Avoid attempting to appear relatable by front-lining all the gay people you know
- “Can I tell you something? I’m gay”…..
- “Oh, that’s great! I love gay people!”
It’s a conversation that happens often. A person comes out and is met with this response. I’ll admit, it’s much better than the “deer in the headlights” response followed by awkward silence. Or the “grimace, no eye contact, followed by a swift exit” response. Or the “Where is my bible? I have a great verse for you that explains everything” response. But if you want to give an authentic response that is comforting and welcoming, an excited “I love gay people” response doesn’t really do it. Why? Because you may like some gay people, but you certainly don’t like all of them. What people sometimes mean by this is that they love the caricature of LGBT folks – often the stereotypical, larger than life, witty, funny, sarcastic, well-dressed gay man. I don’t want my friend to think that’s the only paradigm I have for the LGBT community. The truth is, I don’t enjoy all gay people. Some are the most kind and sincere people I have ever met, and others have been the cruelest, most cutting individuals I have ever interacted with. I could say the same about Christian people too, by the way. Because I don’t love ALL of any particular group, race, or community; that may be my goal, but it’s not my lived experience.
So if an LGBT person decides to share this part of their life with me, I don’t respond with how much I love Ellen and her show. Nor do I start talking about the one gay guy I met in Colorado and then ask, “Do you know him?” When I came out, the most loving response I received from someone was a simple, “wow, thank you for telling me”. The person was honored that I would trust her with something that many had decided was a deal breaker for friendship or even common respect. It put me at ease because it affirmed that my inner world doesn’t have to be perfect or even typical for someone to see value and continue to desire my friendship and presence in their life. What a perfect reflection of how God treats his own children!
So when someone comes out to you, it’s important we see the distinction between “coming out” and “living it out”. For some this may mean the same thing but it doesn’t have to. I honestly believe Christians can affirm a person’s transparency and boldness to say, “I want you to know what goes on inside my heart – even the stuff I’m not sure what to do with yet” (which is what coming out is), all while maintaining a conservative sexual ethic. Because “coming out” may just equate to someone being vulnerable with you, which means on some level they trust you, which is a massive win in relationships.
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.