When I first came out as gay as a teenager (and later more accurately as bisexual/pansexual), I made a point to tell people that I did not accept my orientation as a point of faith. Unlike today, where I am fully affirming, at the time I could not reconcile my faith and sexual orientation. And in truth, I also knew that to do so would end my place in the only community of faith that I had ever known. I was sure that, as long as I made it clear that I held to “traditional beliefs” on the topic, everything would be ok.
While a few people reacted poorly, like the classmate who declared with a mix of shock and pity, “You’re going to hell!”, most people received it surprisingly well. It was made easier for them, no doubt, by the fact that I wasn’t asking them to “accept” me or change their beliefs. Still, given the few really bad experiences I had with others, I was surprised. People asked a few questions, listened carefully, and seemed to be ok with it. I finally started feeling hopeful.
Then something changed. Within a few weeks of telling people, no one brought it up again. No one asked how I was doing. No one offered me help on where to go from here. Now, keep in mind that this was nearly 20 years ago in rural Canada. Coming out at all, let alone in a Christian context, was terrifying and often dangerous. Why was no one talking to me about it?
At first, I assumed they were just being polite, leaving it to me to initiate the conversation. While I expected as much from some people, when it came to those closest to me- family and friends who I looked to for support and counsel- I was surprised to find them also silent. I had hoped that people would care enough to follow up. It seemed that they did not.
So I started bringing it up again. This time, instead of the openness of before, I was met with disinterest. Most people weren’t blatantly rude or cold about but instead seemed almost distractedly indifferent. They would listen, nod, perhaps even mumble an obligatory “mhmm” but they wouldn’t engage. I would push further to no avail. People were simply unwilling to talk about it. I was completely at a loss as the fear and loneliness began to creep in again.
I’m sure they all had reasons for their silence. Discomfort. Fear. Confusion. Or the age-old truism, “If you…