Welcome to the Conversation…Forty Years Late

Dear heterosexual evangelical Christian (or any other heterosexual person) who is looking to join in the LGBT conversation,

I’d like to welcome you to the conversation.  It’s a conversation that’s quite important to me as a gay man who has Christian friends, gay friends, trans* friends, and friends who belong to more than one of those camps.  It’s a conversation that is absolutely necessary for all of us to live peacefully and share this world we live in together, so the more people who join in with that aim, the better.

Having said that, I would like to take this time to remind you that this is not a new conversation, even though you may be joining it for the first time.  This conversation is older than me, having been started more than forty years ago.  This conversation was long established when I joined it over seventeen years ago.  In all that time, much has been said, re-said, examined, discussed, deconstructed, reconstructed, and rehashed.  In short, this conversation has a lot of history behind it.

As a newcomer to this conversation, you would do well to familiarize yourself with some of that history, as it will help you get up to speed when it comes to participating.  After all, this isn’t some small discussion about unimportant matters.  This is a discussion about real people, real relationships, and real struggles they face.  And as one of the people this conversation is directly about, I would appreciate it if you’d treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

As a newcomer to this conversation, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of new ideas.  You’re bound to have a lot of questions that are new to you.  The thing I’d like you to remember, however, is that these are not new ideas to those of us who have been involved in this conversation for a while.  We asked those same questions ourselves years — even decades — ago.  Since then we’ve answered them, explored those answers, criticized those answers, responded to those criticisms, modified our answers, and in some cases even come up with new answers.  Similarly, a lot of those ideas that you may run across or come up with have been  presented, hashed out, rehashed, debated, debunked, shored up, and in some turned into a deceased equestrian that should not be beaten ever again.

So please understand that when you bring up certain ideas or ask certain questions, no matter how novel they may seem to you, they are tiresome old topics — and often dead ends — that some of us don’t really care to spend any more time on.  In case of questions, many of us will try to direct you to recorded instances — via books, blogs, and other sources — where those questions have already been addressed.  In the case of ideas, we might do likewise (some ideas have been proven so thoroughly invalid and even fraudulent so many times that some of us are exasperated that some people out there can still be unaware of just how off-base those particular ideas are).  When we do so, please look up the information we tell you about (or find it yourself via Google) and answer your own questions and engage in at least a first-round critique of your own ideas that way.

The one thing I would absolutely ask that you not do is pretend like you’re the first person who came up with the question or idea — and certainly don’t bask in your self-perceived genius for coming up with it.  New ideas and new questions do come up from time to time, and you may be someone who does come up with something new at some point.  But remember, you’re joining a four decade conversation that has involved many different minds — some of which spent huge swaths of their lives thinking about these things.  The odds really aren’t in your favor at this point, so I’d ask that you show a bit more humility.

Another good reason why I’d recommend humility is that you and evangelical Christians and institutions are joining this conversation very late in its development.  While you may be a young adult and therefore have valid reasons for coming so late to the conversation, your religions and the institutions that represent it do not.  Many of those people and institutions have patently refused to join in the conversation — and certainly would not listen to LGBT voices at all — in the past.  That’s a big point of irritation for me and some other LGBT people.  Especially when you ask us to deal with questions and ideas that we’ve already discussed to the point of exhaustion.  And while you may be young enough that this represents your first opportunity to engage in this conversation, please bear in mind that your forebears’ choice has contributed to your current level of ignorance.  Had they joined the conversation when they were first invited, they’d be able to fill you in on much of that backstory and background information you’re missing.  The fact that they didn’t and you’re now left in ignorance isn’t necessarily your fault.  It’s just not mine either.  However, I would appreciate it if you’d take the lion’s share of the responsibility for fixing it.

Also, bear in mind that part of the reason that your forebears chose not to engage in this conversation before is because it did not affect them.  Like you, many of them were heterosexual so LGBT issues, LGBT lives, and the choices we LGBT people were faced with were things they didn’t have to think about.  Unlike me and those like me, they had the luxury to just ignore it all and go on merrily with their own lives.  In reality, you still have that choice.  This conversation does not affect you the way it does me, and you could fairly easily make ignore it all and move on.  I don’t get that choice.  The things being discussed in this conversation impact my life every single day.

Now, understand, I’m glad you’re choosing to get involved, rather than ignore the whole conversation.  It suggests to me that you and others like you are realizing that completely ignoring the real struggles and lives of your fellow humans is not cool and that you want to be more compassionate and concerned.  That’s a good thing.  But I’d encourage you to follow that thinking further and understand why compassion might call you to acknowledge how you handle yourself in this conversation, especially considering how much catching up you have to do and how it ultimately affects you and I in different, unequal ways.

Thank you.  And thank you again for joining in the conversation, even at this point.

Jarred.

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