Whenever someone makes the difficult decision to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, the first thing we hear about is how they’re “free.” Coming out is definitely one of the most important elements in the life of any LGBT person, and sometimes it’s not by choice.
Years ago, actor Chad Allen was photographed while kissing his then-boyfriend in a private moment. At the time, he was one of the key stars of TV’s hit series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Since then, he has been an advocate for equality, selecting roles that celebrate being a gay man.
Or, we can look back to how one of the stars of Bewitched came out in 1991, even becoming a Grand Marshall of the Los Angeles gay pride parade. No, not Paul Lynde — Dick Sargent. He only lived a few years after that, and succumbed to prostate cancer at that age of 61. He discussed his new freedom in an interview.
In my wildest dreams I never thought I’d become a role model for anything. I never thought this kind of thing would happen then all of a sudden it fell together. I’m so happy I did it. It takes such a burden off you in a million ways you never think about. It has a very calming feeling.
All in all, the broad theme of anyone who’s stepped out of the closet or has been yanked from it kicking and screaming — is the sheer freedom that being out offers. Anderson Cooper. Matt Dallas. Jim Nabors (who woulda thought?). Victor Garber. Zachary Quinto. Chely Wright. Melissa Etheridge. Ricky Martin. Meridith Baxter. Clay Aiken. Neil Patrick Harris. Rosie O’Donnel. Ellen Degeneres. Ian McKellen. Elton John. Every single one of these famously out celebrities — live their lives as gay men and women, and do so with pride. At awards shows, they thank their partners. Or they’ll tweet their engagement photos.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, coming out was considered to be a career-ender. It was a death wish. Now, celebrities seemingly come out at a whim. What was once reserved for the cover of People magazine is now reduced to a simple tweet. In many ways, this is a good thing. When someone comes out, it shouldn’t be a major event — it should be quickly followed with, “Great. Now pass the butter.” Most of us, though, aren’t quite that lucky.
Consider the scandal when Rock Hudson, America’s Man’s Man, was outed when People magazine ran a story that said he was dying of AIDS in 1985. Hudson’s death is regarded to be one of the major factors in bringing the disease to the forefront of American culture.
While our stars and heroes enjoy their gay fame, it leaves the rest of us dealing with our own friends and families. I’m told that 1 in 4 gay teens are kicked out of their homes — the day they come out. In a time when gay stars can tweet their fiancees, teens all across the country find themselves without a home. They might be free from the shackles of hiding in a closet, but they have no place to go.
Then there are the adults who marry — either in a vain attempt to cure their gayness, or as a cover for their clandestine gay secret life — only to find that their sexual orientation can’t be cured, or to have their “down low” life discovered. Yes, they’re free. But they left a shattered family behind.
No matter how the person comes out — or is outed, and no matter the “freedom” that they might discover, the question remains — freedom… for what?
This concept of freedom can be approached from both a psychological and a Christian perspective.
Let’s get something out of the way. I do not remotely suggest that every LGBT person that comes out should be a gay activist or advocate. Most of us just want to live our lives without being bullied by their government, church, or neighbors.
From a psychological perspective, the freedom I speak of is a liberty to be who we are without question. Freedom to live, freedom to learn, and freedom to love. It’s the kind of freedom that allows an LGBT person to place a simple photo of their partner on their desk, or talk about the movie they saw together. To own a business together. To build their lives — wholly and completely.
It’s freedom to enter the dating scene without expectation, and freedom to not “get lucky” on that first date. A freedom to be friends before jumping into anything sexual. A freedom to cook dinner for each other, and wonder when it’s appropriate to say the “L” word.
It’s even about the freedom to hold each others’ hands in public.
So often, we in the gay community look to reinforce the stereotypes. We’ll visit the bars, go to the drag shows, or engage in risky sexual behavior. It’s as if we’ve crossed the threshold of being “gay” but have yet to find the time to actually love and respect ourselves — let alone anyone else.
Let alone a life partner. Or a wife. Or a husband.
In 1973, the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in the DSM, because it does not meet the requirements of a disorder. Being gay does not stunt a person’s social life. It doesn’t interfere with our jobs. Or our ability to form relationships.
Perhaps it’s time that we start affirming that in ourselves.
One of the most tragic elements in the life of some gay men is their desire to pretend that they’re straight. In short, they’re living “on the down low.” They lie to themselves, their spouse, and their families. They lie to their church, and everyone around them. Playing field with clandestine hookups while playing their spouse for a fool.
Far too often, this behavior is seen in communities that are highly religious — adding another layer to this web of deception. It’s especially disturbing to see this play out in African-American families, where an anti-gay bias is still very strong.
Let me be clear: We will never have true equality so long as so many of us live a lie. We will never have our families stand up for us if we continue to walk all over them with our deception.
That’s not freedom. It’s a prison. It’s time to escape. Don’t wait for someone to catch you with your pants down. Stand up. Be a man. Be a woman. Be an adult. Be who you are.
Then there’s the liberty that is in Christ. For those of us who are gay and Christian (and yes, we can indeed be both), there comes a point that we can be free to do the one thing we’ve been told we could never have: Freedom to worship in spirit and in truth.
Imagine — entering that holy of holies — without shame, without condemnation, and without that inner voice telling us we’re going to hell. It’s a freedom to love — to love God, to love ourselves, and to love our neighbors.
Freedom… to serve. To serve our Lord with all we have, and all we are. It’s a freedom to press forward — not so that we can attempt to please God, but because we love Him, and we know He loves us. Unconditionally. Without reserve. Without fail. And without a shred of condemnation.
It’s the kind of freedom that realizes that we are like the little child who’s been picked up to take a sip of the water fountain — only to realize that we never knew the water fountain was there!
It’s the freedom to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. No shame. No fear. No bitterness.
Freedom to help minister to those who have been wounded. Freedom to stand where they have fallen. Freedom to shout His love from the rooftops — and to whisper those encouraging words to someone who desperately needs to hear them.
Freedom… to be gay. Freedom to be Christian (or not). And freedom… to be.
Note: For a resource that list LGBT-affirming churches, please visit GayChurch.org.