So for whatever reason, I check Adam Ford’s webcomic almost daily. I decided I had to tweet about his latest comic. I’ve embedded the resulting Storify below:
So for whatever reason, I check Adam Ford’s webcomic almost daily. I decided I had to tweet about his latest comic. I’ve embedded the resulting Storify below:
In Christians circles, especially among those associated with the Gay Christian Network (GCN), there’s much talk about Side A and Side B. They’re shorthand for what an individual believes about same sex relationships and how gay people should choose to live their lives. A person who is Side A believes that gay people should be allowed to enter into same sex romantic and sexual relationships — though possibly with some caveats, such as only with a long-term partner with whom one is committed to lifelong monogamy. A person who is Side B believes that gay people should seek to maintain a life of celibacy.
As I understand it — though I can’t find the sources that led me to this understanding to confirm it — the concepts of Side A and Side B originally started among gay Christians themselves and indicated a personal choice of how the individual felt it best to respond to their sexual orientation in their own life. This is reflected in that GCN welcomes both people who are Side A and people who are Side B.
At some point, heterosexual people who started joining the conversation about gay people in the church also began to adopt the labels Side A and Side B for themselves. The thing is, heterosexual people are not gay, so the original understanding of the concept that which “side” they belonged to no longer represented how they chose to respond to their own sexual orientation. Instead, for heterosexual people, their Side A or Side B status mostly began to represent how other people — namely people who actually are gay — should choose to live their lives1.
This has apparently caused some problems for at least one person. Yesterday, Misty Irons blogged about the misunderstandings that tend to be formed when she identifies as Side B:
A recent article written by Stephen Parelli, who was present at the conference, called “Celibacy at Gay Christian Network: What’s that all about?” characterizes me as advocating celibacy for all gay Christians.
She spends a good deal of time in her post making it clear that she does not advocate celibacy for all gay Christians. She makes it clear that she believes that Side A Christians — even Side A gay Christians — are saved. She states that she believes Christians should follow their own conscience in this matter.
I would argue then, that calling herself Side B is pointless, meaningless, or both. She’s not telling other people what they should believe or how they should live. She’s not making a choice about how to live her own life since — to the best of my knowledge — she’s heterosexual and she doesn’t even have to answer the underlying question for herself.
So why pick a “side” at all? Why not simply say “I believe those who are in a position where they need to make that choice need to pray and follow their own conscience” and leave it at that?
If a heterosexual is not prepared to moralize — that is, tell others how they should live their lives or even look down on those who choose to live their lives differently — then declaring oneself Side A or Side B serves no real purpose. Other than possibly to promote the silly notion that their opinion on the matter is actually important. And who has time for that silly notion and the privilege it represents?
1I suspect at least some gay Christians also feel that other gay Christians should be making the same Side A or Side B choice they are and would like input on how other people are living their lives as well. Moralizing is not the sole domain of the heterosexuals after all. However, at least with gay Christians, there’s still the sense that being Side A or Side B is (hopefully) about a personal choice in their own lives first.
[Content Note: Homophobia]
The title of today’s blog post is based on a search term that someone used to find my site the other week. Strangely, I had a friend who was offering guidance to a young lesbian facing a similar situation ask me for any advice I might offer her several months ago. As such, I thought it would be good to talk about this subject.
First, I have a great deal of sympathy and empathy for anyone in such a situation. One should not have to deal with homophobia – no matter how minor or subtle – from one’s closest families. It can instill a real sense of betrayal and that you don’t belong. So to anyone who is reading this and is facing anything less than perfect acceptance from their immediately family, know that I would totally give you a hug right now if I were able to and you were comfortable with it.
To address the question, we first have to understand what we can do and what is our responsibility to do. For example, many of us – myself included at times – often think that what we need to do is convince our loved one to stop being homophobic. And in a perfect world, our loved ones would end their homophobia. (Well, in a perfect world, they never would’ve been homophobic in the first place, but hey.) But here’s the thing: we can’t make people change their mind or their behavior. It just doesn’t work that way. And trying to do it will only leave us even more frustrated and possibly (more) depressed and a lot of other things. In the end, we have to give our loved ones the freedom to address (or not) their own prejudices and their own actions in their own time.
