Father knows best

February 4, 2009

My dad and I finally had a chance to discuss Ted Haggard today. The conversation went something like this:

Dad: I just wish he would come out and admit that he is gay.
Me: He seems to be having a difficult time reconciling himself with his religion, his family, and his sexuality.
Dad: I hope he gets there eventually.
Me: Yes, because he’s not helping the conversation by failing to live authentically.
Dad: You’re exactly right. And you know how long it took me to embrace who I am? It took years.
Me: Yes, I know dad. I know.

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Building Bridges

December 22, 2008

Over a decade ago on a crisp fall South Carolina day I knew the news I’d just received about my father’s sexuality and departure from our family would change my life, and influence the work that I do. My hesitation to begin this work is rooted in my Norwegian, Baptist heritage where emotions and new ways of being are discouraged at every turn. However, thanks to my German ancestors, I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings. No doubt my passion for this topic is both personal and professional. My experience informs my practice and my practice is influenced by experience, which is why I think it’s time to hijack the same sex conversation.

I’ve seen Milk twice in the last 10 days not because it was such a powerful movie (which it is), but because I wanted to be close to his story. The heart of the matter in this ginormous, complicated conversation about individuals who identify as attracted to the same sex is expressed in a monologue at the end of the movie. It’s about the “us’s.”

I’ve grown tired of the theological conversation about same sex attraction. I am even more tired of social, family, and religious heteronormativity. However, I support and understand the philosophy behind the ongoing debate about same sex relationships. It is needed, but what is needed even more is action. The debate over equal treatment of the LGBTQ community in all walks of life is not a conversation about sexuality as much as it is a conversation about the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical processes that keep individuals on the outside of in. It is about freedom. And there is no better way to reconcile the story than to sit with people and listen to their story.

Here’s my issue: Ann Curry can ask the questions and Rick Warren can give his deliberate unaffirming answer and other individuals can debate and offer theological, historical, and social context, but this is not enough. It is time to stop quoting, reflecting, answering, and defining our reaction to same sex relationships through the lens of our religious, social, familial, and historical frameworks, and begin to listen to the stories of our friends, relatives, and community members who have something to tell us about how our constructs have affected their lives. Our systems have put them on the outside for far to long while at the same time requiring much of them. This has stretched our systems to the point of collapse, and we continue to do a great disservice to the LGBTQ community by not putting our affirming beliefs on the table.

I do not care about what people believe about same sex attraction because none of it matters to people who have been emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually abused by our interpretations of the Bible and expectations for human behavior.

My intuition and passion has gotten me into trouble only a few times, but this is one of those times when I hope it gets me into a lot of trouble for the greater good. I no longer have time for the debate. It’s time to 1). listen to the “us’s”  and 2). take action by building bridges through relationship. The issue has been engaged; it’s time for mediation, reconciliation and empowerment to guide our tonality.

Let’s just do life together in all its messiness and uncertainty. If I have to have a party for the masses in my 600 square foot apartment to start facilitating relationships, which is the next phase of where we go from here, I will.