By Justin Massey
I’m done. I’m throwing in the towel.
I’m handing in my official resignation as the perfectionist, the ideal gay Christian.
I am one of few openly gay students at Wheaton College, and honestly, the pressure overwhelms me. The truth is I am a complicated, broken person struggling to find my place in a world I don’t quite understand. At times I find myself unintentionally speaking for all LGBT people just because I am uncomfortable staying silent. When I recognize the focus placed upon me I shut down any vulnerability, and I assert the elements of myself that I believe to be acceptable. However, I can no longer live in fear of making a mistake because of how that might reflect on my minority group, and I refuse to censor my desire for justice even if that means being labelled the ‘angry minority.’ While I hope my story will continue to encourage others, no person can thrive while carrying the weight of a community’s reputation on their shoulders.
I am not alone in this pressure. As Laura Statesir writes in her piece, Being the Token Gay Christian, “It is an unjust burden that LGBTQ Christians have to be on their best behavior; that we are not allowed to be human because we must be more than.” We come from unique backgrounds and experiences. We have different goals and different means to reach those goals. Yet, our narratives become marginalized and conflated, and society no longer recognizes our distinct voices. Instead, they hear one narrative, the voice of the one who speaks the loudest or the one whose story most closely aligns with the values of the majority.
Once we discover the eyes of the community upon us we find ourselves with a choice: face the pressure to perform or stay silent.
But we have every right to just be okay and still to speak out.
We should reject the generalization of us as weak and wounded people, but we also must allow ourselves to feel the pain and difficulty of the oppression we face. We can recognize our valuable contributions, while denying the pressure to be perfect. As LGBT people in the Church, we fight for our very existence. In order to even be respected, we feel forced to exert ourselves as perfect beings. We feel any flaw will hand those who oppose us all the evidence they need to consider us unworthy of love.
At Wheaton, you might expect LGBT persons to demand less of each other than the rest of the community does on us, but this is often not the case. We often allow only those voices which fit within the realm we deem appropriate. We have a set of ideals which constitute what it means to be a valid, ‘good’ member of our body. Our understanding of ‘good’ caters specifically to the comfort of the majority. We forget to encourage the world to view us as unique individuals. We fear that negative perceptions of us would spread if we allowed space for all voices. Instead of tearing down the stereotypes and assumptions that marginalize us, we attempt to build socially appropriate ones for us to step into. We must recognize that stereotypes only simplify diverse, complex people. This runs contrary to what our goal should be as both Christians and marginalized people: to include and embrace all.
At times it feels we have the entire system set against us, trying to tear us down. We are in a society that has us swimming upstream; forcing us to move against the current. Let’s applaud those who excel, but let’s also encourage those who simply continue to swim at all.
Let’s recognize the value of all people. Let’s rebuke judgment and exclusion of one another as nothing short of immoral. As we love our neighbors as Christ has loved us, let us raise up high our community’s many complex stories. We have so much to share with the world. Therefore, let’s speak out from our own spaces and allow all the diversity among us to be heard. We cannot attempt to please others by changing ourselves. Rather, let’s push with perseverance for messy inclusion which recognizes us all as God’s beloved.