather than SF books), you might not have heard of Heinlein. He wrote a lot of juvenile fiction, so not all his stuff is a deep exploration of human sexuality. I’ll admit I never really bought Heinlein’s female POV characters. They just always felt like the male geek’s fantasy woman as written by a guy trying to think like a woman. But apparently his wife Virginia actually read most of his stuff before he sent it off and thought it was on point, so it may just be me.

    • LSS

      I am nearly 40 and pretty sure i know at least one pansexual that’s older than me.

      • Gordon

        It is after 10:00 p.m. here in Atlanta. I’ve passed along this dialogue to many friends of different generations. It’s interesting how the responses have cut along generational lines. Those of us in our 50’s and beyond don’t really “get” the need to create new names for our sexual identity. My younger friends and family are much more open to it. I am reminded of older men I met when I was coming out and they didn’t really understand the concept of “coming out”. I wanted to scream from the rooftops (and I did, more than once….) that I was gay and I didn’t care who knew it. These older gentlemen honestly were mystified about why I would set myself up for that kind of heartbreak and danger. It didn’t break my heart, but it has broken down some barriers. So…I don’t care what anyone has decided to call themselves. Create all the new words you want and hopefully Wikipedia will be able to keep up! You are my family and I will do what I can in my own way to love, protect and defend you as best I can. That’s the very least the older generation can do for the next one. Right?

        • Kai

          You’re pretty cool. Just thought I’d tell you.

        • LSS

          Hugs to you (from a 98% straight, slightly gendernonconforming female)

          And remember, 76% of statistics are made up on the spot.

        • Ina

          : ) and we, the younger, will always, always protect and support you to the best of our ability, because, while we say we don’t understand… we need to try. The history of oppression is critical to resisting the tradition of silence.

    • Lymis

      As another gay man of curmudgeonly age, let me point out one aspect that you may have overlooked.

      Back in the day – when everyone was hoping the earth would finish cooling and the dinosaurs wouldn’t trample the floats at the first Pride Parade, there really wasn’t much of a practical need to distinguish between a concept like bisexuality and a concept like pansexuality.

      When we could be arrested and institutionalized just for going to the wrong bar, or fired for looking too long at the wrong person, the idea that we needed a word for falling in love with, say, someone with purple hair, three nose rings, and an office pool on what, precisely, might actually be under that outfit would have been laughable.

      Yes, there were gender outlaws even then, but when even well-behaved gay men in suits and lesbian women in dresses and pearls were shocking, the idea that someone might choose either men or women was cutting edge and scary enough, without adding the idea that it was quite possible that your mother might have trouble identifying which one you picked when you actually brought the person in question home.

      I’ll agree that in my mind, bisexuality encompasses everything from butch lumberjacks to dainty princesses and everything in between, but there really are a lot of people who actually are bisexual but still prefer people in each category who still fit gender norms in behavior and presentation. Who want either the lumberjack or the princess, but not anyone who is more androgynous or more exotic. And that people who do prefer a wider range of personal expression might see a need to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way.

      I wonder if, back in the day, there had been large numbers of visibly androgynous, or openly transgendered or happily gender fluid people, we would have had such a term from the beginning, because we would have needed it then just as it turns out we do now.

      • LSS

        This was a very interesting bit of sociology. (was that sociology? History? Anyway.) i liked reading that and might try to remember and use it if i ever have to explain something to my more conservative students about why there are so many genders now, and that’s it’s not that people are more confused because of sin and/or tv.

    • andie

      Words are good! New words that help us communicate with and understand and support one another are very, very good!

  • John (not McCain)

    How I long for the day when it’s the ignorant bigot goons who have to worry about being rejected and not the normal people.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Amen to that.

    • cat rennolds

      They already do. That’s why they club up and yell so hard. the way they live is not healthy, happy or normal, and it’s dying. So they are fighting to keep it alive.

  • Tim Warner via Facebook

    like you I tried it with a pan once. JUST once! I think the trick is to not let it heat up too much… ouch!

