Life has a way of confusing us

I write today to raise awareness in general.  I write to people who may be looking for ways to be more sensitive to others.  I write to parents concerned about their own children feeling loved and wanting to have an open and honest relationship with them.  I write to people who may not understand why their family or friends find it so difficult to come out of the closet.

I think it's fairly obvious that belonging to a church which teaches that being gay is bad is a huge contributing factor in preventing someone from coming out.  So, I won't dwell on that too much.  What I want to focus on is the little things that people say which may make a closeted gay family member or friend feel extremely wary of coming out of the closet.

One time when I was in high school I colored my toenails with a marker, just for fun and really for no other reason.  My sister saw that and commented on it.  She said it was an abomination, and that men dressing as women and women dressing as men was sinful.  Gender roles are well-defined and they should not be crossed.  This was the message I was given.

My brothers and dad and I all love Lord of the Rings.  We went to watch the Fellowship when it first came out, when all of us (except maybe my oldest brother who's in the military) were able to see it.  It was great.  I loved it.  I loved all of them.  But then one brother made a comment about how Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, is "playing for the other team".  He's a great person.  He's a great actor. He's a wonderful man.  If only he wasn't gay.  That was the message I was given.

I was taught to hate myself.  I was taught that I can't be gay and good at the same time.  I believed what I was taught.  I started repeating all of this anti-gay sentiment that I was told.  In Sunday School classes and other settings, I would say things such as these which marginalize gay people.  I condemned homosexuality.  In fact, some of the most vocal homophobes are in fact gay themselves.  They have been taught, just as I was taught, to hate themselves--that their mere existence is a sin in the sight of God.

You may not want to hear your best friend say that she's gay.   You may not want to hear about your uncle coming out of the closet.  You may not be pleased to find out your cousin is transexual.  If you're a young parent, the mere suggestion that one of your children might be gay may be distasteful or offensive to you.  But do you want to place your own discomfort above the authenticity of your loved one?  Do you want to make your own daughter feel that she cannot be honest with you about her own feelings?

I was made to feel as though I couldn't share who I was.  In fact, I was so scared about it I didn't actually do it until I was 27 years old.  Many people have it far worse than I did.  Some people live in homes where parents say that gay people should be killed.  Some people see bullies in their high school calling people faggots and ridiculing them for being or just seeming gay, and they pray that the bullies' gaydar never picks them up.  Some people are disowned and kicked out of the house when they come out (or are outed), even when they are teenagers.

Let us not build a world where people are afraid to express themselves freely.  Let us instead build a world where all people feel welcome to share their thoughts and feelings.  Let us build relationships which harbor authenticity rather than suppress it.  Let us withhold words such as "abomination".  Let us be aware of whose feelings may be hurt upon uttering some opinion we may feel.