So instead, we need to look at what we can do. And the thing I think we most need to focus on is the same thing we really should be focusing on anyway. We can and should focus on doing what it is that we need to do in order to feel good about ourselves. We can and should focus on making sure we like ourselves.
Liking ourselves and finding the good in ourselves can be difficult, especially when we have people saying or implying negative things about us. Doubly so when some of those people happen to be close and dear loved ones who are supposed to embrace, accept, and encourage us. In those cases, we have to struggle even harder to remind ourselves that we’re amazing people. (And if you don’t believe you’re an amazing person, please find someone safe to talk with about that fact as soon as you can!) Look at the things you enjoy and the things you are good at. Do you like to write? Write your heart out and cherish what you write. Treat yourself like you’re the next literary genius in training. Do you like to draw? Draw your heart out and treat your drawings like they’ll be hanging in the Louvre some day. Think of all the great qualities you offer the people in your life and the parts of yourself that you have to share with them. The sting of homophobia will never fully go away – especially when it comes from a loved one – but being able to confidently see yourself as a valuable and wonderful person does help.
Another thing that you can do is find the love, support, and encouragement you need. After all, that’s one of the really sucky parts about homophobic loved ones. Loving, supporting, and encouraging you is supposed to be THEIR job, and they’re failing at it in at least some ways. So it’s time to find people – and there are a lot of them out there – who would be happy to take on at least part of that job. Find and focus on other family members who are more supportive. Be honest with them and let them know that you need their support. Focus on friends – and make new ones if you need to – that will give you the support you need. When I came out nearly twenty years ago, I built an entirely new circle of friends. Oh sure, I kept in touch with some of my older friends and even have the occasional contact with some of them to this day. But my new friends were the ones who were both able and willing to walk with me through the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They were also the ones who felt safe to go through that process with. Those are the kinds of friends you need.
So if you don’t have them, find them. If you’re in school, see if your school has a GSA. See if there’s an LGBT community center or LGBT social groups in your area. See if there’s an active PFLAG chapter in your area.
Don’t rule out online friendships, either. For the first ten years after I came out, a lot of my friendships were online. Even the close and supportive friends I knew in person were people I mostly stayed in touch with via the Internet. An online friend may not be able to give you hug, but they can listen to you and tell you that you’re okay and that what you’re feeling is okay too. That’s extremely valuable.
You’ll notice that I talked about finding support after talking about learning to love yourself. There’s a couple reasons for that. The first is that while support is important and good, other people ultimately can’t make you feel good about yourself. That’s a gift you give yourself and you need to give it to yourself.
The other reason is because knowing what you like about yourself also helps you think about what you have to offer friends and possibly how to find them. If you’ve figured out you love to write, then finding friends that accept you for who you are and share that love of writing is an excellent plus. Maybe you can find a writing group locally or join a writing site online. The same is true of drawing or any other talent or interest you have. And the bonus is that they’ll encourage you and remind you that your talent or interest is awesome and valuable. Hey, other people can’t make you like yourself, but they sure can remind you of what there is to like about yourself!
The last thing to consider about finding love, encouragement, and support is to consider whether you want to and would benefit from talking to a trained mental health professional. If you have someone who is frequently – or even only slightly frequently – saying and doing things, that can really take a toll on you. It may be helpful to have someone in your corner who is trained to help you sort through that.
The final thing that you can do to take care of yourself in such a situation is try to limit your interactions with said loved one as much as possible. This can be tricky, depending on your circumstances. At 41 living on my own, I can get away and stay away from any homophobic relatives I may have as much as I want. If you’re a younger person who’s still living at home, you may be stuck living with a homophobic parent or sibling. If that’s your situation, you again have my sympathy. That totally sucks. It especially sucks if there’s more than one homophobic person in the house with you, or even if others in the household doesn’t see what the big deal is with the homophobic person’s behavior. Maybe they think you’re overreacting. They’re wrong.
In that situation, you can only do the best that you can do. If you can stay in your bedroom – and the rest of your family will leave you alone rather than barge into your room and try to force conversation on you – that may be what you need to do. You may need to find ways to keep yourself busy. (Again, this is where having those loving and supportive friends may be helpful – as you can go spend time with them whenever possible and get away from the homophobia.)
