Part 6 in my series of questions Christians ask about gay people.
I talk to a lot of Christians about LGBT issues, and I always encourage them to ask the questions they’ve been afraid to ask. One of the most common is this one:
“Why do gay people make their sexuality the core of their identity?”
Um, we don’t. At least, most of us don’t.
In my experience, it’s usually other people who make the biggest deal out of our sexuality.
One of the reasons many gay people prefer to be called “gay” rather than “homosexual” is that the term “homosexual” seems to focus unnecessarily on our sexuality, as if being gay were all about sex. (This is exactly why some anti-gay groups like to use that term so much, which just makes us dislike it all the more.)
As a gay man, I don’t want to be defined by my sexuality. But I keep getting this question anyway from people who insist that if I describe myself as gay, my identity must be in my sexuality—and not in Christ.
So let’s clear up three myths on this subject.
Myth #1: If your identity is in Christ, you shouldn’t describe yourself with any other label.
“You shouldn’t call yourself gay,” a friend once said to me. “You should just say that you’re a Christian, and nothing else. I don’t call myself a straight Christian, or a white Christian, or a male Christian…”
But wait a second—if I asked that same friend “Are you straight?” or “Are you white?” or “Are you male?”, he would surely say “yes.” We all use many different adjectives to describe ourselves, and that doesn’t mean our identities aren’t still in Christ. People are complex.
I do agree with him on one point, though: There’s no such thing as a gaychristian, some scary, one-word mythical being distinct from regular Christians.
I’m not a gaychristian. I’m a Christian who also happens to be gay.
Myth #2: If your identity is in Christ, you shouldn’t talk about the things that make you different.
So what about my friend’s other point? He doesn’t go out of his way to call himself a “male Christian” or a “white Christian,” so why do I need to bring up the fact that I’m gay?
I know where he’s coming from. As a white guy in America, I hardly ever think about my race. It almost never comes up in conversation. But if I walk into a crowded room and I’m the only white person there, I suddenly become very aware of my race. Similarly, I don’t think much about being male—until I find myself in a group where everyone else is female.
When you’re in the minority, you think and talk about the things that make you different. That’s not a bad thing; it’s actually really great for the broader Body of Christ, because it lets other Christians hear new perspectives.
It also gives you a chance to connect with others in the same boat, which is important. I can’t imagine anyone telling a Christian women’s group that their identities aren’t in Christ because they talk about their gender.
Myth #3: If there’s any example of gay people obsessing over their sexuality, that means all gay people do, all the time.
I know, everyone’s got a counterexample:
“I’ve seen the way gay people act in pride parades! Gay people are all about sex!”
“I have a gay friend who talks about sex nonstop! Gay people are all about sex!”
But it’s never that simple, and gay people, like straight people, are very different from one another. It’s easy to stereotype a whole group based on one person or event, but as I wrote before, hypersexualized pride parade images don’t represent the average gay person’s life any more than Mardi Gras represents the average straight person’s life.
Gay people’s lives are multifaceted, just like straight people’s. I’m a Christian. An American. A writer. A speaker. A Southerner. An evangelical. I go grocery shopping, watch TV, read the Bible, chat with my siblings, play games with my friends, listen to music. I’m human, and a sexual being, no more and no less than my straight Christian friends. My life is interesting, and it’s boring. Most of it has nothing to do with being gay, and even the gay stuff has very little to do with my sexuality.
I’m all of these things… and my identity is still in Christ.
(By the way, it’s National Coming Out Day! Why do I need to come out as gay at all? I covered that here.)