Why you’re not my friend:
You’re really not my friend if you’re against gay rights. And you’re really not sorry.
It seems like you really want to be. You’re reading a bunch of blog posts about how a lot of us gays are all suicidal, how the church kicks us out, how we are bashed and beaten, and you’re really sorry for all of that. And you’re sorry about that mean thing you thought that one time. You realize now that you should have welcomed us gays with merciful arms, teaching us abstinence or providing a therapist that uses Jesus magic to make the gay go away. Or something.
You’re so sorry about how you’ve spread your message, and how it’s resulted in a mass exodus of gays from your circle. The contents of your message, you now believe, ought to have been couched in love. So you lovingly invite me back, invite me to coffee, and ask me about my experiences as a gay person, hoping that you’re redeemed somehow by the mocha lattes we consume. How does it feel, being gay, you wonder. What’s the lifestyle like? Did I feel like Christ had rejected me? How hard had it been for me to find a church?
And I answer. Short things, perhaps slightly impatient from overuse. (I dunno, good? It’s kind of like your lifestyle? No? Not hard at all, lots of churches aren’t bigoted?) I raise the inflection of the sentence at the end, making it sound like a question, as if to anticipate the ones I know are coming from you. You’re very confused. Churches that accept gay people aren’t churches at all. Progressive congregations were supposed to have died off some time in the nineties because they had watered down the Word of God so much. How could I know Christ hadn’t rejected me? Clearly all the churches in the know had been outside of the know for a short time before coming back home to the know again, and if there’s anything they know they know, it’s that they had not known how Christ had loved me and they had only just now figured it out. So how did I, the gay person, know?
But, you set questions aside. Except for that one about the Bible, but you’ll save it for later. No, what’s important now is reaching out to “the other.” You’re going to reach out Evangelical arms to the gays – to me – letting them – me, again – know that they’re – I’m – loved by God and by you. You are going to be my bestest best friend.
Except you aren’t.
Friends don’t think I’m evil and don’t think that treating me like a human – You know, letting me legally marry, letting me be assured that I won’t be fired for being gay, ten billion other things – will result in the end of the world or horribly confusing conversations with their children.
(“Mommy? Why is that man with another man?”
“Because, darling, he loves him like I love your daddy.”
“Okay. Mommy? Can I have some ice-cream?”)
Your friendship with me is a pallid and meaningless thing if you are still afraid of gay marriage, don’t think gay people can raise children, and think that working at a place that discriminates against gays is a good thing.
But… But… You want to do well. Really! You’ve attended some seminars, you read a book by an Evangelical guy about it being hard to be gay, and you really want to help. You want to pray for my AIDS, or disciple me, or buy me some decent non-leather underwear. You want to be my friend.
Thing is, I have them. Friends, I mean. I actually have a lot. So I don’t really need your friendship. Especially as horrible of a friendship as it is.
Because in all your blustering, in all of your infuriatingly-well-meaning ignorance, you still won’t read a book that isn’t by a Christian author. You still reject the APA’s conclusion about gay people. You still think that I won’t be a fit parent, and that me and my husband will diminish your marriage.
You’re beating me with a tire iron for years, expressionless; now you smile as you do it and tell me you love me. I’m still being beaten. What kind of friendship is that? Oh, we all have our opinions, you think as your feet get sticky with blood. Just like the gays want to stop getting beat with tire irons, (You switch hands since your left arm is getting tired) You want to keep beating them with it. We can all be friends.
Well, my friends aren’t denying me civil rights. You are. I have a friends that think I’m human. You don’t, at least not in the same way you are. So there’s no reason for me to accept your friendship, having many better friendships with which to occupy my time.
Look, there’s no way to have a conversation unless we exchange ideas mutually in shared vulnerability. And we don’t have that. Firstly, I’m much more vulnerable in this situation because you have faith privilege and heterosexual privilege to gird yourself with (This won’t go away for a long time, though we can, to some extent, work around it.) Secondly, you aren’t really sharing any ideas I haven’t already had because, you know, I was Evangelical for about eight years or so. But most importantly, I don’t want to be vulnerable around you. Because I don’t like when I’m around you, who I become. Because I can never be anything but guarded around you. I cannot be myself. I feel stereotype threat and all of its ill effects. I don’t want to speak to you about anything faith related or anything that’s important to me, because I know the things that are important to me are things you hold as both scarily evil, and worthy of legislative action to discriminate against. I risk that after we go out to coffee, you’ll spew homophobic and bigoted views out into the world and think it’s okay because you talked to a gay person one time. I have to worry that maybe I’m the “gay” friend you can use to assure other gay people that you’re legit and for real, even as you remain horrible misinformed. I don’t like being your street cred. I don’t want to be used that way, as an interesting “perspective.” Because then I’m a part of the harm you do. By allowing you to believe that you are my friend, I’d be endorsing the pain you cause to me and my brothers and sisters.
