February 03, 2006

Acceptance is a Two-Way Street

I've really been spoiled by positive experiences with the GLBT community. I was made painfully aware of that fact this past week when my attempted interaction with a local GLBT organization took a nasty and disappointing turn.

One of the avenues I have used to draw new readers to Straight, Not Narrow, has been to join Yahoo groups that have a somewhat similar focus. Since I write about both GLBT policital issues and the relationship of christianity to the GLBT community, I requested and received membership in groups that focused on one or both of those areas.

Last week, I posted messages in my groups linking to my SNN post "Don't Trust the System, Trust The Lord." The content of the message was "I just added a post to my blog about how I feel we need Christ to guide us through our involvement in the political process. I would appreciate any feedback you would care to give." As I hoped, people from several groups visited this site, read the post, and left interesting comments here and back in the groups.

I have stated several times since starting this blog that one of my main goals was to stimulate dialogue. I'm inviting people to respectfully disagree with what I write because it's that exchange of ideas that can foster learning on both sides of an issue.

There was one group, however, that reacted much differently. A local orgainzation that claims to be "dedicated to promoting equality and full participation for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered people..... through advocacy, education, community outreach and partnership."

When I checked e-mail the next morning after I has posted my message, I had a note from the moderator of this group telling me how inappropriate my message was, how many members were offended, threatening to ban me from the group, and asking me to apologize for posting something that "was obviously not related to GLBT issues" in their area.

I remain unclear how anything discussing ideas of how to approach politics is not related to GLBT issues. I don't understand how I could have offended anyone by expressing an opinion based on my beliefs without condemning anyone else or belittling their value system.

There were probably Jewish or Muslim members that read my message, and I wouldn't expect them to be offended, just like I wouldn't take offense if they had written about taking an Old Testament approach or how Allah would address issues. I wouldn't agree with those points any more than either one would agree with mine, but I would not demand they be banned from the group either.

One thing I do not intend to do here is to anger people who clearly are not interested in this message. While I declined to offer an apology, I also immediately removed myself from their group. In Luke 9:5 (NIV), Jesus told His disciples, "If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town."

I am not naming this group because I don't want their cause, if they ever actually do anything to advance it, to be damaged in any way. I do have to ask, however, how is the way they rejected me, most of them without even reading the content of my post here, any different from the rejection that they are supposed to be uniting to work against? I also wonder, if they are so concerned about anyone being offended, just how they plan on effecting change, which by it's very nature offends people. Good luck with that approach.

I said at the beginning that I have been spoiled because that is the first blatant rejection I have received from a GLBT group. My church, comprised of a clear majority of GLBT members, has accepted me just as I am from day one, and this experience reminded me that I should not take that for granted.

For GLBT people who want and deserve to be treated with respect by people who aren't like tham, I suggest they remember to give what they hope to receive.

Acceptance does work BOTH ways.


  1. Jim, I so appreciate what you do. The presence of straight allies in the struggle gives me so much hope. Your posts, filled with insight, warmth and humility provide a well-needed perspective.

    I completely understand the response you recevied from the the GLBT group in question. I do not see it on the same level as the rejection LGBTQ individuals have faced.

    A few things to consider.
    1. I once heard Judy Shepard, mother of the slain gay man Matthew Shepard say, "Church hurt is the worst kind of hurt."

    As I've been traveling throughout US, Canada and even Europe I have found many LGBTQ folks who have been so wounded by churches in their past that it takes extreme courage to comtemplate going even into a queer affirming congregation.

    So many flashbacks occur for many of us, so many fears and even shame. Even though we are welcome with open arms, we don't see those arms. We see the fist that we felt shut us away from the God that many of us loved.

    This is not your problem to solve; we each have to find our way to the divine for ourselves, but it will help you to know that a post with the title "Don't Trust the System, Trust the Lord" can feel inflamatory and bring up lots of debris from the past.

    2. Many conservative Christians believe they need to be wise as serpents in their efforts at evangelism. I have learned to distrust seemingly affirming messages from straight Christians until I know for sure where they are coming from.

    You may have a good track record with some of us queer folks, but you may find that you will have to do plenty of relationship building before you are welcome to speak directly into a community that has been hurt by straight Christians.

    3. This last point is harder to express so I will talk about myself some. I am a white man. I have been trained to think and respond in certain ways. I know in most places I go my opinion is valued and even sought after for lots of reasons. Part of the privilige I experience in America as a white man is that loads of people are open to hear what I have to say.

    This is not the case of everyone. Women, people of color, people with disabilities, transsexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and even white gay men at times have to struggle to be heard.

    I know as a white man, I need to listen more than speak when I am around people of color and women because I have many things to learn, many assumptions to unlearn. These folks have hear a white male perspective for a very long time. One of the gifts I can give is to listen, to hear, to learn.
    In so doing i can then grow into their communities and find out how I can contribute in a meaningful way.

    So, Acceptance is a Two-Way Street, but some streets go up-hill. Depending on the direction you are going, you may have to exert more effort and walk more carefully.

    You have chosen to walk uphill, to become an ally. Don't be surprised if you are not always warmly welcome. Many who look very much like you in the past wounded us deeply and we are not keen on having that happen again--especially from an ally. It hurts that much worse.

    Please don't lose heart. We all have places to grow within our communities and as we each seek to be allies.


  2. I do so much agree with you: victims sometimes might become abusers if they are not careful. Some sexual minorities groups are sometimes so exclusive or "correct" that they just repeat the discrimination that has been done to them. As an hommage, I'd like to give a counter-example: Mrs Coretta Scott King and her answers to all those (including in her own family) who told her she souldn't support gay rights and stick to racial issues. She quoted her husband saying: injustice somewhere is injustice everywhere.

  3. Jim,
    I have expressed before my gratitude for the alliance you offer from your particular straight, Christian perspective, and I want to re-affirm that. I do, however, understand -- not endorse -- that some people may not be able to hear what you offer. From within your own faith tradition, you can see that this mixed reception pretty much parallels what Jesus got. It pretty much parallels what Mohammed got and what Gotama got and what Martin Luther King got and ... Not to inflate your ego, but this is the human condition.

    A nun told me once that she had read somewhere that we are all put on earth to serve, like waiters and waitresses at a banquet. The important thing is to realize there are fouteen people at each table and we are only part of the staff. If I take care of my fourteen (obviously an arbitrary number), God will provide waitstaff for the rest. So keep helping those God sends to you.

    Thanks from one at your table.