Before you ask, let me say for the record that I am unequivocally straight.
But that doesn't mean I can't support inclusion and equity for my LGBTQ friends and family.
Some of you will be horrified that I have taken such a simple step in this direction. I know others of you would like to give me a pat on the back. And others would probably respond, "So?"
To be transparent, I must admit that on a faith level, I am really no longer sure I understand what God's take is on homosexuality. I used to be so absolutely sure that the conservative Christian community was the only group to be correctly interpreting the Bible in its brief discussion of sexuality. I used to be sure about lots of things that I discover I am now examining with much more depth and intensity than ever before. So I'm shelving my understanding of scripture and how it relates to the LGBTQ community. For now.
Regardless, my understanding of Jesus as a compassionate, loving teacher led to my decision to participate in this affinity group. The fact is that the LGBTQ community--especially in a place as right-wing as Bakersfield--is persecuted, and my role as a Jesus-follower is to help end persecution. Prejudice and bigotry toward a particular people group is never right, whether you're against people of color, Muslims, Republicans, Catholics, the homeless, socialists, the intellectually challenged, or those with different gender preferences than you, just to name a few.
And for the first time last week, I asked myself, "What if it were I? What if I had found myself, growing up in a conservative Christian community, to have feelings for other girls or women? What if?" And I knew that my experience would have been nothing short of miserable. I might not even be alive today.
My LGBTQ friends deserve to feel safe, included, and supported, just like the rest of the community. They should not stand alone or be made to feel less, and they certainly should never have to fear for their safety.
Just within the past week since I attended my first group meeting, two amazing young women I know have come out, and when I think about them, the idea that people would make slurs about them or treat them differently because of their gender preferences – it just makes me angry. I love them and want to walk beside them. One of them is a college student, and while I'm too far away to offer in-person support to her, I can offer in-person support here on her behalf. So I'm going to participate in this affinity group, get Safe Zone training, and cooperate to create ways to make our LGBTQ community members feel at home, that they belong. And I will keep on trying to show love.