Contributor’s note: Since there’s a lot of DNC coverrage tonight and my mom’s birthday, here’s an edited updated post I wrote before becoming a contributor to back2stonewall I’d like to share. Enjoy!
In America, most families have some idea of faith and pass those teachings onto their children as it teaches values. Faith gives purpose to what we do and how we live our lives and what we can expect from our actions and behaviors after this life. And with Christianity being the cornerstone religion in westernized cultures, it is taught that homosexuality is wrong. filled with damnation and to this day openly mocked, ridiculed. These issues are debated constantly as to it’s interpretation and meaning for gay men and women. But this discussion isn’t about what I believe in but rather that I believe there is something more than our bodies or physical states of existence.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist home but for the most part I was allowed from an early age to develop and discover my own relationship with God. I wasn’t told what to believe but rather taught what it means to believe and I am forever thankful to my mother for allowing me to grow mentally and spiritually. So when I asked my mom at age twelve to no longer go to church and find my own spiritual path if there was one, she graciously let me do so. No questions, no lectures. This type of absolute acceptance is why I never had to come out as a gay man to my mother. She has always known that I’m gay and she has never cared. It led to my free spirited nature as an adult and despite growing up in the late 80s and 90s in the mid South I had such a spiritual awakening that was fostered by this freedom to discover myself.
So I took the time during my teens for self reflection as I studied all the major religions and those not so common. I practiced Kabbalah, Shinto, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American practices of my ancestors, observed solstices, and pretty much everywhere between. Although I belong to no religion, I consider myself a theist (a belief in one God) with Buddhist/Hindu philosophies that I adhere to and practice in my daily life. It has made me who I am and I love that I connected to that spiritual side.
I naively believed growing up that the experience I had was something shared by others which of course is not the case. And people can have the same rich, fulfilling values and lessons instilled within them from parents that aren’t religious or raised as atheist. I’ve also learned from the gay men and women with whom I’ve gotten to know over the years that of course my experience is different than everyone else’s. One thing I found most often was that they are often likely to be atheist or agnostic. I’m actually shocked when I meet someone that’s gay and has a strong faith in God because more than likely those gay men and women that do believe are atheist in their beliefs. Again these great people and their religious belief or lack thereof had no baring on if they’re a good person. Having or not having religion/faith doesn’t determine that.
I recall one night when my last ex boyfriend, who was even more of a pacifist than I am, stared in astonishment and disbelief as he overheard me say a soft spoken prayer before we went to bed. He knew that I’m spiritual but couldn’t fathom what or who I was praying to that night. We spent about an hour discussing faith in general and why I felt that way. And honestly I couldn’t describe it very eloquently then or right now. I just feel a connection that is incomparably greater than I am. I asked him if he felt the same way and he said no. I asked why and he said he just didn’t feel that connection as I did. We both respected each other’s belief and it never interfered with our relationship.
This train of thought made me ponder if people that are gay and no belief in God was related to their experience as a gay person. Did their process of coming out affect how or if they believe. Is it because of the discrimination that we still face in our world today or because we still don’t have true equality and the right to marry or protection from discrimination from our jobs or at times our own safety.
Even though the newer generation of LGBT have role models like Zachary Quinto, or advocates like Sophia Bush that strongly stand up for us, we didn’t have that in the 90s. Also, not every parent is as welcoming and accepting as mine. And I feel for those still going through those issues of acceptance. And it’s always made me wonder if the reason so many gay men and women that I come across are atheist and wonder if their experience in coming out and learning about themselves is the reason why this is very common in the gay community. And does it affect relationships in the gay community when one has faith and the other doesn’t?
Faith and religion in the in the LGBT community, I believe, will always be a touchy subject. And I wholeheartedly respect the decision that you don’t believe in God just as I want respect for having my eclectic set of beliefs. You won’t ever get a judgment from me on the matter. So it is vital when discussing these opinions and beliefs to do so respectfully, no matter their origins. Let it be known that it is for further exploration of the human condition and not to sway others in what they do or don’t believe in. I wish more felt comfortable discussing why and not to try to change their minds and understand I am not trying to mold someone into my experience. I think what’s most important, however, whether you’re still a believer in God or an atheist is to have faith in you as a person and love yourself. Also find the happiness that makes you whole that let’s you know you aren’t alone and that you are loved is what’s most important, faith or no faith.
So fellow readers, can you both own your sexuality and have faith? Of course you can. But is it hard to do? That’s the real question.