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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4 thoughts on “It’s not easy to tell a story

  1. Lindsey, Thank you for sharing your truth. Do not sit down. Do not be quiet. Do not fade away. Your story is yours and it is unique to your own experiences. You don’t have to justify or explain anything to anyone that you don’t want to. And thank you and Sarah both for the writing, I’ve been enjoying.

  2. I think being a gay Christian is one of the most stressful things to be. There really feels like there is no “safe harbor” so to speak. On the one hand, the straight Christians are uncomfortable with my presence in the Church, let alone my speaking out about it. On the other hand, I’ve found more ridicule and spurn from my non-religious gay friends because I can still believe in a God that might not allow me to do whatever makes me happiest. For this reason I think this blog is very important. When I first read the blog, I thought, “That’s it. THAT’S the kind of relationship that I want.” I think these kinds of relationships are the toughest because we live in a society that blindly assumes what categories relationships should fall into. If God were ever to allow me to find a relationship similar to yours, I know that people will wrongly assume things about me for the rest of my life. Sometimes their lack of understanding, from both sides, can make me seem like a minority of minorities, which I suppose I am. All I know is that I am extremely grateful for your voices. And that I love your cat and icons.

    • Thanks for this comment friend. We hope that our blog can be a bit of a “safe harbor” for you as you navigate your own journey through these issues. We have both been blessed by close (straight, married) friends in our church who have shown themselves to be incredibly willing to walk alongside of us. Lindsey has made it a practice to pray regularly that God helps us find people in our church community who are willing to do life alongside of us; we’ve been surprised at how effective God has been at helping us find friends.

      We’ll likely say more about how we’ve learned to pray for our relationship, both before it started and after we started becoming friends, in future posts. One thing you might consider doing is talking with a spiritual director (lay or clergy) that you can trust about what it might look like to cultivate a celibate vocation. Our recent post entitled “Defining Celibacy” may or may not be helpful to you, but we thought we’d call your attention to it anyway.

      And we too love the fact that one of our cats feels perfectly at home in our prayer corner 🙂

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