Being the Token Gay Christian

The following post is from Laura Statesir, Director of Family and Youth at The Marin Foundation. 

TMF_0276_laura_bwA while ago my fiancée and I attended a Christmas party at a friend’s house. We stuffed ourselves with holiday themed snacks and drinks and chatted with the other guests. Our friend’s parents were there and we talked with them as well. A good time was had by all…

A few weeks later our friend told us how glad she was we had been at that party and spoken with her parents. It turns out that her father, who didn’t have the most loving perspective of the LGBTQ community, was greatly impacted by getting to know and observing me and my fiancée.  Apparently hearing about our lives and watching how we care for one another helped to change some beliefs that her father held about gay people.

So this is great right? It’s wonderful that another person’s attitudes have been challenged by meeting a LGBTQ Christian person. Frankly all I remember discussing with my friend’s father was sports but I am always incredibly grateful anytime the Lord moves in people’s hearts. I am glad my fiancée and I represented ourselves and our love in a positive light.

BUT…

What if I had been having a bad day? I can be quite shy and sometimes I just don’t feel like explaining myself to new people – so what if I had ignored my friend’s father? What if my fiancée and I had been arguing or experiencing a tense moment in our relationship? Would my friend’s father have walked away with the same positive changes in his viewpoint or would we have confirmed every negative opinion he believed about LGBTQ people?

I live in fear of screwing up. If I mess up it’s not “Laura did something wrong”, it’s “that lesbian Christian woman did something wrong,” most likely followed by an “I told you so.” If I don’t represent myself as a gay Christian in a favorable light then my conduct could damage someone’s idea of what a gay Christian looks like. I don’t mean to sound pompous or self-important, but it seems like my actions have the power to either confirm or confront stereotypes and therefore affect LGBTQ Christians’ chances of being accepted, respected, and included.

I have still spent much of my life outside of the majority. In college I was one of the only females in a student military organization known as the Corps of Cadets. Later, as an instructor for a wilderness therapy program that worked with adjudicated youth, I was one of the only Christian staff members. Then for five years I lived and worked in the Dominican Republic and was one of few foreigners. But none of those experiences prepared me for my journey as a LGBTQ Christian.

In all of these experiences I had never truly felt such an imperative and momentous weight in representing a minority until I came out as a gay Christian. LGBTQ people are a minority in our country and LGBTQ Christians are an even smaller part of that larger gay community.

Being a gay Christian there is an immense pressure to always do the right thing and always provide the best example. If I do something well I prove the validity of our existence. I show people you can be gay and still love and serve Jesus. My behavior could help break down negative stereotypes and create more grace-filled interactions. What an incredible honor and what a heavy, heavy burden.

Even in my upcoming marriage I feel this same pressure to represent gay Christians well. (As if any marriage needs more pressure to succeed.) I love my fiancée with all my heart and plan to stay committed to her for life, but what if our marriage didn’t last? What message would that give to those who disagree with same-sex marriages? That same-sex marriages won’t last because they aren’t blessed by God? (Because straight marriages NEVER end in divorce, right?) And what if we had kids and for whatever reason one of our kids turned out to be LGBTQ or not a believer? What would that say to those who think LGBTQ people should not be parents?

It is an unjust burden that LGBTQ Christians have to be on their best behavior; that we are not allowed to be human because we must be more than. On a personal level, feeling such responsibility has at times made me bitter or feel like I’m putting on a show. In trying to show the world that not all gay people are heavy drinkers and drug users, for example, I should be allowed to have a glass of wine. In trying to show the world that not all gay people are promiscuous, I should be allowed to have relationships that fail. In trying to show the world that not all gay people are atheists I should be allowed to ask questions and express my doubts.

So on behalf of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask that you do not force us onto a pedestal. Do not judge or form opinions about our entire community based on your experiences with one person. Allow us to be human, to make mistakes, to err. Allow us to be who we truly are (including the messy parts), and extend to us the same grace that Christ has extended to you in your own life.

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  • David

    I’ve followed The Marin Foundation for many years now. I appreciate how you are endeavoring to bridge the
    gap between Christ followers and the LGBTQ community through love. Keep
    up the good work!

