I bet the title of this blog post got your attention… didn’t it? Well, let’s start things off by dispelling any rumors. I’m not gay. I am, however, coming out as an ally.
What is an Ally?
An ally, also known as a straight ally or heterosexual ally, is a person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBTQ+ social movements, and challenges all sorts of phobias related to the gay community.
Why is this News?
Many of you who know me well know my stance on gay rights. I support them 100% and have for a while now. So, why is this news? Well, frankly, many of you don’t know this about me. Perhaps you don’t know that I’ve marched in Pride parades. Maybe you don’t know that I was co-chairperson of a Pride group at my last company. Maybe you don’t know that I have many gay friends and even gay family members. Perhaps my Facebook profile picture gave a clue to this? 🙂
First, a little history: I’ve been involved in leadership positions in various ministries for the past 20+ years. In some of these positions, I’ve been asked to be “like Switzerland” – that is, take a neutral stance and not take sides. This has been ok for a long time, but frankly, it’s been a huge struggle internally for me. It seems like I’ve had a balance of friends who are on the left and the right and both can’t seem to get along, no matter what the topic.
Long story short, I can no longer be Switzerland. I can’t stay silent. In fact, I can’t be passive about this anymore. There is a war on gay rights – and human rights in general – in America right now, and our gay friends need us to speak up. They need us to take sides. They need us to leave Switzerland behind. So, I’m doing just that.
No matter what the issue is, people tend to forget what is at the center of virtually every issue that divides us these days: people. When you get down to it, nothing matters more than people. When choosing a side, I don’t see left or right, I see a person. Behind all the political propaganda is a person, and that person is usually struggling and/or hurting. The last thing they need is to be ostracized from one more thing. They need love. Pure and simple. They need someone to listen to them, to come along side them, to be their friend and be their ally.
I have known a lot of LGBTQ+ people for a long time and let me just say, it has been ugly. Not them, but the way they’ve been treated. The way they’ve been run out of churches and other organizations. The way they’ve been made to feel horrible for the way they are. It just isn’t fair. I don’t remember ever choosing to be a heterosexual, so why is there all this hate and prejudice against people in the LGBTQ+ community? The last thing that community needs is another bigot or Bible-thumper in their lives. They’ve had plenty of that, and that hasn’t done one bit of good. In fact, it’s done horrible damage.
Research has found that attempted suicide rates and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ+ people – and youth especially – is significantly higher than the general population. This is so sad to me. I have never been in this situation personally, but I imagine that people who are cutoff from their family/friends, or who are experiencing homophobic reactions from people, etc find themselves backed in a corner where they are waging a war between who they are versus who everyone else wants them to be. And it needs to stop.
I had the opportunity last year while serving in the Pride group at NextGear Capital to hear directly from credible sources as to what’s going on in the community. First, Julie Walsh from Gender Nexus came and spoke to us about the kinds of things that LGBTQ+ people have to deal with – and it’s a lot. Then, a group of us visited the Indiana Youth Group headquarters and got to see first-hand what many of our youth in Indy are dealing with. It is a sad state to be in when so many people are hurting. To see it first-hand is heartbreaking. These kids, in many cases, have been kicked out of their homes and are homeless – with nowhere else to go. They are confused. They are hurt. They are hungry, tired, alone. They need love.
Fortunately, the wonderful staff and volunteers from these organizations – and many others – are making an impact. I have seen first-hand what kind of resources are given to these kids and it gives me hope for a better future for the people in this situation. The web sites for these organizations also have many links to good resources such as education, suicide prevention hotlines, parental guides, health care resources and more.
Here is a picture of the NextGear Capital group at the 2018 Pride Parade in Indy:
But… The Bible Says…
The Bible says a lot. Believe me, I’ve had it quoted to me many times when I’ve “come out” in support of gay rights. If you want to use your Bible to support your homophobic views, then fine. I won’t stop you. Just don’t try to stop me… because my Bible also says to love God and love others, and that’s what I’m going to do. If I’m at the pearly gates someday and someone tells me I did wrong by doing that, then, well, let’s just say I may not want to enter through those gates. Because that sounds wrong to me.
Jesus was a friend to the poor and the marginalized. If I want to be like Jesus, I need to be the same. I can’t sit back and be a spectator anymore – if I am to have an impact with this community, I need to be up close and personal. For me, that means welcoming people in my life from all walks and all backgrounds and all people in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, I am richer for having known so many diverse people in my life, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be their friends.
