Letting Love Win (Pride Month Edition)

Content warnings: Homophobia, transphobia, suicide

As readers can probably guess by the content I have on my blog, I am LGBTQ+-affirming and do the best I can to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. When I say that I am affirming, it means that I believe that LGBTQ+ identity is valid, that a consensual same-sex relationship is not wrong, and that a change in gender identity can be in the best interests of someone’s mental health (to name a few key items).

However, it was not always that way. In fact, for a long time, it was the opposite-I was highly rejecting of anyone who identified themselves as being in the LGBTQ+ community. Given how divided many opinions still are on LGBTQ+ issues, and given the lessons that I think can be drawn from my story, I am opening up on here (after lots of encouragement from friends) about my journey from rejecting to affirming of LGBTQ+ individuals.

As many people know, I am a Christian. More specifically, I am a Catholic Christian. Growing up, two of the things I heard over and over again were that homosexual actions are a sin and that changing your body from the way it was created is also sinful. I never heard a single Christian say otherwise until I started to know fellow Christians who, like me, were affirming of people with LGBTQ+ identity-something that only happened in the last few years. I wasn’t taught about things like same-sex marriage and changing one’s gender identity as anything other than as a sin.

Given that fact, when I did talk about LGBTQ+ issues in high school and for some of college, what I said reflected what I had heard. For example, just as the things I was taught were against same-sex marriage, I gave a speech in front of a class at a summer camp that was also against same-sex marriage. The homophobia of that speech is one of the biggest regrets of my life, and I sincerely hope that speech didn’t emotionally harm anyone who listened.

So, what changed with me? Actually, a number of personal events and happenings listed here (not in chronological order), as well as some personal events and happenings not listed here, helped change the way I thought about LGBTQ+ issues:

  1. On multiple occasions, I felt a call from God to reach out to someone who just so happens to identify as LGBTQ+ with encouragement, support, and love. That call from God[1] was on multiple occasions quite possibly the difference between life and death for the person I reached out to. Yes, I’m saying that there are people who might not be alive today if I remained homophobic and transphobic.
  2. Speaking of people who are not alive today, I learned a few months ago about a blogger I followed who died by suicide, and apparently one of the contributing factors in them deciding to take their life was how others treated them for identifying as transgender. This reinforced to me (as if I needed any further reinforcement) the fact that the way we treat LGBTQ+ people can literally be the difference between life and death.
  3. Even when love and support was not the difference between life and death, that posture of love and support still made a major difference. For example, my friend Joe,[3] who I first got to know because of a mentor-mentee program that my college’s chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship had with a chapter of InterVarsity that was trying to form on another nearby campus, had struggled with the fact that he’s gay. However, he came out to me, and since then, I can tell that his coming out to me helped him love himself for who he is.
  4. Speaking of Joe, it has also helped to get to know friends (including Joe) who identify as LGBTQ+. Getting to know LGBTQ+ people changed my perspective in so many ways, ranging from my exposure to the harm caused by homophobia and transphobia, to my exposure to various LGBTQ+ terms I had not known of before (something that Joe, to his credit, worked with me on…a lot).

I used terms such as love and support throughout these four events and happenings. Therefore, one may be tempted to ask: “Brendan, why then are you affirming instead of loving but not affirming?”

While the personal events I mentioned above were certainly helpful in forming my current attitudes, learning various facts about LGBTQ+ topics and mental health also helped solidify my mindset. For example, I learned that gender-affirming procedures significantly improve mental health outcomes for people who identify as transgender.[4] I also learned that being in a legally-recognized same-sex relationship, and particularly a marriage, appears to have positive mental health outcomes for those couples.[5] Given my experience with having LGBTQ+ friends on the brink of suicide, as well as my awareness of the statistics when it comes to LGBTQ+ people and suicide,[6] I am all for anything that can decrease the chances of suicide.[7]

This is my story on how I became affirming, but why should my story matter? For a while, I wasn’t sure why (or if) my story would matter, and I certainly didn’t want to drown out the voices of people who tell their stories of being LGBTQ+; these were two major reasons why it took this long for me to share. However, I think that there is value in this story for people struggling with LGBTQ+ theology, and for people who are LGBTQ+ and struggling to find people who they can talk with. I also think that the extent to which homophobia and transphobia harms people is a “blind injustice.” Most of all, I think there is value in showing how much of an impact we can have when we let love win.

This post is dedicated to the memory of the aforementioned blogger who took their life. In their second-to-last tweet on Twitter, one of the things they asked for after they were gone was for people to love everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

If you are an LGBTQ+ individual in immediate crisis (regardless of whether you are a runaway, are contemplating suicide, or are finding yourself in some other difficult situation), I encourage you to consult this list of hotlines compiled by PFLAG: https://pflag.org/hotlines

[1] I believe that it was a call from God for me to do what I did. That being said, I understand that there are skeptics and nonbelievers who might be reading this. If you are among the skeptics or nonbelievers, the purpose of the usage of God here is not to convert you to my faith, but to show you how my faith played a major role in my story.

[2] I followed this blogger for a relatively short period of time, so I don’t know what the blogger’s preferred pronouns were. Therefore, I’m going with gender-neutral they/them pronouns here.

[3] I got Joe’s stamp of approval to share all that I share about him here.

[4] Quite a bit of research has been done on this, notably by the Yale School of Public Health. You can read the findings from the Yale study here: https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/21447/

[5] Research has been done on this as well, including from the American Journal of Public Health. If you are interested in reading the full piece, you can do so here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3558785/

[6] I wrote about these statistics in a previous blog post: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2019/07/05/on-the-acceptance-of-lgbtq-people-in-families/

[7] One of the most well-known aspects of Catholic theology is the commitment to all human life, from conception to natural death. This refrain is usually used for abortion, but this refrain is relevant to me for LGBTQ+ issues as well, since I realize that our treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals can make the difference between life and death.

Originally published at http://blindinjusticeblog.com on June 8, 2020.

Here, I write about injustices we may be blind to and/or blindly commit.