In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Am I Gay Enough?

This is one of those blog entries that I've wanted to do for a while. I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it. Now I'm just going to take the plunge.

There are times, frequently, when I feel like I'm not the right type of gay person. Now, many of you may be thinking that you're not the right "type" of something or other, but I'm not talking about body image or appearance. Of course, I don't always feel comfortable with my appearance, but I'm talking more about my contribution to the "gay community."

When I first came out, I just wanted my life to be OK. I was fine with being "tolerated". I didn't expect too much from anyone. I also believed I could win people over with my charm, and then they would see that the gays aren't so bad after all. After a few experiences, I realized that I could not make people like me...or even understand me.

Somehow, that turned me into more of a "active" gay person. After my work with the GLBT youth group, and a Lutherans Concerned conference, I joked that I was a "professional homosexual" (but not in the way you are thinking right now...if your mind is in the gutter). Just about everything I did was gay related.

Even with all this, there were some people around whom I felt very inadequate. I wasn't militant enough. And I took that to mean that I wasn't "gay" enough. I won't name these folks, but there is an evil side of me that would love to slander them. I look at what they do, and I wonder what sort of change am I making.

I should back up. I'm probably leaving out details. Most of the work that I tend to do is related to education, programs, and events (I love events!). What I don't do is a lot of protests and vigils. I haven't protested outside of any anti-gay event. I haven't been arrested while singing "we shall overcome". I prefer to stay inside my little programmatic bubble, and plan conferences (have I mentioned how much I like conferences?).

Often, I rationalize this to myself. I will say that I am using my gifts, and others are using their gifts. It would be foolish for me try to make myself into something I am not (i.e. a confrontational person). But sometimes this argument has no weight.

This is not a new feeling, but it came up most strongly when I attended the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando last August. During a floor discussion, roughly 100 people "broke through" the visitors' section and stood in front of the voting members. This was done to send a message they the voting members that they were dealing with real people. My friend, J, at Grover's Corners, wrote a very nice piece about it. In fact, nearly every gay lutheran I know wrote a nice description of it. I was there, but I did not participate. I was not able to stand and put myself on the line. Even to this day, I continue to be haunted by my inaction.

After a while, I got really tired of reading the retelling of the event. As you can imagine, every newsletter had a stirring description of an action that I was too chicken to participate in. Participants describe this electric energy that moved from fear to faith. My own description was more like a dark cloud that hung over my head. I was not excited about the action, even when it was over (without incident or arrest).

And so, here I am, planning another conference and staying far away from the activists. I sort of have this "Gay Uncle Tom" feeling as I type this out. I know that I'll continue to use my gifts to make this world a better place for GLBTQA folks, but I wonder if there are things I just can't bring myself to do. Perhaps it's just my lot in life.


Blogger mark said...

I don't think it's a matter of who is louder or more "out there" or who gets arrested and who doesn't, or even who is able to stand up in protest and who, for some reason, is unable to do so. It's a matter of each doing what they are able to do that contributes to the whole.
Paul puts it nicely when he talks about how we are all members of the Body of Christ and, as such, we are called to do different things to work towards the building up of this Body. We can't all be heads. We can't all be arms. We all need to do what we feel called to do, and contribut in that way to the complete Body.
So you didn't get up and protest with the others. That does't make you any less of a person, or any less of an advocate for GLBT rights within the Church. You bring your own gifts to the table in various and wonderful ways. I've heard that you put a lot of work and effort into planning and organizing the most recent Lutheran's Concerned North America Gathering. That is not a gift everyone else possesses. If there were not people like you, Ross, who were willing and able and obviously gifted in that area, then who would step forward to fill that vacancy, and do it as well and as lovingly?
Do not feel bad or "less than" because there are things that you do not feel called to do. God has called and gifted others to do those things. And God has called and gifted you in wonderful and amazing ways, as well. Continue to embrace those and offer those gifts for the life of the Body of Christ, as indeed you are doing.
God bless you, Ross!!!

9:41 PM  
Blogger vroste said...

Read a biography of Oscar Romero if you're looking for a road map on how a moderate/conservative becomes an activitist. That said, everyone has their own niche in life, and not everyone can be a leader or there isn't anyone left to follow. You'll know when your turn comes, it will seem completely natural and you will know that it is time.

10:47 PM  
Blogger geek_boi said...

Ross, I'd like to echo Mark's comments and encourage you to do whatever you can in your own time. Learning where you fit in (to anything) takes time and a few detours along the way.

I would also say that being gay isn't something (or even someone!) you "do" so much as who you "are". That sounds obvious and cliched, I know, but it's a koan that's helped me along recently.

Love the blog, btw!

2:11 AM  
Blogger Michael Dodd said...

Amen to the supportive words of the others. Also, re-read I Corinthians 13. Therese of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who died in 1897, pondered her place in the church because she felt so weak and insignificant despite desires for great service of God. Finally she read that familiar passage again and realized her vocation: In the heart of my mother, the church, I will be love. Simplistic? Perhaps. But the reflections she left on her brief life became one of the most influential spiritual documents of twentieth century Catholicism and led to her being declared a Doctor of the Universal Church by John Paul II a century after her death at 24.

Sometimes the only person we need to compete with is ourselves, and the only field of competition is love.

One conference may touch one life that may touch dozens of others. Ripples reach the far side of the pond, too.

8:20 AM  
Blogger me said...

Nice. I'm kinda in the same place, although not out to anyone yet...and definitely not 'gay' in that sense. i doubt that anyone would know. fitting in as it were will be an interesting journey.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Bob Bussen said...

Ross, thanks for this wonderful posting. It describes well my own experience. Just how out there do I have to be to be "out"? I guess we'll find out in coming days as the Vatican document is officially published. Somehow I think it's not about meeting other people's expectations of who or what we ought to be.

Fr. B.

5:09 PM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

Ross: I know I'm weighing in about two weeks late;-)...but I'd echo what the others have said.

It took me years to be able to say the G-word or the L-word aloud, in reference to myself.;-) I kept rather circumspect in my online life, too, until a particular online debate made me feel compelled to take a stand and explain to all my online friends exactly who I was; and I'll tell you, it was a very scary thing hitting that "enter" button. So if they're giving out medals for Outstanding Bravery in Gaiety -- I ain't gettin' one.;-) But I trust that God will give me the grace to do the "next right thing" in this area of my life as well as all the others.

7:06 PM  

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