  • Aliyah Aldridge via Facebook

    Given the way her mom’s flipping out about her reading John’s book, I’m guessing mom already suspects.

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    Yeah, Aliyah, you’re probably right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dennis-Connaughton/100002279053546 Dennis Connaughton via Facebook

    Ok now, LOL, What the hell is “Pan Sexual”. This is new….do we believe in “Pan”, I do or is it Peter Pan Or…..So many names, so many little cubbyholes to catagorize people. Can’t it just be—I Am Me??????

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    @ Dennis: Unfortunately, there are people who care enormously about other people’s sexuality or lack there of. Someday, there will be acceptance of everyone along the gender/sexual/romantic continuum. Unfortunately, someday is not today.

  • Donna W.

    John, you have the most awesome readers! I love reading your posts, but I enjoy the comments even more sometimes! Will, Valerie, Gordon, LVZ, Brenna, all of you, really. It’s really inspiring for this old, straight, white, Christian grandmother to know that there are so many sensitive and intelligent and educated people who won’t allow the bigots, homophobes, and self-righteous blowhards think that they have a monopoly on upright moral values. I am what I am and who I am and I’ve never had to try to pretend to be anything else to be “accepted” until I share my thoughts about justice and morality. Then of course “they” are shocked by my “ignorance” and try hard to “educate” me and correct my “misunderstanding.” Arrrggghh! Anyway, it’s so refreshing and wonderful to find so many articulate and wonderful people here on your blog. Thanks to all of you for all you do and all you say to inspire us and give hope to us all!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks for saying this, Donna. I’m more proud of the quality of the commenters/readers I have here on this blog than I am of any other aspect of it. It’s just a fantastic group. Engaging with them, and reading what they write, is my daily reward for doing this. I love it. So thanks again for saying what you did.

  • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

    To the letter writer:

    If you do decide to tell your mom and she reacts very badly, I just wanted to share a little of my personal experience as it may be able to offer a little hope into things changing over time. The love of a parent for a child can help them work through a lot of things, even if it does take some time.

    When I first came out to my parents it did not go well at all. My mother mostly cried whenever I was around her at first, but my father (who I had always felt much closer to) unleashed a whole range of negative emotions on me. There was anger, shame, guilt, rage, disgust, and the list goes on. There was lots of yelling, lots of crying, lots of you’re going to hell. I got everything from how I was not really gay but had just being seduced by my girlfriend because I was lonely to how I was the predator that had taken advantage of my girlfriend in a time of pain and confusion in her life as she wasn’t really gay. And of course there was the suggestion that I had been taken over by a demon. And if all of this sounds horrible, the worst of what was said to me I have told only my (now) wife and will never share with anyone else.

    So then it was a little over a year and a half after I came out and I had recently gotten married without a single member of my family at my wedding. Things didn’t seem to be getting any better with them when out of the blue my father called me up to tell me that he had gotten a new revelation of God’s grace and he no longer believed that I was going to hell. He made it clear of course that he still believed that what I was doing was sinful and would have consequences but now he believed that in the end God’s grace was enough to keep me. It didn’t change much in the practical sense except that I at least was no longer subjected to random rants about my having rejected God and heading for hell. My wife was never spoken of by my family. It was as though she didn’t exist and the only way to keep the peace was to play along. I was fortunate to have moved to another province very shortly after coming out and thus only had to deal with this in person a couple of times a year, but that didn’t make those times any easier. I will never be able to strike from my memory how horrible I felt when, sitting around my parents’ dining room table while visiting for Christmas, my then six year old niece asked out of the blue if I was married. I couldn’t lie to her but I was terrified that if I said yes it would naturally lead to more questions which would lead to her finding out that I was married to a woman and then perhaps my brother would not let me spend time with her any more. With great difficulty I managed to ignore her repeated question and eventually change the subject (not an easy task with a six year old) but it left me shaken.

