Before I deal with this week’s subject, I received a helpful email comment following my last post, where I was looking at what the Bible says about Trans. One person, whose online handle when translated to English (using Google Translate) became “Light Calm” (which I liked a lot!), made the point that the issue of how Trans is dealt with, is a rich-country problem, and that these aren’t issues that third-world countries discuss. The comment was: “In [materially] poor countries, such thoughts only circulate in the upper class.” I kind of agree, but not wholly. I agree that in areas of the world where poverty is prevalent, Trans issues in particular, and LGBTQ+ in general, won’t be as significant because the critical issue is: “do I have enough food/clean water? Do I have a place of safety? Can I get enough money to buy food, for my family? That doesn’t mean people aren’t in conflict with their bodies and minds, just that surviving till tomorrow is more important. Once food/water, shelter and safety can be relied on, other issues come to the fore, some may be related to sexuality, but some may be to do with politics and liberation – but for each person the key issues will differ, so I/we need to be careful about make sweeping generalisations.
In the UK, we have an NHS where medication and medical procedures can be offered, and likewise this is the case in much of the West, though cost and availability may differ depending on your country. However, the World Health Organisation recognises the need to provide for the Trans community across the world, because it has a document called “Blueprint for the Provision of Comprehensive Care for Trans People and Trans Communities in Asia and the Pacific”. See: https://www.who.int/hiv/pub/transgender/blueprint-trans-asia.pdf
However, it is a complicated picture, because if we look at a different continent, many African countries, some of whom I imagine were in the mind of the writer when referring to “poor” countries, criminalise those in the LGBTQ+ community, so that even if the resources were available, it is unlikely many would put their heads above the parapet out of fear of attack. Even some of those countries who legally/formally accept LGBTQ+ people, will, at a community level attack, maim, or kill those who they see as perversions – I give an example later in this Blog. If you want to find out more go to https://76crimes.com for an overview of stories involving those identifying as LGBT across the world. There is another useful page on the site detailing the current 71 states that still criminalise the community: https://76crimes.com/2020/06/05/71-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal/
As we saw in an earlier chapter of my essay, the first gender-change operations to occur in Great Britain were performed in the 1940’s/50’s – but until then it wasn’t possible, just as it still isn’t possible in many countries. Indeed, some countries still can’t perform what are regarded as routine procedures here in the UK, because they simply don’t have the money, the experience, the equipment, or the qualified staff to perform it, so you probably wouldn’t expect them to perform gender reassignment surgery.
However, I would argue that just as corrective surgery is performed for other issues, when the resources grant access, when the politics allow, and where the technical knowledge and the staff skills, the medical equipment, and the costs permit, it would be ethically wrong to withhold it, in any country, whether first-, or third-world. If the means are available, you should provide for your people whatever their medical need.
Moving on to this week’s chapter release, I am turning my attention to being Lesbian or Gay and how this is recognised and handled within faith groups and primarily within churches. Obviously, this will be based on my perspective, and given what I have learned, but your experience may differ, depending on where in the world you are reading this. In this Blog I’ll use some abbreviations. You’ll already be comfortable with LGBTQ+, but today, because we are only really looking at those who are Lesbian, Gay or Bi-sexual, I’ll Use LGB, a few times to save the wear and tear on my keyboard and fingers!
In addition, I want to just make it clear up front that pretty much every church will see sex outside of marriage as a problem, and normally that marriage will be male and female, so approving gay sex will be a complete no-no for many.
For me, changing from a soft non-affirming position to my present stance hinged on this issue of “choice”. If people choose to be LGB it is easier to defend a non-affirming stance. If they have no say in the matter, like I had no say in the fact I was asthmatic from my earliest years; I had no say in the natural colour of my hair; I had no say in how tall I grew; I had no say in my attraction to females (being heterosexual), and a gay man has no say in his attraction to males, I have to review my theology. This is required because to agree LGB people have no choice over their attractions, but to then say people who are LGB are condemned by God, makes God, spiteful, capricious, unloving, vindictive, lacking mercy and grace – and so much more – and that simply isn’t the God I recognise.
In the past I have been guilty of saying that a gay person still had a place in the church, providing they remained celibate. However, I was wrong to insist on that requirement.
As I have written elsewhere, I apologised to the person I said that to, sometime around 2015/2016, probably around 25/30 years too late – I’m not quite sure of the dates. However, the celibacy argument wasn’t front and centre of my internal war with the issue. It quickly seemed a rather ill thought through line of reasoning that was inconsistent with the Bible. It was taking something that was a voluntary response to the “calling” of God, and making it into a Law of God, which is very wrong. Unfortunately, perhaps, you’ll have to wait till chapter 12 where I look at the issue of celibacy in more depth, but in essence Jesus makes it clear that celibacy is only for those who are called to it – it cannot and must not be imposed. It is a “calling” of God. Matthew 19: 11-12. In this context, I refer several times in my essay to Matthew Vines video, which again I will strongly recommend you watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezQjNJUSraY
The application of compulsory celibacy causes so much more damage than it solves. We can see how “well” it has worked in the Roman Catholic church, and in other closed orders. In Medieval times there are records of monks being intimate with each other.
My friend, Don, told me how, in his church, celibacy was the angle they took for those who identified as gay, and it “led me to a place of “no choice”, in that celibacy was enforced – and love banned. I ended up fearful of being alone for the rest of my life, which led to seeing God as distant and unfair, which in time led to my being suicidal and praying for death – until I walked away from God and I threw myself into sex, alcohol and clubbing.” Don’s comments tie in very closely with what I have written in Chapter 12, which gets released at the end of June.
