Personal Stories in Faith Communities
The voices of people of faith who are grappling with these questions are often some of the most powerful inspirations we can offer. This section includes just a few of the personal stories that straight allies of faith have shared with us.
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The culture of the 1950s and ’60s taught my brothers and me to be suspicious — even to fear and despise — anyone or any behavior that was not clearly heterosexual. Any male who exhibited so-called “feminine traits” was someone to avoid, ostracize…or to treat much worse. Oddly enough, for the girls who were lesbians, the clues and cues were not as clear, and so never became an issue in our small town. I spent my teenage years then, along with my years as a varsity athlete in undergraduate school, and my years in the United States Marine Corps, blithely unaware of the suffering that was being experienced by all of those “in the closet” who were, quite clearly, always there, but hidden from me. The beginnings of a complete turnaround in my thinking came with the American Psychiatric Association’s removal of “homosexuality” as a psychosexual disorder sometime in the early ’70s.
But it wasn’t until I entered seminary later in that same decade that I came face-to-face with virulent homophobia within my own denomination of The United Methodist Church. An acquaintance of mine came out as a gay man to the committee evaluating his “fitness for ministry” and was denied candidacy because of it. When I began to object to this — to what was clearly, at least to me, an injustice — to those who were evaluating my own fitness within the denomination, the evaluators (including the bishop) told me that I’d better back off or my own candidacy would be in jeopardy. I’m ashamed to admit that I backed off. After all, I rationalized, it wasn’t any of my business. I wasn’t gay. Still, the incident haunted me beyond receiving my Masters Degree and subsequent ordination in The United Methodist Church.
So in 1998 when the first gay couple in our denomination’s conference wished to have their love and commitment recognized by the Church through the worship celebration of a Holy Union (Marriage between gays, sadly, is still illegal in our state even here now in 2013.), I joined with colleagues of mine to say, “Yes!” and participated in that service. It was a stunning, beautiful, and powerful event. I wept with others at the joy of that day. But each of us clergy were then brought up on charges and tried in an ecclesiastical court. The short story is that our “holy orders” were not taken away at the consummation of that trial, but my ordination remains under threat even to this day.
I’ve been an active member of PFLAG ever since.
I am a 48 year old married Mother of two adult daughters, both of whom are straight. We are not aware of any members of our family, immediate or otherwise, that are LGBT. I am also a “Born-Again Evangelical Charismatic Catholic.” Is that possible? Anything is possible. Maybe that’s a small part of why being an ally is important to me. My faith is a big part of my life and I can’t imagine not having the freedom to practice my faith without fear of retribution.
I never really had an opinion about LGBT issues because I didn’t have to. It wasn’t necessary for me to really take a stand, one way or the other. A few years back a good friend came to tell us that his son, Jesse, was gay. I remember feeling like I should give my “condolences” or something. It was strange, like his son was dead, or they had lost something. Maybe it was feeling the hardships they would have to undergo as a family and the loss of what one would expect in regard to marriage and children.
A few years later I attended a wedding for the same family; their oldest son was marrying his long-time girlfriend. There, at the wedding, I met David – Jesse’s boyfriend at the time. Honestly, I guess I never really believed in “gay love.” I thought it was a choice. Something people choose or experimented with; I think that’s why I could never really take a stand. I just didn’t believe.
I will never forget the night my life changed. We had invited Jesse and David over for a bonfire at our house. I walked in from being outside and glanced left into my kitchen. There were Jesse and David, looking into each other’s eyes. It was at that point that I saw the most gentle and tender kiss I have ever seen between two people. I saw love.
This was so life-changing, that I had to glance away. I have never been the same since that day. I am ashamed for taking so long to get to the point where I am today, an advocate and ally for LGBT rights. I am ashamed for all of the damage I may have done over the years because of my ignorance but now rejoice in knowing the truth
It is with great passion that I say I want my LGBT friends, as American citizens, to enjoy the same rights that I do, especially in marriage. Call it whatever you wantâ€¦it doesn’t matter. LOVE is LOVE. Every person should have the right to be legally joined to the partner in life they have chosen. Everyone should have the right of someone to have and told hold, in sickness and in health, until death they do part. Everyone should have the right to build a life together. To LOVE.
Even though the relationship between Jesse and David didn’t work out, David has remained one of my closest friends. He has become a part of my family. Because of David I began attending our local PFLAG meetings this year. My goal is to come to a better understand some of the things my LGBT friends have been through, and how to better support them in their times of need.
My workplace has also offered an LGBT Diversity Group of which I have become a member. I continue to struggle to fight the good fight with my fellow Christians, who aren’t in the same place that I am, with the LGBT Community. The publication of “Straight for Equality in Faith Communities” is a godsend. I can’t thank you enough for this publication and for a place to come and find other straight allies and the tools we need to fight for a better tomorrow, for our LGBT family and friends.
Equal rights? As a straight pastor I witnessed classmates and colleagues excluded from ministry, just for being gay. I’ve been an ally ever since, growing more and more thankful to be included in this creative edge of bringing equality to our world.
