Within my comfort zone (& others) offer physical affection & words of affirmation
In a culture that idolizes sex, has been raised on porn, and has somehow managed to even sexualize food commercials, it seems strange that the thing we might raise an eyebrow at is healthy physical touch. When something gets twisted so much by the enemy, we often “punt” on the idea of it altogether. If something provokes us to wrestle through nuance, it seems easier to eliminate the wrestle. This might work if the thing we wanted to eliminate wasn’t something we were created to desire and enjoy. We serve a God that desires proximity, so much so that he sent his son so that He could live in the very core of our being. It doesn’t get closer than that.
Growing up, my dad provided ample amounts of physical affection. Those moments are some of my favorite memories as a child. But the broader culture I grew up in was clear – men don’t touch each other. If they do, their sexuality is certainly in question. So for someone like me whose love language was clearly physical touch and had also been taken advantage of through sexual abuse, receiving love & affirmation (apart from my father) seemed to require a payment of sexual favors.
So when I accepted Christ and the straight, Christian world became my primary community, I was surprised that there were several men who were not afraid to give the type of hug that says “Your presence in my life is felt and valued”. They weren’t obsessed with “not looking gay”, the way many straight, unbelieving men in my life had been. Their physical affection said one thing very clearly, “we’re not afraid of you or put off by your sexuality.” I’ve heard it expressed by some that they are afraid to show ample amounts of physical affection to their gay or same sex attracted peers because “I don’t want them to wrestle with their sexuality more”. It’s a fair assumption, but the reality is that I would wrestle more when I don’t experience healthy touch. I would much rather experience a fleeting attraction than the gnawing, enduring sense of being unwanted and unseen. Christian, you have the power to silence the voice of the enemy and the power of insecurity through your physical & verbal affirmation. Sometimes people need a warm embrace more than a Bible verse.
People sometimes ask if there are things about my former life that I miss and the first thing that comes to mind is being in a room full of men who aren’t trying to one up one another, preserve their own sense masculinity, or be an alpha male. I miss being in a group of men that value one another’s presence in their lives and are not afraid to express it, letting each other know how much they need their friendship & want their proximity. Although I’ve met a handful of Christian men that live in this way, a large part of the straight Christian world often feels like a relational desert which doesn’t just affect gay or same sex attracted believers & seekers, but the entire church community. Maybe one of the gifts that LGBT people could give our churches is the idea of throwing off fallen cultural ideas and “rules” of masculinity and femininity that aren’t helpful. Remember, this is a community of individuals that have been mocked for most of their lives in regard to their “failure” to meet the expectations of gender roles causing them to give up trying to do so– which seems to have freed them up in some ways to simply enjoy one another. You might be surprised at the thought that LGBT people have something to teach the Christian community about healthy same-sex relating but I’m sincere in saying we could learn a lot from them.
So will you be someone anointed by God, filled with the Holy Spirit, & walking in the power of Jesus, that will help meet the relational needs of LGBT people?
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.