Two years ago, I wrote an opinion editorial criticizing the Day of Silence, where students, straight and gay, refrain from speaking for the entire school day to highlight the prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and the bullying they often incur . While I still agree with some of the conclusions I made in that piece, I nonetheless said many hurtful and unfair things about organizations that are helping homosexual youth. Looking back today, I regret having said those things and am deeply sorry to anyone that I offended.
As a young man, I had recently come to terms with myself after many years of struggling with my sexual identity. During my youth, I was one of many young people in the United States that had unwanted same-sex attraction. Growing up, I was bullied because others perceived that I was gay, so I kept my homosexual feelings a secret from all but a few close friends. In college, I tried to live a gay life, but decided that it wasn't for me. I had a dream of marrying a woman and having children, and being gay was not compatible with those aspirations.
So I forged ahead as a young professional in Washington, DC, and to my astonishment, I experienced a shift in my sexuality when I was twenty-three years old. My previous homosexual feelings dissipated to the point where I no longer had feelings for men. I received no therapy; I attended no support group; and I certainly didn't "pray away the gay." My experience was unique, and so I decided to tell others about it. I became politically involved, made and wrote anti-gay statements , and even went to graduate school to become a counselor so I can help other people like myself. My biggest flaw was that most of these decisions were about my need for acceptance; not about helping others.
When I started working in psychotherapy with LGBTQ persons, I began to realize that some of my previous views about homosexuality were a bit naïve. I have sat with many clients struggling with their same-sex attraction. Some experienced change in the course of therapy, while others have not. Many young men have come to me seeking help and answers, not wanting to change their homosexual orientation. These men have experienced prejudice and suffered mistreatment; judgment from their families and places of worship; and have been condemned to hell, simply because of their sexual feelings (which they never chose).
Then, a couple of years ago, one of my best friends, who happens to be gay, finally had enough of my intolerance, and disowned me. This caused me to take a hard look at what I was doing, and my worldview started to shift. Why did I, in my process of change, have to condemn gays and lesbians? Perhaps it was my Christian upbringing, or my conservative political views? Or maybe, just maybe, I was intolerant and prejudiced against the feelings I had once experienced. So intolerant, that I would do and say just about anything to make myself feel better to cover up the shame I felt for so many years. Perhaps I was just looking for acceptance.
In April, two competing events are held between LGBT students (and their allies) and Christian youth in high schools across the country: The Day of Silence and the Day of Dialogue. The former spearheaded by a homosexual educational group, the latter by a well-known Christian public policy organization. LGBT students stay silent for their cause, while Christian kids attempt to persuade their classmates that being gay is wrong by quoting scripture. Christian youth, who are protesting, walking out, or not coming to school on April 20, are not providing solutions or helping those in need. Their stance "against" others only continues to inflict more pain on LGBT students, many hurting from years of abuse and bullying.
In 2011, I created a bullying prevention campaign to help LGBTQ youth called Acception . It means to accept and appreciate differences. Accepting and appreciating differences doesn't necessarily mean that we need to endorse another person's sexual orientation, religion, political views, or behavior. It means that we need to love and respect each other, regardless of our differences.
I am challenging all conservative Christians, both young and old, to 1) stop opposing people; 2) begin to dialogue with LGBT neighbors and classmates; and 3) appreciate differences and accept individuals as they are, not as you think they should be. In other words: listen, learn, and love.
We are in the midst of a great cultural divide between Christianity and homosexuality, and the only message that seems to permeate in this conversation is hate. But Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that this simply does not work: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." For all those who seek a new direction, one filled with love, compassion, and understanding, please join me at www.Acception.info .