Someone once told me, “If my son was a murderer, I’d still love him, but I wouldn’t love what he did. The same would go if he was gay—I would still love him, but I wouldn’t love what he does.”
This statement is what started my journey as an outspoken ally, or as I like to say: “That’s when I came out as an ally.”
Growing up, I heard many pastors with a sermon that reflected this comment. I was raised with a strict Bible based upbringing but never agreed with the condemnation and judgment that sometimes comes with Christianity. However, I’ve never been able to express my thoughts on Christianity to my parents until now.
I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I did my best to follow their beliefs.
Sometimes, I felt I was going to Hell because I didn’t feel some of their beliefs were right. I’ve carried the belief of my damnation for many years and always felt like I disappointed my parents because my life didn’t reflect their faith.
As an adult, I pursued a degree in Religious Studies at a Baptist university, where I learned how the Bible was put together and translated. I thought it would make my parents proud by attending, but the more I learned, the more I questioned what I was taught as a child, moreover, what so many have been taught for hundreds of years.
Everything I learned assured me it was wrong to exclude the LGBTQ community from my Christian faith.
This statement also made me consider my gay and lesbian friends. How many times had they heard hateful comments like this? How many times did they consider changing for fear of being hated? How many times did they suffer when they were children? I also considered my children. How will they be treated at school if they’re gay, and just as important, how are they going to treat those who are?
All children deserve a safe environment to be themselves. I believe every parent, despite preferences of religion, sexuaity, or politics, should teach love and acceptance to their children so we can expect a better future for everyone.
Unfortunately, most pastors don’t ask how they can get more members of the LGBTQ community to attend service. Instead, they throw verses like casting stones. This is not the first time I’ve heard someone categorize homosexuality as criminal. Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty recently did it and used the Bible to support his beliefs.
Bottom line: statements like the one above lead to exclusion, hate, and inequality. It also causes people of sexual identities other than “straight” to be viewed as not having feelings, families, or living regular lives. Unfortunately, they are looked at as sin.
Conform or be excluded—that’s the message children in these faith communities hear.
We’re teaching our children to cast stones, yet we wonder why there is so much violence in our schools. LGBTQ children are more likely to be bullied, suffer from depression, consider suicide, and turn to drugs than their peers.
That said, it takes a lot of courage to be yourself in a world that sets apart what it doesn’t understand. In my city of San Antonio, Texas, this courage exists at a new youth group called Fiesta-Youth. They provide a safe environment for LGBTQ youth and their friends to build a future where all people are accepted and loved as they are.
On January 20th of this year, I had the privilege of walking with them at the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade where they taught me a lesson about courage. Some of these teens have been hospitalized for anxiety because they were bullied, but in front of 150,000 people, they proudly held a banner with their name and hoisted a rainbow flag.
The journey of an ally can be filled with the same discrimination as those we try and support, but when I marched with these young people, it made all my worries seem small. Following their lead, I proudly tell everyone, including my parents, that my beliefs are just as important as theirs. I love my LGBTQ friends, and if any of my sons is gay, I’ll continue to love them too, just as they are.
I’m Johnie Guerra—I believe in God, and I believe every Christian denomination should welcome the LGBTQ community without requiring them to “straighten out.”
I believe in marriage equality, spiritual equality, and a God-given right to be who you are. I also believe that if every Christian would fight for equality, politics would fall into place. It starts with our youth, and we should create a safe environment for them.
There it is. I’ve come out as an ally.
Mom and Dad, I love you. Please be proud of me. I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to.
Photo via flickr user Purple Sherbet Photography