Things change, if you wait long enough.
Twenty — or even 10 — years ago, the idea of a same-sex couple applying for a marriage license in Lynchburg, VA would have been unthinkable. Or, if it did happen, it would have been accompanied by a jeering, sign-wielding crowd and, perhaps, the National Guard.
All in the name of Christianity, of course. For this was the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s town, and he often used the “gay threat” as a means of evangelizing and fund-raising. In all fairness, he was no doubt coming from a place of personal conviction, because Falwell grew up in a semi-rural county where the attitude towards gays was, to say the least, unfriendly.
And things haven’t changed completely even now, because one of the two men who applied for a marriage license in Lynchburg earlier this week under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling asked to be identified only as “Ron.” The other didn’t want to be identified at all.
This was always a large part of the problem, a social Catch 22. Because being gay usually meant community disapproval, people were understandably not anxious to emerge from the safety of the closet. Yet had they done so, and their “straight” neighbors and co-workers realized that they were just regular folks, like them, things might have changed more quickly.
We had a gay reporter a few years ago at the newspaper where I worked who handled it well. On the first or second day, he told some of his colleagues: “Oh, by the way, I’m gay. hope that’s not a problem.”
It wasn’t. But had he kept it to himself, rumors would have circulated. Somehow, when you’re hiding something, it begins to seem bad.
Don’t get me wrong, though — I’m not discounting the courage it takes to come out and face disapproval.
Indeed, I always considered that the strongest argument against the “they’re just gay because they want to be” argument. Why would someone willingly put up with all that aggravation?
For unfortunately, if you accept the “gay by choice” argument, the next step is to think: “Maybe it’s catching. Maybe if I’m around gay people for awhile, they can convince me to turn gay.”
Not a chance. Every gay person I’ve ever talked to said they instinctively knew their orientation at a relatively early age. In most cases, it’s built in.
That’s not to say that some people don’t experiment with bi-sexuality, or that same-sex relationships don’t happen among heterosexuals in artificial settings like a prison. But something else gay people have told me is best expressed by one man who said: “Why would I come on to someone without knowing where they’re going from? At best, I’d get rejected. At worst, I might get beaten up. We have no desire to ‘convert’ anyone.”
Think about it, though. Do you really think much about what your straight co-workers do in their bedroom?
Then why obsess over the intimate life of someone who is gay? Sex, while powerful, is only one facet of a person’s identity.
Many Christians will tell you, in all sincerity, that they are against homosexuality because the Bible is against it. I think that’s simplistic, but I don’t have the space here to argue it, and I lack the ammunition for such a discussion, anyway.
Even if that’s true, though, weren’t we told by the same book: “Judge not, lest ye be judged?” So isn’t the morality of being gay God’s problem, not ours?
I saw a bumper sticker once that said: “If We Are to Love Each Other, We Must First Learn to Leave Each Other Alone.”
Amen to that.