Speaking of the Bible
Many of you know that I recently changed jobs. I left my IT Management career so I could work from home and spend more time writing. I started my “new” life on March 11th and I have to tell you, I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories lately and I’m just now getting around to talking to some agents about possible publication of these stories. One of these stories is called “Two Questions” and it tackles the tough topic at the intersection of Christianity and LGBTQ+ issues.
In the story, Matt Barnes is a 19-year old gay man who is given a second chance by parents: Pastor Mike Barnes and his wife Mabel. If he agrees to go back to therapy, they will reinstate his college funding that they took away when he came out. Enter Jesus. Not the real Jesus, but Jon, the young man playing Jesus in the church’s Easter play. While Pastor Mike wants Jon to leave the conversation, Matt welcomes his presence because he says the situation “could use a little Jesus”. Jon – as Jesus – chimes into the conversation periodically to give his two cents but what really changes the course is when Jon asks Matt and his parents to answer two questions: what do you want everyone to know, and what do you want no one to know? The answers from each person in the room changes the course of several lives and reunites a prodigal son with his parents and family.
The story behind the story is quite interesting. In 2003, I was in a play called You Can’t Take It With You and our director, Kate Ayres, asked the two questions that I ask in the story. This had a profound impact on the entire cast. Of course, we were all ready and willing to share “what we want everyone to know” with anyone. Go ahead, shout it from the rooftops. That was easy. When she asked the second question – what is the one thing we’d like no one to know – well, wow. I’ve never seen a cast so serious. One by one, we shared that one thing that we’ve kept inside us for so long. The results were amazing. We bonded immediately in that cast, and I got something off my chest that I had kept hidden for 25 years. And no, I’m not sharing that with you here. 😊
The idea for this story first came to me in 2018 when I was serving in the Pride group at NextGear Capital. For the first anniversary of the pride group, we did a video and had people tell their personal stories about coming out. Wow. Impactful. I cried. Ok, I cry all the time, but hey, I’m an emotional guy. In hearing some of these stories, I thought how hard it would be if someone was gay and that was being held over their head – especially if the thing being held back was a college fund – and even hard given the fact that the person showing the conditional love is the pastor himself. This came to me around Easter time, and I thought – wow, what if there was a Jesus character in the room. And, what if the Jesus character had just gone through the “two questions” exercise and then applied it to the young gay man and his estranged parents.
And the result is a short story called “Two Questions”. This is part of a larger collection I’m working on called “Bedtime Stories”. This is a collection of stories – much like “Two Questions” – that I hope will make you think and perhaps act differently. They are short stories that can be consumed in a small amount of time – like a short read when getting ready for bed – or at lunchtime or whenever.
You can download the story in PDF form from here. As the copyright says on the second page, please don’t go copying and pasting this everywhere. I don’t mind you sharing it – but please share this blog post along with it, and hopefully that in turn will drive some good conversation.
Where to From Here?
Are you someone in the LGBTQ+ community? If so, I’d love a hug. Hell, I don’t care who you are, I’d love a hug no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation 😊. If you have enjoyed this post, please share it. I’d love to hear your comments on it. Do you know people in this community? Love on them. Include them. Listen to them. Be their friend and their ally. They really, really, really need it.
If you are someone who is struggling with your identity, I sincerely hope you will get help. There are good resources listed on the IYG resource page here: http://www.indianayouthgroup.org/suicide-prevention-resources and the Gender Nexus page here: http://gendernexus.org/resources/
No matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum regarding this topic, there are three things I’d like you to remember:
- There is nothing more important than people
- Showing love and grace to people costs nothing
- In today’s divisive society, people need love now more than ever
So, my ask of you is this: if you’ve found yourself being homophobic, you might educate yourself on the LGBTQ+ community. Reach out and meet someone who is not like you. You might be surprised at how much we have in common as opposed to how much different we are. If you’ve come out, congratulations – I’m proud of you and your bravery. If you’re having feelings towards coming out and haven’t yet, I hope this post and the included story gives you encouragement to be honest with yourself and with those around you. And finally, if you’re reading this and you’re a heterosexual, perhaps it’s time for you to also stop being Switzerland and start being an ally! Join me and let’s love on some people who really need it 🙂