*Please note: This post is intended for an audience entrenched in cis-heteronormativity.
I have talked to many individuals who have considered taking their life or have actually attempted it, as a result of the deep pain that they carry when part of who they are, is considered diseased or immoral, distorted or perverted. Sometimes they actually believe this about themselves, sometimes they hear it from people who love them very much and whom they also love very much.
I grew up in an Evangelical Christian church during the 1980’s, in rural Manitoba. In my church we were taught that homosexuality is a sin. We were also taught that all sins were bad but,
…it was clear to me, from a very early age, that some sins were worse than others, and that homosexuality was a BAD one.
In my 20’s, I started to become critical of the teachings I’d received as a child. At one point I came across the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology on my roommates’ bookshelf and read that homosexuality was considered something people could be born with. It wasn’t described as ‘natural’ but indicated that it could be some sort of biological flaw. It was stated that individuals who were born this way needed to practice abstinence in order to avoid damnation.
I jumped on that idea and started talking to others about the idea that homosexuality might be like alcoholism, in that alcoholism could be a sort of biological disease that people couldn’t help. I felt that people shouldn’t be judged for their ‘cravings’ but needed to abstain for their own health.
I expected a backlash from the church when I talked about these ideas, but instead heard from some old acquaintances and discovered that they were now ‘out’ as members of the LGBTT2SQ community. We got together one evening and talked about their experiences and my thoughts.
I was shocked at how much hurt I had caused in my previous interactions with these people and how much hurt this latest perspective was causing.
It took some time until I understood how problematic this perspective was, asking individuals to live lonely lives based on the idea that they had some sort of a genetic flaw. I am sorry for the hurt this caused. I am still learning. I continue to work at listening better to those around me who are living with the impacts of mine and others ignorance on a daily basis. This week I heard a radio show where a rabbi who was ‘against homosexuality’ spoke with his friend who identifies as a lesbian, about the way the rabbi’s beliefs impact her. I heard myself in that rabbi and I heard the pain in his friend. Check it out here.
My children are young. None of us knows who they will become. With this in mind, I want to be sure that they know from my words, my actions, my jokes, and my attitude, that who they are is beautiful to me and always will be. I want those around me to know that they are accepted and loved by me no matter who they are.
If you are someone who believes that homosexuality is wrong, consider the consequences of your beliefs if you are wrong. As a counsellor and mental health clinician, I can tell you that the concept “love the sinner, hate the sin” does not fly when what you call the ‘sin’ is the person you are trying to love. No one I’ve spoken to has ever said that they feel loved when a family member tells them that they are ‘in rebellion’ due to their homosexuality, or ‘need to change/hide or deny’ their sexuality. I see this as abuse. This attitude is harmful. It drives people to harm themselves, and it destroys families.
The problem is the lack of acceptance, not the homosexuality. I cannot say this strongly enough.
If you feel that you are promoting these beliefs out of love, keep digging into that before you speak or act on those beliefs. You risk being responsible for great harm.
Love is not just doing what you think is best for someone else, and, of course, it is not just a feeling. Love is love, when it is felt as love, by both the giver and the receiver.
For more information about the LGBTT2SQ community, along with resources and support for individuals and families, check out The Rainbow Resource Centre.
For more about values see “Dear Me…” or When Values Collide
For more about conflict in faith communities see Before Leaving your Faith Community
For more on teens and mental health see TEENAGERS!!!