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"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

Broderick Says:

Dear Friend,

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.

Yours,

Broderick

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“I’ve been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness [JW], but I know I’m gay and that the religion is not for me. How should I tell my mom? I’m still in high school and I’m afraid she’ll kick me out.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Mel Mendoza as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Mel Says:

Well for starters, you probably shouldn’t just open the Questions Young People Askbook, point to Chapter 28 on Homosexuality and say, “Hey Mom, I got something to tell you about this chapter…” And try to avoid reading her the passionate bromance between Daniel and Jonathan in the book of Samuel in order to get her used to the idea. Instead, consider these tips:

Be Prepared. Unfortunately, being kicked out for being gay is a possibility for many JW youth. It was for me. Coming out, as a Jehovah’s Witness, has to do with remembering that you have people outside the Organization who are there to support you and help you. When I knew that I was going to be coming out to my parents, I called a few friends from work and school and told them about my situation. Many were willing to help take me in for some time until things cooled down or until I could find more fitting accommodations. You’re also still in high school, so there are many counselors available to help you out if you are having a hard time. There are other resources that are available on the intranets, as well.

Be Yourself. Usually, when you are a JW coming out, you are coming out twice: once as a person who identifies as LGBTQ and once as a non-JW. I think that you should try to be as honest with your mom as possible. Sit her down and let her know you love her and that this is why you don’t want to keep anything from her. If you feel afraid that she won’t love or accept you, tell her. Let her know that you have thought about it and have come to the conclusion that the religion just isn’t right for you. She’s going to ask questions. This can be a very good transition into the way you identify as gay. (Try to avoid talking about creationism, excommunication, and other problems you might have with the teachings and doctrine.) Come out to her. Confidently tell her that you know it isn’t a phase. Reassure her and remain as calm and as respectful of her beliefs as you can be. Let her ask questions. Give her time to process.

Understand. There may be backlash. Your mom may call the elders. She might ask you to meet with them. She might ask you to pray and think about it. In situations like these, the best thing to do is keep yourself composed and try your very best to understand where she is coming from. What she says and does, in her mind, is out of love; unfortunately, sometimes this love hurts us. Try to think positively and be patient. Still, remember to stand your ground. You have the right to find happiness. Remember that Biblically, Jehovah gives everyone free will and a chance to choose how they want to live their life. You are entitled to that, too, and your mother will come to understand this in time. (Disclaimer: If you are a baptized Jehovah’s Witness and are called into a meeting with the elder body and would not like to be disfellowshipped, simply do not attend the meeting. THEY CAN NOT DISFELLOWSHIP YOU IF YOU ARE NOT THERE. This does not apply to those who write a letter of disassociation, which is personally NOT recommended.)

Maintain respect. Above all else, remember that respect is earned. If you expect your mother to respect your choices and lifestyle, you should always do your very best to respect hers. She finds inner peace, love, and purpose living as a Jehovah’s Witness. Don’t speak disrespectfully about God, the Organization, the brothers and sisters, or their teachings/comments. Don’t start breaking rules and rebelling against them because you no longer consider yourself a JW. Remember that your parents are watching to see just how “bad” you become when you go into the world. In situations like these, if you remain the bigger person, parents can be very surprising.

Find your community. I cannot stress how important it is to find and develop a new, uplifting support system. Reach out to the Gay-Straight Alliance at school, if there is one. If there isn’t, think of starting one. Taking on a task like that can keep you busy and distract from any possible unpleasantness at home. Talking to people on LGBTQ hotlines and utilizing other resources will help boost your confidence and self-esteem when things get difficult. Volunteering and getting to know other wonderful people in the gay community will help to recreate that brotherhood and community you felt in the congregation. In the long term, the community you choose will be able to hold you up and give you a strong foundation for your growth as the individual that you deserve to be.

Remember that you deserve happiness and fulfillment. In the words of mydrunkkitchen’s Hannah Hart, “It [will be] hard, but better.”

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"I recently came out to my christian parents and they were pretty ok but then they wanted me to not come out to any more people or date (I haven’t) for a year. I said yes, but I’m worried that it’s just temporary and it’s going to come back to bite me in the ass after the year is over! I just graduated high school and I still live at home. What should I do? I’m a guy, btw :)"

- Question submitted by Shel

Dannielle Says:

I think you’re right to be worried about the ass-biting. Part A: I really wanted to say ass-biting. Part B: I think it’s damaging to do the opposite of what you want to make someone else a tiny bit happy, ESPECIALLY WHEN their happiness isn’t even legit.

