A gay time in Lynchburg, VA

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.


3 thoughts on “A gay time in Lynchburg, VA

  1. Larry Bassett says:

    Wonderful! Almost like having you back in Lynchburg. I bet you could get this printed in the N&A as a Letter to the Editor. I hope you will go that route if you haven’t already. This is a moment in history where I am sure people here would welcome your input! Some might even be glad you are gone: our state senator Kathy Byron, for example! She is sad – in more than one sense of the term.


  2. Jim Martin says:

    Everyone in this country is entitled to the same opportunities and the same protections. Further, you cannot weaken our society by allowing people to form bonds and strengthen families.


  3. Mine won’t be a popular opinion, but I believe people are born gay. However, I don’t believe the lack of choice concerning your natural state at birth is an immediate pardon from life choices. Children are born addicted to crack because of their parent’s choices, or born disfigured, or people get married and then fall in love with someone else. Which of these things qualify as wrong and which qualify as an unfortunate consequence as a sinful world? Is it wrong of me to be in love with a married man or is it wrong for me to have an affair with him? Which is morally wrong–feeling love or acting on that love? Is morality subjective? Because if I were an extreme Muslim man it wouldn’t matter if I wanted to marry another woman. It wouldn’t matter if I were a Mormon either. Nor would it make a difference if I were born as a Hebrew in the Old Testament.

    We don’t need to leave each other alone: I believe we need to point our judgement finger inward and concentrate on our own sin before we start running commentary on others. Everyone judges. Jesus didn’t say “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Jesus said,”Love people–hate your own sin.”

    I am a single woman. If I stay single for the rest of my life, I am still bound to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that directs us towards holiness and guides us to adhere to abstinence. That instruction does not keep me from lust, desire, or falling in love with the wrong person. My love of God also does not guarantee that I will follow His commands–it should, but it doesn’t because I’m human. I rely on grace. I’m a mess. The more time I spend on acknowledging my own sin the better.

    There will always be someone looking at you as the judge or as the one in need of judgment. I have made the choice to be very clear about my own abysmal choices in life and live in humility as much as possible. There are no genitals in heaven. It will be a shame to realize our experience on earth has fallen short because we were too busy hating someone else’s sin.


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