You may also want to consider calling out the homophobic person’s behavior when they’re being hurtful and disengage. “I feel what you just said or did was hurtful to me and I would like you to leave me alone now.” Then walk away if you can. Be aware that this can be a difficult thing to do. The other person is likely to get offended. They’re likely to try to get you to tell them exactly why you found what they said or did was hurtful – most likely so they can tell you that you were wrong to feel that way. If you decide to go this route, don’t let yourself be drawn into an explanation or an argument over it. Simply say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I need time to be alone.” Stick to your guns. Go talk to one of your supportive friends or loved ones, someone who will totally understand why you’re hurt and will tell you that it’s okay to feel that way.
At any rate, that’s the best advice I can offer to help anyone going through such a situation. My readers are welcome to offer their own insights in the comments. Maybe some of you found something that helped you. Please feel free and encouraged to share.
Moderation Note: All comments complaining about how “easily” the word homophobia gets thrown around will be deleted. Any commenter trying to open a debate about what does and does not constitute homophobia will be banned. This is not the space to get defensive over how your words and actions are properly labeled. This is a space for you to listen and carefully consider how your words and actions impact the LGBT people in your life. If you try to do the former rather than the latter, than you’re part of the problem, and likely a bigger part than you want to admit.
Like a lot of gay guys, I have an account on Grindr. I have what I think is a pretty nice profile picture up. The about me section has been pretty boring. I mean, Grindr only gives you 255 characters to work with, and it’s hard to be funny, seductive, and witty with only a couple dozen words — and that’s only if you stick to monosyllabic words! So this has been my profile recently:
I don’t get a lot of messages or responses on Grindr. Unless you count the spambots I get anywhere from one to five times a day.
Well recently, I ended up creating a second Grindr account. This one is completely blank. No picture. No information. Not even my age. I won’t post a picture of what that looks like. If you want to know, just download the app. I can almost guarantee that there will be at least five guys near you who have no picture and/or no personal information entered.
So I had this other account, and I soon discovered that guys were contacting me through it. Yeah, that’s right. Guys will apparently line up to contact a completely empty profile while passing by guys who are trying to present who they are and have something to say. But that’s enough bitterness on my part.
Of course, most guys that contacted that profile opened with asking for a picture. (Those that didn’t usually asked in their second message.) I simply told them that I didn’t have a picture to send, figuring they’d go away. Strangely, not all of them did. In fact, most of them persisted. So I decided to have a little fun with it.
Sadly, I don’t have a capture of the conversation that really brought out my mischievous side. Because that guy gave me a chuckle, I decided to send him a picture after all and got rewarded with an instant block. But basically, when I told him I didn’t have a picture to send, he asked if I was Casper or something. (My reply: “Casper? What makes you think I’m friendly?”) So that gave me the idea of giving whimsical responses to requests for pictures. The best one — fortunately I was able to do the screen captures before this one eventually blocked me — is the following:
It amazes me how much some of these guys can really push despite being told no. Granted not all of my exchanges have been as witty. Some I just turned down normally. Even those have been entertaining, though. After all, the butthurt can be something else. Take this fine example:
I haven’t had anyone announce that I must be fat. I suspect it’s a matter of time. To be honest, I’m looking forward to that moment, because I already have my response planned: “Took you long enough to figure it out, dipshit.”
I’m not sure, but I think this guy was hoping that I’d offer him money:
He didn’t respond after that, so I’m guessing he doesn’t have a thing for guys with a terrific sense of humor, after all. Le sigh.
I suspect I’ll be having this kind of fun for a while. If I have any more really awesome exchanges (be it butthurt on their part or particularly clever responses on mine), I’ll be sure to send them.
Also, one other good thing came out of this thought experiment. I now have a less boring profile for my other account:
[Content Note: Rape Culture, Misogyny, Male Entitlement, Sexually Explicit Language]
On a lark, I went through my email’s trash folder the other day. For Saturday (Valentine’s Day) alone, I found four pieces of spam with a common theme: Get the woman (or women) of your dreams. See them for yourself (separated by lines of asterisks):
This shocking video is going to blow your mind and let you discover:
-Magic innocent phrases to make her horny in seconds;
-Simple questions to make any pussy wet;
-Couple of gestures to instantly take her down!
