A pastor stands holding an electric cord as a prop and warns the congregation, “Don’t mess with God’s original design. Gay sex is not natural, the parts don’t fit.”
A man thinks he needs to “protect” his family from his Christian gay brother. He says to his brother, “Homosexuality is a perversion and, until you change, I cannot allow you in my home with my children.”
Parents send their lesbian daughter to a program that they heard about at church. The visiting speaker says he is no longer gay. The encouraged parents say, “We want what is best for our daughter and we know she can change her preferences.”
About their fellow Americans, some will say: “I don’t mind gay people having civil unions, I just do not want to redefine marriage. Marriage is not a civil right and they want special rights.”
Thinking they are pleasing and even defending God, moderate Christians assert: “I’m fine with gay people getting together, it’s God and the Bible that are clearly against homosexuality. We love gay people and need to tell them the truth.”
For the most part, people that make these comments believe themselves to be considerate and sincere and would not intentionally participate in “hate talk”. Yet, each comments is unkind, flawed, ill-informed or ignorant.
Well-meaning, reasonable people repeat phrases like these again and again not understanding the offense and discrimination they are causing. Many of the statements are rooted in ignorance and based on gay stereotypes. As an advocate for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community, in particular the Christian GLBT community, here are some insights for those that no longer want to participate in the unjust treatment of GLBT people.
The “gay lifestyle”
When communicating, it would be a major improvement to not use the term “the gay lifestyle”. What is a “gay lifestyle”? The manner in which GLBT people live their lives is as varied as the manner in which heterosexual people live theirs.
The gay and transgender people I know have “lives”, not “lifestyles”. Stop using silly clichés and be honest if you feel compelled to condemn the way others express their sexuality. What many people really want to say is “I do not like same-sex sex.” Simple, then do not participate in it. And, if it bothers you to think about people having same-sex sex, easy, then do not think about it.
My “heterosexual lifestyle” is not the same as other heterosexual women. I have a life and I conduct it according to my faith, values and ethics, and, so it is true with gay and transgender people. Grouping 5% of the population together under one umbrella of how they all live is foolish.
It would not be appropriate to reduce me to a sex act, and likewise for it is true for my gay friends. We are humans with beautiful diversity, including the way we express ourselves sexually, romantically and emotionally.
“Gay sex is not natural, the parts don’t fit.”
The follow-up to the “gay lifestyle” comment is often, “Gay sex is not natural, the parts don’t fit.” If the parts “did not fit”, then gay people would not be having “gay sex”; so clearly, the parts do fit.
If you are bothered by imagining or thinking about “gay sex”, skip the next six paragraphs. However, if you bypass them, you may miss a primer on human sexuality that can be applied to your own “heterosexual lifestyle” for added enjoyment.
In males, not just gay males, the prostate gland is adjacent to the anus and, upon stimulation, can cause an orgasm. So, evidently penile anal penetration can cause an orgasm for both participants in “gay sex”. And, for the record, there are plenty of heterosexual women stimulating their heterosexual partner’s prostate gland too.
Most people that are “offended by gay sex” have no problem thinking about, or rather fantasizing about, women having sex with women. (Just being honest here, folks.) And how “successful” is the Part A into Slot B for women in heterosexual relationships? Interestingly, facts reveal that 75-80% of women are not having orgasms by inserting Part A into Slot B. However, with other types of clitoral stimulation, that women can participate in with women partners, the numbers flip, and almost 70% of women reach orgasm with external stimulation.
Putting it plainly, the “natural way” of having sex is highly satisfying for heterosexual men and less so for women. Clearly, Part A into Slot B is not the only way that brings enjoyment to the parties in the sexual union.
God, the Designer of Human Sexuality, sure did leave provision for lesbian sex and gay male sex to be satisfying. How clever of Him to create the human body so that women had a fun center on the outside and men had one on the inside! The male plug and female adaptor electric cord analogy just has to go. It describes one type of sexual interaction; human sexuality is far more complex and beautiful than electricity.
Gay sex not only fits, it works.
