…By a less brave heterosexual boy…
“If I had to write a memoir it would have to be entitled the The not so lonely walk of a white, heterosexual, middle class male. It’s an awful title.No one would read it and rightly so. I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be victimized on a regular basis. I have never been powerless, voiceless or oppressed. As I sit writing this on my Apple Mac at a trendy shared work space for ‘creatives’ in the up and coming Kings Cross area, it’s quite clear that my story will never be one of a life lived in the face of oppression.
However, as a mental health and criminal lawyer, I know something of pain, trauma, ostracism, alienation, misconception and burdening stigmas. Just none of it is my own. They are concepts I only ever really encounter vicariously through the stories of others. And to add to this I am, for my sins, an evangelical Christian. That’s a pun by the way.
Last week Vicky Beeching, a celebrity in the world of Christian music, finally, after 23 years of keeping her orientation a secret, came out as gay. Her statement revealed that the stress she suffered from hiding her sexuality caused a degenerative condition requiring chemotherapy. Her declaration that ‘I’m Gay and God loves me’ erupted to a mixed reception full of applause and condemnation. (Please Vicky, hear the claps.)
Vicky has for the past year been publically championing gay marriage and the need for the church to openly recognise and accept the commitment and love of gay relationships. She was one of the few strong ‘heterosexual’ voices standing up for the LGBT community within mainstream Evangelical Christianity.
On the issue of homosexuality the Church is in somewhat of a total flux. It is desperately trying to steer clear of the ignorant condemnation that ‘God hates gays’ connected with right wing Bible Belt Christianity but is still a solid step short of ‘mate if you’re gay, be gay.’ I have been Christian since I was 14, I’m now 32, and I have yet to meet an out gay Christian Evangelical in a leadership position.
I have been going to a thriving church in London for over two years and ambiguity towards same sex relationship is stark. My church wants to be gay friendly. The message from the pulpit is: gay people are welcome at this church (oh but God’s plan is sex within heterosexual marriage only). The implication is something along the lines of ‘come to our church, be gay, be who you are #butnottoomuch.
For the past year Vicky had been a much needed, seemingly heterosexual, voice championing the church for acceptance of gay love. Now she is ‘out’ her story is certainly stronger and more powerful but evangelical Christianity has lost a heterosexual voice.
For many years I tried to not have an opinion on the subject until a gay Christian friend pointed out (with both love and condescension in his voice) that as a heterosexual, white, middle class male, I should really acknowledge my level of privilege by not needing to have an opinion on this issue.
In our recent past, Evangelical Christianity on the whole, has applied context and common sense to enable liberation of women from some of the oppressive Biblical texts. And Evangelicalism went on that journey because it wanted to. If Evangelicals want to do the same for homosexuality they have a solid precedent to do it. But unlike women, the Evangelical Church is not full of gay people and hence they lack the inspiration to do it. It is love for people that inspires such understanding.
If people read the text from the starting point that ‘I am straight and that’s natural’ then that will most likely be their conclusion. If they read the text from the point of ‘My mate Jim is gay and I respect him’ then they are more likely to conclude that if Jim wants to be married, he should marry and the text doesn’t seem to mention Jim.
My point is simply that the church is still far too comfortable with its lack of acceptance towards the LGBT community. A position that becomes brilliantly awkward when you actually acknowledge the gay person sitting next to you at church on a Sunday.
Vicky’s story showed that being a gay Christian today is still a lonely road full of pain and isolation. The Church still says, both directly or through the omission of positive language, that straight is great and everything else is not quite there. The nuance is overwhelming. And quite simply it’s oppressive. And I don’t want that to be part of my story.
Why is this important? Because people are important, and in mainstream Christianity, when it comes discussions on same-sex relationships, the simple value and integrity of being a person is often forgotten.
Vicky Beeching, I am so pleased you are out. Your story gave this heterosexual Christian male goose bumps. Good luck and thanks.”
By J Grant