The phone on my desk rings, and I answer it. I’m asked a question that I’ve been asked before:
“I heard that you are gay. Is that true?”
Sometimes I know the person; sometimes I do not.
I work in a church, and I came out to my community a while back. It sent shockwaves throughout my community and surrounding communities.
Even years later, I still get these phone calls.
On rare occasions, the person on the other end of the line is someone who is LGBTQ+, or a friend or family member to someone who is, and s/he needs help. I like those phone calls.
Most of the time, though, these calls involve justifying my existence as a Christian, a pastor, and yes, someone who is attracted to the same sex.
For some, it just does not make sense; I shouldn’t exist.
To many Christians, I am a burden.
I have strong faith convictions, and I try to live according to those convictions. I love studying the Bible and find joy in my faith.
I also give up a lot. Living the celibate life is not easy at times. But all too often the burden of this celibate gay/SSA (same-sex attracted) life is only increased by the church.
One of the most compelling narratives of churches that affirm same-sex relationships is that they celebrate LGBTQ+ members. They do everything they can to show that these members are an important part of the community.
As I see these churches express such visible support, I get discouraged that in my faith tradition I am a problem.
In my weakest moments, I think: I give up everything, something most people are unwilling to give up, and what do I get in return? People spread rumors, I am considered controversial, and I am seen as trouble.
It seems the opposite of what it should be.
Why don’t I see visible expressions of support? Why don’t I see safe spaces for me in Christian communities? Why do I have to walk this Christian life alone?
I guess all these questions boil down to this — I want to know from church communities if I am a burden or a gift.
Churches need us, but when someone comes out in the church many respond: Is this person going to cause problems and get married to someone of the same sex?
Instead, what if someone came out in the church and the church responded: This is great! S/he can show us how to express empathy and inclusion to those who feel left out and rejected.
Or instead of thinking, oh that poor person, if someone is celibate, the churchgoer thinks: Here’s an example of someone who lives entirely for God.
There are many ways we in this community are gifts to churches.
For one, celibate gay men tend to understand and reflect issues of masculinity better than most straight men.
Celibate gay people also have a deep understanding of the family of God and helping raise kids in the church. Since we will never have our own kids, it is a high priority to support families with kids.
And celibate gay people tend to think deeply on sexual desire — what is holy and what isn’t holy.
Simply put, what if churches were excited when their members came out as celibate and gay?
To the straight people reading this blog, could you do us a favor and stop seeing us as a burden but as a gift?
Have you felt like a burden to your church because of your sexuality? What gifts has God given you to serve other Christians?