“Homosexuality is a perversion”
A perversion is something that is unnatural or abnormal. Sex between two people of the same sex may trip your “ick factor” switch, but it is not unnatural (see above). Although it is not the norm, it is not abnormal.
Forty years ago, it was medically determined that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality. Unfortunately, the indoctrination of the 50’s to the 70’s had people fearing the “perverted homosexual”. The American Psychological Association (APA) declassified “homosexuality” as a mental disorder in the 1973 Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM) used in the mental health professionals’ field.
Still-popular urban, mostly Christian fundamentalist, myth is a story of “radical homosexual activists” storming and pressuring the APA to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. On the face of it, that is a mostly correct statement.
Out of frustration and the need to be heard and understood, gay activists did break into conference sessions during 1970-1972 and demanded to tell their stories. Finally, in 1973, before a packed room of his peers, a masked colleague answered questions and told his story.
It took almost three years of pressure to be heard; the eventual declassification was the result of personal relationship and dialogue. The head of the Nomenclature Committee, Robert Spitzer, witnessed the “normal behavior” of his colleagues in a gay bar one night after the convention. In a moment of beautiful humanity, Spitzer’s ugly biases were shattered and he went directly back to his hotel room to rewrite the classification. In the next few months of 1973, homosexuality was deleted from the DSM.
Homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality. Using the words “perversion”, “sickness” and “abnormality” is not only medically incorrect, it is very hurtful to those targeted. GLBT people are expressing sexuality that is normal and natural to them. For them, to express sexuality in an opposite sex relationship is unnatural and abnormal.
Can gay people be sexual with members of the opposite sex? Of course they can. In the wise words of one of my closest friends, Michael, ex-husband of a woman and father of two, who was also a leader of a you-too-can-be-heterosexual program says “With a whole bunch of fantasizing, you can do anything.”
Which leads into the next ill-informed statement.
“People can change their orientation”
No, they can’t.
Sexual expression, whether it be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, is an orientation, not a behavior, not a preference, not an addiction or a lust. Sexual orientation defines the consistent emotional, romantic and sexual attraction a person has for the opposite sex, same sex or both sexes.
A simple way of looking at the complexities of human sexuality is the Kinsey Scale. It classifies exclusively opposite-sex attracted individuals to strongly same-sex attracted individuals on a scale ranging “0” to “6”. Can a “6” become a “0”? No. Certainly, Christian circles have been lead to believe this is possible, probable or beneficial for almost forty years.
Exodus International is the largest Christian ministry in the world dealing with those with “unwanted same sex attractions”. For almost all of its 37 years, minus one month, Exodus has been assuring “motivated” Christian people who “struggle with homosexuality” that prayer, finding the root of the dysfunction and denial of natural sexual expression would create a new creature and new sexual identity in Jesus Christ.
Exodus International has only recently admitted publicly that sexual orientation does not change. President Alan Chambers, who also admitted he is still same sex attracted 20 years into the Exodus program, stated in January:
The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know will experience some level of same-sex attraction.
I applaud Exodus for getting more honest about truth and expectations, but I am afraid tremendous damage has been done. As they strive to be truthful about four decades of experience and poor results, others in the fix-me-I-am-gay world are staunchly defending their ministries and professions.
Families have been destroyed and gay people have completely walked away from faith communities. Exodus has not yet publicly apologized for the damage done and the wrong message effectively sent throughout the Southern Baptist and Evangelical world. Sadly, until they become more repentant and vocal about the lies, Southern Baptists and Evangelicals will conveniently believe and propagate the tales of “conversions”.
Gay Christians and their allies have certainly heard this monumental news, but the church, in general, will sadly not hear it for quite some time. The church will believe and advocate for the “you can change” message because it supports the prevailing dogma about gay people. The messages of: “try harder”, “pray more”, and the worst one, marry a member of the opposite sex to “fix” their “sexual brokenness” will be sustained as the conservative churches exist in a black hole of ignorance on this issue.
