April 11, 2015 jennyrain

On Coming Out as [More Than]* an Ally

Photo courtesy Creative Commons by Stephen Chapple

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing — Edmund Burke

To be an ally* and not use my voice means I am only a witness.

Both allies and witnesses are needed to change the cultural arc of our times. People witnessed the foundational shifts MLK brought to our country with race relations. It undoubtedly impacted every person who witnessed it. Yet without allies advocating for the cause of justice and full inclusion for every African American in this country, the tide of prejudice would have remained staunchly entrenched in the fibre of our country for decades longer.

To be an ally means to advocate and join your voice WITH those being marginalized or refused full integration and inclusion in an organization, an event, or a society.

Marginalized individuals are marginalized precisely because they have been denied rights, freedom, full inclusion and their voices have been TAKEN AWAY. Their voices, their very identity has been discredited and oppressed.

Without allies from the group that has participated in the marginalization, the tide of cultural practice will never change. 

So today is my coming out day in full support of LGBT rights, inclusion, and participation in every segment of society and especially in our churches. My silence is not helping and I may even be harming LGBT individuals. I no longer want to participate in the further marginalization of sexual minorities.

So today is my line in the sand. I can no longer support:
– Restricted inclusion in organizations based on sexual identity, expression, preference, orientation, or gender identity or expression
– Devastatingly harmful conversion therapy, counseling, or religious counseling approaches that believe that being LGBTQ can be “changed”
– Dehumanizing practices, language, and structures that keep the marginalization of sexual minorities in place

It may cost me something to be an ally. 

I’m ok with that. It has cost other people so much more. Their cost has become my freedom. Jesus went to the cross because of his love for the marginalized and oppressed as well as those who were doing the oppression. He did this because people are inherently worth the cost it sometimes takes to love them.

One of the stirring revelations for me during my week at the GCN was the depth of sacrifice LGBT individuals have experienced to hold on to their faith. As John Pavlovitz so aptly says, “Their faith has really COST them something.” LGBT individuals have often been shunned by BOTH sides, yet they chose to still love a church who has rejected them.

When, as a white, American, heterosexual, college educated, middle class woman have I EVER been asked to sacrifice like that for my faith? When have I ever been persecuted, rejected, or abandoned for a faith that I have been forced to hang on to only by tips of wounded fingers or broken fingernails? When have I ever been maligned for being an abomination or cast-aside for something that I did not chose and could not pray away? When have ANY of us experienced this?

Yet a faith that is real comes at a cost. 

I can no longer simply be a witness to what is happening around me with the LGBT community — even if it costs me something — I’m choosing to be an ally.

THEY are worth it. YOU are worth it. My prayer is that I can offer a voice to the conversation and be a part of the healing that needs to occur around this. I do not want to speak for you, but WITH you, shoulder to shoulder…

*Important Update: I posted this in 2015 while serving in a non-affirming environment. In 2017 I attended a seminar where I realized that because I grew up with 2 dads in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and had a dad who came out at a young age, my position as “ally” was too distant for what I had actually experienced in my life. This was anything but a “distant” experience for me. To call myself only an ally was to erase the very intimate experience that I have had with discrimination, prejudice, and marginalization because I have an LGBT family. There is currently no “category” for children of LGBT parents other than “ally” but I would presuppose we are much more intimately connected to the struggle. For purposes of this article, I use the label “ally” – but I now consider myself so much more. 

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I break things and trip a lot. I like to chase things like dreams, goals, ideas, and raindrops. I create things with words. Writing has been an outlet since I first discovered the magic empty space of a journal. Words dance around in my brain and often land amidst scraps of paper, find their way into journals, or etch themselves into blinking pixels. I hope my words fall like rain on tender souls in need of refreshing. Finding photos in random moments helps me share stories. During a trip to Africa the perfect trifecta of my first DSLR, mission trip, and dream-location happened and my love of photography became a reality. I'm currently writing my first book, "Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy: Growing up with 2 Dads in an Evangelical World," I'm a board member for One Million Kids, and I believe that every kid of an LGBT parent should have an opportunity to #ChangeTheConversation with their story. My bio remains in process because I am.