It’s not easy to tell a story

A reflection by Lindsey

“Tell stories — yours and other people’s.”

My friend Justin usually starts with this piece of advice when he’s talking about how LGBT Christians might try engaging with others who may be less-than-charitable when it comes to LGBT issues.

My experience in telling my story is that it’s tricky. My life experience doesn’t fit into any neatly defined categories. As I’ve reflected deeply on Christian sexual ethics, I keep seeing that it’s an arena full of nuance. Godly living cannot be communicated in under 140 characters. The “answers” do not boil down to neat sound bytes. And the more I try to share what I have been learning, the more I feel like people are telling me I just need to go away. To many people, my story is dangerous.

It is hard for me not to internalize the message that I should just sit down and be quiet. Because I am intensely introverted, I’m naturally inclined to hide when I sense a threat and wait for the whole mess to blow over.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s worth telling my story because I’ve learned nearly everything I’ve learned about sexual ethics by sharing stories with other people. Some of the best stories come from people who find themselves in remarkably different situations from mine.

The good stories, the ones that really shape my understanding of sexual ethics, came from my very closest friends. These stories were stories that everyone else wanted to ignore or shame. And they were stories from people who had done the “right” thing! It seems that no degree of “right conduct” saved anyone from having stories that other Christians wanted to simply ignore.

Too often, it seems like the Church wants LGBT people to tell one kind of story. It used to be that the story was somehow about how God enabled you to overcome your sexual attractions and enter into a heterosexual marriage. However, so many very brave people have told the Church that sexual orientation doesn’t change. As such, the story from the Church appears to be changing.

Yet, similarly, the LGBT community wants LGBT people to tell specific kinds of stories. Be proud. Fall in love. Safely enjoy sexual relationships. Do what you need to do so your body conforms to a particular gender. However, as more LGBT people tell their stories, the more I think people realize that LGBT people are not typecast into certain story lines.

We started this blog because other people wanted to hear our story. The goal of this blog is to share our stories of ourselves as individuals and of ourselves as a couple. People have encouraged us to tell our story because it’s unique, because they haven’t seen other stories like it, and because they think it’s interesting. Yet for all of the encouragement that we’ve had to share our story, it seems like an equal number of people have tried to tell us that we should remain silent: that telling our story will only cause pain for others who will attempt to live as we are and eventually realize this pathway is not their own, or for others already pursuing pathways different from ours.

I’d like to close with an observation that telling one’s personal story requires the teller to be vulnerable. When people respond to a personal story of any kind by encouraging the teller to just go away, it’s a pretty harsh rejection. Personal stories, by definition, are incredibly rooted in the context of a single person’s life. It’s not up to the teller to help the listener figure out which part of the story is most applicable to the listener’s life. That can only happen through mutually respectful dialogue, where both parties are vulnerable and both parties share their stories.

But that doesn’t make telling your story any easier.

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