And, gay people will continue to walk away from God because churches lay unachievable expectations upon them.
Producing children does not mean one is straight. Living in a heterosexual relationship does not mean one is straight. People who declare themselves as “ex-gay” have their own list of why they not longer identify as gay. Including, but not limited to: the desire to have a family, the weight of familial, religious, social and professional pressures, their own fear of being themselves, their own non-acceptance of their orientation or loss of God’s love and acceptance.
I know, I know, some of you are thinking of Former Gay Slut Alcohol Zombie Drug-Using Joe who is now a “new creature” and maybe even married. Lumping cessation of personally destructive behaviors in with apparent sexual orientation modification blurs the lines of what actually has changed. The whoring, drugs and alcohol are gone; there is a temptation to also announce that sexual orientation has shifted. We can each choose what we do with our sexual desires, but we cannot change sexual orientation.
In Christian-lingo, this paraded-about “ex-gay” got saved and God made him/her into a “new creature in Christ.” Unfortunately, this “new creature” is probably still gay and, in the “honeymoon” phase, we see a behavior change and mistake it as orientation change.
You will only hear praise and gratitude from this former miserable heterosexual screw-up for the great possibility of transformation in a person following Jesus. That Jesus-make-over, however, does not include sexual orientation.
For every rising star and “ex-gay” poster child you cite me that is “no longer gay”, I offer hundreds of stories of my friends, most of them Christians, who tried to conform, hide, deny or live as a heterosexual until they ultimately chose truth and authenticity. Families, relationships, and people have been destroyed and forced into shame because they bought into the “change is possible” lie.
Conveniently ignoring the existence of bisexuals who are in the 2 to 5 range on the Kinsey Scale inflates the “success” stories of conversion as well.
Former leaders of Exodus and other “help-fix-me-I-am-gay” programs are now admitting they NEVER saw one change in the orientation of clients in decades of work. Although well-intended, ex-gay programs have been ineffective and in fact, destructive. But still, pastors, families and shamed gay Christians are believing the long-held lies.
People that are strictly gay do not become straight. This coercion and expectation to change sexual orientation has to stop.
“I don’t mind gay people having civil unions, but marriage is not a civil right.”
Married couples enjoy over 1000 civil, medical and tax benefits which exclude non-married couples. Saying “I have no objection to civil unions, just don’t touch marriage” may work nicely for those who enjoy the benefits of marriage for themselves and their families, but is not just or fair for same-sex couples.
Marriage might be a “sacrament” in your economy, but it is a legal contract which provides protections for individuals, couples and families.
As the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) progresses through the Federal Court system, it will surely be defeated. [UPDATED: June 26, 2013 DOMA struck down in SCOTUS 5-4 decision.] And it should. The unfair burdens that have been placed on partnered same-sex couples may not be on the radar of the average heterosexual. If it does not impact “us”, then the injustice of DOMA also escapes “us”.
Further, there is a strong misconception among heterosexuals that marriage itself is not a civil right. Well, it is.
Marriage has already been designated as “one of the basic civil rights of man” by the Supreme Court of the US. In the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia case that invalidated the miscegenation laws prohibiting black/white marriage, marriage was deemed to be a basic right for all people. The decision states, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
Marriage as a fundamental right under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was again reaffirmed in the 1978 Zablocki vs. Redhail decision. That decision states “ the right to marry as of fundamental importance for all.”
Civil rights should not be subjected to a popular vote; rights are evaluated and extended by close examination under the Constitution. The Constitution interprets for American citizens what is fair and just. Clearly, marriage is a basic right within our Constitution. Inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the right to marry has been and is currently being examined by several states.
Undoubtedly, DOMA will be struck down and a case testing federal marriage equality will be heard at the Federal level in the Supreme Court within the decade. This is the logical progression of interpreting Constitutional law as it applies to the right to marry a same sex partner.
“The Bible is against homosexuality.”
It is quite common for people to use God and “His views” to justify their own moral, cultural and religious biases. Millions of words have been written on this issue. I have written many of those words on my blog.
