National Coming Out Day 2012

National Coming Out Day ImageOctober 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Much has changed in terms of public awareness and acceptance of LGBT people in our modern history. I wasn’t yet born when the pain of anti-gay prejudice erupted into the Stonewall riots. I have some consciousness of “the Twinkie Defense” but had little clue as to who Harvey Milk was when I was four years old. As a small town Kansas girl, I heard the word “gay” whispered in hushed tones of speculation while eyes winked when a neighbor was referred to as “a confirmed bachelor”. I don’t think any of it set in until some funny lady named Ellen came out on national television to Kansas native and rocker Melissa Etheridge. (Apparently, back then you had to sign in triplicate with a confirmed and “out” witness, but these days it’s a lot more casual.)

Most people forget that Ellen Degeneres paid a heavy price when she paved the way for mainstream “out” entertainers. From “Will & Grace” to “The New Normal” & “The Modern Family”, it might be easy to forget that “Coming Out” can and is for many people, still very, very hard. Lest we dare forget the tragedies of Matthew Shepard, Tyler Clementi or the countless unnamed youth who have lost their lives to silence.

The reality is that coming out is the beginning of openly confronting the stigma and prejudice that keep so many closeted. For every human being who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, regardless of faith affiliation, most will face some form of religious assault to their human dignity. Destructive religious traditions set out to socially and emotionally shame any and all who do not uphold the conditions of membership, including would-be straight allies.

National Coming Out Day is not solely about outing oneself as LGBT, it is about breaking the bonds of silence. It is about showing ourselves willing to be a part of a community that includes all people. A community that is incomplete without the support of straight allies.

Many straight, Christian allies hesitate to act in public affirmation for fear of facing the same measure of persecution and judgment. The “guilt by association” branding is very real. Just ask Brian McClaren. When the popular straight, postmodern evangelical author and ally recently presided over his son’s same-sex wedding, immediate accusations of disloyalty began. (Pull that thread here, here, and here.) Sure, he may lose a few book sales, but the impact of such willingness to act openly not only blesses his son, his act blesses many who have waited in silence for leadership.

So when you think of the challenges facing our closeted LGBT friends, neighbors and youth this week, think on this: For whatever repercussions you might hesitate to shoulder by “outting” yourself as an ally, consider what it means to those who have been waiting their whole lives for your compassion. To my straight Christian friends, let me blunt: little will change until you match the courage of those who have dared to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. It is simply not enough to be a friend who says nothing. No burden is fully eased unless it shared by another. We need you. Please come out…

  1. Thanks so much for this. My faith reminds me to

    …….‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

    I don’t know why it is so difficult. I hate that silence and oversight seem like an easier path than obeying God. I pray for my own strength to rise up and do as I am commanded. I pray for all who are hurting and don’t know that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Bless you. Go in peace.

  2. This is an issue I have been torn on. I feel that some people are just born that way, but I struggle to find peace in how I feel when I search scripture. Could you please help me with this? I know we are all sinners and we can only try to do our best, but yet we will never be able to not sin, however, we are to try to not sin and scripture says men with men and women with women are sin, correct? So why would God create these people with a sin that they will never fight and only embrace? I mean no disrespect…this is an honest question as it is something I do struggle with. I have a gay dad and I’ve struggled with that for years (my parents are obviously divorced) and now I have 2 small children and I want to raise them right without predjudice and in Christ’s love. Thank you <3

    • First, what scripture are you quoting? And then read the scripture before it, after it, and put the reference into context. What helps me understand the bible more is taking a look at who wrote it, why they wrote it, what was going on around them to encourage the believers at that time. When the bible is discussing sexual immorality, it in my opinion is referencing wreckless sex, rape, incest, prostitution; sex in a manner which is fulfilling lustful desires or degrading ones value as a human being. Hopefully this helps you put things in perspective. It’s not our place to question God as to why He created us or others the way we/they are but to simply Love one another. 😉

      • Jess this too I fought with for years and it about took my life because I could not find someone to help me find the answer whether they were Christian, gay or straight. I was living in a hell inside myself knowing it coudlnt be right for me to be a lesbian yet it felt so right and I was always so at peace with it. Then when I became a born again Christian I was told it was sin and you could no longer do that and you have been delivered from that. I was so torn up inside myself I tired to commit suicide because I could find no peace inside myself. I knew what was right for both worlds but could not make them mesh together. Finally, after I got out of the hospital and I took myself out of the whole Christian situation and gay lifestyle for awhile, I sought counseling so I couls sort things out. My counselor laughed at me and asked me why I was there when I already knew the answer. I said because I know all the answers but dont know how to apply them to myself. I had ministered to people it wasnt right, I had told people it was ok because God still loves them. The true answer to your question is, ” We are made in Gods image” theres more teaching to everything, however, realize God knew I would be writing this note to you right now too.. God KNEW ME BEFORE I WAS EVER CONCIEVED. HE KNEW ME WHILE I WAS IN THE WOMB. So, Jess, we were born this way, forgive your Dad and love him for all its worth. You dont have to like the things he does, but please love him because hes your dad. I have a sister who is a full blown christian and all she ever asked of me was to show no affection in front of her kids until they started asking questions and was old enough to understand. I obeyed what she asked and you know all her kids love me and we still are very close and her husband also will have a conversation with me, but dont have to like what I do. I hope I have enlightened you some, I know when I sorted it all out, I found my inner peace again like I had as a kid and I am living wonderful life.