And much more for a full makeover of your life.
No practice, no efforts, no hard work!
Tired of being in a friend zone and constantly feeling unable to put her to your bed? Your life needs a makeover!
It’s the very lucky day when you may learn the genius way to make any girl want you without any efforts!
Tested on thousands of them! And they still want more…
I hardly believe it myself but I’ve tried more than 20 sex positions last week with 5 different girls.
This technique is a huge sex cake that has changed my life the way I had never even dreamt of.
You may carry on being just a jerk for hot babes or watch this video and let the science do the best for you!
You know I feel like a love boner king lately!
And it seems I almost forgot how I pleased myself with a night porn and relationship with a girl I didn’t like very much…
Today the situation is 100% different.
I can swear this technique is the most useful finding for an average man like me.
If you want to take the lead and be the one to choose, not be chosen by them, this great video is a must-see for you!
There’s a lot of wrong that I could cover in this. I doubt I’ll manage to spot everything, but I want to list some of the assumptions that these messages continue to support and encourage men to hold:
Women are there for their needs, especially their sexual needs.
The way to get any woman they want is simply to say or do the right things.
Women’s sexuality and sexuality exists solely to aid the men in getting the sex they want.
Getting the woman they want can and should be effortless.
There is nothing worse than having a woman decide a man is good enough to be a friend, but not good enough to be a sexual partner.*
What a woman wants and who she wants it with doesn’t matter.
These are just four examples of this kind of mentality that landed in my email on one day out of the year. These same messages are pushed explicitly by books an websites every day. They are pushed implicitly in other forms of media. (Think of all the “hero gets the girl” themes in just about every genre of movie.)
It’s these kinds of messages that deny the humanity and agency of women. It’s these kinds of messages that encourage and enable men to think that they deserve the attentions and sexual favors of women — and not just any women, but the specific women they want — sometimes to the extreme point that they react like Elliot Rodger or Ben Moynihan (just to pick two examples).
These messages are toxic and they need to stop. They need to be challenged and discussed. They cannot be ignored. They cannot be shrugged off as something “no one really believes or listens too” because the evidence to the contrary is stark.
Further Reading: A Culture of Violent Entitlement, and the Culture of Silence Surrounding It via Shakesville
Note: I am indebted to Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, whose extensive blogging about men like Rodgers and Moynihan provided me with the links to news articles about them.
[Content Note: Frank sex talk.]
[Additional Note: Family may want to skip this one, as I’m about to get extremely personal. If you decide to go ahead and read this anyway, I don’t want to hear about it.]
I remember a while back, some guy was trying to entice me to hook up with him. Circumstances indicated that at best, it would be one night stand. The guy indicated he had absolutely no prior experience with another man. I turned him down. He tried to talk me into it. He promised that I would absolutely love sex with him because he “had a cock as long as my arm.” I’ve found that this is a common theme among guys. Many of them assume that because they (allegedly) have a massive penis, that automatically makes them awesome in bed.
It does not. In fact, I’ve found that in many cases — especially in cases where the guy has little or no experience — having a partner who is well-endowed can be a liability.
Let me spell it out for any guys who may be reading with incredulity. The bigger you are, the more likely it is that you could end up hurting me. That means that it’s even more important than it is with average or even slightly smaller guys — and it’s still pretty damn important with those guys — to make sure that I am perfectly relaxed and sufficiently in the mood before anything too serious happens. And that usually requires an attentive, considerate, and usually experience partner. (If not experienced, he at least has to be willing to follow directions and I have to be in the mood to actually guide him through what I normally prefer him to know on his own already.)
So a well-endowed guy who is inexperienced is a pretty unappealing partner, to be frank. (Especially for something that’s only going to be a one night stand, since saying yes makes a lot of work for me with a very short-term benefit at best.) A well-endowed partner who can’t demonstrate that he knows how to be a good and attentive lover — or worse, demonstrates that he has absolutely no interest in being one — is an immediate hell-no. And to be frank, if all you can say about your skills as sexual partner is that you have a big dick, you’ve pretty much relayed the fact that you fall into that category of man.