Your parents aren’t any more comfortable because you’re hiding who you are from some people, it just makes them feel like they have some semblance of control in the situation.

I think you should come out when you want and TO WHOM you want, regardless of your parents. You can’t just hide and push things in the back of your brain forever, ya know? You will, at some point, lose your mind trying to please your parents…who BTW have made a completely unreasonable request.

You should tell them you love them, respect them, and want to get to a place where you can all understand one another. You should follow that up with an explanation of why you feel staying “in the closet” isn’t helpful to anyone. Let them know your plans to come out and ask for their support.

Kristin Says:

Absolutely. This is not a livable solution for anyone involved.

What are your parents reasons for asking you to remain closeted and single? That is the first thing you should find out, if you don’t already know. Is it because they are concerned about your safety? Is it because they think this is a phase that you will grow out of? Is it because they don’t want to have to deal with the reality of your sexuality? These are all very different places to be coming from, and in order for you to handle the situation in the best way, you have to figure our their reasoning. You have to ask them why.

Once you know the why, the name of the game is reassure them and do you. If safety is their concern, talk to them about those fears, and explain your reasoning and your plan to both come out and remain safe and responsible in your actions. If they think this is a phase, explain that you know yourself better than anyone else can, and that right now this is who you are, period. Whether or not that changes is irrelevant to your happiness right now. If they don’t want to deal with the reality… well, you are going to have to explain to them that facing the reality of the situation is critical for their happiness, and yours.

Dannielle is right: you have to do the things you need to do. You can (and should) talk to them about these decisions, and try to keep that dialogue open… but you hiding yourself against your will is totally uncool. Parents don’t always know what’s best — even for themselves.

Talk to them, be as patient as possible, but ultimately be firm in the things you need for yourself.

<3

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“do you have any advice on how to come out? I’m a lesbian, but i come from a VERY religious family. My family is African-American, and they think it’s not okay for an African-American to go against God’s word (something like that.) I live with my mum and brother, and I want to know how to tell my mum that I am not heterosexual. Thanks!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Broderick Says:

Dear Anonymous,

I don’t know if anyone has told you before, so I will: you are a person of courage. It not only takes courage to tell the people you love the truth about who you are, but it takes courage to even have the desire to tell the people you love who you truly are. You deserve a chorus of cheers for your bravery.

There is no right way to come out. Coming out varies from person to person. Some people do it over the phone, others on YouTube. Some do it in public speeches and others do it through a letter. It depends on what feels right and works for you. Remember, it is your decision and yours alone. It may be helpful to find a close friend to practice coming with. Prepare your announcement in advance and say what comes to mind. If it doesn’t come out the way you’d like, be gentle with yourself.

Like your parents, I am African-American and very religious. I pray and attend church on a daily basis. Like you, I am a gay person with hopes of becoming an honest, integrated, whole human being. None of these desires or realities are in conflict with each other. In fact, all of these desires and realities make my life an enriching tapestry of experiences. Does this make coming out to your mother easier? I doubt it. Whatever her response to your coming out is, I want you to know one thing: you are loved. Whether or not you believe in God, God loves and believes in you; I love you; and your friends love you.

Even though coming out is deeply personal, it is still deeply public. As soon as you verbalize your sexual orientation to another person, you are opening up yourself to a set of unique challenges and joys over the course of your life. It will not be a journey filled with dandelions, butterflies, and unicorns. Your journey of self-discovery may very well be one filled with pain and difficulty. But in the midst of pain and difficulty, let yourself be surprised by moments of beauty, love, and goodness. Hold on to whatever pieces of gratitude you come across.

You are surrounded by an expansive community of support whether you realize it or not. It is a community of queers who know what it’s like to not be appreciated for who they are. It is a community of marginalized people who have been where you are. And it is a community of people like me who are rooting for your flourishing. So my friend, flourish. Accept love. Sit in silent spaces and know that you are deeply appreciated by your Creator. Ignore your haters.

Yours,

Broderick

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