    • I believe GLBT is a sin, not THE sin. It was bought and paid for with Jesus precious blood like any other sin. We all have an attraction to sin, but it is when we act on the attraction where we fail God. We live in an imperfect world and we all struggle with evil desires. Life here is short, try to live for God and stay close to His word. The answers are there, all scripture is God breathed and can be used for teaching and correction. Both old testament and new testament. This is how I view it. God loves and forgives…Thank you Jesus

      • There are gay Christians just like there are alcoholic Christians, and Christians who lie or cheat on their taxes, or Christians who say mean things about people to other people, or Christians who overeat … it doesn’t mean that you are not a Christian if you do those things. We are born with a sinful nature that has a “bent” toward evil. Period. However, it does not mean that its OK to keep cheating on your taxes because you’re a Christian, right? Or to keep speaking ill of others?

      • Dear Anonymous,
        there are many things in this world that are sins, yet most people focus on being gay as one of the biggest ones. But when you look at the Bible and TheTen Commandments you will see what is actually the bigger sins. Yet everyday people walk around and sin time and time again and people say not a word about it. But when GLBT come out and make the news or do something we are gonna burn in hell. Let me tell you this, my whole family loves me, my friends love me, and even people I meet on the street who know I am a lesbian loves me with no trouble, because, I dont push this on them. I am me and I am me because my Father God made me in His image to do something for Him on this earth before I die. And that one thing may be to let you know that Jesus and all the GLBT’s love you. We just want to be able to walk among everyone else and live our lives just like you do. May God Bless you and yours.

  3. Beautifully said Jennifer. It is true that straight allies must find a similar (though much less) courage and pay a similar (again though, much less) price as their glbtq brothers and sisters to be “out” there. But it is also true that the straight allies will find a similar (and perhaps equal) freedom, joy and room to breathe when they choose love and fairness over fear and control. When some of the glbtq folks at Highlands Church in Denver thank me for starting a church like ours, I am quick to point out that when the yoke of oppression is lifted, it it not just the formerly oppressed who find freedom but the former oppressors as well. As a straight man, I have never felt nearly so much my true self as I do at Highlands. See you soon in Denver.(btw, we hosted Brian McLaren here last night:)

    • Mark- Great words, as well I attended an earlier iteration of your church in downtown Denver and remember the “price” paid by leadership to start Highlands (which i have not attended since it is farther from my home). I especially like your comment about “former oppressors” whose yoke is lifted on occasion as well. Powerful this thing we call grace.

      PS– when is JK going to be in Denver, I have waited years for this!

  4. I am straight and would love to be a an ally. (Sp). I moved to Key West 1 1/2 years ago. A big part of the reason was that a friend came out right after he came to know Jesus. Two others who were in our “community” tried to “advise/ disciple ” him that he had to choose between Jesus & being gay. That is where my heart really started changing. Me & my friend believe that you can be both. As a result, an explosion happened and we are no longer friends. How sad. We experienced just a taste of the horrific rejection that this subject brings. We, my friend & I, are not gay but want to love PEOPLE with His heart. I have a vision for Jennifer to come down. It is a bit different here because you can be openly gay but struggling with how God fits in. There is much more to the story. I would love to chat with y’all. It is important. I want to some how come alongside you & have conversations that hopefully save lives. Email me I will give you my #. Ty I am also on FB. Deborah Josiah. Blessings.

  5. Beautifully stated. Thank you. If you are ever in New Orleans, come to St. Marks United Methodist. You will be welcomed with the same loving arms that always welcome me.

  6. Jennifer- this post is amazing. You stated ever so eloquently the importance of coming out. I’m glad you challenged our straight allies to come out also as allies. The importance of living openly and loving openly is crucial for society to evolve. I did a classroom presentation to 9th graders yesterday about anti-bullying and encouraging the teens to really take a moment to recognize the power of words and how they are on the frontlines to be able to help their friends in a time of need. Thank you for encouraging me with your words and encouraging others to support their friends and themselves. God Bless. -Debbie

  7. You continue to inspire me! I have struggled with the battle of gay vs religious persecution throughout my own life, but you do it in a public forum. You take the blows and the questioning so that the rest us may not have to one day. You are the definition of courage! I have admired you since I was first attracted to your faith and spirit-enriched lyrics. Now, words can’t describe my admiration because your courage and selflessness are unmatched. Thank you for these words and thoughts of today. You reminded me that I cannot press pause on acting towards change. This day is important for everyone who believes that all people deserve God’s love.

  8. I have not come out. My girlfriend has (to her parents and many of her/our friends.) I don’t know if I will ever tell my family. It would hurt them. I would be a disappointment. My mom would probably start drinking and pray constantly (her 2 forms of dealing with stress.) I wonder if it would be worth it. I enjoy being around people who know about our relationship, because I don’t have to hide or call her my friend/roommate. I was raised in the church and very involved. Now I feel like it’s a choice God or this lifestyle. I don’t know how to blend them. Or even if I want to. I have other issues with God & the church, so not just this single issue.