So guys, do yourself and your prospective partners a favor. Quit leading with the fact that you are (allegedly) well endowed. In fact, quit mentioning it at all. Instead, focus on saying and doing things that demonstrate that you are attentive, caring, and invested in making any experience with you mutually pleasurable for the other person, too.
[Content Note: Homophobia]
Last night, as I scoured both Netflix And Amazon Instant Video for gay-themed movies to watch, I came across Impossible Choice, an extremely-low budget film that came out in 2012. The brief description on Amazon caught my eye:
For the minister’s son, Brandon, this is a summer of awakening and acceptance of his homosexuality. For his father, this is a challenge to his roots in the bible.
In many ways, that description reminded me of the movie Rock Haven, which I love (and still wish I could find my copy of). I decided to watch it.
After watching it, I skimmed through the customer reviews on Amazon. This is a movie where it seemed like either reviewers loved it or hated it. In many ways, I agree with the negative reviews, as they all brought up great points. This was an extremely low-budget film. The writing was awful. The story — actually at least two different plots that were only related by the fact that they happened at the same time and in the same place — jumped all over the place. And there were several questions the story left unanswered. (Like whatever happened to the criminal charges that were brought against Lance? You get the sense that they were trumped up, but it’s never shown that the police learn this fact.) Or there was the sudden shift of Captain Dan from being totally opposed to the idea of running a gay cruise (in the first scene or two, he throws around the word “fag” quite liberally) to being entirely in favor of it and defending the idea in front of the people of Palmyra. In fact, I had to go back and verify that the virulent homophobe I remembered from the first few scenes really was Captain Dan, because they seemed like completely different characters.
The best part of the movie — as many of the negative critics noted — was the ten minute “play within,” a play created by some of the movie characters for a college drama class. In the “play within,” Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi meet up in the afterlife and tell each other about the events leading up their eventual deaths. It was well acted, moving, and possibly the only truly memorable part of the entire movie. It also really didn’t seem to have any bearing on the rest of the movie, which made it odd in context.
I will admit that despite all its technical flaws, I do have some warm feelings toward this movie. This is partly because its setting is local to me, as the gay cruise that serves as subject matter of one of the plotlines and the setting for the climax of the other takes place on the Erie Canal and starts from the nearby town of Palmyra New York. There’s something about seeing shots of local geography — and having it recognized in the film as such — that’s just touching to me.
Also, the themes of the movie, while poorly executed, are near and dear to my heart. Granted, in many ways, that makes the poor execution of the movie all the more sad. In the long run, I think it would have been better if those who made it would have focused either on the work to get the gay cruise approved or on the story about Brandon’s relationships with his father and his love interest, Lance.
Would I recommend watching it? If you have a couple hours to spare and access to Amazon Prime, sure. Especially if you live in or around Monroe County New York. Especially if you’re also gay.
Alvin McEwen blogged on Monday about NOM pushing a new Regnerus “study.” McEwen rightfully points out how dishonest it is for NOM to continue pushing Regnerus’s work despite the fact that he and his work have been heavily discredited over the past several months.
What I find interesting is how NOM presents and interprets this new “study”:
Activists trying to force a redefinition of marriage on America have constantly evaded the question, “what is marriage?” Meanwhile, they have insisted that gays and lesbians simply want access to the same sacred institution of marriage and that they don’t intend to change anything about that institution.
But the survey responses from gay men and lesbians themselves don’t support these claims.
The institution envisioned by those who want to redefine marriage isn’t faithful… it isn’t exclusive… it isn’t permanent… put bluntly, it isn’t marriage.
So basically, Regnerus polls a bunch of people about a number of views and NOM tries to interpret the answers to those views as people’s understanding of what marriage is. That’s problematic at best.
So let’s take a look at some of those views from the poll.
Viewing pornography is OK. This one has absolutely nothing to do with marriage. Some people look at porn. Others don’t. Some married people watch porn. (Some even watch it with their married partner!) Some don’t. Some single people watch porn. Some single people don’t. Saying that viewing pornography is acceptable doesn’t really reveal much — if anything — about one’s views of marriage.
