What safe space?

Remember last week when I (probably somewhat rudely, I’ll admit) said, “Fuck living in the tension”?  I just want to take some time to clarify that.  Many thanks to the Christians expressing their “grief” over the SCOTUS decision yesterday for helping me to figure out what was bothering me that led to my statement.

First, I want to make it absolutely, perfectly, 100% clear that I was NOT talking to any of my LGBTQI friends or family or strangers on the Internet.  That remark was solely intended for my fence-sitting straight Christian brothers and sisters.  It’s important that I emphasize that, because dialogue about LGBTQI issues and faith can never, ever begin with me–which is actually why I abhor “living in the tension” so much.  That phrase is aimed at straight people and meant to imply something like, “How the heck do I love gay people when I really think they’re outside God’s will?”  It’s a really bad place to begin any kind of conversation; you can’t go into something with the idea that another person needs to convince you of the validity of their identity and how that looks to them.

What sparked my fury and my desire to try again to explain to the nice straight people what we’re all doing wrong was this post at A Deeper Story.  See, my issue is absolutely not with any LGBTQI people who are learning what it means to honor their identity and be a person of faith.  That’s a respectable journey, and no one–NO ONE–needs my, or anyone else’s, permission to take it.

The problem is that straight people all seem to think we’re entitled to an opinion on someone else’s identity.  That conversation at A Deeper Story?  All about straight angst because we have feels about homosexuality.  This goes for both sides of the “debate,” by the way.  You know that thing people do when you tell your story and the first thing they do is derail and start talking about themselves?  Yeah, same thing.

Here’s a newsflash:  It’s not about you.  Whatever your personal opinion–even if you’re sure it’s “biblical”–about LGBTQI people, that’s all it is; it’s your opinion.  You do not need special times and places to write about it, because there are people all over, on both sides, who share it.  You do not need “safe space” to be sad about marriage equality.  You are not entitled to determine someone else’s humanity or their faith.

What has long bothered me, though I didn’t quite have the words for it, was this idea of inviting people to the table to talk about how we should handle relationship with LGBTQI people.  It bothers me because it’s still the people with privilege sitting in our positions of power making decisions about who is welcome and in what capacity.  That’s not how it should work.

You really want to have this conversation?  Then I suggest starting with actual LGBTQI people who are working out their identities and their faith stories.  You want links?  Come back tomorrow and check out my Friday links round-up, where I’ll connect you with a whole bunch of people.  After that, try doing a Google search for things like “LGBT Christians” and “Queer Theology.”  Whether you agree or not isn’t important; what’s important is that you see what Christians identifying as LGBTQI are saying about themselves.

Before I get hate mail or protests along the lines of, “But I know a gay person!  And that person appreciates my honesty that I don’t approve of the lifestyle!” please take a moment to think about that.  When was the last time you “appreciated” it when someone chose some vital part of your life and disapproved but said “I love you anyway”?  I honestly don’t care whether you approve of my friends and family or not.  Either way, it’s not terribly helpful or loving to remind them all the time what you think, and it’s not your job to have an opinion about someone who has reconciled his or her faith and identity.

I just don’t understand why there’s this need for such anxiety, unless deep down you’re worried that if you don’t help people get this whole gay thing under control, they’ll wind up in hell.  Seriously?  Stop with the hair-pulling already.  Here’s some suggestions for Things You Can Do with Your Christian LGBTQI Friends:

  • Have a nice cup of tea or coffee
  • Exchange conversation about the blessings in your life
  • Talk about ways you’re hurting and listen to theirs
  • Make a play date for your kids
  • Go see a live band
  • Ask them how they see their faith/identity/sexuality, without explaining what you think of any of those things

I stand by what I said: “Fuck living in the tension.”  But it applies to straight people who use it to have discussions about whether we should include them in our worship.  Until we upend the conversation and start viewing it the other way around, we will never be able to come to the table together.

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8 thoughts on “What safe space?

  1. You go girl!! Not sure if you have seen my “Dear Billy…” posts (Parts 1 & 2) where I share my journey on this issue…but I mirror some of the same things you shared here! Oh and can I just say that I LOVE that you used the “F bomb”…b/c I think sometimes that IS the ONLY word that is strong enough! However, I have been a wuss about using it in writing…you just gave me some courage =0)….God bless girl! xoxoxo

    • Yes! I have seen those posts, and enjoyed them.

      It took me a long time to be able to use the f-word, because “clean language” was a must. I don’t care anymore, though, because as you said, sometimes things just need such a strong word.

  2. I loved this.

    I think I miss read it the first time or you changed it because I was going to respond to the use of the term “you don’t get” but it isn’t in the post. Maybe just something you used on twitter.

    • Hm…maybe I used it on Twitter? I did say that someone responded to me with “but what if…” and I said it was missing the point. Is that the same thing? I try not to say “you don’t get it” because to me, that’s still speaking for someone else. I don’t “get it” all the time either, simply because there are some things one can empathize with but not truly understand if one hasn’t lived them. Being LGBTQI is one of those things for me, as I’m cis-het myself. So if I used that phrase in that context, I shouldn’t have & I’m sorry.

      • What you said was “you don’t get TO” not “it”.

        Probably the English major in me reaction to the difference between “may I” and “can I” in your tweet.

        To me this is something both “sides” of the wider cultural debate need to stop doing, telling people on the other side they “can’t” do things the people on the first side don’t like.

        Telling people they “shouldn’t” do something is totally different in my view than telling them they can’t do something. I am ok with the first but not the second. I think people need to stop trying to “controll” other people. If they want to influence other people or “ask” them to do certain things or act certain ways that is ok, but if they want to order or force them that is NOT ok,

        This could all just be my philosophy though and while I would “ask” you and everyone else to consider and adopt it I will not “order” anyone to do so. 🙂

  3. Hi, Amy-

    I agree with and appreciate much of what you’ve laid out here; thank you. But when you say, “The problem is that straight people all seem to think we’re entitled to an opinion on someone else’s identity. That conversation at A Deeper Story? All about straight angst because we have feels about homosexuality,” it sounds to me like you’re doing the very thing about which you’re infuriated.

    The conversation cannot possibly be all about straight angst because the DS community is not all straight. Perhaps because none of us wrote about how the SCOTUS decisions might affect us individually, you assumed we were working out our heterosexual “feels about homosexuality,” but this would be a terribly heteronormative assumption. None of our writers or readers owes a coming-out to anyone else for any reason, let alone for the sake of establishing worthiness of presence in a conversation.

    Again, I do agree with and appreciate your sharing your thoughts on the problem of feeling entitled to an opinion on someone else’s identity and the exclusion from the table that so often results. I just hope you will see that you have inadvertently done the same.

    Tamára

  4. Fantastic. Esp: ” When was the last time you “appreciated” it when someone chose some vital part of your life and disapproved but said “I love you anyway”? I honestly don’t care whether you approve of my friends and family or not. Either way, it’s not terribly helpful or loving to remind them all the time what you think, and it’s not your job to have an opinion about someone who has reconciled his or her faith and identity.”

    When Jesus hung out with the disenfranchised of his time, I would bet he didn’t sit there quietly exuding any form of judgment. May I (and all of us) go and “do thou likewise”.

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