Growing up, I was always aware of the existence of homosexuals. However, I never knew what I was supposed to think about them. Both of my parents are fairly conservative Christians, and I appreciate everything I learned from them. However, they failed to teach me about certain issues.
The only conversation about homosexuality I remember having with my mom was after I learned Ellen DeGeneres was lesbian. This talk fell along the lines of “love the sinner, not the sin,” and wasn’t particularly helpful. Don’t get me wrong, I was never explicitly told that homosexuality was evil. Instead, it became a coldly taboo topic; forbidden before I knew it needed to be. Unable to talk about it, I was lost between assuming it was a greater issue than it needed to be and ignoring it entirely.
Then in 10th grade one of my close friends came out. For his privacy, I’ll call him Matt. Before he came out, we had chatted frequently. We’d share frustrations over relationships, expectations from parents and school assignments. I thought I knew who he was. I’d never thought he might be different. Then, as we talked and he told me what he’d been going through, I realized he wasn’t different at all.
Obviously, he was still Matt. He still worried about how he was going to do on our Algebra II test. He still hated it when any of his friends were in a fight. He still had big dreams for how he was going to make the world better.
Thus I learned: if this great guy was the same person he’d always been, then it didn’t matter what his sexual orientation was.
Somehow, though, I was missing something. I wasn’t thinking about what being gay actually meant for him or how it would change his life.
However, Matt’s life did change. His parents refused to even acknowledge his coming out. They assumed it was another “teenage phase.” During the next few years, I saw Matt lose a number of friends and get kicked out of his house. While he grew more thoroughly into himself, he had to struggle more against the world.
Our senior year, Matt was done with the life he didn’t want and the parents who didn’t know him. He dropped out, moved to New York City, and began acting and modeling. The sheltered, rule-follower in me worried about him not finishing school and being on his own.
More than anything, though, I was proud of him. Few of us can claim to have earnestly pursued our dreams without question and without giving up. Matt did this despite being alone in an unfamiliar city and despite the prejudice he faced at home and in the larger community.
Matt has since done amazingly well for himself. He works consistently, has a fabulous apartment in the city and has earned his General Education Diploma.
Since then, several more of my friends have come out to me, and I have accepted them. However, the beliefs I had grown up with were beginning to clash with my dedication to friends. I needed to reconsider and clearly define my beliefs.
Before this realization, I wasn’t remotely interested in politics or current events. I found the news depressing and irrelevant. My freshman year of college, however, I became exposed to a much more politically active culture and a constant stream of information. When I began to write for the Daily Nebraskan, I learned that I couldn’t simply ignore political, moral, societal or religious issues. To write intelligently I had to truly consider and formulate opinions on those issues.
As I’ve formed opinions, I’ve focused on the fact that as a Christian, I believe I never have the authority to judge others. I’m one person, and I wouldn’t presume that I know everything about what is right or wrong. I do, however, believe in the Bible’s message of love.
Many people, even non-Christians have heard John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The bit that people forget, however, is John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
The key is belief in God. No one is perfect and everyone sins. Christianity is not about becoming perfect. Quite the contrary, faith in God means believing he will accept you exactly as you are. I figure if Jesus didn’t deny the existence of people regardless of their style of living, then neither can I.
Jesus was all about love. Love is kindness, patience and acceptance. Love means respecting the ability of individuals to rule their own lives. Some may believe homosexuality is a sin, but that belief doesn’t give them a right to hate or to harm other people. Religious or not, every group has to respect the laws of human dignity.
I don’t get to tell someone who they should be or how they should live. I believe in God and in Jesus’ message of love. I believe that loving someone isn’t about tolerating him or her or “loving the sinner not the sin” because that’s my Christian duty. Instead, I love those people for who they are in their entirety. That means accepting homosexuality as an integral part of their identity, not dismissing it as an unfortunate disease or a corruptive behavior.
Ignoring LGBTQ issues may be easier or more comfortable than examining our beliefs. However, the struggle for gay rights will continue and citizens are going to have to learn how to talk about it. For children to become informed, active citizens, parents can’t abandon them to the world without a groundwork of understanding. However, bombarding children with a single viewpoint is equally irresponsible without including the importance of love.
I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t presume to speak for the LGBTQ community. I just know I’m an ally and my friends are courageous.
Amy Kenyon is a sophomore English and theater education major. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org