I’d also like to note that saying that viewing pornography is okay is not that same as saying that viewing pornography is never problematic. Yes, if viewing pornography is interfering with one’s relationship(s) (by say, changing your attitudes toward the people in your life, especially your romantic partner), that’s a huge problem. However, that does not mean that viewing pornography in general is a horrible thing. NOM is effectively trying to use this one statement to cast everything in a black and white argument where there is much more nuance to be considered.
Premarital cohabitation is good. Again, this statement really doesn’t tell you anything about a person’s views on marriage. A person may think that living together before marriage is good and important and yet still consider their wedding vows of great importance when the take them. In fact, some people promote living together before marriage because they take their wedding vows seriously and want to have a sense of how living together will work out before making the final commitment.
No-strings-attached sex is OK. It seems to me that this one goes off the rails in various ways. Most notably, I think it demonstrates that NOM is projecting it’s own belief that every person (excepting possibly clergy) should get married onto everyone else. I don’t believe that every should get married. What I believe is that LGBT people who want to get married should be allowed to do so. If LGBT people who prefer not to get married would rather engage in no-strings sex with each other, I say more power to them. It doesn’t change how I feel about marriage. NOM fails to understand that the facts that I think I should be allowed to get married and that other people should be allowed to pursue other relationship and sexual choices for themselves are not contradictory.
Also, I’ll note that it’s possible to enjoy no-strings sex while single and still look forward to a more committed relationship in the future. NOM doesn’t seem to understand that, either. (Not surprising, as I suspect there’s a lot of ideological overlap between NOM and purity culture, which tends to at least imply that any sex outside of marriage “ruins” you for marriage.)
Couples with kids should stay married except for abuse. You know what? I don’t believe in auditing other people’s lives. I think that individual families need to consider their own circumstances and work out what the best choices for themselves are. I do not feel qualified nor do I feel I have or deserve the authority to tell them under what circumstances they are allowed to make which choices. If NOM thinks that this means that I don’t take marriage seriously, then NOM doesn’t know me at all. I know what my goals are for marriage. I just realize that (1) those goals may not work for everyone and (2) they ultimately may not work out for me either. I’m simply open to that possibility.
Marital infidelity is sometimes OK. Okay, this is a position that I tend not to hold. I tend to believe that if you’ve made a commitment to be in a monogamous relationship with someone, you should keep that commitment. If you find you can’t keep that commitment, then you should either seek to renegotiate the relationship or honestly seek to end it. Yes, I do consider ending a relationship acceptable. So I will acknowledge that while I see marriage as ideally permanent, I accept the reality that it doesn’t always work out that way in practical terms. But I don’t see the benefit in denying reality, so I don’t see this as some huge admittance of defeat on my part.
It is OK for 3+ adults to live in a sexual relationship. I’m totally on board with this one, and unapologetically so. So no, I don’t see marriage as necessarily exclusive. I think that’s for the people involved to determine for their own relationship(s).
I just don’t see that as a horrible thing. Truth be told, I find the idea that Christians — especially Christians who scream about “taking the Bible literally” — being anti-polyamory rather odd, anyway. The Old Testament is full of men — men deemed Godly by the text and tradition — taking multiple wives (and concubines, no less). And there are only two explicit prohibitions against polygamy in the Bible, both of which limit the prohibition to specific groups of people. (That’d be the kings of Israel in t Old Testament and pastors/bishops in the New Testament.)
But setting all that aside, does the fact that I’m unwilling to condemn or criticize people who choose a polyamorous relationship really destroy my own right to enter into a legally recognized monogamous marriage?
Ultimately, it seems to me that NOM’s argument is that they only want to let people into their marriage club if those people are willing to go on policing the choices of others. I’m not okay with that.
A friend on Facebook posted a link to this blog post by Sheri Dacon. Dacon’s position is that all the hullabaloo over the recent Hobby Lobby decision (and similar “controversies”) isn’t important. She insists that what is important is love, which is about people:
When it comes to love for other human beings, it’s important to remember the human being part. Love is not a formula that can be defined or summed up in textbook fashion. Love involves people. And people are messed up, flawed and difficult to love. Me and you included.
