President Barack Obama issued a statement in celebration of the month of June being LGBT Pride Month:
“LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities.”
Exodus International head Alan Chambers released his own statement, at first praising gays and then scolding them.
“…does the fact that these leaders identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have anything to do with the fact that they are talented? Of course not. Their achievements and contributions are entirely unrelated to any label they may embrace.”
Absolutely right. This is a wonderful statement about equality: members of the queer community are just like those of the straight community; save for the fact that they might happen to defy gender norms or have romantic attractions to someone of the same sex. Chambers then expresses sympathy toward schoolchildren who are bullied with anti-gay epithets – many of whom aren’t even gay. He recounts how he wished he could have stood up for a girl from his school days named Andrea who was bullied for her weight and looks. But then the article takes a different turn.
I wonder, though, are we not playing playground politics once more by elevating the status of LBGT individuals above those of the equally valuable Andreas of the world?
Andrea goes from being a tragic example of all victims of school bullying to a martyr at the hands of “too much” focus on anti-gay bullying. Apparently any attention paid to anti-gay bullying is attention taken away from every other kind of bullying – as if stopping any kind of harassment doesn’t benefit every single student.
Chambers also trots out his own tired and out-dated “ex-gay” testimony, a testimony that applies to nobody but him:
I chose to leave gay life more than 18 years ago because the self-indulgent, empty pursuits I encountered there are certainly not worth commemorating.
It’s all well and good that Chambers left a lifestyle that was empty and unfulfilling. But gay pride isn’t about celebrating any “lifestyle,” it’s about celebrating the fact that one can be honest about who they are without having to internalize the shame heaped upon them by socially and religiously conservative people. Chambers also seems to forget that being gay today, especially in my generation (the “Millenial Generation”), is very different from being gay 20 years ago. While promiscuity may have been a celebrated trait in certain gay circles in the 70’s and 80’s, the onset of AIDS – as well as the growing acceptance of those who love someone of the same sex by the general public – has eased the process of coming out and reduced the need for gays to express their newfound sexual freedom with an explosion of encounters in local “gayborhood” bars. The gay people of my generation are coming out in their teens, and like our straight counterparts, court and date others their own age, and pursue marriage – or at least, mutually agreed-upon lifelong commitment – as a definite possibility or an ultimate goal in their lives. Young gays meet in “safe spaces,” community centers, and churches rather than bars or clubs.
The most confusing part of Chambers’ article is that while he acknowledges that being gay has no effect on whether or not someone is successful in life in the first part, in the second part he establishes a false dichotomy that says his fulfilling life as a father and a ministry leader could only have happened after he became “ex-gay.”
It’s the life I live now as a fulfilled husband, father and ministry leader that causes me to look back and celebrate what God has done in and through me.
He completely misses the point that what we’re celebrating is the fact that we can be both gay and valuable members of society. Being gay is not the confining lifestyle Chambers experienced for only a single year in his life. People like me don’t have (as he puts it) “an all-consuming gay identity” that prevents us from being anything but somebody who has a different sexual orientation. The point is that being same-sex attracted is so natural for us that it needn’t interfere with our ambitions and aspirations. Just like for me, being Jewish doesn’t mean I’m not also an American or an artist. All of these identities blend with one another to make me a complete human being. Chambers might not have been able to move past the fact that he was attracted to men and live a productive life, but he absolutely does not speak for the rest of us.