were we born this way? (pt 1): stepping out

after changing employment from probably one of the most conservative universities in the US to a public technical college, my eyes have been opened to a lot of things– more than i thought, more than i was initially comfortable with.

and let’s be honest: there are some things that i know now that i wish i still didn’t know.

(hyper)conservatism, by and large, is much more comfortable than having to handle certain sinful stickiness day in and day out.  it’s a nice, big, pavilion of protection.

some people leave the (hyper)conservative pavilion of their own accord.  they welcome themselves to the “real world” for a variety of reasons: they see the needs of those who aren’t in the pavilion and want to reach them. they see the negative aspects of being in the pavilion itself (some pettiness about certain negotiables, hypocrisy, etc.) and want to search for another more authentic, nearby pavilion… or they don’t want the pavilion anymore at all.

they want to be as far from the pavilion and what it represents as possible.  here, they walk away not just from conservatism, but from Christianity itself.

sometimes, though, we don’t have a choice.  we are forced out of our certain, comfortable pavilions.

that happened to me.

oh, i’m still in a “pavilion” of sorts.  i still go to a fairly conservative church and still practice and definitely believe my faith.  but monday thru friday… there is no pavilion.

i’m out in the world.

and i’m not going to lie… at first, i was scared.  (and sometimes still am.)

i was scared of having to deal with certain issues: gay and lesbian theory, gender subjectivity, homosexual marriage, homosexual unions having the right to adopt, strong pro-choice arguments, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, legalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution… honestly, the list could go on for several paragraphs.

see, these were all topics that, at the conservative college, we told our students they had to avoid using– in persuasive papers… in persuasive speeches.

why?

because these issues are “black and white.”  we can’t biblically argue the other side… so, play it safe and stick with something that “real” Christians can argue nicely.

stick with the quasi-controversial moral issues.

here’s the thing, though.

i came to realize, once out of the pavilion, that these topics that we are so afraid of aren’t just vague ideas and philosophies.

they represent *people.*

i can think of a student– or several– for each of those topics listed above.  sweet, nice college kids (and adults) that, for whatever reason, really, really, really believe that those ideas aren’t just moral– but would be ideal for society.

and i’ll be honest.

some of those reasons aren’t just bogus, emotional hype.

as you probably noticed in the list of topics/people above, several of them dealt with homosexuality– gender, gay/lesbian theory, the rights of homosexual people (for marriage or to adopt), etc.

some students that argued those ideals weren’t/aren’t gay. they believe that love and rights should be available to… whomever.  often times, they have family members or close friends that are gay/lesbian, so the topic is pretty near and dear to them, although not “personal.”  i’ll call this group the “advocates.”

a lot of the students (and they range in age from late teens to middle age) that choose the topics, though, are gay or lesbian.  or “gender neutral.”

and they are very passionate about their lifestyles.

some people surprise you.  you wouldn’t know (until their speech, when they reveal their orientation) that they are gay or lesbian by how they dress, talk, or act.  i’ll call this group the “understated.”

others wear their sexuality like a badge through purple triangle tattoos, graphic tees, and rainbow jewelry.  they reveal their sexual preference in every conversation.  there’s no question in anyone’s mind from day one of class what their orientation is and why.  i’ll call this group the “obvious.”

in class, before students give their persuasive speeches, i have what’s called a “workshop day.”  that’s when everyone comes to class and introduces their topics for discussion.  this allows the class to give feedback on if they agree with the topics and why or why not.  (the “why nots” should be noted by the soon-to-be-speech giver to try and address in their speech.)

come speech time, no matter what specific issue of homosexuality the speaker is addressing (marriage, adoption, a change in language for a gender neutral pronoun), the first argument is always the same, no matter who is arguing it– the advocate, the understated, or the obvious.

the very first reason they will always start out with is: “they/we didn’t choose to be this way.”

why would they choose to be outside the “norm”?

why would they choose the “impossible path” to love and happiness?

why would they choose to love someone they don’t have the “right” to?

you know what though?

i don’t hear these questions just from my students.

i hear these questions from friends and people that i know in the pavilions… they also have to personally deal with homosexuality– and we aren’t talking just with friends or family.  homosexuality comes in their own, pavilioned-all-their-lives thoughts and desires.

you know what they say?

