"Some of my younger cousins are being raised pretty religiously as Christians… One of them said that gay people make her feel sick, I’m really afraid to come out to them, what if they don’t want to be around me anymore?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
I am tired of people using religion as an instrument of physical, emotional, and psychological violence against other human beings. I am tired of this becausereligion comes from a word that means to re-ligament. Religion, when practiced with human flourishing and the Divine’s glory as the end, it makes humanity, and the cosmos itself, more whole. The way your cousins are practicing religion is not re-ligamenting our fragmented world. It is, in fact, fragmenting it further. It is tearing our ligaments of shared humanity apart. With this in mind, I would like to offer a handful of observations that you may or may not find helpful on your journey toward wholeness.
1. You don’t make your cousin sick. Her sickness is prejudice-induced. We live in a world full of variety. There numerous kinds of species, linguistic families, academic disciplines, and reality shows (Ok. There’s only one kind of variety show: tasty trash). Variety in sexual orientations and gender identities is no different. Some people are asexual. Some people are straight. Some people are queer. Some people are transgender. Does seeing a person with a different color shirt than hers make your cousin feel sick? How about people of a different eye color than hers? Your cousin must learn to let difference empower her, not nauseate her. Her prejudicial posture toward you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her inability to differentiate her emotional capacity to embrace difference from her weak stomach.
2. Fear is crippling and unsustainable. You stated that you are afraid to come out to your cousins because you disclosing your sexual orientation might cause them to not want to be around you anymore. This is a legitimate feeling. You don’t deserve to live your life afraid of the responses of people who supposedly love you with no strings attached. The fact that you are willing to wonder aloud about your about your relationship with your relatives is proof of your deep courage. You are not defined by fear. You are defined by the life you so desperately are embracing, question by question. Keep asking questions. Keep wondering about your flourishing and the relationships that matter most to you. When you stop asking those questions, your quest will come on to an end. Fear does not define you. Let your inquisitive, curious spirit define you and your courage sustain you.
3. God longs for your (and creation’s) wholeness. Since I am a Christian, I can’t help but speak as a person who believes that the God disclosed in the person of Jesus Christ is wholly love. Wholly. There is no fear in love. In love, in God, there is a deep longing for the flourishing of humanity. This means that God longs for not just your wholeness and flourishing, but the wholeness and flourishing of communities, nations, ecosystems, and the cosmos itself. Any feeling of fear, condemnation, or shame does not originate in God. It is from somewhere else. Any affirmation of your unique, beautiful humanity originates in God’s overflowing love and affection for you. Dwell on that affection. In Christian parlance, that dwelling is called contemplation. In contemplation, God invites us to be completely absorbed in the love that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the one whom Jesus calls “Father” share among themselves.
Throughout history, God has reached out in dramatic and subtle ways to share this love with you. Soak in it. Bathe in it. And, however difficult it might seem, invite your cousins to do the same. You, and they, will be better for it.
Though I have approached your question as a person firmly rooted in the Christian tradition, I readily acknowledge that compassion is not unique to Christianity. Anywhere a person or community is actively engaged in the difficult work of compassion, inclusion, and love, there exists true human flourishing. I encourage you to surround yourself with the people and communities that will embrace you with you compassion, empowering you to be the person you want to be, in deep and rich ways. Compassion knows no limitation. It is not bound by race, class, national borders, socio-economic immobility, or sexual orientation. Offer it freely and receive it freely.