The Biggest Mistake I Made as an LGBTQ Ally & Advocate

The Biggest Mistake I Made as an LGBTQ Ally & Advocate July 12, 2016


At points in my journey as the Dad of two LGBTQ children—coming from being a leader in the Evangelical church for 25 years—my privilege as a straight white male was pointed out to me.

I didn’t get it. And so I denied it.

That’s how privilege works. Privilege is invisible to those who have it.

My biggest mistake as an advocate and an ally, and probably as a human being, was not to acknowledge my privilege sooner.

This prevented me from seeing the depth of the marginalization and oppression of others.

Though I have so much to learn, I have come to understand a few things…

  • I have never been told that the United States Constitution considers me 3/5 of a human being. I am white.
  • I have not had to deal with a history where my people were bought, sold, and horrifically abused. I am white.
  • I can move about the day without fear of harassment assault or rape. I am male. I am straight.
  • I have never felt responsible to prevent my own rape. I am not focused on how I should behave, where I should walk and when, and how to protect my drink from date-rape drug. I am male. And even though I am male, I’m told virtually nothing in regard to rape, including not to rape.
  • I am considered dignified as I grow old, not “no longer attractive.” I am male.
  • My basic human rights, including the right to marriage, jobs, or even housing, are not “up for grabs” in a dominant cultural conversation. I am straight.
  • I have never been called an abomination to God condemned to hell. I am straight.
  • I don’t wear a scarlet letter—LGBTQ—that identifies me as different, flawed or less than. I am straight.
  • I have never felt that my very presence makes others uncomfortable. I am white. I am straight.
  • I have never been afraid law enforcement would suspect me, harass me, or shoot me, based solely on my appearance. I am white.
  • I have never felt disgusting in church, and my mere presence does not create controversy in church. I am straight.

Even as I write this I realize that I still don’t really get it. And the list could go on and on and on… I haven’t even touched the privilege of being cisgender, able-bodied, able-minded.

All I know is that I seek to understand. I am open to whatever I need to see and imprint in the deepest places of my heart. Privilege is so engrained in how we were raised, passive and aggressive, spoken and unspoken, and in the very heart and structure of our country and our lives.

I have seen many other straight white males—fellow pastors, family, friends—who still deny their privilege. The denial alone confirms it. To let into our brains some idea of our privilege requires us to do something about it.

As straight white male I was blind, I am still blind. But I am willing to see, and that has changed my heart. I trust those who confront me.

Even though I don’t fully understand my privilege, I know it’s there.

I want to learn, I want to see.

If we let ourselves continue to experience privilege uncritically, we are complicit in perpetuating oppression and all the natural consequences. If we deny it and decide to do nothing, we actively support bigotry.

If you don’t want that, you must change.

If you don’t know how, you must ask.

If you’re feeling nervous, scared, dazed, or confused, it’s okay… welcome to a conscious life.

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