    To those who come out today or are out: way to go. You are more brave and self aware/self confident than I am.

    • Try the book “coming out Christian” by Jen Austin. She’s a Texas radio personality who went through what you’re going through. It was a life changing read for me. Best of wishes to you. I’ve been in your shoes and it’s not a fun place to be. God wants us to love ourselves as He loves us. We were not born to be scared and self loathing. God bless. 😉

  9. I completely agree with Jen. We also need to look at the log in our own eye first before we examine the speck in our brothers’. No sin is bigger than another. We have no right to judge anyone. We are called to love one another and keep our eyes on Christ, not on one another. Once we take our eyes off of Christ and JUDGE someone of the same sex that doesn’t want the opposite sex, we have sinned. Because judgement shows NO LOVE and NO HUMBLENESS! We are called to love and to serve others, simple as that. If you don’t obey that commandment, imagine the rewards you will NOT be blessed with because you simply didn’t choose to obey. Live past your feelings and see everyone for who they are. LGBT people are awesome. They are actually the most fun, free-spirited, unashamed people I know. Woohoo!!

  10. Jennifer, too bad many LGBT’s cannot come out because of the fear of losing their careers and livelihoods. In 29 states, it is still legal to be fired solely for being homosexual. I know several people who are out to their families and closest friends, but cannot be 100% out because they know that in their chosen career path, they will be fired. The laws have got to change in order for everyone to have the ability to come out.

  11. I absolutely love your album Kansas!! I got to see you in concert years ago, and I don’t even remember who the headliner was (you were the opening act) because you were so awesome! And I have practically worn Kansas out over the last 10 years or so! I missed you. You are such a talent!

    That being said, I am really sad to see that you are using your influence in the way that you are. Specifically, that you are using it to encourage moving away from a Biblically-based worldview. That is a bummer. For you, and for all of the lives you touch. I hope you will consider that as you promote yourself.

  12. Hey Jen, wow, I knew you could write songs, but youre pretty good at articles also. First thing I want to say to you is I love you and am proud of you for the work you are doing and for coming back and following your heart and now spreading the message you were meant to spread. You have a way about you and always have had that way, that people feel drawn to you and to what you are about. The words you share and the ones I am sharing with you come from our hearts. I knew some years ago that there was something different about you and I mentioned it once and left it alone. And now I am seeing it come to pass what God was telling me back then, it wasnt your time for it. I was just too young and dumb into the christian world. But you know, anytime you want me, or need me for anything with GBLT you know where you can find me, because, I have finally started to stand up for me and everyone else too.I may not be in the forefronts, but I have my victories here in Pittsburg too. But most of all I applaud you for standing up and teaching others about us and that we love God as much as anyone else does. I want to serve God where I was so bad just as I am and I pray one day that God will open thier eyes to reach out to GLBT’s so everyone can be loved. You are one awesome “Woman of God” in my eyes. I love ya girl, Mary

    • Jen..

      As always, well-written and sincere. One small quibble with the article however..

      I did the “due diligence” with regard to Matthew Shepherd and it is very apparent from court documents, testimony, police reports, etc.. that Matthew Shepherd was NOT targeted because he was gay.

      Rather, he was an unfortunate homosexual man who was the victim of a meth-head robbery gone bad.

      As Ben Fritzen, a former police detective, said of the case,

      “Matthew Shepard’s sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the motive in the homicide… What it came down to, really, is drugs and money.”

      Sad as it was, Matthew Shepherd’s death should never have been put forth as an excuse to pass “Hate Crimes” legislation. It had absolutely ZERO to do with him being gay and more to do with his drug use.

      ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas filed an exceptionally well-documented, credible report that debunks the myth of Matthew Shepherd being a hate crime victim, noting that:

      “The prosecutor who prosecuted these crimes says that he never believed it was a hate crime. He believes it was a drug crime.

      Aaron McKinney, according to Aaron McKinney himself and to several other witnesses, was coming down from a five-day methamphetamine binge.

      He freely admits he not only used methamphetamine but dealt them, sold them.

      Five days up with no sleep, strung out on drugs, desperate to buy more, desperate to rob somebody to get money to buy more drugs. This was the motive, according to Aaron McKinney and the other witnesses.”

      Just wanted to set the record straight. Seeing Matthew Shepherd misused as an excuse to pass constitutionally-suspect legislation which has had unintended consequences is particularly galling to me.

      The Gay Community is clinging to a false symbol.

  13. Like a baby being born blind or with a predisposition to schizophrenia, the innocent may suffer from past sin, but we none the less have to recognize qualities that are less than God’s perfect design. I fully understand your compassion for the plight of LGBT and as The Apostle Paul writes that we should be compassionate toward them. But He also warns Christians not to allow the lifestyle of homosexuality into the fellowship of believers. Do you recognize that LGBT as a perversion of God’s perfect design. (I write this knowing that I also deal with perversions of God’s perfect design in myself and would not expect others to accept those qualities about me.)

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