I grew up in The United Methodist Church, but when I went to college, I became involved with a very conservative congregation in another denomination. This church saw all things in black and white, including sexuality. The pastor made it clear: Homosexuality was wrong. Even if his own daughter was gay, he would disown her.
When one of my closest friends came out to me a year later, it shocked me to my core. I had no idea how to respond. This church told me one thing, but my heart told me another. Deep down, I knew that God loved, embraced, and cared for all people. I decided to walk the journey with my friend, a journey of coming out to her family and some of our other friends.
This experience transformed my life. I watched as her parents not only embrace their daughter, but also became active in our local PFLAG chapter. I saw my own heart grow from narrowly constricted to widely open. I now feel called to advocate, particularly within the church, for the acceptance and affirmation of my friends who identify as LGBTQ.
I was recently ordained as a pastor in The United Methodist Church. While I am privileged to serve a local church that is opening and affirming, I recognize that the rest of our denomination is struggling to affirm all people. As my heart continually expands, I have promised to strive for the day when we embrace all people, regardless of their sexual identity, as beloved children of God.
While I can’t say exactly when I began to be supportive of equal rights for LGBT people as a person of faith, I distinctly remember a moment in the late 80s when I was a sophomore in college that significantly influenced my journey.
Two of my classmates received a death threat which had been made of letters cut out of newspapers and magazines. It looked cartoonish, except that the letter mentioned a â€˜free sample’ and included a bullet. The two recipients, who were co-presidents of the LGBT student group, asked that everyone on campus wear a pink triangle button for a week in solidarity.
Not only was I glad toÃ¢Â€Â”it felt somewhat like the stories I had heard of how the King of Denmark refused to allow the Nazis to force Jews to wear the yellow star badge, saying he would wear it himselfÃ¢Â€Â”but I noticed that it became the new â€˜cool’ overnight. Even members of the football teamÃ¢Â€Â”not previously known for their liberal viewsÃ¢Â€Â”joined in. I was so astonished to hear one such guy say that he still needed to get his pink triangle when he saw mine that I immediately pulled mine off my shirt and gave it to him. I knew I would make a point of getting another one, but I wasn’t sure he would.
I think until then I believed intellectually in equal rights and equal treatment for the gay community; I think after then I really owned it emotionally.
Many of us have been greatly influenced (for better or worse) by our parents and their beliefs. Fortunately I have come from a family dedicated to all forms of civil rights and also strong advocates for those without those rights.
My father was an activist priest in the 60s and 70s. His church, St. Stephen’s in Washington, D.C., often served as housing for marchers in town for demonstrations. In 1968, when I was 13, one of those groups was a group of gay activists. I wandered through the church and remember being a bit surprised when someone asked if I was a “gay sister” – I didn’t know how to respond because I was still trying to figure out who I was.
Later my father would work with others to write a commitment ceremony for the Episcopal Church. Eventually, he would perform one of the first commitment ceremonies for one of the congregation’s gay couples. The church continued to play a role in my life with my daughter, Lily. When she was born, I began attending my parents’ church with her. Lily was loved by many gay men and lesbian women in the congregation.
In our church, gay and lesbian families with their children are welcomed and active members. I try to continue to live by example the kind of world I want my daughter to live in. I hope, that like my parents, I will have taught her that all forms of injustice are unacceptable. Through our actions and our beliefs, we can celebrate and share our many friendships with gay and lesbian people.
Before I wrote these thoughts, I asked my 12-year-old if she had any thoughts to share about gay people. We had one of our shortest conversations: She felt she didn’t have anything to say because they’re not different from other people. I think my daughter is learning well, not only from me, but from all the people who share in her life as our extended family.
I grew up in a conservative suburb of Louisville, Kentucky. I attended socially conservative schools and churches, and I socialized with those who align themselves with socially conservative viewpoints. But I was always a little different. My views, especially, concerning LGBT equality and faith, strayed far from the norm.
There was no single turning point that made me believe in inclusion and equality and I continue to develop and progress my views because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Not only do I believe that’s what Jesus would want us to do, but I think it’s what our country needs to do. We need to understand that ALL people were created equal and that ALL people deserve to be treated equally and with love, compassion, and respect.
Since college I found my eyes opening up to the truth and legitimacy that could be found in gay relationships. While I was open and accepting, it did not sink into the core of my being until my second year out of Rabbinical School. That summer, I was fortunate enough to hold one of the Chuppah poles (a traditional Jewish wedding canopy) for a classmate who was marrying her partner of four years. When I saw the two of them looking at each other with the same eyes that my wife and I had for each other on the day of our wedding, I turned and said, “How can this be anything but Kiddushin!’ (a legitimate Jewish wedding).
I was born in 1947 and raised and educated in the Roman Catholic tradition, with many of the prejudices common to my generation and my religion. The first openly gay man I knew was a widely respected Jesuit who taught at my college. He came out to his students by explaining that he was a gay man and a fitful priest. That is, he honored his vow of celibacy the same as his fellow priests. This exposure to the utter normality of same-sex attraction in the presence of this wonderful teacher-priest-man made it immediately impossible to retain the stereotypes with which I had been raised, and made it even more impossible to see homosexuals as other than members of the same faith community as I.