#23 Affirm Identity

Be perceptive and generous in identifying positive qualities, traits, gifts and talents

             Our world has gone mad with stereotypes. What it means to be gay & what it means to be straight are pretty clearly defined and rigid, especially if you grew up in Midwestern, middle class America like I did.  If I did have the courage to “break the rules” of what boys should or shouldn’t do, it was always met with an internal sense of shame and another reason I was fundamentally different.  So I took gymnastics classes, read poetry, listened to N’sync, and kept up on the latest fashion trends hitting the U.S. as secretly as I could.  I’m not sure if I thought these things were gay or just “not allowed for real boys” or both.  And many times when I told people I liked these things, I remember seeing a look of disgust or confusion.  When I found out that these things are stereotypical for gay men, I felt found out, exposed, and then relieved because that meant there might be a place for me to “fit”. 

         That might all sound superficial, and I’d probably agree with you, but I think it’s definitely odd that we’ve raised several generations of people, especially boys, that will refuse to engage in things they are good at (or talk about things they like) simply because it might signal something about their sexuality.  As a teenager, I eventually found & felt that “gay” was a permission slip to enjoy my giftings which had nothing to do with sex.  And when I felt the freedom to pursue things that were “off limits” for straight boys, I actually found a new sense of freedom, congruence, and peace. 
             As I’ve walked with God, I believe I’ve found a new freedom to really own my giftings, talents, and abilities, to disregard the shame others may imply, or the attachment to a sexual orientation those things might signal. An identity label doesn’t give me permission to enjoy things I’m good at, God does.
             One thing my church did well when I decided to steward my sexuality towards a more traditional ethic, was that they made room for my gifts – rather than just tolerating them..  They had noticed that when it comes to interior design and decorating, I not only have a talent, but it makes me come alive.  So they took money out of the church budget and gave it to me to re-do some of the church rooms that were in desperate need of a facelift.  Of course, this had always been labeled as “gay” in my life, but it was helpful that this was celebrated and given a space for, rather than seen as part of my gay stereotype. 
            I’ll never forget the time God spoke to my heart saying, “You’re a designer because I’m a Designer and you’re My boy.  I’ve set it up for sons to look like their dads. So enjoy this gift from me, not because you’re gay, but because you’re My son.” 
          Every person in your church has multiple marks of the Divine imprint.  Maybe it’s their strength, singing ability, knack for design, or gifting for compassion and empathy.  The Bible makes it clear that a person can deny certain sexual/relational desires (outside of God’s design) and still be fulfilled and at peace with themselves. However, I don’t believe this means denying our giftings and conforming to stereotypes in order to please the masses.  It’s actually in realizing one’s God given talents that we can feel the most at home & alive in Christ.  So will you make room for those things, even if they have been wrongly labeled by culture as “gay” or “straight”, and allow people to take their place and fulfill their destinies as unique image bearers of their Creator?

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