A short time ago, I was asked if I would be an “affirming therapist.” By saying yes, I was indicating that I would provide therapy for a same sex couple without trying to talk them out of their relationship. By saying yes, I was saying that I would focus my therapy on the client rather than on any particular goal I might have in mind.
And by saying yes, I was indicating that I was privileging my relationship with my clients above any conviction/belief/opinion I may hold.
For one assignment in a cultural diversity class, I was asked to wear a rainbow pin for one week. The rainbow pin signifies support of the LGBTQQIA* community (more commonly referred to as LGBT). Our professor wanted us to wear the pin in the different contexts we experienced on a weekly basis and write about the reaction/response we received. The professor told us not to put ourselves in a negative situation (i.e. it was not necessary to get fired for wearing the pin).
My boss at the time asked me not to wear the pin while at work; not because of their own personal convictions, but because they did not know how their superiors would respond to it. I complied with my boss without argument. It was not my place to put them in a bad spot for the sake of an assignment.
And by complying, I was indicating that I was privileging my relationship with my boss and co-workers above any conviction/belief/opinion I may hold.
Conversations surrounding same sex issues are often heated. So heated, in fact, that most conversations are not “dialogue;” instead, they are occasions for two parties to yell at each other and hope they win the argument by sheer volume. My guess is each generation has their “issue,” and for some reason, same sex attraction is going to be the issue for this one.
I have never experienced same sex attraction. I have never experienced the exclusion and isolation that many have. But my heart hurts for people who struggle to find their identity and place in this world. I hate to see people lose every close relationship they have as they try to live true to who they are; as they try to find out who they are and who they have been called to be. I want to walk alongside them.
So I define myself as an ally. Why?
1. Behind every label or definition there is a person. Do you know how many genders there are? Do you know how many different manifestations of sex there are? Do you know the difference between gender and sex? Did you know what all the letters LGBTQQIA stood for without looking at the footnote? Are you aware of the two or three initials I left off and what they stand for?
One more question: does any of it matter? Yes. And no. Yes, it matters because we need to know that when we talk about same sex attraction we are talking about a lot more than we think we are. We need to be informed and educated and aware.
But the reason the answer can be no is that we get so wrapped up in definitions and labels that we forget we are talking about people. Someone’s child. Someone’s sibling. A living, breathing, feeling person. When we spend so much time defining we often end up manipulating and exploiting people for our own gain, whatever side of the issue we fall on.
I am an ally because there are people who have been hurt and cast aside and they need to know there are people who will love them and walk with them.
2. Orientation is not the same as behavior. This is an issue that many people (especially Christian people) struggle with. Orientation (and for the matter attraction) is not behavior. There are many people who experience same sex attraction who not only choose to act on it, but they also believe it is sinful. In other words, they keep with the traditional teaching of the Church. Experiencing same sex orientation, or opposite sex orientation for that matter, does not mean one is participating in sexual activity.
When so much vitriol is expressed about same sex orientation, we are alienating people who need companions on their journey. There are people who need to talk and share and reach out for help, but they are afraid to because they have read people’s facebook feeds and twitter posts. They have seen the bumper stickers and the posters. They have heard the hatred. They need to know there are people who love and will listen.
3. We are called to love all God’s children. Jesus touched lepers. Jesus befriended prostitutes. Jesus told a woman caught “in the very act of adultery” that He did not condemn her. From the beginning of God’s conversations with His people, those who were widows, orphans, immigrants, or poor (in other words, those who were outcasts) were to be treated with special care and honor.
Two things about that: first, it obviously means we need to reach out to and love on those who are put down by their families, communities, and even themselves.
Second, we should stop viewing same sex behavior as equivalent to leprosy. Again, by doing so we are alienating those we need to be reaching out to. We are shutting doors instead of opening them.
And we cannot love those we refuse to invite.
4. “There is no difference.” This is a quote from Romans 3:22. Paul says there is no difference as we come before God. All of us are in need of God’s grace. One travesty of the way people with same sex attraction are treated in our churches is that we have elevated it above all other sins and struggles people face. But there is not a person in any church who is not currently dealing with (or has overcome) some type of struggle. Shutting our doors and turning a cold shoulder to people we have defined as a certain kind of sinner makes us exactly the same as the religious people Jesus railed against during His ministry. It makes us exactly the same as Peter when Paul rebuked him for failing to eat with Gentile Christians. There is no difference: I am in as much need of God’s grace as you are.
I have intentionally not addressed my theological views on the matter of same sex attraction, although my desire to be an ally is definitely informed by my theology. Perhaps I will do that in a future post. But the reason I have shared why I am an ally before sharing my theology is this:
I am privileging my love for and relationship with children of God who experience same sex attraction over any conviction/belief/opinion I may hold.
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Ally