“we didn’t choose to be this way.”

why would they choose to be outside what God wants?

why would they choose the “impossible path” to love and happiness (in the Christian community)?

why would they choose to love someone they don’t have the Biblical right to?

some of the Christians struggling with these questions have gone on to marry into heterosexual relationships.  some have left the pavilion altogether in order to have partnerships.  others are embracing a more “liberal” Christian perspective of the Bible and have made treks to states with legalized gay marriage to get married and live a Christian gay lifestyle in a church that embraces them.

here’s the thing: prior to having to leave the (hyper)conservative pavilion… i thought i knew the answer to these questions.

of course “they” chose to be that way.

it’s a choice to do anything God’s way… or not God’s way.

“they,” therefore, chose to be not God’s way.

however, i’m coming to the place (actually, i’ve been here several months), where i don’t believe that the issue is quite that black and white.

do we, or do we not, have a choice in who we are attracted to?

are we responsible for our sexuality?

i’d like to address these issues in a series of blog posts.  just as a disclaimer, i want people to know that these are just my thoughts on the issue.  i’m just wanting to simply offer the perspective of someone who has to try and biblically handle this topic as a Christian on a daily basis.  i can no longer talk about homosexuality as a philosophy/abstract lifestyle choice alone– i now have faces.  faces that i’ve known for years… and faces that i see in class every day.

stepping outside the pavilion changes your perspective.

step out with me.

i’m not asking you to change your mind.

i’m just asking you to, perhaps, add to your view.


7 thoughts on “were we born this way? (pt 1): stepping out”

  • 1
    colin gray on June 4, 2012

    Thanks, Stephanie, for working out these issues in a public way. I haven’t talked to you in years, but glad you are going through this journey outside “the pavilion.” Although we may not agree at the end or come to the same conclusions, I appreciate you being willing to think through issues like homosexuality with faces of people you know and care about in mind. I used to be on the other side—unwilling to engage because I was scared of what I would find out about myself and others. But, in looking back, opening that dialogue is not only important for personal growth, but also to help (in whatever small way) to support the unheard, the underrepresented, that often end up repressing their feelings or committing suicide unnecessarily.

  • 2
    Becky on June 4, 2012

    I’m so glad — SO glad — that someone from the “pavilion” has brought this up. I’m right there with you. There are faces now instead of abstracts. Looking forward to reading your take on things.

  • 3
    Prudence on June 4, 2012

    Stephanie,

    This was very well put! I’ve been sort of forced to rethink things over my years outside the “pavilion” too, because I came to a point where some ideas just didn’t work for me. Not the core of Christianity–and, in fact, I came to know and love Christ SO much better–but the externals I was more likely to get bent out of shape about in the past. Everything was a sort-of absolute for me. (We all know in our hearts that this is really not modest, that this word is not okay to say, etc.) My worldview wasn’t challenged over those things, but it was challenged when I started realizing how utterly unworthy I was of Christ’s love anyway–even as a moral, church-attending, decently-hard-working, non-tattooed, non-pierced, Bible-believing girl.

    My own terrific struggles with anxiety, depression, etc. have opened me up to be more compassionate to what others go through. I NEVER consciously chose some things that became a part of who I was.

    I definitely believe that those in the gay lifestyle did not one day choose to be that way. I think that the web of personality factors and other influencing factors (home or other environments) is complex.

    The important thing is that the answer is in Christ. All of us, with all our pain, sin, and issues, need redemption. And who are we to think that we don’t have our own moral/ sexual struggles, that everything (and everyone) we’ve wanted over the years has been righteous?

    Healing is a process. We won’t “get there” till eternity; we can only take steps today. Baby steps.

    And one step is realizing that we’re not all so different.

  • 4
    Kim G on June 8, 2012

    I commented on your FB post about this, but I forgot to post this link: http://lgbt-bju.org/

    I’m assuming that you’ve probably seen this site already, but I have seen people that I considered good friends in college who have “come out” since then. Because they are people that I know, it has really put faces, names, lives, etc. to these previously vague arguments. And I know that I have to think these things through more carefully and more clearly. Looking forward to your future posts!

  • slcB 5
    slcB on June 8, 2012

    @Kim G– yes, i’ve definitely run across that site– and it was one of the many reasons why i’m tackling this issue.

    the past couple of days have been busy, but i’m hoping to get the post out later this morning/early afternoon… :)

  • slcB 6
    slcB on June 8, 2012

    @colin gray– it has been a long time! :)

    thanks for being supportive! i agree with you… the end conclusions may or may not be the same, but people need to really search *for themselves* (not just this issue, but any one that is tempting to “blanket statement” away just for comfort’s/safety’s/the pavilion’s sake).

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