Thursday, July 3, 2014

I'm Coming Out, or, Everybody Needs Somebody

Everybody has something to come out of the closet with. No matter what it is, it's always hard to come out and publicly declare something that you know is taboo. I mean, there are times that you can declare something to a group that you're a part of, when you know that they'll affirm you and support you. But when there is something you need to admit, knowing full well that it may put you out of somebody's good graces (to put it mildly), that is the closet out of which you need to come.

So here I am publicly declaring that I am an Advocate.

Now, I know the immediate reaction that some people may have, "Tom, what does it matter? You're still straight, so why would you think you need to come out of the closet about that?" Fine. Let's start there.

I am very aware that as a CIS man (i.e. physically I am male, I present myself in a masculine way and I am attracted to women; for a more comprehensive definition look here) I have certain social privileges. I can be open about my sexuality, confident that most people will not find it abhorrent. I can dress myself in the way that I feel comfortable without worry that people will question my decisions. I don't have to worry about my gender or sexuality jeopardizing my health care, my ability to secure a loan or to rent a place to live. There are a lot more privileges that I won't address here, but if you're curious about more of them, feel welcome to read "30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege" from It's Pronounced Metrosexual. 

I know that there are still objections that can be made to me coming out of the closet about being an Advocate. Another I can think of right off hand is "what do you have to fear by 'coming out of the closet' on this issue. If you really have all this privilege, shouldn't it protect you?" In response to that, I think I have plenty at stake for taking a stance on this.

In my professional life, I am an educator. And thanks to the popular media, we know all about the ways that teachers can get into trouble and risk their jobs by admitting anything about their personal lives or values that is not really considered PG. At work, it's okay that I am a young man, that I act like a man, that I am married to a woman, but as soon as I start openly talking about how I think 'gay is okay,' there are some parents who begin to question what kinds of ideas I'm putting into their children's heads. And of course, when children are involved, adults get defensive. Really defensive.

But by the same token, some of the kids involved are the lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, or asexual ones for whom I keep a safe space when they just need an adult to take them seriously, to tell them this isn't just a phase or that, if they just pray hard enough, God can take this away.

Which brings me to another objection that can be made. I am Christian, in addition to being a CIS man in America (holy cow! What privilege, Batman!). And in speaking of my Christianity in conjunction with my stance as an Advocate, I know many people who would flat out tell me that I cannot be both. And I respond saying that is bullcrap.

When I read about Jesus of Nazareth, his life, and his ministry, I feel that I am reading about a man who preached love and acceptance for the marginalized of his society, in his own time. That same gospel of compassion can be applied today by looking for the least, the last and the lost. Of which, LGBT individuals are definitely a part. Despite our American status, the LGBT community is still one of the most marginalized and oppressed in the country (to say nothing about uncloseted individuals in certain other countries of the world).

And so here I am; a privileged man, getting ready for ordained ministry, no less, who wants to use all his resources to make sure that the beloved children of God have a safe harbor in which to rest. And I acknowledge that being the gale break that keeps that harbor safe puts me in a direct line of fire from those who would "pray the gay away," or who would have any other plan to get people to consider "what would Jesus do" (by the way, please take note that St. Paul talked about issues relating to sexuality way more in his pastoral letters than Jesus ever did in what is recorded about his life).

In other words, I don't have any issue if someone is homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, transgender, cross dresser, gender fluid, gender neutral, asexual, or just trying to figure out where the heck they fit into those spectra. 

What I do care about in terms of romance and the search for a partner is longevity and monogamy. What I care about is supporting each person as they search for someone else who cares about them and wants to commit to walking the long way through life with them. In my own search that led me to my wife, I knew that I would need to find someone who I could look at over my bowl of oatmeal, every morning for five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years or more. I think that is a noble search and, when the search is over, the long walk begins. I would rather be a friend, meeting others on the path and giving them encouragement, than someone who stands at the trailhead, deciding who is and who is not allowed to walk down it. And moreover, I sincerely think that every person deserves to have at least one person in their life who loves them so much that they think the sun shines out their butt.

Apparently, the movie used stronger language than me...
Thanks to the Chicago Public Library tumblr for the meme!

So that's what I'm coming out of the closet about. I think love is a great thing.  True, genuine, compassionate, understanding, patient, self-sacrificing love. And I don't often reference this man's work, but here is what I think is a pretty good end to this blog:

Please note: after I published this, my wife mentioned that I should go back through and replace my usages of "Ally" with "Advocate," as per the definitions provided by It's Pronounced Metrosexual. I have now done so.