I’ve been asked to weigh in on today’s subject many times and have been hesitant to do so. Issues of gender and sexuality are some of the most pervasive and sensitive social issues in the world today, and although I do have some qualifications for talking about them—I have a master’s in psychology and went through some classes on these sorts of issues, plus many years of experience in counseling and therapy—I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on these matters. It’s important to understand that from the beginning.
When I was younger, I was totally oblivious to a lot of these issues. I was raised in a pretty conservative religious household, so my views of homosexuality and things like that were fairly black-and-white, mostly because I’d never been forced to think too hard about them. Of course, that changed when I went into psychology. I remember when I first learned about intersex people, I actually asked one of my professors whether the pictures in my textbook were a hoax, it was so far outside of my experience.
But I’m glad to see our culture becoming so much more accepting of these sorts of people. Fundamentally, the challenge for them is about finding their true identity. This is a difficult thing, a painful thing, and sometimes an embarrassing thing—and I know from my experience in counseling and therapy that it can often be a messy process. But I’ll say this for it: truly knowing yourself is one of the most powerful and liberating things you can achieve in your life, and most of the people I’ve counseled have never really attempted it, at least until they came to me.
It only makes sense to treat those in the midst of such a process with respect, love, and support, just as we ought to do with anyone else. I knew a lot of people when I was in school who would have absolutely tortured someone they knew was on that spectrum. I was never aware of them actually doing it, probably because I didn’t really know anyone who was openly gay, lesbian, etc. Obviously, that sort of thing is still a problem today, but it’s good to see we’re at least making progress. But for those of you who, like me, are followers of Jesus, there is another layer to the conversation: one of Right and Wrong. It’s an unpleasant topic, I know, but unavoidable if we are to talk honestly about the whole issue as it really exists in the world.
Unfortunately, there is so much hurt, and so many past mistakes wrapped up in here that it is difficult to speak on it without offending one side or both. I think it’s due to the way we’ve been raised to think. Many of you, like me, were raised to think of things like this in terms of right and wrong. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it creates problems when you define whole issues (or people) by them.
Ancient manuscripts call homosexuality a sin. For a long time, that was a frightening word for me. I didn’t struggle with homosexuality, but I found plenty of other ways to sin and spent my early adulthood convinced that I was a bad person because of it. Today, thankfully, I know different. I know that “sin” simply means to miss the mark, to be imperfect. The whole basis of belief in Jesus is that sin has been forgiven.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to avoid sin when we can, but there is some debate over whether those manuscripts really mean what they seem to mean. Some learned people argue that what they are really referencing doesn’t have much to do with what we mean by “homosexuality” today. I can’t tell you whether they’re right. I’m not a biblical scholar. What I can tell you is that every time those ancient manuscripts talk about what is most important to God, sexuality doesn’t come up. What comes up is loving God and others, helping those in need, and acting selflessly and with integrity. I know that Jesus said if you love God and love others as yourself, you’ve not only done the most important thing, but you’ve fulfilled the whole law.
As I see it, there are two possibilities for people who identify as somewhere on this spectrum. Either they’re wrong about their personal identity, or they’re not, in which case they’re probably on more or less the right track. So how do we know which one is true? That’s actually a useful question because we can answer it: you can’t. I don’t believe it is possible to truly know what is in another person’s heart. That is between that person and God—and many times even that person might not know what’s in their heart. That, in itself, can be a hard journey. But one very much worth the trouble for all of us.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!