I am coming out as not gay. That’s right. I am not gay.
Sounds strange to tell you that and yet, I felt I had to. The need comes from the fact that due to how I look, how I dress, what I enjoy, how short my hair is and whom I support, suddenly puts me into the category of being gay and worse, non-Christian. Why?
Why does it even matter who I am or what I believe? Understand that this belief comes from years of researching scripture, questioning critics, and following Jesus’ Ministry. I have a master’s degree from seminary. I have another masters in patient counseling. I have 15 plus years of studying scripture and its context. I have 20 years of being a follower of Christ. I should have the respect that is deserved from having delved into the words of God and actions of Jesus Christ, but people don’t want to look at it that way. People want to look at the comfort of their minds and not the challenge of growth that comes with learning and being pushed out of the box.
What should matter is not who I am, what I believe or who loves whom. What should matter is the fact that too many young people have committed suicide. What should matter is that too many people have been bullied, judged, ridiculed, shamed and hated for being who they are. What should matter is the fact that people are looking into the hearts and minds of others and grinding them to a pulp, instead of looking into their own hearts and minds and challenging their closed point of view. What should matter is looking at scripture in context, and realizing that it’s not black and white, it’s not a book where one can pick out bits and pieces and ignore the rest. What should matter is that people who call themselves Christians are following the words of Paul and not the actions of Jesus Christ. What should matter is the fact that people are picking one rule in Leviticus to follow and choosing to ignore the others. What should matter is that Leviticus and Paul were talking about a specific behavior, at a specific time, about a specific practice of adult men abusing little boys. But that’s a story for another time.
What should matter is the fact that boys, girls, men and women, don’t feel welcomed in the church for who they love. Yet, I am welcomed despite the fact I am visibly a practitioner of gluttony, as many of my ordained colleagues are, including the very ones who preach against homosexuality. Others are welcomed despite the fact they are divorced, are practicing slanders, evening fornicators and shrimp eaters. There are couples that can’t be fruitful and multiply, yet are welcomed into the church without judgment. It’s amazing to me how many “pastors” I know who’ve preached on what they consider the “sin” of homosexuality, but won’t touch on divorce, gluttony, slander and infertility. If people are going to quote Genesis 1:27 as evidence of God making man and woman, in His image, to be together, people need to quote Genesis 1:28 as well. God told this man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. If they can’t be fruitful and multiply, then they are worthy of judgment as well and should be called out for their sins. If one verse matters, the other verse matters too.
What should matter is the fact that boys and girls, young and old, are committing suicide because they felt as if there was no other place to go, there was no other way to let go of the pain. I know what that pain feels like and I know what that feeling of wanting to end it all feels like too.
I am not gay, but I grew up being ridiculed, shunned, made fun of, hated, laughed at, and discarded by people all around me. I wear what I wear because I had to grow up wearing it. I am comfortable in it, it is what I can afford on my salary and it’s what I have available. I wear what I wear because I grew up in a household of six people living on a construction worker’s salary. I grew up with three older brothers and I had to wear hand-me-downs. We couldn’t afford new clothing and I wanted to be like my brothers because I wanted them to love me. I grew up having to live in the same bedroom with my brothers through middle school. I grew up not being able to do what my brothers did because I had to come straight home and stay in place where I wasn’t loved for me being me. I had to play alone and live alone in so many ways. I had to grow up with a female parental unit who didn’t know how to love me, but knew how to manipulate and make me feel guilty, as many other mothers know all too well. I grew up with a male parental unit who was the only male to love me unconditionally, yet had to die on my 27th birthday without warning. I had to grow up with brothers who were never taught to spend time with me, who ignored me at school, who didn’t call me, or make time for me, and don’t know what to do with me now.