    Move forward to a little over 2 years in and my wife and I were planning a rather lengthy vacation back home. I was so sick of the compartmentalizing I had to do with my life just to spend any time around my family and had reached the breaking point where I was ready to just be myself and let the chips fall where they may even though the thought of it terrified me as I feared I might lose my family altogether. Then out of the blue, I get another shocking phone call from my father. I will never forget it as long as I live. He again made it clear that he still believed that homosexuality was sinful but went on to say that he now realized that the way he had been treating me was wrong and was therefore going to change immediately. He even went so far as to invite my wife and I to come stay with them together – as a couple – sharing the same room – in his house. I was beside myself. He told me that this was not just out of the blue but rather something that he was dealing with for a while, but it came as a total shock to me and I had seen no hint of him changing at all. It was a very bizarre moment. My wife and I were relaxing and watching Six Feet Under when he called. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that show but they regularly did this thing where one of the characters would slip into a fantasy and it wasn’t always immediately clear to the viewer that this was a fantasy until something just too bizarre happened and then you realized it wasn’t really happening. I felt like I was living one of those integrated fantasies. I kept asking my wife for confirmation that it really happened. The first time we got together with my parents for a coffee my father reminded me how he would always tell my brothers and I growing up that there was absolutely nothing we could do that would ever make him stop loving us. He admitted that while he hadn’t stopped loving me, the way he had acted certainly didn’t show that he still loved me and he apologized to both of us for his behaviour. And where my father went, the rest of my family just seemed to tag along because everything changed from that point. We stayed at their house for 2 full weeks. We got to spend lots of time with my brother and his wife and my adorable niece who absolutely loved my wife. And this past Christmas we had Christmas dinner with my family and they all bought Christmas gifts for my wife as though she were just one of the family.

    All of this happened without any significant theological change. I now have hope that one day I’ll get a chance to sit down and have a real discussion about what the bible does and doesn’t say about the issue. Right now though I’m just enjoying how far things have come and really in a relatively short order when you think about it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share a little of my story in the hopes that it might encourage you. When I first came out to my family, I never dreamed that in less than 3 years I would be sitting down to Christmas dinner with my wife and my parents at my brother’s house, free to be myself and still be a part of the family.

    • cat rennolds

      oh, how wonderful. thank you for sharing that.

    • X

      This seriously brought tears to my eyes, it’s so sad but hopeful. I’m really glad that things are working out for you and your wife! That’s exciting. I hope that my mom will eventually be able to accept me for who I am, no matter who I choose to share my life with.

      This is a beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing. It’s very encouraging, truly.

      For now, I’ll take it slow and see where God leads.

      • Diana A.

        “For now, I’ll take it slow and see where God leads.”

        Good! Our prayers are with you. Blessings on your journey!

    • Gordon

      It sounds like your father’s views have certainly been evolving and I admire how patient you have been. A similar path for me and my husband. My family are mainstream Evangelicals and his are Mormon. Having a gay son and brother was very hard for them to accept. But, for the past twenty years we have just lived our life and shared it with them as much as they would let us. In 2008 every single one of them, our parents, our brothers and sisters and their spouses, all attended our wedding at the Sea Ranch Chapel in California. I know it can be scary at times and the slow pace can be infuriating. Thank you for sharing this lovely story.

    • Ina

      Thank you for having the courage to stand up and allow yourself to be something that led your father out of his own closet…because that us ultimately what you did.

  • Robert

    Just a little humor to lighten the mood, from Red Dwarf. Kryten, an android, thinks he’ll go to electronic heaven.

    “Of course I’ll go to electronic heaven, Mr. Lister.”

    “Kryten, there’s no such thing as electronic heaven!”

    “Mr. Lister, aren’t you a pantheist?”

    “Yes, but I don’t believe in electronic heaven! I’m not a FRYING PAN-theist!”

  • Otter

    Just gotta chime in on this one and I am speaking as a lesbian who came out to my parents at age 16 in 1965…..and that was pre gay pride, pre pan, ambi or bi anything….What I have learned is if you don’t confront this discussion honestly and fairly directly, it will NOT get easier. To hide yourr sexuality is poison to your soul….it is an admission that you flawed, repulsive and unworthy of respect. To lie denies your family the opportutnity to relate to the person you really are, and by hiding you obstruct their growth from bigotry to tolernance.

