by Brett Dewing
I think it’s time I settled some bets around here.
Yes, I am gay.
Take some time to gasp, chuckle, or turn to another article as fast as you can while I explain just what I mean by that. I do not mean that I choose to pursue a homosexual lifestyle or that I think homosexuality is not a sin. I do not mean that my sexuality is the defining aspect of my identity. I do not mean that I will be, or have been, ogling all the men in the halls or that I will rape them or their children. I do not mean that I chose to pursue men after being scorned by women, or that I have ever felt attraction to women at all.
I do mean that I am, and always have been, attracted to men and not women. It’s really that simple. But, as with all simple things, it’s very complicated. As drastic as some of the negative assumptions listed above may sound, I have encountered them all –and all on this campus. Here, at our 21st century university college, scores of myths fill the air about homosexuality and its relation to Christians. Having homosexual desires is not a choice, though acting on them is. That is not to say that it is a simple, easy choice to fight those desires. I struggle everyday to follow God and His word while others choose to pursue same-sex relationships. Homosexuality is not all about sex. Yes, I am sexually attracted to men the same way that you are to those of the opposite sex, but I am also emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually attracted to men, just as you are to others.
Now that I’ve gotten you this far and explained a bit what I mean, let me assure you of my intentions. This is not an article about me. While the frame and context of my discussion centres around my own experiences, my goals are not self-interested. I also assure you that this declaration has nothing to do with my rapidly approaching graduation date. I have been talking with Student Life since September about coming out. Now, after seeking the counsel of many others, I have realized that the time is right. This is a topic that needs to be discussed at Redeemer. Several attitudes in relation to homosexuality preside here that need to be addressed. The first of these is that Christians cannot be gay. I was raised in a tradition that instilled this same assumption in me. The truth is, though, that just as many Christians experience same-sex attraction as non-Christians. Being a Christian does not prevent or dispel homosexuality. Another prevailing assumption, following from the first, seems to be that there are no gay students at Redeemer.
Obviously, this is not the case, and I am not the only one. Approximately 3% of the population is estimated to be gay, and there is no reason to assume that this number is any less on our campus. Working with these statistics, there should be about 25 students here who struggle with homosexuality, and this is a very conservative estimate.
Knowing this, it is imperative that we examine the other unhealthy attitudes that abound in our own midst. Foremost among these is the attitude that homosexuality is something to be joked about. It is possible daily to encounter this trend at Redeemer. Not only is being gay perceived as funny, but it also seems to be a punchline in itself. Innumerable times I have been witness to the telling of jokes that contain nothing funny yet seem to derive intense humour from their cracks at homosexuals. Not only is this irresponsible and immature, it is an unacceptable Christian behaviour. Who among us would encourage the use of a racial slur or the mocking of the disabled? Although homosexual behaviour, unlike being disabled, is a sin, this is no excuse to demean those who struggle with it. Even non-Christians who pursue a homosexual lifestyle should be treated with love instead of scorn. The most cutting and prevalent example of this mindset is the use of the slang adjective ‘gay’. In this context, the word refers to something that is stupid, laughable, pitiful, or lame. In fact, ‘gay’ seems to have replaced the generally acknowledged slur ‘retarded’ without much loss of meaning. The implications here are obvious. As Christians, we are called to a life of love and unity that is shattered by improper and discriminatory language.
Other attitudes involve the shunning, marginalizing, and demonizing of homosexuals. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but it is not our place to judge or ostracize those who struggle with it. Those who automatically refer to homosexuality as ‘disgusting’ or ‘freakish’ blindly take into their minds myths, assumptions, and abstract judgments that not only deny God’s love, but also wound His children. So, if these are ways that we should not think about homosexuality, how should we view it? I cannot pretend to settle this question in whole, especially given the space I have to present it. Let me say something on this front, however. Christians who face homosexuality are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The choice to accept and satisfy their desires is sinful, but every one of us lives with patterns of sin within us. I am gay, and you are prideful, and he is a compulsive liar. But we all reconcile ourselves to God and strive to follow His will. The origins of homosexuality are unclear and controversial. It is, I believe, certain that many factors combine in the making of a gay man or lesbian. Genetic predispositions, absent or passive fathers, domineering mothers, sexual abuse, cultural sex roles, and pornography are just some possible factors that may contribute to homosexuality. Despite the individual factors that have contributed to it, I have been gay all my life.
It is up to me, however, to accept that as my identity or to chase after the smooth white stone I am told of in Revelation that contains my true name. Only in finding that true identity and doing absolutely everything in my power to live up to it can I become the man that God has intended me to be. This is where the title of my article comes in. The gay community has chosen the rainbow for its flag and a symbol of its diversity. This symbol carries with it ideas of autonomy and sexual expression that we as Christians cannot condone. However, it need not be discarded. Christians use the rainbow as a symbol as well. In fact, we maintain that it was created for just that purpose. In this tradition, the rainbow celebrates and proclaims the faithfulness and almighty power of our Lord. God left the rainbow for Noah and his descendants that they might know that they shall not be drowned. This speaks strongly to me. Many times I have felt that I will be drowned and consumed by my homosexuality. Many times I have questioned God’s faithfulness and grand plan because of it. But one look at a rainbow, wherever it may be, reminds me that I am held in the hand of the One who created and sustains all the world, and that I will not be abandoned to the flood. The gay rainbow is a symbol that needs to be redeemed and recontextualized into a Christian worldview. So, what do I wish you to take away from this article? The response is two-fold. If you are gay, know this: you are not alone, you are not evil, and you are not abandoned. God is crazy about you. You are special and unique and wonderful. But it will not be easy. The best thing you can do is talk. Talk to me, talk to your RA, talk to a close friend, your family, your prof, an on-campus counsellor, but most of all talk to God. Say whatever you want to Him, but give Him space to answer.
The school is looking into setting up a homosexuality support group for next year. It will be wisely and prayerfully led and fully grounded in confidentiality. I urge you to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. If you are heterosexual, you’re not off the hook. Your job is just as important.
Realize and accept the presence of gay Christians around you, but do not accuse or search them out. Nurture attitudes that demonstrate God’s love to all His children. Support and pray for you brothers and sisters who fight day and night with their sexuality. And as for me, I am still the same person I was yesterday, with a little more understanding of God’s grace. There is no need to change the way you act around me. Please do not avoid my gaze or whisper when you pass me in the hall. Do not be uncomfortable if you meet me in the change room or the washroom. My email is always open to those who need to talk: email@example.com, but my knowledge is not complete. I am human. I am Christian. And yes, I am gay.