Identity: Resisting Assimilation (2)

I just wrote a whole blog about how right I was when I wrote this blog originally, and how prophetic it was and how many ministries are now either shrinking away into further exclusivity or losing themselves in the battle to maintain their group identity by keeping gays out, etc, etc.

I deleted it, because it’s kind of like, “Who cares?”  They can do whatever they want, it’s not my problem.  Sucks to suck.

I think a major contributing factor that has made the LGBT community historically recognized as different, weird, odd and strange is the fact that it was driven underground for so long.  Driven to secrecy, gay people have had to find strange ways to find themselves and each other, and that has led to a lot of strange activity by most standards.  After being outcast and ostracized by mainstream society, older generations of the LGBT community sought refuge in small communities of people like themselves, which is perfectly normal human behavior. Craving love and affection just like everyone else, but not being able to receive it from people who did not understand and accept them, they resorted to sex.

A friend just told me about a play that’s focused on the AIDS crisis within the LGBT community in the 80’s.  At a town meeting, it was announced that AIDS was transmitted through sex, and that they would have to abstain from sex until they figured out more about it. The gay community erupted, and someone said, “But sex is all we have.”

That sucks, but it makes sense.  For generations that endured far, far worse homophobia, bigotry, discrimination and ostracization than whiny millenial bloggers could ever imagine, the only way they could feel like normal humans and experience love, intimacy, affection and acceptance was to have sex.  Sex became their identity, and the community was driven underground and became weird, strange and odd because they couldn’t express themselves openly. They had to be secretive and couldn’t share who they really were.  It was a snowball effect, because the more they were outcast, the weirder they got, and the weirder they got, the more they were outcast.

Nowadays, it’s much different.  LGBT people will always be seen as different, because let’s face it, it is different from the mainstream normal.  It always has been, always will be.  The major difference now is that LGBT people are not driven to secrecy.  Not having to retreat into niche communities has allowed LGBT people to effectively assimilate into all areas and aspects of modern American culture.  That’s good for the LGBT community because it means they no longer have to resort to sex as the only way to fulfill their human need for love, acceptance, relationship, and the need to be known and understood.  It’s good for everyone else, because it allows them to see that LGBT people really are the same as everyone else, and that this one difference is not their entire identity.  Being gay is still a little weird, but it’s weird in a less mysterious, unknown way.  It is human nature to fear the unknown, so as gay people, their identities and their actions have become more known, there is much less fear of that unknown.  For most teenagers today, at least in my area, there is little to no culturally ingrained homophobia that causes the historical knee-jerk reaction still noticeable in many older generations, and even my own generation.

What’s happening now is that churches, denominations and organizations that are still fighting to maintain a group identity that doesn’t allow for LGBT people to participate fully is that they are now the ones being outcast and driven to secrecy.  It’s a lot more subtle than homophobia, and it’s creeping up in ways many don’t recognize, but it’s definitely happening.  Organizations have to hide their anti-gay policies, and now they have to create new policies to bar staff and volunteers from disclosing them to the public.  They are being driven to secrecy, and historically that has never, ever been good for any people group.  The more secretive they become, the more outsiders will think they’re weird, and the weirder outsiders think they are, the more they will stay away.  The fear of the unknown, caused by the refusal to fully disclose what they want converts to adhere to and believe, will be their downfall.  When staying away becomes the norm, the group will become increasingly suspicious of newcomers, and before they know it they’ll be caught in that snowball effect.  The only difference between the way the LGBT community was driven to secrecy and how over time anti-gay Christian groups will be driven to secrecy, is that education has always been and will always promote further acceptance and assimilation of LGBT people into mainstream society, and further education about anti-gay policies and their damaging effects will always promote further rejection of those ideals.  Sucks to suck.