    My question would be why does Laura (or anyone) feel the
    need to place the word “gay” before “Christian” at all? How about being
    simply identified as a Christ-follower, or a Christian without adding
    the “gay” label? Then I don’t think Laura would feel so “token”. The
    fact that she speaks of having a fiancee and of plans to be married
    seems to indicate she has embraced the “gay” label more strongly than
    the “Christian” label.

    I think my friend Brady Cone may have a better handle on what I’m trying to say than I do. I give you the following link – his story in his own words.
    http://bit.ly/1mvXXNd

    • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com Jon Trouten

      The fact that she wants a family shows her deemphasis on her faith? Is that really where you want to hang your hat?

    • Michael Prizant

      David I’m thinking she’s feeling that pressure to qualify her sexuality because so many Christians unfortunately think that it’s wrong and against God to BE gay, and therefore not possible to be gay AND a Christian. Like any human being, Laura just wants to be accepted for who and what she is, fully and completely. Part of who and what she is, is gay, part is Christian, and there are many other parts besides that. So many people, not just Christians, lump LGBTs all together as having certain traits in common other than their sexuality, rather than looking at them as individuals. I totally get what she’s talking about when she says she feels so much pressure to be perfect. I think putting these fears and concerns out there in the public helps those of us not in that community to understand their perspective so much better, I know it has for me.

      Thanks so much for sharing yourself here Laura, and good luck on your journey. :)

      • David

        Michael, you say that “Part of who and what she is, is gay, part is Christian, and there are many other parts besides that.”

        While I might agree that she has same sex attraction, and while I won’t try to qualify why or where that comes from, I would disagree that necessarily has to be part of her identity.

        To me, that would be like saying that since I have struggled with lust toward women from as far back as I can remember, that’s just part of who I am and therefore I’m a womanizing Christian – expecting a Holy God to just overlook or accept that part of me. I recognize it, instead, as a sin and something that I can overcome only in the power of Christ, therefore I’m a Christ-follower who relinquishes my desires and behaviors to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Christ follower first, even though I struggle with my own humanity at times. My identity remains firmly in Christ, not my tendencies or behaviors.

    • Bethany Henderson

      David,

      As a kid, I grew up in a conservative Christian household. I went to a baptist church and a conservative Christian school from kindergarten through 12th grade. I grew up hearing that gay and Christian were mutually exclusive; no one could be gay or live in a gay lifestyle and have an actual relationship with God. And quite frankly, these harmful ideas still impact me to this day; I’m still wrestling with these ‘truths’ and their implications. When I identify myself as a gay Christian, sometimes it’s simply to remind myself that I exist. That both facets of my identity are valid and can co-exist. I choose to identify myself as a gay Christian, because I choose to confront the harmful and damaging ‘truths’ that I was taught from so early on. And labeling myself a gay Christian reminds me to continue fighting against the damaging ‘truths’ that I was so inundated with. Giving myself that label doesn’t mean that I identify first with my own gayness and secondly with my Christianity; it just means I identify with both.

      Also, I take offense to the idea that the author having a fiance meant that she embraces her gayness more strongly than her Christianity. Does that mean that every hetero couple identifies more strongly with their heterosexuality than their Christianity? This idea again propagates the belief that orientation and religion are in some form of competition, which is only one step down from orientation and religion being mutually exclusive.

      • David

        Bethany, thanks for your reply. I’m sorry for the pain you must have gone through, must still go through. I can’t imagine.

        Regarding your question regarding hetero couples identifying more strongly with heterosexuality than Christianity, my understanding through my study of God’s Word is that the marriage relationship is intended to reflect Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church. Scripture exclusively speaks of this relationship with “hetero” or male/female language – literally from Genesis to Revelation. So in actuality, the male/female marriage relationship is actually just further reflecting/confirming God’s plan and our relationship with Christ.