    You may have to be circumspect if you are dependent but that is strategy. When you no longer need their support, you will realize that you can walk away, and then the onus is on your family for they must learn to accept you or live without you…. Sometimes you have to claim your power and not be controlled by those stuck in ignorance , misled and unwilling to change.

    The fault is not yours, don’t buy into the guilt trips!

    I just love this blo

    • Otter

      Darn iPad.s….sorry about the typos. Meant to say I love this bloge

      • X

        Thank you, Otter. I’m not a very great person at keeping secrets, lol. And my mother truly is very good at finding out when things are “Different.” So I’m sure she’ll find out…sooner or later.

        I just need time to prepare myself for it. I’m not ashamed of myself… I think I’m more afraid of hurting her? I love my mom and I know she really loves me… But this is an issue that she really exploded on me for and seemed really terrified that I could actually be *gasp* gay.

        Which hurt quite a bit…honestly.

        • Tim

          Yes my sister (I won’t call you X since I have independently confirmed with you that I know who you are),

          The shock is always something that hits us. Family reactions are always fearful and hard to gauge. Thing is, your mother will find out at some point, and if it is going to hurt her it will hurt her then. My position is “better now than later” given that you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Better to give the maximum time for whatever healing needs to take place–provided you can handle whatever happens.

  • X

    Thank you so much for answering my question with some really good suggestions everyone. It means a lot to me that I can find a bit of solace and challenging remarks here.I don’t know what led me to ask John about such a personal issue but I felt I could find some true answers here.

    Here’s how I view pansexuality as it was explained to me:

    I don’t view my girlfriend as a sexual object. I view her as spirit first and a physical body second. And I guess that’ s how I’ve always felt about people. I don’t look at them sexualy…but on a deeper emotional and spiritual level and that’s how I’ve always chosen to love.

    So when I Say pansexual, I guess I mean I’m open to anyone who loves me. Not just ANYTHING no matter what. (As I guess one definition seems to define it.)

    Anyway, I just thought I’d pop up here and say thanks to everyone who felt the need to reply… it’s a scary subject for me, I never thought I’d be here… but I’m very happy that I am. I feel like it’s really helping learn to love people of all types.

    I still don’t know exactly how I’ll tell my mom, but I hope someday when I do, I can show her my letter and hope that she’ll understand in time.

    Thanks again, everyone. This truly means a lot.

    ~X

    • Gordon

      You are a beautiful person with a gentle spirit. And I learned a lot just by reading this. Thank YOU. And good luck to you. Just remember, your Mom is going to be just fine. ☺

    • Ashley C

      X,

      You should not have to explain your feelings to anyone. They are your own, and any feelings as pure and true as yours obviously are from your writing cannot be anything short of a gift from God.

      However, I do want to say that I love your definition of pansexual, and I have a friend who is also pansexual and defines it in a similar way. She does not see the “packaging” but rather the person behind it, before forming any sort of attraction.

      I am so glad that you have found someone you love so deeply who loves you in return. I will pray for your mother’s heart to be softened so that she may see your joy and devotion and one day be able to fully be a part of your life again.

      Best of luck and God bless!

    • LSS

      Oh that sounds like a really cool way of looking at things (well, people). I had asked another commenter more about the definition on the other post but you have answered it really well.

  • Audrey Smith

    In the 4 years since I came out to my parents (and my dad is an evangelical pastor) I have given my parents umpteen million (OK not really that many) things to read and watch about homosexuality and the Bible and Jesus and they just do not give them a chance. They do not want to talk to me about the subject and thankfully are no longer trying to convince me that I am fallen and out of God’s will – blahblahblah – but I know that is what they are still thinking. Ugh.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      @Audrey: “Ugh” is exactly the right way of saying it. I’m so sorry that’s happening to you. Shame on your parents for being too lazy/arrogant/stupid to even try to properly love or understand you.

    • Otter

      If only they were capable of understanding how horribly they misuse their faith.

  • Jenna

    Just wanted to say that as a woman deeply in love with another woman, I support you and send you prayers, X :).


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