It’s all about history, psychology, human nature and human behavior.  Throughout time, many people groups have claimed that their god(s) oppose(s) another people group, based on color, ethnicity, geographical location, gender, religion, and actions.  Eventually those beliefs are overcome through education, and the tides turn on the opposing party.  Christians used to say “No, really, women aren’t equals.”  American Christians used to say, “No, really, blacks aren’t equals.”  For some reason they can’t even begin to understand, they’re still holding onto, “No, really, gays aren’t equals.”  Because this people group opposing this people group for this reason because this God said so is the only time in history that that has ever been true.  Seems legit.  It’s all about that group identity. What they’re really saying is, “But sex is all we have.”

I’m glad I don’t have to keep any aspect of my identity secretive, because there’s literally nothing worse.

I should get more personal, because this is my blog and all, and I’m most familiar with my own experience.  So what I have I learned about identity this year on a personal level?

I’ve learned that I’ve always just been me.  My identity is still the same today as it was before I came out, and before I realized and accepted that  I was gay.  On the surface level, I still look the same, dress the same, talk the same, move the same, act the same; I still like all the same stuff and do all the same stuff; I still have the same personality and character. If identity were just about outward appearance and actions, I’m pretty sure few people who really know me would say that my identity has changed at all.  On an inward, intrinsic level, I’m still the same, but I would say with just a much deeper and more developed understanding of why I am still just the same, if that makes sense.

Coming out as gay is the most significant life experience a gay person could have, and it’s something straight people will never have to do or even think about having to do, so it’s literally impossible for them to “get it.” It’s significant for everyone for their own reasons, and it was definitely significant for me because it challenged everything I knew about God, myself and reality to the deepest levels of my core.

This aspect of the journey is super, super hard to articulate, because how do you communicate, especially to someone who has never and will never experience anything like it, how it feels and what it’s like to come out as gay, after having spent so much of your life deeply involved and ingrained with a group whose group identity does not allow members to have this aspect of personal identity?  How can I say that nothing about me is different, even though I can definitely recognize that I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth and change?  Coming out forced me to really, really, really explore who God is and who I am.  Of course I had before, but this major life experience caused me to reevaluate everything I believe and why.  After all the study, research and soul searching, I have always come back to what I knew instantly the night I first got saved, without any prior study, research and soul searching.  My identity can only be found in Christ.  Nothing but relationship with Jesus can satisfy my deepest human needs to be loved, accepted, known and understood.

One of the greatest mysteries of God is how the simplest understanding and the most complex understanding are ultimately the same.  It’s great to be simple, and it’s great to be complex.  No matter how far we can push into Christian faith, theology and Biblical truth, we should end up with really complex answers for why it’s so simple, and really simple answers for why it’s so complex.  If our identity is truly grounded in Christ, the same should be true of our identity.  On a simple, surface level we may think our identity is what we do, say and think.  On a complex, personal level, we may understand that our identity drives what we do, say and think.  We can think we wear masks to hide our true identities, and that a deeper understanding of ourselves can enable us to remove those masks, but it’s equally important to remember that even those masks and reasons we wear them are influenced by both the simplest and most complex levels of our identity. It’s a cycle, or a snowball effect, or a pattern of our history, or whatever we want to call it.

I always want to say that being gay has nothing to do with my identity, and that my sexual orientation has nothing to do with my character, personality, and who I am as a person.  In reality, everyone’s sexual orientation has something to do with their character, personality, and who they are as a person.  Insisting that I am the only person alive for whom that is not true is a denial of some aspect of my identity, and a denial of any aspect of personal identity negatively affects the whole.  Yes, I’m gay, and who I am is influenced by that reality.  An important aspect of the journey is reconciling the idea that it really means nothing with the idea that it makes sense of everything.

There’s absolutely nothing that could have challenged my idea of identity more than coming out as gay after everything I had built my life and identity up into for the first 26 years of my life.  At times, it has felt like my whole idea of reality has crumbled, and I am slowly reconstructing it, building on a solid foundation and being mindful and intentional with every single building block.  Sometimes it’s surprising that so far everything looks pretty much the same, and sometimes that’s not surprising at all.  Non-Christians have urged me give up religion, and Christians have urged me to either identify as gay or identity as Christian because I can’t identify as both.  My silent response is always, “But Jesus is all I have.”





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