I am not gay, but I was shamed at school. Between the laughter, jokes, name calling, having things thrown at me, “friends” who ignored me, and being laughed at in front of the entire gym class, I wanted to die. My favorite children’s author had everyone calling me “Blubber.” Thank you very much, Judy Blume. My 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th grade teachers humiliated me in front of my classmates. I was a complete embarrassment in gym class when I couldn’t finish the gymnastics obstacle course that we were required to do. I couldn’t get my body up the slanted bars. The entire gym laughed at me, including the teachers. I was never asked to a homecoming dance or to the prom and when I did the asking, the guy laughed in my face. His friends laughed and made fun of him, because the ugly fat girl asked him out, while standing in front of me. I was stood up by my high school crush on my 18th birthday, and left at the theater to celebrate alone.
I wanted to die. I know what it feels like to be completely alone in a world of shame and ridicule.
I am not gay, but I support those who want to be married to their loving partners. The first wedding I officiated was for a former youth and her partner. What should have mattered was the supportive and loving church and family that she found out were not as compassionate as they claimed to be. What happened instead was this “home church” (the one she grew up in) forced her to leave the children’s ministry, her pastor embarrassed her, youth called her names, and her family was ashamed; all because of who she is. Those same fingers pointed at me and questioned my call as a minister because I officiated the ceremony. What matters most today is this young lady is now loved unconditionally and adored by her gorgeous wife and two absolutely beautiful children.
I am not gay, but I support and love those who are. I have short hair and I wear clothing that is comfortable for me. It’s been comfortable my entire life. I want to wear dresses but I don’t wear too many because I remember how people thought I was pregnant in the ones I wore. I remember when people said it took a football field of material to make the dresses that wrapped around my elephant sized body. I am not gay but I love to watch sports because it’s fun, it’s competitive and I like to cheer for the Duke Blue Devils. I am not gay but I read scripture and am told that God made everyone, in His image and I am to love everyone unconditionally, including me. Why? Because, God said so and in the heart of every person, there is God.
I am not gay, but what should matter most is the fact that I as the trauma and critical care chaplain, I’ve had to pray over way too many people, young and old, who committed suicide or attempted to, because they were not loved and welcomed for being the people they are….for the people they were. I’ve had to pray and comfort the families that remained, in their loss, shame and guilt; and who didn’t know how to express their love until it was too late.
I am not gay, but I love my gay friends. Jesus said to love my neighbors as much as I love myself. Now I have to admit this commandment is hard for me. I love my neighbor very much but when I was brought up in an unloving life and world, shamed for being the person I am, it’s very hard to love myself in the way God wants me to. It’s hard to love myself because of the way others loved me. It’s hard to love myself when for my entire life; people said I wasn’t worthy enough of their time or their love.
I am not gay, but I know how it feels to want to die. I know what it feels like to be surrounded by people every single day and feel like the loneliest person on the planet. I am not gay, but I know how it feels to want to die in order to make people see what life would be like without me and wonder if anyone at all will show up to the funeral. I am not gay but that doesn’t keep me from feeling ashamed to say how my greatest fear is I will die alone, just because of who I am and what I look like.
Maybe we’ve gotten it wrong all these years. We’ve been so worried about saving souls rather than saving lives that we forget what’s important to God. If we want to save souls, let’s first start with our own because Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. And the second commandment is like the first; we are supposed to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. What matters most should be the fact there are too many broken hearts. There are too many families grieving. There are too many people dying without the love of their neighbor, the love of their family, the love of their church and the love in their own hearts. What matters most is knowing this has to hurt God more than we care to realize or care to admit.
I am not gay but that shouldn’t matter. What should matter is that many people are losing their lives because they aren’t welcomed and loved, by the very people who are commanded to practice that very thing. What should matter is that suicide is the third leading cause of teenage death and out of every suicide that is “successful” there are 100 more attempted. What should matter is the fact that in recent years, the suicide rate has increased 30% among adults and there are no answers to stop it,  not even from the church.
That’s what should matter most; right this very minute, before another life ends all too soon.
What matters most to you?