I really hope you haven’t hated someone like me, but I imagine you probably have.
I’m talking about those indifferent religious type of people. The ones who will scream at and berate you and your friends while touting their Jesus sign in your face on a busy street corner or at your pride marches. I was literally that person not too long ago, and I want to apologise on behalf of any of us who ever hurt you, alienated you and antagonised you.
After coming out as a gay Christian, my present self disapprovingly shakes my head at my ignorant former self. I now know the pain and sadness that we have may inflicted upon you. I know the agony of being made to feel repulsive, humiliated and of less value than others when one draws a line between themselves and you.
Again, I say to you, I’m sorry.
The pyrotechnics and the golden glitter settle as I run off stage after a milestone dancing opportunity at an LGBT festival in Thailand over the 2018 new year. What a surprise to be receiving a New Year message and congratulations from an old time Christian friend after photos of my performance surfaced online.
Though first feeling thankful, I suddenly caught myself with painful memories of lost friendships welling up inside of me. Then I couldn’t help but start crying backstage with the thought of what my former Christians friends may think and say about me now.
Today, I am one of the people my former self would have loathed. I am a gay poster boy, go-go dancer, model, and help run Asia-Pacific LGBT employee resource group for the transnational corporation I work for.
Just a few years back, I was an evangelical youth leader at church and university, band and choir boy, studied Christian theology, and only exclusively resided in the oh-so picturesque tiers of Christian society.
For many years, a war raged in my mind as I contemplated whether or not to come out to my Christian friends. When I decided to take the plunge, the inner turmoil that plagued my mind spilled out into my real life. Soon I started to understand how my LGBT friends on the other side of the march.
At the time, many of my Christians friends thought it was a decision I suddenly made, which spoke volumes about their misunderstanding of sexual disposition. Amidst the fallout, I couldn’t help but lament over the fact that perhaps the love we shared was never real but only ever played out between our Sunday facades.
All I ever wanted was to reveal an inherent part of myself I could not change, and have people still treat and love me the same.
Some immediately removed me from their lives while a smaller subset made feel completely unworthy of their company and unwelcome to continue partaking in the only life I had ever known.
Growing up in the church, we called ourselves “brothers and sisters” and would always strongly caution each other about the risks of stepping out into “the world” and losing our way.
They say a pastor’s child either ends up either also being a pastor or in prison. I did not go to that extreme, but in similar vein, perhaps, I am now the sad story they tell, and I am the objectionable individual they use as an example to warn each other …
Alone after the backlash, I looked at my life and thought, “maybe they will give me a shot.” From then on I have been so thankful for how the LGBT community has embraced me.
But as relationships deepened, I braced myself for the same response of disdain when planning to come out to my gay friends about my Christianity. With a quiet rage, I thought they would most certainly think it was uncool and even unacceptable that someone in their inner circle comes from a group that they are so used to being harassed and demonised by.
Was I destined to walk the narrow walk of being caught between the crossfire of two groups that have chronically antagonised each other?
When I finally came out about my Christianity, although some called me an “idiot” and “a product of my conservative upbringing”, the closing sentiment of this conversation with my gay friends usually went something like this – “I guess you can believe what you believe …” I was thankful for their response, but also genuinely surprised – aren’t we so used to Christians and the LGBT community hating each other?
Today, with the internet as the main medium of communication, we enter the lives of people online indifferently and lines are drawn. Resentment is amplified online, and then we put down our keyboards in exchange for signs and violence during civil clashes that are spurred on in the media.
Fighting this manner creates a tribalism that only spurs an unsympathetic ‘us and them’ mentality where each side’s sole mission is simply to win the argument. Hate gives birth to more hate, and so goes the death spiral of civil human abhorrence.
But when my friends and I debated over our conflicting viewpoints on religion, with them mainly being agnostic or atheist, we did not have this need to win the argument with each other. Rather, it felt more like we were advising each other on what we really feel is the best way to walk this life (and the life beyond if you choose to believe in that).
It was then that I realised that we simply just wanted each other to be happy – and in that moment I saw that the most vital missing ingredient in the Christian-LGBT debate is just the most basic humanity between us as people.
So my ultimate hope is that Christians and the LGBT community can build bridges with one another first and have that supersede the complexity of their differing views. Many may call it a hopeless hope but I have experienced this in my own life. So even if we begin just in our own lives then by not repaying hate with hate, but with love…
Written by Jono Kwan
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