She further says:
Love has much more to do with how you respond to that homeless woman outside of Hobby Lobby the store as you leave with your purchases. It has more to do with how you treat the people who are different than you, perhaps the ones who live a radically different lifestyle. Love has less to do with judging and much more to do with giving and accepting and welcoming and sympathizing.
You know, this all sounds beautiful. To a degree, I even agree with her. I have just one tiny, nagging question though.
What about the people the Hobby Lobby decision is hurting?
What about those who work for Hobby Lobby and may need Plan B, can’t afford it, and now can’t rely on their Hobby Lobby provided insurance plan to cover it?
What about the people who work for other corporations who now may refuse to cover all forms of contraception?
What about the people whose employers may even refuse to give them notice that their insurance plan won’t cover contraception? What happens to them when they find this out the hard way — because they need it and now have no way to afford it?
What about the LGBT people who may face workplace discrimination by religious organizations seeking government contracts?
These are all people who stand to be adversely affected by the Hobby Lobby ruling and other actions and decisions that have stemmed from that decision. These are people who Dacon seems either to be unaware of or has chosen to forget about.
That’s the problem with many “Love/People over Issues” approaches. They forget that issues are also about and impact people.
Earlier this week, i received my Kindle edition of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter’s book, Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church. I’m about to start chapter 11 (which puts me a little over halfway through the book), and it’s so far been a pretty good read. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to do a review of the book itself yet. I’ll have to wait until I get finished with it and mull over if there’s anything that I want to say about it that other potential readers might find helpful when considering whether to pick up a copy. (Generally speaking, I think people would do well to pick up a copy, but that statement alone is probably not very helpful to most potential readers.)
As I’ve been reading the book a number of thoughts have come up in my mind. The one I want to blog about today is related to the question I put in the post’s title: Whose “space” is it?
From reading the book so far and conversations I’ve had with Wendy1 in the past, generous spaciousness is a concept that is meant to be applied on the personal and institutional level. On the personal level, it is an attitude of welcome and agreement to live in tension and even disagreement with others. On an institutional level, it is a formal or informal policy that encourages leadership and members to embody that attitude in word and deed. The latter, which I’m going to focus on, can be more fully seen in Wendy’s recent OnFaith article about how go engage gay Christian who attend one’s church. Because the title of that article also points to the one nagging problem I see: Whose church is it?
While I’m not arguing against the idea that churches need to consider how to be more welcoming of and how to minister to LGBT people, people who are questioning their gender and/or sexuality, or people who are simply wondering what God really says about sexuailty, gender, and same-sex sexual relationships, the very notion of “making space” for such people suggests that the church belongs to a different group of people and not those for whom such “space” is being made.
Ultimately, it becomes a question of how welcoming a space can truly be when the space is controlled by others who get to decide how welcoming to make that space. Such a space still offers a great deal of comfort, safety, and privilege for those who control it and demands more risk and potential discomfort for those form whom “space is being made.” Those who wish to truly be welcoming of LBGT people, their supporters, and those who are sorting through questions about LGBT lives and faith journeys need to wrestle with that injustice. How does one make a space truly welcoming and generous to those who do not share “ownership” or control of a space?
Ultimately, I think that Christians also need to consider that rather than or in addition to “making space” for others in their space, they need to be prepared to completely give up their privilege, comfort, sense of control, and “home field advantage” by humbly2 seeking out those they wish to know in their own spaces, where they can feel safe and truly feel on equal ground or even at an advantage. After all, trying to meet others only on one’s own terms is not an attempt to meet others at all. Wendy talks about doing just that in her book when she talks about the first year she attended the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference.
1As an aside, I should point out that I have spoken with, met, broken bread with, drunken wine with, and gotten my butt kicked in a game of Stone Age by Wendy. As such, my interactions with her do affect how I approach and engage with this book and the subject of generous spaciousness in general.
2As anyone who has maintained or or belonged to any space that caters to and seeks to be safe for marginalized people can tell you, there are different ways for privileged people to try entering and behaving in those spaces. Some of those ways can disrupt such spaces and even make them unsafe. Wendy exemplifies one of the better ways to go about this when she talks about how she approached seeking entry to her first GCN conference.