On The Negative Effects of "Hating the Sin"

Being gay is about more than just that raw, animal attraction we all have to deal with (and that has probably made every man and woman do any number of stupid things over the course of our lives). Being gay is about who you fall in love with, who you develop that deeper connection for. Sex, of course, is part of that connection for most people. But what is really at issue today in America is not gay lust (which I think, you are right, is not fundamentally all that different from straight lust), but gay love.

 

[This is a letter I wrote to a friend of mine this morning (with a few personal details disguised). The friend in question has been a devout Christian all his life. I came out to him about 15 years ago, and for perhaps the first time since then, we actually talked about his struggles dealing with my being gay. He's worked very hard to reconcile his religion with my sexuality-- we were best friends for about 8 years leading up to my coming out.

I'm posting this in hopes that some of what I articulate to him will be helpful to people having similar conversations with friends, family, even strangers about this same issue, and for that matter to give straight Kossacks another glimpse into the challenges of being gay.

The references to ELCA in the diary are to the recent decision by the ELCA (the largest denomination of the Lutheran church in America, and the church my friend is a member of) to allow gay pastors who are in committed relationships to serve.]

J,

Enjoyed our extended discussion on the car trip to and from J and A's yesterday. Something you touched on though made me think you could maybe use a little more of my perspective when it comes to thinking about gay issues. I hope you find this helpful since you say this is something you've been struggling with ever since I came out.

You drew an analogy; you talked about your own feelings of lust and tried to imagine what it would be like for someone who's gay to have to fight against those feelings for a lifetime and never give in. You acknowledged that that was asking too much.

But you know, I'm not sure that is asking too much. After all, you don't give into those feelings. Countless married men and women remain happily committed to their partners for life. What you really need to look at, if you want to understand what it is to be gay, is not your feelings of lust, but your feelings of love.

Being gay is about more than just that raw, animal attraction we all have to deal with (and that has probably made every man and woman do any number of stupid things over the course of our lives). Being gay is about who you fall in love with, who you develop that deeper connection for. Sex, of course, is part of that connection for most people. And frankly I believe that consenting adults should be allowed to have sex with whomever they want, whether I approve of their particular choices or not (though in the case of close enough friends, I may let them know if I think their choices are self-destructive). But what is really at issue today in America is not gay lust (which I think, you are right, is not fundamentally all that different from straight lust), but gay love.

What we are being denied today is not the ability to act on our lust; homosexuality, though still stigmatized, has been decriminalized, and is widely accepted, even, by younger generations. What we're still being denied by nearly every major social institution is gay love.

I will always remember your wedding day. I will always remember how you looked, as you stood up before those hundreds of people who care for you, and you were overcome by emotion as you realized you were marrying S. It was one of the purest expressions of love I've ever seen in my life, and I think everyone at your wedding was deeply moved by it. That's what I want; I want it in my life, and I want it acknowledged not just by my friends and the people I care about, but, damn it, by my government, my community, my country. I don't know if I'll ever be lucky enough to find love like that. It's damn hard. Love is tough enough, as fragile as it can be, even when it's the love our culture and world wants and approves of. How much harder is it when your love is something people mock? When your love is actually dangerous, because expressing it can actually get you hurt? When people tell you that your love is a sin, an abomination?

An abomination??

"Beloved. Let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who loves not, knows not God, for God is love." [First John 4:7-8]

I think it is words like that, scripture like that, that many members of the ELCA were thinking of when they made their decision. Love comes from God. If you're religious, where else can you imagine it comes from? So you either have to deny that gay love even exists, or you have to embrace it as both divinely inspired and as something that brings those who experience it closer to knowledge of God. Isn't love, after all, perhaps the one miracle that everyone can experience?

My whole life, I've been told, in essence, that I cannot love. Oh, not in so many words, and certainly not, thankfully, by my family, but that's the implicit message of the notion that somehow being gay (or acting on those sexual urges) is a sin, and that message is pervasive in our culture (though less so today than when we were growing up). I cannot tell you how hard it is. I still wrestle nearly every day with the homophobia that surrounded me as I grew up. I cannot tell you how much harder it's made it for me, and millions of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, to love myself and to form loving relations with other people. Being told that your love is sin is like poison to your soul. It eats at you from the inside, makes you question your self-worth, drives you to doubt that you can ever even find love. That you even deserve to find love.

I think that it is as a tonic to this that the ELCA is attempting to act; by implicitly acknowledging that all love comes from God (because where else can it come from?), that all love is divine, that all love must be embraced, and that gay love is love, they seek to help those many men and women who struggle with the poisonous message that there is something wrong with their love. By providing examples, in the form of their clergy, of gay men and women in committed, loving relationships, they model for a world that has become quite familiar with the notion of gay sexual expression something else: they model for the world gay love.

We talked, last night, briefly about those moments in movies that make your eyes well up, that give you a lump in your throat. Well, I'm not ashamed to admit that every time I read about a decision like that made by ELCA, I let loose and I cry. I cry tears of joy that the next generation of gay and lesbian teens will find yet another source of acceptance, and will see another place where gay love is modeled and embraced and accepted. And yes, I cry for myself. I cry for the kid I was twenty-odd years ago who couldn't find anywhere the notion of gay love, who couldn't imagine that a gay man could fall in love and marry and have children, who tried so desperately to be straight that I didn't even admit to myself until I was 21 that I was gay. I cry because I wonder how things might have been different for me if there had been more acceptance when I was growing up.

 

I haven't given up on love for myself, though with each passing year it seems less likely to happen. I'm 39, which is about 78 in gay years, and if I'm still a pretty handsome bastard, I've grown so used to living alone I'm not sure I can learn all those tough tricks of sharing my life with someone else. The good news, I guess, is that I really am pretty happy alone. But I do grow wistful, from time to time, wishing I had someone along for the ride.

But what I'm very hopeful for is the coming generations. They have so many challenges ahead of them: fixing this world we've so badly damaged, figuring out how to make our ever-growing population sustainable on earth without destroying the fragile world we should be caring for so much better. But at least I know that younger gays and lesbians will grow up feeling more love, more acceptance, more acknowledgment that what they feel is real and valid and valued than I ever did.

I think of that, and I smile.

Great seeing you, and talk to you soon,

D

 

Read the original article in The Daily Kos

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