I think celibacy has been used as a go-to position by faith groups because they feel “choice” is a weak leg to stand on, and sex outside of marriage is always a problem, so if we stop sex from happening, the genie is back in the bottle, without thinking about the costs, because the costs doesn’t affect me. God’s grace though, is far bigger and deeper and we need to work out what that looks like. It may be your experience that your church majors on the celibacy issue. If that is the case please wait till the end of June, when I will deal with that in greater detail. But for now, I will focus on the issue of choice, as that was the bigger issue I faced, indeed, I was hearing my Pastor and others, hanging their theology on that issue.
So, was being Gay/Bi/Lesbian a lifestyle choice, or innate?
In my view we have a duty to look around at the evidence. Is it strong? What can be proven? Is it subjective? Sadly, many faith groups ignore the evidence, because the Bible is regarded as pre-eminent: the texts cannot be questioned, and sadly, life must be made to match the texts.
As I say in this week’s chapter: If you are Gay or Lesbian, or have spent any time with anyone who is, you’ll have no doubt at all that being gay is latent in an individual from the earliest years.
Science has universally accepted that homosexuality is a normal part of life, while the Church (and other religions) tears itself apart as different groups take opposing sides. Sadly, too many Christians won’t even engage with the issue preferring their ivory towers of perceived ‘certainty’, thinking they are “defending the faith”, but little realising their foundations are built on sand. In the meantime, Science is trying to find something to show why certain people present as Gay or Lesbian and others present as straight.
… If being Lesbian or Gay were purely down to individual choice, don’t you think Psychiatry and Psychology would have seen through it by now? Why waste hours, days, years and decades on research, studying something, that if based simply on choice, would be fraudulent?
Even if some scientists wanted to get specific results, others would be kicking the door down to show how fraudulent it was.
The absence then, of anything at all to show “choice” is the driving force, means that it needs to be recognised by faith groups, who then will need to revise their theology – just as I was forced to. I say “forced to” not through intimidation, but because it was nonsense to hold on to something that I now understood to be very wrong and demonstrated how little I really knew.
We know from science that being LGB is a natural part of Creation. We have studied it for years and know it is part of being human. There are written records going back throughout history to the times before Plato, and in every country and culture. We have recently been studying it in nature, where it happens relatively frequently, and I cite references in my essay, but for now you can start at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_displaying_homosexual_behavior.
Ever since the days of Freud and Kinsey we have tried to see whether it were possible to change the sexuality of a person from gay to straight. We’ve tried: drugs, chemical castration, electric shock treatment, aversion therapy, counselling, and, I don’t want to write this, but prayer – and none of it has worked. We’ve also tried to enforce celibacy and that doesn’t work. Enforced regimes never do. So, what do we do?
Grace is all about finding a way to save those who are lost, by whatever means. Unfortunately, the attitude of a good number of Christians is to be bouncers at the gate of heaven, turning away those who they don’t like, even though those folks have a personal invitation from God, to enter in and enjoy the banquet.
I would argue that we MUST go back to look at the theology and ask why what we see around us, seemingly contradicts what we think scripture says. Then we need to humbly ask: Have we misinterpreted Scripture? Is there another valid way of looking at it? To fail to do that, is wrong, and to my mind, lacks integrity, and possibly demonstrates fear.
As part of the chapter, I also explore the issue of what we regard as the sin of homosexuality, because we need to know exactly what the problem is and where it lies. Is it purely that sex might occur outside of marriage? If that is the case, why not encourage them to marry? But many Christians slam that door shut claiming that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Being specific, what do you think God objects to?
We will visit conversion therapy in Chapter 13, but for now as it is in the news, let me just say that I am in favour of the Government stopping all forms of conversion therapy, because it does more damage than it resolves. Unfortunately, some/many churches promise that prayer can change people from gay to straight, but those promises aren’t met, so the supplicant is left in a worse state than before, because they now have no hope. They have been taught God rejects me because I am gay (see the fairly typical meme of Vicky Beeching at https://twitter.com/vickybeeching/status/854699514891993089 and a letter also sent to Vicky https://twitter.com/vickybeeching/status/854703148505681921/photo/1), but now God has rejected me a second time because He won’t or can’t heal me. In reality, God is saying: “you are perfect just as you are, why do I need to change you?” “A well person has no need of a physician”, as Jesus said.
It would be far better for churches and other faith groups to say God loves you and is proud of you, and we’ll stand with you. We will help and support you while you come through this.
Finally, why would people choose to be LGB? Seriously, why? One of my friends comes from an African country and was attacked by his own relatives in his home country after they learned he was LGB. He was hospitalized, and later, for his own safety, had to get out of the country and come to the UK.
In my case, even as a straight man, I was wary before setting up this website and releasing my essay, because some people behave unbelievably badly towards those who identify as LGBTQ+ and their allies, and I cite some examples in the chapter coming out with the blog, as well as the ones just now. Yes, I was fearful.
Looking at history, things were no better in the past: The Nazi’s exterminated many from the LGBT community during the war. “Just as Jews were forced to identify themselves with yellow stars, gay men in concentration camps had to wear a large pink triangle. (Brown triangles were used for Romani people, red for political prisoners, green for criminals, blue for immigrants, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses and black for “asocial” people, including prostitutes and lesbians.)” https://www.history.com/news/pink-triangle-nazi-concentration-camps
If you have currently had no contact with anyone who is LGB, take time to talk with anyone from the community when the chance presents. How do you respond to a stranger knocking at your door? With open arms, or with suspicion? Personally, I am always very wary, until I know I am safe, or can shut the door. Talking freely requires time, trust, and the building of a relationship. Make that time.
Let’s leave it here, as I cover a lot more in the essay – you may agree with some of what I say, but I doubt you will agree with it all – after all this is effectively answering the question “Why did I change my mind?” not “Why should you change your mind?”. If you have anything helpful to add, please let me know via the Contact page.