How does one move from homophobe to homophile?

I've got a few minutes before I have to leave to pick Angel up from clinical, and a lot of mental detritus to clear out, so I'll post a blog from church.

As mentioned yesterday, most of the people I'll be working with at Multifaith are gay males. (It is an AIDS organization after all.) Most of the people are also religious, in some sense or another, since it is also a religious organization. At the staff retreat I went on last week, we spent most of our time getting to know each other by "telling our stories"--that is, talking about the major events of our lives that have brought us to where we are. It was a really interesting way to start off a new job (though not one I'd want to repeat, say, in the warehouse), and with such a concentrated combination of gay people, religious people, and folks in recovery of various sorts, there were a lot of intriguing and emotional conversion stories.

I told the story of my conversion from Evangelical protestantism to emerging/liberal Anglicanism, but the story I didn't tell was of my conversion from homophobe to, well, homophile. It runs parallel, and I think it probably will resonate as a sort of step by step movement from what religious people generally are (and shouldn't be) to what religious people generally aren't (but should be).

The steps generally went like this in my own personal life:

1) Buy in to teaching that the Bible is God's Word, and that God's word teaches that you shouldn't be gay. God says it, I believe it, that settles it. Please leave me alone, you gross fag. Stop looking at me in the locker room. I know what you're thinking.

2) Identify being gay with "bad people" out there--outside of my social circle--who for some reason decide to do something that I think is gross--i.e., gay sex. Think they just need Jesus. Try real hard to "love the sinner, hate the sin".

3) Become convinced in college that sexual preference is probably partially genetically influenced, and certainly not a "choice" in the normal sense of the word.

4) Come to the conclusion that, hey, we're all confronted with personal weaknesses which are frequently sinful. By the accident of genetics, I like the ladies (which is of course sinful outside of legal western marriage), some like the men. Thus, genetics doesn't make doing gay things (gay sex, lisping, eating lots and lots of really chocolatey things) any less sinful--or gross in my hetero small town Ohio sensibility.

5) Stop buying in to teaching that the Bible is God's Word, since evolution happened.

6) Realize that it's questionable that the Bible even talks about Homosexuality in it's modern sense.

7) Still think gay sex is gross and unappealing, and thus leave unquestioned the assumption that God doesn't want us to do gross gay butt things.

8) Watch "Angels in America" and realize that the gays are people too.

9) Decide that I'm going to stop being a hater/homophobe and that my biases were mostly based on a gut feeling of "yuckiness" and ignorance.

10) Decide to join the Anglican/Episcopal Church formally, since it generally says that it's alright to not discriminate against gay people, if you don't want to, at least in America.

11) Move to Capitol Hill

12) Establish a social circle that is about 75% gay/lesbian.

13) Make other people mad with my suggestions that being gay should be okay, even if the Bible seems to say otherwise.

14) Get a job with Multifaith Works, thus diving even further into the subculture which I used to view as evil and gross. I'm definitely not in Camden anymore.

15) Suspect that my friends might think I'm secretly in the closet, what with my career path (priest) and super-gay social circle, and general lack of continued homophobia.


Kyle said…
One of the great challenges for many folks who have made similar journeys is that they often insist that everyone must make the same journey.

I once worked for a rector who once believed in "traditional" sexual ethics. The problem was that he never believed in traditional sexual ethics, but rather understood "grossness" to be a moral category. Sadly, he's spent the rest of his career believing that words like "traditional" and "ethics" are code words for - you guessed it - understanding grossness as a moral category.
Unknown said…
I personally wouldn't say that everyone has to make the same journey--it is of course the human tendency to heroically label whatever you believe as either "traditional", "orthodox", or "progressive", depending on which you prefer to be identified with.

However, neither am I the type to say "to each his own" on this issue, because I've come to see it as a basic human rights/Christian love issue akin to racism and other forms of discrimination. "The Homosexuals", after all, are easy to demonize, and don't confront illegitimate theological biases, but friends who happen to be gay aren't, and do.

So, I'd say that we all benefit when we walk the path of diverse community--that is, when we make friends with those who confront our biases by simply existing.