I’ve been trying to figure out for a while now what it means to be an LGBTQ ally. What it means to be an ally as an English teacher/writer. What it means to be an ally as a Jesus follower. What it means to be an ally as Suzanne. What it means to be an ally as someone who reads and believes the Bible. And in all of this figuring-out time I’ve been leaning heavily on the excuse that I’m not sure what my role is here in this community. I’ve been riled up to inaction.
As a Church (in general and in the United States), we have taken a stand against homosexuality because we believe the Bible has taken a stand against homosexuality. But you know what else the Bible has taken a stand against? Divorce.
People I know (including myself) have become frustrated with the Church because her members can be so fake. They can be so practiced at putting on a good, brave, churchy face, that the very one place where you should be allowed to be your true, broken, in-need-of-a-Savior self, has become the very last place you want to go when you’re truly broken and in need of a Savior. We are not very good at being vulnerable. And that needs to change.
We are not very good at seeing the people behind the issues. And that needs to change.
Last month a transgender teenage girl, Leelah Alcorn, committed suicide in Ohio. Included in her suicide note were these words, “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. … Fix society. Please.”
In tearful response, I wrote the following, trying once again to find out what it means for me to be an ally, trying to see and honor and love the people behind the issues, and trying to tell the wild truth about a God Who Sees and Loves Anyway without fail or conditions. It’s a little disjointed, a little broken, a little incomplete, but aren’t we all?
I see you. I see you and I weep for you. Your loss of life is no less tragic because you are transgender.
As a cisgender straight white female there are pains of this world I will never know. That does not mean I am free from the responsibility of being aware, of showing up and feeling pain anyway.
I share stories and raise awareness of image-bearers living in poverty and experiencing homelessness and dying at the hands of injustice. This is no less real and no less important. People are being murdered for wanting to feel at home in their own skin.
Maybe you’re tired of hearing about the death and the pain and the brokenness of it all. How much more exhausted are our brothers and sisters of color? How much more exhausted are our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community? Maybe this is a selfish enterprise. Maybe I have to write this (and rewrite it and rewrite it) and hit publish to feel better about myself, to know I participated somehow, to know I can point to this blog post like a token black friend and say, “See? I believe what Jesus says when He says you can’t love Me and hate a fellow human at the same time.”
I cannot imagine the strength it takes to make that journey of transition. I cannot imagine what would so fill someone with hate that they would murder a fellow human because they don’t line up with their conceptions of gender.
Someone else’s genitalia isn’t really our business anyway.
It’s fear that leads to hate. Fear and pride and self-focus. Let’s let a little more love in. After all, perfect love casts out fear.
Here’s the thing, people are dying and Christians are more concerned about their sexual orientation than their safety, and I think that’s a little backwards.
Here’s the thing, I have no answers except more love. I am clumsily and sloppily loving the LGBTQ community, especially the T today, and I’m asking you to do the same. Start small. Be aware. Take time to lament the senseless hate, the overwhelming loneliness, and the grieving families who now walk around with a hole in their lives. Grieve the people whose families have turned their backs on them because they had the courage to speak the truth – I don’t feel at home in my own body.
That person doesn’t need to be shunned. Can you imagine the strength it requires to carry around that burden? I don’t feel at home in my own body. What a weight! And that first time the truth of that weight makes it out into the world the truth-teller should be appreciated and loved for their courage. They should feel safe.
Not understanding is okay. Not trying is inexcusable.
I thought for about ten seconds about writing a What To Do If Someone You Love Comes Out As Transgender. Then I realized it would be the world’s shortest “what to do if” list. It would have one point and it would go something like this: Uh, keep loving them.
Because the person that just entrusted you with their very self is the same person they were before they said the words except now hopefully they’re a little lighter. And because you know that person you know what they need to know and feel and be supported and loved.
They might need someone to hold their hand and cry with them. They might need someone with whom to move on to the next thing in life with. They might need you to start using different pronouns when talking to/about them and they might need you to call them by a different name. They might just need you to hear their words and say, “Thank you for telling me. I love you.”
I hope that if you ever find yourself looking in the eyes of someone you love and hearing, “I don’t feel at home in my own body,” the Love will tell you what to do and that you will listen. Because fear and society and the media and your church are going to tell you what to do, too. Listen to Love.
Nobody should have to die because they’ve decided not to carry around the secret weight of who they are alone anymore. Nobody should bear that weight alone.
What can you do to support the thousands of people represented by the T in LGBTQ? Know they exist. Know their lives are just as valuable as yours. Listen to people’s stories. Never forget you are a hot freaking mess yourself. Honor people. Even strangers. Use preferred pronouns. And always choose to listen to Love.
A super short list of links you can check out if you want to know more:
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Definitions
Injustice at Every Turn
Huff Post Gay Voices
GLEE | Coach Beiste’s Relevation from “Jagged Little Tapestry”