Orientation/Gender: Why are we so afraid?

There was a time for me when the idea of someone thinking I was gay was the most uncomfortable feeling I could imagine. Today, I'm still trying to identify just what it was in me that felt so defensive, so reactionary - even retaliatory - about any suggestion I was gay. "Hell no!!"

I got myself into an "awkward" situation and wrote an article about it for theOOZE several years ago - click here (looks like it's gone through some reformatting challenges). Some readers who came to my blog suggested I might be in the closet, or trying to prove something to myself...

In the article I wrote: "The Bible says, "Perfect love casts out fear... he who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:7) But I am afraid. I am afraid of guilt-by-association: someone will see me with a queer and think I'm one of them! I'll be pegged a closet-case or repressed or self-deluded!"

I grew up doing music theatre. I took ballet and tap classes in high school and college. I listen to Erasure and Rufus Wainwright. I'm happily married (to a beautiful woman) but I've never been the most masculine dude on the block.

Yet somehow today, the idea of being "pegged" (accused) doesn't seem to bother me. Maybe it's because I have more gay friends than I ever had in the past ("When people like each other, the rules change..."). Maybe it's because homosexuality isn't the cultural leperosy it was once perceived as. Maybe I'm just growing up.

In any case, this article at CNN.com reminded me today of how much fear there is in the world.

GREELEY, Colorado–The murder trial of Allen Andrade, underway in Greeley, Colorado, is being watched closely across the country. Andrade is accused of bludgeoning to death Angie Zapata, a transgender female, last July... (more)

There are visitor comments from all over the country, in response to the case. Most of them express sorrow over the murder, and a desire to move beyond fear, hate and intolerance. But one comment caught my eye:

From personal experience, this is total deception, I would compare what HE (Justin) did with the actions of a rapist. When I found out a person I believed was female had really been a man before surgery, I was disgusted, humiliated and ashamed. I felt dirty like someone who has been raped would feel. To this day, 7 years later, I still get mad when I think about it...

I can sympathize with the idea of being "tricked." And regardless of your theological opinions about issues of sexuality, we should all wish we lived in a society where folks with "different" orientations didn't have to hide for their own safety. Where "the least of these" are safe from hate. That still is not reality. And to say someone is equal to a "rapist" for hiding part of themselves... well, let's be honest; how many of us are up front about everything, before a relationship even gets started? No, I'm not saying "I hate cats and country music" is the same as "I'm really a dude," but please - hiding oneself is not rape. It's the opposite of rape's violent assertion of power; it is fearful vulnerability.

I pray that the fear and intolerance stuck in my own messy flesh gives way to grace, just as it does the same in you. And you. And all of us. And may we remember the brutal death of Angie Zapata, and of Matthew Shephard, and of all sorts of folks looking to love and be loved, whose very existence brings out the very worst in an angry, fearful mob that speckles our world.

Galatians 5:14
The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."


TMinut said...
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Existential Punk said...


GREAT post and i applaud you for covering this topic!

i think it is human nature to be fearful of the unknown. i find when people actually meet me or hear my story, it tends to put them more at ease even if they don't agree with me. We also live in a machismo culture where men get bent out of shape if they are thought of being anything other than 'manly'! It is sick, but our culture is still dominated by white middle class men. It is changing but slowly.


Peter said...

Yup, you hit the nail on the head Adele! The unknown can be very intimidating. And when we get identified with 'the other' - 'the unknown' - we lose the security of being part of 'the norm.'

All of this rocks our middle class comfort! I'm thankful for friends like you who are WILLING to tell your stories. Even when doing so puts you at risk of judgment, rejection and even hatred.

Yes, "machismo" really isn't something to be defended. There's a Christian author (many actually, but one in particular) who has made a killing on reinforcing male stereotypes, and even romanticizing tough-guy motifs. It's very sad, not because there is ALWAYS something overtly wrong with such attitudes and behaviors (if they aren't damaging to others) but because they are such NARROW identifiers.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

I think we fear holding each other accountable too. I think we sometimes fear being right. I think we fear the very idea of deciding good and bad behavior. I can and do love the crap out of my friends. They love me as well, in good times and bad and part of that is holding me to the hot iron from time to time. There's a difference between judgmental and true, constant and consistent friendship.

Either way, God will change all of us over time--even my opinion!

welovetea said...

Peter, I hear you on this issue. I was really fortunate to have friends in high school and college who were willing to stick their necks out and tell me they were gay even when I was still tangled in fear of that difference...and now that one of my family has come out, too, I am so grateful to those early friends who not only had prepared me by sticking it out with me in the long run, but also answered my very naive questions when I had to stop and completely re-think things. Where would I be if they hadn't taken the risk of being rejected by me when I wasn't willing to accept their lives as livable?

I wrote a post on this issue pretty recently, too, ("Doing Justice To Someone") based on some work by Judith Butler, who has a LOT to say on this topic. I also recommend "Our Tribe: Queer Folks, Jesus, and the Bible" by Nancy Wilson, who does a lot of imagining about what the church COULD be like (not "doing church" but "doing life"), to echo your other blog entry above.

Thanks for provoking some thought!

nate said...

whoah!!! Erasure! I have nearly every album myself. Seriously. I don't know if I've ever met anyone else who still knows those guys are.

I bought a synthesizer as a result of them.

Didn't mean to distract from the 'meat' of this post.

rjlight said...

So true, when people like each other things change. So many here in Ca who call themselves Christians spend so much time speaking against gay issues. They talk about how their marriage is weakened if "they" can get married. Most of those people have never met a gay person in their life. It is so easy to hate these faceless people, isn't it?

Peter said...

Cassandra, thanks for those recommendations, I will definitely put them on my list! Like you, I am glad to have had friends who were willing to trust me, even though I hadn't necessarily proven myself "safe."

Peter said...

NATE! I just like you more and more. No, there are not a lot of Erasure fans out there, are there? I went to one of their concerts in 2002 (I think) up in Seattle. It was beautiful.

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