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I’m really encouraged by Trey Pearson and the positive reaction to his coming out. I see this as an important opportunity to learn from his story.
Similar to Pearson, I grew up believing that being gay was wrong and, more importantly, a choice. I saw my church ask LGBTQ members to leave, and I accepted this as normal and the will of God. Though people in my community had the wisdom to not run around like some infamous churches (WBC), their actions were not lost on my young mind and I absorbed the same homophobic beliefs of those around me.
I assumed that my lack of attraction to women was normal. I even thought I was an extra nice person for not struggling with the horrible lust for women all my high school teachers wouldn’t stop talking about. Sure, I was attracted to men, but growing up in a community that ignored LGBTQ people taught me to believe that my feelings were not legitimate—causing me to sweep my feelings under the carpet and live as someone I was not. Though many are able to sustain this for a long time (like Pearson), it is unhealthy and I am still dealing with the mental repercussions of living a lie.
Luckily, much of the homophobic rhetoric that I was exposed to is beginning to fade away. Maybe it’s because I’ve found better friends to hang out with, but I’m seeing less and less of the heteronormative behavior that taught me to hate my sexual orientation.
However, our work is not done.
At my school I am one of few openly gay individuals. It’s not a joyride, but it is necessary. I recognize that much of what made my coming out process so arduous was the lack of gay role models. Up until my time at Walla Walla University, I had met few (if any) out gay men. They simply did not exist in my world. Though it is not my first choice to submit myself to the public eye as a gay man, I know having visible LGBTQ individuals is important to our next generations, especially within the church. And to church leaders: your actions that continually marginalize and exclude LGBTQ churchgoers are only preserving the lack of visibility and encouraging more bigotry. The less visible gay people are, the easier it is to teach our children to be prejudiced against them.
My point for you, people of the church who read this, is simple: it is extremely important to affirm to your children and peers that you support and accept LGBTQ individuals. Though you may already be supportive in your heart, your silence will be taken as affirmation of the hate that some churches choose to spread.
Please, speak up. I cannot do this alone. I am excited to be seeing some changes, but we still have a long ways to go.