It’s not as dirty as you think.
“First off your wrong, your blogs are literally nothing more then twisting the word to suit your needs and back up your desires and life style choice.”
“I saw your post about pointing to scriptures that you have studied that have helped you come to the conclusion about your lifestyle.”
“Homosexual lifestyle does exist.”
“We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”
Above are a few examples of ways in which Christians have used the term “gay lifestyle” when writing to me since I came out. Others have used it in conversation, but these are just a few written examples. The Young Life staff was very upset that I published the official YL Faith and Conduct statement in a FB post; they feel students and parents don’t need to know about it because it applies to staff and volunteers only and is not something they teach students. I disagree because it’s exactly what they taught all the students when they used it to terminate me from my volunteer position.
I understand why this may be seen as splitting hairs or arguing over semantics, but the term “gay lifestyle” is offensive to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I guess you could say it doesn’t really mean anything- after all, I do live a lifestyle, and I am gay.
But historically, the term has always packed a lot of punch. Close your eyes and try to imagine what comes to mind when you picture a gay lifestyle. What comes to mind might be different for everyone, but the way I’ve personally heard it described by passionate, fired up pastors in Evangelical settings urging an impressionable generation of “warriors for Christ” to avoid it at all costs is a lifestyle of extreme perversion, promiscuity, gender confusion, emptiness, and general sex, drugs and rock and roll. At my Evangelical university, they had an ex-gay speaker speak in chapel once a year. Of course, they never chose a speaker who loved God, lived a moral lifestyle, raised a happy family and happened to be gay. The male speaker they had was a former transgender woman whose former lifestyle fulfilled every stereotype that both Christians and non-Christians may associate with the term “gay lifestyle.” The speaker himself doesn’t claim that his sexual orientation has ever changed, but rather that he’s trained himself to control his actions and find his wife attractive. The problem is that ex-gay ministers and the people they speak to believe that their decision to stop living out what they perceive as a “gay lifestyle” means they’re not gay anymore. That’s how powerful the term “gay lifestyle” is within some sheltered Evangelical communities that have never been exposed to any other examples of gay individuals. (There will be a future blog posts on ex-gay ministries and the psychological damage they cause).
It makes sense that all the quotes above, except for the YL one, come from people in that community. It also makes sense because it was an Assemblies of God university, and the core values of the denomination state, “The Assemblies of God opposes homosexuality and the gay lifestyle, recognizing such as sin.” While YL’s statement regarding “a gay lifestyle” implies that any life led by any gay individual is grounds for discrimination, the AG statement regarding “the gay lifestyle” further highlights its ignorance and proves that it believes that there is only one lifestyle all gay individuals live. I’m pretty sure any lifestyle includes sin, whether it’s gay or not. Do they oppose the “straight lifestyle” and recognize it as sin too?
I’m sure there are many gay people who do live the kind of lifestyle associated with the myriad of bigoted stereotypes, but there are many who don’t. For example, me. My lifestyle hasn’t really changed at all since I accepted that I am gay or since I came out. The biggest difference is I recently went from working six or seven days a week to four or five, but that’s just for personal health reasons. I haven’t had any crazy, drunken, unprotected one night stands with strangers I picked up in a leather bar, or traded in my Bible for a purse (no offense to any transgenders or drag queens, and I really mean that). I still go to church on Sundays and listen to my favorite worship songs on repeat as I shower, work and drive around.
What has changed is that I am looking for a new church- not that I’m uncomfortable going to my original church, but I do feel it’s important to worship in a place that accepts me. In fact, I would choose a church that openly disagrees with my positions but authentically loves and accepts me and teaches The Bible over a church that chooses political correctness to the point of diluting the Gospel message, or a church that loves and accepts me just to check a box on their good Christian list and uses me as an example to display how open minded they are. I have spent time on Capitol Hill, trying out churches, restaurants and coffee shops. Every time I go to Capitol Hill, I’m reminded just how “normal” the “gay lifestyle” is- kind, friendly people doing their best to live productive lives and raise happy families. I’ve been on a few gay dates, but it’s very important to me to find a Christian partner that shares similar values- the same qualities I would seek in a woman if I were attracted to women. I’ve even gone to a gay bar and a gay club to see what all the fuss is about.
Picture a place with loud music and flashing, colorful lights where people meet to drink (yes, sometimes in excess) and dance (yes, sometimes provocatively), a place where some people dress flamboyantly or provocatively in order to attract their desired gender, and yes, a place some people probably leave together to engage in one night stands. If a place like that sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been to a straight bar. That’s the point, there’s no difference. Yes, some of it’s strange and immoral by many standards, but that’s not because it’s a gay bar full of people living the “gay lifestyle.” It’s because it’s a bar full of people. I’m sure there are seedier places than the two I’ve visited, but I’m sure there are some pretty seedy straight bars and clubs around too.
I know pastors who have had more sexual partners than many of the people in those clubs, and I know volunteer leaders in various ministries that get more drunk more often. That’s not to justify any immoral behavior, but just to emphasize that we’re all more similar than we want to admit.
The “gay lifestyle” described in passionate, sweaty fire-and-brimstone sermons is much different than I expected. I’m sure the pastors preaching those sermons truly believe what they’re saying and aren’t consciously trying to spread a false, fear-based propaganda; it’s just that they don’t know any better. That’s what happens when we live in exclusivity and never have a chance to witness gay people live their lives. It’s not intentional deception, it’s just ignorance. There is no “gay lifestyle,” just like there is no “straight lifestyle.” Everyone’s lifestyle is unique to the individual that lives it, and just because someone’s gay doesn’t mean they’re fulfilling all or any of the stereotypes that may be associated with the gay community.
When I met with the YL area director to tell him I was gay, he said that he hoped I wouldn’t put a “gay lifestyle” on display for the students I work with. Since coming out, many supportive parents have thanked me for being a positive example to their kids, expressed their appreciation for teaching a valuable life lesson in diversity and acceptance, and commended me for being brave and bold enough to uphold me personal values and beliefs. Not one parent has attempted to shield their children from witnessing any part of my “gay lifestyle” because my “gay lifestyle” is nothing like the lifestyle associated with the bigoted, prejudiced stereotype the term implies.