Dialogue With A Pastor’s ‘Gay’ Son – #15: Trying To Fit In

(This is the 15th dialogue in this series. It’s an edited and reconstructed version of the actual talk, but it accurately represents the essence of what was said. This is done with his permission, provided all personal references are omitted. I pick it up as usual after the opening chit-chat. I’m publishing this because it may be informative for some.)

Me: So how’s everything?

Him: Well, that’s why I called.

Me: So…talk to me.

Him: It’s hard to express what’s on my mind, so this might not come out just right. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and thought maybe you would understand what I’m feeling.

Me: Well, tell me what’s on your mind and we’ll see.

Him: So now that things are better between my dad and me and my church has accepted me, what happens now? I mean, where am I in this whole picture? Where exactly do I fit in now?

Me: I’m not sure I follow you exactly. Fit in? In what way?

Him: Well, before I ‘came out’ about my same-sex attraction, I was looked at by others as just this typical preacher’s kid and normal guy who did typical guy things…well, except for having girlfriends. But now I’m looked at by my parents as their ‘gay’ son and by my church as the member who struggles with a ‘gay’ orientation. What I mean is, now when people think of me, it’s primarily as a guy who is ‘gay.’ Whether I like it or not, that’s now the identity I’m tagged with.

Me: That’s kind of inevitable. After all, that’s what the fuss was all about. HA!

Him: I get that, but it makes me feel like a kind of outsider…like one who doesn’t really fit in completely. Sometimes I feel like a freak in a show. When people are talking to me, I wonder what they’re really thinking about me. ‘Oh, look, there’s the gay preacher boy’ or something like that.

Me: Well, you should have expected this. It’s not like you can say to your folks one day ‘Hey, mom and dad, I just want you to know that I’m gay’ and then expect things to be like they were. And you have to realize that you dropped a bomb on your church that is going to take a while for them to work through. For some of them, it may take a long while. And there will be all kinds of opinions about it that you have to be ready for.

Him: But it’s even more than that. I’m trying to work out what I’m trying to say, but not doing it very well. I guess it’s a question of definition, of exactly what I am as a Christian who is gay. You understand what I mean when I use the word ‘gay?’

Me: Oh, completely. We’re using the word in its contemporary sense, as the description of an inner disposition as contrasted with outward gay behavior. Yeah, I get it. But you have to realize that a lot of people won’t know what you mean by the word. So you need to be discreet about using it.

Him: Oh, I am. I just figured you were with me on it, so I felt free to use it. But back to what I’m trying to work out about being gay and a believer. That’s what I really mean about ‘fitting in.’ I mean I am self-consciously a Christian, but I’m also self-consciously gay. And what I mean by ‘gay’ is that I have always felt attracted to certain kinds of guys and not to girls at all. So how does that work out in actual Christian living? What does that look like? Are you following me?

Me: Yes, I know what you’re driving at. But it’s not an easy question to answer. Anyway it’s not for me. There are so many things to consider. Right now in the Christian world — and I’m using the word ‘Christian’ in a very broad sense — there are a lot of different viewpoints on the subject. On one end of the spectrum you have the gay Christian perspective that sees gayness as the thing that determines their identity. So for them following Christ means a life of inevitable celibacy. Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, and Justin Lee are some of the major proponents of this position.

Him: Yes, I’ve read Justin Lee’s ‘Torn’ and some of Wesley Hill’s books. I know what they are saying.

Me: And then on the other end of the spectrum is the very traditional conservative Christian perspective that teaches that conversion and/or sanctification should eliminate a person’s gay feelings and change their sexual inclination into a heterosexual direction. Their favorite text is 1 Cor 6:9-11, especially the phrase ‘such were some of you’ which they think proves their point.

Him: Oh, I know that one all too well. So where are you on this spectrum?

Me: Well, I’m not at either extreme. I’m somewhere between the two, but that ‘somewhere’ tends to float around as I try to work it all out from a biblical position.

Him: And there are some gay Christians like Matthew Vines who say that monogamous same-sex marriages are OK. But I have a hard time going there.

Me: I don’t see how you can go there if you really take the Bible seriously. That perspective is not an option for a Christian who is trying to know where he fits in with his gay self-awareness.

Him: Yeah, I agree. But is celibacy and singleness really my only option? And how do I even think of marriage and family and all those normal things if I have no romantic or sexual attraction to women? Can I really expect my gay tendency to change? I’ve been a Christian for at least 9 years now, and I can honestly say that I feel as gay now as I’ve always felt. There’s been no change in orientation. So you see why I wonder where I fit in — in society and in the church.

Me: I feel for you, my friend. And there is no concise 15 minute answer to your dilemma. It starts with getting a clear view of what the scriptures teach about sexuality and marriage. And then what they teach about the Christian life and how a genuine ‘gay’ person must live it. So you’re talking about hours and hours of discussion, and then years of application as you live it out. I’m just being real with you.

Him: I’m not sure I like ‘real’ right now. So how much time do you have?

Me: At my age, who knows? HA! And right now, not much more. Lunch is about over and I have a meeting to get to. But I’m willing to talk as much as you need to.

Him: Well, you’ll probably be hearing from me some more. But I’ll let you go. I just want to do what’s right.

Me: So do I. But it’s not always easy to know what that is. We’ll talk again. Bye.

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