Here’s what you do to really be a friend to the “other.” You pick up a phone and you call your local congresswomen and you tell them that it’s wrong to deny me the right to see my husband in the hospital. You tell local businesses that you expect them to hire gay people in the exact same way they would hire straight people, and you tell them that with dollars and the lack thereof if need be. You tell your familes at home that I’m human and that Obama’s repealling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a good thing. You use a google search bar and read from a variety of sources, not just the ones that reassure you that you have the correct viewpoint. That’s how to start being a friend.
So no, you will never be my friend as long as you persecute me. Your friendship is not only useless, it is dangerous, and my being around you serves only as a test to see how loving I can be to an enemy. Your friendship is not good enough.
But yes, I have to love you. Because I believe in love and decency and have been befriended by people when I didn’t deserve to be, and also because I also believe in reaching out to de-bigot people.
So, I love you. And I will be a friend to you. If you need to cry, I’ll be your shoulder. And if you need somebody to cheer you up, I can be that guy. I can help you move, bake you food, and generally help you out. I can, and must, be your friend, even as you fail so totally in your feeble attempts at being mine.
Which isn’t fun most of the time, though it can be. I do this because people were kind enough to do it to me when I was ignorant.
I also do this because I’ve also got this whole contingent of gay brothers and sisters in the closet, who kind of annoy me the way they wait for pats on the head from other evangelicals, but yet make me sad, too, because I feel like I’m leaving them by the wayside when I go to meet all the other, well-balanced gay people. They’re going to be waiting for you to be a friend to them, and they may accept your friendship. And they may actually like you a lot and you may be good for them.
So I’m at an impasse. I have to be your friend, and yet cannot accept your friendship because you think you know better than me about my own sexuality, so much so that you feel comfortable writing your ideas about it into law. You’re very well meaning as you beat LGBTQ* folk with tire-irons. It doesn’t make you evil; it just means that the evil you do you do without knowing.
But it is evil. It does hurt me and my gay brothers and sisters. It does send a societal condemnation that contributes to LGBTQ* youth killing themselves rather than dealing with life. It does put many gay people on the street. It makes gay people die alone, when they otherwise could have been with their lovers.
So you do great evil, and I love you despite that. And even if I didn’t, I love my possibly-closeted-really-conservative-and-evangelical gay friends enough to try to de-bigot you somewhat, if not all the way. And yet I know I cannot accept your friendship, for that makes me complicit in your evil, and makes me feel like less of a person.
So here’s what I’ve found. This is how we have a conversation.
We can have coffee. You can ask your annoying questions because you don’t feel like reading books or using a google search bar when I’m around because I’m so flippin’ awesome. You can say about a billion things that I find offensive, and I’ll be polite and correct you even as you dismiss my corrections as another interesting “perspective.” And I’ll listen to you talk about the Christianity I already knew and moved past, even as you try to bring me back to it thinking that it’s somehow new to me. But all this will start with the following disclaimer:
So long as you are against my civil rights, you will never be my friend. Being around you is not something I do for funsies. It is a burden from God and borne out in the hopes that this will somehow make a difference for my friends in the LGBTQ* community. I will attempt to be nice to you and polite, but that is not because you aren’t offensive or ignorant; rather, it is the grace of God, extended to you as it has been extended to me.
You do great evil, and you hurt me and my brethren (Fancy word, no?), and though I, by an act of will, do forgive you, that does not negate the hurt you bring into the world through your political action, or lack thereof. It does not extend itself to cover those others like me that you affect with your bigotry. Those are apologies you’ll have to make another day. I will be your friend, because that’s how I do, but you will never be mine. I reject your friendship entirely.
Furthermore, everything we say at this table is private. I don’t want any of it to infiltrate any other area of your life. You may not speak of it at all. You have no gay endorsement from me. And until you stop your discrimination, we’ve not had any real conversation. Because conversation requires a mutuality we don’t have because I’ve shared more Evangelical experiences than you have gay ones. Because real conversation requires shared vulnerability, which we don’t have; shared vulnerability requires equality, which I don’t have; and equality, in my mind, requires your acknowledgement that I’m a human and deserve civil rights, which you haven’t given. Instead of a conversation, we’ve had a lesson, and you were on the receiving end of it.
Lastly, I will accept any apology that’s sincere. But until you realize the difference between smiling as you do harm, and stopping the harm you do, you’ve not really apologized for much at all.
Now, you had a question about the Bible?