        • Bethany Henderson

          David,

          You’re right in the fact that God use analogies throughout
          the Bible in order to help us understand complex truths more accurately. However, with any of the analogies, stories or parables told in the Bible, it’s important for us to recognize the parameters of these analogies. For example, God does use an analogy of a husband/wife throughout the Bible to describe the relationship between Christ and the church, in addition to many other analogies
          (father/child, slave/master, firstborn/adopted brothers and sisters, ect). Clearly all of the analogies differ significantly in the implications of the relationship between Christ and the church; they’re each meant to illustrate different
          lessons. The important thing is to identify what the lesson is without overreaching what we were intended to learn. The way I’ve understood that analogy is that Christ loves us (the Church), protects us, cares for us, ect in the way a husband- particularly with all the legal and societal stipulations of the ancient times- would care for a wife, and the Church would respond accordingly. We also further have to take into account that this analogy was
          using the description of marriage as defined by a culture over 2,000 years ago, as the Bible was focused on assisting the initial readers/listeners in understanding its intended message. To read too much into this analogy would be erroneous; for example, John the Baptist talks about Jesus the Messiah as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride. John also talks about the wedding
          procession, the celebration and the anticipation for the wedding. Looking back at the culture, the climax of the wedding celebration ended in the consummation
          of the wedding for newly married couple. Reading too much into this analogy or interpreting a parable too literally could lead to erroneous and rather awkward conclusions, like believing that the Church and Christ would also sexually consummate the marriage or even believing that a literal marriage was taking place. To further illustrate the point, Christ also told a parable in which he compared himself to a wife searching diligently for a lost coin; the message of the parable was to
          describe how Christ searches for members of his church to save. But, more to the point for this conversation, Christ compares himself to a wife. A wife. And
          yet I’ve never heard any Evangelical Christian state that Christ was a female, because, in this situation, people are quick to recognize the parameters of the parable. They focus on the meaning and lesson without interpreting the
          analogies and parables literally. I believe that, regardless of the gender of my spouse, we would be able to incorporate the lessons learned from the analogy
          of the wife/husband. And quite frankly, both members of any marriage should incorporate the love, devotion and respect of the Church, as well as the leadership,
          humility and servanthood of Christ. I believe that I can have a marriage, regardless of gender, where I can experience unity with Christ and my spouse,
          where I and my spouse can encourage each other to be more Christ-like and where we can serve each other, our community, the Church and Christ. My orientation and Christianity would in no way compete with each other. Rather my relationship with my spouse would draw me closer to Christ and my relationship with Christ would enable me to be a better spouse.

          • David

            Bethany, I think maybe you’ve read too much into the parable of the lost coin. First, the parable told was about a woman not a “wife” as you say. Second, Christ did not say he was like or the same as the woman, but rather that God and the angels in heaven rejoice so much more when a sinner repents than this woman would. The point was simply how much God is pleased when people repent of their sin.

            As for the rest of what you say, thank you for sharing. I won’t belabor my perspective any further.

    • Jason Bilbrey

      Hi David,

      I won’t vocalize any further objections to your deductions beyond those that have been insightfully articulated by Bethany, Michael and Jon already here (not to mention in the lives of countless gay Christians around the globe). But I do want to set the record straight by saying that our mission here at the Marin Foundation is NOT to build bridges between “Christ-followers” and the LGBTQ community (as if the two were somehow mutually exclusive). Rather, it is to build bridges between the Church (as a worldwide institution with a long history of persecuting LGBTQ individuals within and outside its walls) and the LGBTQ community.

      • David

        Thanks for your input and perspective, Jason.

        I guess we see things a little differently. From my study of scripture I understand The Church to be the word (phrase?) Christ Himself uses to describe those who follow Him – He also calls these people His Bride. And those who are truly seeking to follow Christ would not persecute LGBTQ individuals, or anyone else.

  • http://jasonjdotbiz.wordpress.com/ JasonJ

    Great and much needed article. We are a niche within a niche http://jasonjdotbiz.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/marriage-1-woman-1-man-from-the-beginning-of-timecreation-2/ but ever so needed!!! :)

  • Gilbeetx

    Laura, I so much appreciate your love and care in presenting your predicament and completely understand. Similar qualifications occur to parents of children who are gay, as well. I find that people who know you well don’t look at you or experience you through just one lens. Those that do not know me well seem to latch on to that one quality that seems unique or note worthy. Its just our human nature to label others in order to understand them.

    Jesus really did not do that. In fact, he assaulted the labels of the day with radical hospitality and acceptance. He dared the definitions. So that’s what I try to do. Enjoy and love others for who they are! It’s made my life so much easier and much more exciting and colorful.

    Hang in there! You guys are great!

  • Robert John Abada Ofm

    i like this article! let’s not worry too much because we are naturally sweet and charming 😀