I’m gay. These two little words are perhaps the most life-changing that anyone in our society can utter, and the impact they have on an individual’s life is immeasurable. Today is National Coming Out Day, and as someone who has “come out”—albeit for a social experiment—I can tell you firsthand how much they changed my life.
The simple truth is that as much as we may think our society is tolerant, try believing that after speaking with anyone that has come out as Gay or Lesbian. Ask them how it felt to declare their orientation knowing that a label would instantly relegate them to second-class citizenship. Ask them how many friends tried to convert them, said they would “pray for them”, or just ignored them altogether. Dr. King once said, “In the end, we won’t remember the words of our enemies,
but we will remember the silence from our friends.” I’ve experienced that silence, and it was deafening.
For those on the fence, or those on the conservative side of the fence, I would like to offer two quick thoughts about those coming out as Gay or Lesbian today.
First, the words “sexual orientation” are misleading. One’s orientation has less to do with sex and more to do with love and relationship. I’ve been told many times that gay is synonymous with promiscuity and has less to do with love. But there is a very clear difference between sex and sexuality. While sex is an important part of life and relationships, is not the true desire of the average man and woman for their life. Everyone I have ever met, gay or straight, shares one common trait. We all desire to love and be loved, so as your friends or family make this transition out of the closet, I ask you to keep this in mind. Your child, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, or friend desires an honest opportunity that so many heterosexuals take for granted, and that is the opportunity to walk down a produce aisle at the grocery store and know that we might just accidentally bump into the love of our life. Those in the closet have had this possibility stripped from them all of their lives, and until I lived in the closet I never understood how profoundly important these simple possibilities are.
Second, this issue is divisive for those on both sides of the argument. While many hold their interpretations of religion and religious books very seriously, we are not dealing with labels; we are interacting with flesh and blood people. Individuals with hearts. Beautiful men and women that are every bit as “fearfully and wonderfully made” as the pastors or saints you look up to. The Christian philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard said, “Once you label me, you negate me.” It is imperative that we see labels for what they are and treat people with the respect and dignity that they are inherently owed. Friendship, community, and respect are all possible regardless of our differences of belief or opinion, so while it is your right to stand by your belief passionately, our involvement in the lives of others is a privilege, not a right.
Today is a monumental day for many. Thousands will choose to be true to themselves and will, in the process, risk everything they know and love. They will choose honesty over the closet, and will begin a new phase of their life. I admire their courage, truly, and will be praying for
each and every one of them as they navigate these new and turbulent cultural waters. This is an important time in our country’s history, and the choice that lies before us as individuals and as a nation has never been more distinct. We can choose to move forward and embrace equality as a nation, or to remain stagnant, the danger being that remaining stagnant will affect tens of thousands of people. And for those that believe in a more theologically conservative interpretation of the Bible, I encourage us all to remember Christ’s example and commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves because that above all else is what it means to follow the example of Jesus.