If people disgust me, then I have the real problem
I grew up in the farmlands of Ohio in the 90’s. I remember hearing about “those gay people” and the rumors about “the guy who might be a fag”. It was before the modern LGBT movement and before gay people were seen by conservatives to have “an agenda” that would ruin American civilization as we know it. It was before LGBT people had a major influence in society and before they were noticed to be challenging cultural norms and “making everyone uncomfortable”. It was before I understood how much hatred people could have for a certain group they’d never personally interacted with. So growing up, I didn’t hear much about “how awful gay people were” but more about “how disgusting they were”. I’m not sure which was more damaging to my identity and how I saw myself.
What was even more hurtful was my inevitable conclusion that if my community was repulsed by the thought of gay people, then my family & friends were certainly going to be repulsed by me as well. I distinctly remember friends of our family talking about 2 closeted gay men that lived together in the community. These men were either feared, hated, found to be disgusting, or looked at as a joke. You never know who is overhearing your conversations. Your children will often adopt the same attitudes you display. As a kid who was aware of this part of his sexuality and feared it would be found out, these “harmless” conversations I listened in on were devastating. If I’m honest, I still don’t think I’ve gotten over this perception. It continues to color my expectations of how people likely see me when they hear my story despite my commitment to Christ and my authentic walk with Him.
So at 12 when I realized I was gay, the internalization of shame & self-hatred intensified – as if years of sexual abuse hadn’t already made me well acquainted with them. When I came out and everyone took a step back, I see now that it was God’s grace embodied in the 5 or so people that took a step in and caused me to not end my life at 17. I didn’t have the capacity to value my life enough during that time, but I did love these people enough that I didn’t want to hurt them.
Although my first experiences with Christians were very positive, the first messages I heard about homosexuality were not: “God hates homosexuality” or “It’s an abomination”, but rather “it’s unnatural and perverted”. So I believed what everyone seemed to believe about sin in general…. “God finds it disgusting”. God was supposedly so disgusted with the world that he gave His only son. His disgust was so intense, that someone needed to die – so Jesus was crucified. Since people found their own sin to be at least mildly disgusting before God, then gays & lesbians were apparently in a class all their own. And since God sees everyone’s secret actions, thoughts, and fantasies unedited, He must be consistently nauseated and has been vomiting all over heaven since the fall of man. However, when I read scripture, it’s actually the opposite of what I would expect and what I had learned. God makes a point to say that he’s actually offended by disingenuous worship & good works we try to present as our own righteousness. My sin, however, has been covered and only his kindness and delight in me remain. It was at 19 when God showed me he liked me and desired my presence that I then started to like him and desire his.
So if LGBT people disgust you and their sexual and romantic lives make you crinkle your nose and shake your head, let’s be clear about one thing – Dad isn’t like that; the Father doesn't feel that way. People aren’t drawn in by the disgust of God & others but by kindness. If we take His posture and ask Him to help us see people who sin differently than we do as fellow human beings in need of Christ’s covering, then I’m certain we’ll be the type of people God will use to be Christ in ways that heal the many wounds of this community.
This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people. Find the condensed list HERE. These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues. These blogs have been expounded upon with permission.
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available HERE.