With extensive experience in this conversation, it is clear to me that people do not shift their dogma in a battle over verses. All of us, all of us, approach verses in the Bible with the filters created by our: experiences, the teachings we have heard and read, interpretations, cultural influences and doctrinal and denominational stances.
I rarely do the “verse by verse” duel with anyone. Certainly, not because I am unable, but it is rarely productive in conversation. (I point to what I have written.)
I do ask people to temporarily lay aside the “Golden Calves” of what they are sure of and step away and risk getting in relationships with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians. Hearing professions of faith, testimonies of changed lives and seeing the fruits of the Holy Spirit in gay and transgender Christians should challenge you.
Then go back and look at that Golden Calf you have held onto so tightly, and ask with honesty, “Does what I see in the lives of GLBT Christians line up with what I have held as a Biblical truth about them?” If you do not know any gay Christians (I did not until seven years ago!), look at my resources page and view or attend some affirming congregation services.
Relationship matters. When I went to a Gay Christian Network Conference in 2006, standing amongst over 300 GLBT Christians convinced me of my own wrong judgments. I knew I had held wrong beliefs about an entire group of God’s other children.
Concerning the verses you confidently know you know, my challenge is quite simple. Look at all (5 to 7, depending on your count) of the references to same sex behavior in the Bible. In every instance, the behavior is bundled together with rape, prostitution, abuse or worship of a god other than God. The combination of the purpose and the resultant action created something that did not please God.
Consider this: is it the combined wrong purpose and behavior being condemned or is it all same-sex relationships being condemned?
If every time the Bible mentioned the exchange of money and that exchange were bundled with violence, prostitution, or manipulation, we might think the giving of money is evil and unacceptable. But we know that is not true. We know how to separate immoral purposes in some couplings and have missed it on the issue of same-sex relationships.
The only examples the Old and New Testament writers knew of same-sex behavior were associated with immoral purposes: rape, prostitution,abuse and manipulation in idol worship. That was their culture, their time. The bundled purpose and the resultant same-sex behaviors were immoral.
Of the thousands of relationships I have with GLBT people, I do not know one based in rape, prostitution, abuse or manipulation of idols. The Bible is not referring to loving, same-sex, monogamous relationships. We have wrongly applied Bible verses to fit our biases about gay people.
Most Evangelical and Southern Baptist Christians do not have intimate friendships with gay people; they have gay stereotypes. We tend to believe dogma that reinforces our stereotypes. This is lazy and dehumanizing.
I am entrenched in the gay and transgender Christian community. Without the permission of the “you cannot be gay and Christian” segment, there is indeed a revival going on that may not line up with the traditional non-affirming interpretations. Oh well.
There is a growing number of us Christians, that, at the onset of our journey of shifting, had been confounded by the witness of gay Christians in our lives. We have arrived at different interpretations of the Bible on this issue than we once held.
It is interesting to listen to and read the so-called “Christian experts” on homosexuality who have no personal extensive experiences with the gay community, especially the gay Christian community. They have truly let their biases support their dogma of disgust and ideology of ick; they continue to poison the church and conservative community with their lies and half truths.
Each of the above statements is offensive, ill-informed or a lie. Again, I said every one of these things a decade ago. Until. Until I met gay and transgender people, and decided to get to know them as people. Until I laid aside my stereotypes, biases and wrong information. Until I studied the Bible verses for myself.
You can choose to continue oppressing fellow citizens, offend gay friends and family members, and push people away from the benefits of faith communities by repeating the above statements OR you can get informed and and stop saying ignorant, hurtful things.
Gay people have lives, not “lifestyles”.
God is a clever designer; the parts do fit and work quite well for same-sex loving couples.
Homosexuality is a natural expression of human sexuality.
People do not change sexual orientation.
Marriage is a civil right in the US.
- The Bible is being wrongly used to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
We are guilty in families, society, workplaces and churches of oppressing a class of people because of our own ignorance and isolation. Be better than that. Get into relationships with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